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White House Exodus Begins, Source: Trump's Refusal to Accept Defeat Unnerves Some Staffers; New COVID Model Projects Almost 539,000 U.S. Deaths By April; New Details In DOJ's Presidential Pardon Investigation; GOP's Biggest Threat In GA Runoffs; Doubt Cast By Pres. Trump; Sources: Trump Calls GOP GA Gov Kemp A "Moron" And "Nut Job" During Recent Phone Call; Distrust Of Covid-19 Vaccine In Some U.S. Minority Communities. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 4, 2020 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening.

We end the week with sobering news about the pandemic, even with vaccines on the horizon. New records being set for cases, people hospitalized, and people dying. Nearly 6 million residents in the San Francisco Bay Area now under stay-at-home areas, because local ICUs are running out of capacity.

Also, an hour from, now a special CNN coronavirus town hall. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I, focusing on your questions about vaccines. We're featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci. He'll be joining us live.

We begin tonight, though, quickly, with breaking news from a White House in upheaval. A place, as one official put it, becoming more toxic by the day.

Our Jim Acosta is there. He did the reporting, joins us now.

So, I understand this involves the president's staff. What's going on?


What we saw yesterday, the White House communications director, Alyssa Farah, stepping down. And that I think raised some questions, because you will remember, a month ago, a White House official named Johnny McEntee had issued this threat to White House officials saying, if you leave your job, if we catch you looking for a job, you're going to be fired.

All of that is gone. Staffers here at the White House, from what we can tell, doing our reporting, they are ignoring those threats from McEntee and others. And they are starting to head for the exits.

I talked to a White House official, earlier today, who said, listen, the atmosphere in this West Wing, inside of the White House, is getting more toxic by the day, that people are turning on each other, and they're trying to settle scores. That is one reason why staffers are leaving, because of this toxic environment.

Other staffers are leaving because they're fed up with the president, quite frankly. Based on our reporting, Anderson, there are staffers who are saying, they're sick and tired of the president not conceding this race. They say it is tarnishing his legacy, but also, undermining democracy because it's undermining people's faith in elections, in U.S. elections.

And, finally, Anderson, it's just the practical fact of the matter, people need to find jobs. The president may think he's heading into a second term come January of 2021, but just about everyone else here in the White House understands it's time to move on, and they have to find other jobs.

COOPER: And the president is making money off of these falsehoods about election fraud. You know, he's making millions on this, potentially, tens of millions.

How is the president giving these usually high demands, we should, say for loyalty, which he doesn't necessarily ever reciprocate?

ACOSTA: I -- you know, right now, he appears to be unfazed by those, because he's making the same allegations, same baseless allegations, writing the same baseless lies about the election, claiming that there is still some chance, you know, if this -- you know, state is challenged over there, and that state is challenged over there, and so on.

And so, this is a president, as we've been saying for weeks now, who is dealing with the reality of the situation. Even though, I'm told, he privately understands that he is going to be leaving office come January 20th, but I do think we are going to get a better sense of what you're asking Anderson, in the coming, days when he starts to see some of the staffers leaving.

You know, Anderson, the number of staffers here is dwindling. You are seeing high-level staffers exiting the White House and low level staffers, and he's going to start to notice some of the people he was surrounded by just weeks ago are simply going to be gone because it's time to move on.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thank you.

We're going to come back to Jim in just a bit for some new reporting about the president's plans to campaign in Georgia this weekend.

Now, the pandemic, and a staggering new fact. More than half of us know someone, personally, who has been hospitalized for COVID-19, or has died of it, 54 percent, to be precise, of people in this country, according to the latest survey from Pew Research. And sadly, that percentage will climb.

Which, means that for all of the scary numbers bombarding us, it is one single figure, 54 percent, that perhaps says the most. It tells the story of Comrade Buchanan (ph), a deejay in Fort Myers, Florida, dancing with his daughter Sky. COVID robbed him of his life, at age 39. His family never got a chance to say goodbye. They are now part of the 54 percent.

That 54 percent includes people who knew, and loved, Ellen Shriner (ph), a hospice nurse in Fairborn, Ohio. Her sister Nancy calls her the best aunt ever.

Also among the 54 percent, Peggy Flanagan (ph), who said for late big brother Ron Golden (ph), to many, he'll be a statistic, Tennessee's second COVID related death, but I or member a living, older, brother, uncle, father, and husband.

That 54 percent also includes everyone connected with 23-year-old Riley Behrens, who contracted COVID and suffered a mini stroke.


RILEY BEHRENS, 23-YEAR-OLD RECOVERING FROM COVID-19: I would just say, I think there is a lot of people still not taking this seriously. And now is the time to do that. I never thought that, one, then I would get COVID in the first place. And then, two, didn't think it would be that bad when I first tested positive. I thought, OK, I'll be sick for a couple of days, I'll get over this. And so, I think it's just so important, that I kind of realize how unpredictable this virus is and to start taking it seriously.



