'This Week' Transcript 11-22-20: President-elect Biden Chief of Staff Ronald Klain and Dr. Moncef Slaoui
This is a rush transcript for "This Week," airing Sunday, November 22.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, November 22, 2020 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 NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Defying democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump falsely cries voter fraud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: There's no legal or factual basis for anyone to question that choice.
UNKNOWN: It's an attempt to subvert our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pressures officials to overturn the election, fires others who question his claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: It's dangerous.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Anyone that had the audacity to speak truth to power would get fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: As COVID rages out of control...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So there's been no slowdown because you can't communicate with Biden's transition team?
GOV. GUSTAVE PERNA, U.S. ARMY MATERIEL COMMAND: Absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the president put the country first? What will it mean if he doesn't?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: I think it's in the country's best interest if he starts coordinating on the virus with the Biden team.
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Like it or not, the president didn't win. So, now we have Joe Biden as president for four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The fallout this morning with President Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, Operation Warp Speed chief science adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui, plus insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
We may not be surprised, but we should still be shocked. The election results have been clear for more than two weeks. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump. And, by recent standards, it wasn't all that close, more than six million votes nationwide, more than triple Donald Trump's 2016 margin in the key Midwestern battlegrounds, plus wins in the longtime GOP strongholds Georgia and Arizona, 306 electoral votes, the same total Trump called a landslide in 2016.
Faced with those facts, the president and his allies have taken their baseless claims of voter fraud to court. They have lost 34 times, the latest last night in Pennsylvania, where a federal judge dismissed their case with these words: "The court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populous state."
Defeated in court, the Trump team is telling outright lies in television interviews and press conferences, forums where you don't face legal sanctions for making false, frivolous and fantastical charges.
The president himself is pressuring state officials to simply overturn the will of the voters.
Here's how the last Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, summed it up: "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president."
This assault on our election will not change the outcome. Joe Biden will take the oath of office, become America's 46th president at 12:00 noon on January 20. Donald Trump will leave the White House sometime before then.
But how much damage will he do to our democracy on the way out? Can he cripple the Biden presidency before it's begun? What does it mean right now for the millions of Americans confronting the COVID pandemic and the economic turmoil in its wake?
We're going to address all those questions this morning.
And we begin with the man president-elect Biden has chosen to be his White House chief of staff, Ron Klain.
Ron, thanks for joining us this morning.
RON KLAIN, CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT ELECT, JOE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: ... George. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the president-elect has seemed bemused by President Trump's refusal to concede.
Your colleague Bob Bauer has called Trump's actions very harmful to the democratic process. How much damage has the president done? How much damage can he do?
KLAIN: Well, I think he has definitely set back the democratic norm here in the United States. He's been doing that for four years, and that's ramped up since the election.
You know, he couldn't really run on his record. The voters rejected his leadership. A record number of Americans rejected the Trump presidency. And, since then, he -- Donald Trump's been rejecting democracy.
He has been, as you said at the outset, launching baseless claims of voter fraud, baseless litigation. He's been rejected by 34 courts, and now these efforts to try to get election officials to overturn the will of the voters.
It's corrosive. It's harmful. But, as Mitt Romney said, it's not going to change the outcome of what happens here. At 12:00 noon on January 20, Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States. Everything Donald Trump's doing now is bad for our democracy. It's bad for our position, our image in the world, but it's not going to change what happens here when we get a new president next year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, a Monmouth poll out Wednesday showed that 70 percent of Republicans believe that Biden won because of voter fraud.
Are you worried that the president is trying to lock in a perception by his base that Biden is an illegitimate president? And can this work?
KLAIN: Well, George as you know, that same poll showed that an overwhelming number of Americans as a whole thought the election was fair and proper and Joe Biden was the rightful winner.
We know we have to reach out to Republicans. We know we have to bring the country together. In fact, that's been the entire essence of Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency, trying to heal this nation, repair its soul, restore its backbone, unite the country, and uniting the country is what he's doing.
Look. Look at what he did this past week, George. He met with business and labor leaders together to talk about fixing the economy. Military leaders who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations to talk about our national security future, and then he met with governors, both Democrats and Republicans, including some conservative Republican governors to talk about the urgent needs of fighting COVID.
So he's doing his job of bringing the country together. Donald Trump’s never going to change. He spent four years tearing this country apart, and it seems he's determined to spend the final days of his presidency doing the same thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One person the president elected nominee (ph) was Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader. After that Pennsylvania court decision last night, Republican Senator Pat Toomey had this to say. He said, President Trump should accept the outcome of this election, and facilitate the presidential transition process.
