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F.D.A. Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Moderna Vaccine; Tuberville Tries Gimmick Play, with Trump on Board; Sources: New Timeline for Massive Data Hack; Trump Silent On Massive Data Hack As Biden Vows To Impose "Costs" For Russian Aggression. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 18, 2020 - 20:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: We're now just waiting for the C.D.C. to sign off on it. John Berman here in for Anderson.

We'll talk more in a moment about how important this is with the pandemic now projected to claim 562,000 lives by April. First though, the President's silence or even worse than silence in the face of this largely avoidable human tragedy.

Nearly 2,300 new deaths reported so far tonight on top of 3,000 plus last night. COVID is now the country's leading cause of death according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. They're the folks behind that 562,000 fatality projection, which itself is up by more than 60,000 since the last model.

What's more, this new one predicts that between now and April, 49 states will experience high or extreme stress on ICU capacity and that deaths per day will exceed 3,750. That's about one life lost every 23 seconds, which is why health officials say it's so important to take every precaution for yourself and others until mass vaccination can do its job.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The health of your family, your neighbors and your community first. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, or wear a mask whenever it's indicated, or whenever you're unable to practice distance.


BERMAN: That's the Vice President after getting vaccinated today sending the right message about prevention. So did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell there with his proof of vaccination.

Not so the President because although he did send out a tweet praising FedEx and UPS for delivering the vaccine, he didn't roll up his sleeve for it, perhaps it was the bone spurs. He also retweeted messages skeptical of mask wearing, but nothing

about the skyrocketing death toll or the millions out of work, losing benefits are facing eviction. Nothing, in fact, to suggest he cares in the least about anything but overturning the election he lost.

The President has not been seen in public all week. He's done next to nothing in public for weeks. He's spent nine days on the golf course, most recently last Sunday. So yes, he's checked out. Not that it should come as a shock, though he's been this way for months.


QUESTION: It is giving them a false sense of security.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... right now, I think it's under control. I'll tell you what --

QUESTION: How? A thousand Americans are dying a day.

TRUMP: They are dying. That's true. And you -- it is what it is.


BERMAN: That was August 3rd, nearly 157,000 American deaths ago. An estimated 107,676 more will die before he leaves office. He says it is what it is. I'll tell you what it is if he can't or won't articulate it. It's devastating, tragic, heart wrenching, and most appallingly, completely unnecessary.

Joining us now Dr. Chris Murray, Director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Dr. Murray, as I mentioned, COVID was the leading cause of death in the U.S. this past week and your new model projects 60,000 more deaths by April 1st, and as projected just a week ago, a total of 562,000 American lives lost. What's the biggest factor you are seeing behind this increase?

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Well, the big surge in California is really taking us by surprise. We expected numbers to go up. But it's going up so fast. It's bringing up case numbers and death numbers. You know, ICUs are full.

So, things are worse than we expected in California, and then we're seeing the sort of steady increase in many other parts of the country that we were expecting to see. But it's a little worse than the trends a week ago.

BERMAN: And it's a strain on the ICUs there and around the country. The news about Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine from the F.D.A., which we reported moments ago. It is the breaking news tonight. It's the second vaccine that's received emergency us approval. It is promising news.

But when will we see these vaccines actually start to affect the rate of transmission? MURRAY: Well, obviously the vaccine is fantastic news, and in the long

term, that's going to really help us get COVID under control. But it takes time. It takes time to deliver the vaccine. You know, it takes eight or nine days before it starts to have much of an effect on those who are vaccinated.

You take all that into account, we don't expect to see a major dent on the daily death rate from vaccination until sometime in February.

And so, we have, you know, many weeks ahead of these really high death numbers per day.

BERMAN: That's six weeks of a lot of pain, at least, that Americans need to brace themselves for tonight.

In this new model, you predict that 17 percent of the people in the U.S. have been infected so far, 17 percent. Is it possible that number is actually on the lower side because of all the testing problems we had in the spring and the people who are asymptomatic and may not know they've been infected?


MURRAY: Well, it could be. But what we're doing to get that number is we're looking at the surveys that C.D.C. and other groups have done testing for antibodies. And then we can relate those antibody measures, which are a pretty sound measure of how many people have been infected to the case numbers.

And so, what it means is that there's a lot of asymptomatic cases out there. It's why it's really so important for people to be careful. It's not just the people that have tested positive.

