tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 16, 2020 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
and saying we stand with andrea goldstein. thank you for your courage. >> thank you for having me, jake. our coverage on cnn stns right now. continues right now. ♪ >> announcer: 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 are following breaking news. congress potentially on the brink of a deal on a stimulus package to help millions and millions of americans who are desperately struggling right now through the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. talks are happening as we speak up on capitol hill. the senate majority leader mitchell mitch mcconnell saying, i'm quoting him now, i think we are going to get there. the senate minority leader chuck schumer says, i'm quoting, the finish line is in sight. we will talk about in a few moments with senator bernie sanders who has very strong views on what is going on right
now. meanwhile, the u.s. coronavirus death toll has now surpassed 306,000 people and more than 16.8 million confirmed cases here in the u.s. as the unprecedented rollout of the pfizer vaccine gains steam, dr. anthony fauci now says the moderna vaccine could get emergency use authorization from the fda as early as as tomorrow. we begin our coverage with our chief white house correspondent is on the scene jim acosta. >> reporter: president trump is not alone in pushing baseless claims of election fraud. top republican lawmakers, including the chairman of the homeland security security committee were spreading disinformation about the 2020 election at a hearing earlier today. the sheer number of enablers on capitol hill is something that is being tracked by advisers close to the president. we are hearing about this just in the last several minutes as one white house adviser told me, quote, i think you'd be surprised as the president's
team continues to see a solid number of republican senators willing to contest the election results. >> please rise. >> reporter: the republican chairman of the security committee ron johnson staged what is described as a hearing on voting irregularities lighting a fire under enraged house democrats. >> whether intended or not this perform is to conspiracy theories and lies and a destructive exercise that has no place in the united states senate. >> reporter: michigan democratic senator peters accused republicans of being sore losers for refusing to accept joe biden as the next president. johnson accused peters of spreading disinformation. >> chairman -- >> judge starr. >> then drop it there. that is why. >> senator paul! >> needs to return. >> starr to paul! >> this is -- this is terrible what you're doing to this committee and the great work. >> it is what you have do to
this committee falsely accusing the chairman of spreading disinformation! >> reporter: chris krebs fired by trump warned republicans therapy playing in hands of u.s. adversaries. >>
we have to stop this! it's undermining confidence in democracy. >> reporter: president was watching and tweeting, quote. mr. trump is furious that mcconnell acknowledged biden as president-elect tweeting. some gop leaders have not gotten the memo that biden won like house minority cleared kevin mccarthy. perhaps because top white house officials are engaging in double speak suggesting that mr. trump could remain in office while hinting he may run again in 2024. >> by 2024, look. he is the leader of this movement no matter what happens in 2020, 2024 is there for his taking. his base is strong and they are
not going away. >> they may not be kind to mr. trump as state democratic attorneys general may be investigating the outgoing investigation firing off this letter that states. democratic lawmakers are also seizing on the administration's handling of the pandemic uncovering emails written by a former health and human services adviser pushing the controversial concept of herd immunity as an approach to fighting the virus. one email stated if it is causing more cases in young my word who cares? while another added there is no other way. we need to establish herd and only comes about allowing the nonhigh risk groups expose themselves to the virus, period. the white house denies that but last week the president appeared to suggest that americans were moving in that direction. >> i hear we are close to 15%. i'm hearing that. that is terrific. >> reporter: the other looming
is when frthe president witll receive the vaccination. the president held a cabinet meeting at the white house earlier today but a number of cabinet members were missing, including the attorney general william barr and acting defense secretary and the secretary of state. barr's absence is notable as president trump appears to be in the interest -- or interested in carrying out a vendetta during his remains days in office. one idea he raised with advisers is going after joe biden's hunter. they say the president is sounding out the idea of naming a special counsel to investigate hunter biden who is facing a federal tax probe. one other unusual thing earlier today. the president held this cabinet meeting out of the view of the cameras and he is in hiding once again and not allowing the press to come in and watch what is typically a very normal photo opportunity over at the white house and he didn't want cameras in there. >> he didn't want to answer the
reporters questions, clearly. thank you, jim. latest on the biden transition. our senior washington correspondent jeff zeleny is in wilmington, delaware, for us. the president-elect is moving quickly to fill his cabinet. >> reporter: he did fill one more cabinet position today with naming former rival pete buttigieg to be the transportation secretary. he is still deciding on his attorney general. all of this happened here as he said today for the first time that he will get the vaccine and, tonight, we are learning when. >> i don't want to get ahead of the line but i want to make sure that we demonstrate to the american people that it is safe to take. >> reporter: tonight, president-elect joe biden making clear he is ready for his covid vaccination and plans to get his shot for all to see. >> when i do it, i'll do it publicly so you all can witness my getting it done. >> reporter: biden's first shot is likely to take place early next week cnn has learned as the
