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Interview With Former U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey; Interview With Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE); Dr. Michael Osterholm on Eventual Vaccines; Mary Trump on President Trump. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 12, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are already beginning the transition. We're well under way.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): President-elect Joe Biden goes right ahead. Insight with his close ally Democratic Senator Chris Coons.
Then: As the White House purges top-level defense officials, conversation with Ambassador James Jeffrey, just retired as Trump's point man for
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: We have got our work cut out for us to get
people to actually take the vaccine.
AMANPOUR: The challenges ahead. Member of the Biden COVID Task Force Dr. Michael Osterholm speaks with our Walter Isaacson.
Also, Trump's niece Mary joins us. Her bestselling book is a treasure trove of insight into the Donald's behavior.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
This week, 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened. It was the Nazis' warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against
a whole identity. And, in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth.
After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden/Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the
truth. And, every day, Joe Biden makes presidential announcements about good governance and the health and security of the American people, while
the great brooding figure of his defeated opponent rages, conducting purges of perceived enemies and preventing a transition.
No democracy can survive unless the majority of people at least accept the same set of facts. And so here are some. According to a Reuters poll,
nearly 80 percent of the American people, Republicans and Democrats, accept the result of the 2020 election.
Yes, so far, Trump has won 72 million votes to Biden's 77 million, but, no, there have been no serious protests on the streets contesting the result,
while secretaries of state around the nation, Republican and Democrat, say there has been no meaningful fraud, and they have found nothing that would
overturn the result.
Meantime, the actual secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who also hasn't recognized the president-elect, is taking a 10-day trip to seven nations
that all have and who have all congratulated Biden.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons is my first guest tonight. He's been a close friend of the future president for many years.
Senator Coons, welcome to the program.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thank you, Christiane. Great to be on with you.
AMANPOUR: So, listen, are you just heard me talk about the secretary of state going off to these countries.
Is it going to make for some awkward conversation? What in your heart of hearts do you really expect him to say to these leaders who've all
congratulated the president-elect?
COONS: Well, I'm not sure what the secretary of state is going to do. But I hope what he says and what he does will reinforce our commitment to
democracy and to peaceful transitions.
This is an awkward and difficult moment for the United States on the world stage, because virtually everyone here in Congress has accepted that
president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris have won the election, but President Trump is refusing to accept it and is pressuring
Republicans, at least here in the Senate, to also continue to feed this fantasy that there might be some legitimate legal pathway to challenging or
overturning this election.
AMANPOUR: Senator, you just said almost everybody accepts it.
How do you know that? Obviously, Democrats, but we have heard precious little in public and only from a handful of Republicans. What are they
COONS: Privately, in a dozen conversations over the last three days, they have called to congratulate me, to congratulate the president-elect, and to
convey their concern about how difficult this moment is and how it's putting the transition at risk and, frankly, our security at risk.
A few of them have started speaking out, but most have not. And that's a reminder of just what a powerful hold President Trump has on the Republican
Party and its base.
AMANPOUR: A lot of people are beginning to get a little bit tired of that. Yes, he got 71 million votes, but, as I have said, the majority of
Americans believe in the result. There haven't been people out in the streets protesting.
At what point does president-elect Biden or you yourself ask these Republicans to come out and do the right thing? And what are they afraid
COONS: Christiane, I am actively asking them to do the right thing and thanking those that have modestly come out and said this transition needs
to move forward.
And what they're afraid of, frankly, is their own voters, is the folks who elect them and support them, and that President Trump may well attack them
directly, as he has virtually any Republican who steps outside of the sort of accepted narrative of Trump world.
This is going to be a more challenging transition than it should be. It's starting later than it should. And it's beginning to impact the ability of
the transition to connect with agencies.
The U.S. federal government is an enormous undertaking. And there are landing teams prepared to go into each one of the major federal agencies
and begin the challenging process of transition. The longer that's put off, the less certain and smooth the transition will be.
AMANPOUR: We heard from the president-elect, who said, yes, this is difficult, but it's not insurmountable. He's obviously very familiar with
many of the agencies throughout his long time in Washington and in the White House.
But in terms of real sort of national security, in terms of relating to other countries in ways that he wants to do and that America needs to do,
do you see any real hindrance going on right now?
COONS: Well, the challenge here is getting off on the right foot for a new administration in terms of setting the table, engaging in -- engagement in
And there are dozens of countries that are trying, whose heads of state are trying to reach the president-elect and offer their congratulations and
I'm a senator. I'm not a member of the incoming administration, and I have gotten dozens of calls from concerned ambassadors, simply trying to figure
out how to appropriately communicate. This is puzzling many of our key allies, and it is sending the wrong message. It is encouraging autocrats
and authoritarian leaders around the world who resist accepting free and fair elections and resist peaceful transitions of power.
We're setting a bad example. And that's, frankly, the most likely lasting consequence of this period.
AMANPOUR: So, just one more on this transition.
One of your colleagues in the Senate, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, has said that if the president-elect is not getting his security briefings and
the papers he needs by Friday -- that's tomorrow -- he will take it up in Congress, under his official capacity.