COOPER: Young or old, 54 percent of us now know someone like Riley, or have lost someone like Peggy Flanagan.

And saddest of all, with every passing day, with more and more Americans dying, one every 30 seconds or so, eventually, the 54 percent will be 60 percent. Then 75, or higher.

Yes, vaccines are coming, but they can't come soon enough. Nearly 2,300 new deaths reported today, and today's figures won't be final for hours. COVID is now the leading cause of death in this country, according to an estimate by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The institute is now projecting more than a quarter million more Americans will die by the beginning of April, bringing the total to nearly 539,000 by April.

So, even with vaccines, these next few months, this will be unlike anything we have ever seen before.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think we have not yet seen the post- Thanksgiving peak. That's the concerning thing because the numbers in and of themselves are alarming, and then you realize that it is likely we'll see more of the surge as we get two to three weeks past the Thanksgiving holiday. And the thing that concerns me is what's right on the Christmas holiday, as people start to travel and shop and congregate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us at the top of the next hour, 9:00 Eastern, for a special CNN town hall.

Today, he talked about the single best thing we could all do right now, which is wear a mask. Think about that when you think about Peggy Golden's -- Peggy, the woman Peggy we talked about, her brother, Peggy Flanagan, her brother Ron who died.

The IHME estimates as many as 66,000 lives could be saved by April 1st if 95 percent of us will wear a mask.

Today, the CDC put out new guidelines making universal mask wearing a top priority, including at home. It works so well, the agency says, that some community should consider giving them out. The current administration, as you know, squealed the post office planned to send five masks to every household in the country, and the current president made going without one a political statement.

As a result, decisions like that and many, many more, the number of people hospitalized for COVID broke another record today, topping 101,000. And in those figures, there's something even grimmer. According to "Atlantic's" COVID tracking project, hospitals had been filling up with COVID patients, the percentage of admitted COVID cases has actually been falling, suggesting there may not have been enough available care in places even for COVID patients.

Quoting now from "The Atlantic": The bulk of evidence now suggests one of the worst fears of the pandemic, that hospitals will become overwhelmed, leading to needless deaths, is happening now.

Joining us now, someone who has been following the strain on hospitals, among other factors, Dr. Chris Murray, director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Also, CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Murray, your latest projection show that even with the expected vaccine rollout, the United States forecast to see 539,000 deaths by April 1st. Even more astonishing, you predicted that even with the vaccine, if states don't act to bring current surges under control, the death toll could reach 770,000 by April 1st. That's more than died in the so-called Spanish flu epidemic, pandemic, back in 1918.

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Yeah, we are facing, you know, a number of for grim months ahead, Anderson, and we've seen the numbers very high this week already. We think they'll go up towards 3,000 deaths a day in January. So, there is a long passage ahead. And although the hope of vaccine is there, it's not going to come in time to deal with that January, February surge.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Dr. Murray, you know, when you look at the model, people may not realize, but there are triggers that are built in the many states, for example, if I read it correctly, once you hit about eight deaths per million residents, that many states would reimpose mandates.

We have hit that mark, I did that math, that's about 2,800 deaths nationally per day and we've hit that mark. Is it realistic do you think that these states are going to reimpose mandates? And how bad to the numbers get, which already awful, Anderson was talking about, how bad do they get if these mandates don't go into place?

MURRAY: Well, it can get much worse. You know, it could get up to 6,000 deaths a day. It's possible, you know, 770,000 deaths by April if no states react.

Now, we know that some states are acting, we see what's happening in California, in Minnesota, a number of states have acted to take measures. We still believe that states will take measures, but it is very concerning that the death toll is so high and some states have not acted yet.


GUPTA: Yeah.

COOPER: And, Dr. Murray, and your projections found that in the U.S., the expected vaccine rollout plan only reduces the number of deaths by 9,000 by April 1st. Why is that? I mean, presumably, that will increase as months roll on, I assume.

MURRAY: Well, I think if you look far out to the summer, vaccines are going to make a huge difference. They're going to save a lot of lives, and it will get us back to normal much sooner. But the problem there is that even if we, you know, authorize the vaccine, next week, start to scale up, get up to 3 million people getting vaccinated, the lags built into that, the weeks it takes, the two doses, and the fact that the bad times are now, in January, means that, disturbingly, we do not get a huge impact until after April from vaccination.

GUPTA: Dr. Murray, you also, in the report today, it said tat, essentially, you looked at the numbers. COVID-19 would be the leading cause of death this weekend, and it was over 11,000 deaths, if you add it up. That outpaces heart disease. Heart disease, you know, on average, on average week is I think 10,500 people, sadly dying, every week.

So, COVID-19, is it now the leading cause of death in this country? How did you -- how did you arrive with this?

MURRAY: Yeah. I mean, as part of what we do with the institute, we look at every cause, not just COVID. And so, we've tracked the data pretty carefully and said, yes, we can say that COVID is the leading cause of death in America this week.

