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Trump Pardons Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; Nearly 90,000 Hospitalized In U.S. Due To Coronavirus, A New Record; Senate Runoffs In Georgia Will Decide Control Of The U.S. Senate
by ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES - CNN
 Published on Saturday November 28, 2020 - 11:58 PM
POLITICS
* US Presidential Election *
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Donald Trump and Michael Flynn
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Trump Pardons Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; 2020 Thanksgiving Message By The President And The President-Elect; Nearly 90,000 Hospitalized In U.S. Due To Coronavirus, A New Record; Senate Runoffs In Georgia Will Decide Control Of The U.S. Senate; Long Lines Form At Food Banks Around The Country Ahead Of The Holidays. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 25, 2020 - 20:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And Lisa, this is -- it is actually back-to- back episodes on Sunday, so we've got even more to come.

Lisa, thank you so much.

LISA LING, CNN HOST: Yes. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And don't miss the premiere of the new season of "This is Life with Lisa Ling" on Sunday, Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. back-to-back episodes. Thanks to you all for joining me.

"AC360" starts now.

[20:00:21]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, two presidency separated by 56 days. Two speeches separated by just a few minutes, two visions separated by, well, reality.

John Berman here in for Anderson. There is breaking news tonight. The President's pardon of Michael Flynn who admitted lying to the F.B.I. More on that in a moment.

But first, President-elect Joe Biden and the President both addressed the public today and they both breathed air. That's pretty much where the similarities end.

Their events, barely a couple of hours right from each other, but they might as well have well been on a different planets. Joe Biden spoke about the pandemic, the sickness afflicting the nation. Donald Trump also focused on affliction, but it was his own, his obsession that the election he lost he somehow won and his determination to overturn the results.

First, Biden on coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has divided us and angered us and set us against one another.

I know the country has gone weary of the fight. We need to remember, we are at war with a virus, not with one another, not with each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Just today, more than 2,100 new deaths reported again. That's the most since early May and we are not done counting tonight yet. Hospitalizations just set another new high, almost 90,000. I think actually higher than 90,000. The 16th consecutive day in a row of new highs. Also, more than 168,000 cases and that's just so far today.

This is the fundamental challenge facing the nation now that the election is over, which it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Our democracy was tested this year. What we learned is this, the people of this nation are up to the task. In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then, we honor the results.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, President Joe Biden will be judged on how he handles the pandemic, what he actually does. But for now, at least, he is talking about it, talking about your pain.

Donald Trump is not. He is focused on only his pain. The pain of defeat, quite literally phoning it into a group of Pennsylvania Republicans who were investigating and I use that term loosely, the voter fraud that Trump desperately wants Americans to believe is true.

This took place at a hotel in Gettysburg, but really, it might as well have been fantasy land.

The President was supposed to be there, but a COVID scare involving Rudy Giuliani prevented his attendance. Oddly though, not Giuliani's.

And among Giuliani's many baseless melting claims was that Trump did just actually win all the battleground states that counts and recounts have awarded to Biden, he said Trump actually won Virginia, too.

Now, keeping them honest, if by "won," Rudy means lost by 10 points, then, yes. Like the thing you fear most on Thanksgiving, it was a turkey that just won't cook, and that claim was the event in a nutshell: wild statements and no evidence, fantasy land.

Now, as I indicated, Trump did phone into the event and out loud, he voiced what was already abundantly clear. He wants you to overturn the election.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was a, very sad to say it -- this election was rigged and we can't let that happen. We can't let that happen to our country. This election has to be turned around.

(END AUDIO CLIP) BERMAN: Turn the election around, ignore the results and throw them

out. Forget democracy. Happy Thanksgiving.

But it is no joke what a President tries to literally subvert democracy out loud, and not only that, some of the Pennsylvania Republicans at that event, the one that the President wanted the election over turned, some of them had been invited to the White House tonight and still there according to our latest reports -- for more of the President's alternate facts and alternate reality and maybe cranberry sauce.

Perspective now from David Gergen, a former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton and a CNN senior political analyst; Kirsten Powers, a former Clinton administration official and also a CNN senior political analyst and Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and a senior political commentator.

Kirsten, I want to start with you, just the difference of these two events where on a day when there are 2,100 new deaths reported, on a day with record hospitalizations for the 16th day in a row, the President is talking about the election he lost weeks ago. How do you explain it?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, President Trump has basically checked out in terms of even trying to be President and is just out, you know, spreading conspiracy theories and further dividing the country and the country is already so divided.

The last thing that we need right now is to have somebody claiming that election was stolen, when it clearly wasn't. So, he seems to be trying to save face for the fact that he lost.

