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State of the Union

Interview With Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui; Interview With Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA); Interview With Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA); Interview With Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 06, 2020 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Getting your shot. The coronavirus vaccines are almost here. As the virus becomes the leading killer of Americans, when will every American be able to get their vaccine? And will they trust it?

DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: We will do our best. It's a matter of life or death again.

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

And backfiring? Trump continues to spread lies as he campaigns in Georgia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you don't vote, the socialists and the communists win.

TAPPER: But will his mixed messages fire up the base or just convince them that voting isn't worth it?

I will speak to Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan in moments.

Plus: Sweet relief? Congress works to pass yet another stimulus bill, as Americans are desperate for economic aid.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress left for Christmas without doing an interim package.

TAPPER: Will new hope turn into actual help this time? One of the senators negotiating the compromise bill, Mark Warner, and Congresswoman Karen Bass join me to discuss ahead.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is suffering.

The United States is now in the worst stretch of the pandemic by far, between 2,000 and 3,000 deaths every single day, setting horrible records in number of daily deaths, in hospitalizations and in new cases. And we have not even started to see the Thanksgiving effect on the numbers yet, as hospitals begin to max out and run out of ICU beds.

Medical workers are pleading for leaders to issue new mask mandates and stay-at-home orders, the surge in cases only adding to the economic nightmare, with job growth stalling and leaders now finally teasing a $900 billion stimulus package, months overdue for millions who may go hungry for the holidays, compounded by a president who only comes out in front of the cameras to spread election lies and grievances, as he did last night at a rally in Georgia.

Yet another potential super-spreader event, spreading the virus and lies, riling up supporters by falsely claiming he won the state that he actually lost by nearly 12,000 votes, and attacking Georgia's top officials, Republicans, essentially calling on Governor Brian Kemp to overturn the will of the voters.

As America waits for vaccines to roll out, the president said he's worked harder in the last three weeks than ever before. But that work is to overturn the democratic election results, sadly, not to call on Americans to wear masks or observe public health measures. If only the president went after the virus the way he is going after democracy.

We're going to begin on the surging pandemic.

And I want to bring in the chief scientific adviser for one of the Trump administration's legitimate success stories in this pandemic, Operation Warp Speed, to find and distribute a vaccine.

Joining us, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.

Dr. Slaoui, thanks so much for -- thanks so much for joining us.

SLAOUI: Good morning.

TAPPER: A University of Washington model projects that the U.S. could reach 539,000 deaths by April 1.

President-elect Biden told me in an exclusive interview Thursday he's going to ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office. Do you think that's a good idea, or is it too little, too late?

SLAOUI: Oh, I think it's a good idea. It's never too late.

It's this pandemic is ravaging the country. We all need to take our precaution, have our masks, wash our hand, and keep our distance, remain aware that this virus is a killer.

We have a vaccine. There is light at the end of the tunnel. But we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before may or June. So, we need to be very cautious and vigilant.

TAPPER: President-elect Biden praised the fact that a vaccine had been discovered, but he also had some criticism for the Operation Warp Speed plan to distribute the vaccine.

He said this on Friday. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: There is no detailed plan, that we have seen anyway, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe into somebody's arm.

And it is going to be very difficult for that to be done.


TAPPER: Is that accurate? There is no detailed plan to get the vaccine from the syringe into people's arms?

SLAOUI: There are plans. There are videos that describe how to do it, because these are special conditions, given the cold chain, very cold, particularly with the Pfizer vaccine.

We haven't had a chance yet to sit down with the transition team and explain in detail everything that has been planned and been done. We look forward to that happening. We actually, I think, have a meeting planned later this week.

And I'm confident that, together, we will do the best we can to make sure the vaccines are delivered safely and effectively to all Americans.


TAPPER: When do you think we will start seeing the results from the vaccine in terms of bringing down the death toll, the hospitalization numbers?

SLAOUI: Well, the CDC and its advisory committee, ACIP, have recommended that a vaccine be used in health care workers and in long- term care facility people.

Unfortunately, about 40 percent to 50 percent of all deaths are happening in the elderly population that is in care in care homes. We should be able to have immunized that full population and the health care workers that take care of them by the end of the month of December or by the middle of the month of January.