Is it time for Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders to do the same?
KLAIN: I hope they would. I would hope they would start to accept the reality.
Here I was encouraged this week, George, to see an addition to the statement from Senator Romney and last night’s statement from Senator Toomey was reporting that many Senate Republicans are talking about confirming Joe Biden’s nominees in the regular order, and trying to get competent, experienced people in the government, in confirmed positions. Not this whole acting mess we’ve had in the past.
So I think we’re seeing some encouraging signs. Look, Washington will always be the last place to change. What I saw this week with the president-elect’s interactions with leaders from around the country is that outside of Washington, Democrats and Republicans are looking forward to what happens on January 20th. They want to work together to get things done. Now we have to get the job done here in D.C.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As a practical matter, your transition is challenged until the GSA ascertains a winner.
The president has warned -- president-elect has warned that continued delay could actually cost American lives. What options do you have if the GSA continues to block the transition?
KLAIN: Yes, George, you know there’s obviously parts of the transition that are in our control. We're picking people to work in the White House and to work in the cabinet. We're building our policy plans. We're having high level meetings with leaders from around the country. And so there's parts of transition that are proceeding at pace, and, in fact, proceeding at record setting pace.
But as you note, there are other parts that are not in our control. The president-elect, the vice president-elect are not getting the kind of intelligence briefings they're entitled to. They’re not getting -- we’re not getting -- our transition isn't getting access to agency officials to help develop our plans, and there's a lot of focus on that vaccine rollout plan that's going to be critical in the early days of a Biden presidency.
We have no access to that, and we're not getting background checks. We're not in a position to get background checks on cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts.
Those impacts escalate every day, and I hope that the administrator of the GSA will do her job. The law only requires her to find who is the apparent victor of the election, and I can't imagine there's any dispute -- any dispute that Joe Biden is the apparent winner of the presidential election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked about vaccine distribution. I talked to General Perna from Operation Warp Speed on Friday. He said the lack of communication between his team and the transition isn't delaying distribution at all. Do you buy that?
KLAIN: Well, obviously, it doesn't delay distribution while Donald Trump is in charge, but on January 20th, Joe Biden will be in charge. And if there isn't a seamless flow of information now so that we know what we're getting ourselves into, so we know what plans they’ve made, so we know what gaps there are in the plans, then I do think there's risk that that distribution has gaps and lapses starting on January 20th.
You know, I’m sorry, but while I respect many people involved in this effort on the Trump side in terms of the vaccine distribution effort, the fact of the matter is the Trump administration has a history of failure in dealing with the COVID crisis, including a dramatic and drastic failure on the testing challenge, and so I think just -- if the Trump administration position’s we’re just supposed to trust them that this is all going to work out, I think that's a hard sell to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have seen the good news on the COVID vaccine though. Both Pfizer and Moderna on track for emergency use authorization.
Should the president and Operation Warp Speed get any credit for that?
KLAIN: Well, I think that everyone involved should get credit for that. It starts most importantly with the scientists and brilliant men and women who have done this work, but, George, vaccines don't save lives. Vaccinations save lives.
And so the scientific work that's been done to get this vaccine to the place where it can be approved by the FDA, hopefully very, very soon, is just the first step. The much bigger step is actually getting those vaccinations to the American people. That's hard.
Look, the Trump administration has been at this for eight or nine months. In the course of that, fewer than one in three Americans has gotten a COVID test. And so, now, the question is how can we get 100 percent of Americans a vaccine in short order?
And that is a challenge that I think the American people are right to be skeptical about in terms of the way in which the Trump administration would handle it, and that's a challenge that has been largely fallen to the Biden administration.
The sooner we can get briefed on those plans, the sooner we can get our experts in with their experts, I think more confidence everyone can have that those plans will proceed apace in 2021.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Given the continued surge in COVID, should we expect anything like a normal inauguration?
KLAIN: No, George. I think it's going to definitely have to be changed. We started some consultations with House and Senate leadership on that. Obviously, this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we had in the past.
You know, George, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris conducted this campaign with the safety of the American people in mind. They got a lot of grief for that. They got attacked for that relentlessly by President Trump for the way in which they campaigned safely to try to prevent the spread of the disease.
They're going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of disease. That's our goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what does that mean? No parades, no big crowd on the Mall, no big lunch inside the rotunda?
KLAIN: Well, George, well, I’m going to let those plans unfold in consultation with folks in the Capitol who organize that, with the experts who plan that. You know, we ran a very effective and I think engaging Democratic convention this year in August, in a way that was safe for the people to participate and watch it in a way that communicate with the American people.
