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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Bill Gates; Interview With Sen. Bill Cassidy (R- LA); Interview With Former Vice President Al Gore; Interview With Stacey Abrams; Interview With Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 13, 2020 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:44]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Come and get it. The FDA authorizes the use of the first coronavirus vaccine.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: Science and data guided the FDA's decision.

TAPPER: As millions of Americans patiently wait for their turn, how long will it be until you can get your vaccine? I will speak to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and a major figure in the fight against coronavirus, Bill Gates, next.

And final nail in the coffin? The U.S. Supreme Court rejects President Trump's latest outrageous effort to overturn the election. Are his fruitless efforts finally coming to an end? And what will be the consequences for America? Republican Senator Bill Cassidy and former presidential candidate Al Gore join me to discuss in moments.

Plus: eyes on the prize -- early voting set to begin in Georgia, as control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance.

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: We know how to win those seats.

TAPPER: Will Democrats deliver the majority to president-elect Biden? I will speak to voting rights leader Stacey Abrams ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is, as FDR once said about D-Day, on a mighty endeavor, this time to immunize the nation.

And there you see it, an historic morning. The first trucks with the COVID-19 vaccine are on their way, the first shipments of the vaccine expected to arrive in all 50 states tomorrow and about three million doses to be delivered this week. General Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, compared the logistical effort to distribute the vaccine to D-Day, the beginning of the end of the pandemic, which is now racing towards 300,000 dead Americans. Of course, victory in Europe would not happen until 336 days after Allies first stormed the beaches of France. And there are likely going to be many more painful months ahead in this COVID nightmare that could be supercharged by holiday gatherings and winter weather and, frankly, by a president who has launched a campaign of public pressure on the FDA, instead of a campaign focused on building trust with those Americans who are skeptical and reluctant to receive the shots.

An administration official and a source familiar tells CNN that, on Friday, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn he needed to grant authorization for the vaccine by that evening, or resign. That authorization came Friday night.

Joining me now, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.

Mr. Hahn, just to be clear, did White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in any way suggest that, if the FDA did not grant emergency use authorization to this vaccine more quickly, then, in any way, it would be more difficult for you to continue in your job?

HAHN: Jake, I have been really clear about this in my public statements. That is an inaccurate representation of the conversation.

TAPPER: Well, can you give us any insight into the conversation?

HAHN: I'm not going to give specifics about the conversation.

What I can say is, we have heard from a number of sources, including the White House, that there was a desire for us to move as quickly as possible.

And, Jake, we have, but our absolute obligation to the American people was to make sure that we did a thorough scientific review. We needed to ensure that our gold standard of assessing the safety and the efficacy of vaccine was done and was done properly. We had to get this right. And I believe we did.

TAPPER: And that is important. The science is important. We need to be led by the science.

But, regardless of that phone conversation and whatever was said by Mark Meadows to you, President Trump publicly was pressuring you.

In a tweet on Friday morning, he wrote: "While my pushing the money- drenched, but heavily bureaucratic U.S. FDA, saved five years in the approval of numerous great new vaccines, it is a still big, old, slow turtle. Get the dam" -- misspelled -- "vaccines out now, Dr. Hahn. Stop playing games and start saving lives."

Now, I don't think that you were playing games, and I think you have been very focused on saving lives.

Do you share the concerns of lots of people, lots of doctors and public health experts, that comments like this, public ones from the president, hurt your effort to reassure people that this was done according to the science, and not political pressure, and, therefore, it is safe?

[09:05:07]

HAHN: Jake, we have been very clear -- and I will say it again here -- that nothing guided our decision, no external comments, no external pressure, other than the science and data guided our decision-making.

If you look at the timetable here, immediately after the Vaccine Advisory Committee, our team spent that night, we decided to go forward. And you know, by early morning, before 7:00 a.m., we issued a statement saying that we were moving forward working with Pfizer to get the authorization out.

And then we worked throughout the day to do that. Our timeline, how we approached this was based upon our thorough review of the science and data. That's the promise we made to the American people, the transparency around that, and that's what we did.

TAPPER: CDC Director Redfield still has yet to accept the recommendation of the CDC advisory panel, which would be the final step in the process before shots can start going into arms. Why not?

HAHN: I don't know the answer to that question, Jake.

I do know I have had a lot of conversations with Director Redfield, and he is certainly on top of this, and has a lot of confidence in the process, particularly with the ACIP. I'm sure we will be hearing very soon about this.

TAPPER: The first shipments of the vaccine are going out this morning. When do you expect the first shot will go into the first arm?

HAHN: Well, my hope, again, is that this happens very expeditiously, hopefully tomorrow.

We have seen the vaccines go out. We have seen the press reports of hospitals waiting to vaccinate health care workers and those most vulnerable, according to the recommendations of the ACIP and the CDC.

So, it would be my greatest hope and desire that that occur tomorrow.

TAPPER: Two individuals in the U.K. who had a history of severe allergic reactions had allergic reactions to the vaccine. Now, that is not necessarily cause for alarm. People shouldn't be worried about it.

But millions of Americans have all sorts of allergies, ranging from almond dust to cats to penicillin. Just to -- as an informational exercise here, which allergies should and should not prevent Americans from taking the vaccine at this stage?

