'This Week' Transcript 12-12-21: FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell & Dr. Anthony Fauci

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, December 12.

ByABC News
December 12, 2021, 9:18 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December 12, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR (voice-over): Tornado disaster.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): The level of devastation is unlike anything I have ever seen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The worst in Kentucky's history, scores dead, hundreds of thousands without power across six states, emergencies declared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need your prayers. We need your help.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The latest this morning from our team on the ground, plus FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

Winter surge.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I'm actually quite concerned. I'm not surprised that we're seeing an increase in the cases.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boosters approved for 16- and 17-year-olds, as Delta overwhelms hospitals and Omicron spreads to over 25 states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are yet again in a serious situation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us live.

On the brink.

IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We're now less than 50 yards away from Russian-backed separatist positions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As Russian troops mass at the Ukraine border, President Biden sends a warning to Vladimir Putin.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What does Putin want? Will he invade? Is there anything Biden can do to stop him?

Plus, all the week's politics on our powerhouse roundtable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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 this morning, communities across the South and Midwest are digging out from a swarm of deadly tornadoes, more than 40 reported across six states, leaving scores dead, some areas completely flattened.

Kentucky's Governor Andy Beshear called it the most deadly tornado event in the history of the state. President Biden approved an emergency declaration, promising the federal government will do everything possible to help with rescue and recovery, those efforts continuing around the clock.

And our team is on the ground across the region.

The hardest-hit site, a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, where dozens were killed, 40 people still missing.

And we begin in Mayfield with ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis.

Good morning, Linsey.

LINSEY DAVIS, ABC NEWS LIVE ANCHOR: And good morning to you, George.

You know, I'm seeing it firsthand, and, still, I'm having a difficult time really getting my mind around the magnitude of the devastation here in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Since it is Sunday morning, it feels appropriate to start with church. After all, this is a community that is in need of and asking for prayer.

Take a look from our drone, all this rubble here. Less than 48 hours ago, there was a church right behind me. In this two-block area alone, three churches have been destroyed, perhaps just when they are needed most.

A prayer service is planned to take place here this morning in the midst of the rubble. We got a look inside the First Christian Church of Mayfield. Last Sunday, they welcomed worshipers. This morning, it is decimated. Everywhere you look, there's this evidence of splintered houses and splintered lives, heaps of what once was, remnants of what used to be.

One of the tornadoes stayed on the ground for 227 miles, the winds reaching 155 miles per hour, which is faster than most passenger trains. You have heard the headlines, at least 70 dead, that this is Kentucky's most devastating, most deadly tornado in the state's history.

But the scenes and the stories here on the ground, that's what really puts things in perspective. Just think about what has preoccupied your own thoughts in the past 24 hours, and then think about people like Angie (ph), a woman here in Kentucky who describes both her and her mother being picked up and sucked out of their house.

Her mom went to the hospital. Their house is destroyed. They have lost everything, just one story of so many. An estimated 60,000 customers are now without power here in Kentucky. But, in some ways, they're the fortunate ones. They still have a household. Power can, of course, be restored.

Some of the places of worship here that are able to remain open have moved service until 3:00 in order to allow members to use the morning daylight to begin this long road ahead of recovery -- George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Linsey, you said it's so hard to wrap your mind around it. We heard the same thing from the governor. We heard the same thing from President Biden yesterday.

This recovery effort could take weeks, months.

DAVIS: For sure.

I mean, the places that are still standing, the schools, the hotels, the churches, many of them are working as shelters at this point. Many of them also have staging areas, where they're asking people to bring whatever they can, whether that's water, whether that's diapers, whether that's a pack 'n play, because, quite often, people talk about picking up the pieces, George.

In this case, for so many people, they're starting from scratch. They just lost it all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Linsey Davis, thank you.

And, of course, it's not just Kentucky, as we said, six states hit by this swarm of tornadoes.

Want to go to Rob Marciano, our senior meteorologist, who is at the Amazon warehouse that was destroyed in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Such a wide path of destruction, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, ABC SENIOR METEOROLOGIST: Yes, George, nine confirmed tornadoes so far but several more reported. We still have to have storm survey teams going out and analyze the situation, especially the one that went through Mayfield. That one potentially going on the ground for across four states for over 200 miles. This one here in Edwardsville was an EF-3 tornado with 155-mile-per-hour winds cutting through this Amazon facility. This is a new facility you can see behind me, exactly what it looks like now. This is a hole about a football field wide, three to four stories tall. Some pretty stunning before and after photographs. There were six fatalities here. Over 40 employees scrambling for safety when the tornado warnings went off. But when you see what happened to this -- this building, which is less than five years old, with concrete walls 11 inches thick, what these winds did to it, there probably was no place to hide. Same for the nursing home in Arkansas, and also the buildings across parts of Kentucky.

