'This Week' Transcript 7-11-21: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Gov. Asa Hutchinson & Eric Adams

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, July 11.

ByABC News
July 11, 2021, 9:37 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 11, 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.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR (voice-over): COVID confusion. Questions about vaccines, boosters and masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will really be up to the schools and the districts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As the Delta variant continues to spread.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: This rapid rise is troubling.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the vaccination effort hits a wall.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we need to go to community by community and, oft times, door to door, literally knocking on doors.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We cover it all with Dr. Anthony Fauci and the chair of the National Governors Association, Asa Hutchinson.


BIDEN: Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our roundtable debates the lessons of America's longest war and all the week's politics.

ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: New York City said, our first choice is Eric Adams.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Eric Adams on track to be New York's next mayor. How will he tackle rising crime? What does his win mean for Democrats across the country? He joins us live in his first Sunday interview.

And breaking news: the latest on the Virgin Galactic launch this morning. Gio Benitez is live at the launch site.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."

Here now, George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."

As we come on the air, that's a look at the launch site for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic voyage to the edge of space. The launch has been delayed a bit. We're going to track it all morning long, as Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk begin the battle to privatize space travel.

And we begin with the latest on the pandemic.

President Biden's summer of freedom from COVID is now challenged by the Delta variant, with cases climbing in half the country, as the vaccination rates slows, down more than 80 percent from the April peak.

Two-thirds of American adults have received at least one dose, but hospitalization rates are rising in states with low vaccination rates. One of them is Arkansas. Governor Asa Hutchinson is standing by to talk about that.

First, let's bring in the president's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us again this morning.

And let's begin with the Delta variant. It's now the most prevalent strain in the United States and growing around the world. But we also know the vaccines contain it. So, how worried should we be?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, if you're not vaccinated, you should be concerned, George, because it's very clear that this is a nasty variant.

It has a much greater capability of transmitting from person to person. We know, from extensive experience, not only in our own country here in the United States, but in other countries, that the vaccines that we are using work extremely well against the Delta variant, particularly in preventing advanced disease that would lead to hospitalization and likely death in some circumstances.

So, the vaccines work. I mean, that's the good news/bad news. The bad news is that we have a very nasty variant. And the good news is that we have a vaccine that works against it. That's the reason why we're very concerned, is that we have some sort of a schism between some states and some areas that have a very low level of vaccination, which is really unfortunate, because we want to make sure those people are protected for their own safety in and their own life, but that of their family and their community.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The schism is deeply infected by politics as well.

We have a new poll with "The Washington Post." It shows that 93 percent of Democrats say they're vaccinated or will be vaccinated. Only 49 percent of Republicans say the same.

What can we do about that problem?

FAUCI: You know, George, it is not an easy solution. It really isn't.

I mean, I -- what we're trying to do is to just put politics aside. This is no time for politics. This is a public health issue. And viruses and public health don't know the difference between a Democrat, a Republican or an independent.

One of the ways to do that is to get trusted messengers without any political ideology differences out there -- that could be clergy, that could be trusted messengers in the community, that could be your family physician -- to get people to put aside this political issue and say, what am I going to be able to do for my own safety and for that of my family?

We have got to get away from the divisiveness that has really been a problem right from the very beginning with this outbreak.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the states with low vaccination rates is Arkansas. The governor, Asa Hutchinson, is up next.

His state is 44th now in the country. And he said that the lack of full authorization from the FDA is contributing to vaccine hesitancy.

How do you respond to that? And how far do you think we are from full authorization?

FAUCI: You know, I think the governor does have a point there.

There are certainly some people who when you use the terminology emergency use authorization, they kind of think it's a tenuous data showing that it works so that it's safe. That's not the case. In some emergency use authorization for other products, the amount of data just barely gets to show you that the benefit is definitely worth any risk.

When you're dealing with the data that we have now, George, you're talking about hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated and in every country you go to you see that the effectiveness and the safety of the vaccines are very high.

So although it's understandable -- quite understandable that some people might say, well, we want to wait for the full approval, that's really only a technical issue. It's the FDA dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. But there's no doubt in my mind that these vaccines are going to get full approval because of the extraordinary amount of positive data.

But the governor is correct when he says that there are some people who are saying that who understandably are saying, no, no, I want to wait. What we're trying to do is get the information to them to say that the data are really overwhelming in the positive sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the big questions going forward is how long the effectiveness of the vaccines lasts. There's a debate opened up about booster shots, whether they’re going to be necessary.

Pfizer said this week, they said that a third shot may be necessary after 6 to 12 months. But health officials inside the administration have pushed back pretty hard on that. What do we know about boosters? What do we need to know?

