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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  October 1, 2020 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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powerful. cnn, washington. our thanks to kate bennett, cnn will debut a new series called "first ladies" this weekend. you can watch it sunday night 10:00 eastern here on cnn. our coverage on cnn continues right now. i will see you tomorrow. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. welcome back to our viewers here and around the united states. i'm wolf policer in "the situation room." we're following the truly stunning refusal by the white house to unequivocably declare once and for all that president trump denounces white supremacy. it's been nearly 48 hours since the president failed to do so on the debate stage, but the white house said he did not misspeak. mr. trump is also fueling new baseless conspiracies about the integrity of the election as early voting surges across the country. he's going after the commission on the presidential debates as well tweeting he might not allow the group to change the rules
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ahead of the next showdown with joe biden. all of this as the coronavirus pandemic takes a men acing turn in the united states. over 200,000 have died and forecasting up to 25,000 u.s. deaths by october 24th. this morning i'll speak with kaitlan collins who directly questioned white house secretary kayleigh mcenany about the president's refusal to condemn white supremacy but first ryan nobles at the white house with more late breaking developments. what are you learning? >> the pew research said more than 20% of voters are people of color. here we are with votes already being cast in the 2020 election, and president trump is being forced to explain exactly where he stands when it comes to white supremacy. tonight despite multiple
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opportunities to condemn white supremacist groups, the president and his administration continue to dance around the question. >> can you right now denounce white supremacy. >> i just said the -- >> you read a bunch of quotes. >> white supremacy and kkk. >> you wouldn't put it on a t-shirt and make badges. >> the president did denounce. he was asked would you tell them to turn down. he said sure. >> sounds like an instruction. >> he said stand back. yesterday when he was asked he said specifically stand down. >> reporter: white house secretary kayleigh mcenany using old quotes and refusing to acknowledge the outright embrace of organizations like the proud boys. >> he didn't know who the proud boys were. first time i heard of them was in the debate. the media continues to put these names into circulation and give them a lot of public attention. >> like the proud boys. >> proud boys, stand back and
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stand by. >> but leading republicans are also taking issue with what the president said. >> i think he misspoke. i think he should correct it. if he doesn't, he didn't misspeak. >> he said condemn white extreme assists so i do so in the most strong way. >> i condemn what we see in terms of white supremacy, racism. >> as early voting trump continues to make baseless statements about fraud in the election process. >> this is crazy what's going on. this is crazy. >> his rhetoric only part of what's raising concerns. the trump campaign is preparing to send thousands of volunteers to polling locations across the country. >> i'm urging supporters to go into the polls and watch carefully. >> critics accusing the trump team of deploying intimidation despite the fbi's assessment there's no widespread voter
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fraud. >> we have not seen historically any kind of coordinated voter fraud in a national election. >> meanwhile the president continues to believe he won the debate. >> biden lost badly. supporters are saying he should cancel. >> this despite concern from his own team that his rocky performance could hurt him with persuadable voters. they are considering tightening up rules to prevent a repeat of the fiery affair that lacked substance. >> i hope there's a way the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer a question without interruption. >> a move the president says he's opposed to tweeting why would i allow the debate commission to change the rules for the second and third debates when i easily won last time. >> tonight the biden campaign is saying they will abide by whatever rules the commission puts forward while the trump campaign continues to work.
