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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  November 17, 2020 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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this is cnn breaking news. welcome to our viewers here in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. we're following breaking news. president donald trump is moving ahead with a very controversial draw down of u.s. troops in afghanistan and iraq even as he refuses to acknowledge his days in office are numbered. the withdrawal is due to happen within days of president-elect biden's inauguration. biden met with national security experts today despite being blocked from formal classified briefings from the trump administration as president trump stews over at the white house sowing chaos.
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multiple states have improved new restrictions as the virus surges across the country. but there is some additional promise on the vaccine front. pfizer has just announced its vaccine has reached a safety milestone and is preparing to file for an emergency use authorization from the fda. let's start off with kaitlan collins. the pentagon announced the troop draw down as the president continued to completely stay out of sight again. >> reporter: he's staying out of site b sight but he's not staying quiet. this two-month period is the number of days the president will be in office but he's making it clear and announced that troops are going to be withdrawn out of iraq and afghanistan. those decisions are coming as
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the president is staying behind closed doors. he's making clear the next few months he's basically going to get everything he didn't get done in his first few years in office on his way as he's on his way out. with two months left in office, president donald trump ordered the pentagon to withdraw thousands of troos frps from ir and afghanistan as he tries to make good on a campaign promise. >> this is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives, supported by the mesh peop american people and does not equate to a change in u.s. policies or objectives. >> chris miller confirmed the move in only his second week on the job. his predecessor, mark esper wrote a classified memo saying the conditions did not justify
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withdrawal. >> the forces in afghanistan will be 2,500 troops. our size in iraq will also be 2,500 by that same date. >> reporter: miller said the troops will be withdrawn by the time president-elect biden is inaugurated but instead of offering insight into the decision, he walked off and took no questions. national security robert o'brien also taugouted the move without answering a single question. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell delivered a thinly veiled warning from capitol hill. >> i think it's extremely important here in the next couple of months no the to have any earth shaking changes with regard to defense and foreign policy. >> reporter: the top republican on the house armed services committee, mack thornberry said it would undercut negotiations and the taliban has done nothing, met no condition that
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would justify this cut. president donald trump did not publicly comment on the announcement as he stayed behind closed doors against today. behind the scenes trump has continued to push baseless claims of election fraud while pushing his attorneys to keep making dubious arguments in court. after the first two legal teams dropped out, his third set of attorneys attempted to stop the certification of the vote in pennsylvania today where the case is seen as a legal long shot. the trump campaign has until tomorrow at 5 p.m. central to ask for a recount in wisconsin that will cost an estimate $ 7.9 million and must be paid up front. the campaign hasn't said what they'll do. >> we'll have a decision in the next few days here. >> reporter: as georgia's recount comes to a close, the top election official in the state says he's under growing pressure from his own party, including south carolina senator lindsey graham. >> i just want to be clear on this, mr. secretary, you say senator graham wanted you to find ways to get rid of legally
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cast ballots because cnn asked him about these allegations he denied them and said that's ridiculous, his words, "that's ridiculous." >> it's just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out. >> reporter: graham denied pressuring georgia's republican secretary of state. >> i categorically reject that. that wasn't my intent and that wasn't the purpose of the conversation to throw out ballots. we're talking about an election that we haven't even had yet, which was the senate race. that was my focus. >> reporter: wolf, the president has been spending an awful lot of time in the white house since the leelection, not really comi out in front of cameras and now he may be spending more time there. normally more thanksgiving he goes to his mar-a-lago club in palm beach, florida, but we're hearing they're strongly considering cancelling that visit and have the president remain here in washington. >> a very disturbing
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development. we just learned, caitlin, that senator chuck grassley, 87 years old, has tested positive for coronavirus. what are you hearing over there? >> reporter: this is really disturbing. he's 87 years old. he was in quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive and he himself has also tested positive. you saw him yesterday here in waflt washington on the senate floor but today he missed votes for the first time since 1993. of course, we hope the best for chuck grassley. this comes as you're seeing people like sharon brown argue about whether people should be wearing a mask on the senate floor while they're speaking and this makes the case they should be. >> we wish senator grassley a speedy, speedy recovery. he's third in line to the presidency after the vice president and the speaker, as we all know as well. we wish him a speedy recovery.
