ANNOUNCER: “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR (voice-over): New year, old challenges.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We’re seeing a wave, a tsunami, as it were, of cases in this country that will continue to go up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Omicron surge shatters daily case totals, a record number of children now hospitalized, as America struggles with COVID fatigue.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Omicron is a source of concern, but it should not be a source of panic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the new year bring new hope at beating the virus? Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us live this morning.
ERIC ADAMS (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I promise you one thing, New York. I will make our city better every day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Eric Adams sworn in just after midnight in Times Square. What’s his mission for America’s largest city and his message to Democrats? He joins us live in a “This Week” exclusive.
Democracy under fire.
RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence!
STEPHANOPOULOS: On the anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, lawmakers prepare for public hearings, the Justice Department pursues new prosecutions, as the Supreme Court is set to rule on Trump’s White House records.
This morning, our brand-new ABC poll on the threat to our democracy. Committee leaders Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney and our powerhouse roundtable looks ahead to 2022.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.”
Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Happy new year, and welcome to “This Week.”
Like all of you, I was hoping the beginning of 2022 would mean the end of COVID, but we start this third year of the pandemic with record numbers of new cases, rising hospitalizations, a cascade of flight cancellations, and strains on essential services.
One bright spot, the evidence is mounting that almost all vaccinated Americans, even if they test positive for the Omicron variant, will not become seriously ill. But millions of us are now heading back to work and school after the holiday break with new questions about what’s to come.
So, we welcome back the president’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Happy new year, Dr. Fauci. Thank you for joining us again.
FAUCI: Thank you. Thanks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Help us make sense of all this new information coming in on Omicron.
What’s your key message on where things stand right now?
FAUCI: Well, we are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases.
If you look at the uptick, it is actually almost a vertical increase. We’re now at an average of about 400,000 cases per day. Hospitalizations are up.
One of the things that we hope for, George, is that this thing will peak after a period of a few weeks and turn around. We have seen that happen in South Africa, where they had a major surge, but, as quickly as the surge went up, it turned around.
We can help that a lot by the things we talk about all along, vaccinations, if you’re vaccinated, get boosted, careful and prudent, wearing masks in indoor settings. Those are the kinds of things that do help to blunt even a surge as pronounced as the Omicron surge.
But there’s no doubt about it, the acceleration of cases that we have seen is really unprecedented, gone well beyond anything we have seen before.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s gone beyond anything we have seen before. That’s the transmissibility problem.
But what about the evidence that Omicron leads to less serious infection, less serious illness?
FAUCI: Well, there’s accumulating evidence, George, that that is the case.
We first got inkling of that in South Africa. When one looked at the relationship and the ratio between hospitalizations and cases, it was lower, the duration of hospital stay was lower, the requirements for oxygen was lower.
We’re seeing a bit of that, not as pronounced, in the U.K., but certainly that trend. And if you look here at the United States, we don’t want to get complacent at all, and you don’t want to jump to a positive conclusion, because it’s still early.
But given the large number of cases, we have not seen a concomitant increase in the relative percentage of hospitalizations. But, again, hospitalizations are often late, lagging indicators.
But I still believe that there’s indication, even in some animal studies that have been done, George, where they did particular animal models that might reflect what’s going on. And the virus does seem to have a lower intrinsic pathogenicity to it. We’re hoping that’s the case.
But, having said that, George, I want to say one thing. We have got to be careful about that, because, even if you have a less of a percentage of severity, when you have multi-multi-multi-fold more people getting infected, the net amount is you’re still going to get a lot of people that are going to be needing hospitalization. And that’s the reason why we’re concerned about stressing and straining the hospital system.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the huge concern right now, but are we heading to the point where we should be focusing less on the daily case load?
FAUCI: You know, particularly — the answer is overall, yes, George, and this is particularly relevant if you’re having an infection that is much, much more asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic, particularly in people who are vaccinated and boosted. The real bottom line that you want to be concerned about is, are we getting protected by the vaccines from severe disease leading to hospitalization?
I’m still very concerned about the tens of millions of people who are not vaccinated at all because even though many of them are going to get asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic, a fair number of them are going to get severe disease. But in direct answer to your question, as you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Most schools are set to open tomorrow after the holiday break. Are you confident that’s the right call?
FAUCI: I believe it is, George. You know, and we’ve done the balance so many times over the last year about the deleterious effects of keeping children out of — in physical presence in the school, and it’s very clear there are really serious effects about that.
