Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Set To Attempt To Overturn Trump Defeat; Georgia Votes. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 5, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, that's now the fourth confirmed state where it's present.

All right, thanks very much to all of you for joining myself and Anderson. Our special coverage of election night in America continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's election night in America continued, as this country is entering 48 hours of history and uncertainty.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Trump allies in Congress are right now preparing for a futile, seditious challenge of the electoral vote count, as the final balance of power here in Washington, D.C., is on the line.


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): After a contentious fight for the White House, the fate of the U.S. Senate is now up to voters in one state.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: People of Georgia.


ANNOUNCER: Will Republicans keep control of the Senate?


ANNOUNCER: Or will Democrats win it back?


ANNOUNCER: Tonight: the results of two high-profile Senate run-offs, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock aiming to build on president- elect Biden's historic victory.

RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Welcome to the new Georgia. Welcome to the blue Georgia.

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Georgia voters sent Donald Trump packing. ANNOUNCER: Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler seeking to hold onto their seats after President Trump lost Georgia and reelection.

SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): We are going to show America this is a red state.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): We're the last line of defense.

ANNOUNCER: Will the outgoing president help or hurt his party by denying his own defeat?

TRUMP: We will never give in. We will never give up.

BIDEN: Georgia certainly wasn't going to stand by and let Donald Trump toss out your vote.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's coverage of election night in America continued, the balance of power, the Biden agenda, and the big stakes for the GOP.

TRUMP: Everything that we have achieved together is on the line.

BIDEN: This is it, a new day for Georgia and for America.

ANNOUNCER: The people are choosing. The nation is watching. And anything is possible until the last vote.


BLITZER: These are live pictures coming in from Georgia's capital city, Atlanta, this state holding enormous influence over the U.S. capital, which is now set up for Inauguration Day.

Will incoming President Biden have a Democratic Senate on his side?

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer back right here in the CNN Election Center. And we're standing by for the first results in Georgia's unprecedented double Senate run-off. Polls close in just a few hours.

Democrat Raphael Warnock, a pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church, is challenging GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler, a co-owner of a WNBA team. And Democrat and former journalist Jon Ossoff is running against Republican incumbent David Perdue, a former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General.

Democrats need to win both seats to take control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in six years. That would give a significant boost to incoming President Biden and his ability to push through his agenda.

Republicans need to win only one of Georgia's seats to keep control of the U.S. Senate, and that would put Mitch McConnell in position to stay on as the majority leader and stand directly in Biden's way.

We could get early clues about the outcome when we reveal the first Georgia exit poll results in the next hour.

Right now, let's bring in Jake Tapper -- Jake.

TAPPER: Wolf, we are watching the final hours of voting. We're inside polling places in Atlanta and Decatur, as we wait for Georgians to resolve the big cliffhanger of the 2020 election.

Let's check in with our correspondents in Georgia now.

First to CNN's Kyung Lah.

Kyung, what are you hearing from Democrats about what they view as their chances of retaking the Senate?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, overwhelmingly, from Democrats here in Georgia, we are hearing one word, caution.

From a Democratic source with knowledge of both campaigns, the word that I'm getting is that this source remains skeptical that they -- if the Democrats were to manage to pull this off, it would be something really incredible, because it's not supposed to happen here in Georgia, so some real downplaying of expectations there.

As far as the Warnock campaign, the Warnock campaign saying that they are under no illusions about GOP turnout, that they are anticipating the die-hards to get out there, that these are consistent voters, and that they will vote.

The Ossoff campaign is saying that they're not reading adding anything into the fact that things have gone smoothly, that there aren't any long lines, that they do anticipate, Jake, that they will be looking at very strong Republican numbers. They are hoping that the Democratic early vote will hold -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

Now to CNN's Ryan Nobles at the Republican candidates' headquarters.

Ryan, what are the Republican officials saying about their party's prospects tonight?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, to Kyung's point, Republicans knew that Election Day was going to make or break their chances here tonight, and, so far, they like what they see.

They have been very impressed with the turnout in some of these strong rural counties which were strong for President Trump and for the Republican senators that ran in the November election. Two counties in particular they point me to, Cherokee County, which is north of Atlanta. They expect that the Election Day totals there on this run- off will actually exceed what happened during the general election.

And then, in Houston County, which is south of Macon -- that's David Perdue's home county -- they're also seeing a strong turnout there as well.

Now, Jake, even though the Republicans feel very good about where the turnout numbers look now, they understand that they need the entire day in order to kind of close those gaps that they saw the Democrats run up during the early vote.