[20:05:23]

POWERS: Meanwhile, you know, Joe Biden is acting, you know, like a President. That's sort of, you know, what we remember from the past, whether it's Republicans or Democrats preceding Donald Trump, trying to unite people when we are facing a pandemic, trying to encourage people, showing empathy, the kinds of things that we traditionally associate with a President.

BERMAN: David Gergen, each message, each distinct, very distinct message that we heard today, what do they send to the world? What message do they send to the world?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm afraid that many people around the world who have been so discouraged by the last four years that they are not quite sure what to believe anymore.

But even so I think that the Biden message is probably playing better and having more impact overseas and here, because people have been so eager overseas to figure out what the heck is going on the United States. Are you really drawing from leadership? Are you in permanent decline?

And I think Biden coming in the way he has, a very successful start with the presidency, sending a good message to Europe.

Here, we're so divided that I'm not sure that a lot of Trump voters are willing to listen yet. But I think the contrast between the two candidates today, fairly stark, and on one hand, a Trump who is like a wounded animal. He is defiant, he's angry, he is lashing out.

And on the other hand, here's Biden who is calm, comforting, and very reassuring. If we're going to make it through this. Let's be realistic about what we face. It is difficult. We have made it before.

I think that will not persuade many Trump voters, but it is extremely reassuring to a whole lot of Biden voters and a whole lot of people who are in the middle.

BERMAN: Well, we have a Trump voter with us and that's Senator Rick Santorum. Senator, forget Democrat-Republican, just as an American for a moment, the message that Joe Biden delivered today about the pandemic and where we are on this day before Thanksgiving, and the pain that many Americans feel tonight. What did you make of it?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, rhetorically I think Joe Biden has hit the notes very, very well. Substantively, as you can imagine, I'm not particularly excited about many of the things he is talking about doing. But I think his tone has been very, very good.

You know, I prefer Donald Trump's tone of announcing a third vaccine that's getting very good results, that as a result of the work that he did and Operation Warp Speed have done. I mean, so Trump hasn't just been talking about the election, he has actually been talking about the pandemic, too, and he has actually delivered very, very well for the American public and getting a record of vaccine in record time, you know, ready to begin to confront this virus.

BERMAN: Well, only talking about the vaccine briefly, briefly, yesterday. He didn't today. Right? I mean, today, he chose to ignore it completely on the Eve of Thanksgiving. And I know faith and family are very important to you.

And I also know you've been critical of the President's tone over the last four years, you just have. Wouldn't it have been better? Wouldn't it have been a good day to address the pain people are feeling today?

SANTORUM: You know, the President issued a Thanksgiving proclamation and did address those issues and the pain and the people who have been dealing with the pandemic all across this country. But you're right, he didn't -- he didn't go out and do that in Pennsylvania.

But look, the President and Joe Biden are two very different places. Joe Biden is preparing to take control and Donald Trump is fighting to hold on to what he thinks his election he won. So obviously, they're going to be in different modes.

BERMAN: I will then, and we'll talk about the proclamation or the statement the President released today because it actually calls on people to gather on Thanksgiving. I wanted to talk to the doctors about that message and the potential

dangers of it.

Kirsten, on the subject of dangers, I just don't think we can get beyond the effort, the overt, and the out loud effort that the President is making to overturn the results of the election. He tried it in Michigan, where he wanted legislators to overturn the votes of the people there and appoint pro-Trump electors.

He is trying something like it now in Pennsylvania, it'll be harder given where we are. I mean, it will be impossible given where we are, but just that message itself, the message three weeks after the election that I want to overturn it. How dangerous?

POWERS: It's extremely dangerous. You know, Rick just said that the President believes that he won the election. I really do have to question that.

You know, I don't know how he could believe that unless he is completely and utterly delusional. And it's just, there's just nothing, there's no information whatsoever to back it up. There's no legal case to be made.

You know, by all appearances, he is just telling people something that he has to know is not true, in order to save face, in order to preserve his future, in politics, with no regard whatsoever to the damage that he is doing to the country that how he is causing people who trust him to not trust the democratic process.

And I mean, you just -- it's impossible to overstate the damage that that causes.

[20:10:49]

BERMAN: David, it is interesting, the contrast, again, it presented itself today and it was so incredibly striking. And I do wonder, as troubling and potentially dangerous in places as it may be, if it does present an opportunity for President-elect Biden, you know, he doesn't have to say things directly.

He doesn't have to say, look at this guy. But it's sort of obvious, and it allows him to present himself in a different way. What do you think?

