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First Americans Receive Coronavirus Vaccines; Electoral College Begins Voting to Affirm Biden's Win. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired December 14, 2020 - 10:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: In moments, the Electoral College, voting to affirm Joe Biden's win, sealing President Trump's fate, and under way now, the first Americans receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

And that was the scene in New York State, the first ICU nurse vaccinated at hospitals across the country health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemics are the ones first in line to receive this Pfizer vaccine. And it can't happen soon enough.

I want to go straight to our Martin Savidge. He's at the Ohio State University in Columbus. And, Martin, it is pretty stunning, as we've said, the mundane act of what appears to be something like a flu shot, it is a life changing event for all of us now and the first shipment of vaccines scheduled to arrive where you are just about now. So what can you tell us?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you're right. I mean, the flu shot and that scene, it speaks volumes as to what we're up against. Here, they're still waiting.

So the arrival has happened, the UPS truck behind me with the flashers on, parked in number ten, that bay, that is the much anticipated first delivery of this vaccine, 975 doses. In fact, it was so anticipated not just hospital officials were on hand to receive it, also the governor of Ohio was here to receive it as well.

It was taken simply as one box, it was taken inside the receiving area and right now it's being handled, and we're in that in between time, so in between when it first arrived to now, what they have practiced and rehearsed for, to when it will be injected into the arms of 20 to 30 frontline health care workers. This is all they worked out ahead of time.

And they admit that the first day is a small number. It's what they refer to as a kind of soft opening. It's their way to initiate this process. Tomorrow, there will be more vaccinations that will be given. So what we're anticipating now is that they will transfer it over to another part of the building where these medical professionals are standing by both to administer and others to receive. And we're talking about people who are on the absolute tip of the

spear, those who work in the emergency room, those who work in the ICU units, those are the ones getting top priority immediately in this state and then after that, it will be those in long-term health care facilities, whether they're employees or, of course, patients therein.

So it is the first step. A remarkable day for Ohio, it comes at a propitious time. This state is just about in the month of December to see its highest death toll in the entire pandemic. You can't get it fast enough here.

BURNETT: Martin, thank you very much. Just as you say, those first 100 doses or so, that is the first flap of the butterfly wing starting here.

Today's COVID vaccinations are really just those first steps in what will be a long fight in protecting Americans from COVID-19. We're still less than a year after the first case was documented here in this country. Although, of course, there's now plasma indicating it came earlier than we had even thought.

With me now, Dr. Richina Bicette, the medical director at Baylor College of Medicine. And, Doctor, I really appreciate your time. So, first, what's your reaction, there you are on the tip of the spear, to the vaccines going out today?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, I'm very excited, ecstatic actually. This is a great step in us trying to win the war against COVID-19. Things are far from over. We do still have a long way to go but this is a remarkable accomplishment for science. It's a remarkable accomplishment for medicine. And I'm hoping the vaccine rollout goes as expected.

BURNETT: So, have you been given a date for when you get your vaccine, your first of two doses?

BICETTE: Hospitals in the Texas Medical Center are actually gearing up to begin administering vaccine as early as tomorrow afternoon. They're expecting the doses of vaccine to come in today, so hopefully should be prepared to start giving it tomorrow.

BURNETT: So, what are your biggest concerns? Obviously, I know you're ecstatic, you're happy to take it, right? You're not concerned about the vaccine itself. I understand that. But what is your biggest concern as a medical provider?

BICETTE: My biggest concern is likely the public skepticism. There are a lot of people that still aren't sure if they're going to be willing to take the vaccine. Latest polls it seemed as if about 63 percent of Americans were going to be willing to take the vaccine, and that's not enough. We need as many people to become as vaccinated as possible so that we can develop herd immunity against COVID if we do want to eradicate this and if we want to get back to living in a world without having to wear masks and having to social distance.

