ANNOUNCER: “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” starts right now.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Holiday nightmare.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Things will get worse as we go into the depth of the winter.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): People are underestimating the power of Omicron.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winner of severe illness and death.
KARL: As Omicron sweeps across the country, COVID cases skyrocket, reaching the highest point in a year, sporting events postponed, holiday shows canceled, testing lines returned, as hospitals once again reach a breaking point.
We dig into what we know about Omicron and how to stay safe with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We don’t take this step lightly.
KARL: Dramatic text messages to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made public. The House votes to find him in contempt for refusing to testify.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If witnesses can merely pick and choose when they comply, our power of oversight will be gone.
KARL: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the January 6 Committee, joins us live.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): A 50/50 Senate sucks, and we can’t get things done.
KARL: Biden’s agenda on hold, as Senator Joe Manchin digs in, and Democrats’ Build Back Better plan gets punted to the new year. Will they ever get it done?
Our powerhouse roundtable covers all the week’s politics.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.”
Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning, and welcome to “This Week.”
As Christmas approaches, COVID-19 again threatens to upend American life, driving the spread, Omicron. At least 43 states now have confirmed cases of the latest and by far most contagious variant yet. On Saturday alone, New York state reported nearly 22,000 new COVID cases, breaking a single-day record set just the day before.
Nationwide, new cases are up 90 percent since late October. Hospitals are now back at the brink. This week, New York, Ohio, New Hampshire and Maine all activated their National Guard’s to help understaffed health care facilities.
And as we approach another year of the pandemic and mark a full year since vaccines began rolling out, the United States is averaging nearly 1,200 deaths every day, the overall death toll this week surpassing 800,000, the highest of any country in the world.
All this is prompting another wave of anxiety, uncertainty and fresh cancellations. Some schools and universities are going remote, professional sports leagues postponing games, Broadway shows and the famed Rockettes going dark.
In some ways, it’s beginning to feel like March of 2020 all over again. But there are hopeful signs too. The vaccines appear effective against Omicron. And a clinical trial this week showed a new COVID treatment pill is nearly 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
Big questions remain as we head into the new year. How dangerous is Omicron? Can families gather safely for the holidays? And when does all of this end?
And so we begin this morning with President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining us.
You have seen all the numbers.
FAUCI: Good to be with you. Thank you for having me.
KARL: How bad is this going to be?
FAUCI: Well, certainly, we need to take this very seriously, because one thing about Omicron that’s very clear, not only now in our own country, but clearly through South Africa, U.K. and other countries, it has an extraordinary capability of transmitting efficiently from person to person.
It seems to be overtaking all the other variants, including Delta, with a doubling time of about two to three days, which means that this is really something to be reckoned with. It is really rapidly spreading literally throughout the world and certainly in our own country.
KARL: Now, you said earlier this week that, if you’re vaccinated, you should feel comfortable traveling and celebrating the holidays with your family.
Do you still believe that?
FAUCI: No, I do, if you are vaccinated and boosted and are prudent when you travel, when you’re in an airport, to be wearing a mask all the time. You have to be wearing a mask on a plane.
Do not do things like go to gatherings where there are people who you do not know what their vaccination status is. If you do that — and some people are even going the extra step or the extra mile of maybe even getting tested when you have people coming over the house.
We now have a much wider availability of point-of-care tests that you can get a result in about 15 minutes. So, you might want to do that.
If you do these things, Jon, I do believe that you can feel quite comfortable with a family setting, the dinners and the gatherings that you have around the holiday season. Nothing is 100 percent risk-free, but I think if you do the things that I just mentioned, you’d actually mitigate that risk enough to feel comfortable about being able to enjoy the holiday.
KARL: You mentioned testing, but we’ve seen these massive lines all over the country of people waiting to get tested, you know, people trying to go and get the instant tests at pharmacies, drugstores, simply finding them out of stock.
When are those tests that you just described going to be truly available and affordable to everybody the way they are in Europe? I mean, they cost a dollar or two in most of Europe. When are they going to be available like that here?
FAUCI: Well, in some places, it is spotty. There are some places where you can easily get them, but there are others where you are quite correct, it is difficult and there are long lines. What the government has been doing now, and you’re going to be seeing the result of that, is making investments literally in billions of dollars to get anywhere from 200 million to 500 million tests available per month, which means that there will be a lot of tests. Many of them will be free. There are going to be 10,000 centers that are going to be giving out free testing. So I think you’re going to be seeing as we get a little bit further, maybe a week or two or three, much more availability of testing.
KARL: So with that, and with what you’ve described as, you know, the way to be prudent, the success of vaccines and boosters, we are not headed towards anything approaching the kind of lockdown we saw last year, are we?