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kaitlan, thank you very. let's go to the president-elect right now and his efforts to move ahead with the transition. our political correspondent is joining us from wilmington, delaware. any reaction from team biden to the new troop withdrawals ordered by president donald trump? >> well, wolf, right now from president-elect biden there is not expected to be any immediate comment regarding this troop draw down in both iraq and afghanistan. that's expected to happen just days before he takes office, but biden is keenly aware of the situation that he will be inheriting from president donald trump and today he held a briefing on national security by a team of experts that included former government officials and military leaders in lu of the federal government providing classified intelligence briefing that they still would not provide to him, as the president has not accepted the results of the election. president-elect biden put
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national security front and center today as the trump administration blocks his access to the nation's top secrets. >> no presidential responsibility more important than protecting the american people. >> reporter: biden assembled his own team of diplomatic defense experts from outside the government in lieu of the classified briefings the federal government still won't provide. >> i need to focus on readiness for whatever may come. >> reporter: biden also spoke today with five world leaders, including israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu, whose office referred to biden in a tweet as president-elect, something president donald trump refuses to acknowledge. >> it begs the message america's back. it's no longer america alone. >> reporter: back in washington, kamala harris returned to the senate as vice president-elect, even greeted with a fist bump from one of the gop senators publicly siding with trump in had the transition standoff. biden is plowing ahead, naming
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the senior team who will lead his white house. in addition to ron klain, mike donellin will be senior adviser and biden has tapped some campaign veterans. and louisiana congressman cedric richmond, a national co-chair of biden's campaign is leaving his house seat for a top white house job. >> this new role will allow me to offer advice to the president when he wants it, maybe sometimes when he doesn't want it. >> reporter: richmond's hiring drew some backlash from progressive organizations with the sunrise movement calling it betrayal due to the congressman accepting donations from the fossil fuel industry. today president obama reminding everyone during a virtual sitdown with oprah what may be one of the biggest challenges facing president-elect biden. >> the truth is is that there
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are some deep divisions in this country and it's going to take all of us, not just one election, to overcome those divisions. >> reporter: and bidens transition team is keeping up the pressure on the trump administration to coordinate with them on issues relating to the coronavirus pandemic. the co-chairs of biden's coronavirus advisory board held a phone call with reporters where they talked about the need for coordination not just on a vaccine distribution plan but also getting access to data sets relating to ppe, testing supplies, as well as hospital bed capacities, one co-chair sheaing the saying there's no time to waste. >> i want to bring in abby phillip and gloria borger. gloria, let's begin with the planned withdrawal, thousands of u.s. troops from afghanistan and iraq by january 15th, just five
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days before president donald trump leaves office. are we seeing what some critics are describing as a scorched earth strategy emerge from the president during this lame duck period? >> reporter: yeah, this is a president, as kaitlan pointed out earlier, who is sulking, full of grievance and retribution and he's planning his comeback and whatever that may be and whatever form that may take. so what we're seeing, piece by piece, president donald trump going through a list of things he said he would do before leaving the white house. and one of them, of course, is withdrawing from iraq and afghanistan despite the fact that his own military brass, according to reporting by jake tapper, disagreed with him about doing this, but he decided to do it anyway. and so the question we all have to be asking is what is he going to do next? there was reporting today about the president getting an option
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about attacking iran, for example. we know that he is appointing new people, even as we speak with questionable credentials to go into his administration, and what he is doing is stirring the pot for joe biden and he completely understands that, but if he's going to leave, he's going to leave kicking and screaming, wolf. >> you would think, abby, he would at least consult with the president-elect, joe biden, about this because the ramifications for the incoming president are going to be pretty significant in both iraq and afghanistan. >> yeah. i think that there often is in these transition periods a consideration that you, meaning president donald trump, might not be there to deal with the ramifications of something like this. but we shouldn't expect president donald trump to pick up the phone and call joe biden. i'd be surprised if the two interacted at all in this
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transition period given the president's mood. these moves that we're seeing are a sign that even the president, people around him with really strong agendas are actually trying to do as much as they can in the limited time that they have left. they are saying that the president still has a shot to win this election, but they are acting as if they have limited time at their disposal and trying to do as much as they can to ram some of these decisions through before he is no longer in office on january 20th. >> arlette, the announcement came as the president was being briefed by national foreign policy experts outside the government. he's yet to receive any official national security briefing due to a stunning lack of cooperation from the trump administration. so what message is biden sending by gathering these experts, including some several highly e respected military officers?