vaccination rollout continues across the country. to medical workers and other high ranking u.s. leaders. biden is adding more faces to his administration. and defending his picks so far. >> our cabinet doesn't just have one first, or just two of these first's. but eight precedent busting appointments. >> tonight the ninth. pete buttigieg to serve as transportation secretary, the first openly nominee to a president's cabinet. >> a new voice and new ideas to turn past old politics. >> reporter: a campaign rival turned confidant. the 38-year-old former south bend, indiana, mayor, would also be the youngest person to serve in biden's cabinet. >> i can't help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now. somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world or even in their own family. thank you for honoring your commitment to diversity. with this administration that
you are assembling. >> reporter: a goal of filling his cabinet by christmas biden will name his climate team on saturday including former michigan governor jennifer gr d granholm and mccarthy. biden is still weighing his choices for attorney general cnn has learned with judge merrick garland and doug jones the top contenders. president-elect urging congress to pass an academic relief bill before the holidays. >> it's a important down payment and has to be done. >> reporter: now, the goal for filling all of the cabinet or most of the top spots is still before the christmas holidays. that means next week could be the biggest week yet for the most important positions remaining and that is attorney general as well as the director of the cia. there are competing interests here in the decision for attorney general. again, we are told it is between judge merrick garland who was a
supreme court nominee in the obama nominee and blocked by the senate as well as outgoing alabama senator doug jones and complicated by the trump investigations still going on. democrats calling for them as well as hunter biden's own business dealing investigation. a big decision here facing joe biden for his attorney general. we are hoping, at least expecting that will be next week. >> we will watch it every step of the way. thank you, jeff. let's get more on this with gloria borger and abby phillip and senior justice correspondent evan perez is with me. you have new reporting what is behind president trump's push for special counsels to investigate the 2020 election and hunter biden. tell our viewers what you're learning. >> this appears to be about payback to a certain extent by the president. he believes that democrats essentially hampered his administration for years with the russia investigation and so
that is one of the things he is seeking for the justice department to do on his way out. he is hoping that they appoint a special counsel to look into the hunter biden investigation, an investigation that is already ongoing and being handled by the u.s. attorney in delaware. but more than that, wolf, he is also looking for a special counsel to look into his vote fraud allegations and this is something that you know the attorney general here bill barr has already said publicly there is no evidence to indicate there has been enough fraud to make a difference in the election in his resignation letter that he sent out this week, he mentioned that they are still looking and still looking to see whether or not there is any proof behind the president's allegations of widespread voter fraud. so far, none has turned up. but the president looking to try to get two special counsels before he leaves on january 20th. >> bill barr told the associated press on december 1st the fbi has been investigating and u.s. attorneying have been
investigating and so far found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. gloria, what is this quest for revenge by the president tell you about how he is approaching the end of his presidency 35 days from today? >> well, he is doing everything he can to delegitimatize joe biden and cause joe biden a lot of trouble and a lot of headaches. and, you know, more than anything else, this is a president who obsessed, as we all lived through it, obsessed over robert mueller who was the special counsel. he believes he was treated unfairly. he believes it was a hoax as he told us time and time again. he wants to get back. he wants to appoint a special counsel so that joe biden gets those same headaches. you'll recall after 2016 this president thought that the election was rigged and that he got more in the popular vote you'll recall than he did get. he tried to set up a commission
on the election and it fell apart, it fell apart because there was no there there. what is he trying to do saying joe biden didn't win and wants this to be the base of his platform for any political future he has, whether it's running for re-election in 2024 or being a king maker for republicans for the next four years. >> four years ago, he lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes to hillary clinton but he did win the electoral college. this time he is losing the popular vote by more than 7 million votes and he is also losing the electoral college, has officially lost the electoral college i should say. abby, you heard jim acosta report that president trump's advisers are still tracking what is described as a handful of republican senators are willing to back the president's efforts to stay in power despite the fact he has lost this election.