COOPER: President-elect Biden said today that his team hasn't seen a detailed plan for distributing the vaccine, do you believe that's accurate? I mean, given your data, and everything we know from your projections, what would that mean if there's -- if there's not a detailed plan? MURRAY: Well, you know, the vaccine, the mRNA vaccine, the two that

are going to come up first, you know, Pfizer, and Moderna, do really require something more than the usual flu vaccine. They require super cold storage. There is more of a challenge to scaling that up, but our understanding, from both those producers, and from the discussions we have all heard from government and state governments, is they are primarily trying to use the normal mechanisms of going to clinics, and hospitals, to get vaccinated.

So, I think a lot will be left to each state. But we do think that, you know, vaccinations will start in December, and we will see a sort of steady scale up. The other thing we've seen is that if we could somehow double our efforts, and be twice as fast, you can make a bigger dent. But even, then talking about saving another 24,000 lives, in a double speed vaccination.

COOPER: And, Sanjay, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee voted today to not recommend an emergency use authorization for the use of COVID-19 vaccine in children. Do you think that was a good call? And when do you expect that children will begin to get the vaccine? Or what age they should get a vaccine?

GUPTA: Right. Well, it's a tough call, but I think it's a good call. I mean, first of all, there's just not a lot of data yet. You know, they started adding children into these clinical trials, but we don't have data. You can't look at children as small adults. I mean, the dozing will be different. There may be different vaccines at work better.

And I think the other part that went into that decision, Anderson, is that while kids can get sick, and we've heard some tragic stories, they are far less likely to actually develop the symptoms and get sick.

So, I wish we have more vaccine, but it's not here yet.

COOPER: Dr. Murray, the CDC said today that masks are critical to stopping the spread. We talked about this endlessly now, even at home, sometimes, they said.

Have you seen any indication that people are doing that, and what circumstances went inside the house, mask use being warranted in your view? I mean, I understand indoors, in places outside the house, but inside the house?

MURRAY: Well, inside the house, mask used to make sense if you're coming into contact with anybody that's from outside of your household. So, if you are just at home, with your own household members, there is no purpose in wearing a mask, unless they are going out, and are at risk of exposure.

But if you had a contact with people from outside your household, or members of your household having to work, and coming into contact with others, yes, it makes plenty of sense.

And, you know, we have been saying, for so long, masks work. Really, it is a question about getting more people to use them. The good news is, as things get, bad people are more likely to wear a mask. And so, we're seeing that in the data, that the use numbers are slowly creeping up. We just would like them to go up faster.

COOPER: Sanjay, what do you make of -- I mean, where we at right now?

GUPTA: You know, it's sad, it's tragic, it's worrisome for the months ahead. I was writing an essay today we are really reflecting on the last nine months and looking at all these points where we could have intervened, and some of the ways that Dr. Murray is talking about, and we didn't.


It's kind of like a patient who gives the treatment plan to, they don't follow the treatment plan and then they come back angry a few months later because they're getting sicker.

You know, that's how I feel things are. I remain optimistic. I'm glad vaccines are on the way, and I hope it inspires people to sort of redouble their efforts, until they get here.

COOPER: Yeah, we got to get there.

Chris Murray, appreciate it as always.

Sanjay, we're going to see you at the top of the hour. We have a CNN global town hall. Coronavirus, the vaccine, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to be joining us live, taking your questions about staying safe until those vaccines arrive. Again, that is Sanjay and I, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here.

Next for us this hour, breaking news, another string of post-election court ruling, another string of defeats for the president. Also, Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, on the president's visit to Georgia, and the Senate races that could make life simpler for the new Biden administration, or, a nonstop battle.

Also, the nightmare for the two incumbents, mainly a president, more interested in fighting his own hopeless election battles, and airing his own grievances, than fighting for them.


COOPER: Breaking news that will likely not improve the president's mood, or climate at the White House, for more court defeats. The Michigan court of appeals, rejecting challenges to election results. For the second day in a row, the conservative control of Wisconsin Supreme Court, throwing out a case aimed at invalidating results there, the day after declining to hear a lawsuit filed by the president.


A district judge in Nevada rejecting a Republican attempt to declare President Trump the winner in that state. And in Arizona, a state court dismissing a lawsuit seeking to either void President-elect Biden's win, or force another recount. The judge saying the plaintiffs had failed to prove fraud, misconduct, illegal votes, or an erroneous vote count.

Meantime, the president is heading to Georgia tomorrow, and his trip is fraught with all sort of political complications for the Senate candidates he's pledged to support in the runoff elections there. As you know, the president is routinely attacked and array of Republicans in the state for not finding fraud in the state's presidential balloting. That was, of course, won by President-elect Biden.

We want to go back to CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who has new reporting on the president, and Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

Jim, what kind of message can we expect tomorrow from the president given the battle he's been waging against Republican leaders in the state, and, particularly, now, the governor?

