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U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden Addresses Nation After Clinching Electoral College Victory; Joe Biden Says The Integrity Of Our Election Remains Intact; Attorney General Bill Barr Resigns; U.S. COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 300,000 As Vaccination Begins; Electoral College Affirms Biden's Win. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 14, 2020 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Martin, thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you. Don't forget you can watch the show anytime on CNN Go. AC 360 with Anderson starts right now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, it is hard to overestimate how much news there is tonight, how much history was made today. President-elect Biden speaking to the country after the Electoral College ratified his victory under threats of violence in some states. The outgoing President refusing to concede despite new court losses and Friday's Supreme Court rejection.

Americans started receiving COVID vaccinations as deaths in this country exceed 300,000.

And Attorney General Barr resigns.

First quickly, here is what the President-elect said just a few minutes ago.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: This battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We, the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact.

And now it's time to turn the page as you've done throughout our history, to unite, to heal.


COOPER: The President-elect tonight, his remarks coming not long after the Electoral College made it official, casting 306 votes for him and 232 for the President. It was pro forma, but it was certainly not normal as Michigan's electors met, the State Capitol was closed to the public and ringed with security due to threats of violence.

Arizona's electors had to meet at an undisclosed location, again, because of concerns about their security. The country truly does need to heal, in more ways than one.

COVID vaccinations as you see began today in the U.S. Healthcare workers getting the first dose of the newly approved Pfizer vaccine. Still any hope was tempered by the reality that more than 300,000 Americans have now died of the virus, many of them nurses and doctors, EMTs and hospital workers.

The President showing no signs of acknowledging their sacrifices or honoring their lives. Instead, his sideshow continues and that is what it is, a sideshow and a sad one at that.

Attorney General Barr is stepping down today in a letter that began with, "Dear Mr. President," but sounded more like it was meant to say dear leader, quoting now, "I am proud to have played a role in the many successes and unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people. Your record is all the more historic because you accomplished it in the face of relentless implacable resistance."

The gushing continues, "Your 2016 victory speech in which you reached out to your opponents and called for working together for the benefit of the American people was met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic no matter how abusive and deceitful was out of bounds."

It goes on like that for two more paragraphs, only the very end does he mention, he is resigning. "As discussed, I will spend the next week wrapping up a few remaining matters important to the administration and depart on December 23rd."

Again, a big night. I want to start with Jeff Zeleny at Biden headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. So Jeff, what did the President- elect hope to accomplish with the speech? And what does he want the remainder of the transition to look like now that the Electoral College has voted?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think it's that first and foremost, it was just to set the record straight and say, look, democracy worked in America.

This was the most forceful we have heard President-elect Biden talking this way since winning the election. We've never seen someone deliver a winning speech again and again, but we've never heard him talk about President Trump by name like this so many times, and really correct the record going, you know, list by list, defeat by defeat, talking about that Supreme Court unanimous decision on Friday night.

He did not have to go through all this. But he wanted clearly, to show some anger here. You know, democracy was under assault and was under attack. He put it of course, into context. And he -- you know, this was a short speech, on purpose. He can deliver a very long speech, as we all know.

He was coughing a bit throughout, so perhaps that was why as well, but he clearly wanted to put a bow on that and say democracy worked and then move on, but to clearly correct the record of what has been, you know, just this litany of misinformation and disinformation, really sort of confusing the results.

He won 81 million votes, 306 electoral votes. And he said, if he is judging by the measure of what President Trump said four years ago, it's a landslide.

COOPER: As COVID-19 vaccines rolled out across the country for the first time today, what kind of hope is the President-elect expressing for how that process was going to play out?

ZELENY: Well, look, he talked about the grim toll this is taken us. It is the milestone of 300,000 Americans, and he said it is an urgent priority. But the reality here is this is a big test, the biggest test yet of the transition between the Trump government and the Biden government is continuing, the vaccines we saw today roll out.

So the Biden transition team is actually trying to work with the Trump transition team. There are signs that they in fact are doing so, but that of course, is the big challenge here.

Do state and local governments have the money to keep this going? That is a big question. He has called on Congress to do more before, so now this will soon be his huge challenge that he is inheriting. So he only talked about that briefly tonight, and he did not answer perhaps one of the biggest questions of all. When is he going to get the vaccine?

We're told it could be potentially later this week, but they still have not yet decided that. Now that, of course is an open question here. But he knows this is the biggest challenge facing his presidency, and indeed the country -- Anderson.


COOPER: Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks very much. Now, the President, new reporting on his intransigence as well as the Attorney General's departure. Jim Acosta joins us now with that.

So what happened? Because we've heard the relationship obviously, between the President and the Attorney General has been on the rocks, and now this letter, which is, I mean, so over the top, even by Trump administration standards, what are you learning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I've never seen a dear leader resignation letter, before but we saw one today, Anderson.

I think this has less to do with whether or not Bill Barr was fired this evening and whether or not the President was trying to change the subject. I talked to a Trump adviser earlier this evening who said, it's probably the latter.

