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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Administration Passed Up Chance to Order More Pfizer Vaccine Doses; Biden Lays Out COVID-19 Plan; U.K. Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations; Trump Again Falsely Claims He Won Election. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired December 08, 2020 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So, let's start at the White House, where Kaitlan Collins reports that the Trump administration's vaccine summit quickly went off the rails into crazy town, when the president pivoted the topic to his many election conspiracy theory grievances.




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A White House summit meant to tout progress on coronavirus vaccines quickly went off the rails today, as President Trump wrongly implied he may still be in office next year.

TRUMP: Well, we're going to have to see who the next administration is, because we won in those swing states.

COLLINS: Trump was asked why no members of president-elect Joe Biden's transition team were invited, given Biden will be inaugurated soon and his administration will take over the distribution.

TRUMP: Hopefully, the next administration will be the Trump administration, because you can't steal hundreds of thousands of votes. You can have fraud and deception and all of the things that they did.

COLLINS: Despite a string of court losses and recounts that have affirmed Biden's win, Trump called on state legislators or even the Supreme Court to help him overturn the election results.

TRUMP: Let's see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right.

COLLINS: The president didn't mention how the federal government is now facing new scrutiny for passing up a chance to lock in more doses of Pfizer's vaccine.

TRUMP: We're very hopeful that the FDA will authorize the Pfizer vaccine within days. COLLINS: Federal officials turned down an opportunity to buy millions of more doses of the vaccine this summer, before it was proven to be highly successful in clinical trials, which the head of Operation Warp Speed defended today.

DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: No one reasonably would buy more from any one of those vaccines, because we didn't know which one would work and which one may be better than the other.

COLLINS: But Moncef Slaoui said he couldn't explain the executive order Trump signed today that would prioritize vaccines for Americans, then distribute it to other countries.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: It sounds like the problem is the opposite right now. Pfizer has made deals with other countries that are going to limit the supply here.

SLAOUI: Frankly, I don't know. And, frankly, I'm staying out of this. I can't comment that. I don't know.

COLLINS: Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner who is now on the board of Pfizer, said Pfizer's doses have been promised to other countries.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Some of it was promised to other countries after it was offered multiple times to the United States.


COLLINS: In all, Jake, we have now learned that the president's other attorney, Jenna Ellis, has now tested positive for coronavirus, according to what she told her associates today.

And, of course, that comes after she has been crisscrossing the country with Rudy Giuliani, who, of course, was hospitalized with coronavirus on Sunday, though he did just give an interview to WABC Radio where he said that he believes he could be released from the hospital as soon as tomorrow.

And, Jake, he confirmed that he has been taking that cocktail steroid similar to the one that President Trump took when he was in the hospital with coronavirus that's typically reserved, according to medical experts, for the more severe cases of COVID-19.

TAPPER: That's right. There does seem to be a special exemption made for friends of the president, as well as the president, when it comes to getting this highly potent cocktail.

Thank you so much, Kaitlan Collins.

This afternoon, as president-elect Joe Biden introduce key members of his health team, he laid out a three-step plan for getting the coronavirus pandemic under control during his first 100 days as president. It includes delivering at least 100 million doses of the vaccine, working to get every child back in school, as CNN's Arlette Saenz reports.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): As COVID-19 rages across the country, president-elected Joe Biden laid out a blueprint for tackling the pandemic in his first 100 days in office.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: But I'm absolutely convinced that, in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.

SAENZ: The president-elect's goals, developed with the help of Dr. Anthony Fauci, include widespread mask-wearing, getting more kids back in classrooms, and putting 100 million vaccine shots in Americans' arms.

BIDEN: A hundred million shots in the first 100 days. And we will follow the guidance of science to get the vaccines to those most at risk.

SAENZ: From his home base in Delaware, the president-elect unveiled the key members of his health team, the pandemic's impact seen clearly, with some joining virtually, including Biden's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who would be the first Latino HHS secretary.

XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY NOMINEE: At HHS, tackling pandemics, saving lives, keeping us healthy should be our calling card.

SAENZ: One of Biden's top advisers since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Vivek Murthy, set to reprise his role as surgeon general.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have as a country what we need to overcome this virus.

SAENZ: And the incoming director of the CDC explaining the team's commitment to serve.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR NOMINEE: But every doctor knows that, when a patient is coding, your plans don't matter. You answer the code.


And when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.