If you look at the safety of children with regard to infection, we have most of the teachers, overwhelming majority of them are vaccinated. We now can vaccinate children from 5 years of age and older. I plead with parents to please seriously consider vaccinating your children, wearing masks in the school setting, doing tests to stay. Approaches when children get infected. I think all those things put together, it’s safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There was a pretty big backlash this week to the CDC cutting quarantine for those who’ve tested positive without symptoms to five days. First of all, are you surprised by that, and what was the — why not have a negative test? Why not require a negative test for that extra layer of protection?
FAUCI: Well, let’s talk about the first principle, George. The idea of if a person is without symptoms and infected, that they need to be isolated for five days. Normally that would be 10 days. The CDC decided that they would cut that down to five days if the person remains asymptomatic so long as when they do go out in the second five days of that 10-day period, back to work or back into society that they diligently wear a mask.
You’re right there has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration. The CDC is very well aware that there has been some pushback about that. Looking at it again, there may be an option in that, that testing could be a part of that, and I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, what’s the best piece of advice (ph) you can give us to start 2022?
FAUCI: Well, the best piece of news, George, is that if we continue, and I hope that people who are now seeing the devastating effects that this virus has done on us, with an Omicron surge that we get more people vaccinated to the point that when Omicron comes down to a low level, we keep it down at a low level enough that it doesn’t disrupt our society, our economy, our way of life. That’s what I’m hoping for.
I hope that as we get into February and March and such that we will be at that level of control. That’s not a prediction, George, because it’s dangerous to predict. I’m just telling what I hope we can do because I believe we can do it if we do all the things available for us. Again, get vaccinated if you are not vaccinated, and get boosted if you are vaccinated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Fauci, thanks as always for your time and your information.
FAUCI: Thank you, George. Thank you for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The epicenter of the epidemic once again, New York City, and the new mayor Eric Adams was sworn in from Times Square at the first moments of New Year’s. He gave his inaugural address at noon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR, (D): I chose Times Square as the site of my swearing in because I take this important office as a time of great challenges for our city. Despite COVID-19 and its persistence, New York is not closed. It is still open and alive because New York is a more resilient than the pandemic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mayor Adams joins understand.
Mayor, thank you for joining us this morning.
ADAMS: Good — George, good to see you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you were planning on riding a city bike in. Is that how you got here?
ADAMS: Yeah, I did. I enjoyed the ride.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m glad you did.
Let’s talk about your — the challenges ahead for you right now. I know you said you wanted New York to be the center of the universe, not the center of the epidemic right now.
Are you confident you can follow through on your pledge to keep the city up and running, despite this surge in cases?
ADAMS: Well, COVID is a formidable opponent, and it continues to evolve. We must pivot and evolve with it.
But you can’t do it viewing yourself from in the crisis. We have to see ourselves past the crises. If we close down our city, it is as dangerous as COVID. That’s what our focus must be. So, the proper balance of safety, keeping our economy operating is going to allow us to get through this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No — nobody wants to close down, but right now, the city has operating pretty much at half speed, according to “The New York Times”. Subway lines are closed. We have staffing shortage of fire and police, testing centers are short on staff as well.
How do we get back to normal? Can we get — can we get back to normal with all these shortages?
ADAMS: Well, you said something very interesting. Subway lines are closed. Not the subway system. I took the train in on Saturday.
So we are pivoting based on where the urgency is located. This is smart, the way we’re doing it. We’re not taking it one-size-fits-all. We’re thinking about it and making the right moves and decisions.
I was with my police commissioner. We have a 20 percent — about a 20 percent sick rate. But now, we have officers coming back after the five days.
So, we’re doing an amazing job of shifting the way the virus is causing us to do so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: New York is the epicenter right now. How close are we to the peak?
ADAMS: I don’t know that. If I knew that, I’d be a billionaire, you know? I’m unclear.
But we can’t live through variants. We spent $11 trillion on COVID and we don’t have another $11 trillion. So our lives can’t be based on what’s the new variant. No. We have to figure out, how do we adjust?
And I say to those who are not vaccinated: stop it. It’s time to get vaccinated. It’s time to have the booster shots. You’re endangering yourself and you’re endangering the public and your family as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: New York City schools are going to open this week. Talk to parents about what they can expect. What do you say to those parents who fear sending their children back?