what is going on here? >> president is down to the wire here. there are not that many avenues available to him to cause, you know, make perhaps a little bit of a delay in this process. so they are looking to republican senators, you know, who might want to prove their loyalty to him in order to do this. but you've already heard some of those people like senator ron johnson who i think we all expected to be a pretty -- one of the last hold outs on this issue saying he doesn't expect to object. it's curious to me to see who actually wants to stick their neck out on this issue and especially after warned by mitch mcconnell it may backfire and won't work at the ends of the day. at the end of the day the congress will be do what they are required to do which is move this process forward so that we can get to an inauguration on january 20th. this is all about keeping hope live for the president's supporters. the fund-raising emails are coming every single day as they
try to raise money based on the idea this is not over so in order to do that they have to keep the illusion that there is a likelihood that when this goes to congress, that there will be a senator who objects and a senator who objects in a way that will actually stop the process. we know already that that is not happening. >> even if it were to happen nothing would result from it. there could be a debate for a few hours and the house and the senate in joint session would approve on january 6th what the electoral college has done and january 20th biden becomes president of the united states and kamala harris becomes vice president of the united states. cnn is learning the trump white house is inundated with requests right now for pardons during these final 35 days p.m. what reque can you tell is about that? >> they are inundated and the white house counsel's office has set up a spreadsheet to track these hundreds of requests. this has been an abnormal presidency in so many ways and one we can point possess-to-is
the fact they have avoided using the justice department the president has to look at these clemency requests and something they pretty much handled either through the president, himself, talking to fox news hosts or the kardashians so decide who gets clemency. right now, we know there are dozens of people around the president who are hoping to get some kind of pardon. we know that among the names that the president has talked about is michael flynn who, obviously, was received one. now, of course, some of the people that were implicated in the russia investigation. that's on his mind. we don't know how many of these hundreds that have come in to the white house counsel are going to end up getting anything from the president, but we can bet that we know he is going to be very busy in the coming weeks as he tries to go out the door giving some of these pardons to some of the people he is close to. >> all of us expect there will
be plenty of pardons the final days. guys, thank you very much. there is more breaking news we are following in "the situation room." congress potentially on the brink of a deal on desperately needed pandemic stimulus assistance. we will talk about it with senator bernie sanders and he has strong views and he is standing by live. we will be right back. this holiday season make their bedroom magical with a supportive casper mattress and plush pillows soft percale sheets, all things cozy for your best night's sleep. give the gift of a better bedroom with 10% off at casper.com all things cozy for your best night's sleep. is that the law? little girl is lost and i am taking her home. how much you want for her? this child is not for sale. you can't have her and i'm taking her home.
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or have flu-like symptoms or sores. don't start humira if you have an infection. ask your doctor about humira citrate-free. the same humira you trust with less pain immediately following injection. if you can't afford your medicine, abbvie may be able to help. we are keeping a close eye up on capitol hill where lawmakers say they are making progress a new economic stimulus package. it's expected to include a new round of direct payments to individuals, something that our next guest has been pushing for very, very strongly. senator bernie sanders of vermont is joining us from capitol hill. senator, thanks so much for joining us.
