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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  December 24, 2020 1:00pm-2:00pm PST

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reportedly attending a private indoor party on monday. the nba says harden can return for saturday's game if he continues to test negative for covid-19. go rockets. that's it for me. "the lead" starts right now. ♪ welcome to "the lead." i'm pamela brown in for jake tapper. we begin today with the politics lead. president trump is using his final days in office to unleash chaos. the president has thrown into question much needed economic relief for american families just before christmas. though it's still not known whether he will even sign the bill and the legislation is being flown to him in florida just in case. president trump is also risking a government shutdown. vetoing the annual defense bill and delivering gifts in the form of dozens of pardons, many to his own allies. cnn is learning the president is
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frustrated his vice president is not doing more to overturn the election. that's what sources tell me and my colleague. despite the president's official schedule saying he would be working tirelessly, the president today is golfing as joe johns reports. >> reporter: trump teeing off his florida holiday vacation today on the golf course, despite this schedule sent from the white house press office saying he will continue to work tirelessly for the american people. his schedule includes many meetings and calls. moments after he landed, the white house announced 26 new pardons. his former campaign chairman paul manafort and roger stone, both convicted of multiple crimes, both refused to cooperate with mueller. >> now there's a new kinnard
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which is trading his silence in terms of commutation of his sentence and a pardon. that's a lie. >> reporter: clemency also for charles kushner, the father of trump's son-in-law. he pled guilty to tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering in a scheme that involved hiring a prostitute to sleep with his married brother-in-law and then blackmailing him with a sex tape. chris christie then u.s. attorney for new jersey was in charge of the case. >> it's one of the most disgusting crimes that i prosecuted when i was u.s. attorney. and i was u.s. attorney of new jersey. >> reporter: trump's pardon spree leading to outrage on capitol hill. >> it's corruption to the first degree. >> reporter: and ben sasse saying in a statement this is rotten to the core. the pardons following trump's veto of the national defense authorization act, something congress must now take up monday after leaving for the holiday
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weekend. >> merry christmas. >> reporter: the move set up a possible veto override vote that could pit republicans against the president. >> i'm asking congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple. >> another thorn in republicans sides, trump's last-minute demand to increase covid stimulus payments. something democrats are in favor of doing. >> i ask for unanimous consent. >> reporter: democrats trying to pass the legislation today, but republicans objected. house speaker nancy pelosi saying if the president is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on house republicans to end their obstruction. vice president mike pence in colorado for his holiday, getting greeted on twitter by a blast of criticism from
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democratic state senator kerry donovan. she writes in part, stay tuned for a story a day of things that would be different if you had chosen to lead and address instead of ignore and minimize covid-19. they writes that pence should make sure you pack a mask because it's a mandatory mask zone. merry christmas to the vice president. back to you. >> all right. joe johns, thank you very much. we have ron brownstein and any phillip joining us to discuss abby, today i'm learning that the president and mike pence met yesterday for an hour, not long after trump wrote that pence should do more to fight for him. what do you make of this dynamic between the president and vice president? >> i think this is the toughest spot mike pence has been put in yet in the trump presidency. he's worked really hard over the
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last four years to avoid publicly contradicting the president, to avoid these kinds of public conflicts with him. but this might be one that he just simply cannot avoid. there are not many options available to him to do what the with the wants him president wants him to do. what the presidents wants him to do is based off internet memes that he's retweeting online and not anything legal or allowed in this process. it's not clear how pence will handle this. he cannot preside over this session, but i think both options are bad options if you're mike pence. perhaps the worst option is that if mike pence wants a post-trump future it will reflect poorly on him if he tries to undermine the will of the american people on the senate floor on january 6th and going along with really ill-fated scheme by president trump. >> it's the will of the american
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people or the will of trump. all of this comes on the heels of a lincoln project ad targeted at president trump. >> he's backing away from your train wreck, from your desperate lives and clown lawyers. when mike pence is running away from you, you know it's over. it's over. mike pence knows it. >> john, trump just recently found out about that commercial and got upset. i think that's when he really started to direct his ire towards the vice president. through all of this, ron, pence has remained very loyal to trump from the beginning. how does he walk this tightrope now given his own likely political desires? >> it's almost impossible. everyone who tries to alie themselves with dum donald trum sooner or later comes to the point where alliance and loyally for him is a one-way street.
