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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Georgia Senatorial Candidate Jon Ossoff; Interview With U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Admiral Brett Giroir; Interview With Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO); Interview With New York Congresswoman-Elect Nicole Malliotakis; Interview With South Carolina Congresswoman-Elect Nancy Mace. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 29, 2020 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:19]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): 'Tis the super-spreading season. New fears about how the holiday may supercharge the pandemic.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: It is a dangerous situation, but it's reversible.

BASH: Is this coronavirus wave about to explode? Trump testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir joins me to discuss in moments.

And exit strategy? President Trump spreads more election lies, as he finally hints he will leave the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be a very hard thing to concede.

BASH: What will be left of the Republican Party when he is gone? I will special to a member of the Republican Senate leadership, Roy Blunt, and newly elected Congresswomen Nancy Mace and Nicole Malliotakis next.

Plus: power play. Democrats and Republicans face off in the last races of the 2020 election.

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: The country is crying out for healing.

BASH: As president-elect Biden fills his Cabinet, who will have control of the Senate to potentially confirm them?

I will speak to Georgia Democrat Senate candidate Jon Ossoff ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is preparing for the worst.

As Americans finish an unusual Thanksgiving weekend, the nation is heading into what is expected to be a devastating month for the pandemic, already four million new U.S. COVID cases and more than 34,000 deaths this month alone. And we haven't even begun to see the effect of Thanksgiving travel, dinners, or Black Friday shopping.

One infectious disease expert is now warning that the post-holiday case surge will be destabilizing for the U.S. health care system, the economy and homeland security, with some projections of deaths will double, double before vaccines are able -- and be available to people to give some really much-needed relief.

As president-elect Biden prepares to take office amidst this crisis, President Trump is finally showing some signs he knows he lost, telling reporters Thursday that he will leave this White House if the Electoral College votes for president-elect Joe Biden on December 14.

But he is still spreading dangerous and fraudulent claims about the election.

OK, I want to go now to Admiral Brett Giroir, who, of course, is in charge of testing for the Coronavirus Task Force.

Admiral Giroir, thank you so much for joining me on this holiday weekend.

First of all, many Americans changed their Thanksgiving Day plans, but more than a million people still flew the day before Thanksgiving, the highest since the pandemic began. Many are going to be flying back today.

How worried are you about the impact that this will have?

GIROIR: So, thank you for having me on.

We are all very concerned about travel, but those who are traveling, it's very important to remember the good rules. And that is very critical to wear a mask at all times, to wash your hands, to have good hand hygiene, to avoid crowded spaces. That will decrease your chance of getting it or spreading it during the conveyance.

But once you get back to your location, just remember you have had an increased risk of being exposed, so you should decrease unnecessary activities for about a week. And if you can get tested in three or five days, that's also a very good idea.

We're very concerned about the travel, but what we do makes a difference.

BASH: Yes.

GIROIR: It's not as if we're passive onlookers. We could really make a difference here.

BASH: So, you just said that there should be a decrease in movement.

Should Americans who traveled for Thanksgiving or gathered actually be fully quarantining right now? GIROIR: No, that is not recommended to have a quarantine after

travel, unless you have had a direct exposure to a person with COVID for 15 minutes in close contact.

But it makes sense. If you have an increased risk because you have traveled, do the normal smart things, the commonsense things. That is decrease the unnecessary activity. If you have necessary activities, of course. But you have had a time where you could have been exposed. Make really sure you adhere 100 percent to mask-wearing, to avoiding crowds, because you could inadvertently gotten COVID and spread it.

So, just be careful during the week after your travel, because you are at increased risk.

BASH: So, Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying that he expects that there will be a surge on top of a surge now because of what we have seen this weekend.

Do you agree with that?

GIROIR: So, I talked to Tony yesterday, and we are both in very good agreement that what happens depends a lot on what we do.

[09:05:02]

There certainly can be a surge because of the travel and the mixing of people who have not been in their own little pods. But, right before the holiday, we started to see just the glimmers of flattening of new cases, which was very positive.

But we are at a risky time because of the travel. And, again, it's not just the travel, but it's exposing people who have not been sort of in their own pods. We know that people are acting pretty well right now when they're in their local home locations, but, when they go somewhere different, you have groups of people mixing.

And, remember, you can be asymptomatic and still spread the virus. And that's what's so dangerous.