The vaccine efficacy, as we have seen it, actually starts reasonably quickly after the first dose of vaccine, and then is further maintained with the second dose. And, therefore, I am hopeful that, by the end of the month of January, we should already see a quite a significant decrease in the mortality and severe morbidity associated in the elderly population.

There are, of course, many other people, unfortunately, that have comorbidities that live outside of care facilities, that it will take more time to immunize them.

By the month -- the middle of the month of March, we should have really covered most of the highly susceptible population, about 100 million people.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to how you described your goal when you took this job six months ago.


SLAOUI: I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. And these data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.


TAPPER: That was early data. And you were talking in May. It's December now. We are talking about 40 million doses. Most states are not getting enough in their first shipment to vaccinate the health care workers and long-term care residents.

In no way at all am I minimizing the amazing accomplishment that you and the people behind Operation Warp Speed have done, in no way at all.

But what challenges made that initial goal unachievable?

SLAOUI: Frankly, the goal was barely achievable. I described it as, it's credible, but incredibly challenging, to achieve it.

The hardest piece in it, frankly, was to identify the vaccines, do the phase three trials, and -- and scale up and do the manufacturing.

I think the phase three trials and the demonstration of efficacy have been helped, in part, unfortunately, by the strength of the pandemic. There has been so much transmission that the trials completed faster than they would have if we had less disease.

On the manufacturing side, it's turned out to be somewhat more complicated and more difficult than we planned. We probably are six or eight week later than an ideal scenario, where we had 100 million doses by the end of this year. But we are not far. And we will work very hard.

One thing I want to emphasize, if I may, which is, we are manufacturing here biological products. We are not manufacturing a watch or a little phone. This is not an engineering problem. This -- these are biological problems. They are extremely complex. And we don't control 100 percent of everything as it happens.

There will be small glitches. That's what happens all the time. We have introduced a risk management layer in our communications, saying, let's say, if we say we will have 100 million people vaccinated by the end of March or mid-March, maybe we could do that by early March.

However, there may be some batches of vaccine that don't make it on time, that are delayed, that are not right, particularly in the beginning, in the next two months or three months. So, we need to be just aware that this is very complex. We are doing the best we can, but this is not mathematics. This is biologic.

TAPPER: No one doubting that you're doing the best you can, and no one doubting -- no one reasonable doubting the achievement.

After you have been vaccinated -- let's say I get vaccinated. Will I still be able to spread the virus, even if I no longer am at risk of serious illness?

SLAOUI: We don't know the answer to that very important question.

I think, given the level of efficacy achieved, that most people will control the virus, to the extent that they will not be infectious to others. But we yet have to demonstrate that.

That work, we may have a first answer to it somewhere in February/March from the trial that we have conducted already, further analysis and some analysis in blood and things like that. But there are also -- we're discussing clinical trials where we may be able to assess whether people actually, on a daily basis, shed virus or stop shedding the virus when they have been immunized and exposed to this -- to the infection.


We don't know the answer. We need to remain cautious. We need to remain taking our precautions until a very large majority of the population is immunized.

I do think, when we get there, 70 percent, 80 percent, the virus will go down.

TAPPER: And how long do you think immunity from the vaccine will last in somebody's body? Will this be perhaps like a seasonal vaccine, such as a flu shot?

SLAOUI: So, again, only time will really demonstrate and generate the data for us to know the answer to that question.

My opinion, based on science and experience I have, is that this vaccine effectiveness will be long-lasting, because one of the hallmark of our immune system is, it has memory. It remembers everything we learned.

It learned. And when it sees the virus again, it responds to it much, much faster than when it sees it the first time. I think that process of memory is likely to prolong our protection for probably a few years, and maybe many, many years.

Maybe the most weak people, in terms of their health, the very old people, may require a booster every three or five years, but I don't think this will be a yearly vaccine.

TAPPER: A new Pew Research poll out on Friday suggests that less than half of black Americans say they will get a coronavirus vaccine if one were available today.

I want you to take a listen to 52-year-old Carmen Bailey from Cleveland, Ohio.


