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House Passes Bill For Bigger COVID Relief Check Supported By Trump, Opposed By GOP Senate; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R- IL); GOP Congressman Sues Pence Over Election Certification; CDC: U.S. Has Administered More Than 2.1 Million Vaccine Doses; Trump Scheduled To Attend Rally Day Before Elections; Investigators Search For Suspect's Motive In Christmas Day Attack; House Overrides Trump Defense Bill Veto. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 28, 2020 - 20:00   ET


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dalton, Georgia, it is in a county that the President won by 70 percent. It is a reminder, Bianna that this runoff, at least for the Republican side, is about trying to turn out the base here, white evangelicals, among them.


BIANNA GOLODGRYGA, CNN HOST: Just fascinating reporting. Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

And thank you for joining us. "AC360" starts right now.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: A very good evening to you. Jim Sciutto here sitting in for Anderson tonight. Late today, the House of Representatives passed legislation, increasing the size of Federal COVID relief checks from the $600.00 in the recently passed CARES Act to $2,000.00. Now it goes to the Senate where many Republicans opposed even that original $600.00.

The President, as you know, refused to sign the CARES Act until last night, saying he was holding out for the extra money. This despite having shown little interest in the Bill at all until after it had passed Congress.

As a consequence, jobless benefits are now expiring for millions of Americans, people like Meghan Meyer, a single mother in Lincoln, Nebraska, with two teenagers to feed.


MEGHAN MEYER, UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS RUNNING OUT: I go to a discount grocery store. And you know, spend maybe $50.00 for the week for three people. It's just been a really rough time, a really rough adjustment for my kids.

And I've just been, you know, just trying to plug through it and get through it the best that we can and just been holding on for something better to come -- come my way with help from the government,


SCIUTTO: Well now, she is just going to have to hold on longer. And it's a fact, this is because, a direct result of President Trump and his 13th hour games. Many will lose out on one week's worth of payments because of his actions and they will never get that money back.

Some may have to reapply for benefits and that takes times; and in the past, it has overwhelmed state payment systems.

If the President truly wanted to help people like Miss Meyer, and everyone else, not just the unemployed, who are counting on the CARES Act, he did have alternatives. He could have signed the bill on time, and then pushed for more money or better yet, he might have leaned on his fellow Republicans early and often and used his self-proclaimed deal making skills to get a better deal in the first place.

He had months -- to be clear months -- to do this, but he didn't. And that's not all he chose not to do. He did not say a word about this being the deadliest single month of the pandemic so far, nearly 64,000 people dead already.

He did not discourage people from traveling over the Holidays, paving the way for next month to be even worse. He did not address how slowly this vaccination effort is going so far, nor did he send out a single tweet about this Christmas bombing in Nashville, Tennessee, or the work that Federal law enforcement did in quickly identifying a suspect.

As for easing the transition to a new administration, here is what his successor said about that.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have encountered roadblocks on the political leadership of the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.

Right now, we just aren't getting all the information that we need from the ongoing -- outgoing -- from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It's nothing short in my view of irresponsibility.


SCIUTTO: So how has the President been spending his time in office these days? Well, he continues to send out numerous tweets calling for the election for your votes to be overturned and he keeps fundraising to the tune of at least 554 e-mails since Election Night many asking for small donations most of which to be clear, go to his own leadership PAC, not towards challenging the election. That's key.

And of course, he is still golfing, same as yesterday, as Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and more than 300 other days at his own golf clubs since he took office.

There is some breaking news tonight, the House late this evening, voting to override the President's veto of the big annual defense bill. The Senate takes it up later this week.

The focus tonight, however, remains on COVID relief. CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now. So Kaitlan, this override at least in the House, his veto, a defeat for the President and pushing forward COVID relief, a defeat for the President as well. I mean, are the political tides turning even among Republicans in Congress?

We lost Kaitlan's audio. We're going to try to get that fixed. Once we have it, we are going to bring her back.


SCIUTTO: Reaction now to the House COVID vote from a Republican critic of the President, a rare one, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and we spoke to him just a short time ago.