GERGEN: That is a very good point, John, and I keep wondering, he has been much more active this week than I would expected. He's been in front of cameras and microphones a lot. And whether they're already trying to create that contrast in a lasting way, because they put him on TV a lot, and I think he sounded right as Rick has noted -- as Rick Santorum just said, and I think that's been helpful to him.

People think -- people who voted for Biden weren't quite sure who he was or how he would be in a presidential role, are much reassured simply by what he has been doing the last few days. If he has another two weeks like this, he is going to be in great shape. What we don't know is there are so many surprises that could come from

Donald Trump, like on the pardoning front. Is he going to pardon his peers? Is he going to pardon himself?

There are a lot of different ways he can be detracting again, before the time has passed, but in the meantime, I think Joe Biden has made very wise use of the time he has had.

BERMAN: David Gergen, Kirsten Powers, and Rick Santorum. Rick, I've seen you so much this week. I feel like we're having Thanksgiving together.

SANTORUM: Yes, we had breakfast this morning together. It was great. Good to see you.

BERMAN: I really hope you all -- the three of you have a wonderful holiday. The best to all of you.

GERGEN: Take care.

BERMAN: We have the latest from the White House on the Flynn pardon? Is this just the start of many pardons we can see between now and when President Trump leaves office in January? And could one of those parts have the last name Trump?

But first the plea from Dr. Anthony Fauci as Holiday travelers ignore the advice to stay home as the U.S. passes 2,000 coronavirus deaths for a second day in a row and hospitalizations just hit a new high.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:16:25]

BERMAN: More breaking news. As mentioned at the top of the program, there are new grim coronavirus milestones. For the second day in a row, the U.S. death toll has topped 2,000. So far tonight, at least 2,155 deaths reported. That's the most since early May.

Nearly 90,000 people will spend Thanksgiving in a hospital as the U.S. is setting a new record for hospitalizations for the 16th day in a row.

With millions of people ignoring C.D.C. guidance and flying to a destination to celebrate Thanksgiving, Dr. Anthony Fauci has this message for all of us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings as small as you possibly can. We all know how difficult that is because this is such a beautiful traditional holiday. But by making that sacrifice, you're going to prevent people from getting infected because we know for sure that people who are without symptoms innocently with no mal-intention at all, goes to a party or goes to a gathering, gets together indoor. You let your guard down. You obviously have to take a mask off if

you're eating or drinking. Try to avoid that as much as possible.

A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That's Dr. Fauci with a plea, almost a desperate plea. You can hear it in his voice for all Americans.

It seems the White House didn't get that message though. This afternoon, President Trump released his annual Thanksgiving proclamation we read it and talked about it just a short time ago. This is what the last line says, quote, "I encourage all Americans to gather in homes, in places of worship to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings."

Joining us to discuss Dr. Celine Gounder, a specialist in infectious diseases who serves on President-elect Biden's Coronavirus Taskforce and Dr. James Phillips, Chief of Disaster Medicine at George Washington University Hospital in the nation's capital.

And Dr. Phillips, that message from the President calling on Americans to gather, I'm not talking about places of worship, churches are one thing and they have their own separate set of issues that we've been dealing with for months, but calling on people to gather in homes, which is the opposite of what Dr. Anthony Fauci and the C.D.C. have been saying.

They're saying, don't. Don't do it. Stay with your insular family. Don't gather.

For the President to say that in a statement today, what do you make of it?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CHIEF OF DISASTER MEDICINE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: It's hard to find the words. It's just another example of the absolute abject failure of leadership that this President as displayed throughout this pandemic.

And as a medical professional, as an emergency physician who is on the frontlines every day over the last two weeks has seen more and more COVID in our emergency departments. It's a slap in the face.

How dare him in that same statement give credit and say thanks to the doctors and nurses who have been working tirelessly over the last nine months to try to save lives, and then at the very end, to just make a statement that flies in the face of science and medicine, and tell people the exact opposite with everybody with a qualifying degree of education has been saying for the last few months to stay home, not gather and it's the only way we're going to flatten the curve and save lives.

People are going to die because they are choosing to go home for Thanksgiving and that's insane to me, and if we have had proper messaging from the top from the very beginning, more lives would have been saved.

BERMAN: Dr. Gounder, I'm sure you hear it. I hear it all the time. People are confused. They get conflicting messages. They hear the opposite things on the same day from people who are in authority. How much more difficult does this make it for frontline medical workers?

[20:20:08]

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, SERVES IN PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN'S CORONAVIRUS TASKFORCE: Well, look, people listen to the advice that fits their worldview that is most convenient to them, you know, if you want to go home for the holidays, and someone who is an expert says, oh, this is how you can make it happen, or yes, that's okay.