CARMEN BAILEY, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: To me, it's too early. We don't know any kind of side effects from them. So, I just really feel like, at this point, we're -- people that's going to take that vaccine is guinea pigs.


TAPPER: Now, this doesn't -- this kind of skepticism doesn't occur in a vacuum. The U.S. has an ugly, racist history when it comes to science and medicine and black Americans.

How specifically does Operation Warp Speed intend to address this skepticism, especially the disproportionate skepticism in the black community?

SLAOUI: Well, it's a very important and saddening situation that has been worrying us all the time. And we work very, very hard with the NIH leadership, with the surgeon general, with all the leaders that we could to engage the minority population, in particular, the African- Americans and the Latinx, to participate into the clinical trial, to understand the importance of participating through the trials, because that will be very important to helping us convey to the minority population the safety and the efficacy of these vaccines.

Nobody is being used as a guinea pig. Unfortunately, this virus is impacting the African-American population and the Hispanics two and four times more than it does to the Caucasian part of our country. And we have to stop that.

It's really very, very important that people take the time to listen to the data, listen to the people they trust that have some expertise. Please don't make your opinion outside of having listened to the data and to experts you trust.

When that happens, I feel confident you will agree to be immunized. And that can help save your life.

TAPPER: A lot of key figures -- OK, I'm sorry. I'm going to skip the next question.

One last question before we go. An FDA advisory panel is meeting on Thursday to recommend whether to approve this vaccine, yes or no. Do you expect them to recommend approval?

SLAOUI: I expect them to recommend approval, based on the data I'm aware of.

And I saw the vaccine is highly effective, the vaccine is safe. Its safety profile is comparative to that of many other vaccines that have been in use for years and decades. The manufacturing of these vaccines is very well done. The quality of manufacturing is excellent.

I, frankly, expect them to approve it very quickly. I think there are some very important ethical questions that the advisory committee is going to have to discuss, such as, for instance, should we be immunizing those people who generously participated in the clinical trials and were in the placebo group? I believe they should be immunized. But that is an important question to -- that they will have to address.

Overall, I really hope they do it quickly, and that the vaccine will be available to our population starting later this week.

TAPPER: Dr. Slaoui, thanks so much for being with us today.

And, again, thank you for the work you have done for the American people and for the world, frankly. I really appreciate it.

SLAOUI: Thank you very much. Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up: President Trump went down to Georgia looking for an election to steal. He was in a bind because he is way behind, but nothing he said was real.


The Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia is here next.

Plus: Could economic help be around the corner for millions of Americans? We have one of the top Senate negotiators in moments.


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

Lies, conspiracy theories, attacks against local officials.

President Trump gave a rambling misinformation-filled speech in Georgia Saturday night, after calling Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, earlier in the day and pressuring him to convince state legislators to convene to overturn the will of Georgia voters, according to a source familiar with the call.

Joining us now is the Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan.

Lieutenant Governor Duncan, thanks for joining us.

Let's start on this call from President Trump to Governor Kemp.

This seems not just inappropriate. It would be overturning the will of the voters. Do you think President Trump crossed a line?


LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): Well, I was not on the phone call. But I know that the governor and the president spoke yesterday.

And the governor and I have spoken often about this. And calling the General Assembly back in at this point would almost be along the lines of a solution trying to find a problem. And we're certainly not going to move the goalposts at this point in the election. We are going to continue to follow the letter of the law, which gives us a very clear- cut direction as to how to execute an election. And we're going to continue to take that on.

TAPPER: So, to be clear, the governor is not going to call a special session of the General Assembly, so the legislature can appoint its own electors for Trump, as opposed to what the voters chose, which is electors for Biden?

DUNCAN: I absolutely believe that to be the case, that the governor is not going to call us into a special session.

TAPPER: The president at his rally in Georgia last night insisted that he won your state, which is not true. He attacked your governor. He attacked the Republican secretary of state, Mr. Raffensperger, also a friend of yours. He called the election -- quote -- "rigged."

Set the record straight, if you would.

DUNCAN: Well, I think the rally last night was kind of a two-part message.

The first part was very encouraging, to listen to the president champion the conservative strategies of Senator Loeffler and Perdue and the importance of them being reelected.