What could that mean? What could that look like? What can be done?
COONS: I have reached out to James, to Senator Lankford, both to thank him for being forthcoming about this, to recognize the significance of this
James has served on the Intelligence Committee. But the presidential daily briefing that he's referring to is the highest level of intelligence that
is provided daily to our president, and, during a transition, should be provided to the president-elect and vice president-elect.
I'm not sure exactly what Senator Lankford has in mind in terms of actions he might take. But that is a strong signal that he's willing to engage with
leaders in his party and with leaders on the Intelligence Committee and in the intelligence community around the importance of having secure
classified briefings provided to the highest levels of both the current administration and the incoming administration.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about the foreign policy objectives, but also challenges and issues out there?
We know that president-elect Biden wants to reverse some of the ruptures that President Trump has made abroad. Let's just take the Iran nuclear deal
for a start. Obviously, for some, it's controversial. Nonetheless, by and large, people around the world have thought that it at least lowered the
temperature on a major security issue.
The Iranians have said they want to go back into the deal too. Do you believe that's doable? Is it very complicated? Can Biden do that as
COONS: Well, Christiane, there's a whole series of things that need to be refreshed and where we need to reengage, the Iran deal, obviously, central
among them, but also the Paris climate agreement, our relationship with NATO, with the E.U., our engagement with China in the South China Sea and
with our Indo-Pacific allies.
And we can't simply rejoin everything as if the last four years didn't happen. We have to look at what's occurred over the past four years. And
Iran, rather than responding as positively as some had hoped, took advantage of the opening of the JCPOA, the resources they got, and the
window they got to further expand their support for destabilizing terrorist organizations in the region, to further strengthen their ballistic missile
So, I do think -- as you know, I ultimately supported the Iran deal. I do think that it lowered the temperature, as you said, and it secured
significant progress in terms of sweeping and intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear program.
But we need to reengage with our critical partners in that deal, look at what's possible going forward. And my personal view is, we should be
negotiating a bigger and broader deal that could bring more lasting stability and security to the region.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you just this, because there's also been through some reporting? And I'm not sure whether it's true. Maybe you know.
You know Elliott Abrams has been in Israel. As you know, Secretary Pompeo is going. And there's a lot of talk about how the outgoing administration
might try to jam on new sanctions, might try to box in an incoming administration in the Iran situation.
Do you anticipate any of that?
COONS: I hope that won't happen, but it is entirely possible.
President Trump has engaged in unconventional and aggressive diplomacy on a number of fronts. Certainly, with North Korea, his steps were a significant
departure from previous administrations. The things he's done with regards to the U.S.-Israel relationship have made a significant change in terms of
facts on the ground.
Now the opening that spend created by normalization talks with the UAE, with Bahrain and with Sudan, are also a positive opening. My hope is that
they wouldn't sort of spike the wheel on the way out the door, in terms of possible progress in reengagement with Iran and with the region, but would
instead recognize that, while we only have one president at a time, we have enduring national interests.
And those national interests include a sustained and bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship and stronger relationships in the region around security. So,
it'd be harmful, it'd be unnecessary, and, frankly, I suspect it would be promptly rejected here in the Senate on a bipartisan basis.
AMANPOUR: That's really interesting.
What about Russia? Because it has played -- I mean, President Putin has played a very destabilizing game, not just in this administration, but in
the previous one as well. And no matter how many times, remember, the Obama administration talked about a reset with Russia, it just didn't work with
Now, again, President Biden has suggested he will go back into certain nuclear arms deals and the like. What are the realistic hopes for, in any
way, ameliorating this poisoned and toxic relationship between the United States and Russia?
COONS: Well, I think your reference to a poisonous or toxic relationship may well be intentional.
The recent poisoning of Navalny, the intentional efforts at poisoning a Russian in the U.K., Skripal, and other actions taken by Russia and their
intelligence services and their military to interfere in our elections in 2016, 2018, and 2020, are just an ongoing reminder of the ways in which
Putin has played a very weak hand aggressively and well, has destabilized our relationships with NATO, with most of Europe, and has directly
interfered in our domestic politics.
He has not paid the kind of price he should. One of the few areas where the Senate did act in a bipartisan way to push back on President Trump's
weakness in the face of Russia was in imposing sanctions, was in sending clear and strong signals that senators from both parties took very
seriously our intelligence community's assessment of Russia's actions and our intention to impose costs.
So, I think the first step, of course, is for us to reengage with our critical allies in NATO and in Europe, to have an open conversation about
where we see the path forward. The ongoing aggression, the occupation of Crimea, and the aggression in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine
Russia has not moved forward with the Minsk protocols. Their engagements in Syria and in Libya are further destabilizing. I think we need a broad
spectrum review of our policies with regards to Russia, first with our closest allies, and then move forward in a way that sends a strong, clear
and sustained signal to Putin that this behavior simply will not be tolerated.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, finally, because you are also, let's say, FOJ, friend of Joe Biden. You have been friends for a long time.