You're going to be inclined to listen to that, and I think it's really unfortunate that we do not have better leadership from the top to help us cut through this.

I will say I agree with Dr. Phillips, you know, this is a very difficult time for all of us. Many of us have been working on the frontlines for months. We are burned out. We are exhausted.

I promised my husband that tomorrow would be my first day off since February. And you know, a lot of us are just really burned out. And I just -- I don't even know how to express how frustrating it is to see people taking actions that are frankly dangerous to themselves and to their families.

And knowing you know, I'm not sure when Dr. Phillips is next going to be you know, caring for patients in the ER, but I know I'm going to be on call, I'm going to be in the hospital over New Years and to know that this is going to be what we're facing is just really very sad.

BERMAN: Take the day off tomorrow, if you can. I know you and your husband are great cooks and there's some good soccer on TV. Dr. Gounder, it's not just Republicans. I want to make clear that mixed messages aren't specific to one party.

The Mayor of Denver had to apologize today and cancelled a trip to Mississippi after went against his own advice on traveling.

Look, Governor Newsom in California, Governor Cuomo here in New York have faced backlashes for their behavior or plans not matching some of their prescriptions. It gets to a bigger issue, I think, Dr. Gounder, which is that everyone thinks that you know, I have one sheet or maybe I know better in this one case than the science is telling me?

GOUNDER: Well, I think this is a great point. I think this is a test to a couple things. One, we're all human. We all want to be with our families. I know I want to be with my family right now. I have two young nieces who are amazing. One is five; one is one. I have missed out on so much amazing time with them this year.

And I know a lot of other families feel that way and I think there is a bit of denial. I think this idea that well, I'm different somehow, this won't happen to me. And I think the combination of the two leads to this kind of behavior,

and it really crosses party lines. This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue.

BERMAN: So Dr. Phillips, given where we are right now in these new numbers that we saw just released moments ago and given what we're seeing in terms of the traveling today and Sunday, which will probably be the busiest travel day of the year to date.

How much worse do you think it might get as the weather gets colder?

PHILLIPS: I wish I could give you an upbeat answer. I wish I could provide reassurance that our hospitals are ready and prepared for the surge of patients we're going to see, but I can't guarantee it. We looked at a three week-period essentially to see the lag between diagnosis of cases and deaths.

And if you look back three weeks ago from today, there were 93,000 new cases diagnosed. Today, there's at least 178,000 yesterday, and 2,000 people plus died today.

Now double that and add in Thanksgiving, and that's where we're going to be in three weeks. We could be seeing 4,000 to 5,000 people dead per day, every few seconds, an American dying. And all it takes to help prevent that is some sacrifice.

As Dr. Gounder was saying, you know, I have a six-month-old son who has never met his grandparents. I have a two-and-a-half year old who hasn't seen grandpa in a really long time.

And we're making those sacrifices not just for ourselves. If we're young and we're healthy, we probably do okay. But we're doing that to try to prevent spread throughout the rest of United States. And if everybody else would take at least a small amount of responsibility, we could we could flatten the curve and we can really start to make a difference in this virus and I hope people pay attention to that come Christmas time.

BERMAN: I hope your kids are talking about it with their grandparents next year when they can talk in a few years and they can look back at this time as something very much in the past.

Dr. James Phillips and Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you both so much for what you're doing. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

GOUNDER: Happy Thanksgiving.

BERMAN: Just ahead, more breaking news on that pardon for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn announced hours before the Thanksgiving Holiday. We'll discuss the drama that led up to it and who else in the White House may be next for a pardon, and is their last name Trump?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:29:08] BERMAN: More now on the breaking news we mentioned at the top of the

broadcast. President Trump's pardon of former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. The party was unsurprising as President Trump had long suggested it was coming; equally unsurprising the manner of the announcement which like so many presidential statements, was put out without warning over Twitter, quote, "It is my great honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a full pardon.

Congratulations to General Flynn and his wonderful family. I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving."

Kaitlan Collins joins us from the White House with the latest. Kaitlan, what more are we learning about this pardon and what the White House is saying about it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is a pardon that was expected. The President had been telegraphing that he would be doing it since earlier this year when he was saying that he felt really badly for what happened to General Flynn.

As you saw people in the President's orbit really tried to rewrite what happened with him and of course, he was fired in 2017 right off the bat for lying to the Vice President, the President said about his contacts with the person who was then the Russian Ambassador during that presidential transition period.