FAUCI: Well, what we need to know is what we're trying to get and I believe we're going to get that information, George, and that is doing a number of follow up clinical studies dating back to the original Phase 3 trials.

We're following individuals for two things, laboratory data that might indicate that, what we call a correlate of immunity, that would be a surrogate to indicate whether or not you still have protection. You follow that over months and if it goes down below a critical level, that's a red flag that you may need to boost.

Another is a pure clinical observation, namely are we seeing more break-through infections than you might expect. Those are being followed extremely carefully. And we're also simultaneously doing studies preparing for the eventuality of having to boost people.

So there's a lot of dynamic things going on right now. We're not at all putting aside -- even though the CDC and the FDA correctly said right now we don't feel you need a booster. That doesn't mean that we're not very, very actively following and gathering all of this information to see if and when we might need it and if and when we do, we'll have everything in place to do it. So --


FAUCI: -- even though there appears to be a conflict here, there really isn't.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about schools. The CDC put out guidance this week urging all schools to open this fall. They said masks not necessary for fully vaccinated students and teachers. But they left most of the key decisions on issues like distancing and whether to wear masks up to the local school districts. That’s led to some confusion.

Should guidance -- should the guidance be more specific and strict?

FAUCI: Well, the guidance I think is pretty explicit there, George. The one thing that's important about what's going on with these new guidelines and recommendations for school, the bottom line is we need to get the children back in school, in-person classes in the fall.

And what the CDC is saying, that if you're vaccinated, you don't need to wear a mask. If you're unvaccinated, you should wear a mask. And even though some of the guidelines, like six feet versus three feet and things like that, even though those are the things you want to pay attention to, if you can't implement them, you should still do everything you can with testing, with guidelines that would allow people, for example, in lunch rooms when you gather, when you're sick don't come to school, do everything you can to keep the in-person classes going.

That’s different than what we’ve seen before. The bottom line is a very, very strong push to get the children back in school, but also to do it safely for the children. And that's the reason why you're hearing if you're vaccinated you don't need to wear a mask. But if you're unvaccinated, you still should wear a mask.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Fauci, thanks again for your time and your information this morning.

FAUCI: Thank you for having me, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in Arkansas’ Governor Asa Hutchinson right now.

Governor Hutchinson, thanks for joining us again this morning.

Your state appears to be in the grip of a third surge of the virus. Three days in a row this week over 1,000 new cases. Hospitalizations are rising. What can you do to turn this around?

HUTCHINSON: Well, one other thing that you see from the data is that early on in the pandemic, the average age of hospitalizations was 64. That has dropped 10 years down to 54. And the reason is the elderly population got vaccinated. They reduced the numbers going to hospital.

But it is that age group between 30 and 54 that is becoming ill, that has not become vaccinated, not good vaccination rates. And so, that hospitalization rate has increased.

And so, what do we do about it? We're working very hard to go to that population through the employers, through trusted advisers, such as the clinics, making sure they have the information and overcoming the hesitancy or just the -- simply we're putting it off approach.

I’ve started community conversations, going to cities. I’ll be in six cities next week in Arkansas, simply talking about what are the concerns, what are the community ideas to how we can do this better in terms of increasing that population and their vaccination rate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a Republican. How do you explain this partisan divide on vaccinations?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you know, there shouldn't be a partisan divide first of all. But, clearly, conservative is more hesitant about government authority. That's just the nature of it. And so, I think in the Southern states and some rural states, you have that more conservative approach, skepticism about government.

And we just have to answer it just like we have all through history, that you overcome skepticism and mistrust by truth. You overcome resistance and obstinance with saying it's important for our community, and it's important for the health of our state and nation.

And so, I think that's simply the nature of different views of government. We’ve got to overcome that mistrust because it -- Republicans, Democrats, we all suffer the same consequence if the delta variant hits us and we're not vaccinated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Here's how President Biden addressed it this week. Let’s take a look.


JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to go community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes door to door, literally knocking on doors, to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, he made it clear that he didn't mean having federal officials necessarily be going door to door. But there is a federal outreach effort.

Are you going to be cooperating with that? And how do you respond to some of your fellow governors in the South who say they don't want the federal government to have any part of this?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you know, whatever -- we have a low vaccination rate, we want all the help we can in order to accomplish a mutual goal and increasing vaccinations.

Long before President Biden said that, we have community organizations that's helping us. We have churches that are going into homes. We have people that go in to those that are bedridden so that they can have access to the vaccine.

So, there's nothing dramatic about what the president said in itself. No one wants an agent knocking on a door. But we do want those that do not have access otherwise to make sure they know about it and having the information.

Not everybody goes on the internet. Not everybody has that access. And so, how do you get information to them?

