A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, November 21, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Acquitted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty.
RADDATZ: A Wisconsin jury finds Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. The high-profile case drawing sharp responses. What does the verdict say about the criminal justice system in America? Our ABC team standing by to tackle the fallout this morning.
Boosters for all.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If you are 18 or older, and you have been primarily vaccinated, go get boosted.
RADDATZ: The CDC approves COVID booster shots for all adults, as case counts climb with the winter season nearing. Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us this morning with what you need to know to stay safe this holiday season.
Plus, we head to Middle America, where inflation frustration is soaring.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's ridiculous, and I don't understand how anybody's making it at this point.
RADDATZ: Is relief in sight? And with the House passing Biden's Build Back Better plan, when will the Senate act, and when will voters feel the impact?
ABC News exclusive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really the central nervous system. This gives us our power.
RADDATZ: Rare access inside the NSA, the world's most powerful eavesdropping agency.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, millions of Americans will be on the move, the TSA predicting travel may near pre-pandemic levels. And as COVID cases rise once again, concern growing about another winter surge. The CDC on Friday green-lit vaccine booster shots for all adults. Dr. Anthony Fauci is standing by.
But we begin this morning with the dramatic verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, a case that inflamed debates in this country about race, guns, and vigilantism, the jury finding Rittenhouse acted in lawful self-defense when he fatally shot two men and wounded a third during the turbulent racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
The victims' families expressed outrage at the criminal justice system, as Rittenhouse applauded the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYLE RITTENHOUSE, DEFENDANT: The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defense is not illegal. It's been a rough journey, but we made it through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And here to analyze the fallout is our ABC team following the case since the beginning, senior national correspondent Terry Moran, just back from Kenosha, chief national correspondent and "Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts, and ABC News contributor Channa Lloyd, a managing partner of the Cochran law firm.
Welcome to you all.
And, Terry, I want to start with you.
You were in Kenosha covering the trial. Give us a sense of what it was like there watching that tearful testimony, watching the jury and those questions the jury asked about seeing the video again.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That tearful testimony.
Kyle Rittenhouse won this case on the witness stand. And he was superbly prepared by his defense lawyer, Mark Richards.
The defense staged two mock trials with mock juries before the -- before the trial, one where Kyle Rittenhouse did testify, one where he didn't. The answer was clear. And so that questioning was structured to -- right at the Wisconsin law of self-defense.
The defense barely mentioned the Second Amendment in this case. This was not a crusade. This was trying to get the jury to focus. And they did. I watched them. There was no dawdling, no nodding off. They were very focused.
And what the defense gave them was not a political case, but a case under Wisconsin's law of self-defense. And that's what they asked for during jury deliberations. First thing, please give each of us a copy of the law of self-defense. And then they went through that video evidence, knowing a lot of evidence that a lot of people around the country don't know. There were a lot of guns going off that night.
And they came to this conclusion. It was not a crusade in that courtroom. It was a trial.
RADDATZ: And, Terry, on that note of self-defense, I want to go to you, Channa.
This has caused outrage for some, vindication for others. But, legally, when you look at this, given the way the laws are written, once Kyle Rittenhouse said self-defense, it was a very tough case for the prosecution.
CHANNA LLOYD, THE COCHRAN FIRM MANAGING PARTNER AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, because, once he established self-defense, it takes out a lot of the other things that people would want to argue should have affected this case, the fact that he even had a gun in the first place, the fact that he was only 17.
None of those things matter when it comes to self-defense. What we're looking at is what he felt like in the moments in which he had to take that sort of deadly action. So, we're only looking at the situation he was in, what someone else was doing to him, and how he felt and whether or not he needed to resort to deadly force. And that’s what self-defense is about.
RADDATZ: And, Byron, in this trial, all involved in the case were white. Rittenhouse, the men who died, but this case intensified the debate over racial justice and the legal system itself.
BYRON PITTS, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, that's absolutely true, and for many people, it's not a debate. It's a cold, hard reality. In America, there's one justice system if you are white and wealthy. There is another if you are poor and a person of color.
Study after study shows that black men are arrested more often, convicted more often, and sentenced to longer sentences than white men accused of the same crime, and the same is -- holds true in discipline in schools, that disparity.
And, Martha, here’s a study, I think, that speaks to this case and the concerns about this case. According to the FBI, a -- a fatal shooting where the shooter is white and the victim is black, three times more likely that's ruled to be justifiable if both parties were white. And so I think for most reasonable people, and most surveys would bear this out, the few reasonable people would believe that if a 17-year-old black boy with an AR-15 showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin at night, killed two people and injured a third, then that black boy would have been treated the same way by police or by the legal justice system.
RADDATZ: And so, Channa, I want you to look at this in a larger sense and where the laws are now, and given what Byron said as well, Wisconsin doesn't have that so-called stand your ground statute, but their laws really are just short of that.
