Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Electoral College Cast Votes For U.S. President; Joe Biden Won, Donald Trump Lost; Attorney General William Barr Resigns. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 14, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So we're waiting on 55 in California, we're waiting on 7 in the state of Oregon. Joe Biden won the state handily. We come down here and move to California, 55 here.

And then in the 7:00 hour in these -- let me just pop that out so you see -- you can see the math there again. That was a convincing Biden win there. And then Hawaii, 7:00 in the east, in the Aloha State they will gather four more. That will make it 306 to 232.

That's how it ended on election week by the time we were done counting the votes. That's how it will end tonight. And again, there was no doubt when you woke up this morning. Now there absolutely no doubt even if you're a supporter out there of President Trump.

A contested election, a feisty election year, but we are done. The Constitution says this is how it works. The electors gather in every state. They cast their votes. We have had -- we are still waiting on those last three states, Oregon, California, and Hawaii, but so far no so-called faithless electors.

I'm just going to walk over here and take a look. And so, this is where we are, 240-232 right now. And again, Oregon will come in soon, 55 here, 4 here. Joe Biden won all three of those states -- 232 was Donald Trump's final total when we were done counting the votes of the election week.

That's where he's going to end up. He is done. There is nothing more for Donald Trump to be gained as we go through the Electoral College process now. That's going to end, 306 to 232. Again, you should not have had any doubt when you woke up this morning and you should have absolutely no doubt when you sit down for dinner tonight.

Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States and we have had a remarkable day, democracy at work. It has been interesting to look at all these state capitals. Some security concerns which are troubling but, otherwise, it's been refreshing to watch Democrats and Republicans gather in their states across the country, do it the way it's supposed to be done, not challenge it, not attack it, not denigrate it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: When you say security concerns, some electors actually have been threatened which is hard to believe here in the United States of America.

KING: That is a -- it's a sad piece of this chapter of 2020. And look, the president himself has not threatened anybody except other Republicans to try to change the votes. When have you a climate where leaders are saying this is wrong, this is cheating, this is unfair, this is a steal when it is not. It is democracy. It is counting votes. You create this bad climate.

Will it change? The president-elect Joe Biden will speak to the country tonight. The country is pretty evenly divided right now. But again, let's be optimists. This is the way it's supposed to work. Democrats were mad when it worked this way four years ago, Republicans can be upset tonight.

But the way you deal with that is to get ready for the next election, not to challenge the integrity of the process because there is no evidence. There is no evidence of any fraud -- 240 to 232 as we speak right now. Within this hour, Joe Biden will go over the top.

BLITZER: Should never use threat and violence against these electors.

KING: Never.

BLITZER: All right, just moments ago, Oregon made it official. Their 7 electoral votes just came in for Biden. Watch this.

All right, there they are. All right, so the 7 electoral votes in Oregon go for Biden and now you can see it's gone up to 247 for Biden and still 232 for Trump.

KING: Right. And so 55 there, 4 there, that will be the finishing act. Again, this is a ritual. It's a reaffirmation. There's nothing changes today. There are no surprises today. But it is one of the treasured traditions that goes back to the Constitution. We've been at this a long time.

The founders wanted to do this for a reason just to back it up to reaffirm it. It is the electors technically who pick the president of the United States. They're going to send their votes now. They sign six copies of those forms after they cast those votes. Most of those forms come to Washington, D.C.

January 6th, excuse me, the Congress meets. But we are done. This is part of the ritual, the reaffirmation, the celebration. Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States and California will make that extra official in just moments.

BLITZER: Yes. We're going to wait here for California. This hour, 55 electoral votes that will bring Biden over 270, considerably over 270. Jake, so January 6th, the House and the Senate, the joint session will receive the Electoral College results.

Then 37 days from now, on January 20th, Joe Biden will become the president of the United States and Donald Trump will become the former president of the United States. JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Wolf, Donald Trump once promised that we were

going to win so much we were all going to get tired of winning. And that is certainly true if your name is Joseph Robinet Biden because he has won the presidency now so many times, I can't even count.

There have been three recounts, several dozen lawsuits, two applications to the U.S. Supreme Court, and now of course, the Electoral College. Our correspondents are covering all of the angles today. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is covering President-elect Biden who is expected to speak later tonight once the Electoral College vote has concluded. Jeff, what are you hearing? What is he going to say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are hearing that President-elect Biden is not going to be gloating tonight. He is not going to really be reveling in his victory as much as he is going to, I am told, directly confront what has been this assault on democracy really over the last five weeks or so.

He is not going to say it's out of any ambition of his that was cut short, but he was trying to subvert the will of the people.