BASH: That's so important to remember.

More than 91,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus. It's the highest number we have seen yet during this pandemic. Some top experts are suggesting that the number of daily U.S. deaths could be double in the coming weeks, to reach 4,000 per day.

Do you think that the U.S. could reach 4,000 deaths per day this winter?

GIROIR: So, a lot depends on this weekend.

Again, what we saw before the holiday was that cases were starting to peak and go down. Positivity rate was starting to go down. Hospitalizations and deaths lag that by two, three, four weeks. But it really depends on this weekend.

We, of course, want the trend to continue, but this weekend, with all of the travel, it's really concerning to all of us.

You're right. Our hospitalizations are peaking right now at about 95,000. About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have COVID. So, this is a really dangerous time. We really have to see what this weekend looks like. I really can't project that.

But, remember, we are not passive bystanders. If we do the right thing, universal mask-wearing, avoiding indoor spaces, crowded bars, restaurants, indoors, all those sorts of things, we can still flatten this. But this is a dangerous time, Dana, as you pointed out.

BASH: And, Admiral, I want to get to your expertise, which, of course, is testing.

The United States is currently performing about 1.7 million coronavirus tests per day. I want you to listen, though, to what Dr. Tony Fauci said about the U.S. testing strategy last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We should be flooding the system with tests to determine the penetrance of the asymptomatic spread.

We don't have that availability of tests. We should have now, we should have tests that are point-of-care, sensitive, specific, you can do at home, you can get the results yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, we don't have widely available point-of-care testing, as Dr. Fauci just described.

How big of a problem is that? And when can Americans hope to see that?

GIROIR: So, we have had great progress in that.

And, again, we need to develop the technology. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into it. We have about 70 million point-of-care tests in the system this month. That is a lot more than we had in months beforehand, a little card-based test.

We are flooding markets. We are in 10 different states for surge testing. We have eight different locations where we are doing serial testing. We do have a whole new solicitation out, trying to look for more home tests. But the home tests that is widely available in the hundreds of millions is not here now.

We have our first home-based test. It's only available about 100,000 per month, but we're going to continue to invest, knock down every door to get the technologies and to scale up. We continue to use the DPA, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Would love to have hundreds of millions of those tests. We are not there now. We are going to get there within a couple of months, I do believe.

BASH: So, is the U.S. doing enough right now on testing?

GIROIR: Is the U.S. doing enough on testing?

BASH: Yes.

GIROIR: We are doing everything we can possibly do on testing.

We would like to see testing increase. Because of the asymptomatic spread, we would ultimately like to get to a point in time where we do a lot more asymptomatic testing. That is really critically necessary.

But let me just rephrase that again. Unless we get control of the viral spread by doing the things like wearing a mask, avoiding indoor crowded spaces, you cannot test your way out of this.

It's got to be the smart policies. And universal mask-wearing is critical, avoidance of those spaces, with testing, is how we get out of the pandemic. Testing alone will never solve this issue. We have got to have both.

BASH: Well, let's look at some and talk about some encouraging news. And that is about potential vaccine, and that potentially coming by the end of the year.

Four in 10 Americans, though, told Gallup this month that they don't want to take the vaccine. That includes a majority of non-white Americans. So, how are you going to convince Americans to take this vaccine?

GIROIR: So, I want to make sure that all Americans know that this vaccine -- these vaccines have been tested in tens of thousands of individuals.

[09:10:05]

There are independent data safety monitoring boards. There's going to be an independent, transparent review. The Pfizer vaccine will have an advisory committee on December 10. All the data will be out there.

The surgeon general and myself and all the team are really out trying to educate the public. We have to see what the data show, but all indications are this is an extremely safe vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna, and very, very effective, over 95 percent effective.

And, remember, if we can immunize for impact -- that is, immunize those groups that are at the highest risk, like long-term care facilities, the elderly, minorities, we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunizing a few percent of the population.

And that is what we really need to do this month, when we are going to have -- you know, we should have enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize 20 million Americans. And we have to immunize for impact.

The rest of the America will get it in the second quarter, third quarter of 2021, but we could maximize our impact right now. BASH: And you have said -- in fact, you said on FOX last week that

you're confident in your plan to distribute the vaccine, the plan that you just talked about right there.