LLOYD: Absolutely, and I think what Byron said is absolutely correct, because that is the larger focus that people are looking at this trial in, is that had Rittenhouse been African-American young man, would the sentence or would the verdict have been the same? Statistically what we find is that it would not be. And so that is the injustice that people are looking at this verdict in.
It's not necessarily just about Rittenhouse. It's about the larger picture of the criminal justice system, and how it disproportionately affects black and brown individuals when they are on the other side of that.
RADDATZ: And Terry, let's go back to guns. In terms of open carry and the prevalence of guns, the judge, Bruce Schroeder, he dismissed those misdemeanor weapons charges against Kyle Rittenhouse carrying a military-style weapon at 17 years old. What does that mean?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the surface, that was unlawful under Wisconsin law because minors are not allowed to carry deadly weapons. But the defense once again zeroed in. It's a badly written law because there's an exception. There's a part of the law that says if you are a minor, you're allowed to carry a long gun as long as you're not carrying a short-barreled sawed off shotgun, and they seized on that.
And the problem with what the judge did is not that he ruled for the defendant saying that the defendants should not suffer because the legislature can't tell them what the law is in this badly written law. It's when he did it. The defense had asked twice for this charge to be tossed earlier in the case, and had he done so, the prosecution could have appealed, but this was a judge who I think wanted to keep control of this case.
He did not want an appeals court look covering over his shoulder during the middle of the case. And so that was a real problem. Once again though, there were a lot of guns on that street. A lot of them going off, and it was a very chaotic situation.
RADDATZ: And Byron, I want you to pick up on that. This was in the middle of a protest.
PITTS: Oh, absolutely, and that certainly complicates this case and makes it very different say from the Arbery case that's going on in South Georgia.
I think, Martha, for the average parent, none of us wants to see our child, no matter their age, to be gunned down and killed in the streets of America, and so that's what's so complicated, what's so disturbing I think for many people about this case. Certainly, there is the constitutional right to bear arms, but again, few reasonable people think it's okay for a 17-year-old civilian, a boy, to walk into a space with an AR-15 and create an environment where someone loses their life.
RADDATZ: And Channa, I want you to address the Ahmaud Arbery case in Georgia, a major case. They are claiming self-defense as well, even though they were chasing the man who was shot.
LLOYD: Absolutely, and I think that the comparison in the two you can start to see the differences, right? In this particular case, they chased him with vehicles. They approached him with weapons and because he did not respond to them in a manner that they thought was acceptable, they continued this chase. Then, he himself right now currently in that court case, they are using and vilifying Mr. Arbery. They're using words like he appeared angry, suspicious, you know, he was walking at -- too fast -- running at too fast of a pace.
This is where we see the disparity in the fact that he's an African-American male and he's using these sort of adjectives to be described and the initial action and interaction between them was created by the McMichaels and by Mr. Bryan, and chasing him even though he had no ill words to say to them, even though he did not display any aggressive manner.
And I think that's a disparity that we're talking about, and when we look at the Rittenhouse case, even the judge in that case, the way he handled the defendant, the way he handled the case was very defense-friendly, and I think that's specific to that particular defendant. He's someone who seems familiar to them. He seems like a brother, a son. They identify a little bit differently with having Mr. Rittenhouse on the stand. So I think that affects the trial overall.
RADDATZ: Okay. Thanks to all of you. That's a case we will certainly be watching.
Now to the latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC on Friday endorsing Pfizer and Moderna boosters for all adults, allowing millions more Americans to get their third shots before hitting the road this holiday weekend. It comes amid a new surge in COVID cases, up nearly 50 percent since late October.
Here to discuss is President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Good morning, Dr. Fauci.
You have long been convinced about the data that shows the benefits of boosting everyone after six months, but it was less than five weeks ago when the CDC chose not to recommend boosters for all adults. What finally changed their minds?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Well, I think the data became very, very clear. We were looking at data when I was saying that I really felt very strongly that we should be getting boosters to everyone. The data was coming from -- mostly from Israel and other countries.
But now that you look at the data as it's evolved in the United States, it’s very clear. They wanted to make sure that the safety signals were right, and once that became very clear, right now, very, very -- I’m very pleased that we're in a situation where there's no -- there's no confusion. There's no lack of clarity, that if you’ve been vaccinated with a primary vaccination, with an mRNA vaccine, either the Pfizer or the Moderna six months or more ago, get boosted and the same with regard to J&J, if you were vaccinated two months ago, get boosted.
And that's really now clear. There's no ambiguity about that, and we really hope that people go out there and utilize this very important tool to optimize their status with regard to protection.