i know this is an issue that is close to your heart. you've been critical of the current coronavirus relief proposal saying they don't go far enough to do what is really needed. but from your perspective on the latest information you're getting, what is missing? >> number one, the entire bill at 900 bill is much too low. it should be at least double that. what is in this current bill is good but it's not enough. what i recognize a weeks ago that there were no direct payments going out to people in this country, many of whom are in desperate economic shape, as you well know, wolf. we got a record breaking level of hunger in america, higher than it's been for a very, very long time. you got millions of people who are facing eviction that can't afford to pay their rent. they are going deeper into debt. and people in the midst of the worst pandemic in a hundred years who can't afford to go to
the doctor because they don't have enough money. so what i have fought for, along with a republican senator, senator holly of missouri, is to make sure there are direct payments similar to what we did in the cares act in march and that would be $1,200% for people under 75,000 a couple under $150,000 and $500 for each of their children. a family of four would get $3,400 which is not insignificant in this moment when so many people are hurting. >> to be precise that hasn't been accepted what you want, right? >> that is right. i understand we are between $600 for adults and snun$700 for children. i want progress. when you ask people on the street what is the most important thing the government can do in this terrible,
terrible moment? they will say, give us some help. we need some help right now to pay the bills. that is what we are trying to do. >> researchers have found, senator, since june, hard to believe this is happening in our country, some 7.8 million americans have fallen into poverty. these are people who had jobs, were making a living, they were paying the rent, buying food, doing what they needed to do. but now they are in poverty right now and it's hard to believe this is going on and what is so frustrating to me and so many others, why is it taking to long to help these millions of americans? >> well, you know i don't want to become overly political here, but it is clear to me that we have a republican majority here in the senate who has refused to entertain and still refuses to entertain the kind of funding that is needed to provide nutrition, to help people who are being evicted and to make sure that people in this
crisis -- can you believe it? in the midst of this terrible pandemic, everybody is afraid of getting the virus and you got 90 million people who are unable to go to the doctor when they get sick. so many of us had fought for adequate funding and we have met very stiff resistance from mitchell mitch mcconnell and the republican leadership. what we got now is not enough but it is something. i'm just simply happy to say as we simple the holiday season when so many people are worried about how they are going to pay their bills, whether they are going to get evicted and whether they are going to feed their kids, at least among other things $600 per adult and $700 per child. >> you'll vote in favor of this compromise whatever emerges? is that right? >> i want to read the bill. it's a long, long bill. but i'm feeling good that we have made some progress, at least. you know? a week ago, as you know, nobody
was talking about direct payments. we got something in the bill and i want to thank my progressive friends in the house for their good work on this and we are making some progress. >> as i often say, i've said it to the speaker nancy pelosi and others, when you're dealing with a crisis like this, you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good because so many millions of people out there are suffering. you might not get everything, senator, but you're going to get a bunch that will make life better for these people, right? >> one of the other things we will get is extended unemployment benefits. you've indicated unemployment is very high. a lot of people have no income. again, it doesn't go as far as i would want but i think we are talking about a supplement of $300 on top of regular unemployment. i think it's now for 13 weeks. also i should point out, wolf, importantly, that i think president-elect biden fully understands the nature of the crisis as soon as his administration is in office. i think we can expect to see a
significant step forward in addressing a lot of what was not dealt with in this bill. this is in a sense a down payment and not the end of the discussion. the american people working families are hurting. we have got to respond. we are doing something now. we will do more when biden takes office. >> when do you expect this vote to happen? it has to happen within the next few days. do you have a time line? >> i don't think anybody really knows that right now. >> you're staying in d.c. until this is done? you're not going back to vermont? >> i am not. i don't think anybody can or should. we cannot go back to our families when so many families in this country are hurting right now. got to get this done. >> let me ask you this. the president-elect joe biden has nominated your fellow former presidential candidate pete buttigieg to serve as the new transportation secretary. you've called for more progressive voices to have leadership role in the incoming biden administration.