You know, I think we'll have some mix of those techniques, some mix of, you know, scaled down versions of the existing traditions. People have a lot to celebrate on January 20th. I mean, we saw the day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were announced as president and vice president of the United States, people all over the world, and particularly in America, dancing in the streets.
We know people want to celebrate. There is something here to celebrate. We just want to try to find a way to do it as safely as possible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, the clock is ticking on an economic relief package. A lot of programs, including unemployment expire on December 31st.
I know the president-elect wants to pass a relief package now.
Is he willing to endorse a far smaller package than Democrats have passed in the past, focused on just extending unemployment benefits?
And what's your reaction to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin allowing other Fed-lending programs to expire?
KLAIN: So, first, as you know, George, the president-elect and vice president-elect met face to face in Wilmington on Friday with Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi to talk about the best way to get that relief done. They're on point for negotiating this package and the president-elect said that he will support the best outcome they can achieve in these negotiations.
I am very concerned. I think the president-elect's very concerned that we're in a real crisis in many households in this country right now. As you said, unemployment insurance runs out for many people at the end of the year, before Joe Biden takes office. The eviction moratorium runs out at the end of the year before Joe Biden takes office.
So, if that and other problems are going to be fixed, they have to be fixed right now under the Trump presidency with the congressional lineup we have right now. And I think the president-elect is going to do whatever he can to be supportive of that outcome.
I think it's a shame Secretary Mnuchin did what he did with regard to these unexpended relief funds that were made available by the Congress and, you know, worked through the Federal Reserve, but I think that, you know, it obviously raises the challenges that we're going to face when we take over on January 20th.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senate control is still up for grabs, as you know. Democrats will have to win both runoffs in Georgia to take control of the Senate.
Here's what the president-elect told me about the importance of Senate control back in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think I’m more ready to be able to defeat Donald Trump and equally importantly, George, elect a Democratic Senate. It's not going to be enough just to beat him. We have to change the Senate in order to get things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wasn't he right then? You know, one former Obama official told Dan Balz of "The Washington Post", it's the difference between having a transformational presidency, versus having to negotiate everything with a Republican Senate.
KLAIN: Well, winning those two Senate seats in Georgia is important, but we're going to do everything we can to help those two candidates. Great candidates in Georgia, help them win. We've already moved people who were working on the Biden campaign on the recounts down there over to be supportive in the field work for our two candidates down there, and I expect you'll see the president-elect travel down there before Election Day.
So, it's very, very important to win those seats. The thing -- the reality, of course, George, is that even if we win them both, and I think we will win them both -- I think both candidates are doing a great job. We're going to have a closely divided Senate kind of under any scenario. And I think one challenge that the president-elect has taken on is trying to work with members of both parties to build consensus for actions on things like economic relief, like climate change, like dealing with our other crises, our racism crisis, the challenge of fixing our immigration laws and, of course, obviously, fighting COVID.
So we're going to have a closely divided Senate. Whatever happens in Georgia. Obviously we want to win those seats. I really want to see Chuck Schumer be the next majority leader in the U.S. Senate. I think he and the president-elect have a great relationship. But -- I know they have a great relationship. And -- but however that comes out, we are going to deliver for the American people. And that's the mission.
Look, I think that voters sent a clear sign in 2020, and the sign they sent was, they want to see things get done. They want action on COVID, the economy, climate, health care, bringing down health care costs. They want to see action on all of that. We're going to deal with whatever lineup we're faced with in Washington to get that done. And it would be better if that lineup was a Democratic Senate. But if, unfortunately -- and I think -- I don't think this will happen, but if we were to lose those seats in Georgia, we're going to move forward with whatever Senate gets elected.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's going to be some tension between getting unity, getting things done, working with the Republicans and investigating any wrongdoing that occurred during the Trump administration. The vice president's, it's been reported, has expressed a preference that he doesn't want his presidency consumed by Trump investigations.
That has raised some concerns about -- among some Democrats, including Congressman Bill Pascrell, who had this to say this week.
Failure to hold financial and political wrongdoing accountable in the past has invited greater malfeasance by bad actors. A repeat of those failures in 2021 further emboldens criminality by our national leaders and continues America down the path of lawlessness and authoritarianism. There must be accountability.
How do you balance moving forward with getting accountability?
KLAIN: Well, let's be clear, George, the president-elect spoke about this many times during the campaign. And what he made it clear is that Joe Biden is not going to tell the Justice Department who to investigate or who not to investigate. That's who we saw the past four years, the president tampering with the Justice Department, egging on investigations so on and so forth. He's going to pick an excellent attorney general, an independent Justice Department, and that department will make decisions independently, free of politics, free of political favor in either direction as to how to enforce the laws.