We want to have our churches involved. We want to have our communities, organizations -- if it means going into a community door by door and letting them know of this, then that's okay.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The situation in your state is so tough right now. The top medical officer at the University of Arkansas says Arkansans need to keep masking right now. But you recently signed legislation banning local mask mandates. Should that be delayed?

HUTCHINSON: No -- no, it should not. And, first of all, the CDC has it right. And I hope they don't change that guidance. I hope it’s not necessarily changed that guidance. And that is that if you're vaccinated, you don't need to wear a mask.

And so, I think if we started requiring mask-wearing of those vaccinated, particularly -- well, anywhere, indoors or outdoors, that is a disincentive to get vaccinated. We want people to be rewarded and saying, your life is going to be more normal. You’re going to be more protected.

And to tell people who’ve been vaccinated “you got to wear a mask” is the wrong program. It’s not going to be helpful to get people to be vaccinated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What about schools? How are you going to handle masks in schools this fall?

HUTCHINSON: Well, we're not going to have masks in schools. And we had in-classroom school last year. We're going to have it even better this year.

And, you know, whenever -- right now, 12-plus can be vaccinated. And so, the solutions are clear. To be safe in the schools, get vaccinated.

Now, those that are 12 and under, that don't have that same access, and so you've got to even be more careful, even though the risks are less, that's an incentive for parents to protect those children to make sure they have a safe environment in their home and in their community by increasing the vaccination rate for everybody around them and they can have a successful year as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Hutchinson, thanks for joining us this morning.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Great to be with you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable's up next.

We'll be right back.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome. The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies, creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago.

So let me ask those who wanted us to stay, how many more? How many thousands more America's daughters and sons are you willing to risk?


STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden announcing the end of America's presence in Afghanistan after 20 years this week.

Let's talk about it on our roundtable.

We're joined by Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Sarah Isgur, veteran of the Trump Justice Department, now a political analyst for "The Dispatch," and Jane Coaston, host of "The New York Times" podcast "The Argument."

Welcome to you all.

Chris, let me begin with you.

Twenty years. America's longest war. Biggest lesson learned? Biggest challenge ahead?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, biggest lesson learned is, once again, the limits of American military power. You know, it has utility to it, but it is not a cure all for every problem that we have. And we have to get much more creative, George, about our foreign policy than we've been, quite frankly, over a number of administrations from George W. Bush through Barack Obama and Donald Trump than we've been.

I -- the lesson learned is coming because I do think this is a mistake not to leave 3,000, 3,500 troops there. I think it's a mistake.

The fact is that if the Taliban retakes -- which I think most military experts believe they will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's already happening.

CHRISTIE: Right. That we, once again, find ourselves -- you know, I heard the president just saying, you know, we can't live in a world as if it was 20 years ago. Well, he's going to make it the world that's 20 years ago by pulling these troops out.

We're going to rewrite history one more time again. That could become a den and a nest for -- for terrorists. And I will tell you, as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey right after 9/11, we don't want to live that life again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Donna, this policy of pulling out, it was -- it's President Biden's policy; it was President Trump's policy. Most Americans seem to agree with it.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. Look, the president faced a difficult choice. Operation Enduring Freedom was always about capturing and -- and bringing to justice the men that were responsible for the 9/11 attack.

Twenty-five hundred of our servicemen and women have died. We've spent $2.2 trillion on trying to secure this country. We've got to give what President Trump -- now, remember, former President Trump set this in motion when he began negotiating with the Taliban. We've -- we've got to give the people of Afghanistan an opportunity to try to govern themselves.

Now, look, I know we are leaving at a risky time. We haven't secured all of the different avenues that we set out to do. But the good news is that they have a prescription on how to move forward. The question is, will they take those steps?

CHRISTIE: And let me be clear. I think Trump was wrong, too. I think he was wrong to negotiate with the Taliban. I think it was a mistake. The Taliban is not a credible force to negotiate with.

So I'm with you. I'm not trying to pin this on President Obama or President Biden exclusively. Trump deserves some of the blame here, too. It's going to come back to bite us. I don't know how long it's going to take, but it's going to come back.

BRAZILE: But, you know, Afghanistan is known as the -- they say it's "the graveyard of empires." How long are we going to stay? How long -- how much more money? How much more blood?

The question is, are we there to stay to rebuild the country? No, I think it's time to go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it appears the effort to rebuild the country has failed, at this -- at this point. Hard to imagine that this government can survive, given the advances we're seeing of the Taliban. It's also hard to see whether the broad American public cares about it right now.

ISGUR: Politically, Joe Biden is where the American people are. So was Donald Trump. What's interesting is actually how little you're hearing from Republicans, as well, even pushing back on this.

Mitch McConnell has been consistent. Some other Republicans have criticized both Trump and -- and President Biden for leaving Afghanistan.