BERMAN: One of the things you guys do, which I think is so important, is you look at mobility, how much people are moving around, how much they are heeding warnings to say home. What are you seeing in terms of increased or decreased mobility?

MURRAY: Well, we saw -- you know, as people start to get concerned in November, things started to get much worse. We did see reductions in mobility.

But you know, some of this mobility data can tell us a lot of detail, like are people going to restaurants and are they going to department stores? And we're seeing a sort of post-Thanksgiving increase in a number of those things like visiting stores.

All those are opportunities for transmission, and so we really -- it's going to be so important for the next six to eight weeks, that people are cautious and of course, you know, also wear a mask to avoid transmission risk.

BERMAN: Wear a mask to avoid transmission. I hope people listen to what you said that we will not see an impact on deaths until at least February at this point. People need to be careful for a lot longer.

Chris Murray, thank you so much for being with us. And I thank you very much for the work you're doing.

MURRAY: Thanks.

BERMAN: Joining us now, Dr. Celine Gounder, infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist and member of President-elect Biden's Coronavirus Taskforce. Also Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University's Medical School.

Dr. Schaffner, you are a member of the C.D.C.'s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and I know you expect to be on call all weekend about both vaccines. When it comes to the Moderna vaccine, explain why this Emergency Use Authorization which just came through moments ago, why you think it'll make a difference in places like where you are in Tennessee?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE IN THE DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY'S MEDICAL SCHOOL: John, I think it is wonderful that we have a second vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, which doesn't require all the intensive, very cold storage and handling of Pfizer's is the vaccine that we can distribute closer to the people. We can get it out to rural areas in health departments and in local small hospitals and they can be the focus for immunization activities throughout the state.

With Pfizer, we've had to concentrate our vaccination efforts largely in metropolitan areas and this allows us to spread it out, get the vaccine out much more widely. That's very, very attractive.

BERMAN: Now that it will be a big difference. And soon, to be clear, Dr. Gounder, it's not available tonight or tomorrow. But it has cleared a major hurdle as we wait for the C.D.C. to sign off. It should be available the first or second day of next week.

Today, a lot of people did receive their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Congressman Jim Clyburn. Our very own Dr. Sanjay Gupta on "New Day" this morning. What impact do you think these public intentional vaccinations will have on the issue of vaccine hesitancy, people who might be nervous about getting the vaccine?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, MEMBER, PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN'S CORONAVIRUS TASKFORCE: John, there's a long history of this going back to Elvis Presley going on "The Ed Sullivan Show" getting a polio vaccination. We have done this during other vaccination campaigns, whether that's for polio in places like India or Ebola in West Africa more recently, having elected officials, other prominent persons go on camera and be vaccinated in front of the cameras for people to see.

I think it's important. It's not the only communication strategy that matters here. But I do think when you see somebody, especially if it's somebody of your own political party who is accepting a vaccination, who says look, this is safe, this is effective. I am doing this to protect me, my family, and my community. I think that's a really powerful message. BERMAN: It was very powerful, very intentional from the Surgeon

General today, Jerome Adams directing to the minority community as well. That is a message that's very important to get out there.

Dr. Schaffner, as more doses of both vaccines become available, how tough will it be to prioritize who gets it after healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities? I mean, how do you square this huge undertaking with the budgetary constraints faced by these smaller public health departments?

SCHAFFNER: Well, let me tell you that health department personnel are working just as intensively as the people who are working in emergency departments and intensive care units. They're working day and night to make sure that this works.

Now, the C.D.C.'s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Sunday, I think will give us the prioritization, who comes after the healthcare workers and the residents of long-term care facilities?


SCHAFFNER: You know, there are many ways to do this. There are many right answers, we're going to be following their program, and the health departments have already got all kinds of contingency plans to follow up.

But much of what we have to do, as Dr. Gounder has just said, is convince a lot of hesitant people to come in. If the vaccine remains in vials, in refrigerators, it can't prevent disease. We've got to get it into arms, and I know that in my state, in rural areas, there's still a lot of hesitancy.

Perhaps one of the things that will encourage them is that those of us in white coats and blue scrubs, if we line up to get the vaccine, perhaps some of the people will see those medical people know something, they're getting the vaccine. If it's good enough for them, it'll be good enough for me.

And I hope that spreads throughout neighborhoods across my state, and across the United States.

