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Erin Burnett Outfront

Record COVID Deaths and Hospitalizations in the U.S.; Trump Ignores Pandemic, Lies About Election Fraud; Trump Eager to Push Message of Voter Fraud, Heading Back to GA as Some Republicans Want Congress to Overturn Election; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) Michigan Discuss About President Trump Holding Responsible for Death Threats Against Her; U.S. Reports Record 102,000+ Hospitalizations as Cases Surge. Republicans in Georgia Senate Runoff Dodge When Confronted with Trump's Baseless Fraud Claims; Source: Biden Picks Gen. Lloyd Austin As Defense Secretary; Rare Access Reveals Shocking Conditions at Venezuela Hospitals, Morgues. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 07, 2020 - 19:00   ET



Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump's silent on the pandemic that's ravaging the country busy lying about the election as his allies tell him don't concede. Take the fight to the House floor in the new year.

Plus, the U.S. closing in tonight on 15 million cases of coronavirus as The New York Times reports this hour the Trump administration turned down an offer to purchase more life saving vaccines. A member of Biden's task force response.

And Trump purges the Department of Defense Advisory Board, at this late hour purging the whole thing, putting in people like Corey Lewandowski, to do what? Well, a member of the board is resigning tonight. He's going to tell you what he thinks is happening. He's my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, 1,269 Americans are dead so far today from coronavirus and I say so far, because it's only seven o'clock eastern time and every 40 seconds another person is dying. We have record cases, record hospitalizations and record deaths tonight and we have a sitting president. And here's what he said about it today.

He actually did have plenty to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a rigged election. You look at the different states, the election was totally rigged. It's a disgrace to our country. It's like a third-world country. These ballots pouring in from everywhere.


BURNETT: All that's pouring in from everywhere tonight in this country are records on coronavirus and we are like a third-world country when it comes to the virus. Actually, no, I'm wrong, we're not even close to a third-world country. I mean, countries like Brazil, Colombia, Iran, among many others considered 'third-world' are doing way better on death per capita than the United States of America.

And yet Trump continues to repeat lies about the election, that's how he spends his time that he knows to be lies to his base. Now, that is wrong. But Trump has shown this nation over the past five weeks that when it comes to patriotism and honesty, he is an empty vessel. Empty of the character that makes any citizen great, not just any president and tonight we're seeing some of Trump's most well-placed allies, not only not speaking truth to a man doing harm to his country, they're actually egging him on.

They're telling him to take his refusal to concede to a whole new level. Congressman Jim Jordan today was asked by CNN whether Trump should concede. Jim Jordan's response, "No. No way. no way, no way. We should still try to figure out exactly what took place here. And as I said that includes, I think, debates on the House floor - potentially on January 6."

Jim Jordan is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and he is a man who knows exactly what took place what the DHS has called the most secure election in American history. Jim Jordan is suggesting that the President and Congress should overturn the will of the people when Congress meets on January 6th to count the Electoral Votes.

This Craven behavior is giving Trump cover now to keep spreading lies. Yes. Because guess what? Trump is going back to Georgia to double down on his rally this weekend. There was nothing else planned now, you got people like Jim Jordan saying things like that and Trump goes, yes, I'm going to go back to Georgia and keep saying garbage like this.


TRUMP: They cheated and they rigged our presidential election, but we will still win it. We will still win it.


BURNETT: Again, the facts there is no evidence of any fraud that would impact the election, according to Trump's own attorney general and according to Republican and Democratic governors in every state in this country, none. Now, Trump mentions Wisconsin and Georgia, you just heard there. Both have certified their results.

Georgia today actually certifying them for the second time after a Georgia judge appointed by George W. Bush today struck down yet another one of Trump's baseless legal challenges. Now, all of this should be enough to shut down this nonsense, but it's not. Take for example this tweet. This is from Congressman Jody Hice of

Georgia. Here's the tweet, "Yesterday we learned a forensics examination of a Ware County, GA #DominionVotingSystems machine found votes were switched from @realDonaldTrump to @JoeBiden."

OK. So that prompted Georgia's Election Chief, Gabe Sterling, so if you watch this show, you've seen him a lot, to respond with the facts because it's really important because that's a total lie. "With all due respect Congressman, this is flat out disinformation and it is irresponsible for you to share it." And so he then explained.

The thing is, as a reporter covering Georgia noticed, people were sharing what Hice was tweeting. Hice's tweet got more than 15,000 retweets. Sterling's with the actual facts, not some complete manufactured hogwash got only 500 retweets.


I mean that is pretty stunning. People on social media seem to like the lies and the conspiracy theories and they spread a lot more like a virus, a lot more than the truth, which may explain why when The Washington Post contacted 249 congressional Republicans, 249. Only 26 acknowledge Joe Biden won. There they are, 26.

