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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on January 17, 2021

Face The Nation: Walensky, Gottlieb, Salvanto
Face The Nation: Walensky, Gottlieb, Salvanto 22:33

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D- California, Intelligence Committee Chairman
  • Gov. Jim Justice, R-West Virginia
  • Mayor Melvin Carter, D-Saint Paul, MN
  • Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., Incoming CDC Director
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, the nation's capital is in armed fortress as America anxiously awaits the next seventy-two hours. With just three days to go before Wednesday's inauguration ceremony, Washington, DC, looks more like a warzone than a setting for one of America's most cherished celebrations of democracy. Monuments, bridges, buildings and streets surrounding the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall are surrounded with an unprecedented amount of security. Twenty-five thousand National Guardsmen have been authorized to help local and federal law enforcement protect against threats from domestic violent extremists in the days leading up to and just after January 20th. Authorities are not taking any chances after the nightmare January 6th Capitol attack. Chilling footage shot by a New Yorker magazine reporter who happened to follow some extremists as they broke into the Capitol has just been made public.

MAN #1 (The New Yorker): We are listening to Trump, your boss.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That day has had dramatic repercussions about the disastrous security response, lack of communication between law enforcement agencies and President Trump, who was impeached again by the House, this time for inciting an insurrection.

MAN #2: Mister President-elect, do you feel safe about Wednesday, based on the intelligence you've received?


MARGARET BRENNAN: Incoming President Joe Biden is already looking ahead to the overwhelming challenges he faces fixing a battered economy, restoring our reputation around the world, and repairing the deep racial and cultural divisions within America. But his first priority, according to our CBS News poll, taking aggressive action to help bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. We'll talk with President-elect Biden's pick for the CDC, Doctor Rochelle Walensky, and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice, and Saint Paul, Minnesota Mayor Melvin Carter will also be with us.

It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. Tensions are running high here in Washington and all around the country as President Donald Trump's term comes to an end, and former Vice President Joe Biden's term as President is set to begin. We've seen tumultuous political times before in our history, but not like these. We begin this morning with chief justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues. Jeff.

JEFF PEGUES (CBS News Chief Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent/@jeffpeguescbs): Margaret, the law enforcement presence that is in place right now is unprecedented. And U.S. officials tell us the greatest threat to this event is coming from domestic violent extremists. That is, Americans seeking to harm fellow Americans.

(Begin VT)

JEFF PEGUES: There has been heightened security in Washington since the deadly attack on the Capitol by violent extremists on January 6th. New footage released this morning by the New Yorker magazine shows more evidence the Capitol police were undermanned and overwhelmed by a mob of attackers, some of whom made it into the Senate chamber.

MAN #1 (The New Yorker): There's got to be something in here we can (EXPLETIVE DELETED) use against these scumbags.

JEFF PEGUES: They photographed papers in a binder on a desk appearing to belong to Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

MAN #2 (The New Yorker): I think Cruz would want us to do this, so.

MAN #3 (The New Yorker): Yeah, absolutely.

MAN #2 (The New Yorker): I think we're good.

CROWD (in unison; The New Yorker): Treason, treason...

JEFF PEGUES: The rioters appear intent on a coup and harming U.S. government officials. Its video and social media evidence similar to this that's helped the FBI across the country identify suspects. So far more than a hundred people have been taken into custody. And there are about three hundred cases against rioters.

CROWD (in unison; Elijah Schaffer, BlazeTV): USA.

JEFF PEGUES: The current threat landscape is showing the prospect for more violence in the coming days as a tsunami of information is being sent to law enforcement.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY (FBI Director): We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter because one of the real challenges in this space is trying to distinguish what's aspirational versus what's intentional.

JEFF PEGUES: Riots are not only aimed at Washington, potential targets mentioned last week in an FBI bulletin warned that armed protests are being planned at all fifty state Capitol from January 16th through January 20th. New Intel warns of a possible QAnon event in Denver later day. As residents there board up downtown shops. In Minnesota, there are roadblocks at the state Capitol in Saint Paul.

JOHN HARRINGTON (Commissioner, Minnesota DPS): We are turning over every rock and looking under every bush to see if there is anything else out there.

JEFF PEGUES: But the potential for violence doesn't end this week. Officials are preparing for a possible threat to Sacramento next month.

(End VT)

JEFF PEGUES: And while the threats persist, some of the chatter online seems to be cooling, and that may be because of the massive law enforcement and National Guard presence that is armed. Margaret?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jeff Pegues, thank you.

