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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

U.S. Approaches Single-Day High In COVID-19 Deaths; Sources Say Expect Flurry Of Pardons Before Trump Leaves Office; Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); "Washington Post:" Trump Livid At Barr For Election Comments; Source Suggests He Could Fire Attorney General; Ivanka Trump Sits For Deposition Involving Accusations Of Misuse Of Inaugural Funds. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 2, 2020 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OK, both parties have a lot of internal strife to deal with. Thank you very much, Manu Raju.

And thanks very much to all of you. "AC360" starts now.

[20:00:10]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. There is news tonight from two worlds. One real and one not. There are headlines from both. There is the actual world we are all living in and there's the world the President of the United States in the waning and declining days of his administration has created for himself.

And yes, he made big news in his own private world today and is poised to make more, but we begin tonight with real news in the real world.

In the real world, even with vaccines almost here, we are on the verge of recording more deaths in a single day than at any time in the entire pandemic. Nearly 2,600 Americans have died today so far. That number will rise throughout the night, which follows nearly 2,600 deaths reported yesterday in total and puts the death toll that much closer to 300,000.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID, that, too is a record, more than 100,000, which only signals more lives will be lost in the days and weeks ahead. That is the lead story in the real world.

And this is what the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we are now facing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The most difficult time in the public health history of this nation. Now according to Dr. Redfield today, the death toll could reach quote, "close to 450,000 by February." Four hundred and fifty thousand human lives in this country, lost, he warns unless a large percentage of Americans follow precautions like mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding travel and congregate settings.

Six hundred and seventy-five thousand Americans died in the so-called Spanish flu pandemic. We may reach 450,000 by February according Dr. Redfield. At today's briefing, another senior C.D.C. official put it bluntly, the best way he said to protect yourself and others is to postpone travel and stay at home. That's tonight's top story here in the real world, the one we are living and dying in.

In the President's world, meanwhile, where the White House has a string of indoor celebrations ahead and which is on its third or fourth COVID outbreak depending on how you count, here is the reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: The C.D.C. Director today is said that the next few months could be among the worst public health months in American history. I wonder does the White House -- is it setting a good example for the public with the White House holding in person holiday parties at a time when the C.D.C. and other organizations are asking Americans to forego those kinds of celebrations for their own safety?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, so you know if you can loot businesses, burn down buildings and engage in protest, you can also go to a Christmas party. You can celebrate the Holiday of Christmas. You can do it responsibly, which is why the East Wing has noted that they will have a smaller guest list. Masks are going to be available. Social distancing is going to be encouraged. Hand sanitizing stations among other measures, but we will engage in the celebration of Christmas and there will be a Hanukkah celebration as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: She left the briefing room, a voice was heard to say, "You crushed it, Kayleigh." It was her husband. He'd been there the entire time in the cramped space. By the way not wearing a mask even though a "New York Times" photographer pointed out he was breaking the rules, which were set up because in the real world, Kayleigh McEnany and several members of the press have caught the coronavirus.

But hey, look, masks, social distancing. It's also real world, so public health, so best practices. Who needs that? Apparently not the radiologist herd immunity guy -- remember him -- he already quit.

Keeping them honest, the 77 million Americans who voted for the President believe what he says could stand to see something beyond masks are going to be available from Kayleigh McEnany and the President. It might save their lives by the tens of thousands or save the ones they love.

And speaking of voting, here's another headline from the real world from Georgia's Republican Secretary of State talking about the soon to be completed second recount there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: It looks like Vice President Biden will be carrying Georgia and he is our President- elect. We have seen no substantial changes to the results from any county so far, and that's what we expected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He went on to say, quote, "We wish that our guy would have won the election, but it doesn't look like our guy has won the election." He also criticized the President for using quote "exactly the kind of language that is at the base of a growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs."

Now that is a real-world Republican, a real world Trump supporter, in fact almost pleading with the president not to do or say things that could get people hurt or killed. Tonight in the previous hour, Erin Burnett showed his deputy in charge of voting systems and video of the President's former campaign attorney, Sidney Powell spewing conspiracy theories about the election. Here's his reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATIONS MANAGER: The reality is, he's not going to win Georgia. He's not going to win Wisconsin. He's not going to win Michigan. He's not going to win Pennsylvania.

He has the right to go to the courts, which they are doing. They are filing an official election challenge tomorrow. Everybody has due process.

This stuff, what you just showed? It's ridiculous and unnecessary, and frankly, at this point, dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:05:17]

COOPER: Just like his boss, that man is a Republican, he voted for the President and like his boss, he understands reality. He is likely understanding a whole new reality as well and that reality is that this President who he supported has turned on him just as some of the President's orbit are turning on Bill Barr.