The Loeffler and Perdue campaigns putting out a joint statement less than an hour ago, where they say -- where they said that they feel encouraged by the numbers so far, but they implored those Republican voters that haven't voted yet to make sure that they get out and cast their ballot, an indication that they understand that they have to win on Election Day and win big if they're going to win this election here tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan, thanks so much.

And Dana and Abby are here in the studio with me.

And, obviously, so much of what president-elect Biden is going to be able to do as president depends on whether or not Democrats have control of the Senate or whether or not he is at the whims of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


Regardless of what happens tonight, or when we get the results from these pair of run-offs, it is going to be razor-thin in the Senate, just as we already know it is in the House. But the difference is, as you said, whether the Democrats get to control the Senate floor means that they get to decide when legislation comes up.

They get to be in charge of committees and so on and so forth. And the fact that it is so razor-thin, we really don't know how it's going to play out. Traditionally, Republicans win in run-offs, especially in a place like Georgia, but there is nothing traditional about this year, especially in Georgia.


And I think that we should be clear that this is an uphill battle for Democrats. As Kyung just pointed out, they have got to win both of these seats in order to even have that slim advantage of setting the agenda in the Senate. So, that's a really tall order.

And they're trying to do it in an environment in which things are so incredibly polarized. It's been interesting to see the conversation in Georgia on the Democratic side. A lot of it is about policy, but, on the Republican side, it's about loyalty. It has become so much about the president, so much about who is the most loyal to him.

And so I think, in that environment, it's very hard to predict how this is going to go. Republican voters are motivated by such different things than Democratic voters in this environment. And I think it's going to -- what it means is that we don't really know who's actually going to show up or who has shown up because so many people have already voted. At the end of the day, both sides are just crossing their fingers that

they were able to get that done.

TAPPER: And the big wild card, of course, Wolf, is, how much impact will President Trump's continued lying about the integrity of the election in Georgia and his attacks on the Republican government officials there, how much will that have an effect on potentially depressing Republican turnout today, Wolf?

BLITZER: We will find out, Jake, fairly soon, the answer to that question.

I'm here at the Magic Wall.

John, weren't just here? Didn't we spend some quality time here not that long ago?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's good to see you. You ready for a long night?

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Magic Wall.

Set the scene for us, what we anticipate.

KING: This is the final -- it's carried over into 2021, but this is 2020's final verdict.

And as Dana, Abby and Jake were noting, it will have a dramatic impact on the Biden presidency. Do Democrats narrowly control the Senate or is Mitch McConnell still the leader? Georgia will settle that tonight. The map is blank right now. We're about three hours away from getting the first results.

Another caution, as we had back in November, mail-in ballots, people who voted early in person, today, ballots, they're going to come in different ways in different counties. Be patient as we go through it. Don't believe everything you see right out of the gate.

But what are we looking for? Let's just go back to 2020 and look at these races. This is the presidential race, proof Democrats can win, Joe Biden the first Democrat to win in Georgia since 1992 and Bill Clinton in the three-way race with Ross Perot. But it was very narrow, 11,779.

Still, Democrats say this is proof we can win these Senate races. So, let's look at those. And let's start with this one, the true Senate race back in November, meaning two candidates, Perdue, the incumbent, Ossoff the Democratic challenger.

Republicans would argue, look how close this was. The reason we have a run-off, Georgia state law requires you to be above 50 percent to win, 49.7. David Perdue came that close.


The Republican argument is in that perfect storm, Joe Biden winning, he couldn't get off Ossoff across the finish line, so they should win tonight.

Democrats say, no, we have learned some lessons. We will be better.

Let's see how that plays out. Look how close it was, very similar to the presidential map. For Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the other Democrat, Atlanta and the suburbs are critical. Chatham County down here by Savannah, are critical. This is the straight-up race, if you will, the one-on-one race.

The other race is more complicated. And you can't make too much of the November results, because this is a special election. Johnny Isakson decided to retire early for health reasons. So you had a crowded field that goes on even below what you see here.

And, yes, the Democrat did get the most votes, 33 percent for Reverend Warnock. But if you add up all the Republican candidates, their total was actually higher. Again, the top two end up in the run-off, because you need to have 50 percent by Georgia state law.

So, that is what we have, two races tonight, very close. Democrats need them both, need them both to get the 50/50 tie in the Senate. What are we going to be looking for? Let's go back to the presidential map as we go through that.