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>> biden is trying to project a sense of confidence that he can step into that role on the first day on january 20th and be able to deal with a host of issues that will be confronting him and that includes foreign policy and national security. you saw him assemble his own team of experts today as a sort of work around around the fact that he's unable to receive those classified intelligence briefings from the federal government. i mean, one thing for biden is that he has decades of experience in this sector, so it's not an on-the-job training type of situation. he has pointed out that his vice president-elect kamala harris continues to receive intelligence briefings, but for the time being he's consulting with the people who have had the experience in these agencies on the ground. he had stanley mcchrystal, a former general, as well as admiral william mccraven in that briefing talking through options and readiness options as he's
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preparing for this administration while he's not getting these classified intelligence briefings from the current administration what does that tell you about the fact that general mcchrystal, so high live respected at one point he led u.s. forces in afghanistan, he was participating in this briefing with the president-elect? >> i think it tells you an awful lot about joe biden. stanley mcchrystal is someone who disagreed strenuously in joe biden in 2009 over the troop surge in afghanistan. in fact, there was a piece written about mcchrystal and his aides in which they made fun about joe biden and mcchrystal had to end up resigning as a result of it. so they were opposed to each other and here joe biden sought him out and say, look, we disagreed in the past but i want to get your advice on going forward. that is something i could never imagine donald trump doing, but joe biden is a bigger man and
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doesn't behave that way. >> i was impressed. i saw the list of who participated in this briefing for biden, retired general lloyd austin, retired general william mccraven, retired general vincent stewart, all highly respected military officers. do you think we should expect additional firings and controversial decisions from donald trump in the remaining two months of his presidency? >> oh, absolutely. i think we should expect any number of moves from this administration. earlier kaitlan collins reported expect this to be a busy time. people in the white house understand their time is limited. this is typically a time when an outgoing administration tries to solidify the legacy of the sitting president who is on his way out and they're going to do that in as many ways as possible. we're already seeing them pushing to fill judicial vacancies at a pretty rapid
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clip. i think we can see a lot more of that and perhaps more firings in the intelligence community and even in the law enforcement community as well where the president has had some tensions. >> good point again. thank you very much. just ahead i'll get reaction from senate foreign relations committee member chris murphy. and i'll speak to the director of the national institutes of help, dr. francis collins. we'll talk about new progress toward a coronavirus vaccine and the urgent health risk as thanksgiving approaches. if you're on medicare, remember, the annual enrollment period is here. the time to choose your coverage... begins october 15th and ends december 7th. so call unitedhealthcare... and take advantage of a wide choice of plans... including an aarp medicare advantage plan from unitedhealthcare. it can combine your hospital and doctor coverage...