Safety will be a question asked today, George, not for this -- just for this facility, but across the one in Mayfield, but in some cases when the buildings are just completely flattened, there's just nowhere to hide, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rob, and it's so unusual to see tornadoes like in this in December.

MARCIANO: It is. And matter of fact, EF-3 tornadoes in Kentucky, that has never happened to have three of them. We've had EF-2 tornadoes in December. So this likely is going to go down as an unprecedented event as far as the strength of these storms are concerned. We had record-breaking heat added in advance of it, and that certainly fueled these very spring-like storms. So an unusual event, very rare indeed, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we expect more inclement weather across the region this week?

MARCIANO: We're going to see a seesaw in temperatures, that's for sure. You know, the problem with having tornadoes come through in cold winter months is that hundreds of thousands of people are without power, potentially without heat. Temperatures this morning below freezing. They'll be below freezing again tomorrow morning. So not just the recovery but the survival for those who still have a home to go back to just for shelter may not have heat. So it's a tough go for a lot of people, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Rob, finally, President Biden explained -- talked about the connection to climate change yesterday. Explain more about that.

MARCIANO: You know, climate change we know for sure it impacts floods, it impacts wildfires, certainly drought and heat waves, and in some cases, hurricanes. But we're just not sure about severe weather and tornadoes. But what we are seeing is that having this happen in the month of December this far north, that is unprecedented. So maybe not affecting the strength of tornadoes, but where and when they happen, that seems to be a direct link towards climate change, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rob Marciano, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Deanne Criswell now, the FEMA administrator for the federal government.

Ms. Criswell, thank you for joining us this morning. I know you're heading to Kentucky after this interview. You've been consulting with Kentucky's governor as well. What's the latest on the emergency effort?

DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Good morning, George. You know, first, I just want to say that my prayers go out to everybody, all of those families that have been impacted in the communities. This is a devastating event. You know, as you've heard, record-breaking, right? Record-breaking tragedy that has left so many families displaced. What we are hearing as we are still in the life-saving and life-sustaining mode, right? We're still in search and rescue and we're sending additional resources in to help locate anybody who still may be trapped.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what's the greatest need going forward?

CRISWELL: I think right now, again, we want to focus the next -- today and the next day on life-saving. We really want to make sure that we find anybody who still might be trapped in the rubble across all of these states. But then it's going to be a long recovery. And we really need to focus on how we're going to help these communities with their immediate needs, their immediate sheltering needs, and then the long-term housing needs that are going to really be needed to help these communities and these families rebuild.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is the scope of the emergency effort across these six states right now? How many personnel do you have on the ground? How much is this going to cost?

CRISWELL: Right now Kentucky is the only the state that has asked for and received an emergency declaration. We are in contact through my regional administrators with all of the states that have been impacted and working additional requests so we can start the flow of federal resources into those areas.

In Kentucky right now, I would say that we have approximately 100 personnel on the ground. We've sent our National Urban Search and Rescue teams, our National Incident Management Assistance teams to help coordinate all of the federal resources coming in. Additional staging teams as we bring in generators and commodities. And then we have additional personnel staged and ready to go as we work with the states to identify what their requirements are going to be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Shelter the biggest issue?

CRISWELL: Shelter is a huge issue right now. There is areas without power, but what we've seen mostly, what I've seen as an emergency manager is that many people will stay with friends and family. But we know that not everybody has a place to go.

I spoke with the president of the Red Cross last night about the efforts that they're doing to support the states and the commonwealth with their sheltering needs. And then we're going to continue to work with the states and the commonwealth on any gaps that they may have for their interim or their long-term sheltering and housing requirements.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR: And those without power extending even beyond these six states. That's a special problem in a month like December.