But, you know, where's Tom Cotton? He hasn't actually spoken about the president's speech, at all. And he didn't speak a lot during the Trump administration. He's a member of the Senate who served in Afghanistan during this war.

The American people are done with this. I do think, you know, to Donna's point, we do still have a presence in Korea. We still have a presence in Germany.

Will Joe Biden be able to defend this when obviously the Taliban takes over, but more importantly when Al Qaida becomes far more enmeshed with the Taliban than they are now, if there is a terrorist attack on our soil and it could have been prevented?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jane, that's part of the political analysis. One of the questions, though, is what is our moral responsibility...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... to the people of Afghanistan, to those that we are leaving behind, particularly those who have helped the United States government?

COASTON: And I think that the Biden administration has taken recent steps, due to a lot of criticism, to help to get translators and others who helped during American operations out of the country.

But, look, this is a war that began -- I'm 33 years old. This war began when I was a freshman in high school. And that was a very long time ago. There are people who have fought and their children have fought in this war.

And I think that the moral responsibility -- right now, there are no good moral answers. And I think that that's why you're seeing relatively little criticism from Republicans, because there really isn't a great answer for this, as there is in so much of foreign policy. But I think, with all of the bad choices that are available, this was the least bad one.

ISGUR: If we get the translators back...



ISGUR: ... if we get the people who helped us. It undermines American foreign policy when we don't help the people who helped us...


ISGUR: ... and we leave them there to be killed.



COASTON: And we've seen this situation happen in Vietnam. We've seen the situation happen previously, in which American forces exit and leave a host of people who believed in what the American forces were there to do, or even in some aspect of how they could help their families. We leave them holding the bag. We can't do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president said this week we're not going to see a "helicopters off the embassy in Saigon" moment in Afghanistan. We don't really know that.

CHRISTIE: We don't know that. And -- and let's talk about the politics for a second. You know why Republicans haven't spoken? They're scared.

This is typical of what's wrong with our party right now. They look at the poll numbers, and they go, "Hm" -- like Donna said, the American people are with Biden; they're with -- "Oh, maybe I won't say anything," or "Maybe I'll whisper it, so that later, when the bad stuff happens, I can say, "Well, I didn't say it out loud..."


"... but I did whisper it here in Foreign Affairs magazine, you know, in a footnote."

I mean, look, we've seen this happen before. Let's be bold about it as Republicans and let's say, "Look, I know it's not the most popular thing to keep 3,000 or 3,500 troops back there, but let's face it, Donna, we haven't lost a combat troop in a year now in Afghanistan. We're talking about the kind of presence that -- that Sarah talked about.

We have had significant wars over our lifetimes. And we have left American troops there as stabilizing forces.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The only question I have back to that, Chris, is, at this point, what difference is 2,000 or 3,000 troops going to make?

The Taliban is now -- we're talking about 85 percent of the country.

BRAZILE: Percent of the country, right.

CHRISTIE: Because I think, George, the difference it makes is, because having that presence there is going to make the Taliban think twice about doing other things.

Will we then ratchet back up if they're restarting abuses against women in Afghanistan, restarting abuses against children, allowing al Qaeda to go in? Then we have an option.

Right now, we are going to be, as far as I could -- have read, eight hours away from being able to do anything .When you're that far away, and you have to mobilize the American military, it's not going to work.

So, I think this is a mistake. I want to go on record saying it's a mistake.

BRAZILE: It's risky. It's risky.

ISGUR: And what an opportunity for Republicans, by the way, to be the party that says, fine, maybe we won't dispute leaving Afghanistan, but we absolutely are going to move these translators, the people who helped us for the sake of the next time we need a country's help, when we have to say, please help us do this on the ground.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That should be something...

ISGUR: Move them to a third-party country if we need to, if we can't get the State Department acting fast enough.

CHRISTIE: Bare minimum, we should do that.

ISGUR: Bare minimum.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That should be something we can all agree on.

But I think, Jane, you summed it up. No good choices here...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... right now.

Let's move on to the domestic debate here as well.

Donna, it looks like the next six weeks ago are going to be kind of be make or break for President Biden's...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... remaining agenda in the Congress on both these big infrastructure plans and voting rights.

BRAZILE: It's a tough summer, George, no question about it.

Look, the Senate is going to try to move the infrastructure bill, because there's some bipartisan consensus. The framework is being fleshed out. The House is going to wait until the Senate moves. And then, of course, there's this big reconciliation package that still needs to be negotiated within the Democratic Caucus.

But I want to say, Jim Clyburn yesterday, the majority whip in the Congress, spoke for many of us, when he said there needs to be a carve-out on the filibuster, not elimination. He didn't say that. But he said it needs to be a carve-out on voting rights.