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trump were saying he doesn't want to change, they attacked the commission. jason miller, one of the senior advisers calling the commission a bunch of creatures from the swamp. they are insisting that the commission not change the rules ahead of the next debate. wolf, they wouldn't say definitively if president trump would participate if the commission doesn't back plan to change those rules. >> we'll see what happens on that front. ryan nobles, thanks very much. let's get to more of the dangerous failure of the white house to unequivocalably assure voters president trump condemns white supremacy. listen to the exchange between kaitlan collins and white house press secretary kayleigh mcenany. >> proud boys or people who consider to be member of the group give show is so antisemitic, anti-immigrant views. they are a despicable group by pretty much anyone's standards. when the president was asked about him and you say he denounced them, that's what
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you're insisting he did on the debate stage, if that's the case, why are they celebrating what the president said on the debate stage in front of millions of people. >> i don't speak for that group, so i'm not sure you're asking me why they are saying a certain thing. >> if somebody denounced you, you wouldn't put it on a t-shirt and make badges. >> the president did denounce. when asked if he would ask them to stand down he said sure. he said stand back. yesterday when he was asked he said specifically stand down, a synonym with stand back. the president said sure, when asked by the moderator, whether they should stand down. it's really interesting, too, to see the media seems to be the only one putting the names of these groups into headlines, into media reporting. he didn't know who the proud boys were. first time i heard of them was in a debate. the media continues to put names into circulation and give them a lot of public attention. >> he was given about 12 hours than that when he was asked to clarify yesterday. he didn't come out and clarify
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yesterday. he did what you did when he asked to unambiguously denounce the group, you pointed to past things he said. i don't understand you knew you were going to get the question and you don't have a statement ready that seas we denounce this. >> you know why people lost trust in media, a reporter from your network -- >> i'm asking you a question. what you're bringing up has nothing to do with what i'm asking you. >> your partisan attack question so you will allow me to give an answer. the president said yesterday in a tweet, tied to a question about white supremacy, a question by reporter. the president specifically verbatim was asked yesterday white supremacy, do you denounce them, to which he responded i have always denounced any form of that. those are the facts. cnn, i know that truth is of no moment to your network, but those are the facts. >> why are republicans --
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republicans are causing on the president to be more forceful, his own party. >> kaitlyn is with us now. kaitlan, you've been covering the president for several years. why do they continue to refuse to denounce white supremacy every time they are given a chance? >> i don't know. this is a pattern we've been going through during the time in office and on the campaign trail. back when he used to say i don't know who david duke is when asked about the endorsement of him, even though he's on camera talking to david duke. he's using a similar tactic to the proud boys. he didn't say he didn't know on the debate stable, he repeated them after joe biden brought the group up. this is a pattern with the white house and this president where he makes comments about white supremacy, neo-nazi that aides have to spend days defending them and the president backpedals and we repeat this
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cycle again and again. one of the main thing was appointing kayleigh mcnancy what he said before often prescripted remarks by aides when the president has come under fire for things he said. most people will remember what happened after charlottesville when he talked about being good people on both sides. wolf, remember, the president came back to the white house, gave this scripted speech to reporters and then later was seen -- heard saying they were not all neo-nazis in that group, not all white supremacists in that group. he has often undermined his own comments on this, the ones the white house has been using all day to point to. >> it's not just his usual critics who are speaking up, the republican leadership, tim scott, mitch mcconnell, the majority leader, all took issue with how the president handled that question. >> republican lawmakers are never eager to criticizes the president. they know how popular he is within their party. often they avoid reporters and cameras on capitol hill or give
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vaguely worded statements about what the president said. we did not see that from the upper echelons with mitch mcconnell saying he aligned himself with views of tim scott. tim scott saying the president miss spoke, he needed to clarify. saying they did not believe the president was misspeaking when he made the comments. john thum, brasso, romney saying the president does need to be more forceful on this, wolf. it's not just a matter of semantics and what the president said, listen to the fbi director who testified about the threat of white supremacy right her in the united states saying racially motivated extreme events, mostly white supremacy in recent years, is seriously a lethal domestic threat facing people who live here in the united states. even the fbi director says it's significant yet the president when he's given multiple
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opportunities and aides given three opportunities by reporters in a 30 minute briefing can't put out a statement that most people believe would be something really easy to say. >> it's easy to say i condemn white supremacists, period. it's not that hard to say that. kaitlan, thank you very, very much. let's continue the discussions with martin luther king iii, global sense right leader. we have yet to hear a clear denouncement of white supremacy from the white house. you dedicated your life to fighting human rights. why do you think the president and white house, for that matter, renews to unequivocally denounce white supremacy. >> the only thing any of us can come to the conclusion of is that is who he is. he told us who he is. people close to him have told us who he is in relation to issues of race. we cannot mandate anything in
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terms of what he does. what we can do is, you know, our government, preamble talks about we the people. we the people must come together. so many far more people in the country who did not embrace this. the bigger question is why are so many persons embracing him with an attitude that refuses to denounce racism and homo phobia and so many tragic things in our society. i think that is the biggest question that should be perplexing in 2020. we can, we must, we will do better. we will not let a president, just as in my dad's era, talk about injunction. an injunction, which is a court action, would not allow people from operating around freedom, we will not let a president disallow us from voting and other things. we've got to change this nation. this can be an incredible nation. we've got a lot of work to do. that's what this tells us. >> an important point indeed.