SCIUTTO: Congressman Kinzinger, you've been very vocal, unusually vocal, almost uniquely vocal as a Republican calling out efforts by President Trump and other Republicans to overturn, I mean, in simplest terms, the election results. I just wonder, given the flack that you're facing as a Republican, and there are costs to this, right, I mean, political costs. Why? Why are you taking such a forthright stand?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): All right, so I don't want to sound like I'm trying to be overly virtuous. But here's the reality, I decided to run for Congress, when I was in Iraq in 2008-2009, so it was the '09 timeframe. And I said, you know, if we're going to ask young men and women to put their life on the line for the country, you know, I'm going to run for Congress and fight for it from the inside.

And I've always said, even in my 10 years in Congress, you know, we have to be willing to make tough votes, because we're asking people to put their life on the line for the country, so we have to put our career on the line.

And this is especially so right now, because this isn't about, you know, whether you like Donald Trump or you like his policies anymore. This is all about, are you undermining the very institution of a free and fair election that is so very important to the foundation of democracy and to the survival of this democracy, that it is well worth putting everything online to tell the truth?

SCIUTTO: To your credit, I mean, you've called out this ongoing fight as a grifting operation, right? I mean, a self-interested attempt to raise money. I mean, when it comes to President Trump, specifically, you tweeted, we are quoting here, "My God. Trying to burn the place down on the way out because you can't handle losing, no evidence, nothing but your temper, tantrum and crazy conspiracies. Embarrassing." What damage is the President doing here? Because the fact is, as you

note, some people still buy it, right? So you're going to have a portion of this country who believes without basis that the election was stolen?

KINZINGER: Yes, I think the long term -- it's more of a long term damage. I think in the short term, look, you know, there's going to be a transition of power. It'll probably be not pretty, in the meantime, as we've been seeing.

I do worry about the potential for violence on January 6th, but I think the long term or even medium term damage here is if you believe that your vote doesn't count, and you believe that the system is rigged, and in some cases, you believe that it's, you know, Satan running the U.S. government.

Ultimately, you are going to lash out, not just on Twitter, but there are going to be people that lash out violently, and you have, you know, these folks now that you see him on Twitter, so yes, not real life, but that are seeming to pined for the idea of a civil war.

Jim, you've been to war torn areas; I have, too. I think people that say anything like that have no clue what war is. And the very heart medicine they rely on to stay alive will go missing if this country falls apart to a civil war.

SCIUTTO: So you've seen them more than me, you served on the frontlines, but I did cover it. I mean, we've seen the consequences of civil war. It's real. It's not something that exists just you know, in Twitter Land.

You mentioned January 6th, the President is still calling for protests on that day there. There was violence a couple of weeks ago and you see it when some of these supporters turn out here. Do you sense at all, that this drive is fading? Right?

I mean, "The New York Post" today, right, which has been in lockstep with the President said, get over it. Right? I mean, is it fading? I mean, you have sitting Members of Congress, who sit next to you in the chamber who still say, they will challenge these results on January 6th.

KINZINGER: I don't think the idea of challenging the result is going to fade because the reality is, I don't -- I can't imagine that any of these people except maybe the brand new Members of Congress coming in that don't really understand how stuff works like in terms of government.

I don't think any of them think that this is a legitimate move, but if they do, it's frightening, actually. But I think it's all about raising money. It's all about being the hero and getting the donations, getting a gajillion followers, so now you can have some kind of an influence.

That's what this operation is. By the way, I'm not trying to both side-ism here, but this happens all the time. You see the drama that comes from the Democrats and from the Republicans, you raise money on fear, you create fear, all to raise money and look, to some extent we do have to talk about, you know, the negative things in this country.

But when we only talk about that, and we only, you know, are teaching our kids that America is some flawed country and that politics is all about who can yell the loudest and tweet the angriest. How are we going to expect them to ever restore the sanity in politics that we grew up with?


SCIUTTO: I mean, to your point, if you're at home, watch those fundraising e-mails, look for the fine print, look where that money can go.

Final question, different topic, President Trump finally, he signed the COVID Relief Bill that will send $600.00 stimulus checks to millions of Americans. His delay in signing the bill got him nothing. But now you actually do have Democrats voting as well to increase that payment to $2,000.00, something the President has pushed for? Does that have any legs in the House or the Senate?

KINZINGER: Well, it's possible. I voted for that increase it passed just barely under suspension. I don't know what's going to happen in the Senate.

You know, I think we're in a unique time where people need the money. But here's the deal. The President never said his position from the beginning. It was all a guessing game.