That's the way it should be. That's the way it's always been. That's the way it needs to be if we're going to have the kind of rule of law that's so important in our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are we going to see an attorney general, State Department or Treasury pick this week?
KLAIN: Well, what I can confirm, George, is that you're going to see the first of the president-elect's cabinet appointments on Tuesday of this week. Meeting the pace -- beating, in fact, the pace that was set by the Obama/Biden transition, beating the pace set by the Trump transition. So you're going to see the first cabinet picks this Tuesday. But if you want to know what cabinet agencies they are, who's going to be in those cabinet agencies, you'll have to wait for the president-elect to say that himself on Tuesday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I knew you weren't going to tell me who it was. I was hoping you might tell me which ones it was. But, thank you. we'll be watching on Tuesday, Ron Klain.
KLAIN: Yes, we want people to tune in, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, thanks very much.
KLAIN: Thanks, George. Appreciate it.
Up next, the top scientist on the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: You have said that, if this transition doesn't get going, especially coordination on vaccine distribution, that lives will be lost.
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan because, on day one, it's going to take us time if we don't have access to all this data. It's going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more. And that's lives. How many would be lost as a consequence of that, I can't tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President-elect Biden earlier this week.
Let's talk now to the Operation Warp Speed chief science adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.
Dr. Slaoui, thank you for joining us this morning. You heard the president-elect right there.
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, OPERATION WARP SPEED CHIEF SCIENCE ADVISER: (inaudible)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. You heard Ron Klain as well saying the failure to communicate with a transition won't affect vaccine distribution now, but it could affect it once Joe Biden is president of the United States.
How much are you concerned about the lack of communication with the Biden transition team?
SLAOUI: Well, we are focused, frankly, on making sure that the vaccines are made available as quickly as possible and distributed as efficiently as possible, regardless of the political contexts that surround us.
Of course, we would hope that transition happened quietly and smoothly, and we're here to serve the American people and the American population, and we'll do our best.
So we are concerned with anything that could derail the process. As it is -- as it stands now, I can't see that happening, but hopefully it doesn't happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you had any contact with members of the Biden transition?
SLAOUI: No, no contact.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But would -- wouldn't that ensure -- help ensure a seamless transition from one administration to another?
SLAOUI: Frankly, as I said, we're -- we're here to serve. If people want to contact us, of course, we will be available.
I understand -- as you know, I'm not a federal employee, but I understand the rules are such that confidential information needs to be kept with the federal employees. I'll make sure I look at that.
But, otherwise, of course, I will be happy to be contacted and explain what we're doing, as I'm doing it now to all the public.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Walk us through what we can expect going forward with both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines.
So, the two companies are working 24/7 preparing their files. As you know, Pfizer already filed yesterday. Moderna is planning to file by the end of this month. The FDA will review the files.
And, in parallel to that process, the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will also review the data, so that when the FDA, on December 10, for Pfizer, and on December 17 for Moderna, reviews and gets the advice from its advisory committee of independent experts, and hopefully approves the vaccine, the CDC will almost immediately ask the ACIP for what recommendation and what guidance they would give to the population in terms of immunization priorities.
We are ready to start shipping vaccines within 24 hours from approval, ship them to the sites that each state that are allocated a number, a quantity of vaccine that's proportional to their population tells us where to deliver the vaccine. We will have the vaccines there the next day after approval, and, hopefully, people will start to be immunized, I would say, within 48 hours from the approval.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Presumably, health care workers are at the front of the line.
But we're even seeing some hesitancy among health care workers, doctors and nurses, about taking the vaccine. If health care workers on the front lines are hesitant, what does that mean for the broader population, where we know there has been some skepticism about taking the vaccine?
SLAOUI: Well, I'm very, very concerned about the hesitancy as it exists.
And I think it's very unfortunate, because this has been exacerbated by the political context under which we have worked very hard with the companies and with the thousands of people that have been involved to make these vaccines available.
The vaccines have been developed as thoroughly and as scientifically as ever. I have been doing this for more than 30 years. This vaccine development is not different than any other, except that we have gone at an incredible fast speed with incredible resources and incredible commitment by all the parties.
We know that these vaccines are highly effective. They are as safe in the short term as any other vaccine that's already approved. We will be looking for the long term at their safety through very active pharmacovigilance. The CDC and the FDA are working together in setting that up to a level that's almost close to a clinical trial.
And I feel very comfortable that this vaccine, these vaccines are safe. I will be happy to take the vaccine. I will be happy to have my children have or my parents have the vaccine.