BERMAN: Me too. And look, I have to say I was smiling there, because one of the things that doctors like both of you have taught me over this, is it is not the vaccines that save lives, it is vaccinations. It's getting them in people's arms that makes the difference.

Dr. Gounder, I'm so glad you're here because you explain what I'm about to ask you so well. Perspective, once again.

In Alaska, we learned that there's a third case of anaphylaxis that may be connected to receiving the vaccine from a healthcare worker with no known allergies. Again, put this in perspective for us because people are going to see that headline, they're going to get worried, what do they need to know?

GOUNDER: Look, we've already had over 50,000 Americans vaccinated. That's actually a tremendous achievement that we've already vaccinated that many people since the Pfizer vaccine got Emergency Use Authorization. So to have three anaphylactic reactions, these fairly severe allergic reactions that could be managed with Epi-Pens -- you know, epinephrine and some of the other typical things, Benadryl that we give for an allergic reaction, that all of these reactions were managed, none were that serious. In the end, none were fatal, and none had long term consequences.

So you know, I think, yes, you may see some more of these kinds of reactions occur. But big picture, three out of over almost 50,000. That's really not a very high rate. And again, these were not that dangerous in the end.

BERMAN: Dr. Gounder, Dr. Schaffner. Again, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Giving us this perspective, helping us understand what's happening. Very much appreciate it.

SCHAFFNER: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So, a quick reminder, CNN's Don Lemon and Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosting a special Town Hall tonight. It deals with the hopes and fears surrounding the new vaccines and communities with ample reason to harbor both those sentiments. Communities of color have been hit hard as you know, in some live with the bitter legacy of mistrust for the medical establishment.

Now, with so much riding on the vaccine and vaccine acceptance, CNN presents "The Color of COVID: The Vaccines." Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, they are here to answer questions. Also, the head of Morehouse College of Medicine who got the vaccination with Sanjay this morning on "New Day," leaders of the faith community and one of the first people in the country to receive the vaccine, it all gets underway at 10 o'clock Eastern Time. It's very important right here on CNN.

Next for us, the calls are coming from inside the house, the White House that is. President Trump calling on lawmakers to quote, "do something" to keep him in office. The incoming senator who is eager to do just that.

And later forget, do something, can lawmakers actually do anything about the one thing that really matters to millions of Americans? Can they finally come up with a COVID relief package?



BERMAN: More now on just what the President is doing these days instead of his job. For one thing, he is endorsing one incoming senator's desire to derail President-elect Biden's Electoral College victory when the House and Senate meet early next month.

In a recent video of him campaigning for runoff candidates in Georgia, Alabama Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville had this to say.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): You see what's coming. You've been reading about it in the House of Representatives. We are going to have to do it in the Senate.


BERMAN: Perhaps it's to make up for his five and seven record in his final year coaching Auburn. In any case, objections require the support of one Senator and one House Member when the two bodies meet in joint session, January 6th.

Senate Republican leaders including Mitch McConnell, oppose the move. But as you'd imagine the President is on board re-tweeting pro- Tuberville messages and writing quote, "More Republican senators should follow his lead. We had a landslide victory and then it was swindled away from the Republican Party, but we caught them. Do something."

Again, Mitch McConnell is not inclined to do anything, but his House counterpart Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has not ruled anything out.

According to CNN's Manu Raju during a conference call yesterday with House G.O.P. members, he sidestepped the question about how they should approach the joint session calling it a topic for later discussion.

CNN's Jim Acosta has more now from the White House. So Jim, what does the White House actually think it is going to get from all of this? They're not going to overturn the election. So is this just an effort to placate the President and keep the base fired up and donating money?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the President is treating his base like a post-election ATM machine and he is going to continue to do that.

Listen, John, as you were just saying, he is egging these senators on. He has found an inexperienced incoming senator in Tommy Tuberville, who is willing to do his bidding even though there's Senate Republican leaders who are saying don't do this. Please, don't do this.

It is all shaping up to be an embarrassing spectacle that's just not going to go anywhere. The Democratic House is never going to go along with overturning the election results and that's why a source close to the White House told me earlier about this that this is an exercise in futility. The source added, an exercise in fealty to Trump.

I think that's more dead on. This is more about the President and his team seeing the rest of the Republican Party bow down to him even though he's a loser in the last election.


BERMAN: So Jim, you know, when you think about the crises this country is facing now, public health, the economy, the huge cyberattack, the President isn't speaking out about any of it in any meaningful, substantial way.