FAUCI: I don’t see that in the future if we do the things that we’re talking about. Jon, the thing that continues to be very troublesome to me and my public health colleagues are the fact that we still have about 50 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated. When you have that degree of vulnerability, and you have a virus like Omicron that spreads so rapidly, it is quite likely that we are going to see, in some sections of the country, a significant stress on the hospital system as well as on the health care workers who are getting exhausted by all of this.
So the stress is going to be there. I don’t foresee the kind of lockdowns that we’ve seen before, but I certainly see the potential for stress on our hospital system.
KARL: We still have no vaccine available for little children, for children under the age of 5, and of course, there was a setback in the clinical trial for that vaccine. How big a setback is that?
FAUCI: Well, you know, it’s unfortunate, Jon. I would like to have seen the capability of getting all the children at all ages vaccinated as we get into the first quarter of the 2022. When you look at the data that came out, it was felt that, at least for a certain age group, the 2 to 4, that it really is not meeting the end point that they expected in the trials. So they’re now looking at this as a three-dose vaccine for children, and if you are going to do that, you’re going to need more data, and that’s going to delay what we had hoped would be a time frame for the getting those younger children vaccinated.
KARL: There was some good news. There was this clinical trial of an anti-viral pill by Pfizer. Pfizer says that it was 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. How big a breakthrough — is that potentially the game-changer that we’ve been waiting for?
FAUCI: Jon, that’s going to be really important because if you look at the data — and this is the PAXLOVID from Pfizer, if you look at that data, the data are really quite impressive. If you get an anti-viral that up to 90 percent will prevent you from going from clinically recognizable infection to blocking your getting to the hospital or dying in a 90 percent chance if you get treated within the first three days of the onset of symptoms, that is big deal. I mean, that is really, really good.
So we’re looking forward to getting that particular product mass produced to the point it would be available to people —
KARL: How —
FAUCI: — who are really anywhere who need it, and there are going to be a lot of people of high risk who are going to benefit greatly from having a pill that would dramatically diminish the likelihood they’re going to wind up in the hospital.
KARL: How — rough — I mean, how soon realistically do you think something like that would be widely available?
FAUCI: You know, it’s going to be months. If you look — it’s a very complicated, synthetic process to make the drug. It is not something that’s simple. So the company is revving up in getting more and more, but we’re not going to see widely available for at least a few months.
KARL: In Colorado, 80 percent of those who are hospitalized are people who did not get vaccinated, and even those who are vaccinated in the hospital are for the most part those that had other serious conditions.
I want to play you what Governor Polis said about his decision not to reinstate a mask mandate.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: The truth is we now have highly effective vaccines that work far better than masks. At this point, if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s your own darn fault. People who want to be protected are. Those who get sick, it’s almost entirely their own darn fault.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KARL: So, do you agree with that? Is this really becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated? I mean, is this really a crisis of the unvaccinated?
FAUCI: You know, it is certainly much more of a crisis of the unvaccinated, but there are other tools besides vaccine, and wearing a mask complements the protection that you get from the vaccine, and a boost.
So I don’t think you should be in a situation that if you’re vaccinated, you don’t ever have to worry about wearing a mask. Vaccinated or unvaccinated under certain circumstances, masks work in diminishing the likelihood that you are going to get infected or that if you are infected and without symptoms, that you’re going to spread it to someone else. So it’s not an either/or. You can do both and should do both.
KARL: Well, let me ask you. President Biden was in Kentucky meeting with victims of the tornadoes and a lot of people noticed that he was outside — outside, and he’s obviously boosted, vaccinated and boosted, but he was outside hugging people, not wearing a mask.
Is that — does that put him at risk, something like that?
FAUCI: Well, you know, outdoors is really much different than indoors, very much so, Jon, and that’s the reason why when we always talk about if you are in an indoor congregate setting, I mean, I’m — I’m with the president a fair amount, and I can tell you, whenever we’re indoors, in a setting, he’s got a mask on. That’s for sure.
KARL: Okay. I also wanted to ask you about what the airline executives said this week about masks on airplanes. They — several of the top, you know, CEOs of the top airlines said that on an airplane, you are actually safer than you are in an ICU, that the protection with the filtration system they have. They were suggesting there really isn’t much of a need for a mask on an airplane.
Are we going to get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on airplanes?
FAUCI: I don’t think so. I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step when you have people — you know, you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s well over a five-hour flight. Even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it.
KARL: So, finally, I know that your birthday is coming up. It’s Christmas Eve. You’re going to be turning 81. I think you’re probably for the last two years have been one of the hardest working human beings in America.
First of all, thank you for your service.
But let me ask you. Do you feel a responsibility to stay doing what you’re doing until this — until this has truly gotten under control? I mean, like I said, I think you’re the hardest working person of any age, one of them in the country.