And the same adviser gave me an interesting insight about the President. You know, he is really dreading the day when he is no longer in the A block, Anderson, which is some TV vernacular about the top of the newscast.

And the President only has about 37 more days of that to go when he is no longer in the A block, that'll happen after January 20th.

But getting back to what happened with Bill Barr, you know, White House officials are telling us that, no, he was not forced out. No, he was not fired. That the President and he had an amicable conversation in the Oval Office earlier today.

But that's all sort of beside the point, I think, Anderson because this was really kind of a last gasp, or one of the last gasps from this President trying to stay relevant, trying to stay in that A block by announcing that Bill Barr was leaving the administration some 10 minutes after California put Joe Biden over the top in the Electoral College.

COOPER: And given the President-elect Biden's victory has now been affirmed by the Electoral College. In terms of the President's, you know, money making scheme, his grift that's going on and raising money to battle, you know, baseless charges of election fraud. Is there any reason to believe he's going to change tactic now?

ACOSTA: No, I talked to a source close to the White House, I talk to the person on a regular basis, who said he's not moving in the direction of accepting the election results. The disinformation for dollars campaign continues.

And I talked to a separate adviser earlier today who pointed to January 6th and said that the President and his allies are likely to try to challenge these Electoral College results on the floor of the house. That is when the Vice President Mike Pence is to preside over the official tallying of the electoral votes.

And it is during that ceremony, Anderson, when Republican House Members plan to challenge these election results. And there's a huge problem. There are some systemic problems with that, they need a senator to sign on.

There are already Republican senators calling Joe Biden the President- elect today. But also this is happening in a Democratic controlled House of Representatives.

So again, this is going nowhere, just like the President's hopes for a second term, a second consecutive term in office. And so yes, Anderson, I mean, what we're hearing from our sources and what I'm hearing from Trump advisers, is that yes, he is going to continue challenging these election results to the point where just about nobody is left listening to him -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta. Appreciate it, Jim. Thanks very much.

Perspective now from CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, CNN senior political commentator, and former top Obama adviser, David Axelrod; also CNN contributor and former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean.

So David, you know President-elect Biden well. What do you make of his speech tonight? And does this now feel like the Biden era is much closer at hand? DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, there's no doubt

about it. Look, I think he's been rather restrained in the face of everything that's gone on over the last several weeks. It's been clear that he's won this race for weeks and weeks and weeks, there's been this barrage of disinformation, you know, nuisance lawsuits across the country that had no foundation in fact.

And a President calling him illegitimate having won by seven million votes and the same number of electoral votes that Donald Trump claimed in 2016. So he had every reason to be irritated.

But I thought he hit the right tone, Anderson, because the fact is, there's a lot of heroism in what happened. There's a lot of beauty in what happened, which is that our democracy held.

And all across the country, people did their jobs, sometimes in the face of enormous pressure, sometimes in the face of threats to their lives. Now, that is a -- that's something we should all be concerned about. But the democracy held and he celebrated that, but he obviously was eager to level the indictment on Trump and his enablers for what's gone on in the last few weeks and continues, which is an assault on our democracy.

You know, he finished with a plea for unity. He said, let us build a house on a rock that can never be washed away. But you know, Lincoln said a house divided against itself cannot stand. We're a divided country tonight and Donald Trump has done everything he can to continue those divisions.

COOPER: And Gloria, there are many on Capitol Hill who are still wanting to continue those divisions.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they are. You know, Lamar Alexander tonight, who is very close to Mitch McConnell, and is also retiring came out and said, okay, it's time. It's President-elect Joe Biden.

But there are many folks on Capitol Hill who are still grudgingly hanging back until when? January 6th? January 20th. It's hard to know and it's outrageous and it's a shame and they are undermining the very democracy that got them elected.

But I'm sure you're going to see some shenanigans on the House floor on January 6th. But in a way, I think we heard the President-elect talk about Donald Trump more than he has, since he has gotten elected.

I mean, mentioning his name many times. We didn't hear Joe Biden do that before. He sort of tonight, I think, felt the need to set the record straight that he won the election fair and square.

COOPER: And John Dean, just in terms of legal challenges, and I mean -- I'm using the term rather loosely, because I mean, I'm not sure how much I know how much legal merit there was to the challenges that were made, dozens of them, but the President never had any ground to stand on, despite, you know, people sending pictures on you know, Instagram and tweeting stuff, and, you know, stuff on social media.

When push comes to shove, and actually lawyers in court have to present it to a judge, it doesn't hold up. You expect that the joint session of Congress on January 6th the final step in counting the electoral votes before the inauguration. I mean, does that devolve into some kind of mishegas and some sort of like mess or what?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It could very easily. I think there's going to be a lot of thunder and rumbling by the Republicans. But again, that's what they've done in court, Anderson. They've tried to go in and pretend like they have information, but judges who are very perceptive that this sort of thing, cut through all of the dust and find what's really there is nothing.