Your message to the Biden administration is -- quote -- "You need to let it work."

Would it be a mistake for the Biden team to make changes to your plan to distribute the vaccine?

GIROIR: So, obviously, we think the plan that is there is pretty optimum.

There was formal meetings with Operation Warp Speed last week with the Biden transition team. I'm told that meeting went extremely well.

Remember that almost everyone on Operation Warp Speed who's actually delivering the vaccine and controlling the logistics, they will be there on January 19. They will be there on January 21.

So, I believe there will be a smooth, professional transition. Remember, we're starting with about 40 million doses this year. Just think about flu. We have already distributed 180 million flu vaccines this year.

Now, the logistics are more difficult, and the cold chain is more difficult, but I really am confident in the plan to get it, and particularly get it to the states and get it to the high-risk populations.

This is a lifesaving vaccine. This puts the end to the pandemic. This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel. But the American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed, wear a mask, avoid indoor crowded spaces, all the things you know.

BASH: That's a hopeful note to end on.

Thank you so much, Admiral, for joining me on this Thanksgiving weekend. And thank you for all that you have been doing during this pandemic.

GIROIR: Thank you.

BASH: And another Trump legal challenge smacked down. When will Republican leaders step up and acknowledge that he lost?

I'll ask one of them. Republican Senator Roy Blunt joins me exclusively next.

Plus: President Trump is heading to Georgia. What do Democrats need to do to get out the vote in pivotal run-off races there? Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff will be here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:17:25]

BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

It's been more than three weeks now since the election was called for Joe Biden, and President Trump still hasn't acknowledged that he lost, even though the Biden transition is well under way officially now. Cash and formal communication, it's all happening with Trump officials.

Still, not many Republicans have challenged the president on his baseless claims.

Well, joining me now exclusively is a member of the GOP leadership, Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who also chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees the election.

Senator, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

A growing number of your Senate Republican colleagues are now acknowledging that Joe Biden won the election. Do you accept the fact that Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States?

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Well, we are certainly moving forward as if that what is going to happen on January the 20th.

The transition money, which really is a relatively new thing in American government, that the elected president would have to have government money to make their transition, that is available. The Rules Committee that I chair issued the regulations a few days ago, so that Senate employees who wanted to be a part of what are called the landing teams in the various agencies have a legal structure now to where they can go and be at those agencies between now and January the 20th, if the Biden -- the Biden organization wants them to do that.

But the president wants to see this process play out. The president- elect technically has to be elected president by the electors. That happens in the middle of December. And then, January the 6th, I'm one of the four members of the Congress that participates in the joint session that decides that those...

BASH: Right.

BLUNT: ... electoral votes are fully accepted.

And, of course, that is when this process is over, when those votes are accepted and counted.

BASH: Right.

BLUNT: But we are working with the Biden administration, likely administration, on both the transition and the inauguration as if we are moving forward.

BASH: Likely administration. So, is it safe to say that you do consider Joe Biden the president-elect?

BLUNT: Well, the president-elect will be the president-elect when the electors vote for him. There is no official job president-elect.

Part of the problem we have had between the media and the Congress, particularly Republicans in the Congress, the last four years is there's always this straw man that is set up. And I think I'm on a list of -- that you're keeping at your network of Republican senators who haven't yet acknowledged that there's a president-elect, as if that's a significant thing.

[09:20:04]

BASH: Right.

BLUNT: It's just a constant fight about things.

BASH: Yes, I...

BLUNT: What matters is -- what matters is, we are doing -- going through the process to allow this process to work its way to Inauguration Day. And...

BASH: I hear you. But -- I hear you.

But the issue, Senator,-- forgive me, but the issue, Senator, is that it's not just a title. It's that the current president has lost -- and his allies have lost or withdrawn more than 30 lawsuits since Election Day. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia have certified the votes.

And, maybe even more importantly, the president is undermining the democratic process by talking about fraud that nobody can find, even judges who look at cases that come before them say is not happening.

So, that is why that this is an issue. Do you...

BLUNT: Well, and...

BASH: I guess the question -- the question...

BLUNT: We're at about -- we're at about the end of that process. And when that that -- when the states have certified, when this process is over, that's when you come to a conclusion.

That's why these things are set up in that way. So, you go back and you -- you officially look at the ballots. Georgia hand-counted every ballot. Now, there may have been ballots that shouldn't have been cast...