FAUCI: Absolutely, Jon. There’s no doubt about it. This is the thing that I do. This is what I’ve been trained and experienced in doing my entire professional life.
There’s no way I’m going to walk away from this until we get this under control. I mean, that’s the purpose of what we do. That’s — that’s our mission in life. In the middle of it, I’m not going to walk away.
You know, we’re in a war, Jon. It’s kind of like we’re halfway through World War II, and you decide, well, I think I’ve had enough of this. I’m walking away.
You can’t do that. You’ve got to finish it — and we’re going to finish this and get back to normal.
KARL: All right. Well, thank you for that, Dr. Fauci. And let me just wish you in advance, a happy birthday and a merry Christmas.
FAUCI: Thank you very much, Jon. You, too, and to your family.
KARL: All right. And our roundtable is not walking away either. We have the CEO of Democracy for America, Yvette Simpson; former Trump Justice Department official Sarah Isgur, now political analyst for “The Dispatch”; “Politico Playbook” co-author Rachael Bade; and “Washington Post” national political reporter Robert Costa, co-author of “Peril” with Bob Woodward.
So, Yvette, let me start with you. It was — you know, Biden was elected as the guy that was going to put this behind us. And you remember right before July 4th, he said we were close to having independence — declaring independence from the pandemic.
So, what — what’s happened?
YVETTE SIMPSON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think what’s happened is people have gotten relaxed. I mean once the vaccinations started to come out, mask mandates started to go down and people got comfortable. And, you know, people have talked about Covid fatigue. It’s real. But we have to continue to remind people that folks are dying from Covid every day. And when these surges happen, this is a real issue, and we might end up right back where we started.
So I think, in the beginning, people would have given Biden an A-plus in his role in the Covid cries. You have to stay on it. You have to continue to do the work because this is something that’s just going to be with us for a long time.
KARL: But, Sarah, it’s hard for Republicans really to hit him on this, I mean, given that you have, you know, leading Republicans governors that are fighting the efforts to — to contain the virus.
SARAH ISGUR, DISPATCH STAFF WRITER AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I disagree. I think that Biden’s in a really tough spot here because people are pandemic-ed out. You have huge amounts of pandemic fatigue and you have Republicans being able to hit him to say that — that everything he does is wrong. And the more Biden puts in place, vaccine mandates — imagine — we have companies here who have over a million people. If even 10 percent of those people, 5 percent of those people quit over a vaccine mandate, and that would — you know, talk about a supply chain issue. But then — or weekly testing? Do you know the infrastructure you would have to build at a company that has 1.6 million American employees to do weekly testing? Huge economic lags that will have political implications for the Biden administration. Labor issue leads to supply chain issue leads to inflation.
KARL: Well, and, clearly, this is affecting Biden’s popularity and perhaps even his domestic agenda. So, we had Build Back Better, the big social infrastructure bill, seems to be put off. Whether it will, you know — how — what kind of traction it will get next year.
I want to — I want to play for you an interview that Kamala Harris did with Charlamagne tha God on his Comedy Central showing “The God’s Honest Truth,” showing some real frustration with a particular senator from West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLAMANGE THE GOD: So, who is the real president of this country? Is it Joe Manchin or Joe Biden, Madam Vice President?
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Come on, Charlamagne. Come on.
CHARLAMANGE THE GOD: I really —
HARRIS: It’s Joe Biden.
CHARLAMANGE THE GOD: I can’t tell sometimes.
HARRIS: No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no. It’s Joe Biden.
CHARLAMANGE THE GOD: Do you think Joe Manchin is a problem?
HARRIS: And — and it’s Joe Biden — and it’s Joe Biden — and it’s Joe Biden. And I’m vice president and my name is Kamala Harris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So — so — some passion there from the vice president. But, by the way, some breaking news, Senator Manchin has just said that he is a firm no on this legislation.
So let me ask you, Rachael, and I don’t want to put you on the spot, but — but you had been saying for some time you thought it was a matter of if — I mean not a matter of if but when this legislation passed.
RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: Yes.
KARL: What do you think now?
BADE: Yes, I mean, I think it’s time to reassess that prognosis. Clearly, they’ve got a big problem here on a number of issues. Number one, they’ve sort of lost their greatest forcing mechanism to get this done. That was the Christmas deadline that Chuck Schumer set out in Congress. You know that if lawmakers want to get something done, you bump it up — right up against the holidays and often that sort of clears the decks and gets things through.
Well, that didn’t work. Neither did the expiration of the enhanced child tax credit going into an election year. Democrats sort of saw this as something they had to pass to extend that child tax credit to keep making sure American families get these payments in an election year when they’re facing, you know, an uphill battle.