Tell me how he's feeling, what your conversations are with him. It's obviously a really difficult and not a joyous transition at this moment.
COONS: Well, Christiane, last Saturday night in Wilmington, Delaware, was a joyous and celebratory evening. It was wonderful to see his sister, his
spouse, Dr. Biden, his immediate family, and so many who have supported him and known him in Delaware for decades just literally dancing for joy, and
to see the spontaneous celebrations breaking out around our country and the responses from around the world.
Joe Biden is someone -- president-elect Biden -- forgive me -- is someone who, after 36 years in the U.S. Senate, eight years as vice president,
wasn't certain that he should run this time. There were so many other capable and qualified candidates.
But when we first spoke about it, I was certain that this was his moment in history, that we needed someone with his compassion, with his core, with
his faith, with his optimism about the United States.
And, as the circumstances have changed over the last year, as this pandemic hit the United States and is now raging out of control, as racial division,
something that has long been a concern and a focus of Joe's, and as economic challenges that impact the middle class and the working people of
America harder than anyone else, as all of this has emerged, the focus on president-elect Biden's unique skills and character and background means he
really has met his moment.
I think he's clear-eyed about just how hard this is going to be, but optimistic. He's someone who's come through terrible tragedies and great
challenges himself. But his optimism in our country and its future remains undimmed.
And I think he will be a fantastic president, and he has a tremendous partner in vice president-elect Harris. I'm optimistic about what we will
do here in our country and how we will reimagine our leadership in the world.
AMANPOUR: Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much, indeed.
COONS: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, a whole world of challenges, of course, lie ahead for Joe Biden's administration, made only more difficult as President Trump cuts
top staffers at the Pentagon and begins stacking it and other government agencies with cronies and loyalists.
For more on this, I'm joined by Ambassador James Jeffrey, who recently retired from his role as the top U.S. official on Syria and the Coalition
Ambassador Jeffrey, welcome to the program.
I guess I just want to ask you what I asked Senator Coons, because this is your region, the Middle East. You now have the secretary of state, who has
not publicly recognized the election result, going to nations in the Middle East, who are all concerned with the issues that you have been working on,
who have all congratulated the president-elect.
How do you think those conversations are going to go?
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA ENGAGEMENT: They're almost not going to spend any time on the presidential election.
All of those countries have concluded that president-elect Biden will be the next president. I think that, from my understanding, which is fairly
significant, of the trip that the secretary will take, that my colleague Elliott Abrams is already on, is to underline continuity in our policy.
And, frankly, having just heard Senator Coons, if that reflects where president-elect Biden, who I also know, is going to be, I think you're
going to see a lot of continuity, particularly in the Middle East, between the two administrations.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's really interesting.
And I'm sure, on the issue of normalization that Israel's done, obviously, on the embassy of having been moved to Jerusalem, that's all going to stay.
But on the Iran deal, which you know a lot about as well, I asked Senator Coons about Elliott Abrams and reports that they were cooking up some
attempt to maybe box the next administration in by putting on a whole load of sanctions.
And there are other, even more dire reports, that potentially they're trying to provoke Iran into some kind of thing that could, I don't know,
cause some military intervention by the U.S.
Do you think that's fanciful? And would you put that to rest, knowing what you know?
JEFFREY: I -- anything is possible. This is a very tense time in international relations and in our own political history, Christiane.
But I see no indication -- and I have spent some time today checking on that -- of anything like that.
Rather, Senator Coons took the words out of my mouth, when he said Iran abused the JCPOA nuclear agreement to advance its aggressive, undermining
agenda throughout the region. That's exactly what I was tasked to do in the Trump administration from Mike Pompeo and others did, was to try to block
Iran throughout the region.
It took the Trump administration almost two years to pull out of the JCPOA. They tried to see if there was a way to square the circle with Iran, and
there wasn't. So, what we have been doing is containing Iran in Iraq and in Syria and putting pressure on it through sanctions to eventually come to a
I think something like that is what we're going to see what the Biden administration.
AMANPOUR: Although you know the Biden administration wants to get back in, has already said it, into the nuclear deal to at least have something,
rather than nothing.
As you know, there is nothing now that constrains Iran in terms of an international deal on the nuclear issue. Would you support that?
JEFFREY: I would support looking at it.
But just going back structurally -- and I just did this, Christiane, because I knew this question would come up -- there are things -- we pulled
out by executive order, basically. We could go back in by executive order, of course, on day one of a Biden administration.
But there are real problems, be it the fact that we now know, thanks to the Israelis, that Iran was still maintaining all of its research and its
capabilities to nuclear -- to create nuclear weapon systems. That was the discovery the Israelis managed to seize in 2018. That is a big, big thing,
given the JCPOA and Iran's claim at the time, 2015, it would never try to pursue a nuclear weapon system.
Secondly, there are things under that agreement, such as the Senate lifting sanctions against Iran within eight years of the signing in 2015, that will
be very hard, given the sentiment; 58 senators voted against the agreement in 2015.
So I think the Biden administration will look into it. It will be tough.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, as you know, the U.N. over and over again every year our certified, the IAEA, that Iran was actually keeping its agreement.