BASH: Right, but...

BLUNT: ... but the ballots that were counted, in my view, were counted properly. Georgia transitioned to a paper ballot backup system from what they had four years ago.

BASH: Senator, I understand that.

Let me ask you this way, this approach. You were the secretary of state in Missouri. Have you seen evidence... BLUNT: I was.

BASH: ... of widespread voter fraud? You know how this works. Have you seen any evidence of voter fraud?

BLUNT: Well, it's up to the president's lawyers to present that evidence. And, at this point, they haven't done it in a way that was acceptable to any court.

I think there were things that could have been done differently and better to ensure there weren't voter fraud. I don't -- I think the system, frankly, was more secure than it's ever been before.

BASH: So...

BLUNT: And the president deserves some credit for that...

BASH: So, given -- given the fact that...

BLUNT: ... having a homeland security effort that reached out to the states...

BASH: OK. So, given the fact you have not seen...

BLUNT: ... having encouraged states to go to paper ballots.

BASH: Given the fact that you have not seen voter fraud, and that the -- most importantly, the president's legal team hasn't presented anything that is legitimate in any of those court cases, do you wish that the president would stop talking about voter fraud and undermining a democratic process that is quite fragile in this country?

BLUNT: Well, I think the democratic process is strong and can certainly survive this discussion.

I do hope that voters, particularly Republican voters, turn out and vote in Georgia. And, again, the Georgia system was changed so that there was a level of security that Georgia didn't have four years ago.

BASH: I...

BLUNT: That was encouraged by the Congress, and they did that.

So, I'm hoping voters vote. And the president says he is going to Georgia next Saturday, so he must be thinking that voters need to vote as well.

BASH: I want to...

BLUNT: And that will show more strength in the system than anything that we are talking about right now.

BASH: All right, I want to move on to the coronavirus.

But just yes or no, do you, Roy Blunt, as not just the former secretary of state of Missouri, as the rules chairman, you have a bird's-eye oversight view of the elections, do you think it was rigged, yes or no?

BLUNT: I don't think it was rigged.

But I do think there were some things that were done that shouldn't have been done. And I think there was some element of voter fraud, as there is in every election. But I don't have any reason to believe that the numbers are there that would have made that difference.

BASH: And not enough to change the result. That's the key.

BLUNT: And I do wish that, in Pennsylvania, when they were opening all of those ballots, they would have let people see that they were checking the signatures.

When you send ballots out to people that you don't know if they are still there or not, and they come back and you don't check the signatures, that is a huge problem.

BASH: Senator, there were...

BLUNT: But I don't think we have demonstrated it's a size of problem that would have changed the outcome.

BASH: OK.

And, Senator, just to put a button on that, there is no evidence that people didn't see signatures. In fact, the state Supreme Court and now federal court have both thrown out the notion that that didn't happen.

But I want to move onto coronavirus, because this obviously is an important time in the pandemic.

BLUNT: Mm-hmm. Right.

BASH: The United States reached 2,000 deaths per day. Tens of millions of Americans are going hungry this Thanksgiving. Unemployment benefits ran out months ago for some. Others, the extensions will run out next month.

Congress has failed, completely failed to do anything in recent months. So, will you help struggling Americans before Congress adjourns this year?

BLUNT: Well, I hope so.

You know, I have been one of the major advocates that we need to do this, we need to do this now. We need to continue the funding for the vaccine, the delivery of the vaccine. We need to stabilize, though, through that -- the payroll protection effort that worked so well. Direct money to struggling families would be helpful and some of extension of unemployment.

[09:25:03] But the problem was that our friends on the other side of the building thought that it was $2.4 trillion or nothing. Half of that would have made a big difference. And then, after the 1st of the year, we could have dealt with this again.

I think it's a huge failure on the part of the Congress. And I'm disappointed by it. The president was prepared to sign almost any sized bill.

BASH: Well...

BLUNT: I think they didn't want to give him that win before the election, and now we can't seem to figure out how to give it to him after the election.

BASH: But you think now there will be a compromise and people will get the help they need?

BLUNT: Well, I don't know that there will. I'm certainly working hard to make that happen.

And, you know, Admiral Giroir talked earlier about what we have done with testing, what we have done with vaccines. We have really written two new big chapters in how to respond to a pandemic.