ADAMS: I say to them, fear not sending them back. The stats are clear. The safest place for children is inside a school.
The numbers of transmissions are low, your children is in a safe space to learn and continue to thrive. We’ve lost almost two years of education. George, we can’t do it again.
And so, I say to them: we want to create a safe environment with testing. We’re going to identify the children that are exposed. We’re going to remove them from that environment, and the numbers show the mere fact that a child is exposed in a classroom does not mean that entire classroom is exposed.
We just have to be smarter and thoughtful to keep our cities safe and operating.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some cities like Boston are requiring tests before the students go back. Why not do that?
ADAMS: It’s a good idea, and I believe the governor has the power to do mandatory testing and I’m going to operate within the tools that I have available to me, and I think that would be a great idea. But unfortunately, the governor made the decision, and I’m going to follow the governor. We’re going to be partners on this to make sure we make our school system safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re keeping Mayor de Blasio’s mandate — vaccine mandate in place for private employers. Will you require teachers, police officers, other city workers to get a booster shot?
ADAMS: It’s our next move and decision. We’re going to examine the numbers. If we feel we have to get to the place of making that mandatory, we’re willing to do that, but we’re encouraging them to do that now.
I took my booster shots and every time I look at the numbers, I’m happy.
You know what the message is also, George? It’s not only about, is it going to prevent you from getting COVID? Because that’s what people are saying, I got it and I had my booster shot.
No, it’s going to prevent you from dying. It’s going to alleviate the possibility of you being hospitalized and going on a ventilator. The goal is to build up your immune system, and the booster shot is going to do that.
The numbers are clear. Look at those who are not vaccinated. They are sky high. Numbers who are, they are at a moderate level. That’s what we must focus on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your number one challenge during the campaign, your number one message during the campaign was to get crime under control. That was your number one promise — 500 murders in New York City in the last year.
And the challenge you face was pretty apparent on your first day. You had to make a 911 call from the subway over a fight. You had to pay a visit to a police officer who was shot.
That’s the personal touch, but what’s the plan?
ADAMS: Well, we have a good plan. We have a good police commissioner. She’s in now doing the real analysis, to have the right balance, because the balance is not just heavy-handed policing. It’s public safety and justice. What we do long-term and what we do right now, we’re going to go after gangs, we’re going to take down some of the large gangs in our city. Whenever you see a shooting takes place — take place, look at the next line, gang-related. We’re going to zero in on gangs. We’re going to reinstitute a plainclothes anti-gun unit and zero in on those guns.
The other — two days ago, we took seven guns off the street in the Bronx with an amazing team of officer there. And so we’re going to refocus on those who are carrying guns and violent crimes in our city and turn around this city. It’s going to be a safe place. I say it all the time, the prerequisite to prosperity is public safety and justice. My city is going to be safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about prosperity. The economy is a challenge as well, 9.4 percent unemployment. That is double the national average.
ADAMS: Yes. Yes. And we have to get New Yorkers working again. How do we do that? By stop having an antagonistic relationship with our business community. I have been meeting with top business leaders in making our city attractive to do business in. This is a difficult city to do business.
Then we’re going to create a centralized database of job applications. All those who are looking for a job, they’re going to know where to go to fill out the standard application, partner with our businesses and they are going to list all the jobs they have available. We could identify the training that’s needed. How do we move people into middle class jobs and then become a good place to become the center of life sciences, technology, self-driving cars, drone development, and, yes, even Bitcoin and Blockchain.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve been on the job not quite 36 hours. Learn anything new yet?
ADAMS: Yes, that this is an amazing city. You know, riding a city bike in, taking the train in, interacting with New Yorkers. Generals don’t lead their troops from the back. They lead their troops from the front. I’m going to lead my city into this victory from the front. And people tell me, this is a difficult job. Darn it, I want it to be a difficult job. You know, it’s a difficult job being a cop, riding the subway trains in the ’80s. It’s going to be difficult now.
But we are resilient. We’re going to get through this. And we’re going to look back on this and see why we are Americans in the first place, because we’re a great country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s quite a bike riding outfit.
Thanks for coming in.
ADAMS: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, the anniversary of the assault on the Capitol is this week. We’ll hear from the leaders of the committee investigating the insurrection right after this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is not Ukraine; that is not Belarus. That is the United States Capitol right there, just moments ago, protesters incited by President Trump trying to break down the doors.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & ABC “THIS WEEK” Co-ANCHOR: The president, although he has tweeted a call for being peaceful, he has not asked these people to evacuate the Capitol.