CRISWELL: Oh, absolutely, George. You know, this is the -- beginning to be a cold time of year. And so when we have events like this and severe weather that happens in these cold months, it just makes the impacts of that even seem so much greater. And so, again, working on providing safe and secure sheltering for individuals so we can keep them out of the elements is going to be a priority.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're seeing more and more of these severe weather events, and as Rob said, in places we haven't seen them before, at times we haven't seen them before. Is there anything more that can be done to mitigate the devastation from these natural disasters ahead of time?

CRISWELL: I think that there is a lot that we need to do as a nation. You know, there's going to be a lot to learn from this event and the events that we saw through the summer. We're seeing more intense storms, severe weather, whether it's hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires. And one of the focuses my agency is going to have is, how can we start to reduce the impacts of these events as they continue to grow?

And we're having a concerted effort going forward in how we can help communities understand what their unique risks are, the type of mitigation projects that are out there that can help protect them community-wide instead of incremental projects. And really help communities become more resilient to these severe weather events that continue to happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden heading to the region?

CRISWELL: I don't know if he's going to go. I'm on my way down there right now with Secretary Mayorkas. I am providing the president regular updates on what I'm hearing. I'll give him an update again on what we see when we're down there. And then he'll make that decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Deanne Criswell, thanks very much for your time and your information this morning.

CRISWELL: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get the latest now on the pandemic. Over half of U.S. states have now confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant, sparking concerns about a winter surge.

President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins us now.

Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us again.

Your last time just after Thanksgiving, Omicron was in one state then. At least 25 right now. What have we learned about the variant in the last two weeks?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Well, we've learned a lot, and we're continuing to learn it on a daily basis, George.

First of all, it clearly has a transmission advantage in the sense of in countries like South Africa, and now, the U.K., where you have it competing with the Delta variant in the sense of ability to transmit, it looks like it has a high degree of transmissibility. And that's the reason why you're seeing literally every day, more and more countries and in the United States, more and more states.

The thing that's important is that it appears to be able to evade some of the immune protection of things like monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, and the antibodies that are reduced by vaccines. That's the sobering news.

The somewhat encouraging news is that preliminary data showed that when you get a booster, for example, the third shot of an mRNA, it raises the level of protection high enough that it does then do well against the Omicron which is again, another reason to encourage people who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated, but particularly those who are vaccinated to get boosted because that diminution in protection seems to go way back up again.

So, that's the importance of getting that best and optimal protection you can.

The other thing that's important is that we’re getting --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead.

FAUCI: Go ahead -- I’m saying the other thing that's -- we’re getting anecdotal information from, not necessarily confirmed yet, that the level of severity appears to be maybe a bit less than in the Delta, but there are confounding issues there, George. It may be due to the underlying protection in the community due to prior infections, but these are just preliminary data that we're going to have to just follow carefully to get them confirmed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked about the advantages of the booster. Do we -- should we be thinking about three shots now as a standard of care?

FAUCI: Well, I certainly think, George, it's the optimal care. I mean, for official requirements, it's still two shots of the mRNA and one shot of the J&J. For the official determination of what's required or not. But I think if you are looking at the data, the more and more it becomes clear that if you want to be optimally protected, you really should get a booster. And I think we'll be continuing to evaluate what the official designation is. But, for now, if you want to be optimally protected, absolutely get a booster if you've already had your primary vaccination.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And projecting forward, should we be expecting yearly boosters?

FAUCI: You know, George, it's tough to tell because the third shot of an mRNA could not only do what we absolutely know it does, is it dramatically increased the level of protection. But from an immunological standpoint, it could very well increase the durability of protection by things that you can't readily measure by the level of antibodies that you might have a maturation of the immune system that would prolong the durability.

You don't know that, George, until you just follow it over a period of months. If it becomes necessary to get yet another boost, then we'll just have to deal with it when that occurs. But I'm hoping, from an immunological standpoint, that that third shot of an mRNA and the second shot of a J&J will give a much greater durability of protection than just the six months or so that we're seeing right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So boosters seem to help, but the World Health Organization is warning that pushing boosters will worsen the global inequity of vaccine distribution.

How do you respond to that concern?

FAUCI: You know, George, that's an understandable concern, but it isn't really that valid if you do both. And we can do both. We are, right now, vaccinating our own country. We're going to be boosting as many people as we possibly can. But you can also simultaneously make doses available to the developing world. And the United States, quite frankly, has done more than all of the other countries combined. We've given over 300 million doses to over 100 countries, and we will either have given or pledging 1.1 billion doses and an expansion of even more.