do you think the president-elect is doing enough right now to amplify progressive voices and policies? >> as i've said many times, i don't. you know, the progressive movement in this country -- remember, i was the runner-up to biden and got a few votes. elizabeth warren got a few votes. number of progressives, one seats the congress. you know? and those voices of millions and millions of people deserve representation in the biden cabinet and if you're asking me how have i seen that at this point? i haven't. i've seen some really good, very bright, very competent people and i know many of them. they are good people. good selections. but if you're asking me have we seen the kind of progressive appointments, nominations that i would like to see, the answer is not yet. >> precisely what i was asking you and you gave me a straight answer. as usual, senator sanders, thank you for joining us and good luck with the legislation. the country needs it. millions of people are suffering
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we are following breaking pandemic news. as of tonight, more than 306,000 american lives have been lost to the coronavirus pandemic. cases continue to surge. more than 16.8 million have been confirmed as of this hour. cnn's lucy kavanagh is in phoenix with the latest. >> reporter: as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, hopes are growing for a second vaccine. moderna's rollout is expected to be larger than pfizer's. distribution of about 6 million doses to nearly 3,000 sites across the country could begin seriously next week. advisers to the fda discussing recommendations tomorrow. >> vaccine was in five like pizza box trays that fit in here. >> reporter: pfizer's vaccine must be frozen in extremely cold
temperatures, moderna's can be kept in regular freezers and allowing for broader distribution. >> it looks roughly 95% effective at preventing severe and 100% at preventing severe disease. >> the vaccines are coming. you can do more than just wait. >> reporter: two new radio ads from the department of health and humidian services are spreag the word to urge americans to stay safe. >> as long as we watch our distance and wearing our masks and washing our hands. >> this is not phony or fake. it is serious. >> reporter: health officials plead with the country to take the virus seriously they warn the vaccine won't make a dent yet. >> we ultimately for herd immunity. >> reporter: the biggest obstacle is convincing americans to get vaccinated. >> the challenge is various
elements in our society. you know, particularly, we are working very hard, the minority populations, understandably, have somewhat of a skepticism. >> reporter: in florida 88-year-old woman receiving her v vaccination today. one of the first in the long-term facilities to get the shot. >> each with these tools we are not at the finish line yet, especially as we approach the holidays. >> reporter: more than 198,000 new covid-19 cases reported tuesday. more than 3,000 deaths, the third highest number ever. another record. more than 112,000 americans in hospitals, almost twice as many as during the peak of spring. new cases surging in at least 14 states up by more than 50% in tennessee. california, pennsylvania, missouri, texas, and michigan each reporting more than 200 deaths on tuesday. california activating its mass
fatality program purchasing 5,000 new body bags and trailers are on stand-by as make-shift morgues. officials in alaska confirm one of their health care workers suffered an allergic reaction. she's in stable condition' cause for concern as arizona begins its own vaccinations. the tents behind me may be empty but where hundreds of arizona front line first responder workers will be getting their vaccination shots starting tomorrow. >> lucy, thank you very much. let's get more on all of this with dr. richard boeser who is the former acting director of the centers for disease control and prevention. thank you for joining. the moderna vaccine, the second vaccine, could get emergency use authorization as soon as maybe tomorrow. how big of a step forward will that be. >> it's huge, wolf. you know, the more vaccines we
are that are safe and effective that can be used the more tools that our public health officials will have and the more people will be able to get vaccinated. i'm watching the hearings very closely. i hope it's like the pfizer hearings where independent scientists are allowed to ask tough questions. i looked at the report, the review that fda had done in their analysis and it shows that their conclusion is the vaccine is safe and effective. one of the things about this vaccine that is very exciting is what you just mentioned in the report it doesn't require the same storage conditions of minus 94 degrees. so if you're a state that is looking to get vaccine out to a rural nursing home or a small hospital in a rural community, you don't have to worry that you're going to have to thaw hundreds of doses of vaccine and use them quickly over five days. you could take a smaller number of vaccines doses out there, refrigerate them, and administer
them in those nursing homes without fear of losing any other doses. >> you heard lucy's report, because now it appears that there was some sort of very negative allergic reaction perhaps to that pfizer vaccine here in the u.s. in alaska. this health care worker is recovering, stable condition right now. what lessons should be taken from this? >> well, my takeaway is the system worked. when up get vaccinated you should be observed 15 minutes in case there is a reaction. it shows that even after the fda approves vaccines for use there is a lot we don't know and we have to continue to monitor people. the committee will recommend what studies the companies need to continue doing and what kind of work fda and cdc need to do as it goes forward. when vaccine trials are done, they are done in a specific population, in a very controlled setting. whenever you go out and use those products in millions of
people, remain may be rare things you see that weren't sew in the trial that you have to be able to look at. if they start to find that there is significant number of people have allergic reactions they want to see if there is a particular component in that vaccine doing that? here it was very good that the individual who had the reaction was still being observed and they could quickly manage her condition by giving her a shot of adrenaline. >> thank you dr. boeser, for joining us. thank you for the important work you do. >> thanks. how the world is reacting to president trump's refusal to concede the presidential election. the mayor of london kahn is standing by to discuss next. beautiful. but support the leg!