And by the way, also, Nancy Pelosi had an opportunity in the fall to get this done and she made it very clear, it was about the election. So this isn't about pointing fingers. I think right now, we just need a clean reset on how we do politics, start respecting each other again and grow up, but you know, that's it. That's probably pretty wishful thinking.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. I mean, if only we could teach our children better lessons by example. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you for speaking tonight. Thank you for your service to the country.

KINZINGER: Happy New Year.

SCIUTTO: More ahead this hour, two top political operators lay out where this all goes from here and what the President might do between now and Inauguration Day. It's a question.

Later, what that dangerous new coronavirus strain could do if it takes off here in the U.S.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. So the House tonight has greenlit the bigger Federal COVID relief check the President is pushing for, but it is still unclear if it will get anywhere in the Senate, the G.O.P. controlled Senate, and either way millions of Americans are losing money they need right now due to his delay in signing the Bill. They won't get that money back.


SCIUTTO: There's that, the epidemic itself and the President's seeming obsession with overturning the election, your votes.

Joining us now, our CNN political commentators, democratic strategist, Paul Begala and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

Gentlemen, thanks so much to both of you, Senator Santorum, the President's delay. I mean, if he had taken the simple step of signing this even on Saturday night, right, 24 hours before, folks would have gotten this money more quickly, and they'd be getting money -- they're not going to get now, right, because some of this is not retroactive.

I just wonder what was gained here? What was the point?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's pretty inexplicable to me. You know, the fact that he went ahead and signed these two bills is -- there really isn't a good reason to have held off.

He conflated the two bills. He created a lot of confusion with people somehow that the COVID bill had foreign aid in it, which was not the case. And it was in a separate bill.

I mean, it just -- it seems like the President is angry, and he is not acting in his own best interest, in my opinion with these two delays, and not moving these go forward.

I don't think he is acting in his best interest when he came to veto in the National Defense Authorization. You saw the House overrode it. I think the Senate is going to do the same as they should. There's very important things in there for our military that need to be done right away.

And as someone who served on the Armed Services Committee, these are very important bills, compromise bills, the President supported it, other than the Section 230 and so it makes no sense for him to have done that either.

SCIUTTO: Paul Begala, you have an interesting confluence here, do you not? I see just moments ago that Senator Sanders, he is threatening to delay the Senate vote overriding the President's veto on the Defense Bill, in order to push for $2,000.00 stimulus checks as the President did.

I mean, so you have this odd overlap, do you not, and the President's goal here, and some Democrats. I mean, does that go anywhere, in your view, or does it run into Republican opposition in the Senate?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is the problem is that Mr. Trump has put his own party in a terrible bind. He says he's going to Georgia -- Dalton, Georgia, by the way great town, the carpet capital of America, up on the Tennessee border, maybe the most conservative place in Georgia. He is going to campaign there Monday, for Kelly Loeffler and David

Perdue, two senators. What did those senators do? Georgia has Fort Benning. Georgia has some of the greatest military installations in the world. Did they vote for Trump or the troops on this Defense Authorization override? It puts them in a terrible spot?

Do they vote for the $2,000.00 to help the middle class that Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump now support? Or do they stick with Mitch McConnell and their leadership?

This is -- Trump's just not -- and Rick makes a good point. He's not acting in his own best interest. I don't really care. He's not acting in the country's best interest.

You're talking about military families. You're talking about soldiers pay. And he has got to be overwritten on that, I think in the national interest, and that's not a partisan view at all.

And then the extra money for an emergency. He is just hurting the people who are paying his salary and it's also hurting his party's chances to hold the Senate.

SCIUTTO: Senator Santorum, do you see the political winds shifting within the Republican Party here with the President, I mean, you have at least the House voting to override the veto. And those are not easy votes for House members -- Republican House members to override a President who still remains popular among the Republican base.

But particularly as we get closer to January 6th, when the President is still pushing with some allies on the hill to attempt to block the Senate, or rather Congress affirming the Electoral College vote.

I mean, do you sense the political winds shifting against him among Republicans?

SANTORUM: Well, look, you know, the National Defense Authorization Act is a widely bipartisan exercise throughout both in the House and the Senate. These bills are usually passed by great majorities, and I think the President just picked the wrong one. So I don't think that was a political wind shift. I just think he picked the wrong bill to veto.

And, on the other issues, look, I think it's pretty clear to everybody that the President is not going to win this election and that nothing is going to happen on January 6th to overturn it. And members are beginning to look past this election. I mean -- and start looking at their own future.