So why is he fighting for a job that he doesn't seemingly actually want to do?

ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, I talked to a Trump adviser earlier this week, who described the President as whining, not working. I think that that essentially sums it up. It's extraordinary, John, because not only do we have this raging pandemic, with thousands of lives being lost every day. We also have this, this Russian cyberattack -- this apparent Russian cyberattack on the U.S. government that the President is still silent about this evening.

John, we've had multiple days in a row with the President not getting out in front of the cameras and addressing reporters. He would have had multiple opportunities if he wanted them, to not only speak out on the pandemic and encourage people to get out there and get those vaccinations, but also to warn Vladimir Putin to stay out of this, you know, Federal government, and he's just chosen not to do so.

I will tell you, John, it is alarming, and you and I were talking -- we've been talking about this previously this week. You know, this is a President who has checked out. He doesn't seem to want to do the job anymore.

He likes the fancy house behind me with the wreaths, you know, adorning the exterior and so on, but he doesn't want to do the work. And there's a lot to be done, and it's extraordinary, one would think if he is thinking about running in 2024, John that he would want to get out there and lead the charge on the coronavirus pandemic, lead the charge challenging Vladimir Putin on this cybersecurity hack.

He's just not doing it, and I suspect, John, it's because he is wrapped up in grief with this election and, you know, chasing after this fever dream, that somehow he could still overturn the election results when it's just not going to happen.

BERMAN: I've got to say, at least 2,300 new deaths reported overnight. Maybe he could express some grief over that, instead of the election. His absence at the vaccination event today with Vice President Pence and the Surgeon General, it was a screaming absence, glaring, Jim.

Jim Acosta at the White House. Thanks so much for being with us.

Joining us now Rick Wilson, co-founder of The Lincoln Project and author of "Running against the Devil: A plot to save America from Trump and Democrats from Themselves," also CNN senior political analyst, Kirsten Powers.

So Kirsten, Tommy Tuberville, what does it say about the President's influence that this incoming freshman senator is saying he is willing to stand up in Congress in his first week, like his first three days on the job, buck Mitch McConnell and push the lie that the President won the 2020 election?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it says that he thinks that, you know, his voters are more aligned with Donald Trump, which is probably true than anybody else.

And so, you know, I think it also says something that there aren't any other senators that at this point seem willing to do that. So I think we should focus on that as well, that Mitch McConnell is not going along with this and he is telling other people not to go along with it.

And you know, Mitch McConnell has finally acknowledged that President, or, you know, President-elect Biden will be the President. So, you know, this is one person who is willing to just continue with this disruption and continue to try to convince -- and I think they've been successful in convincing a large portion of America who voted for Trump that Joe Biden is not a legitimate President.

BERMAN: Rick, how convinced are you that what Kirsten says we'll stick? That there will be no other Republican senators like maybe Ted Cruz or Ron Johnson or Rand Paul who come forward on the sixth?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm not convinced at all because there's a dichotomy in the Republican Party today that is profound. It is the Trumpist faction of the party, and the remaining Republican faction of the party.

Everyone who wants to run for President or re-election, and if they want to run for re-election in '22 or President in '24, they are going to do whatever Donald Trump tells them to do.

If Donald Trump told Ted Cruz to bark like a dog, he'd imitate a Pekinese for an hour. If he told Josh Hawley to stand on his head, he stands on his head until his ears bled. There's nothing these guys won't do to please Trump and to protect their future. They recognize that if there's a faction of the Republican base, especially in primaries, and especially the '24 primary, that is going to be loyal to Donald Trump until the very, very end.

And so you're going to see this kind of performative stuff that Tuberville and others are going to do to try to show Donald Trump to the very last of their world in, no matter the cost of the country or the corrosiveness of their behavior in terms of our norms and institutions.

BERMAN: So Kirsten what you know, and what Mitch McConnell knows is that if Tuberville does force this vote, it puts Republican senators in a situation where they have to cast really what is a dumb, stupid, hurtful vote. What McConnell doesn't want to have happen is to have Republican senators have to choose between the President and what the voters actually said. Doesn't that put them in a bind?


