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State of the Union

Interview With Biden Transition Adviser Jen Psaki; Interview With Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui; Interview With Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton; Interview With Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 22, 2020 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Stay home for the holiday. COVID cases skyrocket across the country, as the CDC warns Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. How soon might promising vaccines turn things around?

DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: Make sure nothing delays us, nothing distracts us.

TAPPER: I will speak to vaccine czar Dr. Moncef Slaoui next.

And pressure point. President Trump goes to unprecedented lengths in his election fight, meeting with state officials in an unsuccessful effort to overturn the election results. Is the president damaging democracy?

President Trump's former National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton and Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan join me to discuss in moments.

Plus: full speed ahead. President-elect Joe Biden begins to stock his Cabinet, including the coveted Treasury position. But will Trump's transition blockade stop president-elect Biden's push forward?

I'll speak to senior adviser to the Biden transition team Jen Psaki ahead.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is suffering from a pandemic that is now spreading faster and more broadly than ever, according to public health experts, and suffering, frankly, from a severe lack of leadership, as President Trump spends his final weeks in office sulking and stewing over an election that he lost by more than six million votes in the popular vote and more than 50 in the electoral vote.

Just hours ago, the president faced a major blow to his efforts to undermine the election, when a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed, with prejudice, a key lawsuit seeking to invalidate almost seven million votes in Pennsylvania.

This morning, President Trump railed against the Paris climate accord in a prerecorded speech before the G20 summit, which is virtual this year. Saturday, he was at his golf club, instead of participating in a special side conference focused on the pandemic and the coronavirus tragedy.

This is as the United States has now reached an unimaginable 12 million coronavirus cases and more than 250,000 deaths, a number that health experts fear will only be turbocharged by family gatherings during Thanksgiving, just four days from now.

The one light at the end of this tunnel, the one light, a vaccine could be only weeks away from delivery, with the FDA now looking at Pfizer's vaccine for emergency use approval.

Joining us now is the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.

Dr. Slaoui, first of all, thank you so much for being here. Thank you for what you have been doing for the country and the world over the last year.

SLAOUI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Pfizer submitted its emergency use authorization application for its vaccine on Friday. An FDA vaccine advisory committee is slated to meet December 10.

This appears to be an extraordinary achievement. When do you expect the first person will be vaccinated?

SLAOUI: Well, our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval.

So, I would expect maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in all the areas where the state departments of health will have told us where to deliver the vaccine.

TAPPER: And you have said you plan to vaccinate 20 million people in the month of December in the United States and up to another 30 million per month after that.

How many Americans need to be vaccinated for life to be able to return to normal? And when might that happen?

SLAOUI: So, normally, with the level of efficacy we have, 95 percent, 70 percent or so of the population being immunized would allow for true herd immunity to take place.

That is likely to happen somewhere in the month of May or something like that, based on our plans.

I really hope and look forward to seeing that the level of negative perception of the vaccine decreases and people's acceptance increase. That's going to be critical to help us. Most people need to be immunized before we can go back to a normal life.

TAPPER: I want to get to that in a second.

But, before we talk about the need for the public to understand that this is safe, these vaccines have moved significantly more quickly than other modern vaccines, development and approval. It's a process that usually take years. It's going to be accomplished in just 10 months.

How confident are you that there will not be any significant adverse side effects with these vaccines? What kind of reassurance can you provide?

SLAOUI: Yes, so, the way we have accelerated was to first capitalize on at least 10 years of research around what's called platform technologies, which is like almost like a cassette player in which you can fit different cassettes for different musics.


Different cassettes would be different vaccines, in this case, the COVID-19 vaccine. So, all the upstream part of the discovery that usually takes five, six years have been done in two months, literally.

Then we run much, much larger clinical trials than required by the FDA for an approval. So, our level of understanding on a broad population basis of the short-term safety of the vaccines is actually very good, better than what we usually have.

What we are lacking is the long-term safety, just because it's a fact we can't follow up for too long on these vaccines while 1,000 to 2000 people die every day. That's the risk we know.