And I want you to look at the names and the faces on the screen, not just to notice who is there but to notice who is missing. The leaders of the Republican Party are not there, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not there. The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy not there and their silence is dangerous. It's actually putting lives at risk back to Georgia. Here's a state Senator there today.


SEN. ELENA PARENT (D-GA): The police have been doing a wonderful job to keep myself and my family safe after being attacked by Donald Trump's Facebook army.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: We've had death threats. My wife's had sexualized text and things like that.


BURNETT: It's a Democrat and a Republican. And in Michigan, the State's Secretary of State said dozens of armed protesters descended on our home Saturday night. And a black state representative said she's been receiving threatening phone calls after she participated in hearing about voter fraud last Wednesday. So she participates in this hearing and then she gets a voicemail from a man reportedly says, "Your time is coming, from the expletive gallows you'll be hanging."

I want to go to Kaitlan Collins. She's OUTFRONT live outside the White House. Kaitlan, there are real world ramifications here in terms of people's physical safety, and of course, the safety of the entire Democratic process and the President is clearly fueling the fire.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's why when you hear Republicans like Jim Jordan say no, the President should keep contesting this and he should keep fighting this on and on, humoring the President is doing so much more damage than just that. What they've been doing for the last four years since Donald Trump took office really taking almost every decision he's made no matter how controversial it would be if someone else was doing it and stood by it. That is what makes it so different when they are doing it now in this situation where the President is undermining democracy doing what he did earlier in the Oval Office, wrongly maintaining that he won this election and that he's 2-0 when it comes to presidential elections, which of course, is not the case.

And it's not just that, the President is also targeting these officials himself. He has repeatedly gone after the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, of course, a Republican who endorsed the President, who voted for the President, as well as these other state officials that the President has been tweeting. The Lieutenant Governor of Georgia as well, who is also a Republican, and also said he voted for Donald Trump.

And so what we found out today is that the President is expected to make another trip to the State of Georgia and it's supposed to, of course, be about campaigning for those two Republicans ahead of that senate run off in January. That's going to determine which party it is that controls the Senate.

Though, if you watch the President's rally in Valdosta, Georgia on Saturday night, Erin, you saw it was much more about the President and how he's been consumed by his election lost than it was about maintaining that Republican majority in the Senate. And so I've talked to sources they expect that to continue to be the case.

But one thing that we should note is different as you've seen all these legal efforts coming from the Trump campaign, which of course have almost overwhelmingly been unsuccessful. And we are hearing from sources that internally they start to think that effort is going to start to wind down over the next few days.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Kaitlan. I want to go now to the Governor of Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. And Gov. Whitmer. I appreciate your time tonight. You have armed protesters outside the home of your Secretary of State chanting, shouting obscenities about overturning the results of the election. A Democratic state representative who attended a hearing about Trump's baseless election fraud claims getting a threat to lynch her. Do you hold the President responsible?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D) MICHIGAN: Well, of course, I do. I think that the rhetoric that comes from our nation's leader has an impact. We've been seeing it for months since the first part of COVID-19 when I said there's no national strategy and the President turned his ire toward me, that's when the death threats started for me.

Now we're seeing whether it's threats against Republican Governor Brian Kemp or it is the Secretary of State there in Georgia or our Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson here in Michigan, it's unacceptable. It doesn't matter what party the person is in. It doesn't matter if they're an elected official or they are an official of some sort of capacity around public service. This is unacceptable and unlawful behavior and it is being stoked by the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House and it is wrong and people of goodwill and both sides of the aisle need to take it on before it gets turned on them.

BURNETT: So here's the thing, they aren't. At least not enough of them. Back to The Washington Post, I don't know if you just heard me, Governor, but 223 Republicans in Congress will not say flat out that Joe Biden won, given this is a fact. So every state in the country certified their results, sometimes some more than once.


Only 26 of them would actually acknowledge him formally as the President-elect and not among them Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy. These are not fringe Republicans who are enabling the President, it's the vast majority.

WHITMER: It's true and there's no profile in courage there. We're not talking about something that's particularly courageous thing to do. It is about saying that this election happened. The people of this country voted. We abide by the will of the people and we move on. And every distraction, every effort to undermine that hurts our ability to have a peaceful transition and to save lives.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is raging out of control in this nation, because the White House never got their arms around it. They've lost the election because of it. Let's transition so that we can get the next administration in there and get our arms around this pandemic and get us back to work and make the United States a place to be envied as opposed to be pitied, which is what we are right now.

BURNETT: Well, you were just named today, Governor, as a co-chair of President Biden's Inaugural Committee. Now, we know President Trump is - well, he's trying to decide what to do to make a big splash, whether he should skip it, whether he should hold a dueling rally on the day of the inauguration, whether he should announce a run for 2024, who knows, he's considering all these options.

Obviously, the right thing for the country is for him to be there and be gracious and do what every president has done in American history. But he is unique. Do you want President Trump to attend Joe Biden's inauguration?