The second message was concerning to me. I worry that this continuous fanning of the flames around misinformation puts us in a negative position with regards to the January 5 run-off.

The mountains of misinformation are not helping the process. They're only hurting it.

And, Jake, I worry that it's -- we're handing off a playbook to the Democrats for January 5. And, certainly, I can't think of a worse playbook to hand off over the last four or five weeks to the Democrats.

TAPPER: And it seems as though many Georgia Republicans, at least anecdotally, believe the president and his false claims about the integrity of the election. Take a listen.


QUESTION: Do you believe in the results, in what happened here in Georgia?

RALPH HORTON, GEORGIA: No, I really don't.

CHERYL CANTRELL, GEORGIA: I believe there was a little something shady going on.

MARK CLAYTON, GEORGIA: I don't know 100 percent what's going on or how they count of votes or whatever. So, it's confusing, but -- trust in anything anymore. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Obviously, again, this is not based in fact. The election was clean. You guys did a number of recounts to make sure it was clean.

What is your message to your fellow Trump supporters in Georgia? Is Joe Biden the president-elect, and was it a clean and fair election?

DUNCAN: Yes, first and foremost, Jake -- you and I have talked about this -- I voted for President Trump. I campaigned for him. And, unfortunately, he did not win the state of Georgia.

If I had a chance to spend five minutes with every single person in Georgia that doubted the election results, I think I'd be able to win their hearts over, show them the facts and figures, separate fact from fiction. But, certainly, I don't have that opportunity.

And so, yes, on January 20, Joe Biden's going to be sworn in as the 46th president. And the Constitution is still in place. This is still America. I can disagree vehemently with what I think are bad ideas, raising taxes on small businesses, or increased regulations on small businesses, or defunding or lowering the resources for police.

I still have that opportunity. All Republicans still have that opportunity.

But, as the lieutenant governor, and as a Georgian, I'm proud that we're able to look up after three recounts and watch and be able to see that this election was fair. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I don't know if any election was perfect in the history of this country.

But, certainly, it's only been nominal changes since we have had three recounts.

TAPPER: And it's worse than lack of confidence in the election. Some Georgia officials, including a voting machine technician and the secretary of state, they have been getting death threats since the election.

I want you to take a listen to top Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling a few days ago.


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed, and it's not right.

It's all gone too far.


TAPPER: Now, he called on President Trump to stop it, to stop spreading the lies.

But President Trump directly responded to him by tweeting more lies about the election, including attacks against the secretary of state, who he called an enemy of the people.

This is obviously not only just a fellow conservative Republican in Georgia, but your friend.

At a certain point, does this disgust you?

DUNCAN: Oh, absolutely it disgusts me.

I mean, we have all -- all of us in this position have got increased security around us and our families. And it's not American. It's not what democracy is all about. But it's reality right now.

And so we're going to continue to do our jobs. Governor Kemp, Brad Raffensperger and myself, all three voted and campaigned for the president. But, unfortunately, he didn't win the state of Georgia. But it doesn't change our job descriptions.

And, Jake, the troubling part to this is, I think, short term, this chaos creates some doubt around January 5, and are we going to get enough Republicans to show up to vote? But, longer term, I think it potentially hurts our message as we try to figure out, where do we go from here as a Republican Party?


Where do we go with a GOP 2.0, right? How do we recognize the wins that President Trump had for us over the last four years? And how do we look forward about how do we message better, right? We have got to find a platform more than 280 characters to message.

We have also got to tackle some of these big issues, right? Immigration reform. Here's an opportunity. Build the wall is a great project name, but it's not necessarily a policy.

As we talk about health care, for decades, health care has been decided in partisan corners. Americans who need health care and need access to health care don't care about partisan corners when they're in the emergency room or when they're trying to make a payment at the end of the month. They want real results.

And I think that's where the Republican Party is going to go from this point on.

TAPPER: Speaking of health care, CDC guidelines say to avoid crowds, to social distance, to wear masks.

Most people at the president's rally yesterday did not appear to be abiding by any of those protocols. Do you have just health concerns about the president holding a large rally in your state, as he did last night, in the middle of the pandemic getting even worse?

DUNCAN: Well, certainly, there's an ongoing crisis here with the pandemic.