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everyone sooner or later gets asked to do something they know she should not do. we've seen, you know, through the four years the republican party repeatedly fail that test. as i said to you frobefore, you don't get to this point by yourself or in a day when the president is trying to undermine the election, where he's doling out pardons to allies and to confederates really, who tried to block the mueller investigation. you get there only because he has concluded, i think fairly after four years that the republican party in no way will constrain him or try to hold him within the boundaries of the rule of law. so now not only is he threatening mike pence, but as you have seen he's threatening primary challenges against republicans in 2022 who he feels did not work hard enough in his effort to overturn the election. the and i believe this is essentially what republicans have locked themselves into for the next few years by allowing
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trump to spread this fantasy that he wasn't defeated. the only reason he's not taking the oath is because the election was stolen. they made themselves more likely to be living under his thumb for months to come. >> he's making lots of threats as i'm told by someone close to the president. right now what he's doing is threatening relief for millions of americans by upsended the economic relief passed. debbie dingell recounted this conversation she had with a struggling father. >> a father who called me two weeks ago and said to me he hold his child that santa claus could not come this year but he wanted to be able to feed her for christmas. then the president, when we finally thought we would be able to give people hope, that's what people need, hope -- and be able to continue to work on this in january doesn't give a damn about people. >> so the president played these
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political games before. it seems as though there's a different dynamic at play. first of all the stakes are so much higher for millions of americans and the fact that the government shutdown looms and also the president lost this election and some would say he has nothing to lose by just throwing out fire after fire right now. >> yeah. from his perspective i'm sure he thinks he has nothing to lose because this is a president who looks at everything through the lens of his own self-interest. but it is incredibly tragic that, you know, we're here on christmas eve and the president is in florida golfing, holding up a bill that could get money in the pockets of americans who desperately need it. he's doing it for no good reason other than that perhaps he wants to punish mitch mcconnell and john thune for daring to say that joe biden is the president-elect. that is really beyond the pale. i think it is hard to express
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how incredibly, you know, just wrong that is. president trump is still the president, he can do what he wants to do. but the fact we're in this situation is not because the president wants to give people $2,000 checks. he could have said that and pushed for that three or four months ago. it's because he wants to be able to throw a wrench into this process, which he knows he can do but he should not do. there are probably not enough people, especially on the republican side saying that to him right now. >> what's so interesting about how this is playing out is how the democrats responded to the $2,000. you had nancy pelosi say democrats will introduce a bill to increase payments to $2,000 as the president requested. you have the democrats in georgia involved in the senate runoff jumping on this. what is going on in the republican side? where is mcconnell in all of this? >> look, i think as often they are totally confuseds s as to w
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the president is doing or if there's strategy involved. his demand amplified the democratic demands for a much larger payment, particularly in the two critical georgia runoff elections. so it is -- look, this is the bed they have made. you know, they have chosen over four years to kind of always find a way to excuse his erratic behavior. what's happening since the election would be reprehensible on its own terms, trying to overturn the votes. disenfranchising voters in four states. the pardons he's delivering, 91% of which are to people who have some sort of political or personal conduct. all of that would be reprehensible on his own. instead of action on the covid spike which is taking the death toll of a pearl harbor or a 9/11 a day, not to mention the huge enormous need, when you look on each side of the ledger, the
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chasm between what the president is doing and what the country needs at this point could not be wider. >> you brought up pardons, abby. the president has been giving out dozens of pardons including to those convicted in the russia probe. i covered the russia probe. i recall robert mueller mentioned in the report that they had looked at whether president trump was obstructing justice by dangling pardons. now it seems all of that may be coming to fruition here. >> this is exactly the type of behavior that, you know, not even years ago but probably about a year ago that even republicans were saying president trump dare not do this because it would implicate him in basically an obstruction of justice scheme. he would basically be acknowledging people who protected him were going to be rewarded with pardons. you heard the same kind of conclusion from andrew wiseman, one of the top attorneys on the mueller investigation who says that unlike any of these other