And then Joe Manchin just saying he’s a no on Build Back Better. I mean, look, this is a guy who has a fundamental, ideological problem with spending $2 trillion at a time when we have a $30 trillion debt and inflation is at a 40, you know, year high. This is going to be a big problem for him. He has problems with the structure of the bill and I’m not sure it can pass the way it is right now. They might have to totally rework this thing, and we don’t know what it’s going to look like or when or if it’s going to happen.
KARL: And, Bob, I mean it’s not like Manchin’s kept a secret if what Rachael has just said. I mean he’s actually been pretty consistent. I — I — I, frankly, haven’t really understood the optimism that we’ve heard coming out of the White House that, oh, he was going to come around.
ROBERT COSTA, CO-AUTHOR, ‘PERIL’ AND WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: The back story here, Jon, is intriguing because Senator Manchin, back in March, was a critical vote for President Biden to pass that $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. And at the time, President Biden had to go to the wall and really plead with Manchin, come around on this, Joe. I need this vote. My presidency is on the line. And Manchin, somewhat reluctantly, came along, gave Biden the vote he needed on that $1.9 trillion bill.
But some of the White House’s own political capital, as we shown in our book and my own reporting, has been spent with Manchin, and he doesn’t feel pressure from this White House or from progressives.
KARL: Well, progressives, Yvette?
SIMPSON: Well, I think the biggest — actually, the biggest hook we had to keep Manchin was the infrastructure bill. And that’s why so many progressives wanted those bills tied together. Once you give the big cheese to Republicans and to Manchin, they have zero incentive to stay at the table. And we know that Manchin has been square before. He said four, and then he said two.
The reality is that Manchin has zero incentive, despite the fact that West Virginians need this bill more than probably any other state, because he is in a position where he is frankly being paid a lot by lobbyists, a lot by big companies, and he has zero desire to actually deliver for the people who need it here.
KARL: So what do you and the progressives do about it?
SIMPSON: Well, we continue to push and fight. I mean…
SIMPSON: I want to go back to the Charlamagne comment. And I want to say that the vice president did exactly what she had to do there. But the question that Charlamagne is asking is a question a lot of Americans are asking, “Who’s in charge here?”
And it doesn’t look like Joe Biden’s in charge. In fact, Manchin is pulling a lot of punches, and he’s also making it look like Joe Biden doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s not the man in control.
BADE: Democrats, they have a huge political problem here, and that is that they have been overselling and saying that they can pass this bill for — for a long time now, education, health care, climate change. And now Joe Manchin is saying he’s not there.
If he gets his way and, sort of, re-works this bill, we might actually see a bill that, maybe, does one of these things, but not, you know, all of these things. And Democrats had specifically structured this bill so that they would only fund these programs for a couple of years, but they could do everything they wanted.
But he’s saying he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to pick, maybe, one or two. And that’s going to really cause a problem for the base. I mean, Democrats have been telling their own base that they’re going to get this done. That could decrease voter turnout in an election year, when they’re already facing this uphill battle to keep the House and the Senate. They have a real problem.
KARL: And we may see the moment for the Biden presidency, frankly, passing him. I mean, with the Republicans, maybe even overwhelmingly favored to win back the House — Axios has a new story out this morning saying that Kevin McCarthy’s, kind of, master plan is to — is a series of investigations, investigating the Biden administration in, you know, a whole range of issues.
ISGUR: It’s incredible that the Democratic Party has not pursued what David Shor, a former Obama data guy, dubbed “popularism.” Pursue popular things. Just pass the extended child care tax credit, for instance. Don’t tie it to climate change and all these other things.
The reason that Joe Biden’s poll numbers were doing actually fine in the modern version of approval numbers until August was a competency argument. it was the failure in Afghanistan, doubled by then a, sort of, flim-flamming around when Delta hit, and then over-promising a total inability to get his people in order while the progressives are…
KARL: OK, Yvette is not only shaking her head; she’s sighing. So…
SIMPSON: Every piece of this legislation is popular. And they have all been polled to death. Every piece of the Build Back — it’s not about popular. And it’s not about Manchin having a spending problem. He had no problem increasing the military budget. He’s had no problem spending money on tax cuts for the rich. He has a problem because he — he is not serving the people in his district; he’s serving himself. And we have to call that out and say that that’s the truth.
ISGUR: He’s a democrat winning in a state that Donald Trump won by 30 points, and you’re saying he’s not serving the people of his district?
He keeps winning.
SIMPSON: West Virginians are among the poorest in the nation. He would…
SIMPSON: … and they need…
ISGUR: You think that a progressive could win in West Virginia, win that Senate seat? You are going to give that Senate seat to Republicans and Mitch McConnell is going to be thrilled.