[10:05:03] BURNETT: And, look, I have to hope, people like you doing this and people see months passing, maybe those numbers will start change. That's all we can hope for. So let me ask you this, Dr. Bicette, that Alex Azar, the HHS secretary, today said the general public, right, so not medical providers and frontline workers and nursing homes, but the general public, the rest of us, could begin getting a vaccine by late February or March. And he noted, of course, there are additional vaccines anticipated to come online by then, 100 million shots he says by the end of February. Does that timeline make sense to you?

BICETTE: It's a lofty goal. I do think that we probably have quite a ways before the general public can likely start begin getting vaccinated, more likely second quarter of 2021. But the earlier we can get it, the better. As of December 21st, Pfizer said that they're going to start weekly rollouts of the vaccine. We have the Moderna vaccine, hopefully, going to be getting emergency use authorization within the next one to two weeks, so that will have another vaccine on the market and more doses that are available. So, February, we can hope for, but second quarter is more likely.

BURNETT: Can I just ask you one quick question before we go, Dr. Bicette. Do you care which vaccine you get? Do you have a preference that you think one might be better than the other or would you just take whichever one comes first?

BICETTE: I mean, right now, we don't have really a choice. Pfizer is all that's available for us. And I think that there is so much fear of COVID that especially health care providers are lining up in droves to get whatever vaccine is available, whether it's the Pfizer or the Moderna.

Although we have seen maybe a little bit more side effects with the Pfizer vaccine and those side effects being allergic reactions, which were reported in the U.K. For the most part, they both seem to have relatively the same safety profile. They both seem to have relatively the same efficacy profile. So, if we're looking at Pfizer and Moderna in the next couple months, they're neck and neck.

BURNETT: Neck and neck, all right, I think that's just important to get out there, right, because I know people will have those sorts of questions. Thank you so much, Dr. Bicette. I appreciate your time.

Anderson, back to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Also right now, the Electoral College will begin to confirm President-elect Joe Biden's win, once again, sealing the fate of President Trump. Today is the date when electors are required by the Constitution to meet in their states and cast their ballots for president. And this is the safeguard put in place by the founders over fears of what's happening right now, with the president's baseless and failing efforts to overturn the election and hang onto power.

Usually, these distinct and ceremonial votes are merely a formality, but with the president and his Republican allies trying to undermine the Constitution and the will of the voters, it is important, we think, to show how the electoral process works, a transparency that democracy demands. So we're going to be show you the key moments when the results are read in each state.

We have reporters in states across America. I want to begin, first of all, with John Berman and explain what we're about to see in the big picture.

So, let's break it down, John. What exactly is happening today and explain why?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's not even just today, it's over the next hour, Anderson. We are going to see four states cast their official electoral votes for president, Tennessee, Indiana, which will cast all of their votes for Donald Trump, and New Hampshire and Vermont, which will cast all of their votes for Joe Biden.

Why are they doing this? Well, we can thank the Constitution of the United States. It's Article 2, Section 1, which says, each state shall appointment in such manner as of legislature thereof may direct a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which that state may be entitled in Congress. So, if you're looking today, for instance, Indiana has nine House members, Two senators, so they get 11 electoral votes total.

As for what's happening today, well, that's due to the Constitution as well. The 12th Amendment of the Constitution says, the electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for president and vice president. They actually have to cast two ballots, Anderson, today, one for president and vice president. It begins this hour and it finishes up at 7:00 tonight when Hawaii finally does its meeting. Joe Biden will go over 270 electoral votes in the 5:00 hour when California casts its ballots, Anderson.

COOPER: And we should just point out, John, it's interesting what you said, I mean, this is in the Constitution. The reason it's in the Constitution is because the founders, all those decades ago were -- you know, were concerned about a president who wanted to be a monarch, essentially, and wanted to hold onto power. Talk a little bit about the electors and why they were chosen.

BERMAN: So, the electors are chosen, Anderson -- let me get rid of this. The electors are chosen usually a month or two before the Election Day itself. Each state gets to choose the electors the way that it wants to. One of the crazy things about the Constitution is there is no requirement to hold an election at all, which, again, should bother you, it's nuts.