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we're following the breaking
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news president-elect biden planning for america's security as president donald trump orders new troop withdrawals and refuses to cooperate with the transition. we're joined by senator chris murphy, a member of the senate relations commission. is today's nonclassified briefing that the president-elect in any way a suitable replacement for the really classified intelligence briefings from government officials like the one the president-elect traditionally is supposed to be entitled to? >> the short answer it is not. there is no way that vice president biden, president-elect biden can get the kind of information that he needs in order to be ready to do the job on day one without this transition beginning. what we know is in the first months of any new president's term, our adversaries and non-state actors around the
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world will almost always test the enough administration. so that is one of the reasons why it's so critical that there be no gap in knowledge that the new president have weeks, if not months to process the most highly sensitive classified information about the threats presented to the united states. the good news of course is there's been no president in my lifetime that has been more ready to take this job as commander in chief than joe biden. so he comes to the office with a set of skills necessary to handle any crisis, but this inability of the trump administration to begin the transition absolutely does compromise the security of the united states and it's got to stop. >> he spent eight years as the vice president of the united states and used to receive the daily classified briefings at that time. let's talk about these troop draw downs that the pentagon announced in iraq and afghanistan. by the end of the president's term in office, only 2,500 troops will remain in each
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country. do you believe these cuts are justified by the position on the ground. >> i support a withdrawal of american troops from iraq and afghanistan but i believe it should happen on a policy timetable, not a political timetable. donald trump is rushing these decisions in part to try to limit the options that president-elect biden has to manage very complicated situations abroad. remember, in afghanistan, we've been there for almost 20 years and we decided to remove our troops in exchange for promises made by the taliban to achieve political reconciliation with the afghan government and to end any relationship they have with al qaeda. it limits the ability of president-elect biden to make sense of policy in january. it's been stunning how many major policy decisions donald
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trump is making with respect to yemen and iran. it all seems to be a cavalcade of lame duck pettiness, the president trying to constrain the options available to the president-elect once he comes into the oval office. >> in addition, senator, to these troop cuts, the president has also made several high-profile changes at the pentagon as well as other federal agencies. is he trying to come tie the hands of the incomes biden administration before they even have a chance to get to work? >> you certainly worry about these positions he's filling that have tenures that extend beyond the president's term. we just voted down on the senate floor a really radical nominee to the federal reserve. that individual would have been there for the entirety of vice president biden's term as president, constraining his ability to work side by side with the fed to help our economy recover. so some of these positions that
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are being filled of course only extend as long as trump is there. others do have the effect of making it harder for joe biden to get his agenda done. >> while i have you very quickly, i want to get your quick reaction to the very disturbing news that we just learned that your senate colleague senator chuck grassley has been confirmed for the coronavirus, 87 years old, third in line to the presidency. what's your reaction? >> my heart goes out to chuck and his wife. chuck's in amazing shape for his age. so my hope is that he'll be able to fight this off. but weir about to go down to the senate floor for a vote at 6:30. it's an abomination that mitch mcconnell is acting as if business is still going on as usual. we need to start taking precautions here in the senate. we need testing available to not just members of the senate but all the staff, all the cafeteria workers, all the janitorial
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staff, the idea that we are here this week voting on, you know, nominees to the district court instead of actually working on coronavirus legislation is nonsensical given that our presence here is putting thousands of people at risk. senator mcconnell's got to get a lot more serious about keeping this campus safe. >> we wish senator grassley a speedy, speedy recovery. we're all very, very worried about him given his age obviously, what's going on. thanks so much for joining us, senator. appreciate it very much. >> just ahead, hospitalizations for covid-19 hit another all-time high as states are scrambling to impose new restrictions to slow the virus. dr. francis collins is standing by live. tonight...i'll be eating crab cakes with spicy aioli. (doorbell rings) thank you.
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tonight the coronavirus is spreading so quickly and killing so many americans that the numbers keep going up before our eyes. right now the u.s. death toll has climbed above 248,000 and the total number of cases just topped 11.3 million just here in the united states. cnn's alexandra field is
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following all the new vefl developments. >> reporter: more than 73,000 patients are hospitalized across the country. in rural parts of america the strain is almost too many to bear. >> when you look at utah or montana or dakotas, they have such a fewer number of icu beds and specialists, when they get the cassitpacity, it's going to sounding an alarm. >> reporter: in iowa, republican governor kim reynolds is the latest to implement a statewide mask manmandate. >> i'm reminding and asking all iowans to step up and help us stop the spread all together. >> reporter: in mississippi republican governor tate reeves is requiring masks in 22 of the 82 counties. and in west virginia. >> how do i feel about the mask?