It doesn't matter how much anyone prostrated themselves before Donald Trump, he will turn on them in a second if it suits his interests.

The President meantime is not interested in reality in the least. He released a 46-minute video and we are showing precisely none of it because it peddles the same lies that he and his team had been peddling since this election.

In it, he continues to signal out Georgia and the Republican officials there. Again in the real world, they voted for him. In the real world, there are two Senate runoffs happening there and voters are being told by the President and his supporters that the voting system is rigged. Why vote?

In the real world, Republicans need those two seats to control the Senate. Yet in the fantasy world, ranting of the President may put that in jeopardy. That is how bad crap crazy this is.

And many Republicans senators continue to play along. The Vice President today sworn Mark Kelly, Arizona's newest Democratic senator meaning, I guess that he accepts that Kelly won the race there. Yet, when asked by reporters, whether he accepts the presidential election results, he ignored the questions.

To his credit, he did not spend 46 minutes ranting about how the whole thing was rigged, but hardly a profile encouraged nevertheless, which to be fair, acknowledging reality should not really be or take a profile encourage. It's just reality.

And also, to be fair, it's not like the President doesn't selectively do the same. He acknowledges he is short of cash, so he is fundraising like crazy in such a way as to be able to put money into his own pocket. People think it's going to his battle for the election, it is not. He can do whatever he wants with it unless you donate more than $5,000.00.

He acknowledges that he and the people around him face legal jeopardy. So is said to be weighing a lot of pardons including for his kids. He knows his influence is fading, so he is floating the possibility of running again in 2024. But he does not acknowledge that the American people voted him out of office, or that a record number of Americans are dying.

Those are realities, sadly for the country, they are not his realities.

Our Jim Acosta begins our coverage from the White House. So, the staggering pandemic numbers yet again tonight, Kayleigh McEnany earlier today downplaying the threat. What is the mindset of the White House right now? I mean, are they -- is this just like "Westworld" of any man for himself at this point?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty unreal, to borrow some of the language you're using tonight, Anderson. Let me take you to the White House briefing that we saw earlier today.

Kayleigh McEnany, the Press Secretary came into the briefing room, started to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy on the coronavirus and then proceeded to tell the American people that they need to wear a mask to stay safe during this pandemic, which is great advice if it weren't for the fact that they've been putting on a clinic in mask avoidance over the last six or seven months of this pandemic since it began essentially.

And you know, beyond that McEnany went on to say, you know, on the subject of a coronavirus vaccine that it should be called the Trump vaccine. Putting aside the fact that, you know, the Press Secretary was essentially comparing the President to a virus in saying that, you know, the President has been out to lunch on the coronavirus pandemic.

He was not participating in the taskforce meeting that occurred earlier this week. He doesn't participate by and large in any of the taskforce meetings that occur, but yet he wants his name branded on this vaccine and I will tell you, Anderson, in talking to Trump advisers since the election, the same thing comes up again and again as to why these advisers say the President lost this election. It was his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

And so, you know, the Press Secretary can accuse others of hypocrisy, but they are bleeding hypocrisy over here at a very deadly time during this pandemic.

COOPER: And I understand you have some new reporting tonight and expectations for possible presidential pardons.

ACOSTA: That's right, I talked to a source close to the White House who is close to the discussions on this and this source said that the public should expect a flurry -- that was the word used by the source -- a flurry of pardons before President Trump leaves office.

This source went on to say that among the President's advisers, there is a feeling that yes, he can legally pardon members of his family people like Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and that legally, this adviser said, other advisers feel that yes, the President could go ahead and pardon himself. Never mind the fact that constitutional scholars say that is not constitutional.

The President appears to be in a mood to try it out and his advisers seem to be supporting him at this point -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. More now on all of that and the very real need that so many Americans have going into what could be a grim holiday season. Joining us is Vermont Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, thanks for being with us.

The President dangling a 2024 run out there. You've said that the Republican Party has, quote, "virtually collapsed and become a cult." If President Trump has a hold on the party for the next four years, does -- is there any hope of bipartisanship for getting stuff done?

[20:10:28]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, it's hard to say, Anderson, but what is unbelievably disappointing is that when you have a President who is working overtime, to sabotage and destroy American democracy that you don't have more than a handful of Republicans will have the guts to say, yes, Joe Biden is president. It was a fair election and let's go on.

The degree to which they are intimidated and frightened by this President is unbelievable and it makes me see the Republican Party today as kind of a cult of the individual, that individual being Donald Trump.

COOPER: I mean, the best case scenario for Democrats is to gain control of the Senate with a 50/50 split with Vice President Harris then casting the tie breaking vote. They would both need to win both Georgia runoffs, obviously for that to happen. If they don't pull off those victories what does it mean for Democrats in terms of actually getting things done during this administration? Obviously, Democrats and you have -- you know, Joe Biden have been talking about a lot of big ideas.