But since 1864, every state has chosen the electors through the election itself. The electors are nominated by the parties. Each party gets to put together a slate of possible electors and the people they choose are usually party loyalists, party activists. Sometimes they're prominent people here. For instance, Stacey Abrams is an elector from the state of Georgia. You will recognize some of these faces here, say, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo in the state of New York. There's nothing in the Constitution, Anderson, that requires electors to vote for the winner of the states, the candidate who won their states, but 33 states do bind the electors to vote for that candidate. Even the states where there are so-called faithless electors where, theoretically, the elector could vote for whomever she wants to, Georgia allows faithless electors, but Stacey Abrams is an elector. She is not voting for Donald Trump, right? The Clintons, New York, the last faithless electors, I bet you anything, they're not going to vote for Donald Trump today.

Last election, there were a handful of faithless electors who were not expecting any, or if we do as one or two, it has never determined the outcome of the election, that is not something, Anderson, we expect to be any kind of issue today.

COOPER: All right. John, Berman, thanks very much.

The Electoral College voting has already begun in a few states with many more to get under way over the next hour or the next few hours also. I want to check in with our reporters across the country starting with Dianne Gallagher in Lansing, Michigan. What are we seeing there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Anderson, in Michigan, much like we've seen over the past month since the election, it's going to be a day that is colored by COVID, protests and, unfortunately, threats. The Senate and House offices are now closed today because, according to the press secretary for the Senate, there were, quote, credible threats of violence.

Now, there were protests, Stop the Steal protests and others that are protesting the fact that Michigan's 16 electors are going to go to Joe Biden. But the Senate press secretary says this was not about those protests. These were about specific credible threats of violence, they were told, by state police. This decision was made last night, an email was sent out to members of the Senate and House and the staff telling them they needed to work from home and avoid the downtown Lansing area.

Now, the capitol was already closed to the public due in part because of those protests, but also because of COVID-19. Only those who are integral to the Electoral College process here in Michigan are going to be allowed in the capitol building.

Now, we have seen a lot of protests. I have been out here for a lot of protests dealing with the election since Michigan was called for Joe Biden. And, of course, Michigan is an open carry state. We've seen a lot of guns out here on those protesters. And, unfortunately, Anderson, we do expect much of that to happen again today.

COOPER: That's incredible. Dianne Gallagher, I appreciate it. Thank you.

I want to listen to the first votes of the day in Vermont.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- completed the election, the casting of the ballots, I can report that we have three votes for President-elect Joseph Biden and three votes for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Is this when -- they have to sign?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Next, we will have them sign the certificate of vote. Because of all the people we have to send these to, and I'll tell you who they are in a second, but there's six copies they're signing.

COOPER: I want to bring in John Berman. John, what's so fascinating about this had is this is something normally we don't see. This is just a formality. But given the bizarre, you know, allegations the president has been making that so many Republicans on Capitol Hill have been backing, even without any evidence, you know, there are electors who are under threat today, have police escorts today.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm smiling, Anderson, because how sexy was what we just saw right there? We saw three people, the electors, the ones who were elected last month in Vermont, signing papers.


They cast two ballots, they voted for Joe Biden for president. They cast a separate ballot, Kamala Harris, to be vice president. And then they're signing a whole bunch of documents here.

And the reason they're doing that is they have to. A law passed in 1887 requires them to sign six copies of this. One copy gets sent to the president of the Senate. You may know that person. It's Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States. Two copies get sent to the state's secretary of state in Vermont. Two copies get sent to the national archive and one gets sent to the district court judge who oversees, in this case, Montpelier, Vermont, where they are doing this right now.

All of this is written into law before obviously they had email or ways to transmit this stuff more quickly. This is the official way they transmit the official results. And we're going to see this play out in 49 more states and the District of Columbia over the course of the day, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, democracy in action.