SAENZ: With his health team set, the president-elect is nominating retired Army General Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense, who would be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon.

BIDEN: So, folks, you're led by one of the truly great generals in the United States military.

SAENZ: The president-elect is also meeting today with the NAACP and other top civil rights groups, who want to see more diversity in his Cabinet.

DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP PRESIDENT: We want to make sure that civil rights is front and center for this administration from day one to the end of this term.


SAENZ: When it comes to a vaccine, the president-elect has said that his team has not seen a detailed plan for how this vaccine will actually be distributed and implemented.

But the head of Operation Warp Speed has said that they do have a plan and they are planning to brief the Biden team on Thursday. We will see what more they learn there -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Arlette Saenz in Wilmington, Delaware, thanks so much.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now to discuss the vaccine and the virus.

Sanjay, president-elect Biden promising to distribute 100 million doses of the vaccine in his first 100 days in office. Is that possible? Can he do that?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems doable, Jake. We have seen the calendar sort of the potential rollout. I mean, there's a lot of caveats in there, and a lot of things have got to go right.

But based on what we have seen with Moderna and Pfizer alone, we know that, by the end of the year, if these authorizations occur -- and it's looking very likely they will, that there should be 40 million doses available by the end of the year, and then you get into January, February, March, maybe another 100 million doses.

So, if he's talking about doses specifically, yes, very doable. Obviously, these vaccines require two doses. So, if he means 100 million people, that may require more vaccines coming online.

And I can tell you, Jake, just quickly, from our own reporting, both Janssen, which is the division of Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, Oxford/AstraZeneca are likely to apply for their emergency use authorizations end of next month, end of January as well, if the data sort of that they're starting to see holds up.

So, we will see. If those -- if you have four vaccines, potentially, I think you can hit those numbers.

TAPPER: The FDA released more details on the Pfizer vaccine, indicating it has a 95 percent efficacy, and may even give protection after just the first of two doses.

GUPTA: Yes, this, I think, is going to be a really critical point and a point of contention right now, because there is evidence that there is some benefit after the first dose. Now, I can tell you, we can show you it's around 52 percent. So it's a

lot lower, obviously, than getting both doses. But it's a hard thing to study, Jake. You really just have a three-week time period in between the first dose and the second dose. You're looking for people who develop symptoms of COVID during that time, and it can be hard to figure out.

But I think the question that is going to come, Jake, is, if you have 40 million doses, do you go ahead and give 40 million people some protection, and then get the second doses for those folks manufactured, or do you give 20 million doses, keep 20 million in the refrigerator and keep doing it that way?

And I can tell you, not everyone agrees on this. Moncef Slaoui, who I spoke to last week, he's sort of more in the category of keeping the 20 million and making sure you have the second dose for people. But there are others who suggested just get as many doses into arms as quickly as possible.

TAPPER: What do you make of this reporting from "The New York Times" that's now been confirmed by Scott Gottlieb and Moncef Slaoui that the White House passed on the opportunity to secure up to 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine?

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, denied it. At this point, it would be news if she told the truth. We have already had this confirmed.

Looking at it empirically, you heard Moncef Slaoui explain, he didn't know, they didn't know that the vaccine was going to be as good as it was. Do you consider this to be an understandable decision? Or was this a big mistake?

GUPTA: Well, it does seem -- the rationale that Moncef Slaoui gave and others have given as well were twofold. One is, at the time, they were making bets. They weren't certain which of these vaccines was actually going to get through phase three clinical trials and actually start to be able to show benefit.

Also, from what I understand, HHS just put out a Twitter thread about this saying that they didn't have confirmation that they could have deliverable vaccine on a timetable they wanted from Pfizer, and that's part of the reason, they say, at least, they didn't go ahead and make those orders.

One thing, Jake, let me just show you the other vaccines, though, to give you some context here. There were a lot of bets made on various vaccines, Oxford/AstraZeneca, 300 million doses essentially purchased.


So that was -- you know, you can tell now, when you look back, where they thought they were most likely to get to see success. And, again, we may see AstraZeneca, as well as Johnson & Johnson, second from the bottom, apply for emergency use authorizations within the next couple of months. But if you start to do the math there, you have lots of different

makers of vaccines, and a lot of bets that were made. So, there could still be plenty of vaccine.

But it does seem like, with the Pfizer thing, they're rationalizing why they didn't make that order, basically saying they weren't confident, HHS saying they weren't confident that Pfizer could actually deliver that many doses.