But I want to ask you, because, in relation, keeping the terms of its agreement, I want to ask you, because you had huge doubts about Donald
Trump before he became president in 2016. And you signed a letter, along with 49 other senior Republican national security officials, in which you
warned that he would be the most reckless president in American history.
You said he "lacks the character, values and experience to be president, would put our -- at risk our country's national security and well-being."
So, do you still maintain that after these four years? And we can see that he's behaving somewhat abnormally, irrationally, not moving on with the
transition, as one has seen throughout American history.
JEFFREY: Set aside the politics.
I looked at the policy. The policy of maximizing our military pressure to defeat ISIS, which was started by the Obama administration, to its credit,
the Trump administration doubled down on. That was eventually my responsibility, I fully supported. Stopping Iran and Russia and Syria and
putting pressure on the Assad regime to carry out a U.N. resolution that the Obama administration had put in place in 2015, I like that policy as
I like pushing back against China in the South China Sea. I like stopping North Korea's march towards an ICBM that's capable and has been tested to
strike the United States. And I like more support for Taiwan. And I like more U.S. and other NATO troops in the Baltics and right up against the
Russian border. I like lethal weapons being sent to the Ukraine.
These are all things that that administration has done. And so, on the ground -- and that's how other countries look at us. What are you doing to
try to deal with the great power competitions we have with Iran, with Russia, with China? And they tend to work through the rhetoric and deal on
the ground with us diplomats?
AMANPOUR: I have taken note of all the things you said. I just wonder whether you are concerned that, despite this unusual diplomacy between
Trump and Kim Jong-un, nothing has happened? Yes, there haven't been tests, but they in North Korea have ramped up their nuclear capability, rather
than ramping it down.
And I want to ask you specifically about ISIS, which was your brief. Yes, the caliphate, as far as you know, has been defeated, but the ideology
apparently still has not. You saw these latest attacks, these terrorist attacks, in Europe, in Austria, in France claimed by ISIS recruits?
How concerned are you about that?
JEFFREY: One, Christiane, I'm very concerned about it.
And, secondly, as you know, because you were watching me and a lot of my fellow diplomats in action from 2001 on, we were scurrying around the
world, reaching into various societies in the Islamic world, trying to change all of this. And we didn't have a whole lot of success.
This is going to be with us for a long time. We should try to change views in the Middle East. And we're only talking about the views of 1 percent of
the people in the Arab world, for example, but that 1 percent can create a lot of mayhem, as we saw with ISIS.
But what we have to do is ensure, when it raises its head, we go after it with an international coalition, as we have put together, first under
Obama, then under Trump, that's now 82 countries and organizations' strong.
There are ways to do this. We know how to do this. We have been doing it for several administrations to deal with the symptoms of it. How to deal
with the underlying problem, nobody has come up with an answer since 9/11, frankly.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you how it sat with you the complaint by many people, and not just Democrats, but observers around the world, that
President Trump seemed to cozy up more to the autocrats than the democrats?
He had a famously difficult relationship, from his point of view, with Angela Merkel, but he was very friendly, talking about love letters to Kim
Jong-un. He liked Putin. He sided with Putin against his own intelligence commission -- intelligence community, as you remember, in Helsinki.
He likes MBS, who even his own CIA blames for ordering the murder of a journalist and the dismemberment of that journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
How does that sit with you? And would you like to see back to America's status quo ante of more embracing those who value democracy and human
JEFFREY: The first thing the Trump administration did, and the thing I liked most about it, was in its national security strategy, which normally
is just a document put on the shelf at the beginning of administration, said that we're entering a new era.
That's an era of near-peer geostrategic competition. That's the period that we all experienced from 1940 to roughly 1990. From 1990 on, it was a
different era where we were dominant. We're not that dominant anymore. And we have to focus on those countries that are trying to overthrow the
Leaving aside the president's own personal views of Putin, what we saw was, certainly on my watch, we stopped Russia from moving into Idlib. We have
reacted strongly to Russian actions against our troops in just the last in Northeast Syria. We have pushed back against them and their Syrian and
Iranian allies along the Jordanian border in Al-Tanf.
We basically supported the Turks when they stopped the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenaries, in Libya. As I said, we have poured NATO troops into
the Baltics to reassure those countries against Russia. We have given lethal weapons for the first time to the Ukrainians.
This is not an agenda Putin likes. He may enjoy his conversation with President Putin. But I know he doesn't and if people don't like what I'm
doing, because I hear them tell it to me all the time.
AMANPOUR: Now, and, again, of course, those Ukrainian lethal weapons went after that phone call was publicized...
AMANPOUR: ... because they had not been delivered before that.
So, let me just move on to...
AMANPOUR: Let me just move on to ask you a last question.
AMANPOUR: Just a final question, because you are also former military. And you have seen a purge of the civilian leadership in the Pentagon.
And Secretary Esper was kind of concerned that President Trump, who obviously wants to bring U.S. troops back, might hurry them back when
conditions didn't allow it, for instance, in Afghanistan.