And I think that that's what's going to happen if they manage to object and they get the procedures where they go into each chamber and then start debating these different caucuses as to whether or not there are electors or not. It's going to fall apart again, because they don't have any evidence and they've been unable to present it.

So it's just not going to work. But I think it'll be theater, you can count on that.

COOPER: David, the resignation letter from the Attorney General. I mean, it's so funny and over the top. It's almost a parody of what President Trump would demand of someone who is quitting the administration, even though all credible reporting indicates their relationship have been severely deteriorated.

I guess how else would it end other than in some huge, you know, firing on Twitter?

DEAN: I think what's --

AXELROD: Well that was --

COOPER: Sorry, that was for David, John, and then we'll go back to you.

DEAN: Okay.

AXELROD: Go ahead, John. Yes.

DEAN: I think that's most telling is the way --

AXELROD: Oh, oh, okay.

COOPER: John, go ahead.

DEAN: I think what most is telling is the way it was handled, the fact that Barr's people remain in place. His Deputy Attorney General who he hand selected and brought in to run the department on a daily basis, and his principal deputy are now escalated up to Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.

This isn't going to be a radical change from Barr's point of view. They may be people who will do things for Trump that Barr was not willing to do, however, and that might have been part of the agreement and understanding when Barr left.

But I think they wanted to put a congenial face on this, for some reason that there's some more business they want to get out of the department. And so there was not a lot of hard feelings in the way it ended.

COOPER: Yes, David, I mean, how much it can be done and the amount of time, you know, before January 20th.

AXELROD: Well, one thing can be done is pardons. And I expect there's going to be a number of them and they're going to be quite controversial. And Barr probably knew that and knew that this was a good time to get out.

He obviously antagonized the President on two fronts. One because he wouldn't attest to the charges of massive fraud, which is a big conspiracy theory that has no foundation. He wouldn't put the weight of the Justice Department behind it.

And he kept with the practice of the Justice Department, did not reveal an investigation against Hunter Biden. You know that these two things enrage the President. So Barr understood that he was probably at the end of the line here.

But I also think he knows what can happen in the next few weeks, and I expect there are going to be more grotesque distortions of the rule of law here in the next few weeks as the President gets ready to leave the White House.

BORGER: I think Barr is a master of the clean getaway. And I think that's what he was trying to do here, not only because there are going to be some pardons that he might have objected to and didn't want -- wouldn't want to be associated with.

And he also knows that he was probably going to be fired by tweet if he didn't go in and write this ridiculous fawning letter to the President. And I want to point out that, that not only was the timing of this suspicious, of course, right after Joe Biden went over the top in the Electoral College, but the first line of this letter says, "I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon on the department's review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election, and how those allegations will continue to be pursued."


BORGER: Never again, is that mentioned in the rest of the letter. There is no update here. But it is clearly what the President dictated to him and said, you need to talk about this, and how you're continuing to pursue that in your Justice Department. That's what he wants.

COOPER: So I guess that conversation was held ahead of the meeting so that Barr then comes to the White House with that letter already done.

BORGER: Or it's with Mark Meadows, you know, the White House staff.

COOPER: So you think they wrote it while they were there? And then they just printed it up?

BORGER: I don't know. But I have a real suspicion that the President had a lot of input to the first line of this letter, and the rest of it is just fawning. Ridiculous.

AXELROD: Do we think after all this time that Bill Barr doesn't know how to write a letter that will please the President?

BORGER: Exactly. He is the clean getaway guy.

AXELROD: I imagined he knew how to construct it, you know.

COOPER: I think it was interesting that in his tweet, John, the President actually references the letter, you know, clearly the President was in on this whole conversation because suddenly he is referencing the letter as if the letter has great import, which is not anything you'd normally see the President doing.

But, John, I mean, just in terms of what may happen on January 6th, I mean, there's not really -- there's no options, really.

DEAN: There are not options. There is set procedure that the Congress must follow. They must convene. They must -- Pence, if he doesn't want to announce the findings of the -- or the results of the Electoral College, he has to step aside and let the President Pro Tem Grassley step forward and announce those results.

It's not something that is where he can get up and say, I refuse to do this. If he's not going to do it, he's got to have -- he's got to tell him in advance, and he can't lay his body down on the tracks at that moment and pull a show.

So this is going to go just by script, and we've been here before. We've done this many times. And you're right, there are very few options, other than for a little internal argument, going into each chamber debating these things, and then coming back when they can't resolve because they have no alternative.

There are no other certified electors other than those that support Biden as the winner with 306 of them.

COOPER: John, David and Gloria, appreciate it. Thank you.

Fascinating day, what a day it has been. Gloria Borger, appreciate it.

Ahead tonight, Stacey Abrams, who oversaw Georgia's electors, she joins us.

Next, more on William Barr's departure and the President's walking papers whether he accepts them or not. Supreme Court litigator and conservative legal scholar and critic of the President, George Conway is here. Plus ICU nurse and pioneering COVID vaccine recipient, Sandra Lindsay

on what today means to her and the healthcare professionals on the frontlines with her.



