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Trump Advisor: Trump Effort to Block Biden Win Likely to Fail; Trump & Pence Had Lunch Earlier as Trump Intensifies Pressure on V.P. to Challenge Congressional Vote Count; 3 More Senators Will Not Challenge Election Results; New Study Says COVID Cases Could Be Four Time Higher than Reported, California Hit Hardest; Top NYC Hospital Official Defends Hesitancy of Some Health Care Workers to Take Vaccine. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 5, 2021 - 14:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That has been kind of a subject of his presidency for the last four years, where the president often listens to the last person in his ear and makes the best argument that he thinks about telling him exactly what he should do.

But now he is listening to people who are telling him the election was rigged, that he did win it, that there was widespread fraud. All the evidence shows none of those things are true.

You're seeing the president listen to people like Peter Navarro, his trade adviser, Rudy Giuliani, these other attorneys.

We should note the president is getting so many new attorneys it's hard for people around the president to keep up who is representing him at a given time because there have been so many new faces introduced in all phases of him trying to contest election results.

Now, of course, Erin and Anderson, instead of listening to Mike Pence, who has been a very loyal aide to him over the last several years, he is turning on Pence in remarkable fashion.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I mean, it is remarkable. But, of course, Vice President Pence has no one to blame but himself for not seeing think.

OK, thank you so much, Kaitlan.

So let's go now to long-time Republican donor, Dan Eberhart.

Dan, here we are on the day of the Georgia runoff. Hours ahead of what is something that no American has probably ever paid attention to before, right, in Washington.

What do you make of Trump's mind-set right now?

DAN EBERHART, REPUBLICAN DONOR: Well, I think he's all over the map in a bad way. Look, I think that, number one, the most important thing is as a

Republican, makes Mitch McConnell stronger. And I think that's winning the seats in Georgia.

Trump's actions since the election have really been counter intuitive to that with the exception of the rallies. But he's really between trying to use his rallies to fight all fights, by continuing to thump on the governor of Georgia's head and by raising money that should be going to the Senate campaigns.

And in addition to this certification issue, pushing this, having people push this in the House, and now the Senate, Trump has been subtracting rather than adding to Republican efforts since the election.

BURNETT: Talk about Mike Pence. He just had lunch with the president. He's in this position tomorrow where he is the guy at the Oscars that opens up the envelope. Right? He's not the Arthur Anderson, who actually tabulates the results and puts the name in the envelope.

His job is clearly to read it. He's either read Joe Biden or he's going to do something never done before, right, that wouldn't be legal.

I want to play something Trump said last night about Pence. Here's Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy. Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite at much.


BURNETT: OK. The right thing for Mike Pence to do is to read the name of the winner. The winner, of course, is Joe Biden.

Are you confident he'll do that tomorrow?

EBERHART: Well, I actually think what Vice President Pence should do is just decline to preside over the ceremony and have Senator Grassley do it. That's probably what I would do if I was him.

He's been a loyal Trump soldier but he's also a Constitutionalist and will follow through with his constitutional duties.

I will say Erin, there's a little precedence for this. Some House Democrats in 2016, for Trump, and for George W. Bush in 2004, the 2004 election, did protests votes, but not near on the scale of this.


EBERHART: But Pence is in a sticky spot. He's been a loyal soldier. And here we are on the two-inch line of the Trump presidency. It's almost over.


EBERHART: He doesn't want to alienate the Trump base now. But he has to follow his constitutional duties. And I think he ultimately will.

Look, Pence has been on a pretzel tightrope walking around above the skyscraper in circles for four years. I think he can figure this out.

BURNETT: He's the only one who has been able to manage to do it consistently. Right? Everybody else has flown too close to the side and either opted out --


BURNETT: -- or been burned to the ground.

EBERHART: But he's also the one person that Trump can't fire.

BURNETT: Right. Right.

EBERHART: Constitutionally.

BURNETT: It's a fair point.