Certainly, we continue to watch the numbers here in Georgia. I want to I want to thank Governor Kemp personally for his attention to detail the last nine months. This has been a very tough time for us in Georgia on a number of fronts.

But Brian Kemp has continued to balance lives and livelihoods in a responsible manner. Certainly proud of his efforts and certainly glad to be able to go to work with him every day and tackle these challenges we have got in front of us.

TAPPER: President-elect Biden told me in an interview on Thursday that, on Inauguration Day, I believe he said, he was going to ask the American people for 100 days of wearing a mask to bring down the spread.

Do you think that's a good idea? Will you encourage people to follow it?

DUNCAN: Well, I certainly wear my mask. Our family does. I think it's absolutely a great step in the right direction.

Mandating it in every single nook and cranny maybe doesn't fit reality. But, certainly, I would encourage folks to wear their masks everywhere they go, and especially when they're in any sort of crowds.

Look, we have got some tough times in front of us. We're watching infection rates climb based on a number of variables, right, the time of year, just the cycle of a virus. And, certainly, we have got a vaccine on the way, but that's not a magic bullet day one.

We have got a process to go through, and certainly want to be as responsible as we can, so that folks can go to work and provide for their families and also be safe.

TAPPER: Lieutenant Governor Duncan, thanks again for joining us today. Always good to have you on the show.

DUNCAN: Absolutely. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: With millions of Americans and their children literally hungry for help from the government, there is new hope for a stimulus bill deal. But what's in it for you?

Key negotiator Senator Mark Warner of Virginia will join us.



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

With the pandemic exploding and job growth slowing considerably, Congress gets back to work tomorrow, with momentum building for a new $908 billion stimulus package.

It could be the last chance this year to help the millions of Americans who have not suffered like this since the Great Depression.

Joining us now is someone playing a critical leadership role in these bipartisan negotiations, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of the great Commonwealth of Virginia.

Senator Warner, you have been a critical part of this team negotiating the $908 billion deal. President-elect Biden told me he thinks it should pass. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it just a starting point for further negotiations.

Are Schumer and Pelosi at this point hindering your ability to get this deal done?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Well, Jake, this is a compromise.

There's been a group of eight of us -- it's grown to 10 -- that have worked over the last two weeks every day, except for Thanksgiving. We're going to have another multihour call today.

For those of us who are Democrats, we would have preferred a bigger plan. For my Republican colleagues, they would have liked the plan that Mitchell McConnell put out at about $500 billion. This is a compromise. Neither side is going to get the full amount or all the component parts that they wanted.

But, as you pointed out, with the economy weakening, with 200,000 additional cases of the virus yesterday, and with so many of the these initiatives from the first CARES package running out as soon as the day after Christmas, it would be what I called stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn't act.

And we are going to keep at it. I think $908 billion for a targeted four-month relief plan, for a bridge to a Biden administration, I think this is the direction that Congress needs to move in.

TAPPER: In October, the White House reportedly offered Congress a $1.8 trillion deal, but Democratic leaders said no. They wanted $2.2 trillion dollar deal.

Now you're looking at about half of what the White House offered. And we don't even know if you can get that passed. It seems as though the negotiating strategy of the Democratic leaders, Schumer and Pelosi, blew up in their face, to the detriment of the American people.

WARNER: Well, I will say this.

A number of my Republican colleagues dismissed those efforts by the president right before the election because they thought he was trying to, in a sense, buy a win before the election. There's lots of what- ifs, what we should have done, could have done.

Where we are right now, in early December, the clock is ticking. We have got to make sure we pass legislation to make sure that government continues to be funded, a defense authorization bill, and I think potentially the most critical component, this $908 billion that will give targeted relief for the unemployed, for people in food insecurity, rental assistance, small businesses that have run out of their PPP funds, would put additional funds particularly to those minority businesses that have been extraordinarily hard-hit. [09:35:00]

We put additional assistance in finally for broadband, which we all know is an economic necessity, additional dollars around the vaccine distribution, assistance for hospitals.

I think we have got the categories. And I think we have got the top- line numbers done. We are working right now on language, so that we can have as early as tomorrow a piece of legislation.