And tonight on 60 MINUTES, Scott Pelley will report on efforts to keep the inauguration safe. He spoke to Acting Deputy Homeland Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. Here is a preview.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (60 MINUTES): We will never give up. We will never concede. It does--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): But there is also the dilemma that the security is commanded by President Trump, who encouraged the attack on the Capitol and has relentlessly worked to stop the inauguration of Joe Biden.

Who does National Guard answer to?

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): They answer through DOD. They can have--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): To the President?

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): That's the chain of command. The whole executive--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): If he orders them to stand down, will they stand down?

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): Well, you're going to have to ask them, but that's unimaginable.

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): If the President orders DHS to stand down, will you stand down?

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): We're going to complete our jobs. There's not-- there's not a stand down. We have a statutory mission we're going to perform under all circumstances. And I think that hypothetical is not going to happen. It's unimaginable.

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): A lot of things are unimaginable in Washington these days. And we don't have a very good track record--

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): Well, in the Department of Homeland Security--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): --taking the President's word on things, so--

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): In the Department of Homeland Security, we were in the habit--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): My-- my point is, are you going to--are you going to follow--

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): --you know, we're--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): --the President or are you going to follow the Constitution--

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): We all swore an--

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): --in your role now?

KEN CUCCINELLI (60 MINUTES): We all swore an oath to the Constitution. That is first and foremost. And we take Homeland Security very, very seriously. We deal with a lot of curveballs of all kinds. And yet, we march forward to keep the American people as safe as we possibly can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. Good morning to you, Mister Chairman.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D-California/Intelligence Committee Chairman/@RepAdamSchiff): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There is a very visible security presence on the streets here in the nation's capital right now. What is your understanding of the threat level in the days ahead?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it's very high. And you're absolutely right. It reminds me of visiting Baghdad, going to the Green Zone and seeing so much military presence and barricades. I never thought I would see that in our own capital or that it would be necessary. But there is a profound threat from domestic violent extremists of the nature we saw on January 6th. There are people coming to the Washington, DC, area. They are bringing weapons. And we see threats to capitals all over the country, all fifty state Capitols. Now, I think the inauguration will proceed and it will proceed safely, but there will be gatherings of individuals and those gatherings could turn-- turn violent. So, there's a very high level of risk.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Capitol Hill Police confirmed this week that they are investigating whether members of Congress gave unauthorized or un-- unsanctioned tours that could have provided reconnaissance support to those who then attacked the Capitol days later. There are supporters of QAnon among elected and sitting lawmakers. Do you have any sense of whether there was support-- that fellow members aided the attacks?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: I don't know the answer to that, Margaret. Obviously, it's deeply important that we find out and that if there are members of Congress that are complicit beyond the-- the complicity of challenging the election and propagating the President's lies, but more specifically involved in helping individuals do reconnaissance, they need to be held accountable in-- in the strongest way that we can. Along with my fellow chairs, we are beginning an investigation into what went wrong, into the intelligence failures. And I think there's a massive intelligence and security failure here that needs to be fully investigated and we hope to get answers to these questions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about your fellow lawmakers who sit on the committees that oversee the Capitol Hill Police, for example? Do they bear some responsibility as well?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, they'll be doing their own investigation as well. The particular lane I'm focused on is the intelligence. What did we know before the attack of the-- the likelihood of violence against the Capitol that day? Was that intelligence disseminated? If it was, why wasn't it made use of? But we're also going to be examining the-- the Capitol Police and its structure and its leadership and what changes need to be made there. And I have every confidence that Zoe Lofgren in the House Administration Committee will perform those responsibilities, along with Bennie Thompson and Homeland Security and other committees.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you seen any evidence of foreign support, financial or otherwise, for any of these domestic organizations involved in the siege?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, we are going to try to follow the money. That's a critical part of any investigation. I know Carolyn Maloney has taken a particular interest in that issue, and that is who was funding this? Who was supporting this? How much were they involved in what ultimately took place on January 6th? Following the money is a vital part of our investigative plan, that is the Congress broadly, and any investigation into a tragedy this substantial.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In your role on the committee, you have some oversight of the intelligence community. Sue Gordon, who I know you know, one of the nation's top intelligence professionals for decades, wrote an op-ed yesterday in which she said President Trump is a security threat himself. And when he leaves office, he should be denied access to intelligence briefings. Would you urge the Biden administration to do that?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Absolutely. There's no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now, not in the future. I don't think he can be trusted with it now and in the future, he certainly can't be trusted. Indeed, there were, I think, any number of intelligence partners of ours around the world who probably started withholding information from us because they didn't trust the President would-- would safeguard that information and protect their sources and methods. And that makes us less safe. We've seen this President politicize intelligence, and that's another risk to the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: With just a few days to go, the Trump administration is reportedly installing a GOP operative at the National Security Agency, which oversees, as you know, some cyber and signals intelligence. Do you have any indication what the intent is there?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: I think it's very clear this is part of the administration's effort to embed people in the civil servants who are political and partisan actors who don't belong there. In this case, Michael Ellis was mentioned in one of the articles of impeachment. He was involved in the midnight run. He was involved in putting that Ukraine call record in a secure computer system where it didn't belong to try to conceal--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about the first impeachment?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --that evidence. Yes. So, there's no way that someone like Michael Ellis should be confirmed or appointed or hired for a career civil service position, particularly if there were--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: --other applicants, which there were, that were more highly rated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, when will the speaker of the House send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for this impeachment?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: Well, that will be the speaker's decision. You know, I'll leave the strategy to her and to Jamie Raskin, and an incredibly talented team. This is, you know, obviously the most serious crime against our country and constitution of any president in history.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF: And the fact that it took place in the last month doesn't make it any less serious. There needs to be full accountability. And I hope and pray that the Senate will uphold their duty and their oath when that case is tried.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for your time this morning.