POWERS: Yes, it puts them in a bind. I mean, you know, everything about Donald Trump puts Republicans in a bind, you know. But I would say, you know what Senator Hawley or Senator Cruz, it is true that they will do Trump's bidding because they want his approval, but also, is he really -- are they really that far off from Trump in terms of how destructive they are? I mean, they seem to be just, you know, Trump Lite at this point, and

who knows, well, maybe move into being just as bad as him, if not worse. That you know -- so I think that these are the type of people who have been willing to stay and do almost anything. Even you know, with Senator Cruz even before Donald Trump was even involved in our government.

And so, you know, I think that I expect very little from them, regardless of Trump. But it's true, it remains true that people who are looking at running for office in the Republican Party anytime in the near horizon, feel that they have to suck up to Donald Trump.

And, you know, I personally think that there are some things more important in the world than running -- winning reelection. I'd obviously never run for office, but if I did, you know, I don't think that's an excuse to go along with things like this.

BERMAN: So Rick, I want to play something that Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville said just after he won his Senate seat. Listen to this.


TUBERVILLE: You know, our government wasn't set up to for one group to have all three branches of government. It wasn't set up that way, our three branches, you know, the House, the Senate and the executive.

You know, I tell people, my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism.


Bert Wow. I mean, wow, that's wrong on two fronts. I mean, that's like, Animal House, you know, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Is it possible Tommy Tuberville is in over his head, Rick?

WILSON: You know, it's possible that Tommy Tuberville is dumber than a sack of hair, and I think this is demonstrating that, and this is a guy who, you know, as you pointed out, losing the last few years' record with Auburn will haunt him forever.

But I think he is losing the battle with reality as he going to face more abruptly. Hey, look, there is a degree to which, you know, Tommy Tuberville is the perfect representative, you know, of a part of Trumpism that is, as I call it, sitting in Darwin's waiting room.

These are people who do not believe in reality, they believe in a fantasy version of both the world and of history and of American history. And Tuberville is an example of that. And it's the rejection in the Republican Party of expertise of brains, of acknowledgment of reality, of experience, and he is the sort of the apotheosis of that right now.

You know, he is Roy Moore with everything but the pension for young kids. BERMAN: Kirsten, I want to ask you something, which is a little bit of

a follow up of what you were talking before, some of these younger Republicans who think they have a future, you know, who maybe want to be President or definitely want to be President? Doesn't Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton -- isn't Donald Trump a potential obstacle for them?

I mean, if he sticks around and flirts with running in 2024, aren't they going to have to deal with him one way or the other?

POWERS: Yes, absolutely. But, you know, we don't really know what will happen with him. And if you're them, you're going to look at it and say, it's possible that he won't run again, but he could still be a kingmaker. And so, you know, we're still going to want to be in good stead with him.

But I would still maintain that they would be doing what they're doing most of the stuff they're doing anyway, because they already are aligned with this way of thinking and operating.

And, you know, and Ted Cruz has always been sort of a noxious, you know, Senator. I mean, he's always been problematic. He's always been somebody who's just looking out for Ted Cruz and isn't really particularly interested in anything bigger than that.

So that has been to me very much what Trumpism stands for. It stands for looking out for yourself, and having no concern whatsoever for the country because what they're doing right now, it's inexcusable because it undermines democracy.

BERMAN: Kirsten Powers, Rick Wilson, thanks so much for being with us tonight.

Merry Christmas to both of you, but I'll see you over the next few days.

WILSON: Thank you, Merry Christmas to you also.

POWERS: Thank you. You, too.

BERMAN: More breaking news just ahead. Sources tell CNN about a new timeline of when the government first became aware of that breathtaking hack of key government agencies and private companies.

A former top White House cybersecurity official joins us, next.



BERMAN: Breaking news now on that suspected Russian hack of key government agencies and a growing number of private companies. Three sources familiar with the situation now tell CNN that U.S. agencies assigned to monitor these sorts of threats became aware months ago of suspicious activity that's now been linked to this historic incursion. This as a White House spokesman says President Trump has been working quote, very hard on this subject, but as of yet has made it no public comment.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has the very latest. Alex, what are you learning about how far back there were warning signs about this?


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we first got news from the U.S. government five days ago about this attack. But it was several months ago that U.S. officials who as you mentioned monitor for threats to critical infrastructures when they first noticed this suspicious activity. And that's according to those three sources that you mentioned who spoke to CNN. Now this suspicious activity we now know, was linked to what we are now reporting is one of the largest hacking operations in history. At the time, though they weren't able to tie what they were seeing, to the software that the hackers eventually used to get inside. Now, the activity that they saw was classified, it did not provide conclusive evidence that those networks had been compromised. But it still did worry top cybersecurity officials that there were potential vulnerabilities within all of these systems.