Though of course, he later pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. twice about those same contacts during that investigation into Russian interference in the election. But then he disavowed his guilty plea and tried to get his case thrown out, and of course that was when that was that shocking moment earlier this year when the Justice Department tried to drop their own case into this.

[20:30:35]

And it really been in this kind of legal limbo for the last few months until the president is now ending this saga by granting him this pardon tonight.

BERMAN: You know, Flynn's actions, right? His phone calls, and then his lies, truly altered the course of the Trump presidency.

COLLINS: They really did. He was only the national security adviser for 24 days, but he had a lasting effect on what happened in this White House, because it was the real true first moment of chaos in Trump world if you talk to people who worked here at the time, because, of course, the President fired him. Then it was that meeting that the President had with James Comey, who was the FBI director in the Oval Office, when he told Comey he wanted him to let the investigation into Flynn go.

Of course, it was just a few months later, the president fired James Comey that led to the appointment of the special counsel, Robert Mueller and that whole investigation that played out for so many years. So it truly did alter Donald Trump's time in office. You know, it's coming to a close and as you're looking back on it and seeing what really were massive moments in a chaos filled presidency. This is one of them that jumpstarted so many others that we've seen play out.

BERMAN: So, the President tonight still trying to overturn the results of the election. But you think this pardon is a sign that he knows that he's leaving office in 56 days?

COLLINS: That's exactly how I read it when the President sent it out. And it's not just Michael Flynn, we're expecting other pardons potentially other people to get their sentences commuted like Roger Stone did maybe even a pardon for Roger Stone. We know he's trying to get one of those as well.

And so, I think when the President is saying publicly and telling his supporters that he's not giving up that he's won this race, and he's continuing to fundraise off it, look at his actions. He is doing something that someone does when they know they're on the way out the door and he's trying to use this pardon power, while they still can't.

BERMAN: Kaitlan Collins, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks so much for being with us.

So, we want to read that tweet from 2017 that Kaitlan referred to, Trump's explanation of why he forced Flynn out of office quote, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide.

Perspective now from Norm Eisen former impeachment counsel for Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee. He was also President Obama's ethics czar and he's the author of the recently released book, A Case for the American People, The United States Versus Donald Trump. Also with us, Carrie Cordero is CNN legal analyst and senior fellow at the Center for New American Security. And Jim Sciuto, CNN's chief national security correspondent who was reported on a Michael Flynn, four years.

Ambassador Eisen, I want to start with you, you know, that Michael Flynn case well. You tweeted that the President's actions could quote, week of obstruction. What's your reaction to it through your lenses of your former government jobs?

NORM EISEN, FORMER IMPEACHMENT COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me back on the program. And my reaction is that the Trump presidency has been a non-stop assault on the rule of law and this shameful pardon of one of the President's cronies, Mr. Flynn, who twice admitted in federal court, John that he had a lied, is a fitting quota, there'll be more to a president who himself has engaged in obstruction of justice. One of the 10 episodes that we studied in impeachment in the Mueller report that Mueller focused on was obstruction in pardon dangling with none other than Michael Flynn.

So, the saga of criminal behavior and lying continues. And I'm afraid we'll see more before this presidency is over.

BERMAN: Carrie, of course, what supporters of the President, Michael Flynn will say is that the President has the power to pardon. So how could it be a crime to use the power that he has? CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the President does have broad and really unchallenged authority to issue pardons. He knows that. And so, he is going to use this authority, robustly. When I think about the potential -- and I agree that this is just the beginning of the pardons that we're probably going to see between now and January 20th.

When I think about the partners he might give, I tend to put them into three different categories. There's the category that Michael Flynn follows into which is those who fell under the special counsel Mueller's investigation, which the President has been unhappy with severely for his entire presidency, and that he will try to unravel as much of that investigation as he can, through pardoning many of the individuals who have been investigated or convicted as part of that investigation.

[20:35:22]

The second category is I think he'll look to favors, potential pardons that associates or celebrities recommend to him that he'll just do on the way out. And then the third category is the friends and family category, which would be the prospective pardons that he might issue to protect friends and family from what might be perceived as potential criminal federal exposure.

BERMAN: I'll come back to that in just a moment, because I think that's a really interesting area to delve into. But first, Jim, I want to bring you in on the idea of the Russia investigation, which again, your reporting was so key from the very beginning here.

And in a sense, I guess, the President is trying to rewrite history or reframe history on it, which he's been doing from the very beginning. And what message do you think this sends, this part and sends to the career Justice Department officials, the national security community, FBI investigators who depend on honesty.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Let's remember what Michael Flynn lied about. Michael Flynn lied about speaking to the Russians, specifically the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition about sanctions imposed on Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.