And we will be totally transparent with every single bit of data and information that we know about the vaccine for everybody to listen. The key, frankly, is, please, don't make up your mind before you listen to all the information that the FDA and that the CDC and that all independent experts in the country will be able to look into and advise you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the president has..
SLAOUI: ... and then make up your mind.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As -- thank you, sir.
As you know, the president has complained that Pfizer delayed the reporting of the clinical trial success until after the election. Do you have any evidence of that?
SLAOUI: Well, listen, our partnership with Pfizer is slightly different than, for instance, our partnership with Moderna, where we were -- with Moderna, we have been working every day on every single aspect of the vaccine together.
With Pfizer, it was more an arm's-length relationship, where we have supported them in terms of creating a secure marketplace for them. We pre-purchased vaccine as a commitment. We also helped them on manufacturing, raw materials and things like that. But we haven't been with them on a daily basis, so I don't know the specifics.
However, I do think that asking for 60 days' follow-up after completion of immunization to ensure that we understand the short-term and the predictable long-term safety of the vaccine is an appropriate decision.
And I understand that that's what drove the timelines of Pfizer.
So, as far as I know, I don't think any -- any specific action has taken place to delay the vaccine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Slaoui, thank you very much for your time this morning.
SLAOUI: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back with Nate Silver and our powerhouse roundtable.
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GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let me assure you and this fine tom turkey that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table. Not this guy. He's granted a presidential pardon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: I thought it was earlier than that.
Roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (November 17, 1989): He granted a presidential pardon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: I thought it was earlier than that.
The roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
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NATE SILVER, FOUNDER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So we have Trump with a 10 percent shot and Biden with a 90 percent shot. So 10 percent things happen fairly often. And at the same time, you could have a polling error that 90 in 2016, instead of losing all these states by a point, then Biden would win Pennsylvania by a point or two, Michigan by two or three points, Arizona by a point.
There are, like, lots of upside cases for Biden and there are also cases where he wins in a squeaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There you see Nate Silver just before Election Day, and that polling error possibility he raised did pop up again this year. The margin in most battleground states is far narrower than we saw in pre-election polls, underestimating Trump's support again.
Here's Nate's take on what that means.
NATE SILVER, FOUNDER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: With all that went on in this election, including President Trump's refused to concede so far, I'm not sure the performance of the polling is the most important story. And polls did predict the right winner in all but two states in the presidential race.
Still, the margins were pretty far off in a lot of places. And as the founder of FiveThirtyEight, I certainly do have some thoughts.
Again, it wasn't a total disaster. Polls did call every state but Florida and North Carolina correctly in the presidential race, and everywhere but North Carolina and Maine correctly for the Senate.
Still, overall, the polls were mediocre at best with the numbers off by around three or four points in the presidential race and my more like five points in races for Congress.
The problems were often biggest in the Midwest. That includes states like Iowa or especially Wisconsin, where Joe Biden ended up winning by less than 1 percent, a far cry from polls that had him leading by about eight points in the final days of the campaign.
One reason for these issues might be COVID. If people are changing their living pattern around the pandemic, that might affect how they respond to polls too.
Democrats have been more likely than Republican voters to embrace social distancing. So if you're home more often, you're easier to reach by phone. In fact, research has shown poll response rates from Democratic voters shot up once the pandemic hit in March, increasing from 12 percent to 16 percent or 17 percent. That's enough to potentially skew the numbers.
And remember that only about 37 percent of jobs can be performed at home. A lot of those are white collar, knowledge sector jobs held by college-educated professionals, a group that mostly votes for Democrats these days.
So I buy that COVID was a factor in polls underestimating Republicans. The only factor, probably not. I think there were some other issues too. Still, knock on wood, there will not be another global pandemic in 2024, so that will be one thing that pollsters don't have to worry about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's hope you're right about that. The roundtable's up next. We're back in 60 seconds.
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PRESIDENT-ELECT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.
It's hard to fathom how this man thinks. And it's hard to fathom -- I'm -- I'm confident he knows he hasn't won and is not going to be able to win, and we're going to be sworn in on January 20th. And I just -- you know, but far from me to question his motive, it's just -- it's just outrageous what he's doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President-elect Biden earlier this week.
Let's talk about this on our roundtable, joined again by Chris Christie; Rahm Emanuel; Karen Finney, Democratic strategist, CNN political commentator; and Sara Isgur, veteran of the Trump administration who's now a political analyst for CNN and the Dispatch.
And, Chris, let me begin with you. I remember well, in the hours after President Trump's speech on -- early Wednesday morning, the day after the election, you said it's incumbent on him to come forward with the evidence.