COOPER: Today could go down as the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic here and it ought to be the end of the end of a delusional President's final hopes for staying in office.

But as Jim Acosta reported before the break, today's Electoral College vote has not persuaded him to give it up. President Biden spoke to the situation tonight and indirectly to the President's Republican enablers.


BIDEN: He took full advantage of each and every one of those avenues. President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take. He took his case to Republican governors and Republican Secretary of State as he criticized many of them.

To Republican state legislatures, to Republican appointed judges at every level, and in the case decided after the Supreme Court's latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote, quote, "This Court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case and he has lost on the merits," end of quote. Lost on the merits.

Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy. Even when we find those results hard to accept. But that's the obligation of those who have taken on a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.


COOPER: So there's that, there's the ongoing White House scheme for challenging the electoral vote, whatever that may mean. On top of that, Attorney General Barr today removed his tongue from certain boots long enough to compose and especially, well, a fatuous letter of resignation, the wearer of certain boots, a lot to talk about next with our next guest, Supreme Court litigator and attorney, and anti- Trump conservative, George Conway.

Mr. Conway, really appreciate you being with us. What do you think it says about America that the voters have spoken, the courts have spoken and now tonight, the Electoral College has spoken, and still, the sitting President of the United States refuses to, at the very least even acknowledge his duly elected successor?

GEORGE CONWAY, CO-FOUNDER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on, Anderson. I think it says a lot about the President and less about the country. I mean, I think it says three things about the President. One is, he is delusional as you just said. Secondly, he's basically running a scam, a financial and otherwise scam on the American people, or at least some segment of the American people.

And third, he is malevolent. He is seeking to undermine if he can't have the presidency, he doesn't want anyone else to have the presidency undamaged and he is seeking to undermine the next administration.

I mean, to go to the point of delusion, about delusional, how delusional he is, they brought a lawsuit. The Trump Campaign brought a lawsuit today in New Mexico. In federal district court arguing that drop boxes or too many drop boxes were put in different places before the election and actually, this lawsuit they could have brought more than 41 days ago when the election was held.

And think about it, it makes absolutely no sense to bring this lawsuit. New Mexico has only five electoral votes and he's down by 74. He lost New Mexico by 100,000 votes, 11 percent. There is literally -- and today, the electors of the New Mexico and 49 other states cast their votes. No court is going to give relief at this point.

The lawsuit is just a joke. It's crazy. It's just -- it's delusional as you said.


COOPER: But if you look at it as a grift. I mean, if the grift is getting money, raising money from people who genuinely believe the President, you know, continuing these frivolous lawsuits allows, or at least gives cover for the grift. I mean, he's making a lot of money.

CONWAY: Correct. I mean, I saw one figure, I think it was reported on your air that they had raised over $200 million. To pay what? Lawyers who aren't worth a nickel.

But it's more than that. It's also -- it's also he needs to convince himself and his supporters for his own psychological needs that he actually won the election. And that's where you get back to the point that he's delusional. He can't see the truth from his own lies and his own fantasies.

I mean, imagine if a network executives at CNN behaved like this. Imagine if a pilot at United Airlines behaved like this. Imagine if an Army Colonel behaved like this. Imagine if Kyle Shanahan, the coach of the 49ers, went out after the Super Bowl after losing the Super Bowl and said, hey, all those points in the fourth quarter were fake. Those passes -- those passes by Mahomes weren't real. They shouldn't have counted and then brought 60 lawsuits and lost them all.

You know, all these people will be cashiered in a minute or maybe they need to talk to someone.

COOPER: Do you think he believes it?

CONWAY: Yeah, I think he -- I think he convinces himself of what he wants to believe in. He doesn't -- I don't think in his own mind truth and lies mean anything. You know, you can you can show him that he lied, and he'll keep lying.

Or he'll pick up a new lie. The truth -- they are just words to him. They're just -- everything in his own mind counts and anything out there in reality doesn't count. And that's just the way he's behaved. The scary thing is that people are following him and believing him.

COOPER: That's the next thing I wanted to ask you about, which is I mean, I get, you know, people who are not on a daily basis, obsessed with following the ins and outs of what's happening in politics, believing the President because they want to -- they like him or they believe he's done good stuff. And they want to believe their President and I understand that.

But I guess the stuff -- what I don't understand are folks on Capitol Hill, who should know better, who certainly know the law better and yet have allowed the Republican Party to just be completely now turned into the party of Trump and are now allowing the party essentially to be held hostage for the next four years to the whims of what he decides to do.

CONWAY: It's absolutely astounding. And that is the most astounding, not his behavior. He's shown himself to be who he is over the past four years. And all of this you could have -- you know, his behavior after the election could be predicted.