I just want to play for you what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Milley, said today in a ceremony where the now acting defense secretary was
standing alongside him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We are unique among militaries. We do not take an oath to a king or queen, a tyrant or a
dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual.
No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or religion. We take an oath to the Constitution. And every soldier that is represented in this
museum, every sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsmen, each of us will protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, that is a pretty pointed message, given the purges that are going on now and what's happened over the last several months and how
the military has kind of almost been drawn into protecting President Trump politically.
I just want to know your -- hear your reaction, as a former military official yourself.
JEFFREY: Well, I know General Milley very well.
First of all, I can assure everyone listening and watching tonight that Milley, Gina Haspel, who I have worked with for many years at the CIA, Mike
Pompeo at State, and Robert O'Brien, the national security adviser in the White House, these people will ensure nobody externally is going to
threaten us in this transitional period, without any doubt.
And in terms of the military, the military is apolitical. It has always been so. It will remain so. I'm also totally convinced of that.
AMANPOUR: You say external.
I think most people are a little bit worried about internal threats to the democratic process.
JEFFREY: I was referring to internal. The military will remain apolitical. That's an internal question.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Now, coronavirus numbers are surging around the world, and especially in the United States, which remains the worst-hit country. New cases are
topping 100,000 now for the ninth straight day. Record numbers are entering hospitals across the nation for the second day in a row.
Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm is an infectious disease and public health expert. And he is now also on president-elect Biden's COVID Task Force.
Here he is talking to our Walter Isaacson about what he thinks should be done to build community trust in the eventual vaccines.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN CHAIR AND CEO: Thank you, Christiane and Dr. Osterholm, welcome to the show.
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Thank you very much.
ISAACSON: We've seen some good news about a potential Pfizer vaccine. We know that Moderna is doing a very similar one, and also one from Oxford and
AstraZeneca, all of which may come before the FDA by the end of this month. Do you think if there's emergency authorization used for some of these
vaccines, we'll be starting to see an effect by January or February.
OSTERHOLM: I think, first of all, we still have to understand what these vaccines can or can't do. News that we have achieved 90 percent efficacy
with the Pfizer vaccine was not really presented with the caveats, I think that are important to consider.
Number one, is the -- while it's very good news that in fact, the vaccine demonstrated can work and surely can induce immunity, the challenge is what
did that 90 percent mean? Was it 90 percent reduction in fever, coughs and illnesses of mild kinds of symptoms? Or did it prevent 90 percent of
deaths, severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and those are two very, very different numbers.
And one of the challenges we've had with vaccines like this, for example, with influenza, is that often the people who are have this underlying
health conditions for serious disease are also the very same people that don't respond well to the vaccine, meaning they don't make the same robust
immune response that we've seen with otherwise healthy individuals.
So until we have the data out of this trial to better assess this, I think we have to be a little cautious about what the overall impact of that
vaccine will be. But I have no doubt that it can be of some benefit, if not a lot of benefit.
And what we'll be learning, as the FDA reviews these data is that then how can we deploy this? Where should we deploy it first? Should it go to
healthcare workers, should go to people with high risk conditions? As I just said, if the high risk conditions individuals don't respond well, then
we might want to rethink where we're going to look at deploying that vaccine.
So, I think we have a lot of information yet to glean before we really have a straight and clear path forward.
ISAACSON: We're going to see three or four types of vaccines coming online, perhaps in the next few months. They're like the Pfizer and Moderna, RNA
vaccines, which are great because they can be easily made. But they're bad, because you have to distribute them in extremely cold temperatures. There's
also the Oxford one that AstraZeneca is doing, which is much more easy to distribute and doesn't need a booster shot. And finally, there's a
deactivated vaccines that they're already using in China. What type of mix do you think we should end up having?
OSTERHOLM: You know, that's a pretty straightforward, simple answer, which ones work best? And what I mean by best is, how do they compare in terms of
protection, for example, in these risk groups that I just talked about, will one vaccine appear to do better among high risk individuals for severe
And so, I think at this point, it's really all of them are in the running. And they may all perform in a very similar way. In that case, then, you
know, it'll become a matter of ease of administration. How simple is it to get the vaccine into the community.
And of course, if you have one dose requirements versus two dose requirements, that becomes a real advantage also. So I think it's going to
be a combination of all these factors coming together to determine, in fact, which vaccines will be prioritized.
In the short term, I can say that every vaccine will be used if it's effective, whether it's a complicated delivery system, because it requires
minus 94 degree refrigeration, whether it's a two dose vaccine, we're going to be so short of vaccine in these first months that I have no doubt that
all the vaccines will be used. But ultimately, we may one day decide that there is a preferred vaccine for a variety of different protection reasons,
ease of use, and potentially even long term immunity.
ISAACSON: You say we'll be short of this, these vaccines, the government has tried to guarantee pre purchases even get manufacturing going before
they're approved. What else has somebody on the Biden taskforce do you think over the next six months we could be doing to make sure the supply is
OSTERHOLM: Well, at this point, I can't comment at all, obviously on the Biden Task Force since it's just begun to meet. And clearly those are the
kinds of answers that you'll get out of the task force leadership.