Now, very importantly, two things. One, the FDA has shown that, for hundreds of thousands of individuals that have participated through clinical trials for vaccine over the last 40 years, 90 to 95 percent of all serious adverse events happen within 40 days from completing immunization.

That's the reason the FDA said we need 60 days after completing immunization of safety observation before you can file. We know that, for the vaccines that are being filed, the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine, there are no significant serious adverse events in that period of time.

After, when we start to immunize the population, the CDC and the FDA are setting up very, very thorough and active pharmacovigilance surveillance system to assess and document the safety of the vaccine.

My expectation, this vaccine will be as safe as all the other vaccines that are being used in the population. And I would really urge people to listen to the experts, look at the data, keep their mind open, and hopefully accept to be immunized. TAPPER: And just to be clear, you -- none of this was as a result of

political pressure? The timeline and the expedited timeline was just for health reasons, not because you felt pressure from any politician one way or another?

SLAOUI: One hundred percent.

I have to say the operation has operated in full speed, based on science, focusing on patients and people's need, no political interference, no bureaucracy, no red tape. It's been just an incredible visionary approach to put together science and the Department of Defense and industry in an incredible partnership, frankly. It's been exceptional.

TAPPER: Can children be vaccinated with either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines? And, if not, when will there be something to protect kids?

SLAOUI: Yes, so, at this stage, the lowest age to which the vaccines have been given -- it's the Pfizer vaccine -- was 14, 12 to 14 years of age.

I don't know whether the FDA will approve the vaccines for use down to that age. Maybe they will stop at 18 years of age and above. We are planning to run clinical trials into younger adolescents, then toddlers, and then infants on an expedited basis over the last few months.

I would expect that we can start immunizing them somewhere in the second quarter of this year, at least the toddlers. Probably, the infants is going to take longer, maybe towards the end of the year.

TAPPER: But March, April, May, you think there will be some...


SLAOUI: ... '21.

TAPPER: ... there will be some sort of -- something for kids?

SLAOUI: Yes, as of May, toddlers, 4, 5 years old, maybe even down to 12 months old.

So -- but we need to run those clinical trials on an expedited basis.

TAPPER: You're obviously very, and understandably, concerned about the fact that there's a substantial share of the American people who, according to polls, have signaled they are reluctant to take a coronavirus vaccine.

And let me just also say, I'm not one of them. Give me the vaccine. Stick it in my arm. I'm ready.

But more than four in 10 Americans say they would not take a vaccine, according to a new Gallup poll out this week.

What is this strategy to convince Americans who still have concerns about getting one of these vaccines for themselves and their families?

SLAOUI: So, first, we need to understand why we are in this situation.

I really think it's very unfortunate that the whole process has been politicized, and, therefore, the context has created conditions whereby people's perception have been exacerbated, and we are where we are today.

Secondly, I think people have misunderstood the level of efficacy that the FDA aim for, which was to say at least 50 percent efficacy. Maybe people thought that will be the efficacy of vaccines.

It's actually -- as we say, as we know, it's 95 percent. It's almost a full insurance against this pandemic. I think and I hope that's going to change people's perception.


We aim to be 100 percent transparent, to have all experts discuss in the open, in front of everybody, absolutely 100 percent of the data and explain what the evidence is.

And I think people just need to measure: Here's the problem we have, the problem we know, 1,000 to 2,000 people dying every day, 200,000 people infected every day. And here is the vaccine that can give you almost an insurance against that.

And we know it's safe over a short period of time. And we can predict that it's going to be safe over the longer time. And we will measure that.

TAPPER: Yes. And let us know in the news media how we can help, too, because, obviously, it's very important that as many people as possible get immunized.

More than 90 million Americans are at higher risk of serious illness from vac -- from the coronavirus; 51 million are more than 65 years old; 41 million have an underlying condition, according to Kaiser.