ACOSTA: Yeah. I just talked to a White House advisor about this, and this advisor said, you know, people around the president, they are, quote, panicked about what might happen with these runoffs. And the reason why is because the president started this and had surrogates like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood pick this up. White House is trying to distance themselves from those individuals.

But what those two are down there doing is essentially raising these questions, casting all sorts of aspersions about the vote in Georgia, and essentially, sending the message it is not worth it for you to go out there and vote in these runoffs because your vote may not count, because of all of these baseless, and false, and crazy allegations of election fraud.

And what these White House adviser and other people I've spoken to about this, including aides up on Capitol Hill, GOP aides up on Capitol Hill, is that the unintended consequences of all of that is that you could have a depressed based turnout. And in runoff races, Anderson, as you will know, a lot of it boils down to turnout.

And the Democrats are pulling out all the stops to win those states, because obviously, they win those two seats, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, they have the majority in the Senate. And I was talking to this White House adviser just a short while ago who said, you know, the president is very concerned about that. If you have a Democratic- controlled Senate, his agenda is really in jeopardy much more so than it stands right now.

COOPER: By emphasizing the need to hold on to those two Senate seats to keep the Republican majority, the president would essentially be acknowledging that he, and Vice President Pence, who was also president of the Senate, will be out of office. How do you expect him to walk that line?

ACOSTA: Yeah, right, exactly. You know, they are essentially admitting, at this point, that they lost this election indirectly. The vice president was down in Georgia earlier today. He was making this case, that, you know, if Ossoff and Warnock win these Senate seats, that the Democrats are going to control the Senate. The president is expected to have the same message tomorrow. This adviser, just a few moments ago, the president is going to be talking about his legacy, talking about his record, and that the Democrats, if they take control of the Senate, will be undoing that if this base does not turn out.

Now, the president has been able to count on this base, you know, I guess if you go back to 2016, but, as we saw, in the 2020 election, Anderson, his base ended up not being enough, especially in the state of Georgia, which surprised everyone. This has been getting under the president's skin. My colleague, Kaitlan Collins, talked to her sources, and found that the president has been saying, privately, that Georgia's GOP Governor Brian Kemp is a moron and so on, because he hasn't been able to do the president's bidding.

And so, Anderson, I guess you could have the mother of all unintended consequences is by starting all this nonsense, and having surrogates like Sidney Powell and so on, carrying this water down in Georgia could actually take control of the Senate, and handed over to the Democrats. That would be just the ultimate of all ironies at the end of this, if that's what happens.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, he used to praise Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, of course, when he was trying to urge people to get back to work. Just what -- is he going to have a big rally in Georgia? Do you know what it is?

ACOSTA: Yeah, the plan is for the president to hold a rally tomorrow evening, and it is expected to attract a huge crowd, obviously. The question is, just how far the president wants to go. We're going to be watching this language very carefully, because of the president is saying, as you were saying a few moments ago, that if you don't go out there, we're going to lose control of the Senate, that is, essentially, acknowledging that Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris are coming to power on January 20th.

And so, you know, he's going to be walking that line. But as we've seen all week, Anderson, the president is continuing to., you know, wage this futile battle where he thinks he's going to somehow have, you know, these voter fraud allegations, and so on result in him keeping control of the White House. Nobody thinks that as we're talking about this earlier, even staffers inside the White House don't believe it. That's why they are leaving right now.

So, it will be very interesting to watch what the president has to say, and we'll be dissecting all of it for you tomorrow, Anderson.


COOPER: Yeah. Jim Acosta, appreciate it.

Joining us now, a veteran of Georgia politics, the Democratic mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Mayor Bottoms, do you think the president's own party is right to worry about his visits in Georgia tomorrow, given his -- I mean, attacks on Georgia's Republicans, like now the governor and secretary of state?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: I think they should have concern, and, of course, I just hope that as Democrats across Georgia, we have enough discipline not to just wait for the Republican Party to self-implode. It's - there's been a lot of infighting, obviously, a lot of incoming fire from the president, but for us to win on January 5th, we have to remain focused, and that focus has to continue to be getting people to turn out and vote.

There were still plenty of people who stayed at home in November. We had record turnout in the state, but there were still a number of registered voters on the Democrats side who did not turn out to vote. So, we've got to continue to push that message that it's not over. And January 5th is just as important as the November election.

COOPER: I mean, some of the president's supporters, obviously, been actively encouraging Republicans not to vote in the special elections, claiming it's rigged. Obviously, there is no evidence of that. It's a ridiculous notion. There's zero evidence to back up any fraud claims.

What does it say about where politics are in your state, that that is what is happening right now? I mean, you know, all of these Republicans have been going along with the president these last -- you know, since the election, in the hopes that he will back these candidates in Georgia.

Now, you know, you have some surrogates for the president, or some more people from the president out there saying, you know, don't go vote.

BOTTOMS: Yeah, it's really interesting Anderson. Just by way of a bit of history, Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, was endorsed by Donald Trump during the primary. He was the underdog during the Republican primary. So, there is a very long history there.