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i don't like them. i don't want to wear them, but more that be anything, i want us to get more control, more control over this terrible virus that's just eating us alive. i want us to absolutely wear a mask. >> reporter: mobile morgue trucks are filling up the parking lots of tin texas. >> help is on the wave by but h is not here yet. the fact we have a vaccine coming means we should double down and hang in there. >> reporter: pfizer said it has enough data to apply for emergency usage from the fda, giving hope for the future as states struggle to contain a ballooning crisis with new restrictions announced every day. in pennsylvania, philadelphia has new limits for indoor
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gatherings, dining and gyms. >> we need to act now to reduce the rate of increase and to flatten the curve once again. >> reporter: to massachusetts, home to several universities and colleges, the mayor of boston telling college students who go home for thanksgiving not to come back. >> if you go home for thanksgiving, you should not be returning to boston this semester, you should do the rest of your learning remotely. >> reporter: ohio is among the states fighting a surge in cases and hospitalizations to get their arms around it, the governor announced a curfew would get into effect starting thursday night, measures implemented to try to stem the crisis in that state. a lot of good vaccine news on the horizon but it simply is not there yet. >> joining us now, dr. francis colli collins, director of the national institutes of health. thank s so much for joining us
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and for everything you and your colleagues are doing to save lives. there is some good news. pfizer says it now has enough safety data and is preparing to file for what's called emergency use authorization. dr. collins, how significant is that? >> it's pretty amazing actually, that we have reached this point in november, just ten months after the sequence of this virus was first revealed and the vaccine strategies got in place. keep in mind it generally takes prior to now about eight years on the average to get a vaccine developed. and here we are with two companies, pfizer and moderna, now having revealed their interim data and alysis showing 95% efficacy and higher. let's not jump the gun. the fda doing their job and
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they're ver carefy careful. this is not going to be a rush through the data. they'll make sure everything is in order with safety and efficacy and then they'll make a judgment about whether both of these vaccines, pfizer and moderna may be entitled to emergency use authorization. estimates that that may happen sometime early to mid december at which point then doses can start to be administered. that's what we're all waiting for. nobody should assume that means bei we're done. it will take money months to get the dose for our country to get past this. we need to double down on everything we're doing to try to prevent further spread. >> will there be enough of the vaccine available as quickly as
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necessary? moderna and pfizer, assuming they get the emergency use authorization? how quickly will that be made available to the american public? >> so operation warp speed put into place, this whole plan to do manufacturing even before the approval of any of these six vaccines that are being studied and that's never been done before. the american public through their tax paying have covered the cost of that, but it was a really good idea. that means that if these two vaccines do get approval, emergency use authorization, there will be about 40 million doses ready to be delivered in december. keep in mind both of these vaccines require two doses for each person who gets it, so that's 20 million people that can be immunized and we will need to make sure that is utilized for the highest risk people and there's a lot of discussion right now about exactly how to make those priorities stick. and then there will be more doses coming each month after that and there's other vaccines that may get approved
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subsequently. the goal, the hope would be that by april we really start to see a lot of people getting immunized and certainly by the summer we would hope to have most of america actually immunity to this and we could start to think about getting back to life as normal. that of course is going to require americans to decide if they want this vaccine. we have another issue there. but my hope is with more data and the reassurance this is being done in a highly independent, not political way that people will begin to trust this is something they will want to take advantage. i know i will. >> i know i will, too. what happens if half the country decides it's potentially dangerous, side effects and don't want to get vaccinated? what happens then? >> well, wolf, that would be one of the greater tragedies of our supposedly technological society, if we have this point where the date kra shoa shows te is safe, doesn't cause side effects and a lot of people say, no, not for me, then this whole
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epidemic of covid-19 could go on and on and on. we have a chance with this kind of science to be able to put that in the rear view mirror, but only if we all decide we're going to take part. >> as you know, the formal transition process, and i've known you for a long time and you've been rofd in government for a long time, the formal transition process, dr. collins, hasn't begun yet. the president elect joe biden says more people may die if president donald trump doesn't start cooperating with the process. what do you think? do you agree with that? >> well, i know that everything we've done so far on covid-19 that's made progress has depended upon collaboration and openness on everything we're doing. that's my goal as well. anything that gets in the way of that troubles me greatly. we have a crisis. people are dying. we should do nothing but actually inform everybody who needs to know about what decisions have been made and what further decisions have to be made in order to make the best of this very difficult
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situation. so, yeah, i am troubled by anything that's blocking that. >> yeah, they should start cooperating. your colleague, dr. fauci, who technically works for you at nih, he says he hasn't had any contact with president-elect biden and his team, an impressive team of experts that biden has assembled, you probably know almost all of them. have you, dr. collins, spoken to biden or anyone on his team yet? >> i have not. i ended you on a panel with lou borio, who is one of the members of the coronavirus task force for president-elect biden and we had an interesting slightly careful conversation in the midst of a virtual public session. other than that i've had no contact. >> let's talk about thanksgiving, which is coming up and christmas and hanukkah are coming up. health experts are warning that people who are infected on thanksgiving could be god forbid buried by christmas. it's a very, very dire warning.