(UNKNOWN): I’m worried about that building and American democracy, and what this all says about that today, and how out of control this is, and how we were not ready for this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was the surreal scene at the Capitol one year ago this week. And as we approach the anniversary of the insurrection, our brand-new poll with Ipsos shows that more than 70 percent of Americans believe that riot was a threat to our democracy. Most believe that Donald Trump bears a share of the blame.
We’ll hear from the two leaders of the committee investigating the attack after this report from chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl.
KARL: The more we have learned about January 6th, the more horrifying it has become. From the attacks on the police officers who tried to hold the mob back…
MICHAEL FANONE, FMR. DC POLICE OFFICER: They tortured me. They beat me.
SERGEANT AQUILINO GONELL: This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance.
KARL: … to just how close the rioters came to members of Congress as they fled.
Vice President Pence, we have learned, was rushed to an underground parking garage just as a group of rioters came looking for him, calling for his execution.
(UNKNOWN): Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
We knew that then-president Donald Trump never called to check in on his vice president during the siege. But when I interviewed Trump nearly two months later for my book “Betrayal,” he was not only unconcerned but actually defended those chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
KARL: Were you worried about him during that — that siege? Were you worried about his safety?
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: No, I thought he was well-protected. And I — I had heard that he was in good shape. No…
KARL: Because you heard those chants. That was terrible. I mean, it was, you know, the…
TRUMP: He could have — well, the people were very angry.
KARL: They were saying “Hang Mike Pence.”
TRUMP: Because it’s — it’s common sense, Jon. It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect — how can you — if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to congress?
KARL: And we’ve learned about the incredible lengths that Trump and his allies went to pressure Pence before the riot, trying to get him to block Biden’s election victory.
In the year since, some Republicans have condemned Trump’s actions, but many more have tried to stay in his favor, blocking the creation of an independent commission to investigate the riot and even echoing his lies about the election.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney is one of the few Republicans to call for a thorough investigation, and she was punished by fellow House Republicans and stripped of her leadership position. But with Cheney and Adam Kinzinger as the sole Republicans on the January 6th Committee, we are learning more about what was happening inside the White House as Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, including the frantic text messages sent to then chief of staff Mark Meadows from people close to Trump, even his eldest son.
REP. LIZ CHENEY, VICE CHAIR, JAN. 6 COMMITTEE & (R) WYOMING: Donald Trump, Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the president. Quote, “We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far, and gotten out of hand.”
KARL: Hanging over the investigation is the question of accountability. While more than 700 people have been charged for taking part in the riot itself, none of the political figures behind the effort to overturn the election have faced any consequences.
Will any of them, even Trump himself, be held accountable?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Jon Karl for that. We’re joined now by the chair of the January 6 Committee, Bennie Thompson, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney.
Chairman Thompson, let me begin with you. You’ve been going at this for the better part of a year. What are your most consequential findings so far?
THOMPSON: Well, I think, obviously, what occurred on January 6 was definitely a dark day for our country. Our challenge is to get to the facts and circumstances that created it.
We’re in the process of interviewing witnesses, taking depositions. And clearly, we have uncovered some things that cause us real concern, things like people trying to — the will of the people, to make sure that government by the people would not be served, and, basically, for the most part, undermine the integrity of our democracy.
So, we found some of those things. We’re in the process of documenting it. We’re getting volumes of material. We’re talking to witnesses. But I can assure you, what we have seen causes us real harm.
I can’t say a lot about it right now, but, clearly…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what can what can you say about — what kind of specifics — what kind of specifics can you give us about what you found? What concerns you most?
THOMPSON: Well — well, that it appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election of November, last November.
The reason I say that is, it could be people in the executive branch. It could be people in the Department of Defense, some state characters, some nonprofits, and some very wealthy individuals who wanted to try to finance this undermining of our democracy.
And what people saw on January 6 with their own eyes was not just something created at one moment. It was clearly, what we believe, based on the information we have been able to gather, a coordinated activity on the part of a lot of people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Any evidence that you have come across that some of your fellow members of Congress may be culpable?
THOMPSON: Well, we’re in the process of getting to that.
As you know, we have asked two members of Congress to voluntarily come before our committee. We will probably be asking some more to come. Former member and chief of staff of former President Donald Trump gave us over 9,000 pages of documents we have been going through .We’re looking at what occurred on January 6.