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the white house press secretary, she claims mr. trump condemned racism more than any president in modern history. i wonder what you think your father would have said to that, hearing an assertion like that from the white house press secretary? >> you know, i don't know if any of us can speak for dad. certainly dad tried to challenge us to always deal in truth. unfortunately we see so much truth coming out of the white house every day, out of the president's mouth as well as his whole apparatus. people need to deal with fundamental truth. be truth, be honest. unfortunately we're not going to get the truth or honesty. then they try to denigrate everyone else because they have that apparatus. that's very sad. that reminds me people are not willing to deal with truth. i understand she's doing her job. she probably does her job well
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in terms of protecting those things that are not true. you know, i don't think we can worry about what he does. it really is what we do as americans, americans voting like they never have before. we're seeing this in many areas. >> despite attempts to clean up the president's wards, martords know they use his words as a rallying cry, not just rhetoric that is concerning but potentially the violence that results. you've seen, that right? >> yes. on that issue, specifically, i think that governors and secretary of states and attorney generals have an obligation to protect voters rights to come and vote and not have confrontations taking place. normally we go to the justice department and the justice department would ensure fairness comes. unfortunately this justice
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department operates basically as a rubber stamp for the president and not in terms of enforcing the law for all people. and so that's why i think it's important for governors and secretaries of state and attorney generals around this country to ensure there are no confrontations and that people can vote in an unencumbered way, a fair way, and safe way most importantly. >> i'll just leave you with this thought. the fbi director christopher wray, he is specific in contrast to what the president says, he says these white supremacist represent biggest terror threat here in the united states. people ascribing to some kind of white supremacist ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that. very, very significant statement from christopher wray handpicked by the president to be the fbi director. martin luther king iii, thank you for joining us. >> thank you, wilf. cities and businesses preparing -- hope it doesn't
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the white house press secretary kayleigh mcenany passed multiple opportunities to directly denounce white supremacy and backed up baseless claims about early voting irregularities. joining us analyst julia borger and a republican election lawyer. both, thank you for joining us. ben, we've known each other for years. you have a lot of experience as an election lawyer. you've done this work three or four decades. is there any proof at all that would justify the president's sustained attacks on the
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integrity of the upcoming presidential election? >> there's no evidence of widespread fraud, wolf. republicans have had people in polling places for four decades. the sum and substance of what's been found are a few random events of fraud. >> really no significant impact as all the experts have concluded. gloria, do these claims sound more like something that would be put out by a russian troll than the president of the united states. >> sounds like something put out by michael bloomberg who does not expect to in with the election and wants to make sure if he's not likely to win the lec, he wants to delegitimatize the election. you have to think of this as disinformation has been a way of life for this president. i give you hydroxychloroquine as a cure for covid and on and on.