RADDATZ: And Connecticut and New Mexico's governors said they don't consider Americans fully vaccinated unless they have had a booster. You said that's not on the table federally yet, but if the immunity drops so substantially without a booster, why shouldn't the White House adopt that standard as soon as possible?
FAUCI: Well, first of all, you want to go with the science, Martha, and right now, if you look at the data that we have, fully vaccinated right now by definition is the original two doses with the mRNA and the Pfizer and Moderna, and a single dose with J&J.
We'll continue to follow the data because right now when we're boosting people, what we're doing following them, we're going to see what the durability of that protection is. And as we always do, you just follow and let the data guide your policy, and let the data guide your recommendations.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about later on. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla recently said there's a high chance boosters would be needed annually.
Do you think that's a possibility or do you believe it might be even sooner like every six months?
FAUCI: You know, we follow the data, and there's always -- it's so easy to predict, Martha, about how often you would need it. We would hope, and this is something that we're looking at very carefully, that that third shot with the mRNA not only boosts you way up, but increases the durability so that you will not necessarily need it every six months or a year. We're hoping it pushes it out more.
If it doesn't, and the data show we do need it more often, then we'll do it, but we want to make sure we get the population optimally protected and you do whatever you need to do, to make sure you do that.
My hope as an immunologist, as an infectious disease person, that that maturation of the response increasing its strength and power will be followed by a greater durability. That's what I’m hoping for. If it doesn't happen, we'll act accordingly.
RADDATZ: And, Dr. Fauci, "The Wall Street Journal" is also reporting a pretty incredible statistic that deaths from COVID, official numbers are twice as high this year as last? How do you explain that?
FAUCI: Well, we're dealing with a delta variant right now, which is very, very different from the original variants that we were dealing with before, Martha. This is -- this is a virus that is highly, highly transmissible. I mean no doubt about that, the more people that get infected, the more people that are going to get hospitalized, the more people that get hospitalized, the more people that are going to die. This just gets us back to the message that we're talking about.
What we have this year, what we didn't have last year, is we now have vaccines that are highly effective and clearly very safe, particularly now with the recent data showing that we can vaccinate children from five to 11. And it's really important to point out, if you get the children at that age group, and there are 28 million children within that age category, if we start vaccinating them now, they'll be fully protected by Christmas. That would really be something that's very good. And that's the reason why we're encouraging parents to get children within that age group vaccinated.
RADDATZ: I presume we have to be cautious during Thanksgiving. You talked about Christmas protection with those boosters. But, quickly, if you will, Thanksgiving?
FAUCI: Well, if your booster -- I mean if you're -- if you're vaccinated, and hopefully you'll be boosted too, and your family is, you can enjoy a typical Thanksgiving meal, Thanksgiving holiday with your family. There's no reason not to do that.
The thing we are concerned about is the people who are not vaccinated because what they're doing is they're the major source of the dynamics of the infection in the community. And the higher the level of dynamics of infection, the more everyone is at risk. But if you're vaccinated, you look at the data, Martha, it's absolutely clear, the likelihood of getting infected, getting hospitalized or dying, if you're vaccinated versus nonvaccinated, weighs very, very heavily in the protection of people who are vaccinated.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Dr. Fauci.
The roundtable is coming up.
Plus, as rising inflation threatens President Biden's economic agenda, I traveled to Kansas City to talk with voters about rising prices heading into the holiday season.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: What can you do about these high prices? How long is it going to take?
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, it's real, and it's -- and it's rough. Groceries -- the cost of groceries has gone up. The cost of gas has gone up. And you -- as this is all happening in the context of two years of a pandemic, that's one of the highest priorities, actually, for the president and for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledging the inflation surge while speaking with our George Stephanopoulos.
Consumer prices have jumped 6.2 percent since last year, a 30-year high, with the cost of groceries up 5.4 percent overall, some items like beef and bacon surging by more than 20 percent.
I traveled to Kansas City to see how the price hikes are affecting people ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
RADDATZ (voice over): For the right, it's an easy attack line.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIF.: One-party rule in one year has given us the highest inflation in 31 years.
RADDATZ: For the left, I a blip in an otherwise strong economic recovery from the pandemic.
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: Jobs are up, wages are up, values are up, and savings are up.
RADDATZ: But in the middle of the country, where inflation has hit the hardest, that insidious uptick in prices is a financial gut punch for many families, like here in Kansas City, where even basic expenses are stretching budgets thin.
TALITHA MCFADDEN JAMES, MOTHER OF FOUR: Did you guys clean up your room when you got home?
RADDATZ: Talitha Mcfadden James and her husband have four kids at home. And although she and her husband both work, it's getting harder and harder to put food on the table.
(on camera): You have to check every single price?
JAMES: Yes, I have to.
RADDATZ (voice over): One-time staples, like a family-sized roll of ground beef, no longer possible.