SCIUTTO: I mean, he lost, right? Let's call a spade a spade here. Paul, you heard President-elect Biden and he is President-elect. I mean, this has been certified already in the states, say that the current administration despite that is putting up in his words, roadblocks in the transition process.

I mean, this is happening days after you've got say that the current administration, despite that is putting up in his words, roadblocks in the transition process. I mean, this is happening days after you had a U.S. suicide bomber, right, on the streets of Nashville.


SCIUTTO: A couple of weeks after it was discovered that Russia carried out a deeply damaging -- and they are still assessing the damage of a massive cyberattack that the President still hasn't commented on. That has consequences, Paul, does it not for the safety of this country today?

BEGALA: Absolutely, of course. You've written books on this. Jim and Senator Santorum who served on the Armed Services knows this intimately. We have enemies in America.

There are a lot of evildoers out there. We have enemies in Iran. We have enemies in North Korea. We have enemies in China. We have enemies in Russia, and then there are non-state actors: ISIS, Al Qaeda, they know that we're vulnerable in these transitions.

You know, Al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole in Yemen in the final months of the Clinton administration, then they attacked on 9/11 in the first nine months of the next Bush administration.

Our enemies all know that we're vulnerable at these moments, and so Mr. Trump and his appointees at the Defense Department to be putting up roadblocks to President-elect Biden being able to protect our country is really, really unconscionable.

I guess I've -- you know, I've come to expect the worst from Trump, but it's even been worse than I expected.

SCIUTTO: Well, what's your answer to that, Senator Santorum? We've had many conversations through the years, it's a subject of bipartisan agreement, right, that Russia does not have America's best interests at heart, that China does not, right?

The terror attacks or violence attacks on American soils are not in America's interest. Right? I mean, an obvious statement, but you don't have the President getting out in front of this right and saying definitively this will not stand. I mean, do Republicans agree, this is dereliction?

SANTORUM: You know, look, I think the President is in a transition himself. And I think he has very clearly has transitioned away from the day-to-day speaking out on issues that's not to mean, obviously, his administration continues to function. They continue to operate.

Obviously, the F.B.I. has done a terrific job in Nashville. So it's not like the people aren't doing their jobs. It's just the President isn't doing what we're used to, which is commenting on everything every moment of the day. He seems to be fixated on the one thing. That is -- you know, this election.

And look, I understand the President, you know, look at what happened to him four years ago, and the prior administration investigating him and let many people protesting and, you know, denying his winning of the election. SCIUTTO: That's an unfair equivalency. I mean, President Obama invited

him into the White House. Hillary Clinton conceded the election. There was no challenge on the floor of Congress to his election victory, and it was an equivalence.

SANTORUM: There was, but it didn't succeed. But the point is, I mean, the president views this as I think, I could be wrong, but I think the President views this as you know, the other side getting a little bit of their own medicine on denying the legitimacy of his election.

So I think this is part of the President's grievances that he has about what happened to him and this is just coming forward at the time you would expect it, to be honest with you.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, part of a longer conversation, there was a special counsel who did you discover wrongdoing among them and there were charges from that investigation.

Rick Santorum, Paul Begala, thanks very much to both of you.

BEGALA: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Breaking news this hour, in America -- as America set another record for people hospitalized with the virus, vaccinations are stepping up, but concerns persist over a new variant of the virus believed to have begun in England now spreading around the globe.

And later, you'll recall those jarring images from last March when dozens died in a Washington State nursing home, we're going to bring you an update from the epicenter of the first pandemic crisis.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight on the pandemic, more than 19 million -- 19 million Americans have now been diagnosed with the virus. The death toll sadly approaching 335,000 and more than 121,000 people are hospital hospitalized tonight with the virus surpassing the number set on Christmas Eve.

Even so, a record number of passengers passed through airport screeners over the weekend, nearly 1.3 million travelers the most since the start of the pandemic. More numbers, the C.D.C. says 2.1 million vaccine doses have now been administered so far, but the administration official in charge of testing, Admiral Brett Giroir says he believes the number is in his words an underestimate of the actual total.

Meanwhile, concerns persist over that new variant of COVID-19 first detected in the United Kingdom believed to be already here in this country. Perspective now from Dr. Leana Wen. She is a CNN medical analyst.