Something he said that I think maybe wasn't quite noticed, he said that there were 70 million point-of-service tests produced in October. There were another 70 million that were kind of overnight tests. That is more tests than Americans have taken the entire time up until October 1.

So, we have had this great surge of availability of testing. Now we need to get people to take the test. And the vaccines are going to be available a year quicker than anybody anticipated. And, hopefully, people most impacted get those vaccines first. Then essential workers who come into contact with most people -- with people get it second.

And, by then, you're into late March, and maybe 50 percent of the whole population that wanted to get a vaccine had access to that vaccine. And that is how we work through this, the great effort on the part of the Congress and the administration to write these two new chapters in how you respond to a pandemic.

BASH: Senator, you chair the congressional committee that oversees the inauguration. You have got a lot of jobs.

What adjustments are you going to make to the inauguration because of the pandemic? Are you going to require masks?

BLUNT: Yes, I think we will, Dana. I think we hope to be outside again on the west front, but I think we won't see nearly as many people on either the platform or out there in the space where people get into the secure space that have a ticket to be on the west front.

And back to our earlier discussion, I do have that job. I have the job of counting the electoral votes. I hope the president is there on inaugural day. And continuing to work to see that -- what we can do to have the president there and have Vice President Biden there likely sworn in on that day.

BASH: Well, you said you hope he is going to be there. I mean, there is no indication that he is going to go. Are you having conversations with him, trying to push him to do so?

BLUNT: No, but I have certainly encouraged his staff to look at the transition now, look at the opportunity in Georgia to help us win these Senate seats, look at what the president can do, if the president is leaving the White House, as he says he will do if he loses the Electoral College vote, to help us win back the House in 2022.

I think there is a big role for President Trump. And I hope he embraces that and looks at how you move to whatever comes next for him, assuming that this election works out the way it appears it will.

BASH: Senator Roy Blunt, thank you so much for joining me this holiday weekend. Appreciate it.

BLUNT: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

And President Trump said this was the year of the Republican woman, and that is one thing that might not need a fact-check. Two GOP women from this record-breaking freshman class join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:33:11]

BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

In a year when Joe Biden won the White House, Republicans made a dent in the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. And they have a record number of GOP women to thank for that who more than doubled their numbers in this election.

Joining me now, Republican congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis of New York and congresswoman-elect, Republican, Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

Thank you both for joining me. Congratulations to you both.

Congresswoman-elect Mace, I will start with you.

Republican women more than doubled their numbers in the U.S. House this election.

NANCY MACE (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Right.

BASH: Just 13 right now. It will be at least 28 in the next Congress.

Why do you think Republican women performed better this year than in the past?

MACE: Well, we had more women running this year. And it was an exciting time.

We saw in 2018 a record number of Democrat women run and win. And if women want to have a seat at the table, then we have got to raise our hand and say, we are going to step into the arena, risk it all, and we are going to run. And we have to have more women run to win.

And we can't just do this year in 2029. This is something we have to do especially in the House every two years, when we have our election cycles. But we made a huge difference this year. And if we want to have a seat at the table, women have to run, and they have to win.

And the great thing about this story this year, Dana -- and I'm so appreciative of you having Nicole and I on today -- is that it's not just Democrat women that have a monopoly on breaking glass ceilings. Republican women have been doing it all year long in these elections all across the country.

And, in fact, 26 of the 27 toss-up races here this year were won by women, minorities, combat vets. And, in my case, I was in a lean- Democrat seat that we took back this year. And it's just an exciting time to be part of history, with all these great hardworking women.

[09:35:02]

BASH: And, congresswoman-elect Malliotakis, your mother is from Cuba. Your father is from Greece. You're helping to make House Republicans more diverse.

What do you think this says about the future of the GOP, a future that a lot of people over the past few years have been pretty worried about?

NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R), NEW YORK CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Well, look, this is what I have always known about the GOP, that we are a big tent party, that we do have people that come from different places from around the world.

We do incorporate women. And now we're seeing women having a seat at the table, which is tremendous. When you look back in our nation's history, the first female member of Congress was a Republican woman, Jeannette Rankin in 1917. And we have come such a long way from then.