We're going to look for the same thing. Number one, can the Democrats, in this case the Senate candidates -- but this is the Biden-Trump race. Can they run it up in Atlanta, in the suburbs? This is DeKalb County. You see Joe Biden with 83 percent. Can the Democrats run it up in Atlanta and the suburbs?

Or do the Republicans perform as they normally do in a non-Trump year in the suburbs, where, especially in Georgia, the suburbs are usually more kind to Republicans? That's a big test without Trump on the ballot.

And to the point Jake was making about the president attacking the election system in Georgia, does that turn down Republican turnout or do his voters come out just because it's a big fight, even though the president's mad at the governor and mad at the secretary of state?

Where do you want to look for that? Here's one place we can look later. Whitfield County is where the president was last night. This is where he had his big rally last night, talking mostly about himself, mostly airing his grievances, but also saying, people, get out and vote.

You see the margin up here for Trump, 70 percent. If you go back, look at the Senate race here, just shy of that for David Perdue. Will Republicans turn out in Trump country, Wolf? That's another thing we will be watching tonight as we go from 2020 into the verdict now, as we carry these two races over to 2021.

BLITZER: We're going to be spending a lot of quality time here at the Magic Wall, John. Thank you very much.

We're soon going to get early clues about the Georgia results when we reveal our first exit poll information right at -- after the top of the hour.

We're also getting new information about tomorrow's showdown here in Washington up on Capitol Hill and the split among Republicans over the GOP challenge to president-elect Biden's win.



BLITZER: Looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill, dramatic moments about to unfold.

We're following all the latest developments in Congress. Voters in Georgia are deciding control of the U.S. Senate on this, the eve of a potentially very dangerous stunt by Trump loyalists who are planning a doomed challenge to president-elect Biden's victory.

Let's go to Capitol Hill.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is standing by.

Manu, first of all, tell us about the events that are about to unfold tomorrow, when Congress convenes in this joint session to certify the results of the Electoral College.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump wants Congress to overturn the results of the Electoral College, an unprecedented act.

But Republican opposition is mounting to that effort, Wolf. Senior Republicans, influential ones, are coming out one by one this afternoon, saying that's absolutely not the way to go and that is not the role of Congress and would defy the Constitution, influential Republicans like Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma saying that is the wrong way to go, joining Senate Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, who are planning to push back very strongly against this.

But, nevertheless, there is a push among these House conservatives to move ahead. Tomorrow, what will occur on the House floor when they start to count electoral votes, if one House member is joined by one senator, then each chamber will debate for up to two hours. Then that will be followed by a vote about whether or not to essentially throw out the electoral votes from those states.

Those votes will fail in both chambers. But the question is going to be, how long can they prolong this debate? I'm told from one key House member who's involved in these discussions, Jim Jordan, who is fighting this effort, that is an agreement with three states right now.

It's uncertain whether there will be more. We expect Arizona, Pennsylvania, and the state of Georgia to be contested tomorrow. Whether they will get more, it remains to be seen. Those discussions continue. But, Wolf, expect, a divisive debate, debate among Republicans

themselves about if this is the way to go, and the president himself suggesting that even Mike Pence should step in and overturn the results.

But, Wolf, even influential Republicans are telling me tonight that is absolutely not going to happen. And they expect it's only a matter of time. By January 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in.

BLITZER: He definitely will be sworn in as president of the United States on January 20, despite all the noise from the pro-Trump supporters up on Capitol Hill.

Let's check in over at the White House.

Our correspondent Kaitlan Collins is standing by.

Kaitlan, President Trump has been turning up the heat on the vice president, Mike Pence, as we just heard, and it seems to be intensifying.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does, because now it's going public, after it was private for several days, Wolf.

And now tension, we are told, is at an all-time high inside the West Wing, because this is a treatment that the vice president is not used to. Yes, of course, he's been criticized by the president before. He has been questioned and mocked by the president before. But he has never been needled in a way that the president is doing so now, something that we are told he's been doing basically daily since Saturday, Wolf.

But now it has gone public, because, last night at that rally, the president said he hoped that Pence doesn't disappoint him when he goes to Capitol Hill tomorrow. And then, of course, today, he claimed he has an authority that he doesn't, to reject the electors, of course, who are going to affirm Biden's win with the certification of the votes tomorrow.

And, basically, Pence has a really -- a central role, really procedural, just counting those votes.


But the president has been convinced by these antagonistic advisers, people like Rudy Giuliani and his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, that Mike Pence can actually play more of a role than he can tomorrow. And he has fully gripped onto that, Wolf. And he is telling the vice president that he can disrupt those proceedings tomorrow, even though the vice president, I'm told, has gone through carefully with the president what exactly his role is going to look like.

