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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, December 11, 2020

Guests: Anthony Fauci, Christina Greer, Daniel R. Alonso


National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses the state of the pandemic and the coming vaccines. The Supreme Court rejects a Texas lawsuit asking it to overturn the presidential election results in four states. New York's investigations into President Trump's taxes ramp up.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

I'm Ari Melber. Welcome to a special edition of THE BEAT featuring tonight an extended interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the renowned director of the federal government's Institute of Infectious Diseases since 1984. He is speaking out tonight, the very night that the federal government is on track to approve America's first COVID vaccine, sending out trucks loaded with the shots to hospitals across the nation.

This is big news, of course, for how this pandemic end, while also stoking life-and-death policy questions, like who goes first, who makes these tough calls, and when can you get your vaccine dosage?

Dr. Fauci will tackle these important questions tonight and speak on the challenges, as COVID, of course, is surging to these record-breaking numbers we have been tracking this very week, as well as lessons learned from his work with presidents across party lines, including, of course, the outgoing Trump administration.

So, that interview, I want you to know, is coming up live tonight on THE BEAT. I urge to stick with us for the hour, because I am very interested to hear what Dr. Fauci has to say.

Now, we begin right now with our top story, the legal and political squabbling over that very same reference I just made to the outgoing Trump administration.

The workweek winding down in Washington right now. The Supreme Court set to respond to this frivolous Republican suit that asks the court to do what it's never done, cancel the certified results of the federal election.

Now, legal experts have already widely explained this isn't the kind of case the Supreme Court will bother to hear, because it's frivolous, let alone the kind of case that the Supreme Court has ever used, I mean ever, under any circumstance, to overturn an election. So, that is the legal brick wall.

There's also new reporting, though, on why Donald Trump may be so focused on rallying his base as a potential insurance policy to discourage what's going on in New York, specifically the top prosecutor there accelerating the inquiry into Donald Trump's finances.

"The New York Times" reporting new subpoenas, a DA questioning witnesses, which shows they are significantly escalating an investigation into the president that he is -- quote -- "powerless to stop."

Now, that's a big statement in the paper of record. It's an objective statement about how this works, that the president, while powerful, is -- quote -- "powerless," even amidst flexing his pardons, because they are only for federal crimes. This is a local case.

It's already using powerful local authority to compel cooperation, like threatening jail time for anyone who might defy those subpoenas for materials, plus the broader context you see here of inquiries hitting Donald Trump's accountant, plus requests there for more information from Trump's bank, to scrutinizing potential false statements or lies that were made to Donald Trump's insurance company.

You take it all together, and it looks like the very deep dive that Donald Trump famously worried Bob Mueller would do. Now, only Donald Trump knows why he finds a probe of his business finances so concerning.

Let's get right to our experts tonight, Jason Johnson, a professor at Morgan State university, and Daniel Alonso. He was chief assistant district attorney in Manhattan under Cy Vance, the DA leading this very probe.

Good evening to both of you.



MELBER: Daniel, you are one of the most sought-after experts in the country for exactly the question tonight. How does this kind of investigation work under DA Vance? You were one of the closest people to him.

Your answer?

ALONSO: Well, I know how many people out there are waiting for this investigation to come to a conclusion and are hoping that there will be charges against Trump.

I would say that the best I could tell you is that is certainly very possible. He certainly can't pardon himself for that, even if he can pardon himself for federal crimes. But I think we're still a pretty long way from some charge against Trump.

This is an enormously, enormously complicated investigation, based on what we have been reading in the papers. Trump Organization itself is a complicated organization. The real estate industry is very complicated. These applications for loans, for insurance, were no doubt full of lawyers and accountants advising the organization and Trump himself on this stuff.

So, it's going to be -- they have -- it sounds like they have something pretty good, which is that the value of the assets that he presented, that they presented to Deutsche Bank was overstated. So, it sounds like the DA could prove the assets were overstated.

But to prove a criminal fraud case or a criminal case of falsifying bank records, you have to prove criminal intent, you have to prove knowledge, you have to prove that they were intending to actually get something they weren't entitled to.

So, it's a complicated thing. Add on top of that...


MELBER: Well, let's break it down a little bit.

You're saying, number one, there's evidence they lied. Number two, the evidence of those lies could constitute a crime, if it was to the government and knowing, and, number three, that it's going to take DA Vance some time to go through all of this and then figure out where they land.

ALONSO: From the reporting that we have seen in public, sure, that's what it sounds like. But it's very, very complicated.

And New York law, I was going to say, adds on top of it an extra layer, which is that it's much more complicated to bring an indictment in state court in New York than it is in federal court, for example. So it takes a long time, although I did hear -- read today that there's apparently a grand jury that's been taking testimony.

Right now, they're on pause in New York, but I gather that means they have a long-term grand jury impaneled, which is a sign that they are...