WHITMER: Well, what I personally want doesn't matter. I think what the nation needs is to see a peaceful transition of power. George H.W. Bush did it with integrity and was a class act when he lost. And he turned over the reins of federal government to Bill Clinton. The beauty, the promise of America transcends any individual person or any individual party. This is bigger than any of us individually.

I am hopeful that the President will consider doing that. I'm not confident that he will. We will move forward with an inauguration that is worthy of the office, worthy of the man who's about to take that oath of office and worthy of the American people and we'll do it safely, because we're still in the midst of this global pandemic.

BURNETT: So Governor, President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has now tested positive for coronavirus, attended a House oversight hearing in Michigan last week as part of his efforts to spread what he knows to be lies and conspiracy theories about the election.

That hearing, we just saw him there, the point is he had no mask on. It lasted more than four hours. There he is the whole time. And he's posing, taking pictures with people hours and hours, no social distancing. Are you concerned that he spread the virus in your State House?

WHITMER: Absolutely. Now, we've been telling the people of Michigan, the people of America, this virus is still very present. If you're inside with people from outside your household, you got to be masked up and you got to limit the amount of time that you are and you certainly should not be unmasked at all. This was a farce.

I mean, there was an unnecessary hearing. The election settled. The people of Michigan weighed in. It's a safe, secure election. This was incredibly reckless thing to do and now our legislature is canceling days that they should be meeting in these final days of 2020 when I'm trying to get some stimulus dollars to the unemployed and to businesses that are suffering. This has consequences. It was reckless and it was a potentially spreading event that we may not see the ramifications from for another week or two.

BURNETT: All right. Gov. Whitmer, I appreciate your time and thank you.

And I want to go straight to our Senior Political Analyst, John Avlon because he also happened to be in a prior life the former speechwriter, chief speechwriter to then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. So John, you know him.


BURNETT: You don't know him very well. So he does that, he's doing this with these things that he knows to be lies and conspiracy theories. He even laughed at that hearing at some of the things being said. But now source tells us he's going to appear via Zoom Thursday at a Georgia House hearing, because he's just going to keep doing this to overturn the results there. They've now certified them twice. What is he thinking?

AVLON: Rudy's judgment is not what it once was. Rudy Giuliani is someone who used to say that to be locked into partisan politics doesn't permit you to think clearly and he's not been thinking clearly. He should be focusing on his health. He should be making amends for people he may have gotten sick in the result of this barnstorming tour.

The problem is that the Trump vortex sucks everybody in. The legal team is 42 to one right now, losing record.

BURNETT: Yes. [19:15:01]

AVLON: And the problem is that the Trump vortex encourages people to say even if you can't be a winner, be seen as a fighter even if that makes you a liar. And I suppose that some folks think maybe there's a preemptive pardon for them in it on the back end. But it's not too late to think to have a shred of decency to think about anything resembling a legacy and to do the right thing, because this is not going to end well for anybody.

And the COVID infection just punctuates that fact, the virus of lies and the virus itself that's consuming our country right now.

BURNETT: So it's 79 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor today and that attack united this country and, obviously, it was an act of war. But we're attacked now by a virus and every single blow divides us more. People, people literally don't see the same facts and it is frightening to all of us. What's changed?

AVLON: I think the fundamental character of the country is still strong, but we have been deeply divided by leadership that has intentionally divided us from the White House in a way that we've never seen before. And I think one of the things this anniversary shows us is that we can't wait for a disaster or an attack to unite us, as it did after Pearl Harbor, as it did after 9/11. We have to have fidelity to common facts, but there are things we can learn from that history.

I was thinking about Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican was a staunch isolationist, a harsh FDR critic. After Pearl Harbor, he switched, changed his tune. He backed the country. He coined the phrase partisan politics ought to end at the water's edge. He helped create the United Nations and then he helped work with Harry Truman to get the Marshall Plan passed around bipartisan lines.

That's the tradition we need to remember. That muscle memory still exists in our democracy. But we've got to want to find it and we need leadership that aims for it in Senate and in the presidency.

BURNETT: And in those 223 Republican members of the House ...

AVLON: That's it.

BURNETT: ... who just can't seem to say those words, President-elect. John, thank you.

AVLON: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the United States on the cusp of approving a vaccine. And yet, Republicans are about to hold a Senate hearing with a doctor who is a vaccine skeptic. This is really happening.

Plus, Republican David Perdue, he's running in one of George's Senate runoffs. He has been avoiding debates and avoiding answering reporter questions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, Senator, will you take a minute?


BURNETT: So what's the strategy there? And then a CNN exclusive, we're going to take you inside a hospital in Venezuela, COVID is raging. That is a hospital. Hospital one worker says if the disease doesn't kill you, the conditions inside might.



BURNETT: Breaking news, we have new numbers just coming in. They are bad. The United States reporting more than 102,000 people in hospitals with coronavirus tonight. That is the sixth straight day with more than 100,000 hospitalizations and it's the surge The New York Times is reporting that the Trump administration turned down an offer to buy more doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the summer.

Pfizer now says the United States may have to wait for more doses until June as it gets the vaccine out to other countries, according to The Times. The Trump administration is denying the report saying they're in the middle of negotiations right now.

OUTFRONT now, Loyce Pace, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's Coronavirus Task Force and Executive Director of the Global Health Council. So Director Pace, I want to give you a chance to respond to this reporting that they turned down an opportunity to buy more of this vaccine in the summer and that that may cause delays now by many months in getting the vaccine out. What's your reaction to this reporting?

LOYCE PACE, MEMBER, BIDEN COVID-19 TASK FORCE: Well, I think that a lot of us have been looking forward, obviously, to these innovations coming down the pike and so we're happy that we're in a situation where we have options when it comes to the forthcoming vaccines. The good news is that they are more in the pipeline and we also have other means in place whereby the U.S. can potentially procure additional doses, including from international cooperatives that exist for this very reason.

And so I think those of us on that transition advisory board are hopeful that we will not run into an issue with regards to a shortage. But I think we just have to get in and understand where we are with those plans and with supplies, so that we can we can advise them accordingly.

BURNETT: So I'm curious about where we are on that and how much you all know, because obviously you're going to be responsible for this rollout and you need to know everything there is to know. Yet last week, Joe Biden, the President-elect said he hadn't seen a detailed plan from the Trump administration on vaccine distribution on actually getting it into people's arms. Do you know if the administration has now offered all of this information or does it exist? PACE: I think it's still in process. What we know, what we're

learning, I mean, we're learning real time, of course, and I think those doors just opened in the past couple of weeks and we're happy to have a seat at the table now to dig into those. And as you can imagine, it's pretty complex, because it's about the doses of vaccine that are available. It's around the logistics in place. It's in the agreements that the federal government has or needs to have in place with states and local officials.

And so it takes a lot to comb through all that. I think it's definitely still in process and our hope is that we will learn that much more as quickly as possible.

BURNETT: So the President-elect told our Jake Tapper last week that he's happy to get vaccinated in public, pull his sleeve up and get the shot. Obviously, the former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton have suggested they'll all do that as well.

But Joe Biden is about to be the President, someone who needs to be protected as much as possible. Do you recommend that he gets the vaccine as soon as it's authorized by the FDA? I mean, meaning within days he could be getting that first shot, do you think he should do that?

PACE: I think whatever Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us to do, we will do. I think he saw that he's officially going to be serving as Chief Medical Adviser on COVID, which is great. He's been in this role as our confidant, as someone that we all trust and comes to know and love over the past year.


And I think that you've heard the President-elect talked about being reliant on Dr. Fauci's advice and so I'm sure he'll defer to him on that for sure.

BURNETT: All right. I thank you very much. I appreciate your time director.

PACE: Of course. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. Now, it is just days until the FDA will meet to consider the Pfizer vaccine. The Republican who lead the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Ron Johnson just days away from this likely approval is holding a hearing. This hearing is going to be tomorrow and there will be a doctor there who is skeptical of vaccines.

Now, this doctor is named Jane Orient. She told The New York Times she opposes the government's push for all Americans to be vaccinated for the coronavirus saying, "It seems to me reckless to be pushing people to take risks when you don't know what the risks are. People's rights should be respected. Where is 'my body, my choice' when it comes to this?"

But when it comes to vaccines, don't get me started as a parent of young children, you vaccinate because it's the right thing to do and it saves lives. On fun now, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and Dr. Jonathan Reiner, advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.

So Dr. Jha, let me start with you. The Republicans are giving this doctor a platform as Dr. Fauci, members of Operation Warp Speed are urging Americans to get vaccine - that vaccines are safe. OK. How dangerous is having a hearing like this? Well, frankly, again, as a parent of young children and I vaccinate the second you're supposed to, at any time, how dangerous is it specifically right now?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Erin. Thank you for having me on. Look, this hearing is really a platform for fringe elements of the medical community having a voice. Now look, I'd be fair, I'd be totally comfortable to be reasonable to have a discussion about the safety of the vaccine.

By experts who understand safety, who understand data, let's talk about that openly. I have no concerns about that. That's not what Sen. Johnson is doing. He's giving a platform to people who want to push hydroxychloroquine and other unproven therapies over the vaccine, because that's their agenda. I don't totally understand why Sen. Johnson is doing this. But it's not helpful at this moment in the pandemic.

BURNETT: Right. And it's pretty incredible and as you say kids are required when they go to school to have these vaccines and that is so that they can get herd immunity. The whole thing goes against the science.

Let me ask you about the point you just made, though, Dr. Jha about this committee and some of the fringe elements, because you talk about hydroxychloroquine. And you have testified in front of this committee about the facts on hydroxychloroquine, which study after study shows was ineffective at best on coronavirus. You were attacked by the Chairman, Ron Johnson. I want to play some of the hearing.


JHA: And there is now clear consensus in the medical and scientific community based on overwhelming evidence that hydroxychloroquine provides no benefit in treating COVID-19.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): You can sit there with all the authoritative voice that you possibly have, but we've got some gentlemen here that are treating patients within that empathy circle and they completely disagree with you.

DR. PETER MCCULLOUGH: I think Dr. G's (ph) testimony is reckless and dangerous for the nation.


BURNETT: The empathy circle, so that's different than the science and data circle. Dr. Jha, what do you make of what this committee and its Chairman have been doing? JHA: Yes. So first of all I think the biggest way to show empathy is

to use scientifically proven therapies and not to be pushing things that have been shown to be discredited. I think what Senator Johnson is doing and again, I'm reading a bit into it, he's platforming and giving opportunities for, as I said, not mainstream views on and robust debates that scientists have all the time, but really fringe elements.

And the broader theme here is to say to people don't worry about the pandemic, it's fine, because we've got this life saving therapy called hydroxychloroquine, that the entire medical community is in a conspiracy to deny you. Again, I don't understand the agenda for why this is what Senate Republicans want to be doing at this moment. I don't think this is at all helpful. I wish Sen. Johnson would just stop.

BURNETT: Dr. Reiner, this comes as we're really going to need real leadership on this vaccine for people to get it and you just heard Loyce Pace, she's on Biden's Coronavirus Task Force. And she said if Dr. Fauci says that Biden should get the first vaccine shot, the minute it's approved by the FDA, he'll do it. That's what she said. Do you think this is something Biden should do, given the robust debate that Dr. Jha is saying, yes, we should have? Should Biden be getting this shot within days his first shot?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, if the emergency use authorization for the vaccine is issued, let's say this Thursday, on December 10th, I would vaccinate the President-elect Thursday evening, December 10th.

I would vaccinate the president-elect Thursday evening, December 10th.


I would vaccinate him right away.

Look, the president and vice president are surrounded by various types of protection. There's the physical protection that surrounds the White House and the VP, or the vice president's residence. There's the protection offered by his Secret Service and his vehicle is armored.

But what a lot of folks don't know is that the president is also protected by the White House medical unit in a very active way. In the days after 9/11, in fact, President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually vaccinated for anthrax because there was concern about an anthrax attack that might be forthcoming.

So think about it this way. We are under attack by this virus. We can protect the president-elect. This is a form of protection for him.

I would vaccinate the president-elect and the vice president-elect as soon as the vaccine is available.

Also, don't forget, with the Pfizer vaccine you're not really truly immune until about a week after the boost. So the prime let's say would come December 10th, the boost three weeks later. About a week after that you're immune.

I want the president-elect immune by the time he takes office. And that's just a few days after that month period. So let's do it now. I would vaccinate him as soon as possible.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. So that makes sense.

Now, what about President Trump? You know, he tested positive for coronavirus, right? He was hospitalized for it for three nights. He was very sick. But he -- I guess the belief is that that would give some level of immunity.

But he -- what do you think? Should he be vaccinated as soon as it's approved? Obviously he could go through those shots at the same time and that would be before he left office. He would also of course set a very important example for his followers.

REINER: Well, I think the president is probably functionally immune for at least three months after his infection. But I would absolutely vaccinate the outgoing president and the outgoing vice president as soon as the vaccine is available.

I would do all this publicly. It's a public service. They're not jumping the line. They're showing the public that they have confidence in the vaccine. So I would do that as soon as possible. I would do it by the end of this week.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate both of you. Thank you.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, the two Republican candidates in Georgia's runoff, either unable to say if Trump lost the election or simply choosing to avoid the question altogether.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Perdue, Kyung Lah from CNN. Can I just ask you a quick question, sir?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): Thank you.


BURNETT: Plus, Trump purges a pentagon advisory board and fills it with loyalists including Corey Lewandowski at this late hour. Now a member of that board is resigning. And he is warning Americans of what Trump is doing.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump stepping up his attempts to delegitimize Georgia's election results, tweeting earlier: The Republican governor of Georgia refuses to do signature verification which would give us an easy win. What's wrong with this guy? What is he hiding?

Well, let's just be clear. Signature matching has been done already in Georgia. Any signature audit would have to be ordered by the court that now has custody of the ballots. Not by the governor.

And as all eyes are on these hotly contested Senate races, one Republican incumbent defending his Senate seat is actively avoiding talking to the press in any way, shape or form.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only debate night for the Georgia Senate runoffs began like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Perdue declined to participate in this debate and is represented by an empty podium.

LAH: It's not that Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue hasn't been campaigning. This is Senator Perdue's bus tour across Georgia. Like most of Perdue's events, he didn't post this on his public schedule. We found out because Perdue's guest, Representative Dan Crenshaw, tweeted this, then quickly deleted it.