So, the president is aware of what it's going to be tomorrow. But we are seeing the vice president try to balance this, Wolf, what his limited role is going to be, while also trying to seem enthusiastic about these efforts to disrupt this tomorrow. And I'm told that the vice president actually took a more involved

role than expected in that recent meeting with House Republicans over at the White House with President Trump on what they're going to be doing tomorrow, that strategy session.

But, of course, as Manu noted, there is only so much the vice president can do tomorrow.

BLITZER: Which is absolutely true.

All right, Kaitlan, we will be in close touch with you.

In the meantime, let's go back to Anderson -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, thanks very much.

Here with a group in New York.

Senator Santorum, you know Vice President Pence well. What do you think he will do tomorrow?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think he will follow his constitutional duty, which, in the case of the 12th Amendment, is to preside over the gathering and to open the ballots.

That's -- I mean, I just reread the 12th Amendment. And that's the only thing that he has, under the 12th Amendment, the authority to do, which is to -- as he is -- he's the president of the Senate. And as the president of the Senate, as a former senator who was there for 12 years, the president the Senate has basically no power.

The Senate, a long, long time ago took away the power of the vice president, who's the president of the Senate, to have any authority other than to break tie votes. And then the 12th Amendment subsequently, same thing, no power here, other than to preside, to be the traffic cop, to recognize people, and then to open the ballots and let the proceedings take forth.

But the idea that he has some hidden power in the 12th Amendment to reject electors is wrong, in my opinion -- not -- it's wrong, number one. And, number two, it's -- I don't understand, and I don't hear a lot of Republicans joining the president on this one, to be honest with you. Maybe there are some. I haven't heard of any yet.

It's a very dangerous thing for Republicans and conservatives, who believe in states and believe in federalism, who believe in the Electoral College, and to have the Electoral College decide who the president is, not the Congress, not the popular vote, we should be standing behind the Electoral College. We had 50 states.

You may disagree with them. And -- in some, in some instances, I may quibble about some of the way that the votes were cast in some of these states. But the bottom line is, they were certified. Those certified states reported to the Congress.

And, as Republicans and conservatives, we should be standing behind the states. That's who we say we're for. We're for a federal system. And we say we're for an Electoral College, and we should be supporting that system.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Mike Pence is the sports announcer. He doesn't get to decide who wins the game. He's the person who opens the envelopes and says, here's the score. Here's who won, here's who lost. He can't affect it.

It would be unconstitutional. It is anti-democratic. And I think the fact that Mike Pence has been paying so much attention to this means that he understands exactly what he has to do. And he also knows that it's going to make the president furious.

And it's kind of a Shakespearian moment for Mike Pence. Here, he has spent the last four years doing nothing else other than saying how wonderful Donald Trump is. And now he has to...


COOPER: This is the lesson that everybody learns who is around President Trump, that no matter how loyal you have been, no matter how subservient you have been, no matter how much you have debased yourself, it is never enough.

And it's only, what have you done for me lately?


And the other thing is that he fundamentally doesn't believe in these institutions and norms and rules. And if you do, you're going to run into conflict with him when his interests are at stake.

I mean, think of what the implications would be if the sitting vice president were to disqualify votes in order to perpetuate himself and the president in office. I mean, that would be the...

COOPER: In another country, we would call that a coup. And we would call that...


COOPER: Go ahead.

AXELROD: Al Gore in 2000 -- you were probably sitting in the chamber at that time.


AXELROD: Lost on the strength of 527 votes in the state of Florida. And there was a lot of dispute, as we all remember, about that.

And he sat there, and he presided over the codification of George Bush's election as president. That is the American tradition. That is our system. Pence knows that.

[16:25:03] And he's in a vise right now. But I don't think that he can do anything about it.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the worst thing about this is, the president in some ways has to be in a country like ours the educator in chief.

He's got -- a country is a story that people tell each other about who they are and what they are. You can't see a country from a satellite. You just see a bunch of land. It's the people telling themselves the stories. It's the institutions. It's traditions.

To have a president miseducate the country, to the point you now have tens of millions of people who believe that the Department of Justice that he appointed is lying, that our courts are lying, that Republican officials are lying, that all of these people are lying, and only one person is telling the truth, that's Donald Trump, that's miseducating the country.

COOPER: We're getting closer to the first exit poll results in Georgia, including a read on whether Georgia voters felt that the election was valid or not.

We will bring you all those ahead.