Without some federal protection, we have no voting rights. Access to voting will become more difficult. And the chances of Republicans enacting more onerous bills over the next couple of months will really stop all progress that we have made over the last 15 years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jane, especially after that Supreme Court decision on the Arizona cases a couple of weeks back, Democrats are seeing this more and more as an existential fight.

COASTON: I think it's an existential fight, but I also think it's worth noting that this is, in many cases, a state-by-state fight.

And I do think it's -- to Donna's point, it's notable that even the defenses from Republicans that you're seeing of onerous legislation include notes of, well, we have to change this policy, well, we have to change this policy. Well, they take that policy regarding Sunday voting out.

I think it's a bad sign when even your best defenses note that there are these serious problems with these bills. And I think it's also -- it's a challenging moment on this particular front because you're seeing this become a political battle and used as a political cudgel, when it is, I think, in many respects much bigger than that.

This is not just about the next election. This is about the next 10 years of election. This is about redistricting. This is about what elections will look like in 2030 and 2036.

And so I think it's interesting to see this become about voting access. And that becomes so much of a Democratic issue.


COASTON: But what we have seen in -- I think I brought it up, actually, the last time we were here -- is that you have seen an increase in voters, people of color, who then also are voting for Republicans and voting for Republicans on down-ballot issues.

So, this is about voting access for everyone. And by Republicans attempting to essentially pick and choose who gets to vote and who gets to vote where and deciding what type of voters they want, they are essentially pushing out many people who might actually vote for Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess they will say they will deal with that later.


CHRISTIE: Look, the rhetoric -- the rhetoric here outstrips what's actually being done.

Let's look at the Texas bill. The existential threat to voting is by saying we can't have 24-hour voting or drive-through voting? That's an existential threat, when, in addition, you're adding more days of early voting, you're adding more drop boxes? That's all in the Texas law.

BRAZILE: It's when you make it criminal.

CHRISTIE: That is not an existential -- Donna...

BRAZILE: Come on.

CHRISTIE: ... not being able to drive-through vote or vote in 24-hour periods is an existential threat to voting?

BRAZILE: When...

CHRISTIE: This is not -- that -- that's not this.

Now, look, you want to have a fight about when the feds should control this, then let's have a -- let's have a vote on it.


BRAZILE: HB-3 is draconian.

I'm an election official, OK, and if I began to give people access to the ballot through online applications for absentee ballots, I can be arrested. It's criminalizing voting in ways that we should not criminalize voting.


CHRISTIE: No. It's...

BRAZILE: And it's not just who can drive up to the polls and when.

It's about criminalizing the election process when you disagree with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, to that -- to that point, let me bring in -- let me bring in Sarah Isgur.

To that point, the attorney general of Texas arrested a man just this week out on parole now facing 20 years in prison after waiting six hours in line to vote in a Democratic primary.

ISGUR: Yeah, I don't think that is the case that you want as your poster child for voter fraud. There has been real voter fraud. I think it's interesting that Democrats have been so strongly against ballot harvesting when the main harvesting criminal prosecution was in North Carolina by a Republican’s race --

COASTON: By Republicans.


ISGUR: -- that they then had to redo because the campaign manager basically had violated the ballot harvesting laws.

I wish that we could just have someone out there say in 2005, Jimmy Carter and James Baker did the Carter-Baker Commission to both tried to expand voting and make it more secure. They had 87 recommendations. Adopt them all. It means you won’t have ballot harvesting, but it means it will be easier to vote.

Do it. It's not that hard. But each side insists on only having their side of the 87, only having the ones they think will help them. That's not trying to expand the vote or make it more secure.

This isn't that hard. We already did it 15 years, by the way, after the Afghan war started.



Before we go, I want to bring up President Trump. He was back this week talking about his lawsuit against the social media companies.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We're asking the U.S. district court for the Southern District of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful, censorship. Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it's unconstitutional and it’s completely un-American.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Jane, his case is basically that Facebook and other social media companies are something like government entities.

COASTON: He actually in the lawsuit uses the term de facto government entities, which just to note, if you write a paper, if you add in the words “de facto”, it does not make that true. They are not government entities.

ISGUR: It's facto.

COASTON: It’s facto. Ergo, facts.

CHRISTIE: It’s so facto.

COASTON: If this is what law school is, guys. But you've seen this lawsuit, and it’s just -- this is a fundraising drive. This is monorail episode of the Simpsons. And you’ve already seen that Republican Party has sent out emails saying, we'll match your gift five times.


SGUR: There's another lawsuit going on, by the way, of that being fraudulent.

COASTON: Yes, which it is. But again, it's interesting also that this is a class action lawsuit, which I’m very curious what class Donald Trump is part of. Is this a class of presidents? Did Jimmy Carter sign on to this?