JAMES: This roll, at one point, was $18.67. This roll has went up to $30.83.
RADDATZ: Talitha's typical $100 weekly budget once covered six to eight meals but now only lasts for two to three, forcing her to forego items like meat, produce and snacks.
JAMES: I don't understand how anybody's making it at this point.
MARY ESSELMAN, OPERATION BREAKTHROUGH CEO: So what all do you need, babe?
RADDATZ: In Kansas City, the nonprofit Operation Breakthrough is trying to ease some of the growing burden.
(on camera): Have you seen people who previously didn't need your help come in?
ESSELMAN: You know, our average family will use a pantry about three types per month. So we're seeing that increase, and then definitely seeing families that maybe didn't have a need for it having a need now, and even some of our staff.
RADDATZ (voice over): That need only expected to heighten during the holidays. And as the temperatures drop, utility costs rise, boosting the price of the average utility bill from $84 to $120.
(on camera): And heat, with -- with winter coming.
(UNKNOWN): Well, we know heat, and we know gas prices are going to be higher, obviously electrical.
RADDATZ (voice over): The pain of inflation is reverberating further up the supply chain as well.
KATIE NIXON, FAMILY FARM OWNER: We still have turnips going, and we're doing some strawberries we've already planted.
RADDATZ: Katie Nixon runs a family farm in Missouri. While demand for her produce has increased since the onset of the pandemic, so has the cost of doing business.
NIXON: Packaging is a lot more expensive. Cardboard boxes went from, like, $1.60 each to $2.50. We have two farm vehicles that desperately need to be replaced.
RADDATZ (on camera): You've got higher prices for you to run your farm. You've got higher bills, and right now there's no end in sight, really, for this?
NIXON: It's hard because I know a lot of people are struggling, and we don't want to charge a ton of money for our food, but, you know, it is a premium product, and we also need to make a living.
RADDATZ (voice over): For Talitha, getting by this year means going without.
(on camera): Let's talk about Thanksgiving. What are you going to do?
JAMES: You know what? We're definitely not buying no turkey.
RADDATZ (voice over): And trying to make ends meet even as prices seem to climb even higher.
(on camera): You must be really nervous?
JAMES: I am. I am, and it does -- it does spark a nerve with me, and it does -- it does put a little fear into my heart because I have a family to provide for.
RADDATZ: A lot of nervous people. Let's try to make sense of things now with our experts, ABC News business correspondent Deirdre Bolton and Diane Swonk, chief economist and managing director at Grant Thornton. Welcome to you both.
Deirdre, I want to start with you. People are struggling. You heard them struggling there, heading into the holiday. The White House has said this is a transitory problem, but is it more fundamental? Is this going to stick around?
BOLTON: Well, Martha, from your excellent reporting, I mean, we saw with those families, I mean, it's everything. It's food, it's gasoline, this 30-year high.
So for them, it feels fundamental. It feels basic because it is.
In speaking with economists -- Gregory Daco is one of note, at Oxford Economics -- he does say, in the next 12 months, that pricing pressures should begin to come down, the logic being that some of these supply chain issues that we've been hit so hard with will begin to mitigate. And that is going to take down some of the pricing pressure.
But in the near term, for the next six months, let's face it. We are all going to pay more for everything, rent, food, gasoline. The next six months is belt-tightening, and it's a difficult time of year for a lot of people who would like to enjoy the holidays with their families.
RADDATZ: And, Diane, I know that the pandemic takes a lot of the blame here, but how did it really get so bad, supply chain, obviously, but how did it get to this point where that package of meat went from $18 to $30?
DIANE SWONK, GRANT THORNTON CHIEF ECONOMIST: Yes.
No, it's really a demand surge, which is one aspect of it. First of all, inflation is global in scope. It's not just happening here. But it's a demand surge. It was during the Delta wave. The supply chain disruptions got even worse because of that.
So, even though we slowed down our spending, which should have cooled off inflation a bit, we actually saw we started spending more on goods again. And, in that process, with the disruptions we saw through the Delta wave around the world, further disrupting supply chains, that further pushed up prices.
And then we have got this perverse labor issue. We have got a pandemic. People are afraid to come back to work. There's still people on the sidelines, yet there's -- wages are going up, but there's shortages. And it's a really all-of-the-above situation. It's very complex. It's very it -- there's no precedence for what we're going through.
And even though inflation, it will get worse before it gets better, and it will eventually abate one way or the other -- another is that the Fed will raise rates. And I think the risk is, though, is that we have got some lingering (AUDIO GAP) in things like shelter costs -- rents are going up very, very rapidly -- that are still going to burn even after this cools down a bit.
And that's what the Fed will end up having to worry about.
RADDATZ: And, Deirdre, let's talk long term here.