The senator took pictures with supporters who waited to meet him. As for us?

Senator, will you take a minute? Senator. Senator. Senator Perdue. Senator.

Perdue's staff told us he would not take any questions.

That was stop one of the senator's bus tour. At stop two, Senator Perdue delivered his planned speech, and I talked to a staffer.

Excuse me. Hey. I'm with CNN.


LAH: And could we just get a couple minutes with --

STAFFER: We'll see how the timing goes.

LAH: Perdue took pictures and then --

Senator? Senator? Senator? Hi, Senator. Senator. Senator? I'm Kyung Lah from CNN.

Hey. Hey. Why don't you debate, Senator?

When it comes to the general public, only a select group is invited. By contrast, the senator was eager to appear next to President Trump at his highly publicized, nearly fact-free Georgia rally.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): I want to take literally just one second. LAH: As Perdue spoke, the crowd drowned him out, shouting support for

President Trump.

PERDUE: -- president Trump personally. Yes.

LAH: Who was leveling basic attacks against the voting system in Georgia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They cheated and they rigged our presidential election. But we will still win it.

LAH: But Perdue and fellow Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler need voters to use that system. Plus, Republican enthusiasm. When Loeffler was asked this in her debate --

DEBATE MODERATOR: Do you stand by his narrative that the election was rigged?

LAH: She did not directly answer.

SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): And look, it's vitally important that Georgians trust our election process. And the president has every right to every legal recourse, and that's what's taking place.

LAH: The Perdue campaign goes further in avoiding answers and avoiding nearly all media appearances.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: David Perdue, Senator, thank you for being here.

LAH: He did do this interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News. Does that and escaping debates matter to his supporters?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me, personally, it doesn't because I know I'm going to vote for him. I already know his policies. I know what he's said and I know exactly how he's been voting in the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ask that you bless this election, that we will win Georgia.

LAH: Back on Senator Perdue's bus tour, this is stop number three. I ask again.

Senator Perdue, Kyung Lah from CNN. Can I just ask you a quick question?

PERDUE: Thank you.

LAH: Sir? Sir?

And again.

Senator, can I get you to stop and answer a couple of questions about the debate? We continue to the fourth and final stop.

Senator? Senator.


LAH (on camera): This isn't just CNN. Local TV stations, Atlanta's largest paper says the senator has ducked reporters across Georgia.

Now, he did decide to sit down tonight with Newsmax. It is an outlet that actively engages in conspiracy theories and lies. It is a favorite of President Trump's. And the senator tonight said that his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff lost the debate even though the senator is the one who didn't show up -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Kyung, thank you very much.

And I want to bring in Erick Erickson, familiar face to so many of you, conservative talk radio host, long-time Georgia resident.

So, Erick, you're in the midst of this. So, President Trump, you know, went for that rally over the weekend. We played a clip from, it but there was a lot more where that came from, saying in Georgia they cheated, they rigged our presidential election, we'll still win it, we'll still win it.

Obviously, your Republican governor certified the results, your Republican secretary of state. I don't need to go through the whole litany with you. But now he says he's going to go back and he's going to do more rallies in Georgia and continue to say the same thing. What do you say to that?

ERICK ERICKSON, HOST, ATLANTAT'S EVENING NEWS, WSB RADIO: Well, listen, a lot of his base does kind of internalize that yeah, maybe the race was stolen but they're going it try to turn out for Perdue and Loeffler, I hope as a conservative. The data seems to suggest the GOP overwhelmingly has the numbers if they turn out. But this really isn't helpful.

And you know, I've actually had a couple Republicans mumble to me that maybe he wants them to lose because if they win, it's going to be hard to say the race in Georgia was stolen.

BURNETT: So what do you make of what he has been doing in your state, right? Saying that it's rigged.

You know, I've had on Gabe Sterling, your elections chief, right? He's been clear. He said this is the safest election we've ever had, the most secure election. There's a paper trail for every single ballot in Georgia.

A federal judge today, right? Dismisses more challenges. The facts are the facts here. And what the president's saying is false.

ERICKSON: Well, I mean, to give you an idea of just how cavalier they are with things, the president's team actually filed a lawsuit in Georgia's state court on Friday. They forgot to pay the filing fee or fill out the paperwork to file so it got thrown out by a judge. I mean, that's what we're dealing with here.

I don't think they really actually care. I think they want to whip people into a sense of grievance. The fact of the matter is people here understand we've got a great system and we've got ballots that print out. Most of the outside voices I've dealt with here actually don't realize that the ballots in Georgia are printed out with who you voted for on them.

So it's very hard to actually say the machines were stolen. But we're kind of at a point where facts don't matter with a lot of people.

BURNETT: Which I think is really terrifying in a sense, Erick. I mean, do you get a feeling that people -- how many people do you think really believe what the president's saying?