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kind of cases that you might prosecute, when you're dealing with the president of the united states who does have a unilateral power to pardon, you can't prevent things like this from happening. so i think this was inevitable. but it's so beyond the pale. there's been nothing like this in american history truly. and i think that, you know, it should give people pause going forward about what this can mean about what justice really means even if you're the president of the united states. >> it was said on our air even nixon didn't do this. he dangled but he didn't follow through with it. >> it's demeaning to american democracy. it makes america look like a tin b pot dictator, unsettled strongman doling out favors as the walls close in and it really reveals all of those republicans who have enabled this for four years, who have taken up to this point step by step, trading their dignity, the kind of things you see in a third world
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country. that labels now allies to mitch mcconnell, lindsey graham, marco rubio. they allowed trump to believe they will stand with him no matter how outrageous the behavior is. >> thank you for coming on and sharing your opinion, perspective. merry christmas eve. >> merry christmas. >> indeed. hundreds of thousand us of americans are traveling right now. what this could mean for the new year up next. and new concerns about allergic reactions to the pfizer vaccine. we'll put that all in perspective for you. and happy birthday dr. fauci. the country's favorite covid expert opens up about his future plans and his future. is he retiring soon? find out next.
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call a local agent, or 1-800-allstate for a quote today. welcome back to this special edition of "the lead." a new travel record during the pandemic. 1.2 million people went through airport security yesterday, that's according to the tsa. that's despite the cdc. dr. fauci and countless other experts and leaders warning against traveling and gathering right now. and a prominent covid model is upping its forecast predicting more than a half million deaths before april. >> reporter: even on this covid christmas, america's airports are packed full of people. >> florida. >> i just came in from denver. >> mom wants to see us. you can only is a no so long. >> reporter: on wednesday a new pandemic air travel record set. nearly 1.2 million passing
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through airports, according to the tsa, which counted about a million fliers the last six days. >> we have lots of masks, hand sanitizer, headrest covers, gloves. everything. feeling good. >> reporter: even so images of so many air travelers are fueling fears that we will see another surge superimposed on a surge. dark january days ahead. hot spots are spanning across the country. >> a few months ago we had five covid patients in the hospital. now we're up to nearly 100. so that shows you within a couple months how much it's accelerated. >> reporter: hospitalizations are at a record high. december will soon become the deadliest month of the pandemic and we are careening towards a total of 330,000 american deaths, that's 1 in 1,000
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americans killed by covid. >> we need to tell everybody that this is not the time to have large indoor maskless parties, holiday parties. this is the time to hunker down. >> reporter: the cdc projects as many as 419,000 deaths by january 16th. the institute for health metrics and evaluation upping its projections again after just one week. predicting as many as 567,000 deaths by april. their model suggests more than 33,000 lives will be saved from now until then by vaccinations. >> are you ready? >> okay. >> reporter: 9.5 million doses of them have been delivered, just over 1 million doses of pfizer's vaccines have been administered according to the cdc, much less than expected. so far there have been fewer than ten cases of allergic reactions, but that's a bigger number than experts thought we would see. >> we're working with the fda
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and cdc to set up a high performance system that resembles almost to the day the assessment that we do in clinical trials. >> and in yet another sign that this christmas will be unlike any before it, along with sending letters to santa this year, some children also sent letters to pfizer, one asking for enough vaccine for everyone. another asking for a vaccine for santa. pfizer's ceo responded saying this just underscores the importance of the work they're doing. for the record, dr. fauci confirmed that santa himself has, in fact, been vaccinated. >> that's right. he confirmed it here on cnn. thank you. appreciate it. joining me now is the co-director from the center of vaccine development at texas children hospital, dr. peter hotez. it's always tough for you to be the bearer of bad news about where we are with this pandemic,
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especially the day before christmas. we have to face reality here. we're seeing icus across the country full or near capacity. what does this potential surge after the christmas holiday look like for hospitals already full and front line workers overworked? >> as i think about, you know, tomorrow being christmas, it was just 1st of this year when most of us heard about the covid-19 pandemic starting out of china. i never thought we would get to 330,000 lives lost by christmas day and still accelerating past 3,000 deaths a day. there's such a screaming level of transmission in our nation it's hard to know what's due to a surge and what's due to anything else. it's such a high baseline level. it's hard to even detect that rise. it's hard to believe it could get worse. but here we are and those dismal