How is the decision going to be made about who gets the vaccine first? Obviously, we know crucial health care workers and people in nursing homes are going to -- are going to be there.

But, in terms of Americans who have comorbidities, preexisting conditions, who are seniors? And what about essential workers, like teachers or grocery workers?

SLAOUI: Yes, so the operation is not involved in that decision.

What's going to happen, which is happening literally starting tomorrow, is that the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, ACIP, are going to start looking into the data of the vaccines, at the same time as the FDA is assessing the data for emergency use authorization assessment. And the plan is, within 24 hours or less from the emergency use

authorization approval, the ACIP will meet and issue guidance. The CDC will issue guidance to all the states: Here are the populations that should be prioritized.

But then the way things are planned is, we will distribute vaccines where each state department of health will have asked us to distribute it. And then it will be the state. Each state will independently decide, take into account the guidance, who to immunize.

So, some states may make different decisions, depending on their population and their situation.

But, clearly, the highest-risk people, the first-line workers, the health care workers will be among the first to be immunized in the next three months, after immunization -- after approval.

TAPPER: Dr. Fauci told me last week that -- quote -- "of course" it would be better for the public health of the American people if the transition process began and the Trump administration began working with the Biden transition team.

Do you agree with him that, just as a purely public health matter, if you were able to talk with the incoming Biden administration, this handoff would go smoother than being denied that ability?

SLAOUI: Of course, smoothness is what we all aim for, and, therefore, it would be better.

But I have to say that what we have done over the last six, seven months is to absolutely stay outside of the political arena and just make sure we focus on serving the population, developing these vaccines, accelerating them, and making them available.

We will continue to focus on that. That's the really important -- whether whatever happens around us, we will not look elsewhere than, how can we make these vaccines faster available to the population?

And I hope transitions will happen smoothly and things will be into order. That's our hope.

TAPPER: And will you -- will you stay on board if the -- if president-elect Biden asks you to stay on board and keep doing what you have been doing for Operation Warp Speed?

SLAOUI: I will continue to help as long as I'm asked to help.

I may not continue to do it full-time, as I have. I volunteered my time over the last six months. I need to go back to my private life and business.

I set myself an objective of having at least two vaccines approved and in use and two medicines approved and in use.

Yesterday, actually, a second medicine has been approved within the portfolio of the operation. And, hopefully, within the next month, two vaccines will be approved. I need to make sure that all the programs in the portfolio are running appropriately.

I may move part of my time back into my private life, but I look forward to continuing to help the U.S. population and the administrations.

TAPPER: Well, you're an American hero, Dr. Slaoui.

Thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

SLAOUI: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: President-elect Biden says Trump's election denial could cost American lives. So, should his team be fighting the Trump stonewall harder?

Senior adviser to the transition Jen Psaki joins me next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Eighty thousand Americans, 80,000 are in the hospital as we begin Thanksgiving week, in the hospital because of coronavirus.

And president-elect Joe Biden says more Americans could die from the coronavirus because President Trump is delaying the transition of power.

Joining me now, one of the people in charge of the Biden/Harris transition team, Jen Psaki.

Jen, thanks for joining us.


TAPPER: Do you believe that the Trump -- the Trump administration's decision to block the transition has already started to jeopardize American lives because of the pandemic?

PSAKI: Well, Jake, as you heard president-elect Biden say earlier this week, the longer this goes, the more it's going to jeopardize people's lives and people's well-being.

And, of course, it is access to -- what we're looking for is access to real-time information about what's being worked on with vaccine distribution and with vaccine development and all the plans for that moving forward.


But it's also about people having access to assistance, small businesses having assistance, to Americans getting their paycheck, unemployment insurance, things along those lines, Jake, that could be delayed if this is not -- if there isn't ascertainment soon. TAPPER: So, Joe Biden is president-elect. It's very clear there's no

path for outgoing President Trump to seriously credibly contest the election results. The next step in the process is the certification process.

Georgia just certified its votes on Friday, led by the Republican secretary of state and the Republican governor. Michigan and Pennsylvania are scheduled to certify their votes tomorrow.