[17:05:02]

So that is one of the themes of his speech that we're going to hear tonight from Wilmington. We are getting other excerpts of a few other parts of that that does fit this theme. Let's take a look at some of those.

And in one part of the speech, he says this. "In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remain intact. And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal."

And of course, that is the big challenge that President-elect Biden has here at the end of all of this. He is hoping, I am told, that a bit of a fever pitch here will break and that more Republicans in the Senate will step forward as they have pledged to do and acknowledge that he is the winner and they will, of course, start working together on everything.

How much of that happens is of course an open question. What happens between now and January 20th at noon when he is inaugurated, that is an open question. But he, I am told, is going to directly confront this. We'll see if he mentions the president. He certainly won't dwell on him. He hasn't been during any of this time.

But Jake, the Biden team is focused on one thing as well. That is Georgia. The control of the Senate is going to determine dramatically how his first 100 days, how his first year of his first term goes, et cetera, for his agenda. That's why he is flying to Atlanta tomorrow to campaign for those two Democrats.

But Jake, the top of all of this is what we have also been seeing playing out all day. That is the coronavirus hitting that mark of 300,000 Americans. Of course, seeing the vaccine. So, also look for Mr. Biden to talk about that this evening. The challenges ahead are dramatic. So he'll be giving what is essentially a state of the union address by the president in waiting and there are major, major challenges facing this union, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is in Washington for us. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, Jake, as we are continuing to see the events of the day, seal Joe Biden's victory that we all knew was coming, the president has remained in denial and defiant over the fact that he lost this election to Biden and he spent the weekend attacking the Supreme Court for refusing to take up that Texas lawsuit that many experts said in the days before that that it was frivolous and baseless.

I'm told by sources the president continued to fume about that in phone calls with friends and allies over the weekend. We did not hear him talk about it much except for when he did a Fox News interview where he said they are going to continue with their legal fights.

But Jake, the question that I'm hearing privately from Trump advisers is what legal fights do they have left to really pursue given that the Supreme Court shut them down. They've continued to try to pursue cases, of course, throughout the nation and none of it has worked.

And so you saw Stephen Miller, one of the president's senior advisers today talking all this alternate set of electors that's going to certify Donald Trump is the winner of this election, but of course, that's basically an alternate reality because it's not what happened today. That is not how it's going to go into effect.

And so what you're saying is the president continue to deny this and his staff and his aides continue to try to punt really what the deadline is that they are looking to because for so many weeks, it was today saying wait until December 14th then we'll see what happens there once this is official, people who have refused to refer to Biden as the president-elect.

And Jake, now that we are here, they are now pushing it to January 20th. Of course, the day of the inauguration, the day that Donald Trump's first term as president will come to an end. And so that is the question inside the White House as the president is remaining, sticking to these false claims that he has been pushing about the election.

His aides believe that they wish that he would move on because, of course, if he doesn't, then publicly, they can't either.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

You know, I mean, the White House communications director, Alyssa Farah, she left --

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

TAPPER: -- like a week or two ago. She left. Like, it's obvious what's going on. He lost. Anybody, like, who has honesty and integrity and like their brain cells can see that he lost. I mean, the White House communications director left. She quit.

And, yet, you have, you know, this ship sinking in the middle of the ocean and all of these Republicans still, like, standing on the deck like, waiting, what is going on here? It looks like we are sinking.

PHILLIP: Well, they are communicating, the president and his campaign and his allies are communicating to his supporters that this won't end until all of their legal avenues have been exhausted.

TAPPER: They have been.

PHILLIP: So, they have been exhausted. They have lost some 59 cases now. They just filed another one today in New Mexico challenging Joe Biden's 10-point victory in that state.

And so, I think we can expect the challenges to get even more outlandish. I would not be surprised if we saw them challenging California's electoral votes next. This is going to continue until they have to be able to say they have exhausted all of their legal avenues because part of this process is fund-raising.

[17:09:51]

He is raising as much money as he possibly can to fund the next four plus years of his political life and it requires him to keep his supporters on a string waiting for the next thing that they know is not going to come, but his supporters really believe him. They really believe that there is more to fight and there is not.

TAPPER: And it's hundreds of millions of dollars that has been raised, and if you look at the fine print, it says that 75 percent of the funds do not have to be spent on legal challenges. This is a grift. Wolf?

PHILLIP: Yes, it's a grift.

BLITZER: All right, Jake. California's electors are gathering. The state has 55 electoral votes. That's more than any other state. California's votes will certainly seal the presidency for President- elect Joe Biden. You know what I want to do? I want to listen in a little bit. Let's see what's going on in the California State Assembly.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

So I take it they've just sworn in the electors. They're doing a roll call right now. Let's listen in.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

UNKNOWN: -- chairperson of California's Electoral College for the selection of president and vice president of the United States. The nominations are now open. Mark Gonzalez of congressional district 34 is recognized for the purpose of nomination. Mr. Gonzalez?