SANDERS: I think the American people right now want a President who understands that the times we are living in, Anderson, are probably more dangerous than in any time since when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1932.

So you've got the COVID pandemic, which has to be dealt. You've got an economic collapse, millions of people tonight are struggling to put food on the table. You've got millions and millions of people who have lost their healthcare. They are unemployed.

All the while we're seeing a massive increase in income and wealth inequality. And I think what the American people want is for Joe Biden to get out there and say, you know what, we've got a crisis, and I am going to act decisively. I'm going to use my Executive Orders when I can, and if not, I will demand the Congress raise the minimum wage to a living wage.

I'm going to demand that workers and women get equal pay for equal work, that we cover all people during this pandemic with healthcare, and that we lower the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. We deal with the racism within our Criminal Justice System. We deal with immigration reform.

I believe that that is what the American people want, and I believe we will succeed. Obviously, it will be easier if we win those two seats in Georgia, much easier. But even not, I think that is an agenda that the working people of this country want who are today in worse shape economically than any time since the Great Depression.

COOPER: A lot of what you're saying, though, depends on you know, I remember talking to you in the past, and then I don't want to misquote you, but just -- I remember you're saying that, you know, to get some of these things accomplished requires not only an outpouring at the ballot box, but also an ongoing outpouring of people being involved.

SANDERS: That's right.

COOPER: And there's a lot of folks, and I'm wondering if you get this sense, who are sort of exhausted and, you know, they feel Joe Biden got elected, Democrats, and now, maybe you're taking their foot off the gas pedal?

SANDERS: Well, we can't afford to do that. And I know that there are incredible grassroots organizations. We're working in Georgia. We are working all over this country, bringing working people together to demand that we create an economy that works for all of us, and not just the few.

And I think that if you had a President Biden, and a Vice President Harris going to Kentucky and asking the workers there, whether they are satisfied with a $7.25 an hour minimum wage, you know what? I think Mitch McConnell may start to move. And I think that's true for Republican senators all over the country.

The truth is that today, people are hurting in a way that we have not hurt for generations. People want action and I think if the Biden administration is strong and forceful and comes out with a list of proposals and the American people are saying, yes, that's what we need. Of course, we should cut off healthcare for all, of course, we got to stop being ripped off by the drug companies who charge us 10 times more for insulin than they do in Canada. Let's go, Joe. Let's do it.

And we can rally the American people even if we don't control the Senate, I think we can get a hell of a lot done.

COOPER: Just in terms of the -- I want to ask you where you see stimulus negotiations heading right now? Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer said the bipartisan proposal made yesterday should be used as a basis for talks. Do you think they'll actually be able to compromise -- or able to compromise with McConnell and get something done?

[20:15:05]

SANDERS: Well, I think in all due respect to Leader McConnell, what he brought -- his proposal is literally laughable. He doesn't have a nickel for unemployment supplements we provided in the past at least $600.00 a week. He doesn't have a penny. All over this country, people are worried about being evicted. There's no $1,200.00 check for those people.

So I think his proposal is literally laughable. I think the other proposal brought forth may be a start for discussions. But we've got to go a lot further than what that proposal now entails. For example, that proposal does not have the $1,200.00, I would do $2,000.00 a month stimulus check. But it's a start. But we've got to build on that.

COOPER: The last time you and I spoke, you said that the progressive movement deserves a seat at the table in the Biden administration. You've since said you'd accept the job of the Labor Secretary if President-elect Biden asked you to join the Cabinet. I want to play with Biden told the NBC last week when he was asked if he talked to you or Senator Elizabeth Warren about Cabinet positions. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've talked to them, look, as I said, we already have significant representation among progressives in our administration, but there's nothing really off the table. But one thing is really critical. Taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House, and particularly a person of consequence is really a difficult decision that would have to be made.

I have a very ambitious, very progressive agenda and it's going to take really strong leaders in the House and Senate to get it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What's your response to that?

SANDERS: Well, my response on that -- two responses. Number one, I think the progressive movement in America probably constitutes, you know, 35 to 40 percent of the Democratic Party. And I absolutely believe that those progressive, that movement deserves representation in the Biden Cabinet.

On a personal level, look, I am a very happy U.S. Senator, from the Great State of Vermont. If Democrats gain control of the Senate, I will be a chairman of a very important committee, so I'm content where I am. But I do believe that the progressive movement deserves strong representation, and as earned, a strong representation in the Biden Cabinet so that we can go forward and fight for the needs of our working class and the middle class today that are really hurting.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, appreciate your time.

SANDERS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Just ahead for us tonight, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and a member of the President-elect's coronavirus team, Dr. Celine Gounder about the grim day we're having, the dark months ahead and possible light at the end of it all.