Dr. Wen, always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: Okay, so put this new variant into context for us. Confirmed in Canada today, it's showing up in other countries. It's not a new strain, it is a new variant. This is how viruses develop. How concerned should people be about this?

WEN: I think people should be concerned. So here's the good news. This new variant, the one in the U.K. as well as the one in South Africa do not appear to be more virulent. So if you end up getting this type of this variant, it doesn't mean that you're more likely to be hospitalized or to die. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it appears to be even more transmissible and this is already a highly contagious virus. And also by definition, we know that if something is more transmissible, more people are going to get it and then more people will then be hospitalized and die from it, too.

So I think people should be concerned although the good news is that the vaccines appear that they should work on this variant as much as before.

SCIUTTO: Okay, that's good. I was going to ask you that so that the current vaccines still protect you or would protect people who are vaccinated against the new variant.

WEN: There's no reason for us to believe that they will not be protected. Those studies are still being done, but most scientists would estimate that there's again no reason that they shouldn't work against these variants.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So vaccine is progressing. You already have the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine approved for emergency use. Now Novavax testing their vaccine against this new variant. Tell us what this means about vaccine availability? As you have more options, in effect, become available over time.


WEN: This is a scarce resource right now, vaccines and vaccine production is certainly a limiting factor. And so, I'm glad that Novavax is now starting their phase 3 trials here in the U.S. Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca are two other companies that are starting there or had have already progressed quite far in their phase 3 trials as well. And so, the more vaccines we have come online, the better because that means the sooner we can reach herd immunity in this country and around the world.

SCIUTTO: OK. So far 2.1 million vaccines have been administered, and this year -- in the U.S., of course, focused on frontline health care workers beginning to go out in nursing homes. Dr. Fauci who of course is, you know, he's very conservative and his approach to all this. He says that that likely underestimates the actual number of people who have been vaccinated. But you're still concerned this is a warning sign that the vaccine is not being rolled out quickly enough. Tell us why. WEN: I think a lot of us are having flashbacks to testing and PPE. Remember when President Trump and the administration said everyone who needs a test can get one.


WEN: Or once a test can get one, I'm not sure that we're even close to getting there nine months into the pandemic, or 10 months into the pandemic. I am concerned that this is just part of the playbook again, of diffusion of responsibility and of basically throwing up our hands and saying, well, we the federal government did our part.

But then local and state health departments that don't have the resources are now not doing theirs. I think also the speed 2 million in two weeks sounds really impressive, but I did some back of the envelope calculations here.

And at that rate for a two dose vaccine, for us to reach 80 percent herd immunity in the U.S. through vaccination, it will take us 10 years at a rate of a million vaccines a week, or put in a different way if we want to get there within six months. We need to be doing three and a half million vaccinations a day not a million a week.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, and to your point, this country's record on testing, not a good harbinger of its ability to get this stuff out there and quickly. Dr. Wen, thanks so much.

WEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, back in early March, at the very beginning of this pandemic, most Americans were jolted into reality by pictures like this video of stretchers taken out of a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington where ultimately 39 deaths were associated with the coronavirus, remarkable pictures that somehow today seem a lifetime ago. Today, the virus vaccine arrived at that very same nursing home a moment of hope. CNN Sara Sidner is in Kirkland tonight.



SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These were some of the very first people in the United States to go to war with a new virus without weapons to fight it. Ten months into the pandemic, they are finally getting the most powerful weapon available, a vaccine.

(on-camera): What is this day like for you?

CORTEZ: What I feel right now is a new life. A new beginning, but a better life.

SIDNER (voice-over): This was the first epicenter of America's deadly coronavirus outbreak.

(on-camera): What was your most difficult day? CHELSEY EARNEST, NURSING DIRECTOR: March 4th.

SIDNER (voice-over): Registered Nurse Chelsey Earnest cannot get the memory of what happened that day out of her head.

EARNEST: That was the night there was like five ambulances in the parking lot.

SIDNER (voice-over): Patients were dying or needed to be hospitalized. Ultimately, 39 patients died, 10 died at the facility.

(on-camera): Whose job was it to call the family members?

EARNEST: There were many that that I had to call this either say they were going out to hospital or that they didn't make it.

SIDNER (voice-over): The trauma of those days in March and the family members cries haunts them all. That same month, several members the staff spoke to CNN, Life Care Center said in the first few days they begged government agencies for help and received little.

(on-camera): Did you get what you need when you needed it?