I think it's upon people like Nancy and I to now pay it forward, to recruit other women. One of the reasons why you saw so many women take office on the Republican side was because of the efforts of Leader Kevin McCarthy, because of people like Elise Stefanik, Liz Cheney, Steve Scalise, who went out there and recruited qualified women who have something to share with the American people and who have the experience and the background to be productive participants in the legislative process.

And I think some of the -- one of the reasons why we were so motivated to run is seeing the Democratic women being elected in 2018 that don't necessarily reflect our values, particularly those who are self- described socialists.

Somebody like me, the daughter of a Cuban refugee, I want to be there to be a part of the discussion and the debate and provide a counterview.

BASH: And, congresswoman-elect Mace, this to you.

Democrats still have triple the number of women in the House, triple, that is, compared to Republicans. Democrats have at least 89. Republicans will have at least 28. I say at least because there are still outstanding races.

MACE: Right.

BASH: So, we're obviously talking to you about the strides Republican women made this cycle, but why is that get gap so big?

MACE: Right.

Well, Democrats have just done a better job of recruiting women to run. And I believe the Republican Party, they have finally come around. And we're -- I look at our freshman class right now, and we really reflect the faces of America, the diversity, and the inclusion that we have in the Republican Party. That is our future.

And if we don't get on board with recruiting the right people, minorities, women, veterans, et cetera, then we're going to lose in the future. And I think it's really important that our values of freedom and entrepreneurship can speak to folks all across the country from all walks of life and all the diversity inclusiveness we can have in the Republican Party.

And I know our conservative message, we haven't done as good of a job as a party in communicating it to the masses, because it is a compassionate message. And when you look at all the races that we won this year, that messaging really worked, particularly in my case. We won. We had a very narrow race, but there were narrow races all across the country.

But I think what's important now, too, is, we're talking about the turnout in the election and all the seats that were flipped this year, but there was massive record turnout on both sides of the aisle, 70 to 75 percent in my case.

And I think this is a real referendum from the American people on D.C. to sit down and find where we do agree, where we do get along, and work together. We have got to do that for the -- for hardworking Americans.

With COVID-19, with governments shut down state to state, people are struggling, and we have got to come together and work hard for the American people.

BASH: That's a refreshing goal for a lot of people in this city, for sure. And, congresswoman-elect Malliotakis, you are going to be the only

Republican from New York City. And you spent a lot of time in your campaign focusing on your fellow New Yorker, on Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. She's a member of the so-called Squad. You now say that you want to form a freedom squad.

What does that mean?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, look, we have a natural alliance that is occurring among the members of this new freshman class.

I think people will be very impressed with this class, by the way. But what I will say is, we have individuals who share similar experiences as my family. As I mentioned, my mother's a daughter -- my mother's a Cuban refugee. My dad is an immigrant of Greece.

We also have individuals like Carlos Gimenez, who came to this country as a 6-year-old boy from Cuba. We have Maria Salazar, who is the daughter of political refugees from Cuba as well. We also have Victoria Spartz, who is from the Ukraine, who grew up under Soviet Union rule. And we have two members who are immigrants from Korea.

I think what you're going to see is a group of individuals who are going to serve as a counterbalance to the values of the socialist Squad. And what we stand for are freedom, liberty. We love this nation. We want to see it prevail. We want to see it remain the land of opportunity, what has, in essence, attracted millions of immigrants from around the world, to pursue that American dream.

We don't believe we should be dismantling the economy. We don't believe we should be destroying free market principles. We don't believe in Green New Deal. We don't believe in packing the courts.

[09:40:00]

I think there's just a stark contrast between what we're offering and what people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are offering. And that's something that needs to be debated in Washington.

And particularly me being from New York City, in her backyard, where we're seeing that socialist movement grow, six additional members of the New York state legislature, they're putting up a slate of candidates in the City Council, it's critically important that New York City has a balance and someone who is going to offer something different.

BASH: And, Congresswoman Mace, the -- you talked about reaching across the aisle and working together.

MACE: Mm-hmm.

BASH: President-elect Joe Biden said during his Thanksgiving Day address that American people want Democrats and Republicans and independents to come together, work together.

First of all, do you consider Joe Biden the president-elect? MACE: Right.

Well, everything -- I mean, in that direction, he is the president- elect. That's where it's headed. I do believe that we have got the transition process happening now. But the president should also use every legal avenue that he can to present evidence.

If there is voter fraud, we have got to understand what happened this election cycle, if there was improprieties that were occurring state to state.

The American election system is only as good as people's confidence in it. And that should be the way it is, whether it's a Republican or a Democrat, because, if roles were reversed, I think that Democrats would want every legal avenue pursued also to find out if there was any voter fraud, look at the evidence, and have their day heard in court.

I think it's really important that, two years from now, four years from now, when we have the next election cycle, that people have confidence in the process and in the outcome...

BASH: Yes.

MACE: ... because what we can't have happen is allow our disagreements to continue to cause division. We have got to rebuild our country.

BASH: So...

MACE: I am Republican. I'm fiscally conservative.

But I have also worked across the aisle. I passed prison reform legislation that was signed into law this year, something very rare that you see Republicans do. And I think it's really important for us to find those things that we get along on, that we can agree on, and work on them together.

BASH: And you said -- you talked about voter fraud.

MACE: Right.

BASH: There is absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud, even a little bit of voter fraud, given all of the cases that we have seen in federal and state courts basically being laughed out.

And on that note, I will go to you, congresswoman-elect Malliotakis.

Does it concern you that the president is undermining the results of an election that both of you won?

MALLIOTAKIS: I don't believe that the president is undermining anything.

I believe that he is within his legal rights to be questioning any irregularities that have -- may have surfaced. Look, this is a legal process. This is the Constitution. This should be all settled in December. And the president said, should Joe Biden be elected by the electors, that he will conform with a peaceful transition. I think that's very important.

But in order for us to work together and to have bipartisanship, we need the public to have trust in our system. And this really is the -- about the integrity of our election system. And like Nancy says, I look forward to working with anybody and everybody who's going to work with us for the American people, when all is said and done.

BASH: I'm guessing it's probably fair to say that neither of you thinks that the election that each of you won was rigged.

I will have to leave it there, but I really appreciate you both coming on. And I want to say thank you and congratulations to you both on your wins. Appreciate it. Thank you.

MALLIOTAKIS: Thank you.

MACE: Dana, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

And could President Trump's efforts to poison the results of the 2020 election come back to bite Republicans in Georgia, with the Senate on the line?

Democratic candidate Senate -- for Senate Jon Ossoff joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:48:05]

BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

President Trump and president-elect Biden are both expected to campaign in Georgia. The two run-off races there that will decide control of the Senate are something that everybody is -- they're looking at.

Some Republicans are worried, though, that President Trump's claim of voter fraud will come back to bite them in a state, with voices on MAGA social media calling for a boycott of the vote.

Joining me now is Democratic candidate for Senate there Jon Ossoff.

We should note we did invite his opponent, Republican Senator David Perdue, to join us this morning. And he declined.

Thank you so much for joining me.

OSSOFF: Good morning.

BASH: So, the last time Georgia had a Senate run-off was 2008, as you will know. The Democrat barely got half as many votes as he did in November. The Republican ended up winning the run-off by 15 points. So, what makes you think this won't happen to you?

OSSOFF: Thank you for having me, Dana. Good morning.

Good morning, everybody.

And a lot has happened in Georgia in 12 years, an extraordinary movement to register voters, to mobilize communities, to train volunteers and get out the vote. This infrastructure that we have built here for the last eight years is extraordinary. And it's why Joe Biden carried the state.

And Georgia Democrats are motivated to participate, because we recognize that, to get out of this crisis, to get financial relief to businesses and families who are suffering, and to enact a broader legislative agenda, expanding voting rights and civil rights, investing in clean energy and addressing climate change, making sure that health care is affordable for every family, this requires victory in these two Senate run-offs.

We know the stakes. And we're motivated to make a difference.

BASH: Well, even on Election Day, though, when Joe Biden was on the ballot, Democrats lost almost a dozen seats nationwide in the House, didn't win majorities in about a dozen state legislative chambers that they were really targeting.

So, what makes you so sure that Republicans who voted for Biden won't use this, your race, as an opportunity to have a check on him?

[09:50:04]

OSSOFF: Well, what we need is the capacity for this incoming administration to govern in the midst of a crisis.

I mean, so many families here in Georgia and across the country can't feed themselves right now. Businesses are on the brink. Folks are looking at eviction and foreclosure.

And, look, let me just be very candid about this, because we all know what's going to happen if McConnell holds the Senate. He will try to do to Biden and Harris just like he tried to do to President Obama. It will be paralysis, partisan trench warfare, obstructionism as far as the eye can see, at a moment of crisis, when we need strong action.

BASH: So, let's talk about the virus, which is obviously overshadowing everything in this country, including your race.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force said that Georgia, your state, is -- quote -- "in the early stages of full resurgence," and that this is the moment to dramatically increase mitigation.

So, would you support harsher restrictions in Georgia, like closing restaurants and businesses temporarily?

OSSOFF: I think we should follow the expertise of public health experts, like those of the CDC, which is based here in Georgia.

And if that is the consensus of the public health community, we need to take that advice very seriously. And politicians need to recognize the limits of our own knowledge and wisdom. Epidemiologists who dedicate their careers and their training to studying the spread of infectious disease are qualified to advise us on the correct mitigation procedures.

And the problem we have had all year is that politicians have been suppressing and ignoring public health advice. It's time to trust the experts, listen to public health professionals in a public health crisis.

BASH: So, if they said shut things down temporarily, you would be all for it?

OSSOFF: If the CDC and its leadership gave a strong indication that those kinds of stronger mitigation measures are necessary to save lives and contain the spread of the virus, it would be malpractice for politicians to ignore that advice.

There are more than 2,000 Americans dying per day. The spread is out of control. And the problem is, we have ignored the public health experts. So, I will be listening to them and not to political consultants, pollsters, or folks who are looking out for their own financial interests, like my opponent.

BASH: On that note, according to "The New York Times," the Justice Department opened a probe into your opponent, Senator Perdue's stock sales the summer to look into possible insider trading.

You have called Perdue a -- quote -- "crook." But -- this is an important but -- the Justice Department closed the case. They didn't bring any charges. So, what evidence do you have to support your claim that he's a crook?

OSSOFF: Well, I think that the standard of conduct for a sitting U.S. senator needs to be higher than that he wasn't indicted for egregiously unethical misconduct.

Senator Perdue was buying up shares in manufacturers of vaccines and medical equipment and dumping his casino shares while he had access to classified briefings on COVID-19 and was telling the rest of us this was no deadlier than the flu.

And all year, Senator Perdue has been lying to the public and the press, insisting that he had no control over his stock trades.

But this new reporting reveals that, the FBI investigation, the banking records reveal he was, in fact, personally directing his own stock trades.

So, now Senator Perdue needs to come out of hiding. It's not enough for him to say, well, I wasn't prosecuted. He needs to explain why he's been lying all year about the level of personal control he has over his portfolio. This is grossly unethical misconduct for a sitting U.S. senator.

BASH: But calling him a crook suggests that he committed a crime, which, again, the Justice Department has found no evidence of. They didn't even pursue charges. Fair?

OSSOFF: No, I don't think so.

I think that a sitting U.S. senator exploiting his office, exploiting his access to privileged information, exploiting his power to enrich himself, while his own constituents are suffering and dying, absolutely makes Senator Perdue a crook.

And he's afraid to come out and debate me, because he won't answer these charges, because he can't defend the indefensible.

BASH: Before I let you go, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed you yesterday. He is vying to be labor secretary in the Biden administration. So, he backed you. Do you support him in that endeavor?

OSSOFF: I'm not making recommendations to the administration on Cabinet picks.

But I appreciate the senator's support and look forward to working with him to fight for a $15 minimum wage, to put the interests of working families ahead of corporate lobbyists in Washington, to address this climate crisis, invest in clean energy, and look out for ordinary working people for a change, instead of people who have bought access and power in Washington.

BASH: OK, so you're not pushing to endorse a Cabinet pick. I understand that.

Do you want Senator Sanders to come down and campaign with you?

OSSOFF: We will see. I haven't had that kind of discussion with him, but I welcome his support.

[09:55:00]

And, again, look, I think that he advocacy for ensuring that health care is a human right in this country, for putting the interests of working families over corporate interests is welcome, is necessary, is appreciated, and so is his support.

BASH: OK, Jon Ossoff, I really appreciate you joining me this morning. Hope you had a nice holiday weekend. And we will talk to you probably a lot more in the next month-and-a-half, until January 5.

Appreciate it.

OSSOFF: Thank you, Dana. Appreciate it. Take care.

BASH: Thank you.

And thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.