But the fact that even after he has lost and lost decisively, people are still pretending and -- pretending that he didn't or at least humoring him and not criticizing him or contradicting him, that you could get 18 State Attorney Generals to file in support of this garbage they sent to the Supreme Court and then 126 members of the House to sign on to an amicus brief also in support of that garbage that the Supreme Court unanimously slapped down.

I mean, it's terribly disheartening. It shows basically, the people are just -- they're just doing it because they're either afraid or maybe -- maybe they've been taking in.

The psychology of it is just beyond my comprehension, and I do think there are a number -- I think that a lot of these people know better. They know he is nuts. They know he is a pathological liar. They know all of this, but the price that they would pay in terms of their stature or their electoral viability is too great.

And so they want something from I don't know what now, now that he is going to be gone in 40 days, they simply keep, you know, they either bury their heads or they go along and they just, you know, they hope that they're not the subject of a mean tweet.

And meanwhile, the people who do the right thing here now even Barr, get cashiered or they get criticized, like Governor Kemp and Governor Ducey and Secretary of State Raffensperger.

Well, you do the right thing, you get trashed.

COOPER: Well, that seems to be the -- I mean, maybe we've all spent so much time sort of trying to imagine -- figure out what is in the President's head, but it does seem, you could look at it as a strategy that he attacks the people who have been his most loyal servants.

I mean, Jeff Sessions whether you agree with him or not what he did at the Justice Department, he was executing the orders. I mean, he was doing what the President wanted him to.

He was actually getting judges through and getting people on the bench other than recusing himself and Barr the same, you can look at it, I guess also as a message to all Republicans in Congress of don't cross him in any way because he will -- he has no compunction about whatever you've done for him in the past about kneecapping you if it serves his interest in the present.


CONWAY: That's absolutely right. I mean, there was this great op-ed about a year ago, in the New York Times talking about the President's narcissism, and the last line of it was, you can never love a narcissist enough. And you can never do a narcissist getting enough you can never do enough for him.

He doesn't care about what you did yesterday, if you find some kind of a conflict between your public duties, and what he thinks is in his interest to have you do at a given moment, you're done. That's what happened to Jeff Sessions, who was his earliest and most significant supporter in 2015 and 2016, that's what happens.

You know, that's what we're seeing now to Governor Kemp, who campaigned extensively for the President's or seek the reelection of the President, and so did Governor Ducey who's also being trashed. And then Bill Barrr, who you know, has been criticized to the ends of the euro for his behavior in kowtow into the President, including in giving a misleading presentation of the Mueller report, in conducting a reinvestigation of the Russia investigation, in intervening in the prosecution of Roger Stone. He's done all of that. But it's worth nothing now.


CONWAY: At least to the Trump is because Trump is concerned because he committed three new sins, which is one, is he never issued that report about the Russia investigation, two, he never -- he sat on the investigation and kept secret the investigation of Hunter Biden which is what he was supposed to do on orders duties under the Justice Department's prosecutorial guidelines.

And three, he said that they didn't know of any actionable fraud in the election. And those are unpardonable sins for Trump. Doesn't matter what Barr did for him yesterday.


CONWAY: Trump doesn't care.

COOPER: What do you see? I mean, for the next. I mean, obviously, it's impossible to think four years out these days, but -- what do you imagine his post-presidential life to be? CONWAY: I don't know. I think it's going to be continual grift and grievance. He's going to be trying to raise money and trying to continue, you know, being the center of attention, because he needs to be the center of attention psychologically. So he's going to keep, you know, stirring people up out there and probably trying to hold rallies and trying to raise money. And --

COOPER: Without having a presidential seal, though --

CONWAY: Without having --

COOPER: Is does it?

CONWAY: -- it's a lot harder.

COOPER: Yes, that's what I'm (INAUDIBLE).

CONWAY: There's going to be the grievance aspect. And that grievance aspect is going to be he's going to his dying breath. He's going to claim that this election was fraudulently taken from him, and then you're going to hear more. If he gets prosecuted, we've seen reporter we've seen reports by the -- I guess the New York Times, most recently that the New York County District Attorney's Office is ramping up its criminal investigation of somebody, I guess, maybe the Trump Organization, maybe the President himself. And, you know, he's just going to be continual a continual fog of grievance.


CONWAY: Until, you know, forever.

COOPER: George Conway, it's fascinating, really appreciate it. Thank you.

CONWAY: Thank you.

COOPER: Speaking of history, it was certainly made today with the first Pfizer vaccinations in the U.S.

(voice-over): Coming up, I'll talk to the first healthcare workers in the nation to get the vaccine. an ICU nurse who has seen so much pain, suffering and loss of life from COVID-19.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight, in the face of an ongoing surge in coronavirus cases, there's a new record number of people hospitalized in the U.S. more than 110,000. And with the U.S. death toll toping 300,000 the nation witness something truly historic today. The first dose is given a Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Sara -- CNN's Sara Sidner joins us now from the hospital in Michigan with more. Sara, you've been reporting on this all day long because I was with you early this morning talking about this. Talk about what you've seen today.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, I'm sure you felt this. There are times in history when you really feel the gravity of something, the momentousness of something. And this was one of those days we watched as the vials came in to this hospital. They were one of the first to get it here at the University of Michigan. But it also came around the same time that the United States surpassed 300,000 people dead due to COVID-19. This really is a bit of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.