MELBER: And just briefly on that, before I bring in Jason, the point being, while it's a long ways, as you say, from any potential charges -- and we cover that process fairly -- at this juncture, they have more than nothing, because you don't just have a grand jury impaneled like this, after all of this other evidence.

If they found, for example, oh, we double-checked and we looked at the insurance and the bank info and it was a harmless error, well, then if you're fair, you back down. You don't just keep the grand jury going, right?

ALONSO: Well, they clearly have more than nothing. You know, for -- to start with, Michael Cohen's testimony by itself provides what we call predication to have an investigation.

There's a lot of stuff in there that does suggest that crimes were committed. Now, obviously, he has credibility problems, so you have to track it all down. But they have been up and down to the Supreme Court one-and-a-half times now.


ALONSO: Five courts have ruled in favor of DA Vance, so they have got more than nothing.


MELBER: Yes, let me bring in Jason. Let me bring in Jason, who has been patiently with us.

Jason, across America, 6:00 p.m. hour on the East Coast, people may be having their first glass of wine, having a little bit of dinner, and they may be thinking, six minutes of Ari and Daniel being lawyers is just about enough.

And we want to know, beyond the lawyer legalese...

(LAUGHTER) JOHNSON: Six minutes, Jason Johnson, you're on. I get it. I'm ready.


MELBER: Jason, what does it mean that Donald Trump is running around filing these frivolous lawsuits with help from Republicans to the Supreme Court, trying to rally the base, lying to people, against the backdrop of what Daniel just very carefully, thankfully, carefully outlined sounds like real legal heat?

JOHNSON: Ari, it's really basic.

What you have -- the moment that they start putting the grand juries together in New York, that was shots fired. Right? Like, Trump knows he is in trouble. Trump knows that there's no amount of pressure that Rudy Giuliani or any of his cronies can bring to the table.

He knows he's got Cohen out there, who is going to give evidence against him. So, what he wants to do is create enough of a feverish movement amongst his supporters that are still existing in the country to make it difficult politically. I don't know if that's going to be effective, not just because these frivolous court cases haven't really gone anywhere, but because, what was it, the recent filing, they're talking about brand-new states, new Nevada and new California?

The lawsuits are ridiculous. But Donald Trump's whole strategy throughout his entire political career has been, if I keep distracting people with this thing over here, maybe they won't be as dedicated to that thing over there.

And I have said, Ari, all along that, from a political standpoint, the thing that Donald Trump has to worry about, it's not just he's legally exposed in New York, but that every single state attorney, district attorney, A.G. across the United States who thinks they can make a political career off taking a potshot on Donald Trump is watching this case, because you are going to see other Democrats attempt to do this as he leaves office as a way to promote their own political future.

So, Trump can do all the crazy lawsuits he wants. It's not going to change the fact that he's a wonderful punching bag for any Democrats moving forward.

MELBER: Yes, Jason, speak about the political environment for that, because we have covered the precedent of the controversial pardon of Nixon by his successor in cases that were wholly federal, Watergate, federal obstruction, dealings with Congress. It was federal in nature.


MELBER: Nixon didn't run some side business that had state law exposure.

And so the politics of the Republican Party clearly took a hit with frustration over what was viewed as that criminal lawlessness. Do you see a situation here where, because Trump is saddled in things that are ongoing in other states, that don't have that same clean federal line, do you see a world where enough Republicans actually think, well, fine, do what you have got to do in New York, we don't want to keep defending this?

JOHNSON: Eventually, some will, Ari.

But you got to remember, at this point, a lot of Republicans, this is operating like a cult. Right? Like, you have Republicans in Utah who are like, we're not getting involved in this case. It doesn't make any sense.

You have Republican senators, one Republican senator in Texas who is like this is insane. Then Ted Cruz has decided that he wants to bend a knee to Donald Trump again.

I don't think there are enough Republicans who will stand up and say, this is ridiculous, I'm out, deuces. But what you're going to see is Republicans at a state level face increasing pressure in case there are crimes.

Here's the thing, Ari. It's not just about Donald Trump. It's about things that other members of his administration might have done that have been exposed during the course of this administration. We don't know about Ivanka. We don't know what trade issues she may have been involved with.

We don't know how her and Jared Kushner made $80 million while they were still in the White House. There are so many different instances where they are legally exposed at the state level.

I think you're going to have some Republicans who continue to defend it with crazy distracting lawsuits, but you're going to have a lot of Democrats at the state level, and, hey, maybe even an anti-Trump Republican in one of these states, maybe in Virginia, maybe in Maryland, maybe these other places, like, you know what, I will take a potshot at Trump too, because I want to establish that I'm a new kind of Republican going forward.

MELBER: Jason stays with me.

Dan, I have just about 30 seconds left, because I have got to save time for Dr. Fauci.