So we're very well aware of the issue with equity, and we're very firmly in the corner of equity. So, you can do both, George. You can take care of your own country and provide doses to the low and middle income countries.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Fewer than one in five eligible children have received the vaccine so far. What's your message to reluctant parents?

FAUCI: Well, my message to parents is, if your child is five years of age and older, please get them vaccinated. We need to protect the children. This idea that children are not vulnerable at all is not so, George. I mean certainly, statistically, children do not get as severe disease as the adults, particularly the elderly. But if you look at the number of cases of children now, well over 2 million children from five to 11 have been infected. There have been over 8,000 to 9,000 hospitalizations and well over a hundred deaths. So it's not only good for the health of the child, but also to prevent the spread in the community. So we have a very safe and highly effective vaccine for everyone, including children five to 11. And that's the reason why we encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, there's so much Covid fatigue out there. You know that. You must be exhausted yourself. What kind of signs -- what signs of hope can you point to in this holiday season?

FAUCI: Well, George, we have the tools to protect ourselves, and that's the thing we keep saying over and over again. We have 60 million people in this country who are not yet vaccinated who are eligible to be vaccinated. And those who are -- luckily did get vaccinated, now we have about 100 million of them that are eligible for boosters.

So, on that framework alone, just vaccination, we can go a long way to getting us through this cold winter season, which clearly is always associated with a spike in respiratory illnesses. But the other things we can do is to be prudent, namely follow the CDC guidelines that when you are in an indoor, congregate setting, and you do not know the vaccination status of the people around you, wear a mask. You know, masking is not going to be forever, but it can get us out of the very difficult situation we're in now. So just the tension to public health measures that are pretty clear can get us through this. And as we get through the winter and into the spring, hopefully we'll have a much better control over things.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Fauci, thanks, as always, for your time and your information.

FAUCI: Thank you, George. Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That as Russia poised to -- as Russia is poised to invade Ukraine, can President Biden do anything to stop them? Ian Pannell reports from Ukraine with analysis from Martha Raddatz and the former ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the deal, I have made it absolutely clear to President Putin, it's the last thing I'll say, that if he moves on Ukraine, the economic consequences for his economy are going to be devastating, devastating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden with a stark warning to Vladimir Putin yesterday. As Russia masses troops on the border with Ukraine, Biden spoke directly this week to Putin, the Ukrainian president, and neighboring states to head off a Russian invasion. The question now, is there anything the West can do to prevent Putin from moving in?

Martha Raddatz and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor are standing by to analyze after this report from senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell on the front lines of the conflict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IAN PANNELL, ABC SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scenes of devastation. This is the front line, at least in Ukraine, at the heart of what risks becoming the most explosive crisis in Europe since the Cold War. This is where Ukrainian forces have been fighting against Russian-backed separatists for almost eight years now.

(on camera): I don't know if you can quite make out but the colonel is telling us we've got to really keep our voices down here because this is the area where the Russian-backed separatist forces fire on their troops. And if they can hear us, then the risk is that they open fire.

Look at the damage, it's incredible.

(voice-over): Hard to imagine that this was once a bustling factory. Today it's a monument to the ferocity of battles fought here.

(on camera): The Russian-backed separatists are literally about 50 yards, maybe less, just, you know, the side there.

(voice-over): The lines here have barely moved since 2015, when a ceasefire ended large scale fighting. But this has been an imperfect peace, and the conflict today is still burning.

(on camera): Every few minutes, another gunshot there. We hear the sound of rapid, automatic gunfire there. They're telling us to go.

(voice-over): Ukraine is trapped by geography and history. This key former Soviet state is caught between east and west, between Europe and Russia. Today some fear Vladimir Putin, fearing diminishing influence, is preparing once again to reignite this conflict.

For weeks, Russia has been amassing troops along Ukraine's eastern border. U.S. intelligence officials reportedly say there's as many as 175,000 that could be there by January. The Kremlin, unhappy that Ukraine is moving too close to the West and Nato. It has set up a critical test for the Biden administration. A renewed invasion would be far more devastating than the last one, and have effects well beyond Europe. Some experts fearing it could even embolden China to seize Taiwan.

President Biden this week used his secure video call with Putin to warn him against sending troops over the border.

BIDEN: If he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences. Severe consequences. Economic consequences like none he's ever seen.