Then fast forward to 10 days ago, the top cybersecurity firm FireEye revealed that it had been hacked. That was then followed several days later by the U.S. government admitting that it too had been targeted. And what we now know is the biggest breach that it has ever seen. John.

BERMAN: Alex, it's been nearly a week since the news that these breaches first broke, as you said. What do we now know about the scope of access that the hackers might have?

MARQUARDT: Well, we are learning more every day. But given how sophisticated this attack was, there is so much more that we need to be learned -- that we need to learn. For example, in the past few days, we've learned that the State Department, Energy Department were also compromised. But when it comes to any of these agencies or departments, the question is, what data was accessed, what data is being seen or is being used.

Now, the U.S. cyber security agency known as CISA has said that there are other methods that these hackers used to get inside that they have not yet revealed that there were other tactics and procedures that these attackers used that have not yet been exposed. So, there's so much more that needs to be learned. All of these companies, all of these agencies, and there are thousands of them need to do forensic analysis on all of their systems that could take months, we may never know, the full scope, the full extent of these breaches these attacks. And that really speaks to the sophistication and the ongoing nature. We need to emphasize that John. This is this first started in March, it is very much ongoing. The Russian hackers they're suspected to be tied to the intelligence services are still very much inside these networks.

BERMAN: Why hasn't the President said anything out loud about this? What explanation do we have for that? MARQUARDT: It's really stunning. The White House says that the President has been briefed and that he's working hard on it. We do know that he has been briefed by his top intelligence officials. But he has not said a single word. Senator Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican said that it's inexcusable, the calls are growing for him not only to say something, but to do something. And that is going to be the big question. In fact, for Joe Biden, who's going to inherit all this, what to do about this. As we've been saying there still is a lot that needs to be learned to then come up with some sort of response. But President-elect Joe Biden says that he is not going to stand idly by when countries when cyber actors carry out these types of malicious attacks on the U.S. John.

BERMAN: Alex Marquardt terrific reporting. Thanks so much for explaining it all to us tonight.

The depth and the seriousness of this latest attack on the computer systems that run the government in these private companies is just so huge. Perspective now from Richard Clarke, a former White House cybersecurity czar and co-author of the Fifth Domain Defending Our Country, Our Companies And Ourselves In The Age Of Cyber Threats.

So Richard, I heard you say right here on CNN that this is the largest espionage attack in history. So as we continue to learn more about the scope and depth of this, what concerns you most about what happened?

RICHARD CLARKE, FMR WHITE HOUSE CYBERSECURITY CZAR: What concerns me is that the Russians have broken all the crockery broken all the rules, we all do it espionage, John, but this is wholesale espionage. And it's getting not in only to a few government offices, but into thousands of companies. And it's what the military calls, preparation of the battlefield, putting backdoors in thousands of important companies and agencies, so that if they ever want to come back in the period of crisis, and destroy those networks, they have the access. That's the real problem.

BERMAN: Is that is what you're describing akin to sort of a cyber sleeper cell or sleeper cells that have been planted now throughout the country, which they can come back to and activate whenever they want.

CLARKE: It's a good analogy. It's as though in a pre-war period, they had gone around and put TNT on all of the high tension wires and telephone poles. We are now in the situation where we you want to confront them in Ukraine or confront them in Syria. We have to know they have a knife to our throat. They could cut off critical infrastructure. They could destroy networks, not just get into them, John, but wipe them out.


BERMAN: President Trump has been silent on this publicly. We just heard Alex Marquardt say there's really no explanation about why he hasn't said anything out loud. What should he be saying? What should he be doing, Richard? CLARKE: Well, the National Security Adviser cut short his vacation in Europe and came back to manage this crisis. So the government is addressing it. (INAUDIBLE) security is addressing it NSA is addressing it. I don't think they really need the President at this point. But someday in the American president has to look Putin in the eye and say, knock it off, get the hell out of all of our networks. And if you don't, I will make you pay a price. We haven't been willing to make them pay a price, except for economic sanctions. I think we have to really seriously consider it, even though it might start a tit for tat, cyber war. But somehow we have to stop this behavior.

BERMAN: You're talking about offensive cyber action. Yes?