But I can say that as a member, one of the things that I surely want to look at very carefully, is each and every step in the process. Number one,
in the manufacturing, are there any ways to enhance that that we can make more vaccine in a shorter time period? Number two, how do we move it into
And at this point, Operation Warp Speed has a component that is all about moving into the community. And I must say unlike the part of Operation Warp
Speed, which has been all about the research, development and manufacturing, which has been remarkable, I can tell you among my public
health colleagues, there's real concerns about the top down approach that's being taken right now by the government, not recognizing the long standing
systems we have in place already for delivering vaccines at the state and local level. I think there's actually been some challenges trying to
facilitate the federal imposed system on what reality. So, that we have to look at carefully and understand how can we best deliver these vaccines.
I think the other issue is at this point, and it's a huge one, you know, a vaccine is just a vaccine, it doesn't become significant tell us a
vaccination, tell us in somebody's arm. And right now we're seeing, unfortunately, a lot of resistance to be considering vaccine for COVID-19.
And particularly in some communities, such as black, indigenous and community color populations that are just trusting of the federal
government of the vaccine. And we got our work cut out for us to get people to actually take the vaccine.
ISAACSON: As a great epidemiologist, what would you do to make sure that people are more trusting of a vaccine?
OSTERHOLM: At this point, first of all, the data are critical, we have to show them, every one of them exactly why we came to the conclusions we did
about the level of protection. And the level of safety.
Number two is we have to tell them the story. You know, don't lecture, the public. We in academia sometimes get really good at giving lectures. And
what we need to do is tell a story, it needs to be a conversation. And we need to understand why there's this reluctance or hesitancy among many not
to get the vaccine.
You know, at this point, my will and a big mouth is not going to get that vaccine used, maybe having big years, and then trying to incorporate that
back into what we do will be very important. We need key leaders in our communities to support this, regardless of what your race ethnicity is, who
are the leaders in your community that you trust? How will you trust them, why? And we have to work on that now. We don't have time to go out and
create trust of leaders, we have to find the ones that are now and enroll them in our efforts to get the population vaccinated.
And that's something also that is still lacking in terms of what would you do. So I think at this point, I wouldn't reinvent the wheel. But I surely
would, you know, enhance it. You know, what kind of celebrities who can really bring in. You know, what kind of people who are highly trusted in
our communities can we bring in.
You know, I just participated in a program in Maryland recently, where the University of Maryland has this very interesting and frankly, quite
remarkable program bringing in black barbers, men who are cutting men's hair, day in and day out who are often trusted as sources of good
information. And the University of Maryland reaches out to these black barbers and provides them with very important information, they listen to
them, they understand the situation and it's a wonderful example of outreach into a community.
We need to look at that same kind of thing. How do we reach the populations out there in systems that already exist?
ISAACSON: One of the other layers of defense we'll have probably in the next three or four months is rapid testing that's been, you know, machines
that can be done, you know, point at your office, at airports, whatever, some of them using CRISPR, and easy to detect RNA detection facilities.
Would that be part of a way to help bring this virus down?
OSTERHOLM: Anytime we can bring in accurate and timely testing, it helps, it surely helps. The problem we've had is that many of these rapid
detection tests are not that accurate.
And we've had major problems right here in the field, with both false positives and false negatives, meaning that sometimes when people were
infected, we said they weren't. And sometimes when they weren't, we said they were. And in some cases, that can be a sizable proportion of the
people are misclassified.
When that happens, first of all, the tests themselves become suspect in the population. If you're an individual and you're found to be positive in one
of these rapid tests as it is today, you then have to have a backup of PCR test done. In the meantime you're in quarantine. And in a sense, when you
look at that and what's happening is we get a test back then three days later to say, oh, by the way, nevermind, you were not really positive. And
that is starting to create a lot of mistrust and distrust out here in the community in terms of using these tests.
You know, if you want to look at testing as a failure using the same approach, look no further than the White House.
I mean the White House, I said way back last May, that using these rapid tests to protect the people at the White House just like giving a squirt
guns to the Secret Service and expecting to protect the president against an assassin. You know, the challenges is that these have a relatively low
sensitivity. So you may see 20 percent, 30 percent and 40 percent of the people who are really positive test negative.
So, I think the key challenge here is, yes, we need rapid test, yes, their deployment could be incredibly helpful. But they've got to be accurate. And
if they're not, they actually end up holding us back. Because then people get very reluctant or resistant to testing in general.
ISAACSON: You're up in Minnesota, in Minnesota and the entire Midwest is getting slammed in the past few weeks. Why is that?
OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, I've said all along that this virus is actually spreading in our community is much more like a forest fire, is in a large,
large, large forest area. This is not waves. This is like a forest fire that'll keep burning, it's looking for human wood to burn anywhere.
Sometimes it'll burn around an area that, you know, you just like we've seen real forest fires, where why did that patch of, you know, 6000 acres
or 600 acres get spared, we don't know. But guess what, the embers are still there and it comes back and burns up.