On the flip side, what do you say to critics out across the country, MAGA supporters, who say, oh, Cy Vance, who you worked with, New York Democrat type, just wants to torture Donald Trump, that's all this is about? What do you say to them?

ALONSO: Well, first of all, that's not how he works.

But I will say the notion that only Republicans -- only Democrats across the country are going to be gunning for him, that's hopefully not how prosecutors are supposed to work. Nobody should be gunning for any defendant, let alone the president, just because they want to make a political name for themselves.

Cy Vance is unlikely to run for reelection. That's what's sort of out there right now. So, this is not a political thing. This is something which he evidently believes in, at least to investigate. We will see what he does in terms of filing charges or not.

MELBER: Understood, someone with unique insights into this and a careful legal mind.

Dan, thank you very much.

Jason stays.

Coming up on THE BEAT, we have the backlash to the Republicans who are attacking democracy, as discussed.

And, tonight, very special, I want to remind you, our live interview with Dr. Fauci is coming up. We're going to answer, among other things, get him to answer your questions about this vaccine, with some breaking news tonight.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Donald Trump figuring out, how do you concede an election you have already lost?

Well, he's tweeting about the -- quote -- "Biden administration."

It is another signal that everything else that's going on is theater, as we have reported from the beginning. They already blew through the key federal deadline, where all states have certified the Biden victory.

And that is the context for a growing backlash to how many Republican leaders, now 126 members of Congress and 18 states attorneys general, joining what is clearly an attack on democracy.

"The Orlando Sentinel" taking the unprecedented step of saying they apologize for endorsing Congressman Michael Waltz, because he's come out in favor of, yes, overturning the election.

I'm joined by Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham, and Jason Johnson back with me. They are also co-hosts of the new podcast "What's In It For Us?"

Shout-out to the pod. Congratulations.


JOHNSON: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: You're welcome.

Professor -- while, you're both professors.


MELBER: So, Professor Greer, we try to be driven by the evidence here. We try to be reasoned.

This week has been one of those weeks where the people who warned dramatically about what Donald Trump really is, an autocrat who would end American democracy if he could, he is doing what he says, and what he says is, he doesn't believe in elections and democracy.

And the amount of support he's getting in public on the record is chilling. Your thought about both the substance of this, but also something that I think we have to track in civic life, which is some of those louder voices initially dismissed or minimized, this week, proven right.

GREER: I mean, Ari, as I have said from day one, especially black women and black female organizers have been the canaries in the mine, saying that Donald Trump is dangerous, he should not be elected.

Hillary Clinton laid out everything that Donald Trump has done since November 3 and leading up to November 3.

I think what's so dangerous, though, is that we have always said, certain of us in the media have said Donald Trump has authoritarian tendencies, he will not want to leave, even when it's very clear and obvious that he's lost.

But I think where we underestimated is that the Senate and members of the House in the Republican Party would actually aid and abet this nonsense. I think so much focus was on Donald Trump and his bad behavior, his insecurities, his inability to want to leave because he knows that he's looking at Cy Vance and Tish James in the city and state of New York.

But I don't know if anyone ever thought, honestly, that members of the U.S. Congress would actually abdicate on their duty that they are sworn to protect, not only this country, but the citizens in this country, how they would just throw all that away for a man who has proven time and time again he does not care about them or respect them or respect this nation.

MELBER: Yes, very important.

And, Jason, some people may not care about the details of the federal process. They may say, well, this was obvious two weeks ago. But, in fairness, we have rules for a reason. Federal law does care. And it does allow for an extended period where you can make requests and challenges, however unlikely.

So, whether people like it or not, whether it's annoying or not, part of my job is to say, before the safe harbor deadline, well, this is very unlikely, but this is the process. Here's the precedent, why the Supreme Court is not going to take this case. We reported that. They didn't. But that was that.

We are past that, OK. This is certified. And the attorneys general of those 18 states, it is their job, their professional responsibility, their oath of office, to know that. And yet here they are.

JOHNSON: Yes, Ari, I'm not shocked by this.

And I would argue that Trump is the result of authoritarian tendencies and anti-democratic tendencies of the Republican Party. You can take this back to Newt Gingrich basically Bill Clinton was illegitimate. You can take this back to Jeb Bush in 2000 basically overseeing an election where there was massive, massive voter suppression.

What you have to understand -- and I think these agencies are operating off of an ideology we have seen -- there are a sliver of Republicans -- I'm not saying all -- I'm not even saying the majority -- but there is an ideological core of Republicans who do not think that any Democrat elected is legitimate, because they think the coalition that elects Democrats aren't legitimate Americans.

They think that Hispanics and blacks and young people and queer people and everything else like that, who are core parts of the Democratic coalition, aren't legitimate participants in the American democratic project. That's where this comes from.