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projectio projections, we're probably looking at 420,000 americans losing their life by inauguration day, tuesday, january 20, 2021. i can't imagine how we let ourselves go like this. >> it's tragic to hear you say that. and, you know, i think for so many of us, we're so many months into the pandemic, we're hearing the warnings. is there a threshold where we have such a severe surge it doesn't matter with he have these additional cases because our hospital system is so overwhelmed. if you would, try to paint a picture for us of what that looks like. >> i think the message is that we can still save lives. remember, the mortality numbers really go up, the deaths go up as hospital staff gets overwhelmed, it's not so much the beds. you can convert a regular bed into an icu bed. it's not having a sufficient number of trained nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists
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and everyone else that goes to the care of an icu patient. when our icus are overwhelmed, we saw this in march and april in southern europe and new york city. that's how the mortality numbers skyrocketed. this is happening now across the country. we're reproducing that manhattan and new york city epidemic for march and april now times dozens. we can still stop it. this is why the message has to be no one that to lose they're lives over the next few weeks and months. we have vaccines on the other side. it's a tough message to get across. >> we have this new covid model predicting 567,000 deaths by april 1st, but we can save more than 33,000 lives with vaccines and 49,000 lives with more mask wearing. do you think that that is realistic? is that sort of what you're talking to in terms of it doesn't have to be as bad? >> that's right. remember, every death that we're
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talking about this afternoon is preventable. we have the vaccine efficacies looking great. we'll have more vaccines. i would expect them in the new year, not only will we have the two mrna vaccines, we'll have the two vaccines from j & j and astrazeneca oxford. we'll have the particle vaccine from novavax and our vaccine that we're accelerating now in india. we can move quickly vaccinating the u.s. population after we have all those vaccines. we have to to stop thinking about the numbers we just threw out, 420,000 americans dead by inauguration. 567,000 by april 1st. none of this has to happen. we have the ability to stop these deaths. getting vaccines out, keeping masks on, social distancing. we have to get everyone to hang in there a few more weeks. >> help us understand the fact that there are more than 9 million doses of the vaccine delivered across the u.s. but 1
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million have been administered. >> yeah. that's disappointing. it's not too surprising because of the different vaccines as we've been discussing, the pfizer/biontech vaccine is the most complicated logistically because of that deep freezer requirement and this requires extra amounts of work in unpacking, monitoring, doing the inventory and making certain there's no temperature incursion that would make the vaccine go bad. it's more fragile than some of the other vaccines. the other way to look at this, if we can get this right with the pfizer/biontech vaccine it will provide a glide path for the other ones. it's a little disappointed we've not ramped up more. on the other hand this is the toughest of all of them. we'll have the moderna vaccine, which is a bit more forgiving in terms of freezer and temperature requirements and then it gets easier from then on. >> that is certainly encouraging. dr. hotez, thank you for coming
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on. thanks for all of your hard work during this time. >> thank you. all the best. merry christmas to you and the family. >> thank you. chaos in the capitol. a key republican senator admitting he has no idea what trump plans to do leaving lawmakers baffled and millions of americans on the brink of a financial crisis. this is a special edition of "the lead." stay with us. (burke) deep-sea driving, i see... (customer) something like that... (burke) well, here's something else: with your farmer's policy perk, new car replacement, you can get a new one. (customer) that is something else. (burke) get a whole lot of something with farmers policy perks. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪ unfortunately, we are still limiting in-person appointments due to the pandemic and we'll need to move your father's visit
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in classic fashion president trump sent congress into a new triple tizzy. today house speaker nancy pelosi tried to give him what he wanted on stimulus relief, raise stimulus checks up to $2,000 instead of 600. that failed. there's the defense spending bill congress will be back next week and may override his veto, which could be a first in trump's presidency and then there's the stimulus aid still in a larnger funding legislatio. without stimulus we're in for a government shutdown on monday. i want to bring in phil mattingly. where does congress start here? >> it's been a bit of a head-spinning couple of days. let's start with the president actually needs to receive the stimulus and funding bill. that's on its way to florida to mar-a-lago right now.