More specifically, in those documents, there’s communication between some of those members and the White House, especially asking them to — asking Chief of Staff Meadows to get the president to call off this riot or insurrection.
So, there’s some involvement. We just want to make sure we get to the bottom of it, and we produce a report that can be viewed with integrity and accuracy by the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What more can you do besides issue a report?
How do you hold those responsible accountable?
THOMPSON: Well, that’s really up to the Department of Justice.
Our charge is to get to the facts and circumstances of what occurred on January 6. We will do that. In addition to that, we will make some recommendations in terms of legislation to hopefully, if adopted, this will never, ever happen again.
I have been a member of Congress for quite a while.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What kind of legislation could prevent that?
THOMPSON: Well, the first legislation would be the coordination of resources to protect the Capitol.
There were significant inconsistencies in coordination, that the National Guard from the District of Columbia was slow to respond, not on its own, but it had to go to the Department of Defense. We have actually fixed that right now, where the mayor of the District of Columbia can access the Guard right now.
In addition to that, our intelligence-gathering components. As you know, it was clear that we were not apprised that something would happen. But, for the most part, it was the worst kept secret in America that people were coming to Washington, and the potential for coordination and what we saw was there.
So, we want to make sure that never happens again. In addition to that, we want to make sure that the line of communication between the Capitol Police and the structure of how we make decisions is clear. Right now, it’s kind of a hybrid authority.
And that authority clearly broke down, the training components for our Capitol Police, a lot of things that we don’t have right now. But our work product will recommend some of those things, based on our investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, several legal experts have suggested it would be counterproductive for your committee to make criminal referrals.
Is that still on the table?
THOMPSON: Well, to be honest with you, as a member of coming, we all take an oath of office, and part of that is in the pursuit of doing our day-to-day activities. If we find something that is irregular or illegal, we’re obligated to report it.
So I would say for the sake of our committee, if in the course of our review we find something that we warrant — we think warrant review or recommendation to the Department of Defense — Department of Judiciary — Justice, to be honest with you, we’ll do it.
We’re not looking for it, but if we find it, we’ll absolutely make the referral.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time this morning.
And we’re joined now by the vice chair of the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Congresswoman Cheney, thank you for joining us again. Happy New Year to you.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): You, too, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you were alarmed by this from the very start, from the moments — from the first moments on January 6th when this started to unfold. You’ve got a lonely path in your party.
Have you been surprised by anything you’ve found over the last year?
CHENEY: Well, I’ve certainly been surprised by many things. I think that in the piece you played by Jon Karl just a few moments ago, he touched on the fact that we know now — we are learning much more about what former President Trump was doing while the violent assault was under way. The committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred.
We know, as you know well, that the briefing room at the White House is just a mere few steps from the Oval Office. The president could have at any moment, walked those very few steps into the briefing room, gone on live television, and told his supporters who were assaulting the Capitol to stop.
He could have told them to stand down. He could have told them to go home — and he failed to do so. It’s hard to imagine a more significant and more serious dereliction of duty than that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is his failure to make that statement criminal negligence?
CHENEY: You know, I think that there are a number of — as the chairman said, potential criminal statutes at issue here, but I think that there’s absolutely no question that it was a dereliction of duty. And I think one of the things the committee needs to look at is we’re looking at a legislative purpose is whether we need enhanced penalties for that kind of dereliction of duty.
But I think it’s also important for the American people to understand how dangerous Donald Trump was. We know as he was sitting there in the dining room next to the Oval Office, members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television, to tell people to stop. We know Leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that.
We know members of his family, we know his daughter. We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.
Any man who would not do so, any man who would provoke a violent assault on the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States, is clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hillary Clinton said a couple of weeks ago that if he runs and wins, that could be the end of our democracy. Do you share that fear?
CHENEY: I do. I think it is critically important, given everything we know about the lines that he was willing to cross — he crossed lines no American president has ever crossed before. You know, we entrust the survival of our republic into the hands of the chief executive, and when a president refuses to tell the mob to stop, when he refuses to defend any of the coordinate branches of government, he cannot be trusted.
And we watched what this president did from — throughout the election, the lies that he told, the extent to which he went to war with the rule of law. He completely ignored the rulings of over 60 courts, including judges he had appointed and refused to send help, refused to tell people to stand down for multiple hours while that attack was under way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re about as stalwart Republican as I’ve ever met. You come from a long line of Republicans a well. Of course, your father served in the White House. Your mother served in administrations as well.