Now, if you include all the states that Biden won that are not being contested, that means, tomorrow, president-elect Biden, with Michigan and Pennsylvania, will have more than 270 electoral votes.

If, even after that, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy continues to refuse to allow the transition to begin, will you take legal action?

PSAKI: Well, Jake, what we have seen over the last week is that there's a rising tide of impatience, not just by president-elect Joe Biden, but by business leaders, Democrats and Republicans. We saw Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania put out a statement just yesterday about the clarity of the outcome moving forward.

But nobody -- legal action isn't our preference. If it was, we would have done it days ago, because we have known the clear outcome for two weeks now. And that's the only trigger for ascertainment.

We're going to continue to put public pressure on, of course, but not just us. I think that's going to continue and rise in the days to come.

Now, as you know, or I'll confirm for you here, I guess, president- elect Joe Biden will be announcing members -- Cabinet nominees this week. He's looking forward to that, to introducing members of his team to the American public.

And a key part of getting that group of individuals confirmed is FBI background checks. FBI background checks cannot happen unless there's ascertainment.

And I expect, not just Democrats, but Republicans in the Senate to be outraged that they won't have access to that information. It could take weeks for that to happen. So, that's another pressure point we will see in the coming days.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about Biden's Cabinet picks, president-elect Biden's Cabinet picks.

We're told, this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, he's going to make some announcements on that. He has said he's already chosen a Treasury secretary.

Susan Rice, Dr. Susan Rice, has surfaced in conversations about secretary of state, a potential secretary of state. But, obviously, it's very possible you're going to need to get these nominees through a Republican-controlled Senate, depending on what happens at the run- offs in Georgia. Take a listen to two Republican senators, Marsha Blackburn of

Tennessee and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): I cannot imagine a Republican Senate confirming Susan Rice to any position.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): It is hard for me to imagine that they would nominate Susan Rice.


TAPPER: I understand you haven't nominated anyone yet, but do you have concerns that Senate Republicans are going to block key members of the Biden Cabinet from being confirmed?

PSAKI: Well, I'll say first, Jake, I'm not sure Senator Tom Cotton is going to be our bar here for approval of our nominees or reaction to our nominees.

There are a number of Republicans who have come out this week who have said they would support experienced and qualified nominees. I -- that's exactly -- those are exactly the kind of people who Joe Biden is going to announce and nominate this week and in the weeks to come.

And he's spent a lot of time making decisions over the last week. So, there will be some this week. I expect there will be some the week following that.

And I think, beyond that, Jake, we're facing a pandemic, as you have been talking about. Thousands of people have died from COVID over the last few weeks. We have a recession. We are -- there are crises across the country. Joe Biden needs people in place, needs Cabinet nominees to help support him moving this agenda forward.

We don't need a fabricated crisis in the Senate. And I don't think that the American people are going to tolerate that, if there's a refusal to move forward with qualified nominees.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what Senator Bernie Sanders said to the Associated Press this week about president-elect Biden's Cabinet.

He said -- quote -- "It would be, for example, enormously insulting if Biden puts together a team of rivals" -- and there's some discussion that that's what he intends to do -- "which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats, but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate" -- unquote.

Now, as you recall, Jen, I have known you for a long time from the Obama campaign of 2007. A lot of progressives out there regret not fighting for more progressive nominees under President Obama in 2008- 2009.

If the Obama Cabinet was primarily centrist moderate Democrats, is it a goal that the Biden Cabinet will have more progressive Democrats than that one, than the original Obama Cabinet?

PSAKI: Well, Jake, president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris were elected by a coalition of people across the country that includes people who are progressive and moderate and Republican, although most Americans don't think of themselves by those definitions. That is sort of a Washington definition.


And the Cabinet and the team will look like America. So, that means diversity of ideology, diversity of backgrounds. And he wants to have a range of views of people at the table.