SIMPSON: How about a — how about a person who does the job as a representative?
All you’re supposed to do is to represent your people, and overwhelmingly West Virginians support this legislation.
COSTA: If you listen to President Biden’s remarks in South Carolina this week — he — he spoke at South Carolina State — he reminded the audience that the stakes are bigger than just Build Back Better. Democracy is also on the agenda in 2022.
SIMPSON: That’s true.
COSTA: Voting rights are on the agenda. And so, as much as Senator Manchin is at the center of the discussion, he’s not at the center of the American debate, and many Democrats who I’m speaking with are saying we need to remind voters in 2022 about the stakes and about why Biden won more votes than any other American presidential candidate.
ISGUR: But this is the perfect example, the voting rights legislation that the Democrats are proposing. There’s all sorts of this stuff, instead of fixing the Electoral Count Act.
KARL: All right. We — we’ve got to take a quick break.
We’ll be back.
Up next, the January 6 Committee revealed some shocking new text messages from Mark Meadows that were sent during the Capitol Insurrection and put new attention on Donald Trump’s inaction to stop the riot. One of the two Republicans, just two Republicans on that committee, joins us next, Adam Kinzinger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: As the violence continued, one of the president’s sons texted Mr. Meadows — quote — “He’s got to condemn this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ASAP.”
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.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That’s Congressman — Congresswoman Liz Cheney reading text messages from Donald Trump Jr. to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows written during the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
It’s part of a mounting body of evidence uncovered by the committee.
Joining us now, the only other Republican serving on the January 6 Committee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
I want to ask you. Those text messages were really unbelievably damning. And they were all turned over voluntarily by Mark Meadows before he decided to stop his cooperation with the committee.
First of all, why do you think he turned him over? Do you think he had any idea how damaging all that stuff was? Did they — did he know what he was giving you?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, first off, I think he turned them over because he knew he had to.
It is the legal purview of the committee to request this, which is why we held him in contempt when he decided halfway into his cooperating that he wasn’t going to cooperate, not even on the non-privileged stuff. Like, now he can go out and maybe try to be a hero or whatever.
And I’m not sure if he knew how damaging they were going to be, but it doesn’t matter because he didn’t have a choice. We have that legal authority to get that.
And I think the interesting thing, Jonathan, about all of those texts, and each one of them has their own kind of flavor of importance, but a lot of these texts were about a year ago, some even a little longer than a year ago.
What has changed? I will tell you what’s changed since those texts were sent one year ago. Probably a significant amount more people believe that Antifa or the FBI had something to do with January 6. It’s been a year and we haven’t had any real, in essence, detailed accountability for what led to that. And that’s what the committee’s focused on getting.
Otherwise, the history books, who knows what they’re going to say, because who knows who’s going to control the narrative. We just want the truth.
KARL: There are also text messages — and I assume you have more, but there are text messages that you released from your colleagues, from your Republican colleagues, on January 6 and, as you said, before January 6 that look pretty damning.
Do you think that some of your Republican colleagues bear direct responsibility for that riot?
KINZINGER: It’s possible.
I’m not ready to kind of go to that point yet, because I want to let the facts dictate it. But I will tell you, yes, there are more texts out there that we haven’t released where it’s folks not saying things like, hey, Mark Meadows, why don’t you make sure all the votes are counted and then whoever has the most wins?
It’s going around the nuances of the law, or it’s saying, here’s how we can use this technicality to win.
And I think that’s why we have to look at the Electoral Count Act and say, look, if there’s people that know the technicality of this and know how to win against the will of the people, something is wrong that we have to change on that.
But we’re going to — we’re going to pursue doggedly everything to the ends of the Earth, and that includes, and we don’t like necessarily to have to go here, but that includes members of Congress that had any involvement.
KARL: Yeah. So, let me ask you about that, I know no decision on this has been made, so I’m asking your opinion to be clear. Do you think your colleagues, some of your colleagues should be subpoenaed if they won’t do it voluntarily, should be subpoenaed to testify before the committee?
KINZINGER: Yeah, absolutely, and, you know, I don’t — the question is House rules and speech and debate, you know, all those nuances, but yes, I think if you had anything to do with what happened on January 6th and I think more importantly, even on January 6th, is that the events and the nuances that led to January 6th.
KINZINGER: Because January 6th was a really bad day, everything prior to that is the rot in the democracy or the rot in self-governance that we have to correct so we don’t get another January 6th. So absolutely anybody — nobody, member of Congress, former president, nobody in America is above the law.
KARL: So, a subpoena for former President Trump? Again, I know the committee hasn’t made a decision, but you think that should happen?
KINZINGER: Here’s how I’ll say it — if we need it, yes. Nobody should be above the law, but we also recognize we can get the information without him at this point, and, obviously, when you subpoena the former president, that comes with a whole kind of, you know, circus environment.