The Obama administration imposed those sanctions, understandably, Russia had violated American politics. And Michael Flynn communicated to them. Hang on, there's a new sheriff in town, the President, you know, is going to handle things differently. Don't overreact. So, undermining America's response to an attack on American democracy. That, you know, that is does damage to U.S. national security.

Two, by lying to a Russian, but by speaking to a Russian then lying about it, you expose yourself to national security risk, because the Russians know you're lying. And therefore that is a potential use of compromising information against you, right, another weakening of U.S. national security from the National Security Advisor.

You know, these were lies with consequence, when you and I, John have heard this phrase, process crimes often from Trump ally, saying this is just, you know, something that happens in the midst of, you know, investigations, he lied about things of consequence, right, and put the country's national security in danger as a result.

And now the President has pardoned him. And that's something that Americans have to remember here, because it's not just a legal issue or a political issue. It's an issue of national security.

BERMAN: Carrie, let me come back to you on the issue you brought up moments ago the issue of sort of a prophylactic pardon, right. A pardon before an investigation might start, or at least become public. How does that work? I mean, how can the pardon -- the president, pardon a family member for investigation we might not even know about yet?

CORDERO: Well, on one hand, there might be investigations that the President might know about. There's other also been public reports about, for example, possible investigations of Rudy Giuliani, his friend and lawyer. And so there, he can issue a pardon, he could just issue a statement like he did tonight. And he could say, I'm pardoning the, you know, these individuals, and it can be as broad as he wants.

Again, the pardoned authority is one of the constitutional authorities the President has, that is extraordinary, broad -- extraordinarily broad and can't be reviewed. So we don't know exactly how he's going to use that. But I would just urge Americans to kind of settle in and expect that we are going to see more of this between now and the inauguration of President-elect Biden.

BERMAN: And just so people know, some of the names that are still out there who are under investigation in various different ways or during the stages. You know, Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, had his sentence commuted, but not pardon. So a lot of these names you've heard for some time, still possible.

Ambassador Eisen, you briefly brought up -- you think there's still a possibility this pardon counts as obstruction of justice. Explain that very quickly, if you can, how a power that the President has you think in using it could somehow be illegal.

EISEN: The as Carrie notes, the pardon power in the constitution is very broad, but it's not unlimited. The President could not take a bribe to issue a pardon, he would be subject to prosecution for that. The same is true with obstruction of justice.

So, in this list of pardons that perhaps some of the individuals you've listed John, some of those that others have named if there is a quid pro quo and that was what was so striking about Jim's description of that conversation with the Russian ambassador. The implication quid pro quo lies, crimes, all of the things that characterize the Trump administration.

[20:40:21]

And then, of course, the big question at the end, will the President tried to do something that's never been done with the pardon power, be a judge in his own case, and pardon himself. That would be the biggest offense of all.

BERMAN: And the jury, no pun intended, is out on whether that is a legal thing.

Jim, I have to let you all go here very quickly. Which people are you watching most closely as possible candidates for pardons?

SCIUTTO: Listen, we should be prepared for the President to pardon people who can help him, right. Folks who might have knowledge of his own potential wrongdoing. And therefore I pardon is a quid pro quo. Right. You know, whether it's Roger Stone or Michael Flynn, who might have been called into investigations after the fact.

Listen, I don't make comments like that unduly just saying we've watched this President for four years. We know the way he's operated. That's the thing to look out for. Does he give pardons, not just because he thinks those people aren't guilty of the crimes that they've done. But the he sees a personal interest in them.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, Carrie Cordero, Ambassador Norm Eisen, thanks so much for being with us. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

EISEN: Happy Thanksgiving.

CORDERO: You too.

BERMAN (voice-over): All right, coming up, the two crucial runoff races in Georgia just over a month away control of the Senate is at stake. What the candidates need to do and how important voter turnout is when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:45:26]

BERMAN: Tonight, as President Trump pardons his former national security adviser and President-elect Biden plans his transition, the focus is also very much on Georgia. That's where the ballots of power is in the U.S. Senate. Totally up for grabs with everything else going on. No one is forgetting that two Georgia Senate races are set for run offs in January and both races will determine if Republicans control the Senate or if Democrats take over and have a majority in both chambers on Capitol Hill. So, a whole lot riding on these two races.

Joining me now for their perspective, Georgia conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson and Democratic strategist Paula Begala, a veteran of the Clinton White House, who also has deep political roots in Georgia, having worked for Zell Miller there for years.