I want to ask you about something else. I know you know Josh Hawley.

He has been leading the charge to object to the Electoral College results, which has Senators objecting to states that are not their state.

I know you had supported him early on. A tweet of yours from 2018, Dan, you write, "Time to retire @clairemccaskill, who is seeing her popularity numbers drop by nearly 10 points, and put a true conversative in the U.S. Senate in Missouri. I'm supporting Josh Hawley in U.S. Senate 2018."

OK, now he's doing this, which you don't support. What do you say to Senator Hawley?

EBERHART: Look, in general, I'm a big supporter of Senator Hawley and I hope he's (INAUDIBLE).

But I think he's an original thinker. Doesn't really fit in a partisan box so much. On the stimulus checks, he was with AOC, not with the Republican Party in terms of wanting more.

But In the case of this, I would say, Senator Hawley, Senator Cruz, Senator Blackburn, step back a bit. This is bad for the republic. This is using campaigning -- this is campaigning when you should be governing.


And the framers intended for the people to decide, for the states to have the primary role in the election. This is a box-checking exercise, not a publicity stunt. Step back from the podium.

BURNETT: All right, we'll see if he listens to you.

Thank you very much, Dan. I appreciate your time. I'm glad to have you on.

EBERHART: Thank you.

BURNETT: Next, two new Republicans from Trump's stronghold pushing back against the president, now saying they go will not challenge Joe Biden's win. So standing up to Trump. Who are they?

Plus, the situation growing more dire in Los Angeles County today. Coronavirus cases out of control. One in five residents testing positive. What can the state actually do right now to prevent greater catastrophe when they've already had such stringent restrictions?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're now learning three more Republican Senators who will not support the effort to overturn the election. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Jerry Moran of Kansas, all announcing they will not challenge the election results.

Right now, at least 13 Senate Republicans and 140 House Republicans will join this effort to try to overturn the election.

Here's how it will work. Vice President Mike Pence will call on each state and asking if there are any objections. Once there's an objection, both chambers will debate separately for up to two hours before resuming.


The Senators will object to at least three states that we know of, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.

Joining us now is Bakari Sellers, former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and Scott Jennings, former senior adviser to Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Bakari, Tim Scott, from your state, a lot to talk about whether he will run in 2024. What do you make of this calculation he's making?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Tim Scott and my politics couldn't be further apart. One thing we say about Tim Scott is South Carolina is at least he has good sense. He has good common sense.

The fact is that he doesn't want to play politics with this issue tomorrow.

I think what we are seeing is a lot of these individuals, the list of Senators who are objecting to these particular states, all this is, is a shot across the bow for 2024.

Whether or not it's Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, these are all individuals campaigning on our dime and on the floor of the United States Senate.

The biggest problem, though, is that they're campaigning and it's undermining our fundamental tenants of democracy.

It seems they don't care. The rule of law does not matter for these Republicans tomorrow who are lining up.

I'm just glad there are some Republicans, like Tim Scott, who I served with in the South Carolina statehouse when he was a member there, who, at the end of the day, Anderson, has good common sense.

COOPER: Scott, what do you make of what Ted Cruz and Hawley are doing?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's an obvious play to try to inherent the mantel of Trump for the 2024 presidential primary.

It's interesting. It's not a conservative play at all. Essentially, they're arguing that the federal government should be powerful enough to unilaterally disregard the states and disregard the people and choose the president just because you happen to be in charge of one of the two chambers of Congress.

It is not a conservative position. So I don't think much of what they're doing. I don't think it's constitutional, frankly. I don't think it's conservative.

And I don't think they're going to -- I don't think this is going to wear well on their records. It's become a huge stain, frankly, on the Trump presidency.

I'm glad most Republicans will do the right thing here. And that's essentially perform the ceremonial role to accept these electors.

Congress in this thing, they're like a dalmatian on a fire engine. They're ceremonial. They don't really have a role in the deal, but they expect to see them there.