TAPPER: The FDA commissioner told you today that they might not have enough data to advise whether or not pregnant women should take the vaccine. Tell us about that.

GUPTA: Yes, so there's 53 pages, essentially, that we went through today, looking at the data specifically. We have heard 95 percent efficacy.

But, when you look at the data, it breaks it down by age, it breaks it down by race, it breaks it down by whether or not you have preexisting conditions. And there were a few things that sort of jumped out at us in terms of who may not benefit from the vaccine.

And I asked Dr. Hahn about this. Here's how he answered:


DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: Pregnant women weren't specifically enrolled in the clinical trials, and it may require additional studies.

If the authorization occurs and there's information in our data packet, that will address this specific question. That's when we will have a more definitive answer.


GUPTA: So, in addition to pregnant women, they also said children under the age of 16 were not likely -- as part of the data set, not likely to show enough evidence, and also people who are immune- compromised, either because they have some sort of disease or because maybe they're receiving chemotherapy.

The concern there seems to be, if you don't have a strong enough immune system, you can't build the antibodies that actually make you immune.

So, again, that's speculation. Even Dr. Hahn doesn't know for sure how the FDA committee will actually rule on these things. But it's likely, Jake, those three groups may be excluded.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it.

TAPPER: Coming up: He's 91 years old and, outside of a clinical trial, one of the first people in the world to get the coronavirus vaccine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no point in dying now, when I have lived this long, is there? I don't plan to, anyway.


TAPPER: The world is watching as the U.K. gives the first doses of vaccines.

Then: some tense moments when the police raid the home of a Florida former data scientist who accused the government of a COVID cover-up. But there is a lot more to the story.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: A landmark day in the health lead today.

The very first coronavirus Pfizer vaccines outside of a clinical trial were distributed in the United Kingdom today, as the United States hits a much more dangerous milestone. COVID hospitalization rates in the U.S. are exploding, hitting new records. And hospital staff worry they do not have enough doctors and nurses to handle the surge.

We're going to go live to the U.K. in a moment, where a vaccine is giving people there new hope and get all the details on getting the vaccine out here in the United States.

But we're going to start today with CNN's Nick Watt, as many U.S. city leaders weigh new restrictions to slow the new accelerated spread.


GOV. TOM WOLF (D-PA): If the worst happens, hospitals will not be able to treat all sick Pennsylvanians. They will be forced to turn away people who need treatment.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More Americans in the hospital with COVID now than ever, and that means more death.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): The number of deaths is escalating in our state now with leaps and bounds.

WATT: Because virus spread is accelerating. In September, it took 25 days to log a million new cases. This latest million, the 15th, took just five, five days.

REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): The good news is, we're close, but the challenging news is this. The hardest weeks, I think, are still ahead of us.

WATT: More than 30 million Californians ordered once again to stay home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're experiencing a surge like we have never seen.

WATT: The global vaccine rollout is now under way, started in England because.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, I couldn't damn well find anywhere to park my car, so I was late.

WATT: Minor hiccup aside?

MARTIN KENYON, VACCINE RECIPIENT: I hope I'm not going to have the bloody bug now.

WATT: The U.S., waiting on FDA authorization, likely just days behind.

BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: The vaccine is coming. Next week, the vaccine will be here in New York City.

WATT: But supply is tight, logistics challenging.

DR. RACHEL LEVINE, PENNSYLVANIA SECRETARY OF HEALTH: We anticipate the rollout of the vaccine to take six, nine, could even be 12 months before everyone is immunized.

WATT: Pfizer will work to increase capacity. Moderna's vaccine is nearing rollout, Johnson & Johnson now in late-stage trials.

PAUL STOFFELS, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, JOHNSON & JOHNSON: We might have results sooner than expected. But we target for results in the month of January.

WATT: And the federal government still says they will have:

SLAOUI: The volume of vaccines we need to immunize the U.S. population, as we promised, all of it, by the middle of the year 2021. And that's still on track.


WATT: Now, an FDA advisory panel just released an analysis of the Pfizer vaccine that found no specific safety concerns that would preclude issuance of emergency authorization.

We also in this country just past 15 million cases, 15 million. That is one in every 22 Americans, 15 million also equivalent to the population of the three biggest cities in the country, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles -- Jake.


TAPPER: Yes, it's a real policy failure.