So Paul, I want to start with you. The path to victory for either of these Democrats on January 5th, vastly different than it was for Bill Clinton in '92 or Zell Miller, when you work for them. What will they have to pull off to win and what do you think their chances are?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's all about motivating your pace. And the Democrats usually do a very bad job in runoffs especially in Georgia of motivating two constituencies in their base, young people and African-Americans. Well guess what?

Their two candidates are a young person and African-American so good for the Democrats. Meanwhile, the Republicans usually do a better job of motivating, but right now they're so divided. I'm here you're seeing like this. I mean, Eric can fill us in more but I have spent a lot of time there's you know, I work for Zell all those years.

But as I see it, the Cro-Magnons are fighting the Neanderthals and the -- you know, the Visigoths are fighting the vandals and the flat earthers are fighting the Sasquatch believers. Which by the way, I am one Sasquatch is real. My son Charlie saw one the backyard last night. It's wonderful for me as a Democrat to see this Republican disarray.

BERMAN: Erick Erickson First of all, great to see you. I haven't seen you in ages. But you've been writing a lot about some of that infighting. Brad Ratzenberger, the Republican Secretary of State says that President Trump threw him under the bus in terms of all the complaints about the election process in Georgia. So, what do you think the impact of all that will be?

ERICK ERICKSON, HOST, ATLANTA'S EVENING NEWS: Look, I think there's a real impact for Republicans here, particularly it's notable, David Perdue has been one of the President's staunchest allies in the Senate. There's no word on a presidential visit to come down here and help him and it actually would help him I think, in Middle Georgia, North Georgia, it turned out put Republicans but they are fighting there is a contingent of the Republican base that really is a Trump base, not a Republican base.

They came out for the President, they didn't necessarily come out for anyone else, even if they voted Republican down ballot. And if they think the race was stolen, and the President doesn't come reassure them, they need to vote, they probably won't. That being said, the Democrats do have a little bit of a problem as well, because when you look at the turnout up in the north metro Atlanta area, you had a lot of Republicans who voted against Donald Trump, they went for Joe Biden, but then they voted down ballot.

And then in South Georgia had a number of predominantly black precincts that just skipped the (INAUDIBLE) Perdue race all together, they went for Warnock. They didn't necessarily go for us off. So you've got the strange dynamic across the state. But with Republicans, you've got a real division. It's all of the North metro Atlanta area mostly. And by the way, those people tend to be the ones who turn out in the runoff. So, will they turn out? Going to take the president come in and try to convince them?

BERMAN: How much do you think the race will be Erick about the four candidates whose names are on the ballot? Or how much it will be about national politics, Joe Biden, Donald Trump or even Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer?

ERICKSON: Well, you know, if you look at the exit polling in Georgia, they actually did ask a question about divided government and predominantly overwhelmingly moderate, independent and Republican voters, not necessarily Democratic voters, they all liked the idea of divided government.

So, that is a message that I think plays well with Republicans across the state right now. And Georgia still predominantly is Republican. If you add up all the votes cast in the congressional and state legislative races, Republicans got 51% congressional, 53 in the State House, 54% of all votes combine to the State Senate. So, they've got a slight edge if they stop fighting with each other.

BERMAN: So Paul, one of the really interesting things about Georgia run offs is that presidents don't like to go campaign there. And one of the reasons is because it's often, you know, a week or two before your inauguration, you don't want to risk losing just before you start the new job. It looks bad.

You know, if Joe -- id President-elect Joe Biden goes in campaigns for these two races, and neither of them win. It doesn't look good for him. So what are the chances are that you do -- we do see President- elect Biden or President Trump campaign there?

BEGALA: Well, they have different jobs. Right. The President-elect Joe Biden is putting together his cabinet. He's putting together his COVID plan. He's putting together his economic plan. President Trump is golfing, griping and pardoning criminals. So neither of them have very much free time.

But I have to say President Trump, I think Erick's right he can motivate that base. But imagine the scene at the airport. Does the governor greet him who Trump has attacked, as the Secretary of State and other high ranking elected Republican greet him? It's a terrible mess for those folks.

[20:50:22]

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama had a huge impact going into that state for Joe Biden. Keep in mind --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) going to run off in 2009, though, he didn't go and campaign to the Saxby Chambliss raise that that's the analogy I'm drawing here.

BEGALA: Right, it is very difficult to transfer that authority. We all want to make it about Trump or about Joe. But I think -- and Erick is seeing this, you had some people splitting tickets. And I think that mostly what voters are going to want is the party that's more unified and more mainstream. And the Republicans worried decided that they're going to be more divided. Can the Democrats be more mainstream? That's going to be their challenge, and I think they can.