I want to go south now to Georgia, Nick Valencia live in Atlanta. Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Anderson. Just in the last minute or so, we saw one of the electors, Jason Estevez, he's actually an alternate, to show up, walk up the stairs here. He will be part of the process that takes place at noon. We'll get into that in just a little bit.

But this is an often overlooked process here, the vote, a formality that was attempted to be halted by President Trump and his allies through litigation, a litigation that was thrown out. Those 16 Democratic electors are expected to certify the 2020 election win for President-elect Biden, as well as Vice President-elect Harris.

And at 12:00 P.M., two floors up from here, they will go into the Senate chambers and they'll cast their vote, one vote for president, one vote for vice president. And as John was mentioning, six certificates will then be generated. And in order to finalize that, they will be sent out to the secretary of state, district court, and archivists, among others here.

The electors here in the state, those 16 Democratic electors, are of who's who of the state Democratic Party. You mentioned Stacey Abrams who a lot of people here in the state credit with really mobilizing the Democrats here in the state to give Joe Biden a 12,000 or so vote win over President Trump here. You also have U.S. Representative-elect Nikema Williams, as well as State Representative Calvin Smyre.

Just really quick about Calvin Smyre. He's been an elector since 1975 here but this is going to be only the second time he's going to be able can cast his vote for a Democratic presidential nominee, last time in 1992 when Bill Clinton won here, the fact that was the last time a Democrat won here.

We talked to him yesterday. He says that this is a tremendous honor. He also said that this really juxtaposed to what happened in 1992, very calm and quiet then, here, a lot of chaos surrounding it. In fact, he's a little concerned, Anderson, with potentially external pressures here, especially those that are upset about the vote happening later today. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Nick Valencia, I appreciate it, thanks for being there.

I want to go now to Pennsylvania, a really important state with its 20 electoral votes. That's where we find CNN's Brian Todd in the capital city of Harrisburg. Brian, what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, despite the rain, snow and sleet, the electors that we talked to here say this is a great day for them. They're excited to be here, but this is a different event than it's been in past years in Pennsylvania. Four years ago and, of course, in the previous election cycles, they would gather in the House of Representatives chamber just behind me here at the state capitol grounds.

This year, they have moved it to a different venue on the capitol grounds near the state capitol complex but they have asked us not to name the specific venue because of security concerns.

Another way that this is going to be different is that the electors will have police escorts to and from the event. We heard Dianne Gallagher earlier talk about the threats faced in Michigan, there are no credible threats, according to state police, here in Pennsylvania. But out of an abundance of caution and the fact that there have been protests here on the capitol grounds in recent days, they're going to escort all the electors to and from a venue that is separate from the House of Representatives.

That venue is a little bit of a bigger room. The main reason for the different venue this year is because of COVID, of course. This bigger room will allow more spacing.

A short time ago, we spoke to Nancy Patton Mills. She is the president of the Electoral College in Pennsylvania this year, a democrat from Allegheny County. She is the first female president of the Electoral College in Pennsylvania's history. Very excited to be here, very excited to cast her vote and the other votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But she did talk to us about the scaled-down nature of the event a short time ago. Take a listen.


NANCY PATTON MILLS, 2020 PRESIDENT, PENNSYLVANIA ELECTORAL COLLEGE: So this year, it's going to be different. We're going to be limited to 60 people in the room and of those 60 people, it will be the electors, the department of state officials and those people to make sure that the election is done securely.

There will be no fluff. There will be no -- there will be nothing ceremonial about it other than being precise.


TODD: And another difference we can tell you about, Anderson, is that, this year, Governor Tom Wolf will not be attending. He did attend the event four years ago. He gave a speech four years ago. He will not be attending.


He will not be giving a speech. He will not be issuing a video. He is in quarantine. He tested positive for coronavirus last week. Anderson?

COOPER: Brian Todd, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up the Electoral College begins casting votes to affirm Biden's win. We're going to bring you more of those votes.

Plus, Biden gears up for a primetime address as President Trump continues to push baseless election claims.