Nick Watt, thank you so much. Much like the U.S. plans to do, the government of the U.K. is getting its first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the most vulnerable and to health care workers.

Let's go to CNN's Max Foster, who's in Wales right now.

Max, how was day one of the rollout in the U.K.?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seems to go really well.

It was a huge logistical exercise, getting 800,000 doses across from Belgium to the U.K. They are in these hospital hubs around the U.K. Here in Wales, those locations are being kept secret, for fear of people turning up and trying to get the vaccine and queuing up and causing problems there.

But, generally, the system has gone very well. Four million doses are expected to be in the country by the end of the year. So it's a very ambitious project. And it's created a lot of hope. I have to say, people are very excited about the process unfolding here.

Let's hear from a couple of people that received doses today, starting with Margaret Keenan, the very first person to receive the Pfizer vaccine outside of trial in the world. She's across the border in England.


MARGARET KEENAN, VACCINE RECIPIENT: It's the best thing that has ever happened at the moment. So, do please offer it.

What can I say? If I can do it, well, so can you.

KENYON: I hope I'm not going to have the bloody bug now. I don't intend to have it, because I have got granddaughters, and I want to live a long time to enjoy their lives.


FOSTER: So, lots of excitement, Jake.

The second person to receive it happened to be called William Shakespeare.


FOSTER: That's getting a lot of attention here, but some hope, some positivity, actually, after all those months of gloom, particularly for the health workers.

TAPPER: All right, Max, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In the U.S., fears are mounting that the federal government will not be able to secure enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine, after repeatedly turning down offers to order more than 500 million more doses. "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" reported and it has been

confirmed that the U.S. may not be able to get more than the 100 million doses already secured until summer.

CNN's Sara Murray joins me now.

And, Sara, how are states planning for the next phases of vaccine distribution if they do not know how many doses they're going to be getting?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Jake, it's a challenge.

And when we talk to states, they say, here's our plan today, check back tomorrow, because we may get a new number of the number of doses that will be coming in.

And you sort of see through this Pfizer news that even the federal government is still negotiating with these companies to try to figure out how much of this vaccine is going to be made available.

Once the FDA authorizes one or more vaccines, they're going to send out this first wave, but then it's going to be states getting information a weekly basis about how many additional doses they're going to be receiving. So, they are going to essentially have to tap- dance on this every week until we start to see larger numbers of vaccine manufacturing.

And this is really difficult. It means you need to initially line up which health care workers are going to come first, which folks who are living in assisted care facilities are going to come first. And then, from the beyond, the challenge goes even larger, Jake.

TAPPER: Are states now starting that process to figure out who is going to get vaccinated after the health care workers and long-term care residents?

MURRAY: Well, they're certainly starting to think about it. I mean, we're going to wait to hear again from the CDC advisory committee about how they think essential workers should be defined.

But this is really going to be up to governors and their own industries state by state. And so you could see, for instance, if you are a state with a big meatpacking industry, you might view that as a more essential work force than another state may.

But this is going to be a really difficult position for governors. They're already starting to get lobbied by every industry in their state, Jake. You have seen the kind of economic pain this has caused.

So you can imagine that every industry wants to be the kind of essential industry that could go first. But for a long time, for the coming months, there's just going to be limited supply of these vaccines, and there are going to be a lot of tough choices ahead for these state level policy-makers.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

President Trump just went off the rails at a vaccine again, once -- a vaccine event, once again falsely claiming that he won the election.

Coming up next, conservative lawyer and Trump critic George Conway joins me to discuss all the legal challenges to Biden's victory.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today: President Trump continues to claim, falsely, that he won the election.

I will say it again. That's wrong. He lost.

The president today even called on someone, a lawmaker or perhaps a Supreme Court justice, to, in his view, do the right thing and back him up. Of course, that would not be the right thing. It would be the wrong thing.

And it's not just the president. It is also his allies on Capitol Hill. Sources tell CNN today that Republican leadership rejected an inauguration-related resolution acknowledging what we all know to be reality. Joe Biden is the president-elect.

Conservative attorney and co-founder of The Lincoln Project, George Conway, joins me now live.

And I guess, George, before we can dive into some of these legal challenges, how long can Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Roy Blunt deny reality?

I expect that President Trump will deny reality for the rest of his life, but how long can Republican leaders do it?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: Well, they're doing a pretty good job so far.