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tell us about you personally and your family, dr. collins. how are you going to be dealing with these holidays that are coming up? i'm sure the american public wants to know. >> yeah, and i'm glad you're asking, wolf, because this is a critical decision and people need to be deciding right but no, how are they going to keep their families safe? if you look at the slope of that curve that's happening right now of the number of new cases and number of new hospitalizations, it's substantially steeper than anything we saw back in the spring with new york and new jersey or in the summer with the southeast. this is significantly worse. it's moving faster. it is basically putting everybody in the country at risk. and i would say, therefore, we all have to consider this as a special year where the usual activities really have to be rethought. we know that most of the spread that's happening right now is actually happening in small gatherings that families are holding or bars that need
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basically at this point to be closing down because they're not helping. we can keep our economy if we can do some simple things of wearing masks and avoiding those kinds of gatherings indoors. i would appeal to anybody who is listening. if you care about your family, your friends, you would want do something for them if they're in trouble. we're all in trouble. and, in fact, this is potentially a life threatening situation for our whole country. the good news is you can do something about it, which is you can avoid those gatherings. my family will not be together this year for the first time in 27 years, just be my wife and me in my bubble but we'll have a nice zoom gathering to see how everybody is doing. so do the right things. this thing looks like a mask. it's actually a medical device that can be life saving. think of it that way. you wouldn't hold back on that if you thought you could help somebody. keep those distances where they need to be, six feet or more,
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avoid those indoor gatherings, wash your hands. at this point we got a few months before the vaccines come to the rescue. we want to save as many lives as we can in that interval and that's really up to all of us. don't expect somebody else to tell what you to do. just decide to make it your priority. >> just do it. it will save lives in the process. dr. collins, thank you so much for everything you and your colleagues are doing. we're so grateful. appreciate it very much. stay safe out there. >> you, too. stay safe, wolf. good to be with you. >> senator lindsey graham goes on the defensive as the republican secretary of state in georgia is accusing him of seeking to throw out legally counted ballots.