BLITZER: All right, they're in the nominations process right now. We are going to wait for the actual vote. This will bring Biden over the top and have more, much more than 270 needed to be elected president of the United States.

David Chalian, another historic moment we're about to see when the Electoral College, the all-important Electoral College. Yes, it may be nice for Biden that he's won the national popular vote by more than 7 million votes, but it's the Electoral College that elects a president of the United States.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. And at least Joe Biden has known that he was well over 270 electoral votes for weeks now. Donald Trump has known that too, despite the fact that he continued to try and come up with baseless claims of fraud to try and slow down this process.

But here we are at the constitutionally mandated day in December. And for folks just joining us, Wolf, what we have seen today is really remarkable. Across the country in 50 state capitals in the District of Columbia, we have seen this process of the electors coming, casting their ballots for president, for vice president.

And then signing six different certificates that then get mailed off to local judges, to the archivist of the United States. And most importantly, to Vice President Mike Pence, who as you know, Wolf, is the president of the Senate.

And on January 6th in a joint session of Congress that Mike Pence will preside over, what you are seeing on the TV screen happening right now in California and what you watched all day long, the tallies, those Electoral College tallies from each state will be in Mike Pence's hands and he will open them.

And he will read aloud and accept this final electoral count that will be the very last step in the process to make Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States. And it is Mike Pence who will be presiding over that, over his very loss as vice president of the United States.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a formal process but it's a very significant formal process. The Electoral College making it official once and for all. Kristen Holmes is watching all of this for us. It's a little bit complicated, Kristen, so walk us through precisely what we are seeing.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. So, you know, every state has a little bit of a different process here. But what we are watching now, you see them take the oath and then you see a little bit of an introduction, who are these electors.

And in California, the way that they are chosen is different in each party. The top Democrats, congressional and senate candidates, they select the electors there. So, it's very interesting how they have that process.

So you see a little bit of an introduction here. You're going to have them walk through and then you're going to hear that roll call that we have heard all day when those electors individually vote and they say they will be voting for Joe Biden.

One of the things we have continued to talk about is just how few, we've actually had zero, faithless electors there has been. This is potentially -- excuse me. This has, definitely been an almost seamless process that we have been seeing happen all day long.

So once those votes are actually said audibly, they will be put into a paper ballot, out into a physical envelope and then sent to the president of the senate and then that whole process will get started. Joe Biden still is not going to be the president, but he is one step closer.

BLITZER: Yes, the president of the Senate being the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.

[17:15:01]

He is going to have to receive this outcome, 306 electoral votes for Biden, 232 for the president of the United States, soon to be the former president of the United States. David Chalian, it's going to be a bit awkward for Mike Pence to be presiding over a joint session of the House and Senate when they make it official once again.

CHALIAN: Yes. Awkward is one word. Vice president Al Gore, you remember, 20 years ago, experienced this after he lost that very close, much closer presidential election than this one in 2000. At the beginning of 2001, there was Vice President Gore overseeing the session that tallied up the electoral votes for his opponent, George W. Bush to become the next president.

Wolf, I just want to stress though, by watching this play out all day long, what America has been able to see here is a legitimate election. So, in the face of everything that the president and his allies have been saying to try and call into question what has been quite clear for weeks, what everyone got to witness today, and it really is -- not just for political nerds like me. I love this stuff.

But for everyone to be able to see our process play out publicly like this where you see the very legitimate and real election, both for Biden electors and Trump electors across the country, to cast their ballots, these critical ballots that determine the president of the United States.

Now, the power behind these ballots are the more than 155 million Americans who cast ballots in the presidential election back in October and November, all that early voting that took place because of the pandemic. All of those votes were tallied. But it is these votes that are the ones that actually make Joe Biden the 46th president, powered by that huge turnout that we saw in this presidential election.

BLITZER: Yes. I want to agree with you. I'm a political little nerd as well, David. So, we are both enjoying this day, watching all of it unfold. We are only moments away from California and its 55 electoral votes bringing Joe Biden over the top, making it formal and official. He clearly will be the next president of the United States. Jake? TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf. I want to bring in Ben Ginsberg. He is a CNN

contributor and he is also a top Republican election lawyer. Ben, good to see you again. We are about to see President-elect Biden cross over the 270 electoral vote threshold when California electors cast their votes.

We have known now for weeks that Biden is president-elect, but where does this moment put us in the process?