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it was enrolled earlier today. the big question is what will he do with it? the reality is nobody knows. that's not just democrats or reporters, republicans i've spoken to, republican senators, top advisers are saying they don't know what the president will do at this point in time as it pertains to covid relief and the potential for a government shutdown. so where does that leave things going forward? you mentioned the national defense authorization act. the house will vote to override that veto on monday. the senate will follow suit soon thereafter. the biggest thing on everybody's mind given the economic issues so many are facing main the country, what will the president do with the covid relief money? nobody knows. >> that's the scary part given how many millions of americans are suffering now. you have the democrats on board with raising stimulus checks. so the deal comes down to republicans. are there signs they would be willing to budge? >> no, there rent. you had the procedural efforts on the floor this morning.
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house democrats trying by unanimous consent to pass an expansion of the $600 checks in the current package up to $2,000. republicans objected. house democrats will have a full up and down vote on the same legislation on monday. republicans are not likely to vote for that en masse. some may. republicans on the senate side made it clear there are not the required number of votes to get that passed through the senate. this needs to be understood, you know this well, there's no alternative right now. there's no secret plan waiting in the wings if the president decides to veto this bill. it's a hope and pray moment that he signs this, he changes course and decides to sign it. right now there's no alternative. >> as you mentioned, your sources are saying they're having a hard time getting information from the white house. so everyone is in the dark. the president is increasingly isolated. it's anyone's guess. phil, thank you very much. appreciate it. merry christmas. >> thanks. expect a string of major announcements from
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president-elect joe biden in the coming days. he's yet to name five cabinet level positions, biden said announcements may come from the year ends. jessica dean is covering the biden transition from wilmington, delaware. biden has not named his choice for attorney general or cia director. he takes office in 27 days. delaying this any longer may put scrutiny on those selections. >> yeah. it gets more attention from outside groups who we already heard from. the longer the delay goes on, the more advice they're getting from outside groups, the more people are weighing in. the chattering class is weighing in. biden and his team will maintain they're taking their time because they want to do this deliberately. he said as much on tuesday when he was asked about this when he was talking with reporters. he said there is no clear choice, no obvious choice particularly for attorney general. we know that there are two top contenders right now.
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our reporting indicates that is judge merrick garland and outgoing senator doug jones. but he may look at former deputy attorney general sally yates or former massachusetts governor deval patrick. he said time and time again politics will not play a role in his department of justice. he wants it operating independently. then another factor going into that decision is that we're told he's keen to roll out additional justice department nominations as well for deputy attorney general. the civil rights division. so that is adding to this as well. you mentioned there's four other slots to fill that includes cia director, commerce, labor and sba. all of these things need to be filled in the 29 days before we get to his inauguration. then there's the question of getting through the confirmation votes and the hearings which will take its own time as well. we're expecting this to come to a head in early january. >> all right. sounds like joe biden has his work cut out for him.
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thank you very much, jessica. someone else having a quiet christmas at home, america's favorite infectious disease expert, dr. anthony fauci. up next, what he's doing this year that he hasn't done in nearly 40 years. bundle auto and home, and save up to 25% with allstate. bundling just feels good this time of year. saving is easy when you're in good hands. call a local agent, or 1-800-allstate for a quote today.