We go now to St. Paul, Minnesota, where security at that state Capitol has also been increased. The mayor, Melvin Carter, is here with us now. Good morning to you, Mister Mayor.

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER (D-Saint Paul/@melvincarter3): Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it's good to talk to you again, but we did see the FBI put out a bulletin warning about your city, about your state. You run the Capitol. What exactly are you preparing for?

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: You know, we did see that bulletin that put us on a state of high alert that we've been on any ways, as we saw the-- we, of course, watched what unfolded in Washington, DC earlier this week. The FBI is now telling us they don't see any specific credible threats. But we know that we're in a volatile moment. We know that we have a President who has continued to egg on these extreme radicals to try to take action. And so we have worked very closely with our Minnesota National Guard, with our state patrol and our St. Paul Police Department to have hundreds of law enforcement personnel on duty, not just to protect our Capitol complex, but our Capitol complex is situated inside a set of diverse and multilingual neighborhoods that deserve that type protection as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the FBI reportedly had specifically cited the Boogaloo movement and members of having gone out and basically cased the state Capitol last month to identify escape points and defensible positions where violence might occur. Have you seen any evidence of organized groups of militias active in your area? Where are they coming from?

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: You know, we have seen since Election Day repeated demonstrations at our state Capitol, as well as at our governor's residence that have included several individuals who have chosen that time to show up with rifles and other firearms in a show of-- to try to be intimidating frankly. It's unclear how organized they are. It's unclear how much of that is attributable to the Boogaloo Bois or any other kind of specific group. But, again, we're on high alert because of the general volatility. Our FBI is telling us they are tracking those individuals who they think are-- may have been kind of presenting those kind of specific threats. And they're at a space right now where we continue to be on a state of high readiness because this moment is just so insane. But they are telling us they feel confident that we're prepared to handle the public safety mission at our Capitol and the surrounding neighborhoods.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You spoke this week about your personal reaction to seeing the Confederate flag dragged into the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And you said this insurrection was the blossoming of flowers that have been planted and watered very intentionally that existed in our country for a very long time. What are you talking about there?

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: Well, we know and I-- I-- I think back to a decade ago when we were having the discussion of whether America is a post-racial society or not, which hopefully we know now is a ridiculous notion. We know that the-- the-- the emotions, that the frustrations, that the hatred that we saw pour out in front of our U.S. Capitol just a couple of weeks ago has been simmering underneath the surfaces and my hope is that we as Americans finally take that head on, finally really meaningfully address the legacy of race that we have in our country, the continued impacts of our history of systemic racism and systemic oppression so that we can build a country that really takes seriously the three words that founded our democracy we the people, meaning all of us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You see that racism specifically is a contributing factor to the insurrection, is that what you're saying?