ERICKSON: You know, I actually think it's more like team sport. When your team loses you blame the refs. And people ultimately come around. In fact, I think the overwhelming majority of people who are saying that this was a stolen election, they really know it wasn't. But it's all part of being on the team.

The problem is we had this situation several years ago where Democratic rhetoric led to that man in Virginia trying to kill Republican members of Congress. And I actually am worried that we're going to get to a point with the rhetoric in this election where some crazy people internalize that it was stolen and decide to take action. And that should bother all of us. What we've seen so far in this country in the last number of years.

BURETT: So, Erick, you know, you mentioned a federal judge in Georgia. So today a federal judge in your state appointed by George W. Bush dismissed two challenges by Sidney Powell that were team Trump trying to dismiss the lawful election results in Georgia.

So the president then goes, right, to his rally in Georgia and he's speaking out and telling people to vote for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. So he's -- well, it's rather contradictory. Let me play what he said.


TRUMP: You must go vote and vote early, starting December 14th. You have to do it. They cheated and they rigged our presidential election. And they're going to try and rig this election too.


BURNETT: Do people not see the contradiction, that he's telling them to vote in a rigged election? Or what?

ERICKSON: You know, so being in Georgia for a long time in politics, they used to have a saying, common in other parts of the country, if it ain't close they can't cheat, trying to get people out, if you believe the race was stolen. [19:45:06]

The problem is the president says this over and over and over and has Lin Wood out there telling people don't vote until the governor summons a special session of the legislature. In a very tight election, which this could be, those numbers matter and you could see the Republicans throw the race from themselves just by suppressing their own vote with this nonsense talk.

BURNETT: Interesting what you said there. Some would think that's what the president wants. That's interesting scuttlebutt out there.

All right. Erick, I appreciate your time. I'm glad to see you.

ERICKSON: Thank you. Good to see you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, Trump shakes up a Pentagon advisory board, replacing some professionals with political lackeys like Corey Lewandowski. Now one member who made it through the purge is resigning, standing strong, and sounding the alarm. He's my guest.

Plus, we take you to a hospital inside Venezuela, and you have to see this. No lights. No way to actually treat patients. And it is full of coronavirus patients.

It's an exclusive report ahead.


BURNETT: Breaking news: CNN learning President-elect Joe Biden has picked retired General Lloyd Austin to be his defense secretary.


If confirmed, the general would be the first black man to run the Pentagon. Austin led Central Command during the Obama administration. He would need a congressional waiver to be confirmed since he has not been out of the military for the required seven years. Much like of course Jim Mattis did.

And Biden's pick to lead the Pentagon comes amidst a purge there. A member of the Pentagon's advisory board resigning after several of his colleagues were replaced with Trump loyalists. The Trump administration firing nine advisers with decades of experience in the defense industry, replacing them with people with no absolutely no experience in the defense industry, none whatsoever. People like Corey Lewandowski whose claim to anything is complete and utter loyalty to President Trump.

In his right resignation letter, Steve Blank who was appointed by the secretary of defense under President Trump to that rights quote, the abrupt termination of more than half of the defense business board and the replacement with political partisans have now put the nation's safety and security at risk. My service to the Department of Defense was a service to the country not to a party.

And Steve Blank joins me now.

Steve, I appreciate your time.

So, tell me what led you to not only resign from the board but to voice these concerns publicly?

STEVE BLANK, TECH ENTREPRENEUR, RESIGNED IN PROTEST FROM DEFENSE BUSINESS BOARD: Well, the last one is pretty easy to do or easy to explain. You know, I kind of thought when option was hunkering down under the desk and win for January. Then I thought, I kind of look at myself in the mirror every morning if I did that and people need to do it is true to them. And to me, it's service to the country, not the party as you said.

You know, the defense business board is one of several advisory boards to the secretary of defense. There's advisory boards for policy, renovation for science, for personnel, for sexual assault. And our job is to give the secretary of defense the best nonpartisan advice to help them think about things that they normally would not be able to see or know about and help the country be better.

You k now, the countries facing a set of challenges we haven't faced in the century. The United States is no longer guarantee now to win the next war. That's nothing any of us ever grow up with. For the last 20 years, the country kind of focused on defeating terrorist, al Qaeda and ISIS, and we woke up to face now an authoritarian governments, China and Russia now, threats in North Korea and Iran, in addition to those non-nation states.

If you look at what is going on in those countries, those are countries that kind of repress their own people. In China, they repressed the Tibetans, the Uighurs, which is happened to Hong Kong. And for me, it was just understanding that national power of the country is influence and footprint is more than just its military strength. It's a combination of all the other things we do. Diplomacy, information, intelligence, military and economic strength, and that's why decided to --


BLANK: I'm sorry.