It's the same logic that said Barack Obama couldn't have been elected president because he had three million illegal immigrants voting for him, or he was born in Kenya. They don't think any Democrat who is elected can get there cleanly. They can't get there the right way.

So, that's where this is coming from. And the problem, Ari, is, look, I understand, as we talked about, there were technical legal things that you can go through, et cetera, et cetera. This is not going to stop.

If you have got lawyers, practiced lawyers who have done their jobs in many ways in an excellent way for years have suddenly decided, I don't care about the Constitution because I don't like the guy in office...

MELBER: Right.

JOHNSON: ... over 100 Republicans in Congress who are going to have that same attitude going forward...

MELBER: Right.

JOHNSON: ... it is impossible to have a functioning government if you have a significant portion of the opposition party that doesn't believe the elected official is legitimate.


JOHNSON: And we saw this with Barack Obama, but they're even more empowered now. And that's the danger of all of this. It's not about the complaint. It's the lack of belief in our institutions.

MELBER: Right.

And the Texas lawsuit is a worthless tweet which has some Republicans feeling the need to note that, because they know where it's going, down in flames.

Here was Senator Alexander, a Republican, brand-new, forthcoming from "Meet the Press." Take a look.


SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): That doesn't sound like a very Republican argument to me.

I mean, our position, my position, Republicans believe that states are in charge of elections. And Texas is a big state, but I don't know exactly why it has a right to tell four other states how to run their elections. So, I'm having a hard time figuring out the basis for that lawsuit.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Diplomatic way of saying it from a very conservative veteran of the Republican Senate, perhaps saying what current members of the Senate are afraid to, Christina?

GREER: Right.

Well, we have seen Donald Trump rule by fear time and time again. And, as Jason mentioned, so many of these elected are so afraid of what Donald Trump will do once he leaves office.

We saw what he did to Jeff Sessions, right? We have never seen a sitting president go after members of his own party. So, we know that Donald Trump will help support primary challengers for sitting representatives. He said as much, and he's done as much.

And so, this fear, this idea that these men, largely men, would put Donald Trump in front of the American people is just -- it's beyond dangerous, actually, Ari.

And the problem is, there's so many times where we didn't nip this in the bud. We should have actually had a much larger conversation as a nation when everything went down in 2000 in the state of Florida, and we didn't.

We should have had a much larger conversation when the legitimacy of Barack Obama was consistently questioned and challenged. It doesn't matter where his father is born. His mother is born in Kansas. He's American. Right?

We didn't have enough Americans and enough Republican leaders shutting that down immediately. And so here we are. We find ourselves in the year 2020 with someone like Donald Trump, who has been able to just dredge up sort of the most vile and bile from his own party and put that front and center and essentially present that as the new party.

And there are far too many people who are afraid to speak out about the real direction of what a Republican Party should be...

MELBER: Right.

GREER: ... what bipartisanship looks like.

We have had more foreign leaders acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect than members of U.S. Congress who are in the Republican Party. That is an embarrassment.

MELBER: Yes. You put it -- yes.

GREER: And it's a danger to our democracy in the grand scheme of things.


MELBER: And that's wild. What you just said is wild. That's just one more way to think it through.

Professors Greer and Johnson, podcast legends in the making, thanks to both of you. I wish you guys a good weekend.

Coming up: The vaccine approval is on track for tonight.

And we have the perfect guest, our live interview with the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, live coming up.


MELBER: Welcome back.

How does this pandemic end? With a vaccine.

Scientists now touting a fast and safe process on track to save lives, reset everyone's daily life, and reopen the economy, which is a far better way to end a pandemic than letting a virus ravage the entire world, which would be far more death and destruction.

And that makes tonight's news very exciting. U.S. regulators are on track to give final approval for America's first COVID vaccine as early as tonight.

Let me repeat that.

For all predictions and projections, we're really now here, you guys, the United States on the cusp of approving this Pfizer COVID vaccine, which will be fast-tracked for emergency use.

Now, we know it's imminent because the official expert panel at the Food and Drug Administration OK'd all of this just yesterday. Next comes final approval and vaccine distribution, doses sent around the nation, so that soon you might meet a doctor or nurse who tells you they have been vaccinated against COVID, in addition to whatever other precautions everybody takes.

Now, this breakthrough comes as COVID is also, sadly, breaking these new grim records. Twice this week, our COVID death toll topped 3,000 people in a day, greater than the 9/11 death toll, twice in a week, officials warning, this pace, the worst we have seen, could actually continue for months, even apart from the vaccine breakthrough, a nation approaching 300,000 total deaths, over 100,000 people hospitalized.

Many places doing worse than what we saw in those rough days in April and May. Parking lots turned to makeshift hospitals after the overcrowding.