Later, special counsel Robert Mueller's Deputy joins us to talk pardons, the President and the law, also breaking news, late reporting, the possibility the President is getting ready to fire the Attorney General.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:33]

COOPER: I want to repeat and expand on our breaking pandemic news tonight. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have soared beyond the hundred thousand mark. That's not happened in the span of this pandemic before tonight.

We learned that less than an hour ago, right after we got those numbers, the American Ambulance Association reported that the nation's 911 emergency system is now at what they call a quote, "breaking point."

Especially troubling the group says is a third surge of the virus in the Midwest and West, and today, deaths because of the virus have surpassed 2,500 approaching the high point of COVID death toll of 2,603 last April 15th.

Against this backdrop, the United Kingdom says it'll begin inoculating tens of thousands of people with the Pfizer vaccine next week. In this country, the Chief of Operation Warp Speed says as many as 100 million Americans could be vaccinated by February.

Joining me now Dr. Celine Gounder, who is a member of President-elect Biden's Coronavirus Taskforce and CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Gounder, so the country is set to pass the largest single day number of deaths since the pandemic began. Assuming as it will continue over the next few hours, the death toll will continue to rise. What is the path forward right now aside from just you know, hunkering down, being as prudent as possible until vaccines start to become widely available.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN'S CORONAVIRUS TASKFORCE: Well, I think you just answered it right there, Anderson. I do think we really do need to be patient. It's going to be a while yet before the average American citizen has access to a vaccine. And in the meantime, the same measures we've been talking about for months, the masks, the social distancing, the ventilation, spending time around other people outdoors as opposed to indoors, those are still our best tools here.

And unfortunately, hospitals are getting overrun and overwhelmed and that's precisely the situation in which the mortality rate, the death toll spikes. We are going to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations and ICU stays and deaths in the next couple of weeks. But there's a lot that we can do over the upcoming holidays that maybe we didn't do over Thanksgiving to prevent more of that from happening.

COOPER: Sanjay, when you hear the American Ambulance Association saying that the 911 emergency system is at a breaking point, struggling to stay together, what do you make of that? I mean, have you heard that kind of a statement before? And what does that actually -- what's the result of that? What would that mean?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we're used to be able to have these sorts of resources in this country, right, you call 911 and you get that kind of resource, an ambulance shows up. I mean, the idea that in the United States, you could run into a situation because they're at a breaking point with as much demand as there is that you know, you may not be able to get the types of services that we count on in this country.

What do I think? I think, you know, I hear about field hospitals in Rhode Island, the highest death rates we've seen overall in Wisconsin and California thinking about going into stay-at-home mode, again; worried about overwhelming their ICUs by Christmas Eve. It's sort of the boiling frog at this point.

You know, we've been reporting on it for so long, I think we'd become a little bit inured to it.

The ambulance thing is concerning, obviously, maybe that's the sort of thing that gets people's attention because pick up the phone, you call somebody and they can't come get you. That's when you realize that it's turned into a real disaster.

COOPER: Yes, and Dr. Gounder, I mean, we just crossed 100,000 current COVID-19 hospitalizations which is just a shocking number of Americans who are right now fighting for their lives in hospitals around this country. You're on the Biden COVID transition team. Do you have a sense of what you're going to be inheriting in terms of hospital capacity?

[20:25:13]

GOUNDER: Well, I think our biggest challenge, frankly, is healthcare workers. Back in the spring in March, April into May, in New York City, when we were dealing with the worst of the surge here, we were able to bring in healthcare workers from all over the country to help us out. A lot of the doctors and nurses that I was talking to in our ICU were from Texas. And that's just not going to be an option if the entire country is dealing with a surge. And the fact is, you can't employ the Defense Production Act for healthcare workers that they take years to train.

COOPER: What should we take away from the fact, Sanjay that U.K. has now approved the Pfizer vaccine?

GUPTA: I think it's a good sign. I mean, you know, the data that we were looking at, that we kept talking about for some time, mostly, had just come from the company, you know, talking about 90 percent efficacy and things like that. You know, I didn't have any reason to doubt it. But it's nice to have now a regulatory authority like the U.K. that has said, look, no red flags here, at least. We're probably going to have the same process sort of transpire in this country.

I think we get a week to sort of see how things go in the U.K. because there's -- you know, there's going to be a lot of challenges even after the authorization in terms of distribution. I think, you know, how does it go over there? Maybe there are some lessons to be learned.

So overall, I think it is good news for the world -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Dr. Gounder, when you look at the approval process and roll out in the U.K., what we're planning to do in this country are -- what is the comparison like? And what will you be able to learn from that process?