SIDNER (voice-over): Testing took days to get the results then. Now they have a rapid test that takes minutes. Initially, the staff was blamed for not controlling the COVID outbreak by just about everyone.

EARNEST: Yes, threats.

SIDNER (on-camera): What kind of threats all kinds of death threats?

EARNEST: All kinds of death threats. We ended up getting security.

SIDNER (voice-over): And soon threats of a loss in funding at a fine of $611,000 unless the facility resolved problems found by inspectors. Federal inspectors said Life Care failed to rapidly identify and manage all residents putting them in immediate jeopardy. State inspectors reported similar findings. Life Care Center appealed.

NANCY BUTNER, VICE PRESIDENT LIFE CARE NORTHWEST DIVISION: We knew what we do hadn't done was the best we could have done.


SIDNER (voice-over): In September, a state administrative judge largely agreed, saying the state provided relatively little evidence that the facility actually failed to meet any expected standard of care or fail to follow public health guidelines. The federal case is still pending.

Ten months after the initial chaos of the outbreak, the closest we could get was a look from the outside in. In-person visits are still forbidden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't you guys cover his legs up.

SIDNER (voice-over): The chairs outside patients windows used by families to communicate in March are now a semi permanent fixture here. This facility is COVID free right now, but several of the nursing homes Nancy Butner overseas are not.

BUTNER: There is not a day that goes by or I don't get a phone call or a message that we have a new positive patient or staff.

SIDNER (on-camera): Coronavirus is still killing patients.

BUTNER: Absolutely.

SIDNER (on-camera): Still sickening staff.

BUTNER (on-camera): Yes.

SIDNER (voice-over): Which is why this day is one of the most hopeful days they've had. But for this physician's assistant, the day was bittersweet.

CHRISTY CARAMICHAEL, PHYSICIAN'S ASSISTANT LIFE CARE CENTER OF KIRKLAND: I have one resident who last week asked me if she can get the vaccination. I said, sure you can. Unfortunately, she had passed away. So I did promise her that she would get. It sad that she didn't get to see this today.


SCIUTTO: Too late for her. Sara joins us now. And those images from that facility, they seem a lifetime ago. Since the outbreak ravaged that nursing home how many Americans have died in nursing homes across the country? Because as you pointed out in the story, that remains an enormous concern.

SIDNER: It absolutely is it a great question. Look, the nurses and the staff here knew once they figured out what was going on, that it was only a matter of time when testing became available, but other nursing homes would find they had a problem too. And it turns out that up to date, the numbers that we have so far from the federal agency that oversees nursing homes is more than 86,000 nursing home residents in America have died from coronavirus. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Listen, these are people's parents and grandparents their husbands and wives Sarah Sidner, thanks so much.

(voice-over): Well, those crucial Georgia Senate run offs are now just eight days away. Runoffs in which Democrats have historically fallen short. Winning however would effectively hand them the Senate.

Up next, I'm going to speak with Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff battling incumbent Senator David Perdue as the campaigns enter the final stretch.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. President Trump signed the COVID relief bill with just over a week left until those all important Georgia Senate runoff elections. They will determine which party controls the Senate. And as an -- as mentioned, the President is now scheduled to appear at a rally in northern Georgia a week from today one day before the election. It is part of a final push in races that have seen more than half a billion dollars in ad spending so far.

I'm joined now by one of the two Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff, who is facing the Republican incumbent David Perdue. Mr. Ossoff, thanks so much for taking the time tonight.


SCIUTTO: There's been some reporting that Senator Perdue of course your opponent that he privately urged the President to sign this stimulus bill knowing that this weakened him and affect the President's opposition here. I wonder now that the President has come around with that he took his time but now the President has come around that does that remove for you an important talking point in this election?

OSSOFF: No to the contrary, I'm calling on Senator Perdue tonight to endorse $2,000 relief checks for the American people to join President Trump, President-elect Biden, Democrats and members of his own party who recognize that the people are hurting, credit cards maxed out, rent past due bills piling up childcare costs prescription drugs that can't be afforded right now.

People are hurting through no fault of their own. It's been eight months of our own government's catastrophic neglect and incompetence that has put so many American families in dire straits, and Perdue should come out and join President Trump and Democrats in supporting $2,000 relief checks. The Senate should pass it within 48 hours.