And, again, if there are folks on either end of the spectrum that says it's too much or they don't want to go forward, we have just got to push through. And I think common sense may this time win out.

TAPPER: Well, as you know, the legislation you're working on, as of now, does not provide direct payments to Americans. And it does include some sort of liability protections for companies.

Senator Bernie Sanders said, because of that, he can't vote for it. He said -- quote -- "This proposal provides 100 percent legal immunity to corporations whose irresponsibility have led to the deaths of hundreds of workers. It would continue to provide a get-out-of-jail-free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk" -- unquote.

What's your response to Senator Sanders?

WARNER: My response is, Senator Sanders, respectfully, is not involved in these negotiations. And his characterization is just not accurate.

We are looking at trying to give some level of a time-out to allow states, if they want to put in place standards we have already, for example, in Virginia, put in COVID standards. That part of the discussion is vigorous and ongoing.

And those who want the direct stimulus checks, that will be something that a president-elect Biden will grapple with. We are looking at a four-month emergency relief package.

And I would say to any politician in either party, they are going out and tell the tens of millions of unemployed workers who lose their unemployment check on the day after Christmas, people that will be kicked out of their apartments without rental assistance come January 1, the small businesses, the restaurants who have been trying to struggle through, as the weather gets colder, won't be able to do as much outside dining, that somehow $908 billion, $908 billion, bigger than the whole TARP package, is not enough for a four-month emergency extension?

I'd like to see somebody make that case to people, who, if we don't act, will be put in harm's way.

TAPPER: Your deal yet does not have buy-in from President Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Is McConnell going to be willing to let there be a vote on this? WARNER: Well, that is -- again, when you put a bipartisan group

together, you're going to end up taking incoming from both sides. I think that is what we signed up for.

But I -- again, the same thing I said to -- respectfully to Senator Sanders, I'd say to Leader McConnell. Do you really want to send us home without even a vote on something that I have pretty high assurance, think would get way beyond 60 votes?

The number of Republican senators, both publicly and privately, who have said, hey, you guys have done the right thing, we will be there, goes up every day. And I think, again, there are of reports of Republican senators who are talking to President Trump about this issue.

I think we will get there. I think we may have to go through a few more days of drama. We are going to keep our head down, working on getting the product out, let the American people weigh in, let all of our colleagues weigh in. And I think it will be a great bridge to the Biden administration.

TAPPER: Senator, before you go, I want to ask you.

President Trump is reportedly considering issuing a wave of preemptive pardons for family members and allies like Rudy Giuliani, potentially even a self-pardon.

Do you think that those pardons are appropriate? Do you think they would be legal?

WARNER: I don't think they are appropriate at all.

This individual, Mr. Trump, has flaunted the law on a continuous -- continual basis. I'm like, though, Joe Biden. Whatever happens on a going-forward basis, that ought to be done by a Justice Department decision. I'm not going to weigh in. And whatever is going to happen in New York will happen or not.

I think we are ready to move beyond Donald Trump, whether his flaunting of the laws, whether his willingness to undermine democracy. I know we talked off air, Jake. I actually think the American public stepped up and voted in record numbers. There was not foreign interference.

We have seen election officials, like the lieutenant governor in Georgia and across the country, do their job. We have not seen, thank God, the potential of violence both before the election and after the election. We didn't see Trump supporters on Election Day -- give them credit as well -- show up in ways to intimidate voters.

I think the American democracy came through this with flying colors, with the exception of a -- frankly, a sore loser in Donald Trump.


TAPPER: All right, Senator Mark Warner from the great Commonwealth of Virginia, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it, as always.

WARNER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Key groups of Americans that were vital to Joe Biden getting elected are now worried their voices will not be heard sufficiently in his Cabinet. Will it be as diverse a Cabinet as Biden promised?

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Karen Bass, joins me next.


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

While vice president-elect Kamala Harris is pulling something of a trifecta when it comes to breaking glass ceilings, President-elect Biden is facing growing pressure from the civil rights organization the NAACP and other groups who are unhappy that more minorities have yet to be put into high-profile Cabinet positions.

President-elect Biden on Friday would not commit to nominating a person of color for two of the top shelves in his Cabinet, defense secretary or attorney general.