We have been on this kind of just-in-time manufacturing system, no overhead costs, or they're less than they were before. There are glitches in the system. Obviously, if a chip doesn't come through, the whole line breaks down. So, do we need to look at a more resilient system?
RADDATZ: Deirdre, can you take this one?
BOLTON: Of course.
We sure do. This is a big, furry mess. And the whole irony of just in time was that it was built to be more efficient. And we are now seeing the exact opposite of that. So, we are seeing industry respond. No business leader wants to go through this ever again.
And we have been talking about the auto sector, how there are cars just sitting on factory floors just waiting for a chip. I mean, otherwise, the car is put together, is ready to go to a dealership, but there's no chips, so it has to stay on the factory floor.
So, GM and Ford just this week announcing partnerships, strategic partnerships with U.S.-based semiconductor makers. So that is going to help alleviate. You are seeing these changes in the way that businesses make decisions, in the way that they're partnering up with other companies that are U.S.-based.
TSMC, Taiwan Semiconductor, makes, depending on the industry, between 25 and 50 percent of some chips that some industries use. They're building a plant right now in Arizona. Now, it's going to take some time. The first chips will come off the conveyor belt 2024. Most experts say, OK, this is fantastic. Let's get more chip factories built, but let's do 10 more like this in Arizona. At least one is on the way.
RADDATZ: And, Diane, finally, is there any advice you would give to consumers right now?
SWONK: Well, what we're doing is, we're going to be going through a very hard period.
And if there's things that you can delay, I actually think there's -- because of the issues we're seeing from just-in-time to just-in-case inventories, we're going to see a building of inventories by 2023. If you don't need to buy a car right now, wait it out. If you don't need to buy some of those other things that are goods that people have spent so much on, if you can wait it out a little bit, we're going to see some discounting on the other side of this, which makes it more of a boom-bust cycle.
But it is being able to pace yourself in terms of what you really need. There's also a lot of people selling some things that they got during the pandemic on things like Craigslist.
RADDATZ: Very good advice to all of us. Thanks to both of you.
The roundtable is up next.
And, later, Pierre Thomas takes us inside one of the most secretive places in the world.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is ready to two. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This bill takes the problems President Biden and Democrats have already created and makes them much, much worse. This bill is too extreme, too costly, and too liberal for the United States.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: For us, it’s about -- not just about legislation, it's about values.
This bill is monumental. It's historic. It's transformative. It's bigger than anything we've ever done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Dueling reactions there as House Democrats passed the centerpiece of President Biden's economic agenda Friday morning.
Let's talk about it with the roundtable.
Jonathan Swan, national political correspondent for "Axios," ABC News deputy political director Averi Harper, "Politico" White House correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez, and chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl, a co-anchor of THIS WEEK and author of the new bestseller "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."
Good morning to everybody.
AVERI HARPER, ABC NEWS DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning.
RADDATZ: Averi, I'm going to start with you.
House Democrats finally passed the Build Back Better. Lots of cuts. Lots of compromise.
How much of a political victory is this for Democrats?
HARPER: Well, it's an incremental victory for Democrats and for the Biden administration because we know that this is moving to the Senate where there's going to be a robust amendment process and there's going to be a balancing act there because they want to get the buy-in of Senators Manchin and Sinema, but also maintain the integrity of this bill, including some of the progressive signposts for it, including paid family leave. This is something that's important and could get cut in that amendment process, and so we'll see what happens there.
RADDATZ: And, Laura, let's take a look at exactly what's in this bill. As passed in the House, the $1.7 trillion bill includes more than $550 billion for green energy and climate initiatives, more than $200 billion for paid family leave, more than $200 billion for Medicaid and Medicare expansion, $150 billion for elder and disabled care, and $109 billion for universal pre-k and more. This is truly a significant overhaul.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is. And it is the president's answer a lot to coming out of the pandemic. You know, his argument right now is that this is help that a lot of families need. And so he's trying to really refine his message because we know that Democrats have had trouble messaging this bill to this point because of the fact that it's changed a lot in the last few months, and it could very well change again as it goes to the Senate.
But the administration wants to make clear that they are rounding a corner on this bill, and so the White House officials I've talked to keep sounding very confident about the prospects in the Senate. Yes, are there going to be some changes made? They aren't totally sure if paid leave is going to stay in. There's immigration provisions in there that are likely to get cut because of the Senate parliamentarian and the budget process. But they are really pushing for this to happen by the end of the year.
RADDATZ: I'm sure they are.
And -- and, Jon, I just want to take a pause here about Kevin McCarthy on the House floor. Longest House floor speech in history, eight hours, 32 minutes I think it was. What was the point of that other than beating Nancy Pelosi's previous record?
JON KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it made the House look like the Senate for -- for a night.