CLARKE: Offensive cyber actions on the part of the United States is one of the response options. So our further economic sanctions, so we're limiting their access to the global internet. There's a whole panoply of things we can do. But everything should be on the table, John, including offensive cyber actions.

BERMAN: As I said, the President has been silent on this simply hasn't said anything out loud. What message does Russia hear in that silence? And beyond Russia, what message to potential bad actors here around the world?

CLARKE: Well, I think all bad actors around the world are learning that they can hurt us, that they can get into these software updates, and use them as a vector to attack. So from now on, and the software update has to be treated with suspicion. Now that everybody knows that's a way of getting in. And other bad actors, if we don't do something other bad actors will pile on, they'll realize that they can take advantage of us and there's really no price for it.

BERMAN: So obviously, there are all kinds of threats facing the United States beyond just cyber espionage. You were central in the national security apparatus for decades, especially around September 11, he tries to raise you tried to raise red flags about al-Qaeda. What do you think the President-elect Biden's national security team should be most focused on as they take office?

CLARKE: Well, I think the largest threat is our relation with China, which this administration in power has really botched. We seem to be going down the path towards hostilities with China, we have to back off, and that doesn't make any sense for either side. So we have to find the modus vivendi with China. That's job number one. Russia is a sideshow, compared to that. But cybersecurity underpins all of that, whether it's China, we're dealing with Iran or Russia. So, we really need someone in the White House, who understands all of this, both the offense and defense, both the military and the commercial. And we are going to get that person.

The Congress is creating a new National Cyber director, confirmed by the Senate and will sit in the White House with its staff and coordinate all government activities. If they get the right person for that job, John. We can change the game.

BERMAN: Richard Clarke, every conversation with you as an education. Great to see you tonight. Thanks so much for being here.

CLARKE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN (voice-over): Still more breaking news as we come to the end of a very busy week the latest on negotiations to fund the government, while negotiations continue on a new relief bill. That's next.



BERMAN: Breaking news from Capitol Hill tonight. Congress has agreed to fund the government for another two days, while 11th hour negotiations continue on that new relief bill whether this actually means that relief for stimulus legislation will become a reality. Really anyone's guess right now.

Joining me are two veterans in the ways of Washington, or more often -- well, the Washington supposed to work more often does not work. David Gergen, former senior adviser to four presidents. He's a CNN senior political analyst and Paul Begala, a former top aide to President Clinton, a CNN political commentator and the author of You're Fired the Perfect Guy to Beating Donald Trump.

And, Paul, I want to start with you. I get the Congress works best under a deadline. We all know how deadlines work, but come on, man. I mean, this has been going on for months Americans are suffering people are losing their livelihood here. How is it that they can't seem to get this done?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is just outrageous. John. I will say months ago, on May 15th, Nancy Pelosi his Democratic House passed the Heroes Act $3.4 trillion worth of funding for these very people. That was 216 days ago and tragically 218,100 deaths ago. So the House did its job and frankly, my Democrats did their job. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate had been sitting on this. Now we are days away from 12 million Americans losing their unemployment. 4.9 million Americans facing eviction that the census reported that in October, November.

One out of six families with children is facing what they call food insecurity, which means a hungry, means they're trying to make dinner right now not knowing if they got enough food to feed their kids. And the Republican Senate is just sitting there, cashing their fat government paychecks. It's one of the most outrageous things I've ever seen. I've been at this a long time. I've never seen this kind of callousness when we're losing. We're losing a 9/11 every day, John, and they can't act. It but it's not both sides. It is not the Democrats passed a bill 216 days ago. Republicans won't pass anything.

BERMAN: Well, Democrats did pass a bill and Mitch McConnell didn't lift a finger on it for months. This fall before the election David, you had the president who will floated the idea of $1.8 trillion. They're now arguing over a $900 billion deal. They can't seem to finish that. Hopefully they will. I mean, I don't want to do this. Hopefully they'll come up with something. [20:50:13]

But doesn't someone just need to step forward and express leadership? Historically, that's often a president of the United States.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's exactly right. First of all, Paul, I think nailed the competition nailed the argument in terms of the numbers. He's right on track. But I also believe it wasn't just Mitch McConnell, and the Republicans have sat on their hands. It was the President of the United States, and the lead up to the elections, intense them his obsession about the way the votes have been counted. Now, he's been AWOL for so long, we barely know what it's like to be governed anymore. But I think they contribute a lot.