We are keeping a close eye on the historic vaccine rollout, as health care facilities across the country are prepared to administer the first shots. That was the scene in New York, the first shot in this state.

Stay with us.


COOPER: As we watch the Electoral College, electors begin voting across the country. You can see the updated count at the bottom of your screen.


Today, we should note that there are a few more steps to take over the next few weeks.

I want to bring in National Correspondent Kristen Holmes with a look at some of the key dates to watch until inauguration day. Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. This is just one step in this lengthy process that we just heard John Berman describe. And while at the end of the day, Joe Biden will be closer to the presidency, he will still not officially be president.

So, quickly, I want to go through what exactly we're looking at today while we're watching all of these different states cast their ballot.

You have the electors, and we went through this a little bit, they can't be a sitting member of Congress or Senate. And they are commonly picked through state parties, usually party bigwigs. They'll meet in a state capitol or in some kind of state building across the country and they'll do pretty much the same thing. You'll watch these electors take an oath of office. They will likely introduce themselves. And then you'll see the elector roll call vote.

Now, at this point, they will say who exactly it is that they are voting for. And if we were expecting any sort of faithless elector situation, which we're not, that's when that would happen, so something to watch here. Then they record this on paper, gets put into a physical envelope and sent out to the Senate. So, you can see why some people still think this is a bit of an archaic system but yet it is still not done then.

So let's pull up our calendar of key dates. We have several on the calendar that we're keeping an eye on. One, starting December 23rd, this is the date the electoral votes must arrive in Washington D.C. to be counted. Then you have January 3rd, that is when the new Congress is sworn in. The results are counted and certified by a joint session of Congress on January 6th, very important date there. And then you have, of course, inauguration day. And that is when Joe Biden will officially become the president of the United States. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, I appreciate it.

Erin, back to you.

BURNETT: Thanks, Anderson.

So, after the Electoral College votes to make Joe Biden's election victory official, the president-elect is expected to address the nation tonight. Hawaii will be the last state to certify and then Joe Biden will speak in primetime an address that comes as President Trump continues to baselessly to just put out there when he knows to be lies, things about the election, saying it was rigged. And he vows to keep up his legal fight despite money losses. We're up to 40 now at state courts, district courts and now, of course, two denials from the Supreme Court of the United States.

Joining me now to discuss all of this, our Political Analyst, David Gregory, and our Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel. So, David, this primetime speech, right, Joe Biden will wait until it is formal, right, that all of the states, I mean, obviously, he's going to cross the line formally well before that, but Hawaii will be last state to certify. We're told that his address will be focused on strength and resilience of our democracy, which is important but, of course, coming in the atmosphere that it does, right, where the president is telling tens of millions of people that the democracy is broken. What can Joe Biden say tonight that will actually win some hearts and minds in a meaningful way?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he can start a process of seeing and hearing and acknowledging his critics and those who are still very loyal to President Trump, while at the same time asserting what's right and true in our democracy in that he is the winner, and that there was not fraud. This was not a stolen election.

I think he needs to lift up the facts, including the fact that you have judges who, as The Washington Post described them, as the last wall in this democracy for checks and balances. Trump-appointed judges, other judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans, who dismissed these cases, these protest cases as being without merit, including the Supreme Court, including President Trump's own nominees to the Supreme Court.

So I think it's important for the president-elect to really start to set the record straight and not to allow this river of disinformation to wash over too many people. I think he wants to begin that process, and at the same time, begin to emerge now as our president and not someone who's simply in waiting.

BURNETT: Which is really crucial, Jamie, and that's a difficult and fine line to walk, right? Laying out the facts, making people understand that this is not in question, right, that here it is, and that it is bipartisan, not that judges are partisan, right, but judges nominated by both parties including the Supreme Court level have all come to the same verdict. And yet -- to win people over, to have them feel that he speaks for them. How does he strike that tone, Jamie?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he uses what we already know. It is over. And what we're showing here today is part of the process.

I think the other question is, how does he reach the Republican leadership, the elected officials, who have been standing with Donald Trump?