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the president talking about foreign countries are going to invade the ballots and somehow fix the ballots in our countries. ben could label chapter and verse of this over and over again. it is built for one purpose. it is built to raise questions about the outcome of any election, and i would argue also to suppress the vote. >> an important point. ben, i would note the fbi director on this issue toemgtsly disagrees with the president. he testified september 24th we have not seen historically any kind of coordinated national fraud effort in a major election whether it's by mail or otherwise. you have total faith in the system, you believe we can weather the president's attacks. you do predict there could be a delay of getting the actual results of this election if it's close. so what happens if the president, for example, were to declare a victory before all the votes are counted? >> i suspect what would happen is state election officials,
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both republicans and democrats, would refute that until they are comfortable with what their finals votes are. on election night the responsible states will give you the totals they have that night and also the number of absentee ballots that are outstanding, that have not been returned, so that you'll know how much movement there could possibly be. but the president declaring something on a nationwide basis stands in the face of the way we do our election, which is on a state by state basis. this is not going to be a one size fits all statement. you're going to have to go to the individual states to look at the results. that's going to be really tough to proclaim. >> that's an important point as well. on a separate but very important issue, gloria, amid all the fallout from that chaotic debate the other night, the moderator, chris wallace, is laying blame with president trump. watch and listen to this. >> he bears the primary
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responsibility for what happened. that was frustrating, frustrating for me, because i tried hard to prepare for a serious debate, much more frustrating and more importantly for the american people because they didn't get the debate they wanted and that they deserved. >> so what do you think, gloria, what do you make of that? >> good for chris wallace. it was obvious at the time for those watching it, and there were 73 million americans who were watching it that the president of the united states would not let his opponent get in a word. when chris wallace tried to even the scales and talk the president down, he wasn't allowed to. now the commission on debates, as you know, which has been disparaged by the trump campaign are saying they are going to have to try and change the rules. they are saying right now we don't want any rules changed. i was just talking to a source on the campaign who said this really doesn't mean trump would
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withdraw from the debates, it's just that he doesn't want any rules changed. of course, he thinks he did brilliantly. the next debate for the presidential candidate is a town hall, so a very different kind of debate where the questions largely come from the audience and not a moderator. >> the president, as you correctly point out, he is angry about any change he tweeted today. why would they change the rules for the second and third when i easily won the first time. >> that is ridiculously as you know, completely ridiculous. >> just reporting what the president is saying in an official statement. gloria, ben, thank you very much. coming up, coronavirus surging right now in at least 27 states as new cases and hospitalizations climb. stay with us. we've got new information. we'll be right back. ? try optum perks. it's a new way to save up to 80%. and everyone can do it. it's from optum,
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breaking news. the coronavirus pandemic has claimed 207,000 lives here in the united states and at least 27 states right now are reporting a spike in new cases. brian todd is joining us.
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brian, the situation, i understand, is especially grim in wisconsin. >> it is, wolf, just a short time ago wisconsin governor said he's concerned by what he called the alarming trends they are seeing across the less presiden still plans to hold campaign rallies in wisconsin this weekend. in the state of wisconsin tonight, the coronavirus pandemic is back to crisis proportions. what officials call disease activity is high in all 72 counties they say. hospitals are stretched, some pushing capacity. top medical official says local infrastructure is falling apart. they can't identify individuals who have been exposed to tell them to quantity. >> when the volume gets high they fall behind. they don't have enough resources to communicate to the people who need this. have to mostly fair to populationwide, large scale mitigation strategy and rely on a shared sense of public
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responsibility in order to turn the corner. >> president trump's own white house coronavirus task force warning people in wisconsin to increase social distancing. the president planning to hold two rallies in the state this weekend. >> having a rally people can choose whether or not to come. >> a planned trump rally in one wisconsin town, lacrosse, is moved to another town after the mayor said flat-out they didn't want the president to come. >> we're really hoping we can get this event canceled or postponed to another time based on what we're experiencing here in lacrosse. >> reporter: this comes as case counts continue to rise in more than half the states tonight. cdc projects 232,000 americans will have died from coronavirus by october 24th. the white house task force trying to mitigate the damage and potential danger zones warning officials in georgia, iowa, wyoming, which don't have
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face mask mandates to get their residents to wear them. still, iowa and mississippi have loosened their rules. >> it's dangerous to be loosening restrictions especially as we're seeing a surge in cases already and about to go into the fall. this is not the moment to be letting our guard down. >> officials in new york doing their best not to let their guard down while the positivity rates in 20 hot spots across the state have increased. in new york city the mayor said certain neighborhoods may have to be targeted for tough measures. >> we're watching, and the decision will be made based on the facts of whether we need to do a fuller shutdown in those communities. >> primary drivers of transmission in the u.s. and around the world, young and middle aged adults because they are the ones who come into contact with the most people. that's according to a new study out of india based on contact tracing of 3 million people making the race for a vaccine as critical as ever. the head of the fda promising
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again this week his agency will use strict scientific guidelines and not political pressure from the trump administration who approve vaccines. >> we won't cut corners, we will use our rigorous criteria. >> and regarding that change of venue of the trump campaign rallies in wisconsin this weekend, the trump campaign now says that the venue was moved from lacrosse, wisconsin because of of an issue with the venue. the lease with that venue in lacrosse. trump claiming that move was not covid related at all. officials on down are critical for the president for coming to the state at all, wolf, given their spike in cases. >> that's clearly something that's very, very worrisome. thank you. let's get analyze from the school of public health, dr. jah, thanks for joining us.