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: I think it's very clear that when we hear people say things like take back our country, it seems to me that they don't understand what America really is, who America really is and who Americans really are. It seems to me that as we've had a large conversation about the double standards of law enforcement that have been on display--


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: --as we've seen the bias of one elected leader translate into a completely different treatment of people who came out to say--


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: --that George Floyd never should have been murdered versus people who come out, rallied by our President, to try to literally overthrow the Capitol of the United States. We have seen the impacts of race in our country over the last year--


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: --in ways that I am hopeful that we can no longer deny.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly on COVID, your governor accused the Trump administration about lying regarding vaccine doses. Minnesota has fallen behind in being able to distribute what they do have. Do you, as mayor, need to take control of that, as thirty-seven other mayors around the country are asking to get a direct line of supply?

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: You know, we're fortunate that we have a strong relationship with our governor here in Minnesota. We've been working closely on the COVID response. We worked closely to get National Guard troops mobilized for this weekend.


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: And so we're working closely on this crisis. It does create a significant challenge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't need to take control?

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: It's another proved point that the President will be dangerous until the moment he leaves office.


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: And we're working, we're scrambling. Our health care providers are working hard--


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: --to develop a plan B so that we can move forward as a state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Mister Mayor, good luck to you. Thank you for your time this morning.

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER: Thank you very much.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to be right back with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we want to go now to the Republican governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice. He joins us from Charleston. Good morning to you, sir. I want to talk about--

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE (R-West Virginia/@WVGovernor): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk about your work on COVID-19 and distributing the vaccine. But first, I have to ask you about politics. Do you believe that your party, the Republican Party, remains the party of President Trump after he leaves office January 20th?

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Well, I don't know, Margaret, you know, because to be perfectly honest, you know, there's division all across our country right now. There's no question if we just step back and just look at it, you know, are we doing stuff the right way? I mean, at the end of the day, we've got the division. We know where we're at and we've got all kinds of problems. We need to absolutely lay down our arms as far as Republicans and Democrats--


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: --and quit pivoting ourselves against one another like that. At some point in time, we've got to realize we're Americans and I don't say that lightly. I just don't say that as gobbledy-gook because I'm not a politician. I've never been that. And I speak the truth. And-- and so --


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: --first and foremost, Americans need to be united, not divided.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, not a politician. Then you're going to give me a straight answer on the question then of whether you think the President should continue to be leading the Republican Party, given that he continues to not clearly say Joe Biden is the fairly elected president of the United States?

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Well, I would say this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that disqualifying?

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: --there's no question that all the experts and judges-- all the judges, you know, all the courts, everybody has said that we had an election and Joe Biden is our President. We should respect that--


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: --in every-- in every way. I would-- I would say first and foremost, no question that our President has gotten out over his skis many, many different times. But really, it's the people's decision. It's not my decision to weigh in. All I'm doing is just stirring the pot when I weigh in. I want us to be together.


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Forget Republican and Democrat.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sir, I want to ask you about your ability to distribute almost seventy percent of the vaccine doses that you have received from the federal government. You've used the National Guard to do it, something Joe Biden wants other states to consider doing. What can they do that your general workforce cannot?

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Well, Margaret, just think about this, for the last week or so, we've been running not at seventy percent, we're running it right at a hundred percent. Right now, we're at 98.1 percent, as far as vaccines in people's arms or names tied to it, you know, that are going to be put into people's arms immediately. We're saving all kinds of lives. We're putting our-- our kids back in school. West Virginia has been the diamond in the rough that a lot of people have missed. You know, we're first in the nation on being able to test all the people in our nursing homes--


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: --and on and on and on. Absolutely. That's why we're leading the nation, because we are practical thinking people--


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: --with a lot of really smart people here that are getting it done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to ask about the specifics of that, because a lot of governors are trying to figure this out. You decided not to go with the federal program to use CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate in nursing homes. So you decided not to follow the Trump administration's plan. Why did you go that route?

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Because really and truly, there are so many people that depend on their local health departments, their local pharmacies. Absolutely. Our ability to bring in the National Guard. You know, just think about it just for a second. You know, what we did is a lot of governors sat on their hands trying to-- to come up with a system or a formula of what they were going to do. We didn't sit on our hands. I mean, we acted. We brought our local-- our local pharmacies in. We brought our local, you know, health departments in. We brought our National Guard in, and we started putting shots in people's arms-- arms, because this thing is all about age, age, age.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So would you tell--

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: That is all there is to it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So would you tell other governors to throw out the federal government's guidelines?

GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: Well, if-- if what we're going to do is create a bureau-- bureaucracy with federal government guidelines and everything, when we know this is about age, age and age. We've got to get shots in people's arms, and every day we put a shot in somebody's arm, we're saving a life.