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turning to our health lead, the nation's top infectious disease expert, dr. anthony fauci turns 80 today. he got some special birthday wishes. ♪ happy birthday to you, ♪ happy birthday to you ♪ happy birthday dr. fauci
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>> that was president-elect joe biden and incoming first lady jill biden. last night members of the bethesda chevy chase rescue squad surprised him with socially distant birthday wishes as he left work. fauci is sticking to his own advice and told cnn he will not be doing any kind of family celebration. >> i definitely feel sad. i have three daughters, ranging in age from late 20s to early 30s. this is the first holiday season of christmas and my birthday that i have not spent with my daughters since they were born. >> let's bring in elizabeth cohen. you talked to dr. fauci. and you got some insight on just how strenguous the haas we'rpas been for him. >> that's right. he said he has not taken a day off since mid-january. he helped the country get
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through hiv, pandemic flu, past ebola. i asked him did you ever think you would be helping the country get through this in your 80s? >> i would have never really expected on my 80th birthday i would be knee deep in trying to contend with and address a global pandemic of historic proportions. >> do you think you'll ever retire? >> well, i think i have to be realistic. i think that sooner or later i'll have to do that. i don't see that right now clearly in my future. the only thing i see ahead is the challenge that we are currently facing. >> do you work 24/7? >> well, not 24/7, but more like 18/7. >> at age 80, does it wear on you?
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>> i don't pay attention to if it's wearing on me. sometimes i'm exhausted but you keep going. >> dr. fauci said that he will keep going into 2021 as the chief medical adviser to flekt joi president-elect joe biden. pamela? >> that man has stam lina it's impressive. many of our health care heros are on the front line working through the holidays to save lives. joining me is one of them. she's executive vice president and chief nursing officer at holy name medical center in new jersey. one of the hardest hit hospitals during the pandemic. michelle, thank you for coming on. we really appreciate it. thank you for all you do. this battle is so personal for you. three of your family members ended up in your hospital including your mother-in-law, edna, who lost her life to covid-19. here's a picture.
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tell us how is your family doing right now? >> well, you know, each milestone, each holiday is difficult. but everybody sticks together and gets through it. what makes it more difficult is not being together for the holidays. so like millions of other americans our holiday will be virtual for so many people in our family, we constantly talk back and forth. it doesn't get easier with each milestone. >> tell us what it was like for you to be working as a nurse amid the crush of the pandemic and you have loved ones who are in the hospital getting treated for covid, then you lose your mother-in-law, you're grieving, still having to go into work, battling on the front lines. what has all of this been like for you? >> it was a very difficult time. i'm very honored i was able to be at the hospital. we had no visitors at the time. having the ability to be that connection between the rest of the family and be with her and
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my sister-in-law and brother-in-law was really an honor for me when so many people didn't have that. so many people don't realize -- >> okay. we just lost -- we're having some technical touch and go here. i think you're back now. i just want to talk about that a little bit more because what was that like for you emotionally to have your loved ones in one part of the hospital battling covid and you're still having to treat other patients at the same time being a nurse on the front line. that must have been incredibly difficult. >> it was difficult. it really was something i felt i had to do and i was honored to do. you know, i worked very long days for 47 days in a row. so i was able to be there every day with them and right up until the time of her death and the discharge of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.
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yes, it was difficult. it was very stressful, but at the same time it was a very good connection to the rest of the fami family, which i felt was very important. nobody else really had that. so as a nurse we are both the caregiver and the family member and that was really important. >> and we're seeing right now, michelle, hospitalizations remaining at these record levels across the united states. what is the situation right now at your hospital? >> so, right after halloween we saw an uptick and again after thanksgiving. right now we have 54 patients and 14 of them are on ventilators. we would like to see that number lower. we're happy it's not over 100 at this point. and we're very cautiously optimistic, you know, with the christmas holiday that people are listening to these small gatherings, social distancing, mask wearing so that we don't see that uptick again as we did after halloween and thanksgiving. >> what is your feeling right
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now? we're seeing that uptick right now after thanksgiving. that's what we're seeing reflected in the numbers, these record deaths, hospitalizations. what is your message right now on christmas eve to people right now who are wanting to get together with their families to celebrate the holiday? >> my message is keep your gatherings to the people that you live with. we have next year and the year after that. we don't want to see anybody hospitalized because they thought it was okay. the biggest risk is when you take off your mask and when there's a family gatherings, there's always eating associated with that. when there's eating, then the mask comes off. we really want people to keep the gatherings small to the people that you live with, wear your mask whenever possible and continue to socially distance. we always have next year. we have to look forward to that. >> just very quickly, how are you holding up and your colleagues? it must be draining. >> it was very draining. when we saw that lull over the
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summer, i think a lot of us had some false hope we were close to being finished with this. and as the uptick occurred it was a very big stream. you could see it on every nurse's face, here we go again. the code blue. the rapid response. it was difficult. we were there for each other. we understand it because we all live through it. but it is a very big strain. >> you're still right in the middle of it. it's a marathon and you're still running that marathon. thank you. merry christmas. and happy 81st birthday to your father joe. >> thank you very much. thank you. that's very sweet. thank you. up next, the question on the minds of every child right now, where is santa? go grab them. we'll show you right after this quick break. don't miss it. good morning, mr. sun. good morning, blair. [ chuckles ] whoo. i'm gonna grow big and strong. yes, you are. i'm gonna get this place all clean. i'll give you a hand.