We, of course, have a Republican elected secretary of state, and to watch Republican officials having to push back against the president is something that we've not seen before. But welcome to 2020, there are all sorts of things we've not seen before, including a president of the United States who refuses to acknowledge that he's lost.

So, it's my hope, again, that across this state, including those Republicans who voted for Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris, those independents who voted for Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris, that they will remember the chaos of this time, that they will go, and, vote for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

COOPER: Former President Obama was part of a virtual rally today, and I want to play part of what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are now -- once again, the center of our civic universe, because the special election in Georgia is going to determine, ultimately, a course of the Biden presidency. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Do you -- are there still people who haven't made up their minds on who to vote for? It is it just a question of getting people out to vote?

BOTTOMS: From all of the polling that I've seen, I think it really is going to be about turnout. And we know that quite often, people believe they've done enough when they go to vote in the presidential election. We, rarely, have runoff elections for Senate races in this state, and then, on top of that, to have the opportunity to elect two senators.

This is a place in the states that we have not been in in quite some time. And so, it is going to be about turnout, about reminding people, and in some cases, educating people, on why they have to go back and vote, because many voters voted for the first time this election. There are many who have never voted before, and, really, don't even understand the concept of a turnout, or a runoff.

COOPER: Yeah, speaking of that, black voter turnout in Georgia did increase in the presidential cycle. It did lag behind some other demographics in that state.

What do you and other Democrats think is the best way to increase turnout among black voters for the special election?

BOTTOMS: We did have an increase in turnout, but, Anderson, I can tell you the number is staggering, the number of African Americans who did not vote in November. And so, what we have to do, we have to reach people where they are.

It's great that the television ads are running, but I have an 18-year- old in my house who doesn't watch television. So, we've got to talk to them through social media. We've got to knock on doors. We've got to make phone calls. We have to cover all bases in order to get people back out to vote.

COOPER: Yeah, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Up next, breaking news on the federal investigation into that possible bribery for a presidential pardon scheme.


Plus, we return to the Georgia runoffs, Kyung Lah talks to the very people who matter most when it comes to the control of the Senate. Republicans who trust President Trump so much could topple the GOP last grip on power.


COOPER: It's breaking news tonight. New details about the possible bribery for presidential pardon case that the Justice Department either is or was investigating or probe that that only became public knowledge this week.

Pamela Brown is in Washington with new detail. So, what more have you learned about this suspected scheme and who was allegedly involved?


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson this isn't an allege bribery for presidential pardons scheme in the early days of the Trump administration a quid pro quo, where a significant political donation would be made in exchange for clemency for a California psychologist named Hugh Baras who was convicted on tax issues in 2014. According to people we've spoken with and court records. Others involved in the efforts include Baras' lawyer at the time, Abbe Lowell. He is a star trial attorney with high profile clients like Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as well as Elliott Broidy, a lobbyist and former Trump fundraiser, who pleaded guilty to a foreign lobbying conspiracy.

Also, involved a California billionaire by the name of Barry Diller who died in 2018. It is thought that he would have made the political contribution in exchange for Baras' clemency now, nothing ever came of it. But for investigative purposes, that doesn't necessarily matter. And DOJ has electronic records to back up its case, including outreach to the White House's office back then, according to these core documents. Anderson.

COOPER: Has there been any response from any of those allegedly involved?

BROWN: So, all the representatives of those mentioned say they have no reason to believe their clients are under investigation or involved in wrongdoing. They haven't heard from investigators. A lawyer for Abbe Lowell says he spoke to DOJ and was given the impression that his client was not under any scrutiny at all. No one has been charged in this case. DOJ says no government official was or is the subject or target of the probe. And it's unclear if it's still an active case or not. There are so many unanswered questions and questions raised by this case was came to light from heavily redacted court documents unsealed by a judge earlier this week. Anderson.

COOPER: Pamela, so I don't quite understand this case, the who's the person in California?

BROWN: So there's a couple people in California it is a little convoluted and complicated. You have this California billionaire who died in 2018. So this was before then. Then you have this psychologist in California, Hugh Baras who was convicted put behind bars for tax issues back in 2014. So, Hugh -- and then Abbe Lowell was his lawyer.


BROWN: So part of this team, and you have -- then you have the lobbyists. Right, you have Elliott Broidy, who apparently was helping to coordinate all of this, according to information from people we've spoken to, and from court documents. But that like I said, there's so many questions raised because what is unclear is the scheme is laid out in the court documents and then people we've spoken to but it's unclear who was actually doing the communicating what the specific communications were there. So a lot of unanswered questions and we're going to keep digging.

COOPER: I think you misspoke on the name of the person in California, it's Sanford Diller.

BROWN: Barry, it's Barry. OK. Sanford Diller.

COOPER: Sanford Diller, yes.

BROWN: Sorry, my bad.

COOPER: No worries.

BROWN: Thank you for that correction.