GOUNDER: Well, I think it's really important to remember, this is not a race, and the F.D.A. is the preeminent drug safety organization in the world, and so we really do not want them to cut corners. We want them to take or follow their normal processes in this approval process so that Americans can feel that this is truly a safe and effective vaccine because it's not helpful to have vaccine on the shelf. What you want is for people to be willing to get vaccinated to line up for vaccines.

COOPER: Sanjay, the Chief Adviser to Operation Warp Speed said that 100 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of February. Does that seem like a realistic number? And does that mean, you think both vaccines if they have to take a double dose? GUPTA: Yes, well, so I talked to him about that. And if you start to

do the math, and you say 100 million by the end of January-February, it would probably mean that other vaccines have come online. I think he is sort of looking at the fact that Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, as well as AstraZeneca are likely to apply for Emergency Use Authorization in January. We'll see.

I mean, you know, we don't even have one vaccine yet that is emergency authorized, although it looks very favorable. But I think when you start to look at the doses, you're right, it is two doses per person for these two front runner vaccines. If you add in more vaccines, that's when you may be able to get to that number.

But I think the other part of your question, you know, we've been presenting a lot of these numbers going through the models, and it really does count on many things going right, not the least of which you're dealing with the situation where you have manufactured vaccines almost immediately being distributed.

Typically, you have some sort of stock supply. We're not really going to have that luxury. So for example, when the Pfizer vaccine starts actually being used, they are probably just under seven million doses here. Three million more doses a week. But you know, the point is you've got to keep up. You get a bad batch, you may get behind. You may not be able to meet a certain state's demand, so those are all considerations going into January and February.

COOPER: Sanjay, I appreciate it. Dr. Gounder as well. Thanks so much.

Quick reminder with vaccines on the horizon, please join Sanjay and me at 9:00 p.m. Friday for a new Coronavirus Town Hall: The Vaccines.

We have more breaking news coming up. Reporting from "The Washington Post" tonight that President Trump is considering firing Attorney General Bill Barr. A reporter will break the story.

Plus a conversation with Watergate legend, Carl Bernstein and Andrew Weissmann, a member of the Mueller team.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:33:38]

COOPER: There's breaking news in his speech the presidency the mind as much as the suit of the Republic. It just hit the Washington Post the headline reads, Trump is set to be livid at Barr with one official suggesting termination possible. CNN political analyst Josh Dawsey shares the byline. He joins us now by phone.

Josh, So how angry is President Trump and Attorney General Barr?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey Anderson. The President's angry with Attorney General Barr for two reasons. He was described as livid by a couple of officials in the White House to us today. One, that AG Barr came out and directly contradicted him on voter fraud and said that they had done, you know, investigations, they had looked into matters across the country and not found any sort of substantive voter fraud evidence that would overturn the election.

And two, because that Barr did not deliver on the dorm report (ph). The President saw that dorm report as a cudgel against the Mueller investigation that he wanted delivered before November 3rd, Election Day.

And Barr, even though he is appointed out of the special counsel to continue looking into that, he has not delivered the report that the President wanted. And yesterday there was quite a conflagration with the President. He was described as angry again about him all day today. And folks in the West Bank are trying to decide like now, but the President's going to do. I don't think there's been any sort of final decision at least as a couple sources I talked to about an hour ago, but there certainly is a lot of feeling that it could happen.

[20:34:58]

COOPER: I don't quite understand the point. I mean he's got, you know, a couple weeks left. I mean, right what -- it seems odd that I mean I understand he's upset and livid and stuff but it just seems odd to me. I mean, given the blowback that Barr is getting from the White House over the comments, I know you spoke to a source who told you why Barr decided to speak out. What did he say?

DAWSEY: Well, there was there was increasing pressure on Barr to speak out, because the President was making these claims every day, there was a lot of new attorney generals across the country who were coming down and things they weren't seeing good. And, you know, Barr has not had the best relationship with Rudy Giuliani and sees him frankly, as a sideshow and someone who's not in the best interest of the President. There was lots of different concerns for Barr, to Barr to speak out.

To your first point, Anderson, you know, the President also fired Mark Esper the Monday after the election.

COOPER: Yes, that's true.

DAWSEY: In fact, Chris Kreb, the cybersecurity director, he's fired. You know, more than a dozen people across the government and agency since November 3rd. You know, there's a time between now and January 20th where folks around him expect even more firings because, you know, he has nothing to lose. And he's frustrated that he said a government that in his mind that nothing was is true, but in his mind has not always worked to his satisfaction has worked against him at times.

COOPER: What has the President's relationship with Barr been like over the last couple months?

DAWSEY: Well, the last couple of months, it's been quite tenuous. I mean, the President has wanted Barr to make more forceful claims of voter fraud to back him up his accusations on that. He's wanted Barr to put out, you know, the Durham report. He's wanted throughout.