A reminder that, statistically speaking, getting this new vaccine will be the difference between life and death for some people. And that makes its distribution one of the most grave and ethical challenges for government decision-making, at the very time, of course, that the government is shifting to new leadership in the Biden administration, facing big questions, like how can people trust that this vaccine is safe?

Who gets vaccinated after the health care workers? Will safety and justice come before profit and connections in handing this out?

Now, the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, spent his life and career on these exact questions across a range of health crises, from HIV/AIDS, to SARS, to hitting the ground running when COVID arrived. "TIME" magazine just named him -- quote -- "guardian of the year" in a new issue this week.

And let's be real. That title might even sound a bit lofty, but then, if you look at the history, it actually captures how so many presidents in both parties have relied on the doctor.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think of Dr. Fauci. Probably never heard of him. Well, you did. Ann heard of him.

He's a very fine research, top doctor at National Institute of Health, working hard doing something about research on this disease of AIDS.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who know Tony do admit one flaw. Sometimes, he forgets to stop working. He regularly puts in 80-hour weeks.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tony and his team stepped up, and you were ready.


MELBER: Dr. Anthony Fauci is here amidst the breaking news on the vaccine next.


MELBER: We are back with breaking news. It's that kind of Friday night.

The United States Supreme Court has rejected the lawsuit that was filed by Republicans in Texas and joined by other Republican attorneys general. It's what we were discussing just moments ago.

We have been waiting on this, the Supreme Court now rejecting it. They won't even hear arguments. This is as expected. This is as legal experts has said. It's as we have reported. But it's now official.

It's another loss for Trump and his allies in these efforts to overturn 2020.

Having said that, it is what is expected and not something that requires a lot more legal discussion. We just wanted you to know what the Supreme Court is up to on this Friday night.

Now we turn to our what you might call regularly scheduled programming, a very special guest tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, a member of the Trump administration Coronavirus Task Force, joining us amidst breaking news on the vaccine front as well.

Thanks for being here, Doctor.


MELBER: When will this vaccine be green-lit? And how do you know it's safe?

FAUCI: Well, we know it's safe because, if you look at the process that's gone through for the determination of whether it's safe, as well as if it's efficacious, was a clinical trial involving 44,000 people.

The determination of the safety and the efficacy was made by an independent board, which is referred to as the Data and Safety Monitoring Board. They looked at the data. They found it to be safe and highly efficacious, about 95 percent, and even more efficacious against serious disease.

The data was then given to the company. The company examines it carefully and prepares it in a package which is submitted to the FDA. The FDA career scientists scrutinize the data very carefully and then, together, with their own advisory committee, an independent advisory committee called the Vaccine and Related Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC -- and that's the group that yesterday looked at the data and said, this is safe and this is effective.

So, now the FDA will, I'm sure soon, make a determination and essentially grant what's called an emergency use authorization to allow the actual distribution of the vaccines to people, so that it actually goes into someone's arm.

So, the thing we need to make sure the American public appreciates is that these determinations about safety and efficacy were done independently and transparently, so that we see the data, we know about it. There's nothing secret about it.

MELBER: When you look at what we're hearing from people around the country, there is skepticism. And we see it also breaking along certain demographic groups.

So, for example, about 60 percent of white Americans intend to get it. The numbers are lower for black Americans. And the myths that are out there, while we don't want to reinforce them, I wanted to give you a chance, Dr. Fauci, to address this.

You have folks concerned -- quote -- "that this was rushed, that it could give you Bell's palsy, or that taking the COVID vaccine would give you COVID."

How do you address these? And while they're all false -- I want to be clear about that -- the idea that this was rushed does relate to how prioritized it's been.

FAUCI: Sure.

MELBER: What do you say to folks who are concerned about this?

FAUCI: Right.

Well, first of all, let's take the rushed issue first.

Indeed, this is the fastest that has ever been done from the time that you have recognized a new pathogen, in this case, the coronavirus, from the time that a vaccine was ready to go into people. It's been less than a year.

That a decade ago would have been unheard of. However, the speed of it was due to the extraordinary advances in the scientific advances of vaccine platform technology. So, it was the technological advances that allowed us to go quickly. It didn't compromise safety, and it didn't compromise the scientific integrity.

In addition, an enormous amount of money, to the tune of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars was put up front to produce the vaccine even before we knew it was safe and effective. If it turns out to be safe and effective, you have saved months. If it turns out not, which wasn't the case, because it did turn out to be safe and effective, we would have lost a lot of money.


FAUCI: But the decision was made that the risk to the money was worth the time saved. So, take cares of the speed of it.

MELBER: So, this, Doctor, this is -- well, this is really important, because it's such a public health priority.

What you are educating us on is, a lot of people hear super fast, and they think corners cut or sloppy. And you're saying, in this instance, the evidence shows super fast means extra resources and advancement, no corners cut.

FAUCI: Absolutely, 100 percent. That's exactly what it means.