Joining us now is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Karen Bass of California.

Congresswoman, good to see you again.

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Thank you.

TAPPER: House Majority Whip James Clyburn told CNN -- quote -- "I can think of at least 10 black folks that qualify for every single one" -- unquote -- of the Cabinet positions Biden has filled so far.

Are you satisfied with the number of black voices in Biden's Cabinet?

BASS: Well, I certainly know that the decisions haven't been finished. There's many more seats to fill. And so I'm optimistic.

You should know that the Congressional Black Caucus, we have a special task force that is working and meeting with the administration on a weekly basis. And so I was very excited to see Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield's appointee and Cecilia Rouse.


But I do believe there's many more positions. And I certainly hope to see more African-Americans in those positions at the highest level.

TAPPER: So far, Biden has filled two of the so-called big four Cabinet positions, Antony Blinken for secretary of state, Janet Yellen as treasure secretary. Both of them are white.

He has yet to pick his attorney general or defense secretary, which are the other two positions of the big four. Do you think he needs to nominate a black American for at least one of those roles?

BASS: Yes, I think it would be great if he did.

And for defense secretary, there's two individuals that the Congressional Black Caucus would like to put forward, Lloyd Austin and Jeh Johnson, and I think that those two positions, and we will see what happens in other positions as well.

TAPPER: A Pew Research poll released this week found only 42 percent of black Americans said that they would definitely or probably get the coronavirus vaccine.

I want to ask you, because not only are you an American leader, but you're a former physician's assistant.

BASS: Right.

TAPPER: What is your message to skeptics? And what needs to be done specifically to ensure that minority communities -- they have been hit harder than white communities by this pandemic. What needs to be done to make sure they do get vaccinated?

BASS: Well, first of all, it's critical that African-Americans and other communities of color participate in the clinical trials.

The other things -- and I think that this applies to the country as a whole because of the lack of leadership we have had from day one on the virus -- there needs to be a serious public education campaign, because the messages from the White House up until this day is diminishing the significance of the virus.

And so I think massive public education is needed. But it's also important that trusted messengers speak.

And so one of the things that the Congressional Black Caucus worked on with our other caucuses, the Latino, the Asian, and the Native American caucuses, we want to have concentrated, focused intervention in our communities because of the disproportionate impact.

And that involves testing, tracing, treatment, and vaccine preparation. And so I hope that that proposal that we have been working on makes it in the package that I believe we will vote on this week.

TAPPER: There is this education campaign, but it features Dr. Fauci as the prominent voice.

And I'm wondering if you think there are other people that might be more effective in conveying messages to the black community, or if Dr. Fauci is sufficient.

BASS: Well, first of all, I think Dr. Fauci is great.

But, no, there needs to be African-American voices that specifically reach out to the black community. And we are involved in that now. Polling was done. And it showed that -- not that it would be surprising, but that African-Americans will pay attention to black doctors if they give that message.

You mentioned earlier about the poor history between the medical profession and the black community, which is true. People often think of Tuskegee, but that mistreatment has carried on until this day, and not just the black community.

But you know, just a couple of months ago, there were the stories about, in the detention centers for immigrants, inappropriate gynecological surgeries. And so that kind of stuff really spreads in communities. And because we could not trust the president, it's not surprising that people would doubt the vaccine.

He -- you know, he was trying to rush it. So, the first concern was whether or not they would adhere to scientific protocols, which I believe they have done. And so we have to instill confidence. That's why there needs to be a public education campaign. And trusted messengers are absolutely key.

TAPPER: The virus is getting worse.

BASS: Right.

TAPPER: The pandemic is spreading. The death rate is higher. We broke a record, I think, on Thursday in the United States, hospitalizations, new cases.

While this is going on, and while health officials and doctors and nurses and front-line workers are struggling to deal with this, we have seen a number of top California officials, Democrats, including Governor Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, disregarding their own coronavirus restrictions, even as they told your fellow Californians to do the opposite.

Does that kind of behavior undermine their credibility as they try to prevent the virus from spiraling out of control in California?

BASS: Well, I certainly think those were unfortunate mistakes. And each of those elected officials have held themselves accountable and apologized.