By Labor Day, we're down to 32,000 cases. But now, people were be a combination of pandemic, what I call fatigue, pandemic anger, that area of
people who don't believe this is real. All the behaviors basically were challenged. And now look what's happening. We're talking about 125,000
cases a day, just literally eight to nine weeks after we were at 32,000 cases a day. That's because of people's behavior.
ISAACSON: With the substantial increase in cases have been people who have again started talking about lockdowns. Explain to me the different ways the
word lockdown can be used, what it means and which ways might be most effective.
OSTERHOLM: Yes. Well, first of all, as I say, often, you know, if you interview 50 people and asked what a lockdown is, you'll get 75 different
definitions. OK? I don't think anybody really knows what they're talking about with lockdowns.
Really, what we're trying to do is reduce people's contact with each other. This virus is primarily spread by swapping air with someone. And that's the
And so that when we talk about lockdown, we're talking about how do you keep people to stay at home? How do you keep social events from happening
where large numbers of people get together? Even in families, how do you keep people who are part of the family who don't live at home, come home,
bring the virus with them. And it's all of those.
Right now, if you look at the primary means of transmission in this country, we're looking at bars and restaurants, churches, gymnasiums,
community meetings, all the sporting events. All these things are facilitating transmission right now. So, I would come back to the
definition that I use, not just in terms of how you employ this, but what do you do to mitigate the bad part of it?
In early August, Neel Kashkari, the president of Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, and I wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times, and said,
you know what people are suffering right now, when these "lockdowns" are flattening the curve events occur not just from the virus, but from really
some major economic implications. And as the Federal Reserve Bank has noted, we've seen a tremendous increase in savings in this country from
people because they don't have places to spend their money. Savings went from 8 percent in March to over 22 percent by mid-August, I understand is
even higher now of all income saved.
Well, that's sitting out there waiting for it to be invested somewhere at historically low interest rates. If our government was to borrow that from
ourselves and pay ourselves back, and then hold whole everyone who loses a job, small businesses, city, county and state governments, you know,
academia as such, if we basically paid for all of that, the data are clear and compelling that we would actually bring this under control much, much
quicker in this country. We can then do what the Asian countries are doing with the area of testing, contact tracing, following up quarantine
isolation. And we can get back to a more normalized life and surely in improving economy.
Look at the economies of the impacted countries in Asia, that would buy us time to get to a vaccine.
You know, we're not asking people to do this forever. We're living in a COVID year, it's not like last year, it won't be, and hopefully not going
to be like next year with a vaccine available. Just buy us time so that people don't have to develop immunity through getting infected and far too
many people dying. That's my idea of a lockdown.
Five, six weeks at most, we could drive this down. We need to provide public health agencies with the resources to make sure they then can do the
testing, contact tracing.
And if I have to test cases at the level of five to 10,000 a day around the country, that's a heck of a lot easier than testing and following up
150,000 cases a day. That's what the countries in Asia taught us can be done.
ISAACSON: I know you can talk about what the Biden taskforce is going to do, because he's not doing it yet. But as a member of that task force, what
will you be your top priority when you meet and you say, here's what I would want to start focusing on?
OSTERHOLM: I think the most important thing if I had to say right now, we need somebody to tell a story. We need an FDR. We need somebody to help
people understand what's coming.
You know, Walter, when you think about the fact where, you know, 130, 135,000 cases right now, and we have many intensive care units in this
country that overwhelm, healthcare workers, staffing wise or inadequate provide the care we need. And I'm talking to you about having a number much
larger than that over 200,000 cases a day.
We're not going to get through that just on brute strength. We're going to have to get through it in heart and soul. And that's where we need right
now to have that wise, and thoughtful leader who tells us the truth, you know, no sugarcoating, but also doesn't spare us anything. Tells us what's
going to happen.
That's the credibility we need. That's what we need right now. So I hope that that's leadership, we also see, somebody that brings us together for
all the right reasons, and gives us hope about where we're going.
This COVID year is not going to last forever. But we need to do what we can to make sure that when it does happen, it has the least impact as possible.
If I could see that coming out of this entire effort right now, that would be to me a huge, huge win for our fight against the virus.
ISAACSON: Dr. Osterholm, thank you so much for joining us.
OSTERHOLM: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And it's almost as though President Trump has given up on his trying to fight the coronavirus. And as he's wounded now raging around in
the White House, we turn for some insight to his niece, Mary Trump. She is a clinical psychologist, and her recent bestselling book, "Too Much and
Never Enough" told the sad story of their childhood and how Trump came to hate losers. And she's joining me now from New York.
Mary Trump, welcome back to the program.
You know, everybody tries to figure out what's going on in the mind of any prominent person, particularly one exhibiting the tendencies and the
behavior that we're seeing right now. Do you -- can you can you sort of dig into your knowledge, your family knowledge, to tell us sort of what you
think he's doing?
MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH": Sure. First of all, it's great to be back.
The most important thing we need to keep in mind is that Donald is in a unique position for him. He's never in his life, been in a situation that
he can't get out of either through using somebody else's money, using connections using power.