COOPER: All right, just want to make sure.

BROWN: Appreciated.

COOPER: Pamela, thanks so much.

BROWN: Thank you.

COOPER: We showed you a few moments ago how the GOP from President Trump on down is scrambling to protect its Senate Majority as the Georgia runoffs near. But tonight, Kyung Lah looks at why Democrats aren't the biggest obstacle for Republicans keeping the Senate. It's Republicans who take President Trump at his word.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sixty miles west of Atlanta sits Haralson County, Georgia.



LAH (voice-over): Here, lunch is served with the side of disbelief.

(on-camera): Do you believe in the results and what happened here in Georgia?


LAH (on-camera): Who do you think won in November?

HORTON: I honestly think Trump did.

LAH (on-camera): Who do you think won the election in your viewpoint?


LAH (voice-over): For some shell-shocked supporters of the President, it's impossible to think about the upcoming January Senate runoffs with a continued (INAUDIBLE) of misinformation from President Trump and others.

(on-camera): You voted in November. How are you feeling about the runoffs?

MARK CLAYTON, BELIEVES THERE'S A VOTER FRAUD: I really don't know. I'm not going to change anything or not. It may or may not.

LAH (on-camera): Why do say that?

CLAYTON: I mean, without the voter fraud and other stuff that talking about. So, I don't know, hundred percent, you know, what's going on. Or how they count the votes or whatever. So, you know, it's confusion. But, you know, trust in anything anymore.

LAH (voice-over): That is the Republican nightmare in the upcoming Senate run offs, because here, the Republican who could hold the most sway is Trump.

In Haralson County, the President increases support by about 3,000 votes from four years ago, a trend in deep red counties. Donald Trump not only won these counties in November, he did so by roughly 276,000 more votes than in 2016. Republicans need that enthusiastic GOP base in places like Haralson to vote for incumbent Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the January 5th runoffs.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): We're going to win Georgia and --

LAH (voice-over): But there's a complication. The President keeps saying this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: They know it was a fixed election. It was a rigged election. They know it I appreciate the support.


LAH (voice-over): That baseless claim puts the incumbent senators on the ballot in a political pickle. Listen to David Perdue try to square that circle.

PERDUE: But President Trump's very frustrated, I'm very frustrated and we're going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that whatever anomalies are uncovered in November, don't happen in January. But this is illogical for any Republican to think that, oh, I'm just going to sit down and not vote and hand as you say the keys over the Democrats.


LAH (voice-over): Republican buzz Brockway is a former Georgia State Representative. He says Republicans are already telling him they will not vote in January.

BROCKWAY: I've had dozens of people tell me that the people that I knew -- LAH (on-camera): There's not going to show up?

BROCKWAY: I do my best to try to talk them out of it. But the internet spreads things like wildfire.

LAH (on-camera): What happens if the President keeps tweeting and talking about a rigged election?

BROCKWAY: That hurts and absolutely hurts, because he has a very passionate group of followers who frankly are more committed to him than they are to the Republican Party. If he were to continue with that message that would be very hurtful to the Republican Party and to Loeffler and Perdue.

LAH (voice-over): Not everyone in Haralson County believes Trump's mixed message hurts. Andy Gunther active in the local Republican Party says the more outrage Trump is at the rally, the higher the enthusiasm for the senators.

ANDY GUNTHER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It's going to boost the electorate to come out. Stronger I believe.

LAH (on-camera): And why stronger?

GUNTHER: It's defiance. It's, you know, we're not going to take this stuff sitting down. We're going to come back out. We're going to vote. We're going to show that we care.

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Harrelson County, Georgia.


COOPER: Want to bring in CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and our senior political commentators, Paul Begala and Scott Jennings.

Abby, some Republicans are worried about President Trump's visit to Georgia tomorrow. Understandably worried about what he might say and not say. Do you think the political bent or the potential benefit of having him there, rubbing up the base outweighs the possible negatives?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's hard to say I think that it's important for the President to be there, if they're going to have even a shot at getting the kind of turnout that they need. The President's rallies are really effective turnout mechanisms for the Trump campaign and for the Republican Party in general. It gets people excited, it gets thousands and thousands of people out of their homes, which is a huge, I think it's a huge endeavor in any campaign to simply get people to get up and go and do something.

The problem is that President Trump is very much focused on himself at all times, as we all know. And his fixation on his own sense of grievance about the November election, could totally turn this whole thing up on its head. If he can't get focused this weekend enough to say, I need you to get out and go vote, then I think it could all be for not. He may spend an hour at the rally talking and basically telling his supporters that the whole thing is rigged. And I'm not sure that that's going to be particularly helpful to Republicans.

COOPER: Scott, I'm not going to ask you what you think the President will say, because there's no way to predict that. But in terms of what he should say, I mean, I guess the message would be, the system is rigged, but go out and vote anyway.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, if you want me to paint a perfect picture, here's what you should say, look, I know you're disappointed. But here's what we're going to do. We're going to stick it to the people who made my life miserable for the last four years, and you're going to deliver a Republican Senate majority, because it's going to preserve everything we fought for all of the things you like about my administration, we can preserve, if Republicans are in charge in the Senate, and it all goes away. If we turn it over the Democrats. That's what he should say, that's the clearest way to get Republicans.