So to show up and try to tell Republicans, hey, we can overturn the results of an election? It's just not true and not a good look.

COOPER: And, Bakari, I want to play something, former defense secretary, William Cohen, Republican under Bill Clinton, said in responses to overturning the election.


WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: The president and his supporters have so saturated the airwaves with lies, misinformation, disinformation, rumors, speculation, that people are having trouble understanding what is true and what is false.

We're standing on the abyss of the destruction of our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: And there's a lot of folk whose have been making that argument, and I mean -- you know, Republicans among them. Do you agree?

SELLERS: I mean, I do agree. And I think this president has done so much damage to the foundation of our democracy, when things like this happen, we shrug our shoulders and say, well, you know, he does this all the time.

He lies. He undermines democracy. This is another day that ends while President Donald Trump is president of the United States.

But I do think there has to be some alarm. I do think there are individuals who are spreading misinformation and disinformation.

You have a QAnon supporter in the United States Congress who's flying on Air Force One down to Georgia, who thinks that they need to overturn the election in Georgia, but not overturn her election.

It's pure absurdity. And this effort is impotent at best. I mean, there's no way they are going to overturn the election. However, they're going to try their damnedest. That's a fundamental problem.

Somebody needs to grab Josh Hawley by the collar, look him in the face, and say, look, you're not going to be president of the United States.

You're not going to beat Vice President Pence. You won't even beat Nikki Haley. And you definitely won't beat Donald Trump if he runs again. Save yourself this embarrassment.

That's exactly what this is. This is embarrassment, egg on his face, so he will have a forward-facing view over the field in 2024. That ain't happening.

COOPER: Scott, are you concerned about the impact this could have on you know, the democratic system, on confidence in, you know, not the just this time around but two years from now, four years from now, eight years from now?

JENNINGS: Of course. I mean, the democratic system depends on winners and losers, and the acceptance of the results.

Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, we've had people in both parties who have refused to accept results.

Republicans, some of them, at least, in this case, have taken it a step further than it has gone before.

But it's not the first time we've had a lack of acceptance by a certain people in Washington, D.C. It's a growing problem.

I frankly, as a Republican, and someone who supports the Electoral College, am worried about the long-term impact on the health of the Electoral College.


These Republicans right now who are leading these efforts are handing Democrats the single greatest argument that there ever was and has ever been made to abolish the Electoral College.

Which would be an abject disaster for the Republican Party, which tends not to win the national popular vote, unless your last name is Bush, over the last 30 years.


JENNINGS: So I think from an institutional perspective and a political perspective, there's real reasons to be concerned what this might do to the future of our governance.

COOPER: Scott and Bakari, appreciate it.

Coming up next, a new study out this after suggesting the number of people infected with coronavirus could be for times greater than reported.

Plus, we'll take you live to Georgia where voting is underway in that state's crucial runoff election. What the candidates are saying in these final hours.



BURNETT: A new study saying the number of people infected with coronavirus could be four times higher than reported.

That means, according to the study, as of mid-November, one out of every seven residents may have been infected, 47 million people.

Confirmed, we only have 21 million cases. One state that's being hit hardest right now is California.

Let's go to Dan Simon there in San Francisco.

Dan, just how bad is it in California, a state that has had very strict restrictions on activity for quite some time?

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, unfortunately, the new year is off to a very rough start in California as far as the coronavirus is concerned.

Just to paint a picture for you, you have a shortage of hospital beds and hospital rooms. You have a severe shortage of oxygen as well. Not to mention a tired and weary front-line medical staff at all the various hospitals.

And the situation is most pronounced in L.A. County where you have someone dying of coronavirus every 15 minutes, according to officials there.

And one out of five people who is getting tested for the virus is testing positive.

Now you have the county telling ambulance crews not to take somebody to the hospital if they're having a serious cardiac event where they're not expected to survive, which is absolutely extraordinary. They're doing this in order to conserve oxygen.