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for a fast-acting rush of relief like you've never tasted in... ♪ honey lemon ahh woo vicks vapocool drops now in honey lemon chill breaking pandemic news right now. out of the uk the country's death toll has topped 65,000 people with almost 2 million confirmed cases. joining us live is the mayor of london sadiq khan. mayor, thank you so much for joining us. the british prime minister you know better than i do boris johnson won't make changes to relax holiday covid rules despite what he calls a worrying rise in cases right now. do you believe that is a mistake? >> i do. and so do many health experts in the uk. there is a big discussion/debate/argument taking place whether our christmas period will lead to a
big surge in this virus. we have seen across the globe people making huge sacrifices and chinese year was celebrated dimp differently this year. the pilgrimage was also celebrated differently. our concern the relaxation from our prime minister to allow many households to travel across the uk over five days when the restrictions are lifted could lead to another surge in this virus. what concerns us is the fact we have not -- the light at the end of the tunnel with the new vaccine rolling out and how heartbreak it would be to lose an elderly loved one when he or she could have received a vaccine and lived a longer and fruitful life. >> how are the vaccinations going? you guys are about a week ahead of us. >> i was present at a hospital last tuesday when the first
vaccines were rolled out. 140,000 of my fellow countrymen and women have received the vaccine so far, the pfizer one. it's really good example of international cooperation, a vaccine invented by germans of turkish origin made in bulelgiu and we are hoping the two doze show a way out of this awful, awful year we have had. we now have a road map in the meaningful sense of the word which means that we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. >> i hope so. we are doing the same thing here and hope it does. you know, mayor, the united states and the united kingdom have had big changes coming and they have got more changes coming in 2021. so far, though, president trump and his allies are refusing to accept the fact that he lost this election. 35 days until inauguration. what is the view from london and what does it say to the people
around the world about the health of our american democracy? how do you view it? >> two things i say in responsible. personally nothing that president trump does surprises many of us in my opinion more. the second thing i think you americans should be so incredibly proud of your constitution and the way you do things. why do i say this? four years ago the american people elected donald trump. many of us were surprised. what happens four years later? you elect somebody else and he lose is the election. doesn't accept the result. he is a sore loser but you got a fantastic system and is not just john king's magic call but the electoral college that confirms who the winner is and president-elect biden and vice president-elect harris. but even donald trump is entitled to challenge that position in the courts but your courts, thankfully, in our view, are making the right call. you should be so incredibly proud of the checks and balances your democracy has, the separation of powers are working incredibly well and it's a good
illustration to the rest of us around the world that actually even when there is, in my view, an aberration with the election of donald trump, your system is so healthy that democracy in the end leads to might be the right result but even if donald trump doesn't accept it there can be a smooth transition because of your american system and you should be so incredibly proud. >> we are proud of our system and it will move forward and there will be a new president sworn at noon on january 20th here in the united states. mayor khan, let's continue these conversations down the road. thanks so much for joining us and good luck to everyone in london and the uk. we are going through the same issues you are as well. thank you so much. >> stay safe. >> stay safe, too. more breaking news we are following. congress closing in on a desperately needed economic stimulus deal. we are going live to capitol hill for the latest. area homeows
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