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oh, how we need this bit of good news on this christmas eve 2020. if you have kids around, bring them in the room for this one. this may be their most important story of the day. santa claus is coming to town for the 65th year in a row norad is using its most sophisticated aerospace technology to track ole st. nick. i want to bring in the top gun,
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general glenn van hirk. i know you have a busy day tracking santa. we appreciate you talking to us. first, where is santa now and is he on schedule? >> santa is on schedule. he's currently in europe. he's transitioning quickly through the many countries of europe. >> all right. so this tradition started 65 years ago with a typo in a sears ad. if you would, tell us how all of this came to be? how did that happen? >> you're exactly correct. it was an accident in a flyer for a department store that had a wrong phone number. that phone number was to our command center and when the young child called that phone number, the colonel picked up the phone and answered. he realized that child was looking for santa claus and the location of santa claus, he provided that. that started a series of calls to the command center. 65 years later we're honored to continue the tradition. >> what an assignment this is
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for you. we're wondering how the pandemic changed how your elves do business this year. if you could explain that for us th today. >> we normally have 1,500 volunteers in our call center to take calls from children and families around the globe. to maintain safety and the well-being of all those, we had to skinny that down a bit. we found other ways through great support to provide the same experience for our call-ins. they will either get a message or they have opportunities through our website and the applications. >> what kind of messages are coming in this year? >> well, everybody wants to know where instant ta clausanta clau time he'll be at their house. we continue to provide that. the message to our young kids watching today is santa claus will typically show up between 9:00 p.m. and midnight. get your cookies and milk out before 9:00 p.m. and get to bed. santa will be right on time. >> he's the most important
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essential worker so far. dr. fauci told cnn he personally went to the north pole and gave santa a covid vaccine. how is he feeling since getting his shot? do you anticipate him needing breaks tonight? >> i don't interact directly with santa claus. i don't expect he'll take breaks. he's been doing this for a long time. he knows how to maintain a safe environment. i expect him to be on time and execute his mission overall tonight. >> we got your video today of san santa's ambitious trip to the international space station. was that a trip first for him? >> yes. this is the first year that santa has visited the international space station. after stopping to new zealand, he made a trip up to the space station and continued on. >> that is very good to hear. this year families can track santa on cell phone apps and with amazon alexa. you have come a long way in technology from the santa tracker phone line.
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>> absolutely. that was made possible by our support not only from our department of defense folks but commercial industry. amazon alexa, verizon and others have done an incredible job to ensure we continue this tradition and experience. >> just quickly as we wrap up. given your experience, how much fun or what has this been like for you? what kind of an assignment has this been like for you? >> it's incredible. it's an incredible opportunity to represent the men, women of the united states northern command, norad, it's an honor to do this. >> we just want to note 1-877-hi-instan 1-877-hi-santa. that's the norad santa call tracker. thank you so much, jen glenl van general van herck. that's it for "the lead."
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you can tweet the show. our coverage on cnn continues right now. happy holidays. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, this is the situation room special report. on this christmas eve there's no holiday from the pain of the pandemic or the chaos unleashed by the president of the united states in his final days. he's been golfing down in florida while a desperately needed 9$900 billion covid relif bill remains in limbo now. members of his own party rejecting the 11th hour demand to increase stimulus checks to $2,000. house democrats push to approve it by unanimous consent. a full vote is expected monday. tonight, so many americans are clinging to hope for a better new year with covid-19 vaccines now in the picture. but this final month of 2020 i