The Attorney General Barr to say more about, you know, what the President alleges, without evidence on the pinheaded (ph) widespread voter fraud. And DOJ, much to the President's chagrin, has not been on the President's side on a lot of this.

Now, you know, there are a lot of folks who would say that Bill Barr has been one of his most loyal cabinet secretaries. Obviously, after the Mueller report, he put out the favorable summary and was very critical of the Mueller report. He's been very defensive as the President in many ways. But it seems that the voter fraud accusations that the President's made over and over and over again, is kind of a bridge too far for Bill Barr.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, he did make a comment a couple of I think was earlier a couple of months ago saying that, well, it would be very easy for a foreign power to print up a bunch of phony ballots and send them in and that would be undetectable. Of course, he didn't offer any evidence of that. That seemed like the kind of the farthest he went backing up the President on, you know, his fraudulent claims about the dangers of mail-in voting.

DAWSEY: Right. And that was a claim, but something could happen hypothetically. It was the President has been saying in recent, you know, weeks in the Senate, that there were tens if not hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots that entire dominion machines were corrupted that, you know, there was a foreign conspiracy lawyers that involved, you know, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and other countries. And the end claims have been far fetched, even for some of Trumps biggest offenders in his orbit.

COOPER: Yes.

DAWSEY: See what Barr said a few months ago that, you know, was contentious at the time that he saw a foreign power could potentially corrupt ballots is different than what the President's been saying, which is that, you know, without evidence and falsely by all accounts, and his government experts and others, that they had done that and they had corrupted the election. You know, those are a bit of two different things.

COOPER: Yes. Josh Dawsey. Appreciate it. Thank you.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

COOPER: We booked our guests to talk pardons, but we're especially lucky to have them here in light of the breaking news right now. Andrew Weissmann served as special counsel Robert Mueller's lead prosecutor. He's the author of the new book About It Where Law Ends Inside The Mueller Investigation. Also with us, the author of many bestsellers, legendary investigative journalist and CNN Political Analyst, Carl Bernstein.

Andrew, what is your reaction to the Washington Post reporting about the President and the Attorney General?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, LEAD PROSECUTOR, MUELLER INVESTIGATION: So I am a little more cynical about Bill Barr, he was perfectly happy to be the amanuensis for the President when the President was riding high. And it's hard to not use the analogy of, you know, rats, you know, fleeing a sinking ship, and now that he's no longer in power, he's willing to separate himself.

You know, I think it remains to be seen whether he really pushed back on John Durham for instance, and really wanted to do the President's bidding. I think we -- there's a lot more to come on that story. So, you know, I think Bill Barr it's a little too little way too late to say that he's really having some integrity here.

COOPER: Carl, what would firing the Attorney General during a lame duck presidency actually accomplish?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It would make the base perhaps happy and continue to project the image of Trump as aggrieved and raging. Everything that Trump does, is really about himself, his moods, his desires his selfishness. But what we're really seeing and all the things you've talked about on this broadcast tonight, is Trump is our first truly subversive president.

Always subverting the interest of the people of the United States, the interest of our national security, the interest of our people and their health and welfare, to his own selfish financial interests, political interests. It's never about the country. And this is one more instance of it. This is all personal, everything with Trump is personal.

[20:40:42]

And as a result, our national interest has been subverted by a president of the United States in all these areas, including pardons that he's talking about. It's about subverting the national interest for Donald Trump's interest and the interest of his grafter children, his own grift. We've never seen anything like this. And it's going to continue, and the people around him, some of them are horrified.

COOPER: Andrew, I'm just stunned by time and time again, we've learned this lesson. And anybody who has been in the President's orbit certainly knows this lesson that no matter how much you genuflect, and prostitute yourself to the benefit -- to benefit this president that in the end, he will turn on you, no matter how much you have degraded yourself.

I mean, Jeff Sessions, Barr, all these people, you know, are left in tatters or their, you know, whatever reputations they once had. And the President chews them up and spits them out. That, you know, Barr now the President spits them out, he won't even get to make money on the lecture circuit, talking to you know, Trump supporters.

WEISSMANN: I think that's true, although it's conceivable that Barr did this deliberately to try and actually resurrect his reputation. And also, there are people who actually have sort of played the president correctly. I mean, Roger Stone was convicted by a jury and never spent a day in jail because he made it clear that if he got a pardon, he would not be talking. Say there are people who can benefit from having this very corrupt personal interest that's, as Carl said, is really driving what happens in the White House. COOPER: And Andrew, in your book, you drew a parallel between President Trump's part in power in the mob. You said mobsters used the threat of whacking potential co-operators to keep everyone in line. The President had the power to pardon to reward those who stayed loyal. I wonder what you make of CNN is describing the quote a flurry of pardons expected to come? Do you think it's legal for the President to pardon himself?