BEN GINSBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it certainly puts us one step closer. I mean, what is true for Republicans today is that they can no longer deny that Donald Trump has had his full run of the legal process.

And so it's really interesting to think about the January 6th, when Congress opens the ballots, that Republicans should almost hope that there are enough protests so they get to vote about this to get themselves right, especially the 126 House members and the silent senators will now have an opportunity to acknowledge what they should have already been able to acknowledge.

TAPPER: Congress is going to count the electoral votes on that day. Tell us how it works. And it sounds like you actually want some of the president's more loyal supporters to protest this so that the vast majority of House members that are Republican and senators who are Republican, can step in and say, no, no, no. Joe Biden won. Let's stop the nonsense.

GINSBERG: Yes. It is a formal way to say what they should have said informally already. So, the way it works is that the vice president stands there, opens up all of these envelopes from the states. If a member of the House and a member of the Senate objects to any one state delegation, then each body goes to its own chambers for a maximum of two hours of debate.

And then has to vote on whether they think the objection is valid or not. Both Houses have to pass that. Obviously, with Democratic House and at least four Republican senators in the Senate, there is no way that an objection is going to pass, but it does give them the ability to go on the record.

TAPPER: All right. With all due respect, Ben, and I know that this must have disappointed you, a majority of the House Republican Caucus last week, 126 House Republicans endorsed that crazy Texas lawsuit, the one that sought to disenfranchise voters in four non-Texas states based on a bunch of conspiracy theories, lies, and really frankly stupid suggestions.

What makes you think that House Republicans are prepared to acknowledge reality on January 6th if they were embracing just craziness last week?

[17:20:00]

GINSBERG: Well, in part because they should have been so utterly embarrassed by that lawsuit and then the result. When the United States Supreme Court, a 6-3 conservative court gives you the equivalent of a legal back of the hand by not even writing an opinion and dismissing it in a one-page order.

When the arguments made in that brief that they endorsed was such an abandonment of the core Republican principle of states' rights, that for some reason Texas ought to be able to tell Pennsylvania or Michigan or Wisconsin how to run their elections, is such an abandonment of principle that I do believe from conversations I've had that there are Republicans who regret the way they have approached this so far and not been able to speak out. January 6th, gives them an opportunity to go on the record.

TAPPER: That craziness just caused Congressman Paul Mitchell, a Republican of Michigan, to actually leave the Republican Party. So we will see what happens next. But Ben Ginsberg, as always, appreciate your expertise and you moral clarity. Thanks for joining us.

GINSBERG: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, right now, Jake, California's electors are gathering, they are meeting inside the California State Assembly. The state has 55 electoral votes. Once again, that is more than any other state.

California votes will certainly seal the presidency for the President- elect Joe Biden. You know what? Let's listen in as this process unfolds.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

UNKNOWN: Okay, we are going to go ahead and ask the tellers to collect the ballots and once we have elected the ballots, to hold the ballots while we select a secretary.

BLITZER: All right, while we await this process to continue, let's bring in David Chalian right now. David, pretty soon it's going to be official. Not only us, the news media, the major news organizations making it official when we projected a few days after the election that Biden would be the next president of the United States.

But now the Electoral College is going to make it official that Biden is the winner and Trump is the loser. And we know how the president hates that word loser.

CHALIAN: Yes. But that's exactly what he will be officially here at the end of the day as these votes have been cast. And, you know, it's obviously a sweet moment for the Biden-Harris ticket that this is happening in California that will put them over the top. Not just a big Democratic state, but Kamala Harris' home state, a Californian on the ticket as vice president, a history making vice president.

And so having her home state be the one to officially end this electoral process this year and send them off to the White House, I am sure is a welcome development in the Harris camp. BLITZER: We are going to squeeze in a very quick break right now as we

wait for California to make its electoral votes official. We will have live coverage coming up right here. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:00]

BLITZER: Live pictures of California's electors are voting right now. Let's listen in.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

UNKNOWN: Secretary Lima, I will now announce the tally of the vote for the office of president of the United States. For Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, aye's 55 and no's 0.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: There you have it. California Assemblywoman Shirley Webber making the announcement. Breaking news! California's electors have just confirmed their 55 votes for Joe Biden. And President-elect Biden has now received the majority of electoral votes needed to win the presidency, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in her home state of California, pushing the democrats well over the key 270 vote threshold.

It's yet another major blow to President Trump's efforts to undermine the will of the American people. And now Congress will count the electoral votes and declare the results early next month. This is a historic moment that we have just seen.

Biden will become the president of the United States and Trump will become the former president of the United States 37 days from now, on January 20th. Jake?