And then the other thing you mentioned is also important, the rumor or concern that the vaccine can cause COVID-19. That is absolutely impossible to happen, because what the vaccine is, is essentially presenting to the body a protein that's part of the virus that isn't the whole virus itself. It can't replicate. It can't infect you. It can't infect anyone else.

It's inducing the body to make a response against a very specific part of the virus. It's referred to as the spike protein. So you stick the vaccine in. The gene starts coding for the protein. The protein is expressed. The body sees it, thinks it's the virus, but it isn't the virus, and starts making a response against it.

So, that answers that question.

MELBER: When will you get the vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, I will get the vaccine as soon as it is available to me. I have mentioned that I have looked at the process. I have looked at the data. I'm convinced that this is safe and effective, and I will get the vaccine as soon as it is made available to me.

And I very likely -- I'm sure it will happen this way -- that I will do it publicly to let the rest of the country know that I am confident about its safety and about its efficacy.

MELBER: When should President Trump and president-elect Biden get the vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, I don't want to be telling them when they should get the vaccine, but I think it would be a good idea to get the vaccine publicly, so that the rest of the country, who is wedded one way or the other to a particular person, will feel, if that person gets the vaccine, then I will get it, too.

So, I'm not going to give them a date, but I'm sure that they're considering getting it publicly.

MELBER: Well, there's, as you say, two components. There's the public health messaging and then there's also protecting our nation's leaders, just like the way the president got such great health coverage, which Americans generally think is an important priority.

I mean, as president-elect, do you think Vice President Biden should be getting this soon, or not necessarily?

FAUCI: Yes. No, I do.

I mean, I'm going to be -- I have spoken to the -- President Biden-elect -- president-elect Biden's team. And I -- they have discussed that with me, about the idea of when he should get vaccinated. I believe he should get vaccinated.

And I believe, knowing him, which I do know him, that he will very likely want to get it publicly to show the rest of the country that he is in favor of getting vaccinated and encouraging the rest of the country to get vaccinated.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, and that's interesting even to hear that you are already having some of those discussions.

We have talked about the ethics of this and the priorities. You are familiar with some of this reporting, "The Financial Times" noting that Wall Street firms and banks are lobbying that their workers, their bankers and others should get priority access to the vaccine, arguing, among other things, they see themselves as essential.

Is that off-base?

FAUCI: You know, I'm not going to make a determination, but I can tell you that, for the very reason that I believe you are hinting that people want to get into line, that's the reason why the CDC, together with their Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, makes a priority listing.

And it's 1-A. The first ones that are going to get it in December are health care providers and people in nursing homes and extended care facilities. They haven't definitively decided on the next levels, but it very likely will be individuals who are in essential jobs, individuals who are -- have underlying conditions that would make them highly susceptible, teachers and people who are very much involved in the running of society.

Those decisions downstream have not fully been made yet. The only one that's been made is the first level, what we call 1-A.


FAUCI: But I think...

MELBER: Well, respectfully...

FAUCI: ... you will have to use judgment call.

MELBER: Right. I mean, respectfully...

FAUCI: Yes, go ahead, please.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

Respectfully, the concern, as you know, is what you just outlined was a health-based, public health rationale. The concern is that powerful groups may lobby and try to jump in line.

FAUCI: Right.

MELBER: Is that something that should be guarded against?

FAUCI: Well, yes.

I mean, I'm a health official. I'm a physician. I'm a scientist. And I feel very strongly, not only with COVID-19, but with the interventions and countermeasures that you have for any illness, that it needs to be equitably distributed and shared.

And equitably means you do it on the basis of priority, based on a real good reason. And that's the reason why you have the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the CDC almost invariably gives the recommendation according to what they hear from that committee.

It's going to ultimately, Ari, be due to -- not due to, but be decided at the local level by the health authorities at the state and local level. So, I would hope that those individuals are not unduly influenced by inappropriate lobbying.

MELBER: Copy. Read you, a very clear answer, an important one.

Dr. Fauci, we have our shortest break, 30 seconds, and then we will continue with you right after this.


MELBER: Breaking news tonight.

The Supreme Court has just formally rejected this GOP lawsuit that had tried on a longshot bid to argue somehow states should overturn other states' results that resulted in, of course, Joe Biden being president-elect.

The court states that they dismissed this for lack of standing, noting that Texas, where Republicans had filed this, haven't even demonstrated a -- quote -- "judicially cognizable interest for which another state conducts its elections," that they could override another state.

It's dismissed as moot.

This is what it looks like. It's very short, one page.

When you file a frivolous lawsuit, as we have reported, the Supreme Court can dispatch it pretty quickly.

Big breaking news on a busy Friday night, along with the vaccine news that we have been tracking.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is back with us.

I wanted to broaden out a little bit. You have given us great context to why you see this as such good news, safe vaccine on the way, government on track to finally OK it as early as tonight.