SCIUTTO: It's a remarkable confluence. Is it not that you have Democrats and just moments ago, Bernie Sanders is threatening to stop a vote override the President's veto on the defense bill in order to push for $2,000 payments as well? Are you saying the President got it right here trying to hold out for $2,000 instead of the 600?

OSSOFF: Look, it's not just President Trump, President-elect Biden and Democrats are all pushing for $2,000 relief checks. And it's what the people need. My opponent, David Perdue, I mean, just wrap your head around this, the same guy who was on the phone with his broker buying medical and vaccine stocks to personally profit from this pandemic, opposed even the first round of $1,200 checks.

And now he's touting a $600 payment like he saved the day. He has no concept of how much pain his own constituents are in. And he needs to reverse his opposition to these $2,000 relief checks. That's what the people are demanding. He should join President Trump and President- elect Biden and Democrats and supporting it. And as I said, the Senate needs to act right now to pass these $2,000 relief checks. SCIUTTO: As I mentioned in the introduction, I mean, we're near and half a billion dollars right in spending on this race, but by both parties, but if we learn one thing from the general election, November 3rd, right, is that spending a lot of money in Senate races.

I mean, there are a lot of races there with Democrats far outweighs the Republican opponents but still lost those Senate seats. Spending money doesn't necessarily translate into votes. Right. I'm just curious, are you seeing money and resources focused in Georgia on what actually works, which is registration, getting people out to vote?

OSSOFF: Yes. And look, we are making unprecedented investments in turnout, mobilization, voter protection. There is movement energy right now in Georgia Democrats are excited. But look, here's what people really need to understand. First of all, Republican combined spending is vastly more than Democratic spending.

But more to the point Republicans are filing lawsuit after lawsuit to disenfranchise black voters in Georgia. They're trying to segregate new registrants, so their votes don't count like other votes. They're trying to remove drop boxes. So people can't vote absentee. It is a voter suppression at its worst.


And I'm asking everybody out there to support our efforts to protect the sacred franchise in Georgia and go to elect Jon, so that no vote is suppressed. And no Georgia is disenfranchised by these lawsuits.

SCIUTTO: The President is going to Georgia, as you know, the day before the election, he's calling it a victory rally. Another thing we learned from the general election was the President rallies, they work right and they get people registered. They motivate Republican voters. Are you -- do you wish you saw more of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris in these crucial final days before the runoff election?

OSSOFF: They both been here and deeply grateful for their presence. I mean, President Trump's rallies mostly just spread COVID. Here's the bottom line, we are at an inflection point in American history.

We're in the midst of a public health crisis that demands aggressive direct relief payments to the American people that demands a redoubled effort to invest in the public health response, free testing and vaccinations resources for hospital systems and nursing homes. We need to enact landmark, civil rights and voting rights legislation and we need to invest in infrastructure and clean energy to rebuild our economy and save our environment.

We need to pass legislation that tangibly helps people. Raising the minimum wage, relieving the burden of student loan debt. There's a lot of good that we can do. But don't win these two races. Mitch McConnell will block all of that the stakes are so high and they're trying to suppress black voters in Georgia. They're trying it right now in court, and I'm asking people to help us protect the franchise here. SCIUTTO: Jon Ossoff, we wish you the best of luck and thanks so much for joining us tonight.

OSSOFF: Thank you.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): So to come this hour, new video of the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, I mean look at the aftermath there. And the latest on the possible motive of the suspect who died in the bombing.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We mentioned at the top of the broadcast that President Trump has not spoken publicly about the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville. Joe Biden today however praised first responders there and new video of when that bombing happened has just been released.

(voice-over): Sounds like a war zone.

A Nashville police officer just a short distance away when that bomb went off. Investigators know the name of their only suspect just not the motivation. Investigator say the suspect's mother has been cooperative. And one of the suspect's neighbors tells CNN just before Christmas, the individual told him quote, I'm going to be so famous Nashville will never forget me.

Now, AC360 does not typically name alleged bombers or show their pictures. We don't want to give these suspects the attention that they often want. However, in the report you're about to hear we do name the suspect as investigators are still searching for more information about him. CNN's Martin Savidge has the latest.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a blast that took an entire city and captured the attention of an entire country. The accounts of the first officers on the scene before that blast. Only add to the mystery of the man police believe was inside that RV playing a recording.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can hear this message, evacuate now.