BURNETT: No, no, no, I think it's really important to hear. People should hear your character. Why you did this. Well you believed it was important. When I'm trying to understand is when this news first crossed, I said to myself why would he be doing this now? He fired 9 people. He replaced them with Trump loyalists, right? I mentioned Corey Lewandowski. David Bossie is also on the list, you know, no experience in the defense industry.

So, you know, why would you do this when there's fewer than 50 days left in your administration? I mean, do you have any theories as to what's going on? Is there some kind of a plan here?

BLANK: Well, I can't speak for the secretary of defense or the commander-in-chief. I should point out this is almost the last word that this is happened to, senior people were replaced on all the advisory boards. And obviously that's right. This is the board he appoints and reaches out to, you know?

But for me, you asked about my motivations, you know, I grew up when we watched other nations, Soviet Unions and others to require loyalty pledges to a party. And they would launch ideological purchase and get rid of their best and the brightest.

And when we as a nation saw that, we knew they did that because they were weak. That their ideas and values could not withstand dissent and discussion, and in exchange, you know, in contrast we kind of celebrated that, you know, what made the United States strong was we embrace diversity of thought, and acted collectively. And I thought we were heading in the wrong direction in putting the country at risk.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate you taking the time. I appreciate you sharing your those thoughts and that important insight with all of us. Thank you, Steve.

BLANK: Thank you for having me.

And also, tonight, a worldwide exclusive. This is important to watch. This is inside to Venezuelan hospitals as that country continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus with economic and societal collapse. And now, for the first time, we are seeing the haunting images from inside those hospitals.

Isa Soares is OUTFRONT in Caracas.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Los Magallanes Public Hospital in Caracas, remnants of this once wealthy nation lie strewn on the dirt floor. Its shackled wards hiding what the Venezuelan government doesn't want us to see.

Here, COVID-19 has unmasked Venezuela's open wounds. And practically, every floor this hospital is empty, tells me this hospital worker who prefers to remain anonymous.

HOSPITAL WORKER: It's empty because there's nothing here. There are no supplies. There's no way to treat patients, no lights, no working pipes, the baths are clogged, and there's no water. If patients don't die of their disease, they did of contamination.

SOARES: It's a risk only a few dare to take. This is the COVID-19 ward. Only this part of it is functional. The rest is completely run down after years of mismanagement. So it's no surprise many would rather face the pandemic outside these walls. Choosing instead their homes over these decrepit rooms where darkness has literally taken over.

This is the intensive neonatal ward. And the reason I'm holding up this light right here is because there is no electricity in this hospital. Have a look around. Bare bones.

And what I've been told by doctors around Caracas and outside of Caracas is that this is a situation day in, day out.

Even in the morgue, death comes with shortages. There's no pathologists here and with intermittent electricity, the stench is unbearable. Now, imagine having to face a pandemic in these conditions.

It's why doctors like Gustavo Villasmil are no longer afraid to speak out.


SOARES: I have friends of mine who have been criminally charged, he says. Why, for protesting the conditions in which they have been forced to practice. So he doesn't hold back.

In Venezuela, he tells me, there are only as many recognized COVID cases as the regime wants. With testing limited to three government control labs, Villasmil says it's impossible to paint an accurate picture. With regards to COVID, he says, we don't know where we are.

The government, however, claims the pandemic is under control, saying its strategy has worked.

A government minder shows us inside a hotel where suspected infected patients are kept in quarantine for up to 21 days. It's a lockdown strategy employed by China, which the government of Nicolas Maduro has been keen to extol.

Dr. Rodriguez shares a similar pride.

Venezuelans have shown an immunity to the virus, he says.

The families of those who have died on the front lines may see it differently. Two hundred seventy-two health-care workers have lost their lives in Venezuela as of November 30th.

At Hospital Vargas in Caracas, you can see why. They are overworked and unprotected.

It's one nurse for this whole area here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have masks, we don't have gloves. They turn on the water one hour in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night. There's nothing. There's not broom, no mop, no cloth.

SOARES: This is evident all around. And as I walk this ward, I stop to speak to a patient's daughter.

She tells her frail 69-year-old father is here because of malnourishment, the same state in post-malady that we've seen across Venezuela.

His immune system is compromised, yet he shares this ward with a COVID patient.

His daughter tells me he needs iron supplements that the hospital simply doesn't have.

Have a look at this. I mean, this is what -- this is what they have to work with here, nurses and doctors, syringes. It's astounding. They've got nothing.

There's a vast emptiness all around, and a sense of disillusionment and surrender. Painful, no doubt for those who saw this oil rich country one of the wealthiest in Latin America now teetering on the brink of survival.


SOARES: Erin, CNN reached out to the government here in Venezuela for comments on the dire conditions we saw on this hospital, as well as the criticism we had from health care professionals, and to date, we have not heard anything -- Erin.

BURNETT: Isa, thank you very much. An absolutely stunning report. Thank you so much for going in and sharing all that with us.

And thanks to all of you for watching.

Anderson starts now.