There's also been the wider impact of something that I know you care a lot about, which is the other ancillary effects, mental health, other stress, other strain.

What advice and thoughts do you have for the nation here, as we are, of course, marking the end of this year, a little hope on the way, but some of the worst vac -- excuse me -- worst COVID case surges we have seen, about what people need to do to continue to try to take care of themself, and particularly people that may not have great health coverage for professional help?

FAUCI: Well, one thing is for sure, Ari, that there is a syndrome called COVID-19 fatigue.

We have been going through an experience that really is unprecedented in public health history, except dating back over 100 years to the 1918 iconic Spanish flu that devastated the planet.

So, we need to be very empathetic to the feelings of people who are really very stressed. To the extent that services are available to people, the mental health strain is not something to be underestimated. It's real. The economic depression that has occurred as a result of the -- having to shut down parts of the economy is real.

We will recover from that.

I think the message that we can get to people is to try as best as possible to hang in there, because the end is in sight. If we implement the vaccine, and we get good uptake over the coming months into January, February, March, and by the time we get to April, likely, it will be what I call open season, vaccine available to anyone who wants it, if we get the citizens and the people who live in this country to get vaccinated, I am certain that, if we get a good percentage, 75 percent or plus more percentage of people vaccinated, that, by the time we get into the third quarter of this year, namely, we get into the beginning of the fall, the end of the summer, we could approach some degree of normality.

The children will be safe in school. People will be able to get back to work.

So, although we're still suffering, and it's a long, cold winter ahead, because, as you mentioned correctly, Ari, the vaccine, as promising as it is, it's not going to have a broad going to have a broad public health effect until several months down the line -- it will save lives in December and January and February. But to have a broad public health impact will be many months.

So, until that time, we still need to hunker down, do the simple things that we talk about all the time, uniform wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoid crowds and congregate settings, particularly indoors, wash your hands as often as you can.

Given the enormity of the problem, this seems like really simple stuff. But we should do it...


FAUCI: ... because it does have an effect and it does have an impact.

MELBER: Well, and, Doctor, your answer there goes to something.

We solicited questions from our viewers. And one of the most common ones from BEAT viewers was, when will this really end?

And so it seems like you just spoke to part of that. Can you ballpark for us, if everyone follows these rules, what's the earliest it could end, combined with the vaccine? And if people really don't -- you mentioned fatigue or outright defiance -- how long could this go?

FAUCI: Well, the last thing that you said, Ari, is the thing that is troubling to me, is that we have in our power and in our capabilities to do what it takes to end it, from a public health standpoint, until we get the vaccines in full effect.

Or we can go the other direction. We can say, you know, we're tired of this. We don't want anymore to do with it. And it's going to get worse and worse. And we can say, I'm not particularly interested in getting vaccinated.

So, you could have the most efficacious vaccine in the world -- and we're pretty close to that -- 95 percent is pretty good.


FAUCI: That's almost as good as the gold standard, which is measles, which is 98 percent.

If we have a very efficacious vaccine, but only a relatively small proportion of the population gets vaccinated, this pandemic could go on well into next year, 2022, if we don't do that.

MELBER: Twenty-two.

Well, Doctor, it's...

FAUCI: So, when we...

MELBER: Doctor, it's like they say. Seat belts don't work as well if you don't put them on.

FAUCI: Well, that's exactly right.

And what I'm saying, we could put an end to this in 2021 if we do the things that are right in front of us, comply with the vaccine, and do public health measures. We could end it within the coming calendar year of 2021.


But you -- I know you're careful about your headlines, because you have been doing this a long time. But one of the headlines I'm hearing from you tonight is, there's a right way to do this, and if we do it the wrong way, we could significantly lengthen the very thing that so many people don't like, to say nothing of how horrific all the deaths are.

You just told us this could go to '22 if we don't do it right.

FAUCI: Well...

MELBER: Before I lose -- go ahead, sir.


I mean, no, I would just say, this will probably turn into a sound bite, unfortunately, which I don't want it to be.

I don't want to scare people.

MELBER: We would never. Doctor...

FAUCI: I just want to tell them....



MELBER: Doctor, we would never take just one piece of you warning '22. We would never do that.


FAUCI: No, I know you wouldn't. I know, Ari, you wouldn't, but others would.

I'm saying that we will prolong this if we don't do it correctly. We will truncate it if we do it correctly. That's the message.

MELBER: Understood, and very clear and very important.

Before I lose you, I did want -- we put together a little -- a little trip down memory lane for you, end of a long year. Take a look.


FAUCI: I'm working directly on AIDS, both clinically and from a basic science standpoint.

We're talking about this severe acute respiratory syndrome, which is a brand-new disease.

Right now -- and we all admit that -- right now, if we had an explosion of an H5N1, we would not be prepared for that.