There have now been 34 court cases the president has lost. We saw Pennsylvania last night. We saw Pat Toomey, the senator from Pennsylvania, say it's time for the president to enable this transition; it's time for the president to concede.
The president's response was to attack Pat Toomey on Twitter. Is it finally time for this to end?
CHRISTIE: Yes, and -- and here's the reason why. The president has had an opportunity to access the courts. And I said to you, you know, George, starting at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, if you've got the evidence of fraud, present it.
And what's happened here is, quite frankly, the content that the president's legal team has been a national embarrassment, Sidney Powell accusing Governor Brian Kemp of a crime on television, yet being unwilling to go on TV and defend and lay out the evidence that she supposedly has.
This is outrageous conduct by any lawyer. And notice, George, they won't do it inside the courtroom. They allege fraud outside the courtroom, but when they go inside the courtroom, they don't plead fraud and they don't argue fraud.
This is what I was concerned about at 2:30 in the morning on Wednesday night. Listen, I've been a supporter of the president's. I voted for him twice. But elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn't happen.
You have an obligation to present the evidence. The evidence has not been presented. And you must conclude, as Tucker Carlson even concluded the other night, that if you're unwilling to come forward and present the evidence, it must mean the evidence doesn't exist. That's what I was concerned about starting on election night, and I remain concerned today.
I think it's wrong. I think what you've heard lots of Republicans starting to say this; I said it on election night; and I hope more say it going forward. Because the country is what has to matter the most. As much as I'm a strong Republican and I love my party, it's the country that has to come first.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm Emanuel, we still haven't heard from Mitch McConnell.
... and I'm not sure you're going to hear from him. Look, President Trump is endangering our security. He is damaging our public health. He's crippling the economy. And he's undermining our democratic process. Outside of that, it's a run-of-the-mill transition.
I remember working with President Bush's transition, his process (inaudible) went out, and the fact is that he did a number of things to help not only run a great transition, ease of information, making sure that we hit the ground running.
What's happening here is not what President Trump is doing, and I think a point on Chris' point, country comes before party. Donald Trump decided that Trump comes before country. That has been true of his entire presidency. I don't think you're going to see any help from the Republicans in Washington.
And I do think it's of note that the Republicans in the country, like governors and others, have said, "OK, we're going to work with the president -- Biden -- elect -- and his administration to get the public health, the economy moving. That is going to be a guidepost going forward for how to govern, meaning you're going to have Republicans in the state and local government who want to get -- deal with the public health, who want to get their economy and their budgets not only balanced, but the economy moving.
They can start to put pressure on Washington, because Washington Republicans right now are -- I think have walked lockstep with Trump. And it's very clear, given what President Trump is saying recently, he is not leaving.
And, therefore, the fear for my country and for our country is that they continue that obstruction for a new administration, when we have major, major challenges here at home and abroad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Isgur, the dam may be starting to break this morning. We're seeing other Republicans starting to come forward, including we just saw Chris Christie right there say it's time for this to end.
But the silence, particularly from Republican senators, up until this last 24, 36 hours has been kind of deafening.
SARAH ISGUR, STAFF WRITER, THE DISPATCH: We have seen this through the last four years.
The Republican senators in particular think that they're making a norms argument, a process argument, and then Donald Trump undermines them.
And so what -- I don't know that they ever had an endgame in this plan here. I think that they thought, maybe when the vote certifications happened, then Donald Trump would concede. It was just a -- once again, a total misunderstanding of who President Trump is.
And so now they're stuck in a position where they have got to come up with, what is the thing that will allow them to say, well, now is different?
And, for Pat Toomey, obviously, it was that Pennsylvania case, where the case was thrown out with prejudice by the judge, where the judge said, you didn't make any, any claims of fraud that could possibly back up your remedy of throwing out millions of ballots. And so that worked for Pat Toomey.
But why we're not seeing these other senators, I think, is because they don't have a plan, they never did have a plan for what the trigger would be for them to be able to come out and say, this is the end.
And the problem is, they're getting a lot of pressure from folks who say, no, this is actually just the political vengeance of being able to get them back for Russia or for impeachment. But this is totally a different situation. And they're in a rock and a hard place. I don't think they have a plan.
And so there's just going to be this trickle one by one, where they're going to have to figure out why today is different than yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Karen Finney, I'm not sure the president has a plan either. But there may be the inklings of an endgame going forward as well.
We have heard some rumblings that he's planning to never concede, to announce for president in 2024, and have a significant portion of his base always believe that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, that's right, George.
I mean, let's talk about the facts. The facts are these. Joe Biden won the election. He has 306 electoral votes. He has won by more than six million votes. He's leading in the popular vote.
Donald Trump is refusing to accept these facts. And he is going to try to continue, it seems, to live in this fantasyland, this -- without facts, without merit, with the case -- legal cases, as we have discussed, that have been thrown out.
But he's trying to do something even more nefarious that I think we have to call out. He's literally trying to throw out votes, to subvert the will of the people. Our country is based on a Constitution and the belief that power comes from the people, the people who voted for Joe Biden.
Donald Trump operates on the belief that power comes from him. And Republicans are going to have to decide. The Republican Party and my -- our colleague Chris Christie is going to have to decide, are you going to follow this person continuously, who believes that his power is the power that rules, or are you going to say, we have got to get down to the business of taking care of the American people?
Twelve million people have COVID. And this president wants to golf and tweet falsities and lies. We need to move forward.
And I just think it's important that we acknowledge how serious this situation is, how dangerous this is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, you did just acknowledge how serious it is.
But speak to how Republicans, elected officials, now negotiate this rock and hard place that Sarah Isgur was talking about. The president doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. He wants to stay relevant to some degree on Twitter, keeping his base riled up.
What does that mean for the Republican Party, elected Republican officials going forward?
CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, George, let me start with this.
I don't need to be lectured by Karen Finney about doing the right thing.
On election night, on election night, after the president spoke, I said, you either present the facts, or you can't make the charge. You either present the facts of fraud, or you can't stand behind the seal of the president of the United States and make that charge.
So, you know, Karen, maybe you should get caught up on things before you start throwing around words like that.
FINNEY: I'm not trying to lecture you. I'm...
CHRISTIE: And that's what -- and, by the way -- and that makes -- and, by the way, and that is what makes this atmosphere so poisonous, is stuff like that.
Let me say this about Republican senators. What they should do...
FINNEY: Do you disagree that it is dangerous to this country, what the president is doing?
CHRISTIE: What they should do -- what they should do -- what they should do -- I don't need to be lectured by you, Karen.
What we need to do is to do the right thing.
FINNEY: This isn't about being lectured by me. This is about doing the right thing.
CHRISTIE: Every United States senator -- yeah, and I’ve been doing that since election night.
Every United States senator --
FINNEY: But if you want to take it out on me, that's fine.
CHRISTIE: -- every United States senator should -- every United States senator should stand up and ask themselves, what's the right thing to do here? We've given the president the opportunity, a right that he has like every other American has to access the legal system, and to make proof forward to the judges who will make these decisions.
And the reason the judges are making these decisions is because that's the president's choice. He has chosen to take this to court because he disagrees with the results, in the very same way that Al Gore chose to take it to court.
Once you do that, you can't complain about the result that the judges give you if you hand it to them. And so, every senator should stand up, George, and decide for themselves what they believe in their heart is the right thing and not make political calculations but make personal ones that are in the best interest of the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Rahm, it seems like President-elect Biden has simply made the calculation that he's going to basically as much as he can ignore what the president says and just go on doing what highway needs to do to the extent he can in the transition.
EMANUEL: Yeah, I think two things, George. One is I do think he has made a decision a little more which is, you know, for Republicans in the country, as you saw with the governors meeting, and you can see more support out of the governors. So, he's going to come around Washington. I think that's a smart strategy.
It’s also one I would adopt as a governing strategy because governors like Governor DeWine and Governor Kemp and others are going to have to now realize, are we going to get the resources we need not only balance our budget, to deal our public health (ph)? That is going to be a great way to play, I think in triangulation between the Senate and the governors, it makes it -- that's just one view of how to do it.
Second thing is what Ron Klain said I think is very, very smart. He's going to say to the Senate Republicans, you have a prerogative in the Senate called to confirm our nominees. You can align the Senate prerogative up with his self-interests, which is to get the background checks and his nominations to go forward.
And to me, that's a smart strategy to say, wait, this game is now over. Your interest -- nothing gets a senator more excited than the word prerogative. You want the background material (ph) to make sure that the treasury secretary, defense secretary, attorney general have what they need, EPA (INAUDIBLE). That is going to make sure they start to move and realize that they too need this transition going.
And the ultimate thing is, we have -- we get back to this about Washington. The country’s public health is in danger. He's crippling our economy. He's endangering our public health. He's obviously endangering our national security and he's undermining our democracy.
At some point, the old, old DNA will kick in and say, you know what? We have a country. We have a responsibility, and when they think their self-interest is there, and my guess it may happen as we get closer and closer to Georgia, where all of a sudden, they remember they're responsible to this great project called the United State.