KINZINGER: But if we need him, we’ll do it.
KARL: Right, that gives him a big platform to be sure.
I want to play something else that Liz Cheney said about the importance of Meadows testifying. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Mr. Meadows’ testimony will bear on another key question before this committee. Did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’ official proceedings to count electoral votes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Okay. So I know Congress doesn’t have the power to prosecute. That’s the Justice Department, but what Congresswoman Cheney just described there is a crime under the U.S. Criminal Code. It is a crime to obstruct the official proceedings of Congress.
Is she there sending a message, and are you sending a message that the Justice Department should be prosecuting not just those that broke into the building on January 6th, but should be prosecuting Donald Trump himself or at least investigating that possibility?
KINZINGER: I think investigating that possibility, for sure. You know, Congress has — I think in this case, our committee is getting more information than law enforcement agencies and DOJ, because we’ve had the power and the ability to get that done.
And so, whatever information we get will be public record and the DOJ should take a look, particularly if there’s criminal charges to be filed, because again, the big thing is as bad as it was on January 6th, there’s really nothing in place to stop another one from happening again.
And if somebody broke the law, it is so essential that we send the message that you are not untouchable as president. You’re not untouchable as a former president. So just go and do your job honorably, and I think that’s the only way that self-governance survives into the future.
KARL: It was interesting to hear Senator McConnell this week. He obviously opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate all of this. But he seems to be — I mean, almost cheering on the committee, at least by the way McConnell speaks.
Take a listen to what he had to say about the committee’s work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We’re all going to be watching it. It was a horrendous event, and I think that what they’re seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That’s not exactly what Kevin McCarthy, the leader over there in the House, is saying.
KINZINGER: Right. Look, I mean — I got to tell you, so, you know, say what you want about Mitch McConnell. He obviously holds his cards very close. I think that was a very powerful statement and I appreciate it.
Kevin McCarthy, on the other hand, has not said a word about anything, except for that Donald Trump is probably the greatest president to ever exist. And Kevin McCarthy himself I think made Donald Trump relevant again when two weeks after January 6th or so, he went back down to Mar-a-Lago and brought him back to political life by putting his arm around him, and taking that picture, and basically sending the signal to the rest of the Republicans that were pretty quiet at this moment, that we got to get back on the Trump train.
And he bears responsibility for that. I don’t think history books are going to be kind to him.
KARL: We’re almost out of time, but one more question. You won a big decision, the committee did, the Appeals Court, D.C. Circuit, on that executive privilege case to get all those White House documents that are housed at the National Archives.
The committee — the court gave Trump 14 days to appeal. That 14th day I think is Christmas Eve.
Do you expect the Supreme Court is going to take that up? And do you think you’re going to get those documents?
KINZINGER: I think it’s very — it’s possible that the Supreme Court can pick it up because it’s so important, but I hope for an expedited ruling, and I do believe we’ll see that documentation. It’s the American people’s documents. It’s not Donald Trump’s. And the court’s made that very clear.
KARL: How important are they, those documents?
KINZINGER: They’re — I think they’re going to be really important. I think we’re getting information regardless if we don’t get them. But, obviously, that’s going to be important. There’s a lot of visitors logs, et cetera, that we need to see.
KARL: OK, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, member of the January 6th committee, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
KINZINGER: Of course, thank you. You bet.
KARL: The roundtable’s going to weigh in on this next.
And later, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver talks on the latest threat to the Democrats’ House majority.
Stay with us.
KARL: The roundtable is here for more.
We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LONDON BREED, (D) SAN FRANCISCO: It’s time that the reign of criminals who are destroying our city; it is time for it to come to an end. And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement and less tolerant of all the (bleep) that has destroyed our city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who previously advocated reducing funding for her city’s police department, taking a fresh hardline on crime. We’ll get with that in a moment.
But the round table, first I want to start with January 6th.
And, Rachael, you are as good a student of Mitch McConnell as anybody.
So can you help interpret the comments that we just heard him say about the January 6 Committee? I mean…
BADE: The about-face.
KARL: Yeah. I mean — I mean, he really — he’s very careful. And he said this a couple of times. He said it on Capitol Hill. He said it again in an interview back home. What’s he doing here?
BADE: I mean, I, sort of, have two theories on this. One is that, you know, one of the reasons that Mitch McConnell did not want this outside commission on January 6 was because he worried that the results would come out in an election year and could actually hurt Republicans in their re-election when they tried to flip the Senate.
It could be perhaps that he’s feeling so confident that they are going to flip the Senate, you know, given where Joe Biden’s poll numbers are, the status of the Democratic Party right now, that he doesn’t see that as a threat anymore.