MELBER: Which crisis or experience has applied most to how you have approached COVID?

FAUCI: Well, the other transforming outbreak which has gripped the world, and that has dominated much of my professional life, has been the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

It wasn't as explosive and isn't as explosive. It is insidious. It occurred under the radar screen for a while. But when you look at the burden of disease and deaths, we have had over 75 million cases and 38 million deaths from HIV/AIDS. It's been drawn out over 39 years.

But I have lived through every one of those 39 years, because I got involved in HIV/AIDS literally from the first few months when the first cases were reported from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in the summer of 1981. So, I have been doing HIV/AIDS for 39-plus years.

Right now, what we're dealing with is much different. It's totally explosive, and it's gripped the entire world in literally a matter of months, as opposed to a matter of decades. That's the reason why it's so dramatic.

MELBER: Yes, that's fascinating. And, as you say, the numbers, it's such a reminder.

Finally, we always like to end on a high note, ending on this week.

I don't know that you would have ever expected at this stage in your career to become, Doctor, a bit of a pop cultural sensation in the nation. And this has been a grim time, and yet we all know how to take a step back and laugh.

So let's take a look at the Fauci sensation this year.



FAUCI: Hey, Steph.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: Wear the damn mask. Wear the damn mask, right?

FAUCI: Right.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: Good evening. I'm Dr. Anthony Fauci.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": There is now a petition with over 15,000 signatures to make Dr. Fauci "People" magazine's sexiest man alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): He makes McDreamy look sleazy. Dr. House, he can't keep up. He has the hottest body of work. What's your name, man? Dr. Anthony Fauci.


MELBER: How's it feel?


FAUCI: You can't make that stuff up, can you?


FAUCI: Well, it's interesting to see. It's kind of nice and amusing.

But I can't let that distract me, Ari, from the really serious situation that I have to deal with as a physician, a scientist, and a public health -- so, although it's kind of nice to see that, the one thing I don't allow myself to do is to make that distract me from the really serious things that all of us as a nation are facing.

MELBER: Appreciate that.

I think that could be inspiring for all of us in our own ways, to not be distracted away. And yet it's also, I think, a positive, particularly for young people, to see the facts, the science, the medicine be something cool. So, we do tip our hat to that.

Dr. Fauci, thanks for making time tonight, sir.

FAUCI: Thank you very much, Ari. I appreciate you having me on your program.

MELBER: We were thrilled.

Dr. Fauci from Washington tonight.

We turn now back to the breaking news in the past few moments. You're looking at the scene there, where the Supreme Court just put another nail in the coffin, rejecting the GOP-Trump lawsuit for no standing, just kicked it out completely.

This is the very legal outcome that we had reported was supremely likely from the Supreme Court because of precedent and how frivolous that case was.

I'm joined by Daniel Alonso, who has experience both as a federal prosecutor, as well as a DA, as mentioned earlier in the program. He returns.

Your reaction to this complete rejection of that frivolous Republican suit?

ALONSO: You said it yourself, Ari. It's completely frivolous and totally expected. I'm not surprised they did it. I'm not surprised the they did it this quickly.

And I think it should shut down, hopefully will shut down this nonsense once and for all.

MELBER: Yes, you call it nonsense, which is a very clear reference to what the court said.

And I just want to remind everyone, it could be a long shot where they still say, we need to hear some more evidence. Or it could be a situation where they're skeptical, but they say, well, someone has a reason to come into court, right? They have injury, as lawyers say, and they get to come in and plead their case.

This is a very short rejection, which is bad news for Trump and the Republicans. It just says no standing, that there's no way into court, which means they can't come back either, correct/

ALONSO: Yes. Texas can't come back because Texas doesn't have standing for a supposed violation of the legislatures' will in those four states. Texas wasn't hurt.

Could another state come in? No. Could some person file a lawsuit? Perhaps, but not in the Supreme Court. The only reason this was directly in the Supreme Court, in its so-called original jurisdiction, is because it was one state against other states.

So, no, they can come back to the Supreme Court with this.

MELBER: And the other line in here -- again, it's just a couple sentences -- but the court also really rejects the entire legal theory.

And I have mentioned in our reporting attorneys general knew it would be rejected. They say, Texas has no legal claim to tell another state how to run its elections.

You get our final 20 seconds tonight.

ALONSO: Well we hear federalism arguments all the time from folks that lean a little bit more conservative.

So, this is kind of the ultimate in recognizing the federalist system and the sovereignty of particular states. I mean, these states have a right to run their elections however they want. And it's not in Texas' business, any more than it's Pennsylvania's business how Texas runs its elections.

MELBER: All very clear.

Daniel Alonso, on more than one big news item tonight, thank you for joining us on that breaking legal news, the Supreme Court rejecting that Republican lawsuit.

That does it for us here on THE BEAT. I will be back Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.



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