TYLER LUELLEN, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: There's a large bomb within this vehicle your primary objective is to evacuate.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): There was also the music, the 1964 hit single Downtown. Officer James Wells heard the music and a voice inside of him told him to turn around.

JAMES WELLS, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: And then the music stop. And as I'm walking back to our topic now I just see orange and then I hear loud boom.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Six Metro Nashville police officers are considered heroes for going door to door and warning residents to get out before the blast. And some are wondering if there's significance about where the explosion occurred in front of an AT&T telephone facility. The blast knocking out or curtailing phone and internet coverage too much of the region. Did the alleged bomber have a paranoia of the new 5G service something widely talked about online.

DOUG KORNESKI, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, MEMPHIS FIELD OFFICE: We're not at a position where we can speculate on now. This new CNN video shows federal agents combing through the rubble three days after the blast. Authorities identified 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner as the alleged perpetrator of the Christmas Day bombing and they're still seeking information about his motivations.

KORNESKI: We're still following leads. But right now, there is no indication that any other persons were involved.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The realty company where he did freelance I.T. work said earlier this month the alleged bomber told them he was retiring. In the community where he lived, residents say the first sign something was wrong was when law enforcement truck showed up at his home Friday night. Neighbors say they knew about the RV scene here on Google streetview at his house that appears to match the one captured by security cameras in downtown Nashville at 1:22am Christmas Day hours before it exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It started moving in like about a month ago. But before that it never moved at all.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Authority said the alleged bomber was not previously known to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was not on our radar.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Somehow he was able to gather the components and material to make his powerful bomb without ever triggering warning signs to law enforcement.

ANDREW MCCABE, FMR FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Unfortunately, it's not that hard in this country to assemble the chemicals and the equipment that you need to construct an improvised explosive device.


SAVIDGE: You know, it was very quick on the part of authorities to be able to identify the bomber, but it's clear Jim is going to take them longer to try to discern what his motive really was. Now there are clues, for instance, where that RV was parked directly in front of that very crucial communication switching building. Was that the target?

A lot of people are speculating and might have been it certainly curious why the vehicle was there. But authorities right now are not commenting publicly about it. But you can bet they are definitely looking into that aspect.

And the other question, how did he get the explosives and the equipment he needed without anyone apparently knowing. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the Nashville mayor said earlier this morning folks in Nashville know that's the AT&T headquarters has been for 100 years. Martin Savidge, good to have you on the ground. Thanks very much.

More breaking news just ahead. As we report at the top of the program, the House votes to increase the money in those stimulus checks. And also hands President Trump a defeat on his veto of the Pentagon funding act. Details on "360" continues.



SCIUTTO: More breaking news now from Capitol Hill as we reported earlier, the House of Representatives dealt President Trump's stunning defeat and voting with plenty of room to spare to override his veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. They also passed a measure to increase stimulus payments from the $600, so far approved to $2,000.

CNN's Phil Mattingly there for us. So, a big question, of course, what happens in the Senate here one on stimulus is the Republican interest in going up to 2,000 for these payments? And will Republicans in the Senate also override the President's veto on the defense bill?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, I'll start with the former first because they're starting to co mingle a little bit here. And yes, there is some Republican interest on increasing those direct payments up to $2,000. Marco Rubio, senator from Florida came out today saying he supported but it's not if there's Republican interest.

It's what is the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell going to do? He will determine what happens next on those stimulus payments. If anything happens next. However, Senator Bernie Sanders, obviously the independent from Vermont, been pushing for those increased payments.

He is now threatening to hold up Senate work on the veto override of the National Defense Authorization Act if Majority Leader McConnell does not put a straight up or down vote of those $2,000 payments on the floor.

So what we're dealing with right now is a little procedural back and forth. The reality is this, the Senate is almost certain to override the veto of the President. It's just a matter of when not if. The bigger question right now is can Senator Sanders can other Republicans who are supportive of expanding those payments push Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put that on the floor?

Keep a very close eye on the two Georgia senators that are currently in a runoff just a couple of days. They've been driving a lot of McConnell's actions up to this point, trying to ensure that he maintains his position as Majority Leader. What they say or do related to those payments may go a long way towards dictating what McConnell does when it comes to what he actually puts on the floor. Jim. SCIUTTO: Well, we just had Jon Ossoff, of course running against Perdue there call on Perdue to support the $2,000 payments. Phil Mattingly on the Hill. Thanks very much.


And the news continues. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.