TAPPER: That's right, Wolf. Thank you so much. And, you know, what's important about this moment is that the American people got to see democracy in action and that meant that states that have Democratic governors such as Pennsylvania or Michigan or states with Republican governors such as Arizona or Georgia, they delivered their electoral votes according to law and according to the will of the people in those states, in this case, for Joe Biden.

This is like the 30th time that Joe Biden has won the presidency since Election Day.

[17:29:49]

But once again, we see that the attempt being made by the president and his supporters to undermine the election, to overturn the results is based in lies and that Joe Biden won.

[17:30:03]

PHILLIP: It has been over for some time now, but it is definitely over today. I mean, the electoral votes have been counted. You know, shortly after the Election Day, a lot of the President's allies were saying, we've got to wait until December 14th, wait until the Electoral College cast their votes. And then we'll know what the outcome is.

Well, that moment has arrived. And I think people can see pretty clearly that it was actually done in an incredibly transparent way. And earlier today, Rick Santorum made this point. And, you know, he's making it in a slightly different way. But I think it is important to point out, as you just said, also, Jake, there are a lot of officials across this country, many of them Republican who pushed back against enormous pressure to do something other than what they are required to do by law in many cases in their states. And what is right to do, which is the will of the voters, they pushed back. This went off without a hitch.

We haven't even seen a faithless elector today, which is different from even four years ago, when there were a few, a handful. It's not unexpected that that might happen. But we have not seen that. I think it's a testament to people all across the country doing the right thing, doing their jobs, and standing up for the constitutional process.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And you're talking about not just secretaries of state who are, you know, bound, I guess they're mostly political, but bound to really shepherd the elections through their states, but very political individuals like Brian Kemp in Georgia, like Governor Ducey in Arizona who have faced the ire of President Trump over and over again, particularly Kemp in Georgia.

And they stood firm. And they did so that because they have the benefit, frankly, of state law behind them. So they could say, look, I'm just doing what our state law requires. But the fact that those laws are in place, they're there for reasons like this, so that there are backstops and there are guardrails, in case the unimaginable happens, which is you have a president of the United States who was taking a weed whacker trying to, you know, destroy the real will of the people that we have seen in so many of these states.

And what we just saw with California putting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the top is evidence of that. And I will say that, you know, we've been talking about the local officials. Just in the past, our colleagues on Capitol Hill had been talking to some of the Republican leaders finally in the U.S. Senate who are starting to acknowledge reality from John Thune to John Cornyn, saying not just, yes, we see, it's likely that Joe Biden is going to be president- elect, maybe even more importantly, urging Republicans not to object when it comes before Congress on January 6th.

TAPPER: and we should know, look, 155 billion people voted. In every election, there are some mistakes, there are some errors, inevitably there's some fraud.

BASH: Yes. TAPPER: And President Trump and his team had every legal right to get evidence of that fraud, and present it before election panels, election committees, judges. And they have had weeks and weeks to do it. And there has been no credible evidence, nothing that would change their course of the election, nothing that would swing the vote. And we have seen people like Attorney General Bill Barr, who has certainly been a strong ally of President Trump in 99 out of a 100 cases.

We have seen very conservative Republicans like Governor Kemp of Georgia, Governor Ducey of Arizona. We have seen all sorts of judges, including judges and U.S. Supreme Court justices appointed by Donald Trump say, where's the evidence? You have no credible evidence, there's nothing here. Joe Biden won.

BASH: And I just want to add just really quickly something to that. It's not just that they didn't produce the evidence. They really, for the most part, particularly on the federal level, when you're talking and even on the state level, when you're talking about Trump supporters. They got people annoyed, because there was -- there's a lot of talk and the President is kind of beating the drum. But there was no evidence. And that's not how it works. You need the evidence, and they didn't really even attempt to present it in a way that didn't make a lot of these judges mad.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, that last point is so key, because when you looked at this ridiculous case that they tried to take to the Supreme Court, part of the argument was that the reason they couldn't come up with evidence of fraud is because there was so much fraud, it was undetectable, and that everything should be thrown out because it's just this invisible fraud that's everywhere and pervasive, but only pervasive in the swing states that President Trump lost in. It's a ridiculous argument.

And it's one that I think really flies in the face of the basic principle that I think is being upheld today, which is that the votes of the American people should count, they should matter, and they should not be overturned just because President Trump doesn't like losing.

[17:35:16]

I mean, ultimately, that's what this is about. He doesn't want to say to his supporters, I lost, I'm going to step aside, when in fact, being able to do that is exactly the one thing that he is supposed to do. If, as a patriot in this country, that is the one thing you're supposed to be able to do is to say, when my time is up, I'm going to step aside and I'm going to walk away.

TAPPER: Yes. But I think we've learned throughout this process that democracy is fragile, and it's only as strong as the people to whom we entrust it. Thankfully, in this case, in this election, we entrusted it to a lot of good and honorable people, but I don't know what's going to happen next time. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, Jake, President-elect Biden is going to be speaking to the nation at some point this evening, saying democracy prevail. Now it's time to turn the page. David Axelrod, do you see this as, I mean, is it possible to turn the page right now?

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I -- we will hope, we will see he has a history of relationships across the aisle. Hopefully those will make a difference. But there's something very foul in our political environment right now. And the President has stirred the pot even more. Remember this president, President Trump, spent five years calling, essentially calling Barack Obama an illegitimate president and questioning his citizenship.

And he announced even months before the election that if he lost, that he would consider it a fraudulent election, you know, based on mail-in votes. So we advertised in advance, and we said it many times. Either he wins, or the process was fraudulent. The problem is that people believe it. They echo it. These -- I agree with all of the tributes to Republicans and Democrats across the country have stood up to political and physical threats in order to do their duty.

But we may not have seen faithless electors today. But we've seen a lot of faithless electeds, particularly in the U.S. Congress, who put the loyalty of the President, and frankly, fear of the President, ahead of their duty to the country. Now I was moved as everybody by Representative Mitchell earlier, when he spoke to Jake. He was very eloquent and very strong. He's also retiring.

And there are a whole lot of Republican elected officials who fear that even though President Trump is leaving, that their posture on his nonsense will shape whether they get a primary challenge or not. So there is a reign of terror that is going to continue beyond this election. And that's my fear.

COOPER: Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, look, we've been living through some really destabilizing times, whether it's COVID or whether it's this election. And the President of the United States now has a decision to make. And I think we all know what he's going to say. His decision is to say, OK, the electors have spoken, and Joe Biden is President-elect, and the country can move on. He is not going to do that.

The members of Congress now have to do that. I am waiting for Mitch McConnell to call Joe Biden President-elect. He needs to do that immediately today, in five minutes. The Republicans who have used the excuse that they were waiting for the Electoral College, even though we all knew that this was just certifying an election, affirming an election, they all need to come out today, and give Joe Biden his due as President-elect.

There's no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump will spend however many years he has left trying to delegitimize Joe Biden's election, maybe he'll run again, maybe he won't run again, maybe he'll try and freeze the Republican field in 2024, that he wants to remain a kingmaker. But these politicians at the national level, not the ones who were brave at the state level, but at the national level, they have to now come out and say, we respect democracy. This election was not fraudulent. Our elections were not fraudulent.

He was elected in a free and fair way. And it is time for them to come out and do it because otherwise, as David is talking about, this stench will never go away.

COOPER: Van, do you actually expect any of that to happen? Why would they come out and suddenly embrace this?

VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, they should if they believe what they say. I remember, I was reading a little bit of nostalgia, the Obama years and these people, the constitutional conservatives, the Tea Party movement, they were really mad at David Axelrod and Barack Obama and all of this because they're constitutional conservatives.

And they got to defend the constitution, nothing to do with any of these, you know, allegations of racist movement, nothing like that, no. They believe in the constitution of their government, and they are going to defend the constitution of their government.

[17:40:21]

Well, the constitution says that when the electors do what they just did, you have something called a president-elect. And now let's see, this is very curious. Let's see where the constitutional conservatives go tonight. This is the time, Gloria is 100 percent right. I don't understand at the end of the day, you know, if you have any other excuse now than political cowardice, it is no, it is no longer possible to imagine that you're going to go to Supreme Court and get them to do something that there's no pathway for that.

You are now going to go to Congress was your strategy, you have kind of crazy campaign, you're going to rely on courts and Congress and not the American people to keep you in the White House. That's unprecedented.

So either you're saying that you believe that because it's, you know, you got some ability to get maybe a Congress members to invalidate an election, that's your pathway. How is that in keeping with all of the fire and brimstone we heard about loving this country and defending the constitution from Barack Obama? I'm just curious, like, where are the constitutional conservatives today?

COOPER: Rick, can you answer that?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I guess my question is, I would say to those constitutional conservatives or Republicans that I understand that you're angry, because you looked at four years ago, a bunch of Democrats trying to delegitimize Donald Trump and throw in Russia and Ukraine and, you know, yes, Gloria, we've been destabilized by COVID and by this election process. We were destabilized before by impeachment, a whole bunch of other things that were thrown at this President.

And I would just say to those who are thinking about doing the same thing now, you know, think about how you felt when that was happening to President Trump and why you were rightfully upset that the other side was not, you know, granting the legitimacy of Donald Trump's election. We need to be better than that. I understand, you know, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, I hear this all the time from my Republican friends.

And, you know, well, they did it to us. Well, just because they did it to us, doesn't mean that you do it to them. It's not right. And, you know, we, at least I thought that what we believed in was doing the right thing. Not necessarily, you know, the eye for an eye thing.

COOPER: Yes. I'm sorry, I got to go Wolf. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. We got some major breaking news right now. Bill Barr, the Attorney General of the United States, not waiting 37 days until this administration is over. He's leaving. He's leaving now according to the President of the United States.

The President just tweeted this. Let me read it for our viewers. Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one. He has done an outstanding job. As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all.

So Kaitlan Collins, you're our White House correspondent. This relationship has so deteriorated over the past few weeks, the President making it clear publicly and privately that he had lost total confidence in the Attorney General of the United States, Bill Barr, simply because the Attorney General did things he didn't like, for example, like telling the Associated Press that he did not find any widespread fraud in this election.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And also, Wolf, his latest frustration had been over that investigation into Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, with the President publicly complaining this weekend that Bill Barr followed Justice Department protocol, and did not reveal that information in the lead up to the election after it was reported that he had gone to great lengths to obviously keep it from becoming public for a fear that would interfere in the election, which of course is long standing DOJ protocol.

But now in this letter and this tweet that we got from the President, Bill Barr has written this resignation letter, I believe it's a resignation letter to the President saying that he's going to be leaving on December 23rd. He says he has a few more things he wants to wrap up before his time as attorney general ends. And of course, Wolf, that's just going to be with only a few more weeks left that the President is going to have who is now the Deputy Attorney General taking over as the Acting Attorney General.

And so, this letter and this tweet from the President sounds like this is a mutually agreed upon departure for Bill Barr. But, Wolf, this comes as I was told by sources the President spent this weekend talking about firing the Attorney General because he was so upset with him. And you're right, their relationship had deteriorated that much. And one of the big things that the President had complained about lately was that Bill Barr would not back up his baseless claims about election fraud.

[17:45:08]

He came out and said, you know, the Justice Department looked into this. The Department of Homeland Security looked into this. We didn't find anything. And so now we have this letter written from Bill Barr to the President that the President has tweeted, it's dated from today. And at the beginning, he says I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon on the Department's review of voter fraud allegations into the 2020 election, and how these allegations will continue to be pursued.

He talks about how divided the country is. And says it's incumbent for the agencies to make sure that there is integrity in the election, Wolf. But of course, that was one of the center points of the President's frustration with him lately. And so of course, the question is now what is this going to look like with Jeffrey Rosen taking over?

And I'd actually been told in recent weeks that one of the reasons the President was reluctant to fire Barr as he desired to do was not just that there could be fallout from of course, firing the Attorney General, just a few weeks left to go in his term as President, but also who wouldn't be taking over because the President doesn't know Jeffrey Rosen very well.

I'm told by sources. It's not a situation like when Jeff Sessions left when he was fired from the Department of Justice. And of course, you saw Matt Whitaker, a Trump loyalist take over. So that was actually a cause for concern, I was told, inside the West Wing. But now we are learning that after Christmas, Bill Barr is no longer going to be the Attorney General.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, I'm just reading the letter myself, this resignation letter, as it's called from the Attorney General of the United States, Bill Barr. Let me read a little bit more of it, Kaitlan, for our viewers. Dear Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon, the Department's review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election, and how these allegations will continue to be pursued.

At a time when the country is so deeply divided, it is incumbent on all levels of government and all agencies acting within their purview to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcome.

Let me read a little bit more. I am greatly honored that you called on me to serve your administration and the American people once again as Attorney General. I am proud to have played a role in the many successes and unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people. Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless, implacable resistance. Your 2016 victory speech in which you reached out to your opponents,

and called for working together for the benefit of the American people was immediately met by a partisan onslaught against you, in which no tactic no matter how abusive and deceitful with out of bounds.

The nature of this campaign was the effort to cripple if not outs your administration with frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia. A little bit more, few could have weathered these attacks much less forge ahead with a positive program for the country.

You built the strongest and most resilient economy in American history, one that has brought unprecedented progress to those previously left out. You have restored American military strength by brokering historic peace deals in the Mideast. You have achieved what most thought impossible. You have curbed illegal immigration and enhanced the security of our nation's borders.

You have advanced the rule of law by appointing a record number of judges committed to constitutional principles. With Operation Warp Speed, you delivered a vaccine for coronavirus on a schedule no one thought conceivable a feat that will undoubtedly save millions of lives.

One more paragraph, during your administration, the Department of Justice has worked tirelessly to protect the public from violent crime worked closely with leaders in Mexico to fight the drug cartels, crackdown on China's exploitation of our economy and workers, defended competition in the marketplace, especially the technology sector and supported the men and women of law enforcement who selflessly and too often fecklessly risked their lives to keep our community safe.

As discussed, I will spend the next week wrapping up a few remaining matters important to the administration and depart on December 23rd wishing you and Melania and your family a Merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season. God bless. Sincerely, William P. Barr, Attorney General.

You know, Jake, a letter praising the President for all these things. But the question remains, why couldn't he stay a few more days and wrap it up like any normal Attorney General would do? Why did he have to leave a few weeks early?

TAPPER: It's a mystery wrapped inside a riddle, Wolf. But one of the things that I think is clearly worth pointing out is that this letter was released by President Trump just minutes after the Electoral College declared that Joe Biden, the President-elect secured enough electoral votes to without question this 30th time be clearly having been elected President of the United States.

So I get that President Trump doesn't like it when the spotlight isn't on him. And clearly the attention this afternoon has been on the Electoral College victory of Joe Biden and to a lesser extent, a Conservative Republican congressman disassociating himself with the Republican Party, Paul Mitchell, because of all these extreme, talk about friends (ph), even baseless claims. But here we go, the end of a professional relationship that has ceased to do either man anymore good.

[17:50:32]

PHILLIP: Yes. Look, the timing is not accidental. This is happening right now, because the President wants us and everyone else to talk about anything other than the fact that he's not going to be president anymore on January 20th. The fact that Bill Barr is leaving, I think, as the President says, it is what it is. He has a few more days left in the job, this relationship had become as toxic as it could possibly had become.

And some of it had to do with actually Barr's, refusal to get involved in the electoral process, both with the Hunter Biden investigation, sticking to the DOJ policy on that, and not allowing it to become public from the Department at the very least. And then also, even in this letter, as he writes here about investigating allegations of fraud, never once saying that there was widespread fraud in this election, I think even on his way out the door, he's affirming what has pissed the President off so much in the last few days, which is that he won't say that there has been fraud, he won't back him up on that, which is at the core of his baseless claim --

BASH: If the President has seen from the get go since he took the oath of office, seeing the Attorney General role as his own personal attorney as his Roy Cohn. And that's not what it is. And he's never gotten that. The issue with Bill Barr is that at the beginning of his tenure, that's exactly how he acted. I mean, Barr acted in the interest of President Trump as opposed to in the interest of the people as he presented the Muller report and did so in a way that didn't exactly explain it and put it in the light that it was intended to put it.

And so the fact that Bill Barr at this point where the President is at his most desperate for the Attorney General to say what he wants, meaning to say, there was widespread fraud and things that even Bill Barr couldn't stomach saying, that was a bridge too far, even for the President, not to mention the Hunter Biden situation, and other things.

And despite the fact that that is as saccharin as you can imagine, at that letter, that Wolf just read that the President tweeted, we know that at the end of the day, this is just one more character, one more person who had built a reputation, a good reputation for years and years in Washington, who has now -- is now going to go down in history. Maybe first and foremost, as somebody who is associated with Donald Trump, all the good, the bad, and the ugly that goes along with it.

TAPPER: The letter is a perfect summation of Attorney General Barr's tenure. The letter contains his achievements having to do with fighting crime. The letter contains a paragraph in which he misrepresents the Russia investigation, which was obviously how he first kind of jumped on the stage misrepresenting the Russia investigation. The letter includes him standing up for the fact that there is no evidence of electoral fraud and he does it by lack of pointing out that there was electoral fraud, but it's in there. And then there's just paragraph after paragraph of obsequiousness. So there you have it, if you want to understand what the Barr, Attorney Generalship was like, read that letter. You get a perfect summary. Anderson?

BLITZER: All right, let me take it, let me take it, Jake.

TAPPER: Oh Wolf, sorry.

BLITZER: A historic day unfolding here in the United States of America. We're following the breaking news. As we've just reported, the Attorney General Bill Barr has resigned. We'll have more on that coming up. More importantly, the U.S. Electoral College has formally voted and Biden will become the president, he is the winner, Trump will be the loser on January 20th. Biden will be sworn in as the next president of the United States.

[17:54:28]

And there's more breaking news. The first coronavirus vaccinations are now underway in major numbers here in the United States, much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're following major breaking news on multiple fronts.

Just minutes ago, President Trump announced that the Attorney General of the United States, Bill Barr, is leaving the administration on December 23rd. President Trump tweeted out Barr's resignation letter which notes the two discussed allegations of voter fraud today over at the White House.

[18:00:08]