BERMAN: Erick Erickson, I got to let you go in 30 seconds. You want to make a prediction here?

ERICKSON: Yes, I actually think the Republicans do win both seats. I think the dynamics on the ground favor the GOP. Remember, they've got really good ground games in Georgia. They've been knocking on doors for six months. So the Democrats really just starting.

BERMAN: But I know from reading what you've been writing, do you think it's going to be painful over the next six to eight --

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: I think it's very painful for (INAUDIBLE) tired of it already.

BERMAN: All right, Paul Begala, Erick Erickson. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

ERICKSON: Nice to see you.

BEGALA: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

BERMAN (voice-over): Earlier this week, President Trump touted the stock market surge but forgot to mention another surge in the U.S., millions of Americans relying on food pantries to feed their families. The strain for the pandemic has forced many to wait in long lines lasting several hours. The disparity between Wall Street and Main Street when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:55:56]

BERMAN: On this Thanksgiving gave us another sign this holidays a whole lot different than last year. Sadly, the economic fallout from the pandemic is forcing millions of Americans to get help from food banks for the first time. While President Trump was busy touting the historic high for the Dow this week, plenty of Americans were trying to figure out how to get food on their table for Thanksgiving and every day.

The nonprofit Feeding America has seen a 60% increase in the need for food assistance since March. You may have seen the long lines for food in your own town. The need for help is growing across the country.

Here CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The journey to get food to the cold and COVID-19 has been long and hard for Regina Status.

REGINA STATUS, NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT: Got to take it one day at a time and as long as you have for today. You save for tomorrow when tomorrow will get here, something's going to happen.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): And it did. Just in time.

STATUS: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problem. YURKEVICH (voice-over): Days before Thanksgiving at Agatha House Foundation, a local food pantry in the Bronx, New York made a special Thanksgiving delivery. Filled with everything she needs for her and her two teenage daughters.

STATUS: Is just a relief that I don't have to purchase all of that.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Over 50 million Americans like Regina won't have enough to eat in 2020 in part because of the pandemic. Feeding America the largest hunger relief group in the U.S. projects that 8 billion meals will be needed in the next year to feed food and secure Americans.

CLAIRE BABINEAUX-FONTENOT, CEO, FEEDING AMERICA: About 40% of the people who right now are turning to food banks for health around the country are who people who never before relied upon the charitable food system.

STATUS: Onions --

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Regina is out of a job. Her car was totaled months ago and she's not receiving unemployment. She now relies on a once a week delivery from the food pantry.

(on-camera): Day to day, is your pantry stocked or what does it look like day to day?

STATUS: Just survive it. That's all I can say, you just have to survive it.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): The 15th congressional district here in the Bronx has the highest food insecurity rate among children in the country. The Agatha House, they're hoping to take the stigma out of needing a little extra help,

JEANETTE JOSEPH-GREENAWAY, FOUNDER, AGATHA HOUSE FOUNDATION: We have to look and try to imagine ourselves in the position, what we would want for ourselves not just to give them a cardboard box, but to make them feel love special.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): This small operation says it's seen a 100% increase in need.

JOSEPH-GREENAWAY: Even with the little that they get. Hopefully there's someone in their building or then one of their neighbors that they can invite before a plate of food.

STATUS: Yes, I've got to give Ms. Mamie (ph) some stuff.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Despite her struggles to put food on the table --

STATUS: You're welcome Ms. Mamie.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): -- Regina is sharing what she has with her neighbor and remains grateful for this Thanksgiving. STATUS: Even if we didn't get the Agatha House, or we will just have a regular chicken every day. Just to say that she was alive to eat it. That's a blessing in itself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So much needed. Vanessa Yurkevich joins us now. Vanessa, these organizations have been able to meet the need and how concerned are they about having enough supplies for the next few months?

YURKEVICH: John, the food banks that we've spoken to that are large and small say that up until now they have been able to meet that need. They've received funding from the government from the state. But largely in part from everyday Americans who have donated over this time. But there is a concern that as the holidays pass, Americans will forget about this need.

And John also volunteers are so critical to getting these large food distributions off the ground and into the hands of everyday Americans. As COVID cases continue to rise in the U.S., there is a concern that volunteers won't turn out in the ways that they have then when they are so critically needed right now. John.

BERMAN: So much need, everyone step up if you can. Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks so much for that report tonight. Appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving.

[21:00:04]

Reminder, don't miss "Full Circle", Anderson's digital news show. You can catch it streaming at 6:00 pm Eastern at cnn.com/fullcircle or watch it there and on the CNN app at any time On Demand.

The news continues. So let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

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