GOVERNOR JIM JUSTICE: You know, we need to get at it. I mean, that's all there is to it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Governor Justice, thank you for your insight and your time today. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Coming up next, we'll look at that new strain of coronavirus, plus our poll, what's on Americans' minds heading into the new administration.


MARGARET BRENNAN: In our next half hour, we'll tell you about a new project from us here at FACE THE NATION, plus new CDC director Doctor Rochelle Walensky and Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. There are growing concerns about B117. That's the new strain of the coronavirus first discovered in the United Kingdom. So far, the highest number of cases from that strain have been found in California. CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas is in hard-hit L.A. County.

JAMIE YUCCAS (CBS News Correspondent/@jamieyuccas): Margaret, L.A. County is home to half of the COVID related deaths in the state, and roughly one in three here have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began. It's also home to Dodger Stadium. Now, the largest vaccination site the country.

(Begin VT)

JAMIE YUCCAS: It's been a slow start for vaccinations in California. But officials believe by next week, health care workers in the state will be able to administer forty thousand doses a day.

MAN: It took a little bit of waiting, but the actual vaccination went really fast and it was painless.

JAMIE YUCCAS: But there are mounting concerns, the supply of vaccines doses could run out. California, like other states nationwide was expecting an uptake in shipments after the federal government promised to unleash a reserve supply.

GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM: They have reneged on that or for whatever reason are unable to deliver on that.

JAMIE YUCCAS: The Trump administration says governors misunderstood.

ALEX AZAR: We're not sitting on a reserve anymore. We've made that available to the states to order.

JAMIE YUCCAS: Hospitalization rates in California have fallen, but many hospitals are still well over capacity with a Californian dying of coronavirus every three minutes. The pressure to get people vaccinated across the country is mounting as a new CDC study shows a more contagious strain of coronavirus, first discovered in the U.K., could become the dominate strain in the U.S. by March.

ALEX PERKINS (Epidemiology Professor, University of Notre Dame): If this virus does have a higher reproduction number, if it is more transmissible that makes it harder to control.

JAMIE YUCCAS: Doctor Anthony Fauci is distraught that with the U.S. death toll topping nearly four thousand a day, some still don't believe the disease is real.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: I think the answer is not going to be to just blow them aside and say you're crazy. We've got to engage and figure out what is it that separated us so profoundly?

(End VT)

JAMIE YUCCAS: Despite the growing push to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible, this is a race against time, with thousands still dying from the virus every day. The U.S. is expected to surpass four hundred thousand deaths this week. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jamie Yuccas, thank you.

Worldwide we've now passed two million deaths due to this pandemic. Liz Palmer reports from London.

ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@CBSLizpalmer): Good morning. Ambitious vaccination programs are now getting underway on almost every continent. Though as you might expect they're moving ahead fastest in the rich countries of the developed world, where the United Kingdom is one of the front-runners.

(Begin VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: This week, historic churches in England became vaccination centers. As the organ played, local elderly people got their shots in Salisbury Cathedral.

MAN: We've been on the site for eight hundred years. Now for eight hundred years, we've been about two things: giving glory to God and serving the people of this city and region.

ELIZABETH PALMER: The U.K. is now on track to have all medical front-line workers and those over eighty done by mid-February. In the developing world, India is leading the way. Hospital worker Manish Kumar got the very first shot this week. There are three hundred million more on the first wave priority list. But there is a confidence problem: many don't trust one of the vaccines, not because it was developed in India but because it was rolled out before trials ended. Then there are countries like South Africa, which must still focus on treatment because they haven't got a single vaccine dose. And this just as a new, more contagious strain is racing across the continent. Another new strain has emerged in the Amazon, overwhelming Brazilian hospitals. And it's a worry because no one yet knows if the current vaccines are effective against it. Meanwhile, in China, the World Health Organization's team finally landed in Wuhan to examine the origins of the virus, but two of them tested positive, and the rest are in quarantine until the end of the month.

(End VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: Because of those new coronavirus mutations, more stringent travel restrictions are springing up. Here in the U.K., for example, nobody is going to be allowed in as of Monday unless they can show a negative test less than three days old. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz Palmer in London. Thank you.