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coronavir kroefrz cases on the rise. we note it's an increase in hospitalizations and sadly an increase in deaths. how concerned are you, dr. jah. >> thanks for having me on. i'm very concerned. certainly what we're seeing across dakotas, wisconsin, utah, montana, lots of other states on that map, a large increase in cases and a few seeing more hospitalizations. deaths are starting to go up. we see this pattern play out over and over again. we seem to wait too long to act and intervene. we've got to act now. especially in places like wisconsin where things are bad. >> the president, as you know, is planning a pair of rallies in wesk as that state is seeing a sharp rise in cases potentially. what kind of damage could a large public event, even if it's outdoors, do in a state that's
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already vulnerable and especially if people aren't necessarily wearing masks and not engaged in social distancing. >> any large gathering can be a problem. in a place that's got exponential growth as wisconsin does, it's very concerning. what we've seen from previous rallies of the president is people don't wear masks and do social distancing. i am thankful that's outside. i think it will help. if people are packed together and not wearing masks it will set off cases, hospitalizations and unfortunately more deaths. >> moderna says it won't have necessary data to move forward with the authorization process until after election day. the company says their vaccine won't be widely available until the spring. does this seem realistic to you? what's your analysis? >> yeah. so again, the vaccine production, the making and testing of the vaccine has been going incredibly well, high levels of scientific integrity.
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i've always said let science drive the time line. what i hear from moderna is exactly that. as long as we're making decisions on scientific principles, i'd like it soon but take it when it's ready. need to make sure political processes don't end up getting involved. >> i just checked. johns hopkins said 42,812 americans tested positive for coronavirus just yesterday and sadly 946 americans died from the virus just yesterday. so those numbers are continuing. this crisis is by no means over. stay safe out there. dr. jha, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. just ahead, a disturbing look at the real possibility of extremists parking civil up rest around election day in the u.s. how cities are businesses are already preparing for the worst. , you'll get planning and advice to help you prepare for the future, without sacrificing what's most important to you today.
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once again the president refus refused -- cnn learned cities and businesses already are preparing for the worst. cnn senior investigative correspondent drew gingririffin been looking into this. >> they have shown up armed, face-to-face, in cities across the country.
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extremists from the right and left and those that don't seem to follow any political beliefs. violence between them has led to confrontation, assaults, killing. >> the groups are revolutionary and violent and seeking to attack our constitutional traditions and replace the founding narrative. >> reporter: with election day looming, experts are warning it could get worse. cnn learned law enforcement, cities, banks, corporations are all quietly bracing for the possibility of violent clashes around and after election day fueled by extremists. federal law enforcement sources tell cnn the fbi is concerned about the possibility armed extremists might try to interfere with local vote counting. >> the stakes are so high this political chaos could transcend into something worse, physical action in the event we come up to a contested election. >> former secret service agent and security consultant said
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he's telling fortune 500 companies to prepare for a decline into chaos. >> we want to prepare them for the entire spectrum of threats so they can sustain operations in the midst of chaos. >> what is so troubling is that president trump is stoking the confrontations. >> proud boys, stand back and stand by. >> when donald trump told the alt-right proud boys to stand by, he sent a signal to the extremists who follow him. two former dhs officials who worked under trump said that only makes matters worse. >> i am concerned if he really digs in and cannot accept defeat, things will be tied up in court and have an increasingly impressive right wing group of folks trying to take matters into their own hands. >> a second former trump dhs officials tells cnn warnings about right wing domestic terror threats were discounted at white house briefings.