How do you explain given your belief, your views and your background, why a majority of Republicans today would re-elect Donald Trump?
CHENEY: Look. I think that we’re in a situation as a nation where I certainly have very strong disagreements with policies of the Biden administration. I think that the policies that vice president — President Biden has adopted are the wrong ones for this country. I think we need conservative, principled leadership.
But the Republican Party has to make a choice. We can either be loyal to our Constitution or loyal to Donald Trump, but we cannot be both. And the nation needs a Republican Party that is based on substance and values and principles, and — and we’ve got to get back to that if we want to get this nation back on track. But, fundamentally, at the end of the day, we can’t be a party that’s based on lies. We’ve got to be based on a foundation of truth and fidelity to the rule of law. And, in my view, the most conservative of conservative principles is fidelity to the Constitution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As we approach this anniversary, partisan views seem to be hardening. Do you have any evidence — do you have hope that your report can actually change some minds?
CHENEY: You know, this committee gives me hope, George. I think that the way that the select committee is working is non-partisan. It is very much one that brings together a group of us who have very different policy views, but who come together when the issues have to do with the defense of the Constitution. And — so that does give me hope.
And I also think the American people are looking for serious leadership. They’re looking for people certainly on both sides of the aisle who are going to dedicate themselves to policy and substance and engage in the debates that we need for the health of the nation and get away from the kind of vitriol that we are seeing too frequently, too often, frankly on both sides, but as Republicans we have a particular duty to reject insurrection, to reject what happened on January 6th, and to make sure that Donald Trump is not our nominee and that he’s never anywhere close to the reins of power ever again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congresswoman, Cheney, thanks for your time this morning.
CHENEY: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable’s next.
We’ll be right back.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: The violence today was wrong and un-American.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Trump and I, we’ve had a hell of a journey. But today, first thing you’ll see, all I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was nearly one year ago, not exactly the message we’re hearing from most Republicans today.
Let’s talk about this on our roundtable, joined by Chris Christie; Donna Brazile; Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy For America; and Sarah Isgur, veteran of the Trump Justice Department, now an ABC News analyst.
And, Chris, let me begin with you. I was struck by a finding in a Washington Post poll this morning showing that a third of Americans now believe that violence against the government is justified, 40 percent of Republicans.
What does that tell you about where we are as we head into this new year?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it just — it further amplifies the division that we have in the country. And I think people just keep their jerseys on all the time, George. They’re a certain sector of our — of our society that just keeps their jerseys on, no matter what the issue is.
Now, to me, it’s not justifiable in any way to be committing violence against — against the government. But you are going to have a sector of both parties who are going to keep their jerseys on at all times, and it manifests itself in different ways. That result manifests, I think, that action.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: But, you know, I was watching football last night, surprise, surprise, surprise, and at the end of the game — and, of course, I was watching OhioState versus Utah. I rooted for Ohio State.
But after the game, after this intense game — it was tied going into the fourth quarter — those players rushed to the center and they all shook hands, gave each other a high five.
We don’t do that anymore in American politics. When you lose, you call up the other side, or if you win, and you communicate.
I mean, January 6 was clearly a sad day in America. And that cloud is still over us. And I would hope, George, after reading not just the poll, but being a D.C. resident, I would hope that we would learn the lessons, get to the bottom of it. Because it is sad that there are men and women today who work at the Capitol, and some for decades, are now retiring because they no longer have faith in their institution’s security.
This — this was a sad day, Chris, and our country deserves better. And I hope that Liz and Bennie can pull it together so that we know what happens and we protect our democracy in the future.
CHRISTIE: Well, I don’t disagree that it was a sad day. George asked me to explain why I think those numbers are where they are. I think that’s why it is. But those are two separate issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What — what, if anything, though, can this committee come up with that would change these minds we’re seeing right now?
SARAH ISGUR, DISPATCH STAFF WRITER AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And that’s the problem. We’re very focused on January 6. Again, I am all for every prosecution that’s going on. There are 700 indictments out there. That is good. But when I look forward to 2024, I’m deeply concerned by these numbers because what it says to me is that people on both sides are not ready to accept the results of the next election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Both sides?
ISGUR: I absolutely think that is the case.