SIDNER (voice-over): This moment could not come soon enough. ICU nurse Sandra Lindsay is one of the first people in the United States to get the COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial. So, it was emergency medicine, Dr. Yves Duroseau.

YVES DUROSEAU, CHAIR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, LENNOX HILL HOSPITAL: They felt great. They felt any different than receiving any other vaccination that I've received in the past?

SIDNER (voice-over): Today workers loaded boxes of Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine onto trucks by forklifts for shipping to medical facilities and hospitals around the country. A historic day that arrived in record time. CNN was there the moment University of Michigan Medical Center staff got the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is like the best Christmas ever.

SIDNER (voice-over): A box filled with dry ice and 390 vials. Each vial has five doses inside. One spot and mixed with saline, It was administered to healthcare workers who have exhausted themselves taking care of coronavirus patients while putting themselves in danger.

MARK SCHLISSEL, PRESIDENT, UNIVERISTY OF MICHIGAN: The really important thing is that we can now see the horizon, we can see how this is going to end.

SIDNER (voice-over): From Michigan medicine to Tampa General Hospital in Florida something to cheer about finally. After a year of devastating loss, more than 300,000 COVID deaths in America to medical staff at Ohio State University.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one, vaccinate.

THOMAS POWELL, EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: It's momentous. I feel honored to receive it humbled receive it. It's a really wonderful day.

SIDNER (voice-over): The complex task of figuring out how to store and ship the vaccine has been underway for months. The vaccine needs to be kept at ultra cold temperatures.

[20:40:01] UPS and FedEx are helping to deliver the vaccine nationwide using a complex package designed by Pfizer called a thermal shipper. Now after so many months of uncertainty, there is renewed hope this vaccine can start us down what's to be a long road to recovery.

LENA NAPOLITANO, DIRECTOR OF SURGICAL INTENSIVE CARE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: We are exposed to it every minute of every day. So,I can't tell you how much this means to me. I feel like I won a million dollar lottery getting this vaccine.


COOPER: Sara, hospitals and medical centers, they have those ultra cold refrigerators. What happens when the vaccine is taken to places that don't have that specialized equipment?

SIDNER: You know, there are plenty of places that don't have it. And that is why it's packaged the way it is. You saw those boxes, they call one section to that that has all of that dry ice in there. The bunker is how one of operation works. These officials told us and that really can keep it cold as cold as it needs to be for several days.

There are also other little packets that they've been sending out that also does the same thing. So that is how that will get out to different places. If they don't have the cold storage, they just will need to keep it and bring more dry ice which is relatively cheap to try and keep it in those subzero temperatures. Anderson.

COOPER: Fascinating. Sara Sidner, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

As Sara mentioned at the beginning of her report, one of the first people in the U.S. to receive the Pfizer vaccine and possibly the first was Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse working with the six patients. She's seen firsthand what coronavirus can do to those who are critically ill. She works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center here in New York. I'm very pleased that she joins me now.

Sandra, thanks so much for joining us. I know it's been a long day for you, although I'm sure you're used to a lot of long days in your life saving work. First of all, you had the vaccine this morning, how are you feeling? Does it -- first of all, just feel? How did it feel to be part of history and also physically are you feeling anything from the vaccine?

SANDRA LINDSAY, ICU REGISTERED NURSE: Anderson, first of all, thanks for having me on and for giving me this platform to share my experience. I feel great. It doesn't feel any different than the influenza vaccine I take annually, and that I took two months ago.

COOPER: So, how did you get to be the first in the U.S. to receive the vaccine? Or one of the first at least. Did you -- I assume you volunteer for this?

LINDSAY: So, I volunteered and I've been speaking openly that whenever this vaccine is approved to be given that I would be among the first. When my turn, you know came up that I would take the vaccine, I have no fair, I trust the science. My profession is deeply rooted in science. I trust science. What I don't trust is getting COVID-19. Because I don't know how it will affect me and the people around me that I could potentially transfer the virus to.

COOPER: So, today the Surgeon General addressed vaccine hesitancy and noted the distrust among people of color and others, saying that the distrust is not without good reason. Referring to the Tuskegee studies in the 1930s, horrific experiments that were done on black men. People come are also been disproportionately affected by the virus. Were these things on your mind when you volunteered to receive the vaccine?

LINDSAY: So, I understand the mistrust among the minority community. So, yes, it was on my mind. But mostly, I wanted to -- I want to be a part of the solution to put an end to this pandemic, once and for all. As you mentioned, in your introduction, I have seen tremendous loss, pain, suffering, fear in the eyes of my colleagues, every day that we come to work courageously to save lives. And I just think also as a leader in the organization, that I lead by example. I don't ask people to do anything that I would not do myself.