And it’s -- again, these are private actors. And this is also a misunderstanding of the Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, which means that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the comments on YouTube, your favorite website you comment in, they can delete those comments or modify those comments because they have a First Amendment right.

It's especially interesting -- I feel I could go on about this because this is one of those lawsuits that are sound and fury signifying nothing, but I think it's also indicative of how a lot of people feel about social media. This is about a sense of unfairness, about censorship, but it also includes in the class action, it’s everyone who got kicked off Facebook and Twitter since 2018. That includes like Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

I’ve also told people that we’ve seen conservatives and others saying, well, why is this person not kick off of Twitter and Facebook? These are platforms.

STEPHANAPOULOS: Chris, this lawsuit is not going anywhere. But it does -- underlying this issue that a lot of people feel that these companies just have too much power.

CHRISTIE: Well, there's two issues here, right? First, let’s deal with the lawsuit. If he really wanted to deal with this when he was president, and he controlled both Houses of Congress, he should have gotten rid of Section 230.


CHRISTIE: Right? And he didn't, OK? So, that’s why the lawsuit will fail because of Section 230, it will fail. And so, that’s the lawsuit.

There is a bigger issue here, though, which is that a lot of people, especially people on the conservative side of the ledger, feel like places like Facebook and Twitter have a bias that leads to deciding who they kick off and who they don't.

And what offends me the most -- I spoke very clearly about how I felt about January 6th and the things that the president were doing that day. But the Ayatollah Khamenei is still on Twitter.


CHRISTIE: I mean, so, like, you know, it means to me, if Donald Trump is off, the Ayatollah Khamenei should be off, too. And then, where do we go from there on the slippery slope? And should those guys on social media -- should Jack Dorsey be deciding who can express themselves through this forum or not.


COASTON: You want the government to decide?

BRAZILE: It's like a small business, small candy store. Yes, you can decide that. That's their business right. That’s their First Amendment right.

Look, I think the social media companies were right to kick him off. They were right to say that he violated their rules, their platform.

CHRISTIE: The ayatollah hasn't, Donna?

BRAZILE: Look --

CHRISTIE: Go read the ayatollah’s feed, believe me.

BRAZILE: I don't speak the language, but it looks bad.

CHRISTIE: No, it's translated into English. Go ahead, you can read it.

BRAZILE: Trust me, honey, I'm not going there. I'm -- I'm afraid (INAUDIBLE).

CHRISTIE: I understand you're not going there because you don't want to go there, pal.

BRAZILE: But -- but -- but I -- but -- but, boo. I -- you and I are not disagreeing on this.


BRAZILE: On -- on the ayatollah. I mean, please. He needs to be off. He needs to clean his language.

You know, when is a president going to talk about reconciliation, about repairing the breach, about getting back to a groove where he can talk to all American? It's all about his grievances. It's all about his -- his fight. It's about him. I should be about (INAUDIBLE).

CHRISTIE: Well, and -- and that's --

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Sarah, you get the last word.

CHRISTIE: And that's why I asked.

ISGUR: Yes. Yes, he's like, whew.

You have a battle over the First Amendment here. Donald Trump, I think, is actually doing this lawsuit, yes, it's fundraising. It's also to undermine Ron DeSantis. He sees Ron DeSantis as a threat potential threat in 2024 GOP primary.



ISGUR: Ron DeSantis has a bill in Florida to try to cut the legs out from under some of these social media companies. Texas is looking at a similar bill in their special session. Those are the social media's company's First Amendment rights not to have people speak on their platform that they don't like. There's one Supreme Court case out there sort of on point on that. And then you have Donald Trump saying, no, the First Amendment right is with us. Frankly, like, all sides -- battling over the First Amendment and maybe missing the point a little bit of the First Amendment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word today.

Thank you all for a great discussion.

Coming up, we're live in New Mexico as Richard Branson lifts off for space. And, up next, the man on track to be New York City's next mayor, Eric Adams, joins us live.


STEPHANOPOULOS: The man on track to be the next mayor of New York is here. Eric Adams joins us live, next.



ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL NOMINEE: I am the face of a new Democratic Party. Look at me, and you're seeing the future of the Democratic Party.

If the Democratic Party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, they're going to have a problem in the midterm elections and they're going to have a problem in the presidential elections.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Eric Adams, on track to be the next mayor of New York City. He won the Democratic primary, where ranked-choice voting was used for the first time. He joins us now for his first Sunday interview.

Congratulations on your win.

ADAMS: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you saw what we just played right there, that warning you had for the Democrats. What should Democrats across the country take away from your victory?

ADAMS: We can't be so idealistic that we're not realistics -- realistic. Cities are hurting all across America, and New York personifies that pain, the inequalities, the gun violence, the lack of really looking after everyday blue-collar workers, I like to say.