The Democrats not only didn't get enough, they only got about a third of what they were seeking. But the amount of money that's going out to individuals who are hurting so much, it's pretty, it's pretty marginal. It's not the right thing to do. Thank God we're going to get it should have been done a long time ago. It should be a much more robust package. And people want to keep their ears and eyes and minds open to the idea that Joe Biden's pushiness. This is a down payment. It's not the full payment that is needed. More needs to be done after January 20th.

BERMAN: Paul, we are hearing some frustration from the rank and file members, particularly in the House, who are watching both Democrats and Republicans because the negotiating right now is happening with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy. These members are saying, come on already. Come on. I mean, do you understand that frustration?

BEGALA: I do. I do. And there used to be what Senator McCain used to call the regular order. You know, you have committee hearings, you have meetings, you have votes. And now it seems it's only come down to these elites in a room. I understand that frustration. I will say one of the most conservative members of the Republican Party in the Senate, Josh Hawley, good for him. He publicly went to the floor and called for a $1,200 stimulus check for every American who's hurting, good for him. But that fell on deaf ears and one of his fellow Republicans, Ron Johnson stood up, a senator from Wisconsin stood up and killed it.

So there's -- there is great anger in the rank and file. But this should have been done months ago. David makes a good point about the President. I talked to two different Hill offices today on the Democratic side involved in these negotiations. I have to tell you, presidents named everyone came up David, they didn't even thinking about him. He's so AWOL right now. And that's a really sad commentary for those of us who have had the honor to work in the White House and have seen presidents who have been the vital center of action. This guy is totally out to lunch.

GERGEN: Yes, I agree. And, John, it's important to understand here that he's AWOL say, well, not only on this issue on the cyber issues, I protect you piece on that very, very sobering. President of United States has not had a security briefing, or security briefing since October 2nd. I've never heard of any president, under any circumstances, come anywhere close to that, and been so derelict of the duty.

And the other thing should be pointed out is that most economists starting at the Federal Reserve, say, say that the amount of money in the stimulus package is coming out. It is not enough. We have to keep the door open for more if not unless you are this economy could stall out.

BERMAN: Paul Begala, we got 20 seconds left. Give us the odds on the Georgia Democratic race in 20 seconds or less right now.

BEGALA: Oh, goodness, I -- you know, I really have no idea. I really don't. I mean, Mr. Trump apparently was supposed to go down there Saturday now is canceled. I that's good news for the Democrats. He still can rally that base.

BERMAN: It really is interesting right now is that no one has any idea where this is headed right now. It really does seem to be a toss up as we sit here tonight. David Gergen, Paul Begala, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

GERGEN: Thanks so much, John.

BERMAN (voice-over): So just ahead, a CNN special report about another deadly pandemic in this nation's history where some leaders went with party politics over science.



BERMAN: At the top of the broadcast we reported on bad decisions made by leaders during the pandemic and that is the focus of CNN's forthcoming special report about another deadly pandemic. The year was 1918, the virus was influenza and the clip we're about to show you city leaders in Philadelphia. OK, this huge parade to support the war effort World War I just is one of the deadliest epidemics ever was taking hold.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Philadelphia leaders had organized a Liberty Loan Parade scheduled for September 28th, 1918. It was an effort to boost morale, but also a way to raise money for the war effort by encouraging Americans to buy war bonds. Parades like these were drawing large crowds throughout the war. Americans were eager to show their patriotism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The medical community was very, very concerned by that urge the public health director to call the parade off.

COOPER (on camera): He allowed the prey to go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct. And he had specifically been told in a meeting two days before by other doctors not to allow it to go on. He was a political appointee. Philadelphia had at that time and notoriously rather corrupt government. And he was not willing to go up against the bosses. So he went ahead with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were hundreds of thousands of people in the street packed close together, shouting and singing songs. And like clockwork, 48, 72 hours later, the disease exploded in Philadelphia.


BERMAN: Just one piece of a much broader film. CNN Special Report: Pandemic How A Virus Changed The World In 1918. It airs Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.


And just a reminder about an hour from now, CNN's Don Lemon and Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosting a special Town Hall The Color Of COVID: The Vaccines. It deals with the hopes and fears surrounding the new vaccines and communities of color. Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams will be there to answer your questions at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The news continues. So let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME."