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Interview With Fmr. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL); Interview With Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen; Politics of Mass Vaccination. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 04, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A new year begins. Vaccines are rolling out, but experts warn of a tough few months ahead. I ask the scientist who helped
discover the Ebola virus, Peter Piot, about the logistics and the politics of mass vaccination.
And at the 11th hour, President Trump is still trying to overturn his defeat in Georgia, as all 10 living former U.S. secretaries of defense take
a stand, declaring the election is over. I speak to one of them, veteran Republican William Cohen.
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: This is a direct attack on our democracy.
AMANPOUR: The Georgia run-offs will determine the balance of power in America. And I speak to former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: These effects will be with us for years and years to come.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Vivek Murthy gets set to return as U.S. surgeon general. He talks about the major hurdles ahead with our Walter Isaacson.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A new year always comes with fresh resolutions and best wishes. And perhaps top of the list for 2021 is for an end to the pandemic. Exactly one year
ago today, it all started with a tweet from the World Health Organization, with China reporting a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei Province,
an investigation to identify the cause of the illness.
Today, here in the U.K., a second COVID-19 vaccine starts rolling out, with this image of the first patient receiving a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca
shot. So far, more than a million Britons have received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, while, at the same time, the U.K. is in the midst of a vicious
resurgence, a record number of infections, a complete lockdown in Scotland from midnight, and more -- quote -- "tougher restrictions" in England
announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Amid concerns about fast-spreading new variants, public health experts are warning of very tough months ahead.
Virologist Peter Piot is director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. And he is credited with having helped identify the Ebola
virus in 1976. He now advises the E.U. response to this pandemic. And he's joining me from London.
Professor Piot, welcome back to the program.
And, of course, we all know that you did have COVID months ago, and you have recovered.
So, I want to know what you make of the vaccines that are rolling out right now. And is it happening fast enough?
DR. PETER PIOT, DIRECTOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE & TROPICAL MEDICINE: Well, Christiane, we are indeed in a situation that is worse than in the
spring, the number of cases. The hospitals are getting full, and so on, certainly in the U.K.
And vaccines are our only hope, together with, I would say, collective commitment to respect the rules. And so it's great news. It can never be
fast enough, but we're making headway.
Logistics are there to be challenged. But let's not forgot that, every year, millions of people, adults, elderly people, are receiving influenza
vaccines. So it's not something that is completely new.
But it can't go fast enough, because the epidemic is accelerating, and that's why we need to really involve everybody who can vaccinate.
AMANPOUR: So, look, I just -- as you were talking, we showed the graph of what you were saying, how it's very dire right now and a massive surge of
cases, worse than in April. It's over 50,000 in one day, as we have just seen.
So, tell me about what is making this new surge, because we have been talking and hearing about new mutations here, one coming from South Africa.
What is it? How dangerous is it?
PIOT: Well, it's a combination of factors.
First of all, we're in the winter. People spend more time in closed environments. So, that's great for the virus to transmit. We had holidays.
We had Christmas. And that's going to -- we will see the impact of that probably in a couple of weeks.
And then there's a new variant, a so-called mutant. And viruses mutate all the time. That's what they do. And it seems that a new mutant that was
discovered here in the U.K. already in September is already about 70 percent more infectious, goes -- much faster transmit than what we have had
up to now.
And in South Africa, there's another mutant which seems to be even more different, and that is also really spreading faster. And one of the reasons
that they are spreading faster is that they produce more virus in the body, so we excrete more viruses and we exhale more viruses.
And so all that combined, plus the fact, to be honest, the fact that people are not always respecting the rules -- if we all would respect social
distancing, wearing masks, hygiene, go for testing, stay home when we have symptoms, we wouldn't be where we are today.
So, that's why a vaccine is so, so important to get out of this crisis, because it is a crisis.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then about the vaccine. You talked about -- I mean, look, you're very optimistic about it, and so are many people.
But already we're hearing that there may be logistical issues with trying to get it out. We were promised a million or two million per week. Some are
suggesting it should be five million vaccinations per week.
That's nowhere year happening. As we mentioned, since the Pfizer one was authorized here last month, there's only been a million people vaccinated.
So, what has to happen? What is it that's holding up the logistics right now?
PIOT: Well, I think, first of all, we're at the beginning. So, setting that all up has taken time.
I think we need to go for a very, at the same time, decentralized approach, so every G.P. at practice -- and that is starting to happen -- has to be
involved. We have got volunteers, but they have to be trained.
The logistics, I think, are working in terms of sending the vaccines, even the Pfizer vaccine, which requires, as we all know, minus-70 Centigrade.
But the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine can be transported at the fridge temperature.
So, I think it's going to get better. But we need to -- this needs to be a real national effort, a national effort that -- helping the epidemic.
AMANPOUR: So, do you have any issues with the fact that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca have said that theirs need double doses and within a specific
period of time? I think Pfizer was like 21 days, AstraZeneca 28 days.
And now the British government is saying, let's give everybody one dose and maybe in 12 weeks give a second dose. Do you have issues with that?
PIOT: Well, I understand the urgency from a public health perspective, and it's a balancing act.
And I would differentiate between the Pfizer vaccine, where both the company, Pfizer, BioNTech, and also today now the U.N. Medicines Agency,
have said, we should respect the interval between the two doses in order to make sure that this virus protects. And I would not go for changing that.
That's one thing.
Secondly, for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, I think it may actually be that, if there is a longer interval between two injections, that it may
offer better protection. I know that because the vaccine that uses a similar vector, adenovirus, for Ebola that was made by another company,
J&J, there, we know that that worked better after two-months interval than one interval.
So, I would say there is more space to extend that interval. However, we must do everything we can to make sure that everybody gets that second
injection, because it may be that we have short-term gains, but we sacrifice it for the long-term protection, because, for the long-term
protection, everybody will need the second vaccine injection.
And that's particularly important for those who are the most vulnerable. And so I would not compromise on the Pfizer vaccine. But on the
AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, I think we have a bit more flexibility.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, that's pretty clear.
I want to ask you also, in the month or more since Pfizer has been injected in people's arms, what -- and now we're going to have AstraZeneca -- what
are you seeing in terms of any side effects or any concerns, because, as you know, there are many, many people who are hesitant to take the vaccine.
What would you say to people now about side effects, about the efficacy of taking it?
PIOT: Well, we now have quite solid experience.
You mentioned over a million vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, with the first dose, at least, and then all those who have been enrolled in these
trials, as we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people.
And I would say the side effects is what you can expect. You can have a sore arm, maybe a bit of fever, some. But, frankly, there are no serious
However, we must really follow up carefully everybody who has been vaccinated. There is a system to do that. We also should make sure that we
follow very rigorously to see if the vaccine is not only preventing severe disease -- and that's what the trials show. Nobody who got the vaccine, any
of the vaccines, including some of the not yet approved in the U.K. and Europe, like Moderna, developed severe disease. So that's really great
Does it also interrupt transmission, that we can't become infected?
PIOT: That, we will have to find out..
And let's now also see this debate about one dose or not may come, frankly, to an end hopefully when and, hopefully, a vaccine that is being trialed at
the moment made by Johnson & Johnson.
PIOT: And that is going for a single injection. If that works, then that will simplify logistics and other things to a major degree.
AMANPOUR: It really does sound miraculous, the way this has all -- this science has all come together.
I wanted to ask you, though, about the E.U., because you do advice the E.U. Commission president. And if I'm not mistaken, they haven't approved even
the vaccines that have been approved in the U.K. and the U.S. What is going on? What's happening with the E.U. rollout?
PIOT: Well, the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
And on the 24th of December, that vaccine was shipped to every single of the 27 member states of the E.U. at the same time. I would say this is, for
me, the best of Europe, where the European Commission negotiated vaccines, enough for every single citizen, working with various companies.
Now some countries, like Denmark and Germany, they're ahead of everybody. They started this vaccination even before Christmas, whereas others, like
in France, it's going much slower. It's not one country.
So, that is now the issue that each country has to make sure that they are getting their act together and do the rollout, like U.K., Denmark and
And -- but we continue to -- also to look into the other vaccines, because the AstraZeneca, BioNTech -- sorry -- AstraZeneca/Oxford, the file, full
file is being considered now, but it was not submitted to the European Medicines Agency.
PIOT: And Moderna, the vaccine that was just approved in the U.S., I expect will be approved in the E.U. any time.
AMANPOUR: Just quickly, finally, you are the oracle on many of these issues.
Are you optimistic? As you sit here today, are you optimistic that, in three months, I don't know, six months, there's going to be herd immunity
in terms of enough people being vaccinated? What do you think right now?
PIOT: Well, I'm optimistic that, by the summer, let's put it that way, that most people, certainly those who are vulnerable, will be protected,
and that we can go to some kind of normal.
However, we should not neglect the wearing masks. And so where I'm more concerned, and that's a passion of mine also, is that low-income countries,
particularly in Africa, will have access to vaccines. That's not the case yet.
There is a mechanism called COVAX that has now assured two billion vaccines for low-income countries. But that's where we need an extra effort, because
the truth is that this epidemic will not be over, will not be under control until it is over in every single country.
Professor Peter Piot, thank you so much, indeed.
And the United States started the new year with a grim milestone on this issue, surpassing 20 million cases since the start of the pandemic.
Coming up, our Walter Isaacson speaks with Dr. Vivek Murthy. He was President Obama's surgeon general, and he's tapped to return to that post
for President Joe Biden.
But President Trump is spending no time on the virus. Instead, he still nurses hopes of reversing the election. Over the weekend, an extraordinary
audiotape emerged of an hour-long effort by Trump to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn his defeat, this as 10
living former defense secretaries penned an unprecedented letter warning not to call in the armed forces over any election dispute.
William Cohen is one of the signatories. He's a Republican, former senator from Maine, and he served as Bill Clinton's defense secretary.
And now he's joining me from Washington.
Welcome back to the program, Secretary Cohen.
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you? Can I ask you? because we're all a bit surprised and everybody's asking, what motivated 10 secretaries of defense
of both parties to pen this letter? What fears were you anticipating?
COHEN: Well, I think that it's separate for each of us. But we did come together on the central point .
As you look at what the president has been doing, number one, he went to the voters, and the voters said no. He went to the courts, and the courts
said no. He then went to the governors, and he's doing it now in Georgia, basically, a secretary of state, and they're saying no.
And so what we have to make sure is he doesn't go to the military, and the military says yes, because we have seen him use and, in my judgment, abuse
the military in the past, particularly when he called upon the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the secretary of defense to escort or join in his
entourage going over to the church where he was filmed holding a Bible, and not -- in addition to what was happening up in Seattle with black-clad
unidentified men shooting rubber bullets into the heads of protesters.
So, there's been talk of martial law within the White House. There's been talk outside by Lieutenant General Flynn, saying martial law might be
necessary to go back to those states where they want to challenge the vote. And I think all of us collectively said, this is really too far, that you
are -- we need to abide by your oath. And the oath is the Constitution, not to any one man, any one president.
So, it was really a letter on our part saying we're firing a preemptive shot at any thought that you might give to using the military to overturn
the election. So, that was the basic consensus. And I think most of -- all the Sec -- secretaries of defense -- I was going to say SecDefs -- they all
agreed with the central thrust that the military cannot, should not be used, and it will be a violation of your oath of office, and subject to
accountability in the future, should you engage in any conduct that comes from an illegal, unauthorized and immoral act coming out of the White
AMANPOUR: Just want to read a little bit from the letter. And you said it. You took the words out of my mouth. I was going to say, so it's a
preemptive strike by you, by you all.
And I think you have confirmed that.
Part of the letter is, you're addressing specifically those in the Pentagon right now. You say: "Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller and his
subordinates, political appointees, officers and civil servants are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the
incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the
election or hinder the success of the new team."
This also goes to what's going on in Georgia right now. But it is interesting that you did this from a military perspective. And we
understand that it was Dick Cheney, Republican secretary of defense and then vice president for President Bush, it was his idea.
Is that right?
COHEN: It's his idea, I think, coupled with one who served with him in the Pentagon, Eric Edelman.
And they drafted the letter, circulated it to all of us. We looked at it, made minor changes here or there. But the central point was, we all agreed.
And it does reflect the broad spectrum of views within our parties from -- from myself, to Dick Cheney, to Secretary Rumsfeld, Chuck Hagel, Mark
Esper, and so forth.
COHEN: All of us had the central point is, do not use the military.
This is something that is really fundamental to our society. The military has the obligation to cooperate helping a new administration coming in. And
this is another red flag that went up when the Biden administration said, we're not getting full cooperation. We're not being told all the
information we need, dealing with force posture and how that's being structured, the information that might be necessary for the incoming
administration to take immediate action.
They need to have all of the information at their fingertips, so that, when they take over on January 20, they know what the playing field is, where
our forces are, what the intelligence says, and how they can really take off and run with the baton that's being passed to them.
And I have used this metaphor in the past by saying it really is like a relay race. When you're passing the baton, the person you're passing to,
he's already started to run. And he has to be running almost at full speed by the time you pass over the baton, so he can go that last leg and be at -
- in top form.
This is what was troubling to me when I read that the Biden administration was not getting the information they needed. And then a statement came out
of the Pentagon and said, well, we have taken a two-week break.
There are no holidays from history. There are no holidays from national security. You don't simply shut down information flow for two weeks because
you're resting. There was something wrong with that picture. And there are too many moving parts that are taking place during this interim.
We have Iran starting to increase its centrifuges, getting up to 20 percent. That's likely to get the attention of the president. Will he order
military action in response to that? What will -- all of these issues are now on the front burner, so to speak.
And the new administration, the Biden administration, has to have the information in order to protect our national security. So, that is --
that's what prompted me to want to sign that letter. I have been very vocal about it in the past.
But I was happy to join my nine colleagues and say, we're worried.
AMANPOUR: I want to get into some of those specific national security issues.
But, first, I want to ask you, again, your lesson states that the Pentagon, the armed forces and all those people need to wholeheartedly -- you used
the word wholeheartedly -- facilitate the transfer of power, the peaceful transfer of power.
Well, this weekend, we saw that there is still an effort by President Trump and his closest advisers, I guess, and closest supporters to try to
overturn the actual election.
I want to play a little bit of the sound that he that -- that's been captured and leaked to the press, and where he's trying to tell the Georgia
secretary of state to give him the balance of the votes that he lost in Georgia. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, look, all I want to do is this.
I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state, and flipping the state is a great testament to our
country, because there's just -- it's a testament that they can admit to a mistake, or whatever you want to call it, if it was a mistake. I don't
A lot of people think it wasn't a mistake.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Secretary Cohen, you very eloquently laid out at the beginning how the people said no. They voted against President Trump. The
governors said no. The courts said no.
And now he's trying with the secretaries of state and other election officials. It seems to me a little forlorn and perhaps even a little
pathetic. Do you think it is? Or do you think it's some great threat to the republic?
COHEN: Well, he's engaging in conduct, in my judgment, which is encouraging a fraud and a violation of the law.
And some people continue to say, well, maybe he really believes all of these allegations, these rumors he keeps citing. And that's a pattern of
his, some people say, a lot of people believe, no facts, just rumor and speculation, and scurrilous speculation, at that.
So, I don't accept that, that I think there is malice of forethought here. And if he really does believe these false allegations, then I have said
he's unfit to hold office. He shouldn't be there. This is something that is dangerous to our republic.
Now, is it just a matter of dismissing it and say this man has delusional capacities here? I don't think so, because he still is the man in charge of
our military. He has the capacity to do great harm at any moment that he wishes to. We have seen how impulsive he is, how calculating he is, what he
will do in order to try to overturn a legitimate election.
Central to our existence as a free democratic society is the peaceful transfer of power. So, what he's doing, if you think it's -- not you -- if
people think, well, it's just Trump being Trump, no, he's really trying to do his best to overturn this election.
And so if he can't go to the governor of Georgia, he's going to members of Congress now and saying, look, do your duty for me. And some of them are
really taking on this chore of appeasing him. Some apparently feel that, well, it really doesn't matter, we don't have the votes, but let's just put
our stake down...
COHEN: ... so that, if we run in the future, we can say we supported President Trump, and his supporters should be our supporters.
COHEN: So, it's a political calculation their part.
AMANPOUR: And I think you're saying what most people are saying, that it actually won't work, but it is nonetheless threat and, as you say,
potentially illegal, what he did in Georgia.
Can I ask you this, though? Do you believe -- you say he's got still control over the armed forces. Yes, constitutionally, that is correct.
Do you think that, given what you're saying, given the letter you have written, all the secretaries of defense, that the military would obey him,
if he called for an attack on Iran, or anything like that now?
COHEN: It really would depend upon the factual situation.
If Iran were really insane enough at this point to try to take military action against U.S. forces in the region, that would invite a retaliation.
I think most Americans would consider supporting that. If it's a question, are they increasing their enrichment, well, there are other options,
We can go to our allies. We can increase the sanctions. We can do lots of things other than using the military, but it would depend upon what Iran
COHEN: So, I'm hoping they will resist the temptation to do something in retaliation, because he's looking for an excuse to inflict real harm on
Iran and to make matters that Joe Biden and his administration would then have to clean up and live with.
AMANPOUR: Two more weeks of this presidency.
William Cohen, thank you very much, keeping an eye on it for all of us.
Now, a direct attack on our democracy, that is how Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff his President Trump's attempt to overturn the
results of the election that we have just been talking about. His fellow Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, had this to say about that call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want you to focus on the man on the telephone behind the curtain yesterday or whatever
it was, because, whether he knows it or not, he's on his way out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, the Senate run-off election on Tuesday, tomorrow, will pit the two Democrats against Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, at
stake, the balance of power in Congress and Joe Biden's capacity to get his legislative agenda through.
To discuss this, I'm joined by the former Senator Carol Moseley Braun. She was the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. And she's
joining me now from Chicago.
Welcome back to the program.
FMR. SEN. CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D-IL): Thanks.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you to refer to -- just react a little bit to what Secretary Cohen said, that this is potentially illegal, what Trump has
done, and is a threat?
BRAUN: Well, at the outset, let me say, Secretary Cohen, I served with in the Senate, and he is a wonderful man. He's brilliant. He's a poet, as well
as a scholar, and he did a great job at Defense.
So, I was just delighted to hear him and I'm delighted to follow him.
Thank you for having me.
Let me say this. I think, if anything, Secretary Cohen was being diplomatic in not using the word sedition, because I listened, as much as I could, to
that ranting -- the rantings of that madman on the phone, that call that he had with Raffensperger, or the secretary of state, in Georgia.
And it was just -- it was rambling insanity. And so I don't know why people are not calling it sedition or treason. I mean, I know that there's a
process associated with that. But sedition, certainly, I think it rises to that level, without any debate.
I mean, I'm not being a judge here, but the fact is, this was -- that call was well over the line, and it was an assault on our democracy. And that's
what is at stake here.
AMANPOUR: I mean, here. It certainly sounded like that, even to the layman who are listening to it, lay men and women. It was extraordinary, I mean,
just extraordinary, even by the standards that have been set over the last four years.
I want to play a little bit, though, of what Secretary of State Raffensperger has said, since the call. He was talking to ABC News. And he
said, our job is to defend the truth, and we had the facts.
But, clearly, President Trump, he sort of suggested, had been trying from for weeks to contact him. Finally, he got him on the phone. Let's just take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: For the last two months, we have been fighting the rumor Whac-A-Mole.
And it was pretty obvious very early on that we have debunked every one of those theories that have been out there, but that President Trump continues
to believe them.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Did you feel the pressure when he said find the votes?
RAFFENSPERGER: No, I -- we have to follow the process, follow the law.
Everything we have done for the last 12 months follows the constitution of the state of Georgia, follows the United States Constitution, follows state
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, Senator, it was also extraordinary to hear his lawyer, Germany, who basically was very clear. He said, you don't have the facts.
Your facts are wrong. We're sure that we didn't do anything wrong.
They stood very clear, those Republicans.
I just wonder what you might say about how these Republicans on the state level who are being pressured by the president are actually standing up,
much more than your colleagues in the Senate.
BRAUN: I would say, shame on them. It's a cult.
And there's no question that our democracy depends on truth and rule of law and trust. And this president is undermining all of those things, and
that's why I suggested that sedition is not too strong a word to describe the call that he made to the secretary of state of Georgia.
He is trying to undo an election that he lost. And that's just as plain and simple. And that that's -- the secretary of state was very clear. He's
counted and recounted and recounted the numbers and the numbers make it very clear that Donald Trump lost Georgia.
Now, why he lost Georgia, we -- scholars will be debating that for years. But he did. He lost Georgia. He didn't have enough votes. It's just that
simple. And so, he should just be gracious or find the grace to just go away and stop claiming election fraud without any substantive proof of
that. It's an assault on truth. It's an assault on democracy. It's an assault on our democratic institutions. And why he's doing this? I can't
tell you. I mean, it's just -- it's astonishing to me.
AMANPOUR: It's also about power, isn't it, and maintaining power, and that's why the runoff in Georgia is so obviously important. I don't know
what you're hearing and what polling you're looking at, but they are saying that early voting suggests that Democrats are in the lead in these two
Senate runoff votes which are happening tomorrow. What do you predict and what will it mean no matter who wins?
BRAUN: Well, let me say this at the outset. Anybody who makes predictions in political campaigns is crazy.
BRAUN: Because if there's one thing you can't predict, it's an outcome of an election. Elections have uncertain outcomes. But having said that, I'm
hopeful that both Mr. Ossoff and Reverend Warnock win because they have certainly spoken to the people of Georgia and done the leg work to win
their support and win their votes.
Having said that, by the way, and this is a digression kind of, Ms. Amanpour, and that is, I do not understand why the Democratic Party let
Alabama go. I mean, quite frankly, you know, the old bird in the hand versus two in the bush, they are beating themselves up over the two in the
bush and we had a senator from Alabama that the Democratic Party nationally did nothing to support. And he couldn't raise a penny. The word from the
very beginning was that he did not have a chance, but he was already in the Senate. It's like, why wouldn't you protect that as opposed to or in
addition to going after these two additional seats.
So, having said that, I'm hopeful that they win. It looks like they might. I'm delighted at that, because, frankly, it really is a matter for the
world, not just for the United States, because the constitution of the United States calls on the Senate to approve treaties. So, whether we're
talking climate change or talking about dealing with the pandemic and the World Health Organization, the fact of the matter is Joe Biden is going to
need a collaborative Senate, and that's -- that will happen more likely with these two Georgia seats won.
AMANPOUR: And what if he doesn't get that, and what if they don't win and the balance of power rests with Mitch McConnell and the Republicans? Mitch
McConnell famously, you'll remember, of course, when Obama won, said that our prime objective is to make him a one-term president. Could that happen
again with Joe Biden or do you think after these four years, I don't know, they might figure out that there's a better way to some bipartisanship?
BRAUN: Well, the difference is that Joe Biden has always worked both sides of the aisle, and I've seen it happen, and he can be really in surprising
ways, he's got relationships and friendships because he helps everybody. He doesn't ask for anything from people, and I believe he can reach across the
aisle and get some support. Whether he can do that in the face of Mitch McConnell's obstreperousness is an open question. I don't know, but I -- we
can all cross our figurers. If Georgia does not go -- if Georgia goes south, to use a term, if Georgia does not go well for him, then he may have
an opportunity to work through the process in a bipartisan way with some Republican support, and I'm just hopeful that that happens.
I'm hopeful that the Democrats win in Georgia, let me say that at the outset. That's what I would bet the farm on. But in the event that it
doesn't happen, I think if anybody has an opportunity to work a bipartisan coalition, to support his agenda, it will be Joe Biden.
AMANPOUR: Now, obviously Democrats and plenty of Republicans as we've seen consider these repeated attempts to sabotage the actual effect or rather
the actual result of the election that -- you know, that it's untenable. But we have at least a dozen Republican senators who on Wednesday are going
to take a very proforma, you know, rote vote and turn it into an objection.
What do you think is going to be the result of that? Why do you think that's even happening beyond I guess -- you know, everybody says, oh, they
are sticking their stake in the ground to say that we, you know, defended Trump to the very end? Do you think that's going to have any actual effect
BRAUN: No. It's all theater. And quite frankly, they ought to be -- I started off saying, they ought to be ashamed of themselves because it's
theater that has consequences undermining our democracy, undermining people's faith in our institutions. If we cannot have an election in which
the winner winds up taking office, then something -- then we've become a banana republic, and those are strong words, but it's unfortunate that this
is what these Republicans have decided to do, that it's all about the cult of Trump and them wanting to show their cult credentials, but it really is
a very dangerous road that they have decided to travel. And I'm hopeful that some of them will back off and that when the actual vote happens that
they are limited to the absolute minimum of votes that they can get in this regard.
AMANPOUR: So very, very quickly. Last question. You talk about the cult of Trump and they are banking on it for 2024. Do you actually think Trumpism
will survive Trump?
BRAUN: It might. And let me say this, and that gets to Georgia also. The reason that the Democrats -- that Joe Biden won Georgia was because Stacey
and others decided to go to the grass roots, to actually have a ground game and actually talk to the people about what the Democrats could do for them,
not just give us your vote and we're going to go away. But this is -- we believe in the same thing you believe and here's our agenda, and that's why
And I think that that's the key going forward for all of these races. And I think we have an opportunity here with regard to this election. We have an
opportunity to show the people that this is not just about a one-shot wham bam thank you, ma'am, but we're really are talking about substantive work
AMANPOUR: I heard you. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, thank you so much for joining us.
BRAUN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, as cases of coronavirus continue to surge in the United States, the planned speedy rollout of the vaccine there is also falling
short despite promising 20 million vaccinations before the new year just over 4 million have taken place.
Our next guest Dr. Vivek Murthy is co-chair of Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board and he was once surgeon general, that was in the Obama
administration. And now, he's set to step back into that role for the new administration. And here he is talk topping our Walter Isaacson earlier
today about what's gone wrong in the vaccine distribution and how to get back on track.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNNI HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Dr. Vivek Murthy, welcome to the show.
VIVEK MURTHY, PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN'S NOMINEE FOR SURGEON GENERAL: Thanks, Walter. It's really nice to be with you today.
ISAACSON: There's this new strain of virus that's now hit the United States. Explain to me how much more contagious do you think it is and why
is it more contagious?
MURTHY: Walter, the reports that we've gotten so far, and it's important to emphasize that we understand some about this new variant, but we're
still learning more. Now, the preliminary reports tell us that it is significantly more contagious and what we're trying to understand more
clearly is, is it necessarily more dangerous to an individual? Is it more lethal? And does it have any effect on the protection one would get from
the vaccine? The answer to those two questions at this point seem to be no, which is reassuring, that it does not seem to be more dangerous so it
should be suspect susceptible to the vaccine. But these are questions we've got to continue investigating.
This new variant seems to have a number of changes in its genetic code, and those changes affect how the virus behaves. The concern is that even if it
turns out to not be more dangerous but it is much more contagious, that could have a significant impact on us in the United States. We already have
hospitals that are filled up. We have a health care workforce that is strained and has been strained for many months no.
And so, we don't have a lot of reserve right now which is why it's so essential that we do everything that we can like wearing masks, keeping our
distance and washing our hands, avoiding indoor gatherings to help limit the spread of this virus. And that's the good news, Walter, which is that
these same measures we've been talking about for months, they also work to help prevent the spread of this new variant.
ISAACSON: But this new variant being more contagious, I've read somewhere that it's because it has a higher viral load in your system. Wouldn't that
make it more likely to overwhelm a vaccine?
MURTHY: Well, the way the vaccine works is it generates an immune response from you, and then that immune response in turn can be directed against the
virus whenever you are challenged with it or exposed to it.
So, the fact that this virus generates a higher viral load in and of itself does not mean that the vaccine won't be effective. What it does raise
concern for is that we got to look more deeply at our genomic surveillance here in the Unites States. In other words, how good are we doing at
detecting these new variants when they pop up? Well, to detect that you got to sequencing and examining a good chunk of the virus strains that pop up
and the number of causative cases that occur in the country.
In the United States, we've been, I think, quite behind in sequencing enough virus to understand if there are new variants. The U.K., for
example, sequences a very high portion of their viruses compared to us, which is why they likely detected it before many other countries did.
ISAACSON: So, when you come in as surgeon general on January 20th, is that something you're going to go do which is increase the capacity of hospitals
around the country to sequence the virus to see if it's mutating?
MURTHY: Well, that is one of the areas that we have been talking about is how to work with our incoming CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and
others on our team to ensure that we are in fact strengthening our ability to do genomic surveillance. We have the tools to do it and we have the
knowledge on how to do it. We've got to build is an expanded and more effective system in actually making that surveillance happen.
ISAACSON: We now have more than 350,000 deaths in the United States and probably worse than any other country around the world by some metrics.
What did we do wrong and what can you do on day one to help turn this around?
MURTHY: Well, the numbers are just staggering, Walter. And the lives lost, the lives profoundly altered, the people who are left behind and whose
loved ones are no longer with them. These effects will be with us for years and years to come, and we can never forget what happened here because we
can never let it happen again.
I think there are a few things that we've got to keep in mind and we've got to learn from this. Number one, we've got to learn that you can't fight
these pandemics if you're divided. We have to have unity as we approach this, and that means unity has to come from our federal state and local
The second thing we've got to recognize is that science is an essential part of the solution here. We've got not only invest in science but
communicate clearly about what the science says to tell us how to protect ourselves from the virus, but also to help people understand, as the
scientists are learning as well, and that, you know, has not always happened well over this last year. We've had contradictory informations
about the virus. We've had -- you know, and that has sown distrust.
But I think the third and most important thing here is we've also got to recognize that this -- overcoming these pandemics is a true partnership
with people across the country. This is not the federal government comes in and lays out a set of recommendations and people follow it and everything
gets better. But we actually need dialogue. The government needs to hear from and understand from people about what's working and what's not working
on the ground. And the onus is really on the government to set up the opportunities and channels and settings where it can get that feedback.
ISAACSON: But 12 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed and only 3 million have been administered. How do we get ourselves back on
MURTHY: Well, what we've got to do, first of all, is we've got to understand why there's a boltleneck there. And we're hearing from
governors, directly from people on the ground, you know, about various challenges that are surfacing right now. Some are saying, for example, that
they are having problems actually matching the supply they have with the people who need them, and they are feeling too constrained, you know, by
current, you know, guidelines and priority schedules.
Others are telling us that they don't have necessary people to administer the vaccines to actually meet the demand. And still others are saying that
they are encountering hesitancy, that they are taking the vaccines to nursing homes, to other clinical settings and many people are refusing the
So, as we understand the bottlenecks, we've got to build plans actually to rapidly address them and we've got to do so not sitting in the federal
government but also working hand in hand with states and communities since they understand their communities the best. That's a lot of the work that
we've actually been doing during this transition, myself and other members of the incoming Biden administration. And we've been working to also try to
understand with the current administration what their plans are and how much they have developed.
And so, we're doing that work in earnest, but there's not a day to be wasted because every day that a vaccine goes unused and sits on the shelf
is a person whose life it could be saving and that's -- we've got to close that gap as soon as possible.
ISAACSON: I was shocked to read that more than 20 percent of frontline health care workers in Los Angeles were declining to get the vaccine. How
much of a problem is people resisting the vaccine, not wanting it?
MURTHY: Well, I think vaccine hesitancy in many populations is a real concern, and I think if we forgot that, if we overlook how important it is,
I think we will not be able to get the vaccine to everyone who needs it.
But there are a couple of things that I find interesting and to some extent reassuring about this challenge. Number one, the numbers have actually been
improving since the early fall in terms of vaccine hesitancy. In other words, more people are saying that they will and wanted to take the vaccine
now than there were in September.
The second thing to recognize though is in many of the groups where the vaccine hesitancy rates are high, that hesitancy is not deep-seeded in the
sense that it's not based on a deep inherent distrust of vaccines but rather, in many cases, people are worried about whether they will get COVID
from the vaccine, and the answer is no, or they are worried that the side effects could be life-threatening. And what we've seen is that the side
effects from these vaccines tend to actually be quite minor in terms of, you know, soreness of the arm, sometimes achiness for a few days but
temporary symptoms that tend to go away.
And so, what we can do and need to do is to make sure those people have the right information and the data seems to tell us that with the right
information from trusted messengers that those views will shift. And so, I think we have to, you know, take it upon ourselves to figure out how to do
we build up the best possible public information campaign around this. This is not about trying to convince people, you know, to all do one thing. It's
about providing them with the best information from people they trust so they can make good decisions for themselves.
ISAACSON: Given the resources that we have in America, aren't you frustrated by how we tackle this so far?
MURTHY: Well, Walter, I do think that we are blessed to have more resources than just about any other country in the world. And in the
setting of that it is deeply troubling to see how many people have struggled looking for food, looking for housing, who worried about whether
they're going to be able to pay their rent during this pandemic. And often through no fault of their own.
We know so many children, for example, who are not in school, are not able to get their free and reduced lunches that they and their families have
relied on. We know that the job losses that have accompanied this pandemic have pushed many people over the edge and literally out of their homes.
There's no reason in a country as blessed as ours, as resourced as ours, that people should have to struggle in that way.
And I actually think that the spirit of the country is such that we do want to come together and support each other during these difficult times, but
what's required to do that is for the government to the also play its part in making sure that those resources get to people who need them during
those times of need. I think we can do much better in that department.
ISAACSON: And as a public health official, does it bother you, does it enrage you even all the mistakes that seemed to have been made over the
past nine months?
MURTHY: Well, the past certainly has had its share of extraordinary frustrations. We could have been more in sync and unified in how we went to
communities across the country to talk about the measures that needed to be taken, including the wearing of masks. We could have been more, I think,
focused and more urgent in actually getting people to the resources they needed as so many people struggled during this pandemic with jobs and with
hunger and with housing. These are places where we could have done better.
And my hope going forward is that we will learn from this, that we will never again allow a circumstance where politics divide us in the face of a
pandemic, where we will never allow our government to fall short in the ways that it is falling short and that we'll hold those to account both
those of us who may serve in government and those of us who may vote for those who serve in government to ensure that we have thoughtful, capable,
honest leaders there to deliver the results that we need.
ISAACSON: How good is the coordination between the outgoing administration and your incoming administration?
MURTHY: Well, it's certainly better than it was in the beginning in the sense that we now have the opportunity to speak with people who are inside
the administration and understand a little bit more about their plans. I think our hope is that cooperation will continue to increase because like I
said, we don't have time to waste and there's a lot of information we still need access to and that we are going to rely on in order to build the best
possible plan. So, we're approaching this with the infection of collaboration here.
Many of the people we're talking to and want to talk to actually in the administration are career officials. They are people who will be there
actually after January 20th, people who, in many cases, we worked with before, those who have served in government, who we'll work together with
again, but that cooperation is really essential and that's one of the things that we're hoping will continue to increase in the days ahead.
ISAACSON: A year or two ago you wrote a fantastic book, you know how much I liked it, called "Together," which was about the epidemics of loneliness
and how that becomes a health issue. Very prescient before COVID struck. How bad is this loneliness that has got to the have been exacerbated by
MURTHY: Well, Walter, thank you and I certainly feel deeply concerned more so than I was even a year ago about the crisis of loneliness in our
country. One of the things that I learned when I was surgeon general, something that I learned, in fact, from people around our country who
taught me through conversations and town halls was that many people are, in fact, struggling with the sense of isolation, of feeling like they are out
there on their own, that there's nobody really to support them during difficult times.
And what we learned also through this science is that loneliness is consequential for your health. People who struggle with loneliness have a
higher risk of premature death and heart disease and dementia and depression and anxiety. So, there's consequences for mental and physical
health. And during this pandemic, while some people have had the wonderful opportunity of bubbling with and spending more time with their families,
many others have not had that opportunity. They have, in fact, become more isolated and they have not been able to see the people they care about.
And so, I'm deeply concerned about the physical and mental health impacts of loneliness during this pandemic. But I also think that we have an
opportunity here to recognize something this pandemic is underscoring for us, which is that we need each other. Our relationships with each other
really do matter. And as we come out of this pandemic, if we want to come out stronger and more resilient, then we've got to invest in those
relationships and our individual lives as well as institutions, schools and workplaces, there's government.
How can we lay the foundation for healthy relationships? How can we support children in building those healthy relationships from the earliest ages?
How can we in workplaces support human connection and recognize that it's not just good for people but it's good for businesses and organizations
when people are connected, when they are helping one another? So, I hope that we will come out of this with a greater appreciation for the power of
ISAACSON: As surgeon general, you're going to have to look at mental health. What mental health issues both from the coronavirus and kids who
had to grow up with this and didn't have the type of connections for a year or so are you going to be dealing with? How are you going to be dealing
with the mental health issues?
MURTHY: Well, the mental health impacts of COVID is one of the great costs, the unseen costs of, you know, COVID-19. We already saw earlier this
year, according to the CDC, that rates of depression, anxiety and suicide had dramatically increased compared to 2019. So, seen an (ph) increase in
just a year's time.
And what we're going to have to do is -- there's a number of things. Number one is to recognize and speak about that mental health impact. Still to
this day, many people feel ashamed of depression and anxiety, and they don't talk about it. They don't want people to know that they are
struggling. We've got to normalize that and help people talk about what they are going through.
The second thing we've got to the do is we've got to provide better systems for helping people. We already knew before the pandemic that our mental
health care system was not as strong as it needed to be. It wasn't well- funded. It was wasn't well-integrated into the primary care system. People were still finding problems with insurance adequately covering their mental
health care, and so they weren't getting care. We've got to close those gaps.
But I'll end with this also, that one of the most powerful things we can do to strengthen our mental health is to actually invest in human connection.
It's our relationships that turn out to be a powerful antidote to depression, to anxiety, to loneliness.
And so, I think part of what we have to re-examine as individuals and families, as communities and society more broadly is how can we put
relationships back at the center of our lives. And I think if we as a country are going to come out of this stronger, we don't just need a better
public health systema and health care system, we don't need better pandemic response systems in government, but we also need to strengthen the fabric
of society which is found, you know, in our relationships with one another.
When we are disconnected, it's hard for us to come together and address big challenges, whether it is the pandemic or the ills in our health care
system or climate change or economic inequality. We rely on those connections being strong for the nation and for our communities to be
strong, and that is, I think, going to be one of our most important areas of focus and investment going forward.
ISAACSON: Dr. Vivek Murthy, thanks so much for joining us.
MURTHY: Well, thank you so much, Walter. So nice to be with you and good to see you again.
AMANPOUR: And starting off the new year with the importance of strong relationships in our life.
And finally, as we've been discussing, vaccines are the only way out of this. So, we want to close with a show of hope, and that is from 82-year-
old Brian Pinker who became the first person to receive the new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine this morning, a retired maintenance manager and
kidney disease patient, he was thrilled to get his jab.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN PINKER: To be honest, I didn't feel a thing. The vaccine means everything me. I mean, to my mind, it's the only way I'm getting back to a
bit of a normal life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And more normal life, Mr. Pinker adds that he is now looking forward to celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary with his wife Shirley
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.