So, I would encourage people to wait to see who he announces and nominates in the weeks to come. Of course, there will be some this week, more in the weeks following. But he wants to have a diversity of voices at the table, because he fully understands that's how he's going to move an agenda forward.

TAPPER: Can you confirm that the first Cabinet announcement will come Tuesday?

PSAKI: I can confirm it's going to come this week.

As you know, Thanksgiving is on Thursday. And I -- I can assure you that president-elect Biden will be with his family on that day, as we all will be.

So -- but it will come this week, and I think more in the weeks to come.

TAPPER: All right, Jen Psaki from a remote location in her own backyard, thank you so much.

Appreciate your time today.



Thank you. Great to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: My next guest not surprised at all that President Trump is putting himself above the integrity of the elections. But what about Republican leaders? Where are they?

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is here.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, is the first member of congressional Republican leadership to push back in any way on President Trump's tactics, saying Saturday that the president should respect -- quote -- "the sanctity of our electoral process if he cannot prove his claims in court," which he has not been able to do.

And a Republican Senate source tells CNN that the combination of Rudy Giuliani's wild news conference, which was dripping with misinformation, as well as the president meddling in the Michigan election process, has some Republican senators now reconsidering their silence.

Joining me now, one of the Republican Party's toughest critics of President Trump's tactics, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Governor Hogan, thanks so much for joining us.

Two weeks ago on the show, you said that you believed President Trump would do the right thing in the end and concede. And since then, he has, frankly, done everything other than the right thing. He's done everything he can to subvert the process, including pressuring state officials directly, phoning canvassing board officials, and having legislators flown in.

Do you still have confidence that President Trump will eventually do the right thing?

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, I have confidence that, on January 20, the president-elect is going to be sworn in, but I'm not sure I could say that I'm confident that the president's going to do the right thing.

Look, I thought the pressuring of the legislators to try to somehow change the outcome with electors was completely outrageous. And, quite frankly, I mean, we used to go supervise elections around the world, and we were -- we were the most respected country with respect to elections. And now we're beginning to look like we're a banana republic.

It's time for them to stop the nonsense. It just gets more bizarre every single day. And, frankly, I'm embarrassed that more people in the party aren't speaking up.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that.

I mean, I wish I could say otherwise, but you're in the vast minority in the Republican Party in, A, acknowledging that Joe Biden is the president-elect and will be sworn in on January 20, and, B, calling on President Trump to concede.

Why do you think so few of your colleagues are willing to demonstrate even basic integrity and honesty here?

HOGAN: Well, I just don't think there are a lot of profiles in courage, frankly, Jake. I mean, you -- we all know how vindictive the president can be, how powerful his Twitter account is, and how he can really pressure Republicans and go after them.

Very few of us are willing to stand up. But there are more and more, I mean, a number of my gubernatorial colleagues, a number of senators, quite a few House members. And I think that's slowly growing every day. And I think the others are quietly talking and telling the president their advice about what he should do. He's just not following any of the advice.

TAPPER: I want to play a clip for our viewers that will undoubtedly sound a bit familiar to you. Take a listen.


FMR. REP. LAWRENCE HOGAN (R-MD): Party loyalty and personal affection and precedents of the past must fall, I think, before the arbiter of men's action, the law itself.

For our system of justice and our system of government to survive, we must pledge our highest allegiance to the strength of the law.


TAPPER: Talk about profiles in courage.

That was your father, then Congressman Larry Hogan Sr., breaking with the Republican Party during the Nixon impeachment hearings.

Are there any Republican leaders in Washington right now who you believe can and will show the kind of moral courage that your father did and that you are and tell President Trump, it's time to put the United States of America before his own brittle spirit?

HOGAN: Well, thank you for showing that clip.

I -- I'm so -- I learned so much about integrity in public service from my dad, and that was a profile in courage when he stood up. It didn't win him any friends with the administration, but he did what he thought was right, and he said, no man is above the law.