And I want to bring up one story. President Bush when I asked him, when we had President Obama (AUDIO GAP) on request, he brought up, in the middle of this great crisis, he brought all the living presidents together to have lunch with President Obama as a gesture of support as he dealt with the (AUDIO GAP) national financial crisis since the depression. It was a picture to America of unity.
You look at this guy who's not practicing the job and he's golfing, he's going nothing required of the job. It tells you how far this (AUDIO GAP) I’m sorry, but under Donald Trump, the Republican Party has fallen, and it’s showing through in the polling as you show (ph) this week.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Isgur, Rahm mentioned Georgia, it's hard to overestimate how important to both parties those runoff elections are in early January.
ISGUR: What's interesting is that this will be largely just a turnout operation. A special election is about finding those supporters and getting more of them out.
When I’ve talked to voters in Georgia who maybe didn't vote for Donald Trump in 2016, but did this time, all of this noise and atmospherics is not really affecting their desire to go out and vote in that special election.
So, even though you’d imagine that discussions about, you know, your vote didn't count and enormous amounts of voter fraud on the right might discourage people from turning out, that's not what I'm hearing in conversations with conservatives and Republicans down there.
On the flip side, the question is whether what Donald Trump is actually doing the turnout operation for the Democrats' job for them and encouraging Democrats that they need to get out and get those votes in the Senate in order to have Chuck Schumer as the Senate majority leader.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be the paradox, Karen Finney, yes. If President Trump is front and center straight through until January 5th, that could help boost Democratic turnout.
FINNEY: Well, it could. And let me just say, George, I think it's sad that Governor Christie would attack me when I was actually trying to praise the fact that he's come forward and has been someone who has said that this president needs to accept the facts.
My point here is that this president needs to accept the facts and other Republicans need to step forward and put country ahead of party. And in Georgia in particular, Sarah's right, it is going to be largely a turnout operation. As you know, I've worked in Georgia. I have every confidence that we're going to win those Senate races.
But the more this president and his party is seen as obstructing and particularly trying to throw out the votes of black Americans, when the black vote in Georgia is so critical, don't think we're not watching and that we don't know what's going on. That will be a strong motivator to voters in Georgia to say, not on our watch. You're not going to do that us to. You are not going to suppress our voices and our will.
And, again, the larger point in this country, we cannot just throw out votes. We are not a country -- we are a country that expects -- respects the rule of law and our Constitution, and the Republican Party find itself at a crossroads and it will affect how Georgia shakes out, but it affects the party long-term. If they decide that they're going to follow Donald Trump and succumb to his power and see his as the ultimate power instead of the Constitution.
EMANUEL: (INAUDIBLE) --
FINNEY: And the American people, in the middle of a pandemic, deserve better.
EMANUEL: George --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, what's the most effective Republican -- let me get Chris then and Rahm then you -- then you follow up.
Chris, what's the most effective Republican message for those runoffs?
CHRISTIE: The most effective Republican message is, you have two great Republican candidates who will make sure that there's balance brought to Washington, D.C., and to say you don't want Chuck Schumer and his folks running the United States Senate because then the most radical parts of the Democratic Party will be running the entire government. And so you don't want that. And I think the most -- the most important thing for us to focus on as a party is to win both of those Senate seats. And if the president wants to be helpful, he can be helpful by focusing on that rather than looking in the rear-view mirror.
Remember what we've always said, elections are about tomorrow, not about yesterday. And the elections on January 5th are what America is going to look like on January 6th and for the next four years beyond that. That's what Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue should be focusing on. That's what Republicans should be focusing on. The rear-view mirror should be ripped off, and we should be looking straight ahead at the future of the country and having a Republican Senate, in my view, is the best way to ensure that we will have the right type of approach over the next four years.
EMANUEL: George, I think this is why this is very, very important. Joe Biden made history. He's one of only four people that have beaten an incumbent president in the last 100 years. The other piece of history that (INAUDIBLE) relevant and why Georgia counts, you have to go back to 1884 to find a Democratic president that did not have a Democratic Senate on day one. And so the consequences going forward, I would make the message is about change. If you want Washington to start dealing with the pandemic, dealing with the economy, et cetera, you need a majority that will actually work with the president rather than obstruct. And I would deal with the obstruction. And I want to underscore this, what President Trump is doing to this election in Georgia right now is the same thing he did by casting doubt about the mail-in ballot process and that effort. It actually turned out votes (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: And --
EMANUEL: As Newton would say, action is a counteraction of force. And that's going to be something (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is -- and that is the last word.
Thank you all 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."
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