And so, I was happy to volunteer to be among the first I did not know that I would make history and that's not why I did it. I wanted to do it to inspire people who may be skeptical about taking the vaccine and trusting the science.

COOPER: I think about you and so many of those who are who are in the trenches who are on the frontlines seeing death day in and day out and saving lives. When you go outside the hospital on your way home and you see people not wearing masks or not social distancing, hanging out in a bar, you know, thinking that they're young, it's not doesn't really matter. They're not going to get sick. What is your message to people who may now think, OK, well, there's a vaccine now, so the mask wearing it's not as important?


LINDSAY: So, it's just as important now. We are not out of the woods yet the light is brighter tonight in the tunnel. We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But it's -- this is certainly not over. So, I will say -- I would say to people that the COVID-19 virus is real, I have witnessed it firsthand, we're still witness in it. So, I urge you please, to listen to the experts, wear your mask.

Let science be your guide, practice social distancing. Also to remember, the vaccine is no good in a freezer, it is better, more effective, of course, when it goes into your body and starts interacting with your immune system. So please listen to the science.

It is real. Continue to wear your mask, social distance. And if you can put off your celebrations, please put off your celebrations. Do them virtually. People have been coming up with all sorts of creative ways --


LINDSAY: -- to interact with family. And so, do that this year so that we can be together next year in person.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Sandra Lindsay, I appreciate you talking tonight, but also what you and what you do as a nurse, and everybody in the medical field what they are doing. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

LINDSAY: Thank you, Anderson. A tremendous thanks to my team members and frontline workers and essential workers all across the world.


LINDSAY: We're fighting the good fight. Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you. We're lucky to have you.

Joining me now is CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who like all of us, that's certainly been waiting for this day for a very long time.

So Sanjay, first, your reaction to what Sandra was just saying as well as your own thoughts on this day?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a it's a historic day, and she's going to be a person who's recorded in the history books. I mean, it is, it's one of those things, sometimes when you're in the throes of it, it's hard to understand that this is all part of what is going to be written about in the history books one day, just like I've been reading about what happened in 1918. You know, and going back and looking at that time, one day, people will come back and look at this time, and Sandra's name will probably be in there as the first person to be vaccinated in this country.

The other thing that really struck me Anderson, you asked her about it as sort of that, that whiplash and I think a lot of health care providers have when they -- they're working in the hospitals or taking care of patients that are very sick from COVID.

You know, sometimes they have to prone these patients, and they're walking in with iPads so that they can have conversations with their families, then they walk out of the hospital. And, you know, sometimes it's treated as if it's not a real thing. I think that's what Sandra was sort of alluding to a little bit there.

And, you know, people have been, you know, who've worked in the hospital, they're frightened, they're frightened that they may be carrying the virus themselves or taking it home. And then to be, you know, going to the supermarket, a gas station, people not believing it's even real. It's been a lot of whiplash for health care provider for some time. So, it's good to see people like her getting vaccinated.

COOPER: So, when do you think from -- I know, you know, from all the people you talk to all the folks you've been talking to in the production of this, everybody's watching time. When do most people who are not necessarily, you know, in or not in the medical field, who are not frontline? When do those of us farther back? When do you think the vast majority of people will actually be touched by this vaccine? GUPTA: Well, you know, it's dependent on a couple of things. I mean, you know, overall, I think we're looking at spring, maybe early summer. I think we did your calculation, I think you were like 280th million or something --


GUPTA: -- the interactive higher. But, you know, I mean, we have the Pfizer vaccine, we're going to go through the same process this week on possibly Moderna vaccine. And, you know, we have 200 million doses have been purchased of that. There's AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, which, you know, may receive authorization end of January, early February.

And I bring that all up to say, Anderson, it depends a little bit on how many vaccines are out there, and how much can be manufactured. You can see that the doses there, that AstraZeneca was the big bet 300 million doses of that. If those come to fruition, you know, there'll be a lot more vaccine out there much more quickly.

You got to make sure the manufacturing is up to par as well, creating tens of thousands of doses for clinical trials different than hundreds of millions of doses for, you know, the world. So, you know, they got to make sure they're doing that. But I think, you know, I'm hearing from a lot of people who are modeling this out sort of late spring early summer for, you know, most people in the country

COOPER: Given the vaccine hesitancy among some in the country, I mean how important you think it'll be for people to continue to, you know, receive those shots on camera (INAUDIBLE). And I think there's something about normalizing it once you actually start to see it. You see it as a real thing. Oh, it's something that's kept in a freezer. It's not just some kind of thing that's come out of nowhere.


GUPTA: Yes. I mean that that was striking today to see those shots and even hear Sandra talk about it because there's so much science behind this. And, you know, we've been reporting on this for so long these mRNA vaccines and the amazing technology. And then it's just this mundane sort of shot right that kind of goes into the arm just like any other shot that people have had.