And it's similar to what I have been saying for the past almost three weeks now. But I haven't seen -- there have been a few people in Congress, Senator Romney, for example, a few people that are standing up and speaking out pretty strongly. But there's an awful lot of them that are not.


But history will judge everybody, just as they did during Watergate.

TAPPER: You and a bipartisan group of governors met virtually this week with president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris to discuss their plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Now that you have had that discussion, do you think President Biden will handle the pandemic better than President Trump has?

HOGAN: Well, we didn't really get -- first of all, it was a very productive discussion that we had with five Republicans, five Democrats on the Executive Committee of the NGA.

I thought was great that the president-elect and vice president-elect reached out and set up that meeting. They were mostly in listening mode, where they were asking us what was going on, because they're not getting information from the current administration.

And so I didn't hear a lot about what the vice president's plans are. I think -- I think they are taking it seriously.

My big concern is that we just have a smooth handoff, because we're in the middle of this terrible fight against this virus that's raging across the country, and we have the current administration and the new administration not even speaking to one another while lives are at stake.

And it's the -- it's kind of one of the worst things about this current situation we find ourselves in, with no communication and no transition.

TAPPER: Tomorrow, the certification process takes place in Michigan and Pennsylvania. And president-elect Biden is the president-elect. That's been clear now for weeks, but, tomorrow, the certification process will make that even clearer.

Is there any excuse for GSA Administrator Emily Murphy to not then, after Michigan and Pennsylvania go forward with their certifications, delivering the 270 electoral votes to Biden, is there any excuse for her not to begin the transition process?

HOGAN: There would be no excuse whatsoever, and it would be disgraceful if they didn't begin the transition.

TAPPER: I want to ask you also, you have canceled your Thanksgiving plans with your family. A lot of people are not following your example. You're only doing your immediate family.

How worried are you that this could be a turning point for the worse in the fight against the virus, Thanksgiving?

HOGAN: We're pretty worried about it.

Our contact tracing shows that family gatherings is the number one transmission event. And it's just because you feel so comfortable. You take off your mask. You're spending time together with people you love and care about. And you don't feel like you're unsafe. You're not going out to a bar or somewhere.

But that's -- when you let your guard down is when it -- when it transfers.

So, the good news is, we have been messaging this. Ninety percent of the people in Maryland, a recent survey a couple days ago said they're not traveling this Thanksgiving, which is a dramatic change. And many, many people, at least anecdotally, are saying to me that they are following the advice, and they're having like their immediate families and not larger gatherings.

And I think that's a good thing, because we're in the worst part of this crisis.

TAPPER: What do you think about President Trump possibly running for president again in 2024?

HOGAN: You know, I think a lot can happen over four years, Jake. And there's a lot of speculation now.

But just look at what's happened in the past year and how much things have changed. I'm not sure that President Trump, regardless of what he's saying this week or in a couple of weeks about what he's going to do in 2024, we have got a lot -- a lot is going to happen between now and then. And we will have to wait and see.

TAPPER: Governor Larry Hogan, happy Thanksgiving to you, sir. Hope you have a good holiday.

HOGAN: Thank you. You too, Jake.

TAPPER: Could President Trump's decision to delay the transition process be putting Americans' safety at risk?

Former Trump National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton joins me live.

Stay with us.




President Trump continuing to threaten democracy and national security for his brittle spirit, perhaps in part because the vast majority of his Cabinet and inner circle continue to remain silent or coddle him.

Joining me now, President Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton, author of "The Room Where It Happened."

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

So, President Trump delaying the transition, pressuring state and county election canvassing officials, purging members of his administration, including Defense Secretary Esper, top security -- cybersecurity official Krebs.

President-elect Biden has expressed confidence he's going to be sworn in on January 20. Do you share that confidence? And just how worried should Americans be by what they see the president doing? JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think

Biden will be sworn in. I think the real question now is how much damage Trump can do before that happens.

I mean, right now, I think Trump is throwing rocks through windows. I think he's the political equivalent of a street rioter. I think he's given up on the legal issues. This is not a matter of litigation and law. He's lost, I think, all but two out of 34 cases that have been brought around the country.

I think what he's trying to do now is sow enough confusion that he can break through what's called the safe harbor provision in the Electoral College process. I think he's playing for as much time as he can, hoping that something will happen.

But I think this is now -- this is not a legal exercise anymore. As we saw on Friday, when the Michigan legislators were called to the Oval Office, this is now an exercise of raw political power.

TAPPER: As a former national security official, you have seen something like this situation in other countries, a defeated leader doing everything he can to avoid giving up power.

Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon told NPR that, if we saw this happening somewhere else -- quote -- "We would say democracy is teetering on the edge" -- unquote.


Is this essentially a nonviolent attempted coup?

BOLTON: I think that gives Trump too much credit.

I think he's just playing for time, in hopes that something will emerge that allows him either to have a good reason why he's lost or, in his mind, maybe still to win.

But I think that simply emphasizes the need for senior Republican leaders to join those who have begun to come out and say Trump's behavior is inexcusable.

Look, the Republican Party is not going to be saved by hiding in a spider hole. We need all of our leaders to come out and say the election is over. We're not talking about an abstract right to use -- for Trump to use his legal remedies. We have passed that. We're three weeks after the election. He doesn't have any evidence. He doesn't have any legal theories.

Look, for those who are worried about Trump's reaction, there's strength in numbers. The more who come out and say, he doesn't represent us, he is not following a Republican game plan here, the safer they will be.

TAPPER: And you're right. I mean, there's no evidence. In fact, it's insane the stuff that we're hearing, I mean, the conspiracy theories from Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The nation was treated to yet another spectacle this week by Giuliani, making wild claims, baseless accusations, lying.

Now, you once famously described Giuliani, in the context of Ukraine and that scandal, you described him as a -- quote -- "hand grenade" who's going to blow everybody up.

Is that what's happening right now?

BOLTON: Well, I think I think they're saying it as much.

Last night, Sidney Powell said she was going to bring yet another case in Georgia. And she said, that's the first state we're going to blow up. It's going to be biblical.

We have got two Senate election run-offs in Georgia. I'd really rather not be blowing the state up for the sake of Donald Trump. I'd rather not have the Georgia Republican Party at each other's throats, calling for each other's resignations.

I'd rather put Trump in the rearview mirror and concentrate on what we need to do to win those run-offs going forward. This is not a lecture on the virtues of being virtuous. Forget that. This is cold, hard political reality.

Trump is looking out for Donald Trump. And the Republican Party has got to look at for the country and for the party at the same time, not Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Do you think there are Republicans out there, people who might be inclined to vote Republican in the Georgia election, or even just people who want there to be a check on Joe Biden and the Democrats, who are watching this spectacle and thinking, God, the Republican Party, with the exception of John Bolton and Pat Toomey and Mitt Romney, they're a bunch of cowards; I don't want any part of that?

BOLTON: Well, I don't think we are a bunch of cowards, but I do think it's a character test, which is why people have to speak up.

The longer Trump rambles through our electoral system causing damage without Republican opposition, the more the Democrats are going to say that it is a Republican Party characteristic, and that you can't trust them with the instruments of government.

I think, if we have -- people don't have to say what Trump's doing is outrageous. Just say it's wrong. I will be satisfied with that.

But until people hear that, I think they will continue to be deterred from coming back to the Republican Party. I think we can hold the Trump voters by explaining to them that, actually, you can lose an election fair and square, even though it hurts. Tell the truth to people. That's what convinces them of your integrity.

TAPPER: You have said the Republican Party -- quote -- "needs a long internal conversation about the post-Trump era" -- unquote. Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of the Republican Party

after Trump is gone? Is it possible for the party to return to its fiscally and socially and conservative roots in terms of foreign policy, et cetera? Or is Trumpism part of the Republican Party from now on?

BOLTON: Look, there is no Trumpism. The man does not have a philosophy. And people can try and draw lines between the dots of his decisions. They will fail.