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republican senator lindsey graham is responding to an allegation from georgia's republican secretary of state who told me the senator urged him to find ways to throw out legally cast ballots. our senior congressional correspondent is up on capitol hill. manu, you had a chance to speak with senator graham. tell our viewers what he told you about this very serious accusation. >> coming from a republican election official but he denies what the georgia secretary of state brad raffensberger told you yesterday, wolf. he said he was simply asking questions about how the state's mail-in voting system works and how they verify signatures on
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these mail-in ballots just as this hand recount is taking place. he also told me he spoke not just with the georgia election official but also nevada and arizona officials. those states also were carried by joe biden. three states that joe biden carried president trump's close ally raising questions with these election officials about exactly what is happening in their states. now, graham is saying this is all part of an effort to understand what happened and determine whether or not additional actions need to be taken to safeguard the elections. >> very concerned about it. if you're going to continue to vote by mail that we need to know what systems work and what don't. it's up to the people of georgia and i think i have every right in the world to reach out and say how does it work? >> reporter: he's gotten some blowback because he is the senate judiciary committee chairman. he doesn't have oversight over this issue but is still investigating something that the president has raised concern about possible fraud in these states when there is no
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allegation to support it. lindsey graham himself even though he has not acknowledged joe biden won the election did acknowledge kamala harris's presence on the senate floor earlier today, wolf. he actually gave her a fist bump as he approached her. he told me later when i asked him what did he say to her, he said he's just saying hello. i haven't seen her in a while. if it works out and they make it i told her i wished her well and will try to work if we can and we'll know in a month or so if not less. >> a lot of republican senators congratulating her privately refusing to say anything publicly is that right? >> that seems to be the case. i saw senator tim scott, mike rounds, jim langford all congratulating kamala harris but have not yet said she is the vice president-elect. >> doing what you always do up on capitol hill and doing it excellently. thank you so much. just ahead a closer look at how much credit the trump administration is due after these promising results from two
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the trump administration is claiming credit for the very rapid development of two very promising coronavirus vaccine candidates. but how responsible is the president for these breakthroughs? cnn's sara murray is looking into that. >> reporter: a president keen on congratulating himself for
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breakthroughs that didn't exist. >> we have the best testing in the world. hydroxychloroquine. try it. we're rounding the corner on the pandemic. okay? >> reporter: finally has something to take credit for. a coronavirus vaccine poised to reach americans in record time. health experts widely agree the trump administration deserves credit for putting forth a national vaccine strategy and pouring billions into vaccine development and manufacturing. >> there is no question that operation warp speed has been a great success getting to the point in a very rapid period of time of manufacturing a vaccine. >> reporter: both pfizer and moderna have reported stunning efficacy data for their coronavirus vaccines and the first vaccines could become available to health care workers as early as december. by far the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed. experts say the trump administration's biggest contribution was its willingness to invest in new vaccine technologies. foot the bill for clinical
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studies, and simultaneously pay to manufacture the vaccines before it was clear they would work. >> in the face of a pandemic where a thousand people a day or more are dying then you do some things like that that are un-orthodox and a little bit risky. but it looks as though those bets are going to pay off. >> trump tweeting this week for those great historians please remember these great discoveries all took place on my watch. the president pressed for even faster results hoping a vaccine would bolster his re-election bid. >> i've spoken to pfizer. i've spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to. we have great -- moderna, johnson & johnson and others. they can go faster than that by a lot. >> reporter: but vaccine experts believe his bluster had no impact on the timeline and may have even undermined public trust by making the vaccine process appear politicized. >> the president has never been very actively involved as i said many times.
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we've had no interference one way or the other. >> reporter: the next big test? getting shots into americans' arms. a complicated process trump is making even harder in his refusal to concede and allow the presidential transition to begin. >> more people may die if we don't coordinate. a vaccine is important. it's of little use until you're vaccinated. >> health officials say they'd like to begin coordinating with the biden team but they're not allowed to do so. >> if you don't have a smooth transition you would not optimize whatever efforts you're doing right now. it's kind of like a relay race in which you're passing the baton. >> reporter: one of the tragic trade-offs of the situation is the fact that the virus was spreading unchecked may have helped these vaccine trials move faster than they would have otherwise but obviously this comes at the expense of the health and lives of so many americans who needed a comprehensive approach to the entire pandemic not just the
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vaccine effort wolf. >> can't wait to start getting these vaccines. sara murray, thank you very much and to our viewers thank you very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. follow me on twitter and instagram @wolf blitzer. tweet the show @cnnsitroom. erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. "outfront" next the president tonight in bunker mentality just canceling his thanksgiving plans at mar-a-lago all as he saab tajs any chance of a smooth transition for joe biden. i'll talk to a republican donor who says it is time for trump to move on. breaking news the senate's most senior republican testing positive for coronavirus age be 87. and a former nfl player who ran against black lives matter flips a house seat from "d" to "r." what does it say to democrats? house majority whip jim clyburn is my guest. let's go "outfront." good

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