Look, this was really about Kevin McCarthy solidifying his spot as the Republican leader. He went on that speech. He took after the bill, of course, but he also did things like lament that Donald Trump hadn't won a Nobel Peace Prize. It was about that audience, the audience of Donald trump and Trump supporters, who have had doubts about Kevin McCarthy.
You know, in -- in my book, Trump, when I went to talk to him, he said that if McCarty and McConnell had fought harder, we'd still have a Republican president. After McCarthy's speech, Trump praised McCarthy and he actually said, if McConnell had fought harder, we'd still have a Republican president. He was no longer attacking McCarthy, at least now for the day.
RADDATZ: I don't think we're going to expect a McConnell speech however quite that length ever.
RADDATZ: Jonathan, as we've said, it, obviously, now heads to the Senate, and there it meets Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. They've been fairly non-committal about that. But -- but drill down a little deeper on what you expect.
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. Well, Kyrsten Sinema, they're almost divided responsibilities here, like she has focused on the tax side and she's been very resolute about she didn't want the corporate rate to rise. She basically got everything she wanted already in the House bill. I mean, who knows, she may have other demands.
Manchin, they have no leverage over Manchin. They never have. And the problem for progressives -- you know, I interviewed Rashida Tlaib straight after the vote. She doesn't trust Senate Democrats. She, in fact, said they are corporate Democrats who basically don't have Americans' best interests at heart and she's fearful, was the word she used, about what would happen in the Senate.
But the problem is, they're going to have to eat whatever Manchin comes up with because he responds to his voters in West Virginia. He has a 60 percent approval rating in West Virginia. Do you know what Joe Biden's is? Thirty-two percent. And 74 percent of West Virginians say they don't want him to pass Build Back Better. They want him to cut it down on the spending side.
So Manchin can basically take the pen and do a few things to it and they're just going to have to swallow it in the House. And they have --
RADDATZ: And that would make West Virginians very happy, but not everybody else, I suppose.
SWAN: Zero leverage.
BARRON-LOPEZ: And he has already gotten some of what he wanted, right?
Originally this was $3.5 trillion, and it's now down to $1.75 trillion. And the White House tells me that they feel really good, actually, about their standing with Manchin. Biden has a strong relationship with Manchin, and they regularly talk. They're constantly conversing. And we can expect more face to face time between Biden and Manchin in the coming weeks.
SWAN: And just to add on what Laura said, like, he's not behaving like someone who wants to tank this bill -- like, the fact that they're still -- like, he could have tanked it a long time ago, and so could have Sinema. The fact they're still having these conversations suggests that they do want to get to yes.
RADDATZ: And the -- and the Democrats feel pretty confident about it.
Do you see any scenario, Averi, where they can't stomach the changes, the progressives?
HARPER: I mean, look, this is a part of the perception problem that the Democrats have. Outside of West Virginia, you know, there have been major progressive concessions that have been made, you know, in this legislation. We know that Democrats have struggled to get their entire party on board with some of the major pieces of the Biden administration's agenda.
And so this could hurt Democrats as we head into this midterm year where folks are really trying to figure out who they're going to be voting for.
If you look at generic ballot polling, there's more Americans, according to our ABC News/Washington Post poll, that want to vote for Republicans if they were going to head to the polls today than Democrats. And that should send shockwaves through the -- the hearts and minds of Democrats.
RADDATZ: And, Jon Karl, about that poll, the Republicans aren't going to keep pushing. We've got -- the Washington Post poll out last Sunday showed about six in 10 Americans, as you said, support this social spending bill. But the Republicans?
KARL: Yeah, and they've run this playbook before. You remember, in 2009. when Barack Obama came out with his then roughly $800 billion stimulus bill, smaller than this -- smaller than both of these bills -- and Republicans, even though many elements of that bill were very popular, Republicans ran against it, saying this was big government run amok, too much spending, too fast. And every single Republican in the House voted against it in 2009.
They ran that and the opposition to health care into a big victory in the midterm elections in 2010. That's what they're trying to do here.
RADDATZ: And of course we've got inflation now, which we just discussed with that panel. How do they handle that? How do the Democrats handle that politically?
KARL: Well, and that's why Republicans feel that they can go against this bill even though the elements of the bill, as you point out, are popular, is they will point to inflation, which everybody senses and everybody feels and affects every household, and they will say, "Inflation is because of what Joe Biden and the Democrats have done."
Now, the economics of that may not be accurate at all, but they will push that argument and they will push it relentlessly between now and next November.
BARRON-LOPEZ: And you see the White House trying to address that, right?
This week President Biden sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying "You need to start investigating these gas prices."
In multiple cases in that letter, he raised the issue of potentially illegal conduct because of the fact that fuel costs -- refined fuel is going down while these gas prices continue to go up.