The other option is, you know, we heard from folks close to him that he also had a concern that focusing on Trump would only make him more powerful, make him more of a martyr with the base, and keep him around longer. And that’s another reason why he wanted this to all disappear.
But, you know, it’s clearly shown that Trump — his staying power is lasting. He’s still, you know, the number one person who’s choosing people in primaries. He’s influencing folks on the right. And so perhaps Mitch McConnell wants, you know, all the truth to come to light on this because he doesn’t want, you know, Trump in office again. And the more stuff that comes out, perhaps it could hurt him in the long run.
KARL: So, you know, Bob, there’s — to a counterpoint from what Rachel has just said there, Jonah Goldberg had a column in the L.A. Times suggesting that Trump’s power is actually waning. And he cited a number of things, including some of the Senate candidates he’s supported, kind of, stumbling out of the gate.
You might also mention something that he didn’t mention, which is McConnell. I mean, Trump has made no secret of the fact that he wants McConnell to be dethroned as the Republican leader. And that has gone nowhere.
Is there — I mean, could we — could we finally be getting to the point where Trump’s power is actually waning?
We’re seeing McConnell make certain decisions. For example, in Georgia’s Senate race, he has endorsed Herschel Walker, the Trump favorite, in that race. But as our reporting shows, he also privately despises President Trump, even though publicly he has…
KARL: Maybe even publicly, if you go back to what he said after — after the insurrection.
COSTA: Well, he had a tough speech after the insurrection, but of course he did not vote to convict President Trump in the Senate trial. But he has privately, McConnell, called Trump “a fading brand,” “an off-the-track thoroughbred,” to use a Kentucky term. And he would like to see Trump expunged from the GOP.
But he’s also politically aware enough to know Trump’s not really going anywhere. So my read of his comments is that, really, that’s the personal McConnell hoping — and politically — hoping to see Trump go away, but not exactly ready to kick him out the door. But if he could slowly nudge him out, that would be just fine.
KARL: Sarah, what do you make of the vastly different approaches to this between McCarthy and McConnell?
SARAH ISGUR, DISPATCH STAFF WRITER AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: So, look, Mitch McConnell — it’s a huge difference in not wanting the commission to exist in the first place, but, now that it exists, how you deal with that.
A, Trump is out there trying to get Senate candidates to commit to not supporting Mitch McConnell for Senate leader if they take back the Senate. And so I think this is Mitch McConnell saying, oh, OK, well, let’s play ball then. Let’s see what happened on January 6.
Another problem that both, frankly, McCarthy and McConnell are going to have — and I think McConnell is just the more strategic player in all of this — is, there’s about to be a whole lot of Republican primaries, where some candidates are going to lose. Some of those will be Trump-endorsed candidates.
And if they then claim that those elections were stolen, there’s going to be this intra-Republican fight that is going to be relitigating in some ways 2020, where the election being stolen won’t make a lot of sense in a lot of places. So I think McConnell is setting the groundwork for that as well, and saying, no, our elections are fair, there is no lie.
And so the Republican primaries are going to move forward as well.
KARL: Meanwhile, Yvette, you have this effort, this actually pretty strategic effort, to — by Trump to go after the people that stood up against him in challenging the election in 2020, not just the members of Congress that voted to impeach him, but these officials, people like Brad Raffensperger, and, like Sarah said, going, supporting candidates who are going to repeat his lies about the election.
YVETTE SIMPSON, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA CEO AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Retribution is like classically Trump. It is kind of his M.O. It is his thing. And we’re not surprised.
And I think part of that is his showing his dominance and saying that: I’m still a player here. And if you come against me, I will challenge you.
And I think that’s the challenge McConnell is having, right? He’s got to pool his party back to some semblance of sanity because it’s a mess right now. He knows that, at the end of the day, the more evidence comes out, we’re going to see more people at the top levels being carted off probably to prison for their role in an insurrection and in the assault and murder of police officers on that day and attack on our Capitol.
And so I think that — Trump is being Trump is going to be Trump. McConnell has to hold a line and has to figure out what he’s going to do as Trump continues to do what he does.
BADE: I think one of the challenges that both the panel and Mitch McConnell has, if, indeed, his hope is that this committee turns up something that could damage Trump, is that the narrative really has already set.
BADE: You have people on both sides of the aisle who they’re not going to change their minds.
I mean, half of the Republican base believes that Trump was actually the real winner in 2020. You have a huge chunk of the party that doesn’t think January 6 was anything other than a protest, falsely, of course.
But the issue that the committee has is that this is already — this is set. And we’re about we’re going to be about a year-and-a-half after January 6 by the time they start having these high-profile public hearings. The public has already gone through two impeachments. They’re tired. They don’t want to talk about this. They don’t want to follow it anymore.