We want to go now to the incoming Biden administration's CDC director. That's Doctor Rochelle Walensky. She is also the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. She joins us from Boston. Good morning to you, Doctor.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, MD, MPH (Incoming CDC Director/@RWalensky): Good morning, Margaret. Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We are already at four thousand cases a day-- the outgoing CDC director-- deaths a day. The outgoing CDC director says what we're about to be in the worst months. Do you agree with his forecast that it's going to get worse?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Unfortunately, I do. I think that, you know, we've-- we've, as you noted, nearly four thousand deaths a day, almost four hundred thousand deaths total. By the middle of February, we expect half a million deaths in this country. That doesn't speak to the tens of thousands of people who are living with a yet uncharacterized syndrome after they've been recovered-- after they've recovered. And we still yet haven't seen the ramifications of what happened from the holiday travel, from holiday gathering in terms of high rates of hospitalizations and the deaths thereafter. So, yes, I-- I think we still have some dark weeks ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How often is the public going to hear from you? Are you going to brief regularly?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: I will brief as often as I can, as often as new information comes. I also want to make sure that the subject matter experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who have been reading and reviewing the literature, understanding the science, you hear from them. When there are new things to report, you will hear from somebody at the CDC and it may very well be me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we hope to continue to get that new information, Doctor, because there's a lot of questions right now about these reports of new strains out of U.K., out of Brazil, out of South Africa. What are you hearing? What concerns you about these new strains?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: So the first thing I want to indicate is that viruses mutate. We've known for a long time that viruses mutate. It's not just coronavirus, it's many viruses and they mutate when they're under pressure. There is a lot of pressure right now because there's a lot of virus circulating out there, especially in this country. When we see these mutations, we worry about several things. We worry about whether they're increasing-- they have increased transmissibility. We worry about whether they have increased morbidity and mortality. We worry about whether they will evade our mechanisms of either treatment or our vaccines. So far, the one from the U.K. looks like it is more transmissible. We don't have any more information about whether it evades our vaccines. We have indication that it likely does not. But what increased transmissibility means is there are more cases and therefore more deaths. There are certainly further studies that are looking at the South Africa strain, at the Brazil strain and other strains in Nigeria. And one of the things that this really demonstrates is our need to be vigilant and to have resources to do the surveillance, to make sure we understand what strains are here--


ROCHELLE WALENSKY: --and whether we have increased transmissibility in vaccine, you know, efficacy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The CEO of Eli Lilly has said that they have indications that the South African strain at least shows some resistance to current treatments. Do you have indication that it does as well?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: I have heard-- the-- the Lilly antibody, this is the monoclonal antibody that we've been using to-- to-- for early stage disease, and I have heard similar things. It is one antibody. The Regeneron is an antibody cocktail. And I think that there is concern that not just the South African and the Brazilian strain, but other future strains might have resistance to those antibodies, not-- not taking off all efficacy, but decreasing their efficacy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You-- you just said something I want to go back to on the question of surveillance, and that is basically why don't we as a country have a better system to detect which virus, which mutation and where it is. How are you going to fix that?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: You know, I think this really just gets to the resources that are necessary in this country for an adequate public health infrastructure at baseline and one for an infrastructure when we are in the middle of a pandemic. We didn't have one at baseline and we certainly don't have one now during a pandemic. And one of the-- one of the things I'm really going to advocate for, and I know the President-elect is advocating for, is to make sure that we have the resources for our public health system so that we can do the surveillance that is necessary for that testing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You can set that up quickly enough?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: They're working on it right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President-elect has said that he's going to release all available vaccine supplies when he gets inaugurated, but then this week there was just confusion about how much vaccine supply there actually is, whether or not there's a federal stockpile. Do you have a clear answer yet on how much vaccine supply this country has?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: We have looked carefully and we are confident that we have enough vaccine for the one hundred million doses over the next one hundred days. That is what the President-elect has promised. It will be a hefty lift, but we have it in us to do that. And in order to do that, we have to look at the supply for sure. We have to titrate and make sure that there are enough people getting vaccinated, but not too many as to overwhelm the system, so looking at our eligibility. And we have to make sure that there are enough vaccinators. I know that the President-elect has committed to use the Defense Production Act to make sure that where there are any bottlenecks in that supply, we-- we will, you know, address those bottlenecks through the Defense Production Act--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are there bottlenecks right now? Is there a production problem with vaccines?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: You know, I think that there are bottlenecks in-- in different places across the entire system. As you look across the states and distribution, you know, different states are having different challenges. How much is being rolled out to each state, whether those states have adequate personnel, whether those states are getting vaccine to pharmacies. And our job is to make sure that with the entire support of the federal government that we get-- we address all of those bottlenecks wherever we are so we can get vac-- vaccine into people's arms.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President-elect has said he wants to try in his first one hundred days to also reopen schools in that K through eight age range. Yet we're looking at Europe right now and they're reversing course in the U.K. They're actually closing schools after they had been keeping them open. Given the new information about the new strains, is it still realistic to think you can reopen schools?