COOPER: But doesn't that knowledge that he has lost?

JENNINGS: Well, yes, but, you know, you're trying to do algebra here, and I'm not sure the both sides of the equal sign are going to are going to come out right here, Anderson. I mean, the reality is, you asked me what he should say and to get Republicans to vote. It's to tell them everything we're fighting for goes away, if you let these Democrats win. But here's the truth about what the Republicans think about Georgia. Number one, the polling sucks. Number two, and by that I mean nobody the polling -- no one believes the polling, it wasn't right in the in the election. It's not. I mean, no one, no one knows who's going to vote. So it's hard to poll. And number three. It's incredibly close state. And so, I'd say we're flying on instruments here, but the dials are spinning, and we've got unruly passengers back in first class.

I mean, we're totally flying blind on this thing. And that's why Trump being such a wild card has the chance to really help or really hurt and it really all comes down to what he says.

COOPER: Paul, how do you see this?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Abby really hit the nail on the head when she said it's always about Trump, right? He's like Pavarotti warming up at the opera, mee mee mee mee mee. The first person singular is his favorite part of speech. This could be a trap for Democrats. So, I'm I actually, of course I watch Trump fight with camp. It's like when Texas A&M (ph) plays Oklahoma, I hope they can both lose. But here's the problem. That game doesn't affect my life. It's just slideshow. 9,648 Georgians are dead from COVID, 470,000 Georgians are infected, 6,601 today, a record.


So while Trump is worried about his election, while by the way, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are worried about their controversial trades where they got rich while we got sick. Democrats need to bring this back to your life, not to the Trump slideshow I tell you this is a trap for the Democrats. People are dying at the top of your show is heartbreaking. Anderson. I know you got Dr. Fauci coming up in the 9:00 hour. This is what people ought to be talking about by God, Mr. Trump, Governor Kemp, Senator Loeffler, Senator Perdue, and certainly the Democrats, Reverend Warnock and Jon Ossoff actually do a good job of trying to explain to people the only way you're going to get COVID aid is if the Democrats win because the Republicans have killed it. They're killing unemployment compensation, small business aid, student loan aid. That's the message of Democrats I'd be pushing.

COOPER: Abby, there is this argument happening among some Trump supporters in Georgia. I mean, some are telling people not to vote because they claim the election is rigged, which is baseless. While the RNC and the campaigns are pleading with voters turn out. I mean, what are Republicans to think with all the mixed messaging?

PHILLIP: Yes, the problem for the RNC in particular is that a lot of the Trump supporters who kind of most surprise pollsters, by showing up in places and at times when pollsters don't expect them to, are also the ones who are spending a lot of time in the parts of the internet, where the words and comments of people like Sidney Powell, and, you know, and others about how the election is rigged, and you shouldn't give the you know, the system, your vote. They're listening to those things, because that's what they're seeing day in and day out in their day to day lives at about and they're talking about it among their friends. So, it's hard to kind of counter that message from a 10,000 foot perspective with you know, Ronna McDaniel, telling people to go ahead and vote when they're not listening to the Ronna McDaniel's of the world.

So, you know, this is a profound problem for Republicans because I think their disinformation could be coming back on them. And we've already seen that, you know, like in 2018, when President Trump is not on the ballot, it is a little bit harder for those types of voters who kind of help him along to come out again for Republicans down ballot poll.

COOPER: Paul, how concerned are Georgia Democrats about their voters getting a little complacent?

BEGALA: Very. Well, they're not complacent. It's just very hard. I've been through a lot of races in Georgia. As. you know, I used to work there. And the Democrats usually have a harder time in a runoff motivating their base. A runoff is about motivating your base and unifying your party. Mr. Trump motivates his base but he does not unify his party. Democrats usually have a hard time moving two key groups, young people and African-Americans. And guess what the two candidates are Jon Ossoff, who's like nine, and Reverend Raphael Warnock. The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church made the most storied church in America.

So, actually think that's pretty hopeful for the Democrats. But again, I don't think that Democrats should fall into this trap about talking about Trump and his feud with Brian Kemp. They need to talk about people's lives and I do think often Reverend Warnock are doing that.

COOPER: Yes. We're going to go leave there. Paul Begala, Scott Jennings, Abby Philip, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A COVID vaccine could be available 20 million Americans by the end of this month, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I discuss that in more with Dr. Fauci. That's in our next hour and about 10 -- starting about 10 minutes from now in our CNN global town hall. The vaccine will be obviously a relief for many but not everyone is rushing to -- or lining up to try to get a shot. A lot of concerns especially in one of the states being hit hardest by the virus and within communities hit hardest.