I do think he has brought people into the party disaffected with the Democrats, working-class people, blue-collar workers. I think that's great, the more, the better.

But I think I want a party like Ronald Reagan's, optimistic, forward- looking, trying to unite the country around conservative values. I don't think that's going to be hard to do.

I think it's very important for everybody to understand that, at noon on the 20th of January, Donald Trump is no longer president. The dynamic changes enormously. I'm not saying he's going to disappear. That's, unfortunately, not going to happen.

But it's not the same as his -- him being able, as he did on Friday, to haul people into the Oval and put pressure on them. That's all going to be gone. You can -- you can say what you think without worrying about a Trump Twitter rant that will just be a bunch of damp squibs by that point.


And that's what people need to understand. Far better to start that process now than to wait for him to cause more damage.

TAPPER: All right, former Ambassador and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, author of "The Room Where It Happened," thank you so much for your time today.

We appreciate it, sir.

BOLTON: Happy Thanksgiving.

TAPPER: Unhinged. A Frankenstein's monster. Judges and others in the legal world are running out of pejoratives to describe the legal efforts of outgoing President Trump and his allies who have, as of this morning, lost or withdrawn at least 30 cases in their efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

We just heard last night a resounding dismissal with prejudice of a Trump lawsuit. It came from Judge Matthew Brann of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania who a few days ago asked the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani this simple question.


JUDGE MATTHEW W. BRANN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA: But at bottom, you're asking this court to invalidate more than 6.8 million votes, which we just heard about from counsel, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the Commonwealth. Can you tell me how this result could possibly be justified?


TAPPER: That is, in a nutshell, the Trump case. Throw out millions of legal votes so as to overturn the will of the voters and undermine democracy.

Noted Judge Brann just a few hours ago, quote, "One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption." "That has not happened," unquote.

So what did Trump offer instead? Quote, "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations," unquote. And that's, frankly, the nice version.

The Trump team's argument to the public that millions of votes were stolen through election software is quite literally insane. It is the upside down. Wild invocations of Hugo Chavez and George Soros. No evidence, no proof.

When you look for some of the proof they offer, well, in this affidavit about the alleged fraud in Michigan, an alleged expert claims suspicious activities in Michigan, but he mistakenly provided data from Minnesota. It's a joke and it is being treated as such by judges across the nation. Though, to be clear, they are not laughing.

A state court judge in Arizona dismissed the lawsuit by the Arizona Republican Party there with prejudice, inviting the secretary of state of Arizona to apply to have her legal fees paid for.

On Friday the conservative Republican Georgia secretary of state certified the election results in that state, awarding President-Elect Biden those electoral votes and the conservative Republican Georgia governor signed the certification.

State election officials and judges throughout the country are serving as protectors of our democracy at a time when, frankly, Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., are failing miserably at the job, as are administration officials who have proven willing to degrade themselves, to serve the president's brittle spirit instead of the Constitution and the American people.

Which brings me to Emily Murphy, the administrator of the general services administration who has so far refused to ascertain that President-Elect Biden won, thus delaying the transition process. Her actions could very well hamper the Biden team's ability to deal with the pandemic when they take over. It is a matter of life and death. T

Tomorrow we expect Pennsylvania and Michigan will certify their election results. If you focus only on the states where the Trump team has been filing legal challenges and contesting the results, that means tomorrow Joe Biden will again definitely and officially secure enough electoral votes to be president, according to the state certification process this time.

Georgia was Friday. Michigan and Pennsylvania tomorrow. That's it. That's the ball game. 270 electoral votes. Biden will not even need Nevada or Arizona or Wisconsin.

Emily Murphy's legacy will be written in stone tomorrow in all likelihood. What will that legacy be?


And how many more of you watching this here in Washington, D.C., are willing to have your legacies be that you played a role in what will inevitably be recorded by history as a clownish, failed, and, please God we hope, nonviolent coup?

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning us with. Fareed Zakaria GPS starts next.