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: You know, I think that this is a-- and-- a goal that the President-elect has. I share the goal. We are going to look carefully. One of the things we want to do is make sure that we can vaccinate our educate-- our educators and people in our school systems. We certainly don't want to open schools if they are not safe. Among the things that we have to do is make sure that we have our transmission and our-- our disease rates come down in those first hundred days. Between vaccinating the teachers, resources that are necessary to get those schools adequately equipped and getting our K through eight kids back, that-- that is the anticipated goal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor, thank you for your time today. And we hope to have you back as CDC director to inform the public.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He sits on the board of Pfizer and Illumina, which is a company that is working on sequencing the virus variants. He is in Westport, Connecticut, this morning. Good morning to you.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, MD (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard the incoming CDC director say five hundred thousand deaths by mid-February, that this will get worse. Do you agree?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I think tragically, that's right. What we're likely to see is infection start to decline. I think we're seeing it right now. We're seeing a near-term peak in terms of the number of new daily cases. Now, unfortunately, deaths and hospitalizations will continue to grow over the next two or three weeks because they're a lagging indicator. But we'll see continued declines probably for about four weeks, maybe five weeks until this new variant starts to take over. Right now, this new variant is about 0.5 percent of all infections nationally. There's hotspots in Southern California and Florida that may be closer to one percent, but it's going to double every week. So it's about doubling every week. That's the experience from other countries and that's the experience we've seen so far in the United States. So it's one percent now. It'll be two percent, then four percent, then eight percent, then sixteen percent, then thirty-two percent. So in about five weeks, this is going to start to take over. The only backstop against this new variant is the fact that we will have a lot of infection by then. So there'll be a lot of immunity in the population and we will be vaccinating more people. But this really changes the equation. And I think what we're looking at is a relentless strike from this virus heading into the spring, whereas infections really would have started to decline in the spring. We would have had a quiet spring. We could have persistently high levels of infection in the spring until we finally get enough people vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to clarify there, because we just spoke with the CDC dir-- incoming CDC director, who recognized that there was not a good surveillance system in place to figure out these new mutations. The numbers you're citing, they're from the private sector?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, Illumina, the company that I'm on the board of, is doing a lot of the sequencing work right now and unfortunately, the sample is very small. We should be sampling about five percent of all the positive cases. We're doing a lot less than that. We're doing well under one percent. We haven't found any of the B1351 variant. That's the South African and Brazilian variant. But we have just started looking for it. What we're finding is B117. So it's about 0.3 to 0.5 percent of all infections as of this weekend, data that's available right now. But it's going to increase and we've seen it double already week over week. So this information is available. Illumina's tweeted some of it out. Their partner Helix has tweeted some of it-- some of it out. They're working with CDC on this. So the data is starting to be available. But as the CDC director said, we're not doing a lot of surveillance work right now. So we're probably not detecting the full scope of what's underway in this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Americans now age two years old and up will have to show proof of a negative COVID test to re-enter this country, even if they're a citizen. Will that make a difference, these kind of travel restrictions in reducing these other strains from permeating?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, it's going to have some impact. I think it's hard to estimate how much it's going to really affect introduction into the United States. And the bottom line is these strains are already here, even B1351 is probably in the United States now, even though we haven't detected it yet. I think testing people as they come in, you're going to catch some cases, but it's also going to be a deterrent. People who think they might be infected or might have been exposed to someone who's been infected, if they know there's a surveillance system in place, they're going to be less likely to get on a plane because they're not going to get-- want to get caught in a quarantine. So, I think it's going to be more effective as a deterrent than actually catching positive cases as they come in. But it's something. You know, it's something that we can do. I just think we need to be honest with ourselves--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --that these strains are here right now, we need to start taking action. You know, the simple things--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --are still going to work, wearing masks, avoiding crowds. And the quality of the masks really matters right now. If you wear a higher quality mask with this new infection, that's going to be very important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That means surgical or N95 and B1351 is what you're calling South African strain, is that correct?



SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Right, that's the South African and the Brazilian strain.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the Brazilian. Okay. Everyone take notes. I want to get you to the vaccine now because this just puts more and more pressure on getting protection out there for people. What is the bottom line? I-- I asked the C-- incoming CDC director if she had a good read on supply. She still thinks they can hit that one hundred million mark with vaccinations. You sit on the board of Pfizer. What do you know about supply?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I think they will hit that hundred million mark. I think the issue is going to become demand. I think they're going to have the supply in place and the distribution in place to do that. Right now, thirty million doses have been shipped to the states. About another fifteen will be made available to the states as of this Tuesday. And five million have been ordered by the states, but not yet shipped. So that's a total of fifty million doses. And there was a very small bolus. I think the plan that the new administration put out makes a lot of sense. It's sort of an all the above approach, what we've been talking about, trying to push this through different channels like the big box stores, like pharmacies--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --trying to set up more federally chartered sites in-- in conjunction with the states. You look at a state like Connecticut, the state that I live in. I think that they've been taking that approach and you see it working where they've turned to the National Guard early. They set up a diversity of sites to distribute this. They've targeted high-risk groups, high-need groups, but they've also recognized that every vaccination is important. And so when people got vaccinated out of turn, they didn't impose fines. They didn't impose penalties, they didn't impose restrictions. They tried to get out all the supply and the state's been successful. It's one of the leading states in the country--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --right now in terms of getting people vaccinated. I think the federal plan that-- that the Biden administration is modeling builds off what some states that have done well have done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Those numbers you were citing, that's according to Pfizer? That's according to Operation Warp Speed?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, that's according to Operation Warp Speed, and I obviously have some insight into the one manufacturer, Pfizer, sitting on the board. I do think that there is ways that the administration can work with the companies to increase supply. It's going to take time, but there's machines that can help produce more vaccine. There's inputs that they can try to increase the supply of. And it might be things you could do on the fill finishing as you bottle the vaccines, trying to get additional doses out of the way you bottle the vaccines, making that process more efficient. I think it's going to be slow, but I think we can potentially eke out more supply with a full court press on all the different things that you can do to try to increase the inputs and the outputs here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Doctor Gottlieb, thank you as always, for your insight.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to take a look at what's on the minds of Americans as we begin a new administration in these very troubled times. CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto is in Westchester County, New York. Good morning to you, Anthony. We are on the verge of a big change politically, but Americans are on edge. What do they see as the biggest threat to them right now?

ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections and Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS): Yeah. Good morning, Margaret. It is indeed a portrait of a country on edge after the events of the last few weeks. We asked that very question: What is the biggest threat to your way of life right now? More so than foreign adversaries, more so than things from the natural world, disasters, even viruses. People said it was other people in America, domestic enemies. And have a look at this, even the Capitol is certainly on edge this week. Americans feel the political violence may increase over the next few years. So hardly out of the woods. And, more broadly, Margaret, I would say that although we'll hear a lot about political divisions and a divided country, rightly in the next few weeks, you know, Americans feel that democracy itself is threatened. And very few report that they feel that it's secure. These are much more fundamental concerns. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony, it's so disturbing what you're laying out here. Is there-- is there any sense that it's going to get any better with the Biden administration?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, there certainly is optimism. Majority optimism about the next four years with Joe Biden as president. I would say these-- these are very partisan divisions. But it is there. Now the other thing to look at is Joe Biden's opposition in Congress, the Republicans. And here is a party that also seems very much divided. Look, half of Republicans, their rank and file, want their party in Congress to try to find common ground with the Biden administration. But half want them to oppose him as much as possible. And you take a look at this, where half of Republicans say they will still not consider Joe Biden as the legitimate president even after he is sworn in. And who are these folks? Well, this half are more likely to be the strongest Donald Trump supporters, the kinds of folks we've seen over the last few years who even consider themselves to be Donald Trump supporters first even more so than Republicans. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that suggests that President Trump's grip on the Republican Party doesn't go away when he leaves office?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: It really doesn't, at least not in part, at least not for that sort of core base of the base. In fact, when we talked about impeachment, these are the folks who are more likely to say that the Republicans who voted for impeachment were not principled but were disloyal. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony Salvanto, thank you for your insight.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Big news from us here at FACE THE NATION, we're launching a new podcast this Friday called Facing Forward. I'll be talking with the business leaders and policy makers who make the decisions that impact every American. You can subscribe on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcasts platform.

That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. And we will see you Wednesday for the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. Our special coverage begins at 9:00 AM. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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