And not only is he in a unique position, he's in a position of being a loser, which in my family, certainly, as far as my grandfather was
concerned, was the worst possible thing you could be, which is why Donald has always done anything he could to be the winning ops, be on the winning
side of something, whether it was through cheating, lying or stealing.
So he's feeling trapped, he's feeling desperate, deep down, he's feeling terrified, but because he can't acknowledge that he's, I imagine, becoming
AMANPOUR: And terrified of what?
M. TRUMP: It's just a very old emotion that he's never been able to process from when he was a little kid, terrified of the consequences of being in a
losing position, terrified of being held accountable for his actions for the first time in his life. Because he saw in my family that transgressions
against my grandfather, failing to be abused to my grandfather, failing to be a winner were punished severely, and he still carries the burden of that
AMANPOUR: Before I get to other sort of more substantial challenges that may face him out of the White House, do you think there's anybody who can
talk him down off of this ledge of denial, if that's what it is, or talk him down off this ledger fear at all?
M. TRUMP: I don't. Partially because one of the worst things that happened to him in the last week is that although he lost decisively to President-
elect Biden, the Republican Party as a whole did fairly well, they certainly outperform Donald. So he also doesn't have anybody else to blame.
So I think that he is probably in a position that nobody can help him out of emotionally and psychologically which is going to make it worse for the
rest of us.
AMANPOUR: You know, I want to go back to what you wrote in your book. It's about Election Day 2016. You said, I'm going to get the numbers all
mangled, but it's 62,979,636 voters had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of my malignantly dysfunctional family. Well, now, as you
say, you know, he's got more voters this 2020. But it's still that that representation.
M. TRUMP: Honestly, I -- it's devastating. I think it's devastating for us as a country. I find it heartbreaking that 71 million people, 71 million
Americans, after witnessing what has going on the last four years still thought that it was OK to continue to give this man power. And I think
we're going to need to figure out what happened actually because it's untenable.
You know, the divide between the sides is too great. And Donald is only making it worse every day by calling into question, the legitimacy of the
election is undermining the legitimacy of the incoming administration by failing to concede, by failing to allow transition funds to be released, et
cetera, et cetera. It's weakening us and it's also postponing that moment when we can at least try to figure out how to heal going forward.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I think it's really interesting that as we said earlier on in the program, no supporters have come out in any big numbers to
contest the election, there's none of the violence that, you know, people had said that he was implicitly potentially, you know, attracting after the
election, none of the officials in any of the states around the nation have found any fraud as he claims, none of them say that these numbers are going
to be reversed or the election is going to be reversed.
And I just want to, you know, I mean, he has a real problem, potentially, when he leaves because there are potential cases against him, certainly in
New York. We know from the "New York Times" that he's hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. How do you think this is all going to play out?
M. TRUMP: It's not going to play out well for him. Because the fact that he's dragging his feet and failing to engage in the normal transition
activities and, you know, keeping some people, believing that the election was stolen, which is complete nonsense is just another day where he's
putting America at risk, because, you know, we need a smooth transition of power here.
And I think it just increases the chances down the line that state prosecutors at the state level will be more inclined to think seriously
about charging him with his alleged financial crimes.
It's also every minute he fails to act like an adult human being in contradistinction to Vice -- President-elect Biden, who is acting as our de
facto president at the moment. It's just another moment he humiliates and embarrasses himself. So, I'm not entirely sure what their players, but I do
not think he's doing himself any favors.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And right now, more and more Republicans are taking baby steps out of their bunker, and they're sort of, you know, enabling,
Just want to know, lastly, do you think that, for instance, his children who've been, you know, defending him on Twitter and raging on Twitter, do
they have a political future? Or is this over? You know, once this election is concluded, and, you know, the inauguration happens and all the rest of
M. TRUMP: I have my preference, certainly, about the rest, I can only speculate. It would be a very sad day if the Republican Party felt that
that's where their future lies with Ivanka or Donnie, or any of other of Donald's adult children. I honestly, I think that it depends on what
Their relationship with their father appears to be very transactional, and they will only stick by him as long as they believe it's to their benefit.
And if it's not, then there will be a split there. And if Donald continues to be the champion of the Republican base, then that complicates things for
them going further.
Also, they may be looking at some state level charges themselves. We'll have to see.
AMANPOUR: We'll have to see.
Mary Trump, thank you so much for joining us.
And finally, then as far as transitions go, it was very different back in 2008 and a former first family is reminiscing about that.
Twelve years ago, the Bush family took Malia and Sasha Obama on a personal tour of their new home. In an Instagram post this week, Jenna Bush Hager
recalled showing them all the White House secrets that she and her sister cherished, including the best hiding spots, the movie theater, and how to
slide down the banister.
And in his new memoir, President Obama shares his gratitude for the Bush family and their warm welcome saying, "I promised myself that when the time
came, I would treat my successor the same way." And he did and his successor was Donald Trump.
And that's how transitions are supposed to go.
And that's it now. You could always catch us online on our podcast and across social media.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.