But I -- you know, I think stories like Sandra's actually go a long way towards addressing vaccine hesitancy. You know, 60% of people in the country say they'd be willing to take it. But among black Americans, it's closer to 53%. So it's lower there. You have people who black Americans who can cast a scientific eye toward it and say that yes, I evaluated and I decided to take it. I think it goes a long way.

COOPER: Yes, Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks.

Up next, on this busy Monday night. I'll talk to Stacey Abrams.

(voice-over): Her thoughts on President-elect Biden speech tonight and his visit to Georgia tomorrow to campaign for the two Democrats in Senate runoffs.


COOPER: It's certainly worth repeating our breaking news at the top of the program, the Electoral College has affirmed the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris be the next President and Vice President United States. Biden won many of the so-called battleground states along with two that were not in that category before November 3rd, Arizona and Georgia. Overseeing Georgia's electoral vote today with Stacey Abrams and she joins me now.

Representative Abrams, thanks so much for for being with us today. Was obviously a historic day in Georgia not since Bill Clinton in 1992, has a Democratic ticket one year state. What did it feels like to affirm President-elect Biden's victory and do you believe this marks a shift in the transition?


STACEY ABRAMS, FMR GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I will say it was a thrilling relief. I believe that we have closure and that we have certitude. But that doesn't mean that there aren't those who will continue to try and undo the outcome. But I think what we affirmed across the country is that democracy holds that we are willing to go through this process. And regardless of the outcome, we are willing to do the work of preserving what has gotten us this far for more than 240 years.

COOPER: As you know, the President has gone after the governor of Georgia also the Secretary of State, both Republicans. The governor, he used to praise lavishly in the during the pandemic when the governor opened things up very quickly. What do you think the impact will be of his constant attempts to undermine the voting process, particularly on the Senate runoffs next month?

ABRAMS: One of the differences between myself and Donald Trump is actually believe in every voter who is eligible being able to cast a ballot, and it is always deeply disappointing when an elected official works to undermine the integrity of the ballot, and works to create confusion among voters.

We are pushing hard to get voters to use absentee ballots, mail-in ballots, because it's the safest, most effective way to vote in Georgia, we are in the midst of a third COVID surge. And while we are all excited about the possibility of this vaccine, there are still millions of Georgia voters who need to be heard before the vaccine reaches them.

And it's our mission to make certain that in Georgia, everyone who wants to vote by mail can go to and find out how to make a plan to vote, voting either early in person starting today voting by mail. But it's disappointing that the President of the United States is trying to undermine this integrity of the vote.

COOPER: So today, as you just mentioned, was the first day of early voting in your state turnout for runoff races is usually lower than in general elections. What is your strategy to getting people out to the polls without the attraction of a presidential ticket on the ballot? Obviously, you have done extraordinary work in Georgia to register people, to get people to vote in the general election.

ABRAMS: People's lives are on the line. Whether it's President Biden or former President Trump as we get to January, it's still going to be a question of do people get relief from the economic effect of COVID, from the public health impact of COVID? Will there be any action on the racial justice questions that continue to plague our country, and there are only two candidates in this race that have actually demonstrated any concern for the people of Georgia and that's Jon Ossoff, and Raphael Warnock.

Where Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have failed Georgia is that they've allowed David Perdue, I'm sorry, they've allowed Mitch McConnell to block access to the millions of dollars that could be coming into the state of Georgia.

We've had one in four businesses, small businesses that were open last year that have shut down. We have 160,000 people facing evictions. We have 4.1 million job loss claims, and we have watched Nero fiddle as the nation burns and unfortunately, as Mitch McConnell fiddles and refuses to take action, Jon, we've watched.

I mean Anderson unfortunately, we've watched David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, were standing next to him with the matches. It's time for us to have real leadership and that means electing Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the United States Senate and Georgia voters understand this.

COOPER: CNN is reporting that there are fewer early voting sites available in parts of the state than there were for the November election. How concerned are you about that, in particular for voters of color?

ABRAMS: We know that there will be fewer locations available because this will have a smaller turnout number than a presidential election. Presidential elections are high watermarks. However, we have targeted certain counties where we know that not only have they closed polling locations, they've closed them in largely Democratic areas that serve largely communities of color.

Cobb County was one of those counties. Luckily, because of a consortium of organizations including fair fight, we were able to convince them to open additional locations. We're now focusing on Forsyth County, which has a large Asian-American population and Hall County, which has a large Latino population.

But fundamentally, we want everyone in Georgia to understand that you have three ways to vote, you can vote early in-person starting today, through January 1st. You can request your absentee ballot by going to getting information about requesting your absentee ballot. And you can vote on Election Day January 5th, although we consider that last call. And we prefer that people bank their votes before we get into the holidays.

COOPER: Stacey Abrams, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

COOPER: Reminder, don't miss "Full Circle" our digital news show. You can catch it streaming live at 6:00 p.m. Eastern at or you can watch it there and on the CNN app at anytime On Demand.

It has been a remarkable day. The news continues. Let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Remarkable indeed. We're making the right kind of history here, making some progress, democracy and work and now comes the vaccine.