So Biden, outside of the legislation itself, is also trying to put this foot forward on these economic issues, really tout the revised jobs numbers that are good for the administration, show that the unemployment rate is down, but also show that they're trying to answer more forcefully these concerns among the public about consumer goods being...
RADDATZ: And there's a reason for that...
RADDATZ: ... the midterms. They're still in a rough spot, even if this bill passes.
SWAN: It's the best political environment for Republicans in a decade. Take any metric, the generic ballot, presidential approval rating, the issue set. You can't spin your way out of inflation. You can say it's temporary, but if it's not temporary, there's a little problem. Every time the voter goes to the gas pump or the grocery store, it smacks them in the face.
And, look, with these bills, the alternative is obviously worse. If they fail, it adds to this sense of incompetence and it's catastrophic for Biden. But no Democratic strategist I've talked to thinks that these bills are some kind of, you know, magical elixir that's going to change their fortunes next year.
It's the political environment. And if the current political environment persists, I haven't talked to anyone on either side who thinks the Democrats can hold the House at the end of next year.
RADDATZ: And, Averi, I want your take on that. And we also know, of course, President Biden is under the water in approval polls.
HARPER: Right. But the fact is that his policies still remain relatively popular. And so that's why we're seeing the president; we're seeing the vice president; and other members of the administration and Democrats across the country, who are going to be holding all of those events to tout the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure plan and also this spending bill as well.
Listen, they still have to get this legislation passed. So it's, you know -- at this point, it's -- remains to be seen whether it will benefit them, but it could, if they're able to get some of those results, some tangible results, to the American people.
RADDATZ: And, Laura, The Washington Post is saying President Biden and his aides are telling allies that "He will run again. He will run again."
Why the reassurance?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, President Biden, if he runs again, will clearly be the oldest president to run and to hold office.
And so there are concerns among Democrats about what that field looks like in 2024 and whether or not Biden is going to run again. His staff, from the campaign all the way through to now, has consistently said he's running again. He is -- nothing is going to be different about this term, you know, that he is still in it.
And so that's -- that's why they're doing this, because there are Democrats wondering whether or not people like the vice president, Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are trying to position themselves for the next chapter of the Democratic Party.
RADDATZ: And, of course, Jon Karl, looming all over this is former President Trump.
Your new book, "Betrayal," just came out, already a bestseller. Congratulations.
But one of your revelations is that Trump told RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel he was going to leave the GOP. Our political director, Rick Klein, asked her about that Thursday. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I have never shared my conversations with the president. I'm not about to start doing that now.
But I will say one thing that's very true that was said in that statement, which is, if he left the party, we would lose. If he left the party, Republicans would lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Not exactly a denial.
KARL: No, no.
As a matter of fact, that's actually a confirmation, because, as I recounted the conversation, which happened on the last day of the Trump presidency on Air Force One as he was going to Florida, Ronna McDaniel told him that Republicans would lose, we would all lose, all the people that you supported would lose.
And his answer was: I don't care. And his attitude was: If I lost, everybody else around me should lose too.
They eventually got Trump to back down by threatening steps that would have cost him tens of millions of dollars. And he did back down. And now it's his party.
RADDATZ: And let's talk about Trump and the Republicans, Averi, and what effect this has. What do Republicans do?
There's lots of backroom talk, I know.
And so I think what we're seeing is two different strategies emerging, I think on the national stage and in some of these ruby-red districts. We're going to see candidates continue to lean into former President Trump, want his endorsement, want his involvement.
But in swing districts and in larger states, right, in some of these gubernatorial races, some of these Senate races, I think what we're going to see are folks try to keep the former president at an arm's length, use the Glenn Youngkin playbook, so to speak, and try to keep the support of die-hard Trump voters, but also bring independents and dissatisfied Biden voters into the fold.
KARL: The challenge for Republicans is, they think they need Trump to win in the 2022 midterms. They need him on board. They need him rallying the supporters, all those Trump fans out there voting.
But they also fear that, if he runs again, that he is so damaged as a national figure among independents, among women, that they would like him to bow out before 2024, but be there in 2022. And that's a difficult dance.
RADDATZ: And just very quickly, Jonathan, just to end on that note, if -- what the effect is on next year, Donald Trump.
SWAN: Well, what they're trying to do -- and everyone's accurate in what they're saying -- is hold the Trump coalition together, which there's been a shift. Non-college educated voters are now moving towards the Republican Party. Working-class voters have been moving.
And they're actually breaking down on racial -- like, we're seeing increased support among Hispanics and African-Americans. And so it's breaking down on class lines.
But the question is, can you run this sort of Glenn Youngkin playbook and get some of these upscale suburbanites who abandoned the Republican Party under Trump? Can you keep them on board and still have these working-class voters as well?
RADDATZ: And something we will all be watching for.
Thanks very much for joining us this morning, everyone.