As bad as things are now, Erin, things are only expected to get worse.

We haven't even talked about vaccine delivery, which is veery, very slow. You only have a third of vaccines that have been shot into arms.

You have about 1.3 million doses that have been given to California and only about a third has been distributed.

Hundreds of thousands of doses sitting on a shelf, which is very frustrating.

BURNETT: Incredibly frustrating considering how many we need to vaccinate in your state and around the country.

Dan, thank you.

I want to go to Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He was medical adviser to the George W. Bush White House.

Dr. Reiner, first, let's start with California. They have an incredible explosion in hospitalizations and deaths, as Dan used the right work, extraordinary in terms of not even bringing everyone to the hospital in an ambulance. They're trying to conserve.

Yet this is a state which had been very strict, on restrictions, right, on activity and masks and indoor dining.

What can California do at this point?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think they need to tighten up their restrictions. California has had a limited shutdown in parts of the state for about the last month, and they may need to make that even more stringent.

The virus is really out of control in California. They've had almost 800,000 cases. They have almost 800,000 people hospitalized in California.

That's 6 percent of the total number of hospitalizations in the United States. And it's disproportionately affecting populations.

If you're a member of the Ladnacks (ph) community in Los Angeles, you have three times the likelihood of contracting the virus or becoming infected and needing to be hospitalized than if you're white.

If you're in a poor part of Los Angeles, you have about a 60 percent higher rate of infection than folks who live in the richer parts of the community.

So it's really a devastating Los Angeles right now, but they may need to shut down further.

But we're hearing the film industry may just do that.

BURNETT: Let me ask you this in the context of the new study. We don't know what we don't know.

But if the number of coronavirus infections in the United States could be up to four times higher than had been purported, it could mean a couple of things.

It could mean a lower death rate. Obviously, it would mean that if that's the case. It could also mean we are closer to herd immunity than we think. We need a vaccine significantly to get there. But we're closer than we would think.

What do you make of this study in the parameters? Do you think it's true?

REINER: It's very interesting. We've always known that there's an enormous amount of asymptomatic infection in this country, and that's a tie large part of the spread.

But we've never quite had a good sense of how many asymptomatic people have been infected and not known it.

So this study suggests, if you use current numbers, about 20 million documented infections, up to 80 million in this country might actually have been infected with this virus.

If 70 percent to 80 percent of the population needs to have been exposed to the virus or been vaccinated to the virus, that would mean that our goal for vaccination might -- and herd immunity might be achieved at a slightly lower number.

Perhaps vaccinating 150 million people might get us closer to herd immunity if 80 million people have had the vaccine.


But, really, it's symptomatic of how widespread the virus has been in this country.

BURNETT: And right now, widespread correlates with more death because the vaccine isn't rolling out that quickly.

One question before we go. In New York City, 30 percent of the health care staff of the 11 public hospitals in New York have so far taken a wait-and-see approach, right, opting not to get the vaccine for various reasons, questions they may have, whatever it might be.

The New York health CEO Mitch Katz defended them saying, look, there's things we know about the vaccine that may have changed, give them some time.

Obviously, you had both your shots.


BURNETT: I saw you got your second one. Today or yesterday, I saw your picture on Twitter.


BURNETT: What do you say to health care workers who are turning it down right now?

REINER: Yes, I did get my second vaccination today.

I would say let's talk about it. G.W. is about to start a program which they're calling Vaccine Ambassadors where people are actually going to have on their name tags basically an invitation let's talk about the vaccine.

We need to polarize this. This isn't vax versus no vax. We should be aiming to get everyone vaccinated in this country. And the folks that are reluctant, let's talk about it. Let's educate. We need to do that all across the country.

BURNETT: Dr. Reiner, thank you. I appreciate your time.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: Dr. Reiner has had his second shot, no concerns about it. Two shots, fully vaccinated.

Much more of our special coverage, "Election Day in America," continues after this.