HAHN: Jake, this is so important. We have had a lot of questions. And, as you can imagine, this is why we do our line-by-line review of the data.

So, our conditions for use, is what we call them, specifically states that, if you have an allergy to any component of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, you should not receive it.

We also said that those environments where -- the places where the vaccine is going to be given, there should be the tools available to administer medications and support should someone have a severe reaction, allergic reaction.

And your point is well taken. We do not think that this is a highly frequent issue that will arise, but we do want to be careful, because vaccine safety, medical product safety is top of mind for us.

TAPPER: And where can people find the list of ingredients, for want of a better word, in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, so they know what the -- what the ingredients are, so that, if they're allergic to it, they shouldn't take it?

HAHN: So, I would encourage providers, patients to go to the product labeling, as well as the conditions of use and letter of authorization.

We have been very transparent with that and we have posted on our Web site.

TAPPER: The FDA issued emergency use authorization for 16- and 17- year-olds for this vaccine.

For families at home who have younger kids like mine, when do you expect the vaccine to be available for people under 16?

HAHN: So, those studies are being planned or in progress now. You have heard publicly that one of the companies said that they were initiating those studies.

Jake, really key point here. Sometimes, there are gaps in information. And we have to fill those gaps in information after something like an emergency use authorization to get the answers that -- to the questions that you're asking. So important that we expeditiously complete those, so that we can make a recommendation about children younger than 16.

So, as soon as possible, obviously, with great speed.

TAPPER: Most governors expect to run out of their first shipments of the Pfizer vaccines within days. There are 2.9 million doses of the vaccine in this first shipment.

That's a lot, but it's also less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. Can you give us some sort of a timetable as to when, say, 100 million doses will have gone out the door?

HAHN: I personally can't. FDA's responsibility is on the regulatory side.

However, we're working very hard to help the manufacturers in the supply chain to get as much of supply as possible up and running and, of course, assessing the quality of manufacturing. I have heard public reports from Department of Health and Human

Services that the expectation is, in the next several months, that there will be enough supply of vaccines to vaccinate 100 million Americans.

[09:10:10]

TAPPER: HHS Secretary Azar also said, however, that the U.S., in his view, was on track to have doses ready for 20 million Americans by the end of the year, 20 million. That's just 18 days away.

You have 2.9 million going out right now. That doesn't seem possible, does it?

HAHN: I think it's possible.

I have certainly heard those discussions, and I think that's a reasonable prediction. And I have confidence around that.

TAPPER: An FDA advisory panel is slated to meet this Thursday to recommended whether to issue emergency use authorization for a different coronavirus vaccine from Moderna.

Do you expect that, by the end of this week, the U.S. could have two vaccines available in the U.S.?

HAHN: Jake, I'm not going to prejudge that discussion or our assessment of the data.

What I can tell you is that, this week, we will publish our assessment of the data in advance of that meeting. And we will have another public discussion, just like we did last Thursday. My sincerest hope is that we move forward and we will do so expeditiously, but don't want to prejudge that decision.

TAPPER: Have you spoken with any members of the transition team for president -- president-elect Biden about handing off to them on January 20?

HAHN: I have not had those conversations. I'm very willing to have any conversations.

And, of course, our commitment is to make sure that the mission of FDA, which is to protect and promote the public health, remains in place in a very strong way during these times.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much, FDA Director Stephen Hahn. Congratulations on this big achievement. We appreciate all the work that you do.

HAHN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Vaccine approval in the U.S. is just the start of the beginning in what will be an enormous logistical effort to heal this country and the world.

My next guest has devoted his time, energy and more than a billion of his dollars to fighting COVID-19.

Joining us now is Bill Gates, who is now the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been focused on finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

Mr. Gates, thanks so much for joining us.

So, we're seeing record high cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. right now. And those numbers are climbing.

How bad do you expect things to get over the next three or four months, before the vaccine is widely available?

BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Well, sadly, the next four to six months could be the worst of the epidemic.

The IHME forecast shows over 200,000 additional deaths. If we would follow the rules, in terms of wearing masks and not mixing, we could avoid a large percentage of those deaths.

So, in the near term, it's bad news.

TAPPER: You have been sounding the alarm on the threat posed by infectious diseases and pandemics for years.

Even in your wildest dreams, did you think it would ever get this bad in the United States?

GATES: No, I thought the United States would do a better job handling it.

Overall, when I did the forecasts in 2015, I talked about the deaths potentially being higher. So, this virus could be more fatal than it is. We didn't get the worst-case. But the thing that has surprised me is that the economic impact in the U.S. and around the world has been much greater than the forecasts that I made five years ago.

TAPPER: Your foundation just announced a new $250 million pledge to help fight COVID. That's in addition to the more than $1 billion you have already committed.

Why did you do this? And, specifically, where's the money going to go?

GATES: We saw a unique role for us.

We have been funding a lot of the research for the vaccines. We're very agile. We're a partner in a thing called CEPI, which is the second biggest funder after the U.S. government.

So, in diagnostics, therapy and vaccines, we know where the science is, we know how the pieces need to come together in an urgent way. And so our expertise in infectious disease, which normally only relates to developing countries, applied to the entire world for this crisis.

TAPPER: These vaccines were created and tested in record time, under a year. They -- according to the data right now, they have a very high effectiveness, more than 90 percent.

How much credit for the success do you think Operation Warp Speed and President Trump deserve?

GATES: Well, the mRNA vaccines, which the first two are, our foundation and others have been backing for quite some time.

Now, Pfizer teamed up with BioNTech, a partner of ours, and did not take government money. So, they went out on their own.

[09:15:04]

Moderna got money before there was an Operation Warp Speed, back when it was the -- just called BARDA. And that money did help them take risks, because they're not a large company, and they got help on some of their trials work.

So, the U.S. R&D funding, which is -- had been there for pandemics well before this administration, that was a contribution greater than any other country.

TAPPER: President Trump signed an executive order that he says prioritizes distribution of the vaccine to Americans before it goes to people in other countries.

It's not entirely clear how the order will achieve that. But what do you think of that strategy, that approach, that everyone in the United States should be vaccinated first, and then the U.S. should pivot, or these private companies should pivot, to helping the rest of the world?

GATES: Well, I think we need to help all of humanity here.

You know, we want the world economy be going. We want to minimize the deaths. And, you know, the basic technology is a German company. And so blocking international sharing and cooperation has been disruptive and a mistake during this entire pandemic.

So, we need to ramp up the capacity of all the vaccines. There will be some additional ones approved in the months ahead that are easier to scale up the manufacturing. But the U.S. has benefited from other countries' work care, and we shouldn't be entirely selfish in how we go forward.

TAPPER: So, in your view, America first, as the president might call it, not the right approach?

GATES: Well, the extreme idea that everybody should die until we have the very last American vaccinated, that's hardly the appropriate response.

TAPPER: Do you think one of these vaccines is better than the other?

GATES: No.

The data on Moderna and Pfizer look very similar. Other vaccines are likely to be about the same. Even the AstraZeneca, where there's a little bit of confusion about the numbers, it prevented severe disease in a very dramatic way. And so I'm -- I'm super happy with all of these vaccines.

TAPPER: A new Pew Research poll out last week showed that only 60 percent of the American people say they intend to get vaccinated. That includes less than half of black Americans.

How worried are you about the reluctance of Americans to take a vaccine, particularly among minority communities?

GATES: I think we have a real communications challenge, that you have got to find out, who do people trust, make sure they have got the data.

I hope, as people see it being rolling -- this vaccine rolled out, in reducing the death rate, reducing transmission to people you care about, that that 60 percent number will go up.

For some jobs, like working in a nursing home, the government could decide that it's important for those people to be vaccinated, because that will save a lot of lives. And so the track record will be developed, and I think we will get over the 70 percent that should reduce the transmission dramatically.

TAPPER: President-elect Biden joined with former Presidents Obama and Bush and Clinton, suggesting that they would all take the vaccine publicly. Are you considering doing the same?

GATES: No, I will do the same. When it's my turn -- I'm not going to budge, but when my turn comes up, I will visibly take the vaccine, because I think that it's a benefit to all -- all people to not be transmitting.

TAPPER: Are you at all concerned about the wealthy and well-connected being able to get access to a vaccine before it's their turn, before most other Americans?

GATES: It should be based on medical need, not wealth at all.

After all, this epidemic has been awful in the way that it's exacerbated inequities. It's been worse for Hispanics, worse for blacks, worse for low-income service workers, multigenerational households, a number of things that mean that, in terms of picking who gets the vaccine, we better be using equity to drive all those decisions.

TAPPER: More than 30 million people in California are right now under brand-new stay-at-home orders, as hospitals their risk being overwhelmed.

There are a lot of governors who oppose bringing back these lockdown orders and forcing businesses to close.

[09:20:04] What do you think? Do you think more states needs to consider taking that kind of drastic action and the kind of drastic action we saw when the pandemic first began? Or can there be a more nuanced approach?

GATES: Well, certainly, mask-wearing has essentially no downside. They're not expensive.

Bars and restaurants in most of the country will be closed as we go into this wave. And I think, sadly, that's appropriate. Depending on how severe it is, the decision about schools is much more complicated, because, there, the benefits are pretty high, the amount of transmission is not the same as in restaurants and bars.

So, trade-offs will have to be made. But this -- the next four to six months really call on us to do our best, because we can see that this will end, and you don't want somebody you love to be the last to die of coronavirus.

TAPPER: When do you think life will fully return to what we thought of as normal back in January, no masks, no social distancing, no other protective measures necessary?

GATES: Certainly, by the summer, we will be way closer to normal than we are now.

But even through early 2022, unless we help other countries get rid of this disease, and we get high vaccination rates in our country, the risk of reintroduction will be there and, of course, the global economy will be slowed down, which hurts America economically in a pretty dramatic way.

So, we will have, starting in the summer, about nine months where a few things, like big public gatherings, will still be restricted. But we can see now that, somewhere between 12 to 18 months, and we have a chance, if we manage it well, to get back to normal.

TAPPER: And, obviously, we're changing administrations, we're changing governments right in the middle of this unprecedented effort to distribute the vaccine.

Are you worried that the changeover between administrations and the reluctance of President Trump to acknowledge the reality of his loss, the delay of the transition, that it could complicate the process?

GATES: Yes, transition is complicating.

But the new administration is willing to rely on actual experts, and not attack those experts. They're laying out clear plans. So, I think we will get through this in a positive way. I'm pleased with the people and the priority that the president-elect, Biden, and his team are bringing to bear on this problem.

And Biden's doing his best to retain Francis Collins and Tony Fauci and add them to that strong group of people. These are people who are willing to admit when things aren't going well and deliver tough messages, particularly about the next four to six months. And so I do think the U.S. will not be one of the worst performers as

the team comes into office.

TAPPER: You have generally held your tongue when it comes to criticizing outgoing President Trump and the Trump administration for the various ways that he has mishandled the pandemic.

Now that his term is coming to a close, I wonder what you think about the fact that it seems fairly clear that mistakes he made and statements he made that were just not accurate, undermining people like Dr. Fauci, undermining people who were talking about what would work in terms of mask-wearing, pushing drugs that were not proven, including one from that MyPillow guy.

I'm wondering what you think about the fact that, as Dr. Fauci told me, this has cost lives, this mishandling and the delay in the president taking it seriously, not to mention, of course, just what we have seen over the last nine or 10 months.

GATES: It could have been worse. He could have fired Dr. Fauci. He could have kept Scott Atlas on longer.

We will do the postmortem when it's over. All of us feel like, how could I have talked even louder in 2015 and got more investments to be made? We should all look at what we have learned from this epidemic, because there will be another epidemic coming.

And whatever that administration is, being smart about getting the testing up fast, allowing the CDC, who are the experts, to give the message to the public, not being afraid of bad news, so that we get people ready, it's pretty clear we're going to be smarter next time.

[09:25:02]

TAPPER: I hope so. But let's talk about that pandemic in the future.

What do you think the Biden administration needs to do to prepare for it? Obviously, we were not prepared for this one, at least not to the degree we needed to be.

GATES: We need a team of experts, like 3,000, that are around the world working on infectious disease.

When there's a hint of a pandemic, they would, with their full skill sets, move over and focus on that. So, a better team of people available, better surveillance.

The prescription for getting this right, as long as we remember how bad this was, and we're willing to pay, which will only be billions a year, to avoid a trillions-of-dollars disaster, I think that road map is clear.

And I talked with the president-elect about that. And I think our foundation will be part of that dialogue to make sure we don't blow it again. TAPPER: What more can you tell us about that conversation? When did

it happen? Does he want you to supervise some sort of preparedness task force? What more can you tell us about it?

GATES: Well, he's picked good people to play the official roles.

And so I think, for myself, for my wife, Melinda, for our experts, simply being in discussions with them is how we can best contribute. And, as you have seen, it's a talented group. You have got a whole set of skill sets there. He brings a view that America succeeds when the rest of the world succeeds.

So, the U.S. has not provided any funding for the poor countries to get a vaccine. I have been talking with members of Congress about whether it's in a stimulus bill or some way of getting the U.S. to step forward with what would be well under 1 percent of the stimulus money going to help those poor countries.

TAPPER: What was your response -- or what is your response when, it's not just fringe people in society, it's people in MAGA media talk about the Fauci-Gates vaccine; they talk about how you want to inject chips in people, I mean, all this crazy stuff?

What is it like to hear that?

GATES: Well, I'm surprised, and I'm not even quite sure how to react.

Dr. Fauci and I believe in vaccines. Vaccines have saved millions of lives. That's what our foundation is all about. And so our expertise was valuable here in getting the scale-up of those things.

You have got to be willing to speak out publicly, even if it's not always well understood. So, I do worry, will this make people not want to take the vaccine, or not believe in polio eradication and our other causes that I think are valuable.

TAPPER: In addition to being an expert on pandemics, you obviously know a lot about business and the economy.

Job growth in the U.S. is slowing. Unemployment is still at 6.7 percent. The U.S. is still down nearly 10 million jobs since the pandemic began in February, more jobs than were lost during the Great Recession.

What is your outlook for the economy? And when do you think we will see a full economic recovery?

GATES: Well, my expertise is more on the vaccine. And I do think that's a central element to have restaurants and tourism resume at the levels they were before the pandemic.

I do think that, by summer, the job numbers, the economic numbers will be quite strong, because most things will be back to normal. In the fall, I expect we will be able to open all schools, even with face-to- face. And then we have some innovation in -- we talked about medical

innovation that was driven by this, more use of telemedicine, online education, less having to go to the office or take business trips.

There's a level of new approaches across many areas that will help the economy in the future.

TAPPER: One last question for you, sir.

The U.S. has reported around 20 percent of the world's coronavirus cases, 20 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths. The U.S. only makes up around 4 percent of the world's population.

[09:30:02]

How do you think history will ultimately judge the U.S. response to the pandemic?

GATES: Well, the U.S. would have been expected to be the best. You know, we have the CDC. We have the most PCR machines. We have got the NIH, all this capacity.

And, sadly, before the epidemic, in the first two or three months of the epidemic, we didn't get on top of it like many countries did.

So, figuring out where we need to change things, these postmortems over the next year will guide us. But it's a tragedy that we weren't able to respond like we could have.

TAPPER: Bill Gates, thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for the work that you do, the philanthropic efforts you make on behalf of the whole world. Appreciate it.

GATES: Thank you.

TAPPER: You're looking right now at a live picture of the airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the first trucks carrying the COVID-19 vaccine are about to arrive to be shipped across the United States.

Meanwhile, President Trump is vowing to keep up his, frankly, delusional fight, his effort to disenfranchise millions of voters, despite the U.S. Supreme Court effectively shutting down his efforts on Friday.

Twenty years ago this weekend, the U.S. Supreme Court made a different decision about the presidency, one that had profound consequences for the nation and for my next guest, former Vice President and former Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore.

Vice President Gore, thank you so much for joining us.

It's 20 years to the day since you gave this speech in which you formally conceded the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DECEMBER 13, 2000)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too.

But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. There is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party.

This is America, and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What goes through your mind as you hear that, especially in light of what's going on today?

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me to be on your show.

Of course, watching the events of this past election year have been stressful and challenging for millions of Americans. But our -- the continuity of our democracy continues.

And what is most important to me is that (AUDIO GAP) tomorrow will mark the formal (AUDIO GAP) Biden as our new president (AUDIO GAP) Electoral College.

I happen to think we ought to get rid of the (AUDIO GAP). That is where (AUDIO GAP) and will be made (AUDIO GAP) and I would very much hope that (AUDIO GAP) I have been so strongly (AUDIO GAP) reelection (AUDIO GAP) will set aside (AUDIO GAP) as supporters of candidates that were not successful for the last two centuries-plus have been able to do.

TAPPER: In the 20 years since that day, since the day that you formally conceded, have you ever regretted your decision?

GORE: No, I have not.

Winston Churchill once said of the American people, he said they generally do the right thing after first exhausting every available alternative. And there were no remaining alternatives, after a final Supreme Court decision.

The only intermediate -- there is no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court decision on a matter of this sort and violent revolution. And those who talk about continuing the fight after it is over with are being disrespectful of American democracy, which is, in Lincoln's phrase, the last, best hope of humankind.

TAPPER: During the 2000 recount, Republicans mocked and your running mate, Joe Lieberman. They called you "Sore Loserman" for refusing to accept defeat.

A lot of those same Republicans are now, including at least 126 House Republicans and 19 Republican state attorneys general, throwing their weight behind this Texas lawsuit, which is based on lies and conspiracy theories and falsehoods.

And I'm wondering what it's like for you hearing the Republican Party put the force of weight of their reputations and everything they have worked so hard for behind this effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans and overturn a democratic election.

[09:35:00]

GORE: Well, many conservative and Republican legal scholars have described that lawsuit as ridiculous and really unintelligible.

And, of course, the Supreme Court summarily dismissed it, with all of the Supreme Court justices nominated by President Trump dismissing it as well. So, that lawsuit got the result that it deserved.

I would encourage those who are still supporting the lost cause of President Trump's reelection to put the country first. And I'm going to express the hope, Jake, that, with the Electoral College votes tomorrow in all 50 states, and with the president-elect, Biden, receiving the majority, that that will be a point at which some of those who have hung on will give up the ghost.

It's hard to escape the interpretation that they're frightened that President Trump will tweet them into political oblivion if they don't do exactly what he says.

But, you know, there are things that are more important than bowing to the fear of a demagogue. And one of those things that's more important is the United States of America, and our Constitution, and the continuation of the American experiment.

TAPPER: In addition to this being the 20th anniversary of your concession, you have an op-ed in "The New York Times" this morning marking the five-year anniversary of the Paris climate agreement.

President-elect Biden has pledged to make climate change a priority in his administration, beginning with rejoining the Paris agreement.

Beyond that, though, as somebody who has been warning about environmental peril for decades now, what's the number one thing you would like to see from President Biden in his first 100 days that will suggest to you that he is as serious about confronting climate change as you want him to be, as the world needs him to be?

GORE: Well, I think he is.

And he has made the protection of the Earth's climate balance a centerpiece of his economic plan, as he should, because multiple studies show that the best way to create the tens of millions of new jobs we need to recover from the ravages of the pandemic, and particularly the economic ravages of the pandemic, is to invest in this sustainability revolution, renewable energy, batteries and electric vehicles and efficiency improvements. And it's worth pausing for a moment, Jake, to look at the connections

between this pandemic and the climate crisis. Number one, the pandemic has shown us the dangers of ignoring grave warnings from the leading scientists and experts like Bill Gates, who's been warning about such a pandemic for so long.

When we get warnings from the leading virologists and epidemiologists that this thing is coming, we should prepare for it. And the same thing is true of the climate crisis.

Secondly, the climate crisis has made the ravages of the pandemic worse, because the air pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels makes people are far more vulnerable to the pandemic.

The third connection is that we are seeing today, with the first distribution of these vaccines, that the scientific revolution is still accelerating in its power. And that's also true where the solutions to the climate crisis (AUDIO GAP) 90 percent of all new electricity generation will come from solar and wind and renewables.

We're seeing a dramatic advance, with nation after nation announcing just in the last few months major new commitments to quickly phase out the global warming pollution that's causing this crisis.

Now, the crisis is still getting worse faster than we're deploying solutions. But with the United States restored to its traditional post-World War II position of leader in the community of nations, president-elect Biden can really rally the world to make more rapid progress in solving the climate crisis.

He's made the decarbonization of the electric grid, for example, the centerpiece of his economic plan. And I think that's a great start.

TAPPER: Quickly, sir, if you could -- we only have about a minute left -- you have spoken to vice president-elect Kamala Harris. What did you talk about with her? What advice did you have?

[09:40:00]

GORE: Well, she is going to be a great vice president. We had a wonderful conversation. I have known her for some time.

And I -- we just shared some thoughts about what the position of vice president is and how she can maximize her ability to help president- elect Biden lead the country as effectively as I know he's going to do.

TAPPER: Vice President Gore, good to see you, sir.

Thank you so much for joining us on this anniversary that is, I suspect, for you, full of both hope and also some painful memories. Thank you so much.

GORE: Thank you. And I emphasize the hope.

Thank you, Jake. (LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: All right.

This morning, the first COVID-19 vaccines are shipping out across the U.S., as the Electoral College is preparing to vote tomorrow, as Vice President Gore just noted.

The question is not over who will be president on January 20, but whether the majority of Republicans in Congress will finally accept reality and the will of the voters and recognize president-elect Joe Biden.

Joining me now, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. He's been working on the COVID relief bill.

And we're going to get to that in a second, Senator.

But I do want to start with the Supreme Court, which summarily dismissed this latest challenge by President Trump, this Texas lawsuit supported by the president, 18 other states, 126 House Republicans, asking to overturn the fair and free election and victory of president-elect Biden.

Do you think it's time for the president and the Republican Party to just stop this nonsense and begin accepting the reality here?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Well, I can't speak for everybody.

I will notice that -- I will note that, when the president instructed the government -- the General Services Administration to begin the transition process, the GSA, that that was an acknowledgment that there was going to -- that a transition was taking place.

Now, I can't speak for people's emotions. Clearly, there's still disappointment. But in terms of the functional aspect of actually beginning the transition, that has begun.

TAPPER: Right, but you have accepted that president-elect Biden is president-elect Biden.

The Electoral College is meeting tomorrow to cast its votes formally for president-elect Biden. Is it time for -- I mean, you have said Joe Biden won. You have acknowledged it.

Is it time for Republicans to accept Biden as the president-elect?

CASSIDY: Well, you asked that before.

And I will just say that, obviously, he is the president-elect. He has 270 Electoral College votes. We're the law and order party. We are a nation of a Constitution. We're a nation of laws and courts that interpret those laws.

And, by the way, I have more confidence in the courts than ever because President Trump has appointed more judges than anybody ever -- anyone else ever has.

And so, as we're a nation of laws, and this is the Constitution, and this is the law, and this is how it breaks out, and the courts have ruled, then President Biden's going to be our next president.

Now, it's important, I think -- and I think that's kind of the subtext of what you're saying. I noted yesterday that folks who said that they were supporting President Trump in Washington were talking about tearing down the Republican Party. Others were saying, defeat our two senatorial candidates in Georgia.

As Jesus, as Abraham Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Our nation, our conservative movement, our Republican Party can't stand if we are divided against ourselves.

So, at some point, we have to come together for all those reasons.

TAPPER: But is it time for Senate Majority Leader and House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy to do what you have done and acknowledge that Joe Biden is going to be the next president, that he is president-elect?

I mean, it's -- I want to turn on to -- turn to the coronavirus relief bill, but it just seems to me, just as an American just sitting here, I have never seen such a thing.

I mean, Joe Biden won.

CASSIDY: So, Jake...

TAPPER: And, since Election Day, he's won like 30 other times.

CASSIDY: So, Jake, I can't speak for other people, except, if you look at the actions of President Trump and of other leaders, they have clearly in their actions acknowledged that Biden has won.

Now, if you want a press release, I can't speak for their press team. If you want kind of the acknowledgement that we're working together, we're working for a transition, that we are going to make it happen, President Trump's done it. I assume that others have done it well -- as well.

It's going to happen. Is there going to be a mea culpa? I don't know that. I don't know if it's needed...

TAPPER: OK.

CASSIDY: ... even though I know some people want it.

TAPPER: So, let's turn to your efforts to find a compromise on coronavirus relief, which is so important to so many Americans, tens of millions.

McConnell says there's no path for your bill, and Congress should just pass a bill that has no liability shield for corporations, so they can be sued, and no money for state and local governments, which is what Democrats are pushing for.

[09:45:03]

Is he right? Is McConnell right? Or are you going to keep pursuing a compromise?

CASSIDY: Well, by golly, if we can pass that, wouldn't it be great?

The reality is, you got to have both parties working together to pass anything. And the folks on the left say they don't want that. And so, yes, it'll be great if we could pass that.

It doesn't seem that we can. We're the only bipartisan game in town. We're the only one where people have come together from both parties and said, listen, I'm not with you on that, but if you give me this, I will give you that, because we have got to do something for the American people.

We're going to introduce a bill tomorrow night. Now, the leadership can discard it. I can't govern that. I can only do that which is before me. And if we can introduce a bill tomorrow night that takes care of that small business owner, that she's just hanging on, and we're able to give her a little bit more support until the vaccine is disseminated, and the people she employs keep their job, that landlord who has been out of rent for three months, but now she can get that rent, so that maybe she can keep her place fixed up, if we can do that, we will have done our job.

What Leader McConnell decides to do, I don't have control over. I only can do what I can do.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to 52-year-old Angela Kearney. She's from Pennsylvania. She has struggled to pay her bills and buy Christmas gifts for her children this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA KEARNEY, FURLOUGHED FROM JOB DUE TO PANDEMIC: I promised them that they would be normal children. And then the pandemic hit, and I can't keep those promises anymore.

I have to take the bills and throw them up and pick the ones and hope that they total the amount that I have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Twelve million Americans are going to lose this unemployment benefit in January. Fourteen million households are at risk of eviction.

Yes or no, is there going to be a deal before you leave?

CASSIDY: There -- there will be a deal. And our bill addresses those issues. We care. The folks working on this bill have heard from her and heard from many others that we need to address this. Now, others can decide to accept our work product or not. But we care.

We're going to have that bill. And we're going to address those needs, those immediate needs. That is our goal.

TAPPER: Last question for you, sir, because you're on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

There's a report by the VA inspector general this week that found that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to discredit a congressional aide and veteran who said she was sexually assaulted at a VA facility, and that he interfered with the VA investigation, the I.G. investigation.

The American legion, the VFW, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have all called on him to resign. Do you think he should resign?

CASSIDY: One, I don't -- I have no familiarity with the issue.

We're only 30 days out from the end. A man is innocent until proven guilty. So, he should have his chance to say that part of it.

That said, there should not be interference with an investigation like that.

TAPPER: OK.

CASSIDY: So, not knowing anything about the topic, still, there should not be interference with an investigation like that.

TAPPER: All right, Senator, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Joe Biden set to rally voters in Georgia Tuesday, hoping to kick off early voting in the state, which begins tomorrow, in a big way, for two Senate run-offs, with the future of America's government and much of president-elect Biden's agenda in Georgia's hands right now.

Joining me now, former gubernatorial candidate, the founder of voting rights organization Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams. She's also the author of the book "Our Time Is Now."

Leader Abrams, thanks for joining us.

So, Democrats have won just one of the eight statewide run-off elections held in Georgia since 1988. But some Republicans are worried that President Trump's continued baseless claims of a rigged election might discourage their voters from showing up this time.

Do you think that's real, or is that just Democratic wishful thinking?

ABRAMS: Democrats are prepared to win this election because this is the first run-off where we have the level of investment and engagement that it takes to win a run-off.

We know from the numbers that we're in a good place; 1.2 million absentee ballots have been requested thus far. And just to put that into context, 1.3 million were requested for all of the general election.

And of that 1.2 million, 85,000 of those applications are from voters who did not vote in the general election, and they are disproportionately between the ages of 18 and 29 and disproportionately people of color.

What that signals is that there's an enthusiasm for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and it signals that we understand that we make -- need to make a plan to vote and deliver this election.

What Donald Trump is doing, the disinformation is deeply problematic. I don't know if he's going to help or harm his team. But we know that, on our side of the conversation, we are pushing for leaders who will actually do the work of delivering COVID relief to Georgia.

TAPPER: So, President Trump has been repeatedly attacking your governor, your lieutenant governor, your secretary of state there in Georgia for refusing to overturn the election results.

Last week, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, paid for by all of our tax dollars, tweeted: "Right now, Governor Brian Kemp is no different than failed gubernatorial leftist Stacey Abrams. Sad to see indiscernible RINOs and Dems!"

[09:50:13]

Now, I know you're not a fan of Brian Kemp, the governor, whom you ran against in 2018. Do you give him credit for standing up for basic rule of law and election results, given all the pressure he's been facing from President Trump?

ABRAMS: You shouldn't have to get credit for doing your job.

And the reality is that Brad Raffensperger and Brian Kemp are doing the jobs they were elected to do, and they're following the laws of the land.

What we want to pay attention to, though, is what happens next, because Republican -- Georgia Republican senators have already said that they intend to restrain and to repeal so many of the pieces of voter suppression mitigation that we have been able to achieve.

They want to make it harder to vote by absentee ballot. They want to make it harder for people to access the right to vote. And so I'm going to judge Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger by what they do in January. Do they stand up not only for the rule of law, but for the five million voters who made their voices heard in the general election?

Or do they allow themselves to be pulled back into that maelstrom that says the only way to win is to silence the voices of the people?

TAPPER: So, the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who you -- who we just were talking about, he's been a vocal critic of President Trump's actions since the election. But he also has criticized you. He did so in an op-ed that mentioned the 2018 governor's race. He wrote -- quote -- "Establishing a playbook that President Trump is following to the letter now, Ms. Abrams refused to concede, announced that she would launch major litigation against Georgia's election system, and began collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from donors convinced the election had been stolen from her" -- unquote.

What is your response to that?

ABRAMS: First and foremost, he's never listened to what I said.

I said that the election was stolen from Georgia voters because, under the previous secretary of state, Brian Kemp, millions of voters were -- 1.4 million voters were purged from the rolls, thousands of voters were denied the right to vote because of exact match.

There were thousands of voters that were rejected through an absentee ballot and a provisional ballot process that was not equal. And what he is complaining about are the losses that we filed that successfully fixed those challenges.

There is absolutely nothing commensurate between what I have done and what Donald Trump is trying to do. My mission has been very clear since I was 17. And that is expanding access to the right to vote for those who are entitled to vote in our country, and especially in the state of Georgia.

What Donald Trump is arguing is that he only wants to count the votes that he likes. He wants to restrict access to the right to vote and restrict who gets to be heard in our country. That is not at all what I'm pushing for. And what I'm so proud of is that the work we have done to expand access to the right to vote, to mitigate voter suppression yielded change in this country, not just in Georgia, but around this nation.

And that is something we should all be celebrating.

TAPPER: Alabama Senator Doug Jones is reportedly the leading contender to be the attorney general in the Biden administration, despite a push by some civil rights groups and black lawmakers to appoint a black American to the job.

Do you think Doug Jones, who's white and also has a long record fighting for civil rights issues, do you think Jones is the right pick for the job?

ABRAMS: I think that Joe Biden is putting together the team he needs to fix four years of ignominy, four years of destruction and four years of going against the rule of law.

And what I want to look at is the team that he puts together in total, because I believe that we will have a government that can fix what's been broken. But in order to make any of this work, we have to elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. And that means we have to have every voter in Georgia make a plan to vote, either vote by absentee ballot by going to PeachVote.com, or making certain that you go and vote early.

And you can find your early vote location at PeachVote.com. We need to make a plan to vote, and we need to make certain that vote is cast before January 5.

If we do that and deliver Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, we will deliver the Senate, a balanced Senate that can work with the president to fix what's been broken.

TAPPER: 2022, Governor Kemp's first term will be up. Do you intend to run against him, challenge him?

ABRAMS: My focus is on making certain that we get to '22 by having two solid U.S. senators who actually care about the 160,000 Georgians facing evictions, the 4.1 million job -- jobless claims that have been filed in the state.

Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have done nothing in the last few months and in the last two years to address the challenges facing Georgians. Instead of standing up to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and demanding that we get COVID relief before Christmas, they are running around the state pushing lies and trying to defend the indefensible.

We need to have two U.S. senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and that's going to be my focus. That's what I want to see done.

TAPPER: Leader Stacey Abrams, thanks so much for joining us. Hope you have a merry Christmas.

ABRAMS: You as well. Thank you so much, Jake.

[09:55:00]

TAPPER: Paraphrase and flip William Shakespeare, I come to you at the end of the show today to praise Donald Trump, not to bury him.

Out-going President Trump deserves our thanks for approving Operation Warp Speed, which helped to bring us the COVID vaccine. He has rethought trade deals. He has re-imagined peace in the Middle East. He has pushed foreign policy consensus to put more of a priority on bringing U.S. service members home, even if his follow through has been rather wanting. These are legitimate achievements.

There are other ways out-going President Trump perhaps inadvertently has done us a service. The relationship between the news media and the U.S. Government should not be anywhere near as antagonistic as it's been under President Trump, but it should be adversarial. Maybe Trump has been right to not attend the dinners where politicians and reporters cozy up to each other. Maybe he exposed as unseemly something that should not return to normal.

The president has also exposed the problem that so many of our standards and norms in the U.S. seem to be based upon the honor system. There isn't, for instance, an explicit law against a U.S. President trying to extort a foreign country to provide dirt on a domestic political opponent.

A government upheld upon the honor system only works if everyone involved has honor. This seems something that legislators should re- examine.

And then, finally, let us look at the events of the last week, where the president pushed an insane lawsuit. The big one, he called it, from the attorney general of Texas. It was a clownish legal brief based on conspiracy theories and outright lies. And 18, 18 state attorneys general, some U.S. senators, and a majority of the House Republican Caucus, 126 members, supported it.

President Trump did us a favor by exposing these elected officials. They are definitionally people who signed on to a desperate desire to subvert the will of the American people, to disenfranchise voters in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan based on lies and conspiracy theories, putting an immoral and corrupt power grab above democracy.

President Trump did us a favor by revealing to us that those individuals are who they are, and that's important as we go forward because the business of this nation continues. The pandemic, the economy, foreign policy, immigration, and now we know clearly how much these individuals care about facts or truth, how much they care about democracy, or the principles that make this country great, which is to say not at all.

Since Election Day, we've seen Republican officials at great professional and personal risk refuse to go along with these lies about the election from CISA head Chris Krebs to Philadelphia Commissioner Al Schmidt and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Michigan Board of State Canvassers member Aaron Van Langevelde, members of the Maricopa Arizona County Board of Supervisors, from local judges all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, we saw honorable American officials look at these nonsense allegations and kick them to the curb. But not Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Now many Americans hoped that most Republican officials, while they agreed with Trump's policies, did not like the uglier parts of his style, his willingness to lie or smear to achieve his ends. And the cowardly silence of Senate Republicans, most of whom still refuse to acknowledge that President-Elect Biden won, their silence allows that hope to continue however misguidedly.

But President Trump made House Republicans go on the record. He made them stand and be counted and 126 of them, including Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Whip Steve Scalise, they actually signed their names to this, this unconservative, un-Democratic, un-American mendacious joke of a lawsuit that would disenfranchise millions of their fellow Americans.

These House Republicans raised their hands. They said, sign me up. The hope that most Republicans in the House were better than this, that has been destroyed. For those of us who believe in standards and norms and the U.S. Constitution, we need to thank President Trump for bringing this fact to light.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. "Fareed Zakaria GPS" starts right now.