Coming up: As the U.S. faces an unprecedented surge in cyberattacks, Pierre Thomas takes you where no network cameras have gone before -- his exclusive report next.
RADDATZ: Now to our exclusive report from inside the country's most sophisticated electronic spy agency, the NSA. ABC was granted a never-before-seen look at how officials are using powerful technology and expertise to thwart growing threat on the homeland.
Here's Pierre Thomas.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Integrated Cyber Center. ABC News, the first network permitted to take cameras into the one of the most sensitive and secret rooms on the planet.
GEN. PAUL NAKASONE, NSA CHIEF: This is the military, civilian contractor. This is Department of Defense. This is intelligence community. This is other agencies of our government, and they're all resident here, and working side by side.
THOMAS: And unlimited reach?
THOMAS: General Paul Nakasone oversees the most powerful world electronic spy agency, the NSA.
NAKASONE: And I do want to show you just kind of the lay out here if you don't mind, sir, please.
THOMAS: This room is the nerve center of the NSA and US. Cyber Command, agency’s supercharged with the world's most advanced spyware and the most creative hackers.
NAKASONE: In cyberspace, the advantage goes to those that have speed and agility.
THOMAS: We conducted our interview in what’s known as the battle bridge, the place the general goes to oversee crisis.
NAKASONE: You can take a look out the windows, that’s where -- that's where we just were.
THOMAS: With cyberthreats spiking, Nakasone says he's seeing to have his agencies evolve, increasingly pushing them to step out of the shadows and to engage more, not only with other federal agencies, but private sector partners as well.
GEN. PAUL NAKASONE, COMMANDER, U.S. CYBER COMMAND: What we don't want to have is a failure to imagine what's happening.
THOMAS: The adversary, nations like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and their proxies, also terrorists and criminal organizations.
NAKASONE: In Russia, we think about, you know, their ability to influence operations.
THOMAS: Nakasone, more and more, is focused on election security as a domestic threat as well, mindful of what Russia did in 2016.
NAKASONE: Election security is our number one priority. Number one priority across our agency and our command.
THOMAS: But the general also warned that the U.S. is under incredible and constant hacking. The military itself hit by millions of attempted hacks every day. And the home front is under no less pressure.
THOMAS (on camera): Is the capability out there for someone to attempt to attack our power grid, our financial systems? Is this science fiction or is this a real world threat today?
NAKASONE: No, this is a real world threat today, no doubt, Pierre.
THOMAS (voice over): In recent months, so-called ransomware attacks have been exploding.
NAKASONE: Well, if you would have asked me that a year ago and said, hey, Paul, what about ransomware, you know, I probably would have said something to the effect of, that's really a criminal matter, it's not something we do.
THOMAS: Nakasone agrees that the Russian-based ransomware attack that shut down Colonial Pipeline was a seminal moment for the American public.
THOMAS (on camera): Very curious as to how you heard about it and what was your reaction?
NAKASONE: I heard about it in the media. My first reaction was this, this is serious. Secondly, I heard about it from family members that said, hey, aren't you the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of NSA? Can't you do something about this?
THOMAS: And when you saw people pulling up to stations that said closed, what were you thinking?
NAKASONE: I think at that point in time I was like, we need to surge on this issue. What do we need to do to make sure that -- that we can assist in any way possible?
THOMAS: Colonial Pipeline, that company is responsible for 45 percent of the fuel that flows up and down the East Coast. How could they be so vulnerable?
NAKASONE: I think that's a, you know, a question we all have to ask ourselves. What are the things we need to be able to do to make ourselves a much more difficult target?
THOMAS (voice over): I asked him what grade he would give the cybersecurity efforts of American companies.
NAKASONE: A much higher grade today than I would perhaps six months ago.
THOMAS (on camera): What would the grade have been six months ago?
NAKASONE: Probably a low c.
THOMAS (voice over): With so much more engagement with the private sector, Nakasone say he's mindful of the red lines.
THOMAS (on camera): Can you guarantee the American public that you're operating within the appropriate guidelines and that you're not spying on Americans?
NAKASONE: One hundred percent.
THOMAS: Personal commitment?
NAKASONE: Personal commitment.
THOMAS (voice over): So much at stake on so many fronts.
RADDATZ: And Pierre Thomas joins us now.
Pierre, that was an extraordinary report and incredible access. What's your big takeaway?
THOMAS: Well, I think, as you know, the NSA is no secret it used to be known as no such agency. I was really struck by how dynamic and intense this cyberwar is, and the fact that the NSA and the U.S. Cyber Command, supersecret agencies, are now reaching out in ways that they did not in the past to the private sector, including to companies like Microsoft. This war is epic. There are thousands upon thousands of people at the NSA, and more to come.
RADDATZ: And we know you'll stay on it, Pierre. Thanks so much for that report.
That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.