And we have failed for so many years. And we've allowed the fallout of the Trump administration to have an overreach in philosophy and not on-the-ground, real issues that are facing everyday New Yorkers...


STEPHANOPOULOS: So is it -- is it fair to call you an anti-woke Democrat?


ADAMS: No, I -- I've -- some of us never went to sleep. That's the problem. You know...


A 35-year record of fighting for reform, for public safety, a person who was arrested by police, assaulted by police, but also lost a child of a friend to gang -- to gang violence. And so I never went to sleep. And people who have finally realized that there are issues out here believe that they can carve the entire Democratic agenda.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were declared the winner after several elimination rounds in this ranked-choice voting. But only about 30 percent of Democrats ranked you first. How will you reach out to all New Yorkers, Democrats and Republicans alike, who haven't supported you?

ADAMS: Right. And 30 percent ranked me first, but that's more than any other candidate that was ranked first. That's important.

I won four boroughs in the city of New York, a cross-section of men and women of all ethnicities and gender. No matter if you're a Democrat, Republican or you didn't vote for me, you don't want to be pushed on the subway tracks due to someone dealing with mental health issues. You don't want to have your three-year-old babies being shot.

I have a universal message to all New Yorkers. No matter who you voted for, I'm going to make sure that our economy returns and that we are a safe city, which is the prerequisite to prosperity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You made combating crime your number one issue again and again and again, homicides, gun violence spiking here in New York City, other big cities across the country.

Do you know what's behind it?

ADAMS: A number of things. If -- I always talk about Archbishop Desmond Tutu called "We spend a lifetime pulling people out of the river. No one goes upstream and prevents them from falling in, in the first place."

Our city and country, we have become a place where all we do is wait downstream and pull people out.

Thirty percent of our inmates in prison are dyslexic. So if we just do dyslexia screening in upstream, we could prevent some of the crime that we're looking at downstream. Foster care failure -- we feed crime in America and in New York. We need to stop the feeders of crime.

And then we must have an immediate response. We should create something like the JTTF, Joint Terrorist Task Force. This is what we did to fight terrorism. Why are we ignoring the violence in the inner -- in the cities?

You know why, George? They're black, brown and poor. We ignored them, and we basically have thrown up our hands and stated, "There's nothing we can do about it."

They are wrong, and I'm going to show you said that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said that something should be done about it.

You didn't back away from stop and frisk, took some heat for that during the campaign. How do you balance preventing crime and police reform?

ADAMS: And it's possible. They go together. You can have public safety and reform. I know it.

I testified in federal court about the overabuse of stop and frisk. I led the call with the organization I started and other civil rights leaders.

So, what we must do, we must send the right message to our police departments. We have some amazing offices. We're going to say, I have your back, but you're going to have the back of the public. And we're going to rid out those offices that should not be part of the noble profession of public safety.

We have allowed them to remain too long. It took us four years to get rid of Pantaleo. That is unacceptable. Once we lift the standard, better pay, understand the tools that are needed, and use the money to be proactive and to be not only reactive to crime, we can bring back the public safety that we deserve in the city.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm here in Times Square every morning. It's starting to come back to life.


STEPHANOPOULOS: You feel it every morning, but so many of these big office buildings in Midtown still empty. Are they going to come back?

ADAMS: Yes, they are.

We are not going to allow Miami and other places to take our businesses. Here's what we must do. Number one, my high income earners, they -- 65,000 New Yorkers pay 51 percent of our income taxes. You speak with them, the tax is not the problem. Public safety is the problem. We're going to let them know that this city is going to be safe.

Our individuals, my accountants, my stockbrokers, they take the subway system. They don't want to ride the trains. If we don't have a safe subway system, no one is going to fill these office buildings, and it is not going to feed our economy that we're looking for.

And so, once we turn around our public safety, and then become a city -- we're too expensive, too bureaucratic, too difficult to open a business here. We want to change that and incentivize companies coming in. We want to be the center of life science and biotech, self-driving cars.

This is going to be a place where we build empires and not destroy them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How should we judge you? Define success in a first term.

ADAMS: Public safety. That's the prerequisite to prosperity. We must have parks not like Washington Square, where people are injecting themselves with drugs while babies are trying to play.

Our children should not be, like 10-year-old Justin, that's shot and killed. We should not lose 3-year-old children being shot in Times Square. Once we become safe as a city, then people can finally enjoy the growth that I'm going to bring in the city.

We want to be a safe city, and we want to be ready to do business again. We're going to live up to our name. This is an Empire State. We want to build empires.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You stole my last question. I was going to ask you about that earring you got after your victory earlier in the week.