(voice-over): We'll or take a look at what's fueling those concerns coming up.



COOPER: The COVID vaccines really can't come soon enough but they are coming and there's a hurdle of convincing Americans that they will be safe to take. Many are expressing hesitancy particularly in some black and Latino communities. Our national correspondent Jason Carroll spoke to residents of one of the hardest hit towns in Alabama on what is fueling that distrust.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hobson city, Alabama the term city used loosely it's really a small town. Population about 800.

ALBERTA COOLEY MCCRORY, MAYOR, HOBSON CITY, AL: We are small community, small enough to know everybody and everybody's cat.

CARROLL (voice-over): Hobson city's mayor says small enough to know that when it comes to trusting in a COVID-19 vaccine, many people here feel the way she does.

MCCRORY: Mama loves to take the vaccine.

CARROLL (on-camera): Wait, you yourself are reluctant to take?

MCCRORY: I'm reluctant.

CARROLL (voice-over): Most of those who live in Hobson city are African-American, distress of the medical community runs deep. The town located about 100 miles from Tuskegee, Alabama, home to one of the darkest chapters in American medical history. In the 1930s, government doctors conducted experiments on black men, leaving them untreated for syphilis until the 1970s. So, doctors could monitor how it affected them.

Alabama is taking a beating from the coronavirus, the state's 14-day positivity rate at just over 29 percent. In Calhoun County where Hobson city sets the rate is 37 percent. Still, older residents such as Joe Cunningham have such little faith in doctors, he was reluctant to go in for a COVID-19 test. And any discussion about a vaccine is off the table.

JOE CUNNINGHAM, HOBSON CITY RESIDENT: I'm afraid to take the test.

CARROLL (on-camera): Why not Mr. Cunningham?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't know. I don't understand it. I like to know who it's coming from.

ANITA JACKSON, CUNNINGHAM'S DAUGHTER: I'm going to have to convince my father because he don't know what this vaccine is about. As black people, that's all we know is to trust the Lord. And trust God, we have to convince our family that this is the right thing to do. Because this will help slow it down and help us to survive.

CARROLL (voice-over): Distressing communities of color is not just a small town problem. It's nationwide. A study conducted in September exploring the issue in black and Latino communities found just 14 percent of black people and only 34 percent of Latinos trust a vaccine will be safe.

CARMEN BAILEY, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: It's like it's almost to me like a fear like I have a phobia of needles. I'm almost at the point where I have a phobia of doctors.


CARROLL (voice-over): Carmen Bailey was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April. Bailey says she avoided medical help because she feels she has been poorly treated by doctors in the past. Now, the grandmother of three suffers from adverse effects with her heart, lungs, and kidneys.

BAILEY: Sometimes I can barely walk. And I'm trying to hurt and I don't know what to do.

CARROLL (voice-over): What she will not do is take a vaccine.

BAILEY: We don't know any kind of side effects from them. So, I just really felt like at this point where it's people that's going to take that vaccine as guinea pigs do.

CARROLL (on-camera): You really think they're guinea pigs?

BAILEY: I do. I just feel like you -- we don't know enough.

CARROLL (voice-over): Dr. Margaret Larkins, Pettigrew and her husband Chenits Pettigrew Jr., (INAUDIBLE) health community has a number of hurdles to overcome to reach communities of color.

MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW, CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER, UNIV. HOSPITALS CLEVELAND: When you talk about trust, you know, you're looking at that tug of war. So you know, do I trust the science? Because they're telling me this is what's going to help me? You know. But I have a lived experience that says that this may not be so because I have been deprived of other things.

CARROLL (voice-over): The Pettigrews come from a place of experience professionally and personally, both lived and worked in Tuskegee for a time. Both are participating in the COVID-19 vaccine trial currently underway. And the couple is advocating for trust in the science behind the vaccine.

CHENITS PETTIGREW JR, ASSOC. DEAN. UNIV. OF PITTSBURGH SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: We thought that it was important to make this contribution and to represent the community that we are part of in a way that says you can do this and we can take this vaccine.

CARROLL (on-camera): Was there any hesitation at all?

M. PETTIGREW: I had no hesitation. I see what happens when people of color are not included in studies. And that is the downside of thing.

CARROLL (voice-over): Back in Hobson city, Mayor McCrory says she's had a change of heart, but it had little to do with science.

MCCRORY: I sat across from a young man who came in to purchase a grave for his 59-year-old wife who died of COVID-19 last Wednesday. And if anything makes me change my mind. That changed my mind. His wife's grave will be right over there in our cemetery, 59 years old.

CARROLL (on-camera): He changed your mind.

MCCRORY: He changed my mind.

CARROLL: (voice-over): Jason Carroll, CNN, Hobson city, Alabama.


COOPER: Distrust. A lot more to come on the vaccine. Front our coronavirus townhall The Vaccines. On the other side of the break, an entire hour of your questions with Dr. Anthony Fauci here to help answer, along with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who I will be co-hosting with.