And so they have a real challenge in terms of, even if they’re turning up things, can they really change minds?
SIMPSON: But, Jon, I have — the question I have is, when does the DOJ get involved, and do they?
I mean, if these individuals really got involved…
KARL: Well, that was the question that Kinzinger had. It seems like they’re outlining…
KARL: I mean, all the prosecutions have been on the equivalent of the drug dealer in the park, not the kingpin that was orchestrating it all.
But, Bob, on the committee and whether or not they can move the needle. I mean, there’s something different here than the impeachments. I mean, you’re going to have — you’re going to have actual witnesses, potentially in prime time. And they have had more time to investigate,.
Could this committee actually move the needle?
COSTA: Many things could move the needle.
And we don’t know the full scope of what this committee is uncovering in interviews, and different documents they’re able to now review and use as part of their investigation. And let’s not forget, to the Department of Justice point, Merrick Garland, the attorney general, has convened a grand jury.
That grand jury issued the criminal indictment on Steve Bannon’s refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena. So we have a DOJ component of this. We have a congressional committee that’s aggressive getting new text messages.
And the other thing we need — you have to think about is, who else is cooperating that we don’t really know? In Watergate, it was always about John Dean breaking it open in 1973-1974.
I wonder about Gina Haspel, the former CIA director. For example, in our book, she privately worried about a — quote — “right-wing coup” during the transition.
KARL: Yes, there’s a lot. I mean, there are 300 witnesses. We know just a tiny fraction of what they have done.
We’re almost out of time. I want to ask you, Yvette, what do you make of the mayor of San Francisco’s comments?
SIMPSON: How much time do I have?
KARL: Just a little bit.
SIMPSON: It’s a tough situation.
As a former city leader myself, I know the pressure she’s under. Any increase in crime, she’s got to respond. And, often, this rhetoric around tough on crime is the first tack. I don’t think it’s the right strategy, because, at the end of the day, it’s not going to change things.
San Francisco has been under the weight of poverty, homelessness, mental addiction for a long time. And the pandemic exacerbated that.
And I don’t think this is about resources because San Francisco police still get $700 million a year. We have to focus on root causes and not this tough on crime rhetoric.
KARL: All right. Unfortunately, we are out of time.
Coming up, Nate Silver on one factor that may give Republicans a big advantage going into the 2022 midterm election. Or will it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THIS WEEK TRIVIA: Which president raised the debt ceiling the most in American history?
Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER .U.S. PRESIDENT: This is an action that we must take to prevent the government from defaulting on its obligations and I have no objections whatsoever in doing so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The American people are fed up with this one-party rule and what has come of it in just one year. If we are given the trust to be the majority, we will tackle inflation, we will secure our border, we will bring gasoline prices down, and we’ll focus on the economy.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2020, we won as a unified, Democratic Party. More unified than ever.
Let me say this again for the (INAUDIBLE), we’re going to win in 2022.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: As the parties look ahead to the 2022 midterms, about half the states have completed a once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional district maps.
So, how are the new congressional boundaries shaping up, and which party appears to have the upper hand? The answer might surprise you.
Here’s FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: This one’s a little complicated, but let’s break it down.
The last time redistricting occurred, after Democrats were routed (ph) in the 2010 midterms, it was a disaster for the party. Republicans drew boundary lines in 55 percent of districts, while Democrats controlled 10 percent. The rest were under split control or used bipartisan commissions.
This time Republicans also have an edge, but it’s narrower. They control around 45 percent of districts, while Democrats control around 20 percent.
So, relative to 2010, Democrats don’t have it so bad as you can see if you check out our FiveThirtyEight redistricting tracker.
So far, according to our analysis, Democrats have gained a net of four seats relative to Republicans as compared with the lines that were in place last year.
Although I should mention that both parties are showing up there on districts at the expense of competitive seats.
And there are some major states that have yet to complete their process, New York and Georgia, for example.
Relative to a non-partisan standard, Democrats still suffer from the redistricting process, partly because they see the control of districts to independent commission in state’s like California and Colorado that they could otherwise have gerrymandered, perhaps costing them about a dozen seats.
California’s proposed map, for instance, could actually add four competitive seats that were previously safely blue.
Now, to be clear, I think Democrats are underdogs to keep the House. They’ve now fallen behind Republicans in polls of voter preferences for Congress.
But, overall, I don’t really buy the redistricting story. Sure it makes life harder for Democrats, but it’s not that lopsided. The party’s bigger problem next year is just that they’ll probably wind up with fewer votes.
KARL: Our thanks to Nate Silver.
We’ll be covering the midterms every step of the way, but that’s all for today.
Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT,” and have a good day.
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