But I don't think that is -- that is sufficient in terms of a mixed message. I think that we have to be much stronger in California and the rest of the country in really putting out accurate public health information.

You know, if this had been done in the first place, I don't believe that we would be approaching a holiday season with over 270,000 lives that have been lost. And my heart goes out to all of those families that have to go through the holidays with empty chairs.


TAPPER: There won't be any black female members of the U.S. Senate once vice president-elect Harris resigns her seat in January.

Does Governor Newsom need to appoint a black woman to replace her? BASS: Well, I would absolutely like to see Governor Newsom do that.

You know, as it will stand, there will be one African-American Democrat, period, two black senators, but Cory Booker will be the only black Democrat.

And Kamala Harris was the second woman in U.S. history, second African-American woman. And, certainly, there is going to be a void if she is not replaced with an African-American woman.

TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Bass, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

TAPPER: To be perfectly candid, one of the great challenges in covering the Trump era has been listening to public figures telling stark lies and trying to discern whether the individual is cynically purposefully misrepresenting the truth or is misinformed and possibly incapable of understanding the facts involved or possibly suffering from some sort of psychological issue.

The president delivered a speech on video this week that he billed as the most important speech he's ever made and what followed was 46 minutes of lies and conspiracy theories. The same evidence-free claims of election fraud that have resulted in the Trump legal team and their allies, the gang that couldn't sue straight, having more than 30 court cases rejected or dropped as of now.

On Friday evening alone courts in five different battleground states, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin, five different states slapped down efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election results.

A judge in Maricopa County, Arizona wrote quote, "The Court finds no misconduct, no fraud, and no effect on the outcome of the election."

So the new strategy, because they are failing in the courts, is pushing governors and state legislatures to disenfranchise millions of legal American voters in states that president-elect Biden won and sending Trump supporters to the Electoral College to steal the election. Based on the same deranged claims.

Here's one Trump witness in Michigan with Rudy Giuliani this week telling a story that a judge had already found, quote, "simply not credible." Here she is attacking a Republican state legislator.


REPRESENTATIVE STEVEN JOHNSON, (R-MI): My question is why -- we're not seeing the poll book off by 30,000 votes. That's not the case.

MELISSA CARONE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN STAR WITNESS: What did you guys do? Take it and do something crazy to it?

JOHNSON: I am just saying the numbers are not off by 30,000 votes. So --

CARONE: I know what I saw.

JOHNSON: -- when you say that they're filling in --

CARONE: I know what I saw, and I signed something saying that if I'm wrong, I can go to prison. Did you?


TAPPER: President Trump just praised that witness on Twitter. And, frankly, there are millions of Americans being misled by the president and his sycophants on Capitol Hill and in MAGA media that these clownish discredited efforts are real and legitimate and now some of those folks who have been misled are threatening violence against these officials who have been honestly running the elections.

Take a listen to Republican State Election Official Gabriel Sterling with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA ELECTION IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: Someone is going to get hurt. Someone's going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed, and it's not right.


TAPPER: It isn't. None of this is acceptable. But to be frank, President Trump has been pushing lies and conspiracy theories for years that have made life more dangerous for all kinds of Americans.

He (inaudible) against Blacks and Latinos and Muslims and Jews and Asian Americans, against women, against judges, against Democrats, against Republicans who disagreed with him, against journalists, against entertainers. This did not just start on November 3rd.

It turns out when a major political party coddles and enables and supports public figures who lie rapaciously and incessantly and also tolerate threats against those who challenge those lies, that storm of lies and indecency is strengthened and unleashed and it cannot be controlled. And ultimately the reason cynicism or ignorance or illness does not matter as much as that result.

Look, in his racist campaign against immigrants President Trump would often read the lyrics of a song that told the story of a tender hearted woman who finds a half-frozen snake and nurses it back to health only to fall victim to the snake's predatory nature.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, shut up, silly woman, said the reptile with a grin. You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [09:55:00]

TAPPER: As Republican officials deal with these horrors of a president whose hideous lies are putting their election hopes in Georgia at risk, and more importantly, tragically, unacceptably, horrifyingly, even putting lives at risk, it has to be asked, did you not know who this man was when you took him in?

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.