You look back at 2017, look at the ABC poll on whether Trump was legitimately elected. It was about six to eight points off of this one right now, not that far off. Hillary Clinton asked in 2017, was Trump legitimately elected, point blank? She did not say yes. She said she had questions.
You think Democrats, if Donald Trump runs again, if Donald Trump wins in 2024, you think Democrats are going to think he was legitimately elected? You got to be kidding me.
SIMPSON: There’s no precedent for that.
I mean, this is purely in the Republican camp. The reality is, is even the poll suggested the Democrats agree that this was not about democracy. This is about ruining democracy, not protecting it.
ISGUR: Twenty-five percent of Democrats said violence was acceptable in that poll. In 2017, a third of Hillary Clinton voters said Donald Trump was not legitimately elected.
You’re saying this is unprecedented?
STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t — but they didn’t take the same kind of actions, though, we saw last year.
SIMPSON: Exactly. And there is no precedent for this.
ISGUR: Absolutely. That is the escalation.
And if you don’t think that’s going to happen in 2024, and that we need to be focused on that…
SIMPSON: We need to be focused on today, because this was a year ago.
And there still has been very little action for the folks who were the masterminds, facilitators of this.
ISGUR: Seven hundred indictments.
SIMPSON: And if we don’t, you can’t move forward without accountability,
And this commission and the Department of Justice and anybody else with authority needs to send a clear message to anybody who’s looking at this and thinks…
ISGUR: There are trials going on.
SIMPSON: … to say that it is not OK. It’s not OK.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring the question to Chris Christie that I asked Liz Cheney.
It sure seemed that she was leaning into at least the possibility that President Trump was criminally negligent.
CHRISTIE: It certainly did to me, too, I — listening to what she had to say.
I think — look, I had a rule when I was U.S. attorney when you were dealing with a high-profile potential defendant. I used to say to my prosecutors all the time, it better be a head shot. It better be a head shot.
You better be able to take the person out without any — forget beyond a reasonable doubt. And the fact is that what Justice Department officials are going to have to decide here ultimately is, do they have that? And they better make sure they do, because it will be an enormously politicized trial if it were to occur, no matter what.
And you have got to be able to have the American people have confidence in the judicial system. We have seen it happening now.
We have seen some of these police trials that have been going on, where the American people are, again, I think having their confidence restored in the judicial system in this country. And that’s going to take time. We don’t need to do something that undermines that.
So let’s look at what the facts are, and let’s make sure it’s a clear shot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Merrick Garland seems to be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
SIMPSON: Well, I think he needs to do what’s right here.
And I think we all watched what happened that day. We know it didn’t come out of thin air. There’s a reason that all of his associates said, stop this thing. They know he had the power to stop it because he was the one that started it.
And in the midst of it, the speeches that he made that day, saying that they were heroes, saying that — this is — there’s a lot of evidence. And I think…
ISGUR: But that’s not criminal negligence. That’s dereliction of duty. And he should have been impeached for it. It’s not a crime.
SIMPSON: If I encourage or facilitate a crime, I can be charged with a crime. It’s called a conspiracy.
It’s called — he created the condition for it. He talked about the day. People had T-shirts for the day. And he told them, when you leave this rally, go and get our democracy back. I don’t — I can’t think of a clearer way.
And here’s the funny thing. Republicans are always saying they’re about law and order and back the blue, unless it’s their own people.
Justice should be served here, whether they wear a red jersey or a blue jersey, period.
BRAZILE: Well, let me put my purple jersey back on.
The president, the former president that day said to his supporters on the Ellipse, fight like hell.
BRAZILE: And then they marched to the Capitol to fight like hell.
We still have officers who are recovering from their wounds, 140. And we still have a country that has not recovered from this so-called conspiracy, the fact that so many Republicans believe that the election was illegitimate.
Now, look, I was involved in an election where there was literally a tie.
ISGUR: Well, that — yes.
BRAZILE: But my ex-boss — and I have to give him credit again. Al Gore said, shut it down.
We shut it down. Now, honestly, I was one of the best organizers. I wanted to know — I wanted one more rumble, OK?
BRAZILE: But he said, shut it down. That’s leadership.
President Trump, former President Trump, has not shown any leadership whatsoever. And, in fact, this week, he’s going to have another one of his meow messaging, because he is still whining about what happened on November 3.
The American people said, Joe Biden is our president. Donald Trump has not accepted that. And because of that, Sarah, we are living in this dangerous moment where you can stoke people to be angry and upset simply because they lost.
CHRISTIE: All right, those are two different things. Those are two different things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let Sarah answer first. You just called her name.
Then go back to you.
CHRISTIE: Two different things, babe. Two different things.
CHRISTIE: Here’s the different things. Here are the two different things.
Is Donald Trump wrong for not having accepted the results of the election and conceded, like Al Gore did? Absolutely wrong for not doing that.
Is there something that can indict him for a crime? That’s something the facts are going to have to show.
BRAZILE: I agree.
ISGUR: And Donald Trump — everything you just said is true, and everything you said about Al Gore is true.
The problem is, and I think we’re taking this in the moment instead of a historical lens. This has been increasing. It has been escalating.
It’s why I bring up Hillary Clinton, not about the what-about-ism of the whole thing, but because this has been slowly happening over time and we’re the frog sitting in the boiling pot not seeing what’s coming next.
Hillary Clinton saying the election was legitimate. Now Donald Trump is not saying the election was legitimate. This isn’t going anywhere good.
BRAZILE: Hillary Clinton was not the sitting president of the United States at the time.
ISGUR: And neither is he right now. So, when he gives that speech next week, which is stupid, it’s not that different than Hillary Clinton being asked whether it’s legitimate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — whose sides are accurate, but do you really believe that both sides bear the same amount of responsibility for what’s happening right now?
SIMPSON: Absolutely not.
ISGUR: The same amount right now, no. But I’m telling you, if Donald Trump runs and wins in 2024, we’re going to be having a really different conversation sitting here.
And when both sides know that the other side will not accept the results of an election, there is a game theory problem here where they will act — they will act in advance of that election. That’s what I’m concerned about.
This isn’t a November 2024 problem. This is coming, and no one seems to be doing anything.
BRAZILE: Well, it’s coming in November 2022 because when you start changing the rules simply because you don’t want others to play the game —
ISGUR: Well, and this is the argument —
BRAZILE: — that is why — that is why you have the so-called both sides.
But, look, the truth is, we’ve got to get back to, how do we keep a functioning, multiracial democracy going during this moment? And that is what our biggest challenge is. Now you can split the difference after that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with the roundtable looking ahead to 2022.
Donna, you can have all the caveats you want, but your predictions first?
BRAZILE: Well, I’ve given up on the Saints. So, I’m — I’m going to predict extreme weather will cause us to invest more in green energy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A hopeful prediction then.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Isgur.
ISGUR: Back to back gold medals for our Olympic curling team in just a few weeks. They can do it. I believe in them. It’s not so much a prediction, a — just a hope.
But I also, on the political side, I think the Biden administration has left immigration off on the sidelines. Another crisis will happen, and they will be caught flat-footed once again.
SIMPSON: I predict it will be a long, hard road if we don’t get voting rights done at the top of the year.
On a good note, I predict that Stacey Abrams is going to be the governor of Georgia, which will brighten all of our lives and take out one of the most awful villains in the country right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie.
CHRISTIE: Well, there you go, I’ll do the opposite. I’ll predict that against both a Republican primary and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, that Brian Kemp will be re-elected governor of Georgia.
CHRISTIE: And that will make him an even more prominent figure in the Republican Party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So both the primary and the general?
CHRISTIE: He will win both the primary and the general. And Kevin McCarthy will be the speaker of the House a year from now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Kevin — OK.
ISGUR: That’s a hot prediction.
BRAZILE: All of these political predictions. Since —
SIMPSON: So many caveats.
BRAZILE: I also predict that after this — this surge, we’re going to see the end of this pandemic by the end of the summer. I really do. I feel —
SIMPSON: I’m not so optimistic about that one.
BRAZILE: I feel — no, no, no, no, I get the sense that the American people understand that this is time to get fully vaccinated, and to mask up so that we can get through this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have a few seconds left. I’m going to throw something out there about 2024.
What are the chances you give — just a number — that it will be a rematch between Donald Trump and Joe Biden?
BRAZILE: Fifty percent.
ISGUR: High. Up, up, I’m at 80.
SIMPSON: I believe 100 percent that Trump is running again. I don’t know what Biden’s going to do yet.
CHRISTIE: The matchup is the question?
CHRISTIE: Thirty percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thirty percent. I’m closer to Chris than everybody else.
Thank you all.
We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
We will have special coverage of the Capitol attack all week long here on ABC.
And I’ll see you tomorrow on “GMA.”
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