WEISSMANN: I think the issue of his pardoning has friends and family, unfortunately, unless there can be a bribe shown that is, is legal because the power is so broad. However, you cannot pardon for state crimes, you cannot pardon for future crimes. And the Supreme Court, you know, may have to decide the issue whether you can pardon yourself. You know, clearly that wasn't contemplated by the framers. But, we'll see if that ends up getting tested in a court of law.

COOPER: Carl, I mean, if you're President Trump, you have the powers of the office available to you for the next 49 days. What do you do? Whom do you protect? Whom do you try to punish? Assuming of course, he you know, continues to show little to no interest in actually protecting the country from the pandemic.

BERNSTEIN: Well, I think the first person that he wants to protect is probably Paul Manafort, his campaign manager who is central to Andrew Weissmann and Mueller's investigation. And whom there is considerable evidence was in contact with Russian principals, and others and past information from the Trump campaign to the Russians.

And I would say that that pardon is almost certainly, as are the pardons of his grifter children. One of the interesting things about pardon power is though, it not only doesn't cover future offenses, and that goes to the question of why. That there are going to be a lot of investigations ongoing both in federal courts, federal U.S. attorneys I imagine and in state courts, that have to do with Trump, people, his family, his advisors and others.

And what the Trump presidency is about is lying. Above all else. We've seen it this week, once again. And lying in future investigations is not covered by the pardon power. So, it's the pardon power. It's not absolute. I have no doubt, he's going to go ahead with these really unseemly pardons which speak volumes to who he really is. Back to this idea of a subversive president. Willing to subvert the rule of law, the national interest all about himself.

[20:45:05]

And at the same time, I think we're getting a picture that even that even craven Republicans, especially in the Senate, are beginning to understand who they have protected all these years. And through this attempted coup, in the final days of the presidency, Trump continues to attempt a coup to undermine Democratic elections in our country. And these Republicans continue to enable it. And I think this is going to go to their eternal shame.

COOPER: Yes. I think they long ago realized who they were fronting for. BERNSTEIN: That's right.

COOPER: Yes. Andrew, I mean, President Trump claimed in that rambling propaganda video, that we're not showing that the same people who failed to get him in Washington have sent every piece of information to New York, so they can try and get him there. Is he right to worry about the New York investigations into his family business? Or -- yes, I mean, do you think he's right to be worried?

WEISSMANN: I certainly would be. I mean, you know, it remains to be seen whether the Manhattan District Attorney's Office makes that case, but a federal pardon will have zero effect on a state investigation, whether it's tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, all of that could be brought against Donald Trump, his children, his businesses. And of course, you can harden yourself out of civil liability. So, those are all things to worry about.

But one thing it's important to note is in spite of the President talking about, you know, this is just retaliation. Criminal cases have to be proved to a jury of civilians beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof is required. This is not a question of just retaliation. This is a question of, you know, whether someone has all the proof that can get can support those charges.

COOPER: Yes. Carl Bernstein, Andrew Weissmann, appreciate it. Thanks so much for being on the show.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.

COOPER (voice-over): More next on President Trump's thinking these days with his flood of tweets. And now even that self-serving video we touched on. I'll speak with the man who wrote the book that helped make him a celebrity, Tony Schwartz, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We spoke with the top of the program on the unreal world that President Trump and his acolytes are now in happening ranging from outright falsehoods about election fraud to the con job being pulled on supporters to raise money that will mostly go to any future political adventures for the President and not to challenge the results of the election.

Few people know this world In the man leading it better than my next guest, Tony Schwartz, co-author of or actually author of "The Art of the Deal" and author of "Dealing With The Devil: My Mother Trump And Me."

[20:50:09]

Tony, that the President keeps dangling this idea he may run again in 2024 as though that's what he should be focused on. While so far today there are more than 2,500 reporting U.S. coronavirus deaths. What is it saying you about just how messy the next 49 days may be?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, DEALING WITH THE DEVIL: Well, 49 days or 49, or four more years of this. It's going to be grim. It's going to be grim, of course, because of COVID. But it's going to be grim because he's going to keep exceeding himself and the heinous decisions he makes in order to bring the rest of us down with him.

But why, you know, it's so interesting. If you look at the front pages of newspapers, if you tune in to cable shows, we're still talking about Trump, we've got a new president, but the dominant topic of conversation is Trump. Why? I mean, I've been thinking a lot about this.

And it's that there's a core principle in psychology, which is that bad is stronger than good. So if one person threatens you, and the other person wants to help you grow and live a good life, which one commands your attention. Trump is still a perceived threat. Forty-nine days from now, I hope that diminishes dramatically. But it still feels that way. That is his one and only genius to scare people.