STEPHANOPOULOS: What happened to it? What was that all about?

ADAMS: My young staffer said: "You're going to be with George."

But I'm putting it on as soon as I leave the studio.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Adams, thanks for joining us this morning.

ADAMS: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As we mentioned, the New York primary was an experiment in ranked choice voting, which gave Adams a win weeks after his Election Day lead.

It led to lots of questions and some confusion.

Here's Nate Silver on the lessons learned.


NATE SILVER, ABC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm here in Las Vegas, but I have been keeping an eye on my hometown of New York. And I think there are three big takeaways from the city going all in on ranked choice voting.

Lesson number one, there are still a few kinks to work out.

(voice-over): About 15 percent of ballots in the Democratic mayoral primary were exhausted, meaning that they ranked neither Eric Adams nor Kathryn Garcia the top two finishers.

If you are one of those people, remember to use all five of your slots next time.

(on camera): Lesson number two, RCV can up the odds for moderate candidates.

(voice-over): Of course, this is a Democratic primary in New York City, so all of the candidates are pretty progressive. But if you had to rank them, Maya Wiley was the most liberal of the bunch, Adams was the most conservative, and Garcia was somewhere in between, kind of a compromise choice.

And while Garcia didn't win, RCV launched her from third place, 11 points behind Adams in the first round of voting, and also behind Wiley, to just one point behind him in the final round, before her luck ran out.

(on camera): Lesson number three, it's smart to make a deal.

(voice-over): When Andrew Yang was eliminated in fourth place, 32 percent of his votes went to Garcia, the candidate he had endorsed as his number two choice and campaigned with in the closing days of the election.

Compare that to 28 percent of Yang votes going for Adams and just 11 percent for Wiley. That helped leapfrog Garcia into second place. If their alliance had been announced a little sooner, well, who knows?

(on camera): In the end, Adams won anyway, as the initial front-runner does 97 percent of the time under ranked choice voting. But it was a photo finish.

I buy that it worked out well enough, but I'd like to see a few more elections under RCV before I double down.



STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Nate Silver, thanks for that.

Up next, we're live on the scene of Richard Branson's space launch.

Stay with us.



RICHARD BRANSON, VIRGIN GALACTIC: I’m just expecting the most extraordinary trip of my lifetime, and -- and by, you know, pioneering it myself and extraordinary trips of a lifetime for other people in the future. The whole reason for starting Virgin Galactic all those years ago was that you and me, ordinary members of the public, would never have a chance to go to space.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That's Richard Branson, heading to the edge of space this morning on Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity, just days ahead of the Blue Origin launch for fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos. They are the pioneers of space tourism, and our transportation correspondent Gio Benitez is on the scene in New Mexico with the latest on all of that.

Good morning, Gio.


We are getting closer and closer to the launch. In fact, we just saw the astronauts behind me get into their cars and head over to that spaceship.

You know, I want to show you, though, how Richard Branson got here to Spaceport America this morning. We have some video that he posted. He rode his bike. Always in style. He rode his bike here to Spaceport America. You see that there, of course. You also see those security escorts there with him.

But, you know what, George, I want to tell you a little bit about this particular flight because it is a very different kind of launch than what we're typically used to seeing. And I think we have a live shot right now of that space plane. And that's what's going to be taking him up. It's not like a traditional launch where we have the rocket sort of go up with a capsule above it. In this case, you have this plane and this plane is going to lift off just like a typical plane. Underneath it, attached to that plane, is that spaceship. That spaceship, once they reach 45,000 feet, that plane will drop the spaceship and then those rockets is going to -- that rocket is going to ignite there and they are off into the edge of space, about 50 miles to the edge of space, George. So it's going to be very exciting to see.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jeff Bezos has wished him luck. He's also kind of mocked him a little bit saying he's not really going into space. Bezos expected to do that on the Blue Origin.

There's some real meaning behind this battle, though, isn't there?

BENITEZ: There really is, George, because, I mean, this is opening up space tourism in a way we have not yet seen before. And the private space industry basically says this is a lot like how air travel started out, where it was very expensive at the very beginning and then eventually it opened up to the general public. Right now we're talking about $250,000 per seat, about 700 people have actually booked flights already on Virgin Galactic. But that's not going to start until next year potentially if these test flights all go well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and Blue Origin is set to take off, I think, on July 20th. But Bezos doesn't have FAA approval yet.

BENITEZ: And the clock is ticking on that, George, because. Virgin Galactic does have that FAA approval. They actually can fly customers to space. They still have two test flights left this year. This, in fact, is a test flight.

So it's a bit of a question to see if that flight will actually happen in just nine days, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are tracking this, this morning.

Gio Benitez on the scene there in New Mexico. Thanks very much.

That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."