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everything from the white supremacist tom q anonnetworks were missed because those groups were seen as bases of support for the president. that includes followers with right wing beliefs, other times not. >> this summer i interviewed benjamin ryan teeter, patrolling after george floyd's killing. unlike some followers, he makes it clear he doesn't support president trump. >> you're an anarchist. >> it's a commonly misunderstood term. >> on september 4th the fbi arrested teeter and a number member claiming they were preparing to support hamas as mercenary soldiers and destroying monuments and targeting politicians and members of the media. teeter has yet to enter a plea
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but the case makes his comments all the more chilling. >> do you advocate any kind of civil war? >> i'm willing to do what we have to. >> while right wing extremists and white supremacist groups are considered top threats by officials expert joel finkel stein documented for the first time using social media to organize. >> anarchist media pitching the event as the beginning of a revolution. >> july 25th fur u.s. cities erupted in violence. research those that anarchists shared online happened on the ground. across the cities almost identical tactics, even the use of umbrellas to hide their identities. cringe on the right and left seek to destroy our democracy no matter who wins an election. >> people seem to think the election is the thing that will solve that. there's every reason to believe
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the election is going to make it that much worse. >> wolf, multiple police agencies across the country are already telling us they are canceling police officers time off during election days. baltimore police oepg opened up incident command room looking for any information of unrest as we lead up to this momentous election. >> hard to believe this is happening in the united states or america. drew griffin, thank you very much. very disturbing. coming up election officials fear polling places could become the scene of intimidation, even violence, after president trump urged supporters to, quote, watch the voting.
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traffic and air pollution will be even worse after the pandemic.
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that's why we support measure rr to keep caltrain running. which is at risk of shutdown because of the crisis. to keep millions of cars off our roads, to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. and measure rr helps essential workers like me get to work and keep our communities healthy. relieve traffic. reduce pollution. rescue caltrain. [all] yes on measure rr. breaking news we're following. republican texas governor greg abbott has just ordered a significant reduction in the number of drop-off locations for mail-in ballots. state democrat being party is calling that move blatant voter suppression. pamela brown has the latest on voter integrity developments from across the country. >> go into the polls and watch very carefully. >> reporter: president trump's
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call for supporters to stake out polling places has state officials scrambling to respond to the potential for election day intimidation and possibly violence. the massachusetts attorneys general is trying to calm voters and warn about intimidation. >> we're not going to let donald trump undermine our election. it's a crime. >> reporter: while 11 governors united to condemn the president's message as a threat to democracy, writing there is absolutely no excuse for promoting the intimidation or harassment of voters. >> in philadelphia, they went in to watch. they were called poll watchers, very safe, very nice thing. they were thrown out. they weren't allowed to watch. you know why? because bad things happen in philadelphia. bad things. >> reporter: but it wasn't a bad thing. under state law, poll watchers are not allowed in early voting locations. but earlier that day, a false narrative began, when a trump campaign staffer claimed pennsylvania democrats were scheming against the president, asking in a tweet, what are they
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hiding? >> no one is being turned away, because there aren't poll watchers in these satellite offices. that is complete propaganda. >> reporter: the rnc aims to dispatch tens of thousands of election monitors across the country, which both parties are entitled to do. language and republican sponsored facebook ads, directing supporters to a facebook page called army for tru trump, is raising concerned. >> eneed every abled-bodied man, child and woman to join. >> reporter: as is this ad, warning voters democrats are trying to tip the scales and fight back. this, as a federal court in montana is serving up a win to the state's democratic governor. republicans and the trump campaign sued to stop an extension of mail-in voting there on the basis of widespread frau fraud. the judge called that, quote, fiction. >> the president's allegations of fraud now have to be proven in court.
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and i know from my years of looking for this that that proof is not going to exist. >> reporter: tonight, the trump campaign is defending the president's comments on poll watching, releasing a statement saying poll watchers are critical to ensuring the fairness of any election, and president trump's volunteer poll watchers will be trained to ensure all rules are applied equally and some campaign officials have told me the president meant for people to regio register to be poll watchers. the concern is that people will hear his words and view it as a call to action to be a poll watcher unofficially, which critics warn could lead to voter intimidation. that's why you're seeing so many state officials speaking out about this. >> pamela brown, thank you. the white house's refusal to say that the president flatly condemns white supremacy. [birds chirping]
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with peacock premium included at no additional cost. no strings attached. we want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. president trump is escalating his defiance of democratic norms on multiple fronts two days after his off-the-rails debate performance and just 33 days before the election. the white house is now refusing to clearly and directly say he denounces white supremacy while falsely claiming he has done that when he hasn't. also tonight, the president is spreading more baseless claims about ballot fraud, trying to ramp up fear and doubt asly


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