COOPER: What -- is that, I don't know if it's that -- that's called the negativity bias, but the thing that you can get 100 I mean, I don't, you can get 100 tweets that are positive, but it's the one that's negative that you obsess about, and you pay attention to. You know, it's sort of the same idea at work.

I mean, the fact is, he is still in office, and he's out there taking donations to the tune of $170 million under the heading of paying for baseless election challenges. I'm amazed how many people really believe him that this actually happened and are giving money, maybe not even realizing or not caring that it's not going to election challenges. It's going to a fund that he has access to that he can use really, however he wants.

SCHWARTZ: Well, it's mind boggling. And it's frightening. And it's hard to understand that he has convinced 74 million people that the endless string of lies the details culminating in the lie about who won the election. I mean, it would be one thing to make a claim if the election had been close. Now we know it wasn't even close. And the thing about people who are authoritarians is that one of their key tactics is say it over and over and over again.

If you look at Trump's feed right now, this is all that's in the feed, one -- stop one nonsense claim after another after another. And I've always felt that what Trump is instinctively so smart about is that at a certain point, people say, OK, OK. Not everybody says that. But we more people say that that we would have hoped.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it exhausts you, it just, you know, at a certain point, people just give in, and I think that's what the, you know, strategy he's pursued in business as well. It just sort of is unrelenting shamelessness, and at a certain point, decent people start to say, OK, you know what, I'm not -- I don't want to live in this world anymore. They let him do whatever he wants in this particular instance. The --

SCHWARTZ: Yes.

COOPER: -- you've said before the President's, quote, loyal -- loyalty is to his own survival. How much do you believe his own survival is now tied to his grip on the Republican Party? I mean, does he need them for the next four years? I mean, they, I assume, think that they need his, you know, his not as large ass but his support certainly.

SCHWARTZ: Yes. I mean, that's clear that the Republicans have decided that and this is just another dissent that we've watched over the past four years is speaking of shamelessness. Where they've made the decision that it simply it to the degree that what they care about is their own survival. It won't happen if they don't go along with him. And that includes the willingness to let democracy go.

I mean, I don't think this -- I don't think I don't, and I don't most people think that this threat to democracy is somehow over the day Trump goes out of office. He has taught his children well and they have recognized that they are no longer bound by the truth. And as I said, probably to you multiple times before. It's a huge advantage when you don't have -- when you don't feel you have to tell the truth.

[20:55:22]

COOPER: Yes. Tony Schwartz, as always, I appreciate it. Thank you.

One late item that auto intrude on the President's fantasy world but does not just moments ago, the country recorded 2,658 deaths from coronavirus in a single day. That's both a terrible new high and a horrible new low for this country. This subject is sure to come up when president and vice president-elect sit down for their first joint interview.

(voice-over): With television interview with the lead Jake Tapper. See you tomorrow night right after" 360" 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. It's going to be fascinating.

Just ahead, the President's eldest daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump sat for a deposition today involved in the 2016 inauguration alleged misuse of funds. Details on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Earlier we reported on the quote flurry of pardons that the President may be preparing including perhaps some for close family. On Tuesday his eldest daughter Ivanka Trump, who's also presidential advisor set for deposition involving accusations of misuse of inaugural funds.

Kara Scannell joins us now with the latest. So, what do we learned about the deposition?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Anderson, so we've learned from a new court filing that Ivanka Trump sat for a deposition yesterday this was part of a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, essentially the top lawyer in the state.

He had sued the Trump Organization and the President's Inaugural Committee earlier this year alleging that they had misused funds for the inauguration. Specifically alleging they grossly overpaid for the use of event space at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. So, Ivanka Trump sat for a deposition yesterday, she'd been on e-mails where she was warned that the rates that were being quoted were quite high, and that the optics wouldn't look good when this did become public.

And we've also learned according to this court filing that the attorney general's office has also subpoenaed the First Lady Melania Trump for documents relating to the inaugural. Now this investigation is a civil lawsuit. So, the President's part in powers cannot protect the family or the family business from this investigation.

But it is yet another one of these allegations that have come out where they're alleging that the President has improperly profited from his position and it's another lawsuit investigation that will dog the president, his family and his business, even when he's out of office. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, fascinating. Kara Scannell, appreciate it. Thank you.

Reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" our digital news show that gives us a chance to dig in some important topics, have in-depth conversations. You can catch it streaming live 6:00 p.m. Eastern at cnn.com/fullcircle or watch it there and on the CNN app at any time On Demand.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to head over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, appreciated Coop. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "PRIME TIME".

Here's the fact. Trump is the least of our problems. He is a simple study at this point. Trump is toxic, period. Sure.