PANNELL: After Tuesday's call, both leaders agreed to continue discussions, but it gave few clues whether Russians will now de-escalate.

Russia has repeatedly insisted it isn't preparing to attack, while talking about red lines and engaging in high-stakes brinkmanship to try to force the U.S. and NATO out of Ukraine.

This week, Ukraine's military gave us an exclusive look at U.S.-supplied weapons, Javelin anti-tank missiles. It's rare to see these weapons deployed to the front lines in the East. This is exactly the kind of aid Putin sees as evidence of American meddling in Russia's backyard and Ukraine on an unacceptable trajectory.

No one really knows what Putin is planning. Is this all about creating pressure to extract concessions, or does he really plan to use force? For Ukrainians living near the front lines, the threat of invasion looms large, but, after eight years, it's also become part of daily life, and few told us they feared an invasion was imminent.

(on camera): Do people talk about the Russians being on the border? Are people concerned?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say -- I would say no.

PANNELL (voice-over): Since Biden's call with Putin, Russia's kept the pressure up, on Friday, Ukraine accusing Russia of a de facto blockade of some Ukrainian ports. Putin also comparing what he sees as the war on Russian speakers in the East to a genocide.

Whatever Vladimir Putin decides, Ukrainian troops at the front line say they only thing they can really do is be ready.

(on camera): Ready to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ready to fight. Yes.

PANNELL: Ready to die?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PANNELL: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PANNELL: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's our ground, our country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Ian Pannell for that report.

I'm joined now by my colleague Martha Raddatz, also William Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

And, Martha, let's begin with that phone call between President Biden and Vladimir Putin earlier this week. What more do we know about what went on behind the scenes?

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Well, I think you have heard the administration, you have heard Biden say how tough he was in that call and minced no words.

But Vladimir Putin, I'm told by U.S. officials, was equally tough. He did not back down. He played the victim. He said he was the aggrieved person, and stop with all this democracy. So, he was very, very tough. That's the way it was described.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Ambassador Taylor, is there any real mystery here about Putin's intentions? He insists Ukraine is part of Russia.

He published, what, a 6,000-word essay this summer talking about that. Heading toward almost 200,000 troops on the border. We just saw those Ukrainians say they're not too worried. Are they complacent?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I don't think they're complacent.

You also heard those Ukrainian troops say they're ready to die. They're ready to defend their land. And they are. They will fight fiercely. They have fought fiercely, as you say, for seven-and-a-half years. They will continue to do that.

But no one knows, in answer to your question, what's in President Putin's mind. No one has figured that out. He might be bluffing. He might be just moving these troops up for purposes of getting, trying to intimidate President Zelensky or President Biden or NATO. Or he might be serious about taking over Ukraine. He is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why wouldn't he invade?

TAYLOR: Why wouldn't he?

Because it would be -- rationally, it would be very, very costly, not just the economic sanctions that President Biden is talking about. The number of Russian troops that would die would be very large, and Ukrainians as well.

He would also lose, for example, that pipeline that is so important to him from Russia to Germany, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It would be a very bad move for him and very costly. And that's why -- that's why he wouldn't.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On the military front, Martha, what do we know about the Russian capabilities and the capacity of the Ukraine to respond?

RADDATZ: Well, as the ambassador said, the Ukrainians have a lot of combat experience. They do. But they would be crushed. They truly would.

Russia's ability at this point -- and 175,000 troops, think of that. When we went into Iraq, we were nowhere near 175,000 troops. But also remember back to 2014 and this point about Russian troops. They -- there were reports that Putin set up mobile crematoriums because he was burning the bodies of those who were killed, so the Russians would not see caskets coming back.

He has to be thinking about that. But they could move in swiftly. Look, the administration and officials are telling me they are not faking it. Putin is not faking it, but that, on the other hand, he may be really good at not faking it. I mean, he is moving in those troops.

After that call with President Biden, they added more troops. They added at least 10,000 more troops. So, if he's bluffing, it's a very, very good bluff.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of the other things we heard from Ian Pannell is that the ramifications of this, Ambassador Taylor, extend far beyond Ukraine.

He mentioned the possibility that President Xi in China may feel emboldened to move on Taiwan.

TAYLOR: This is an important connection.

President Xi in China is clearly looking to see what President Putin gets away with, and what President Biden resists. And if President Biden is tough as he's been, and if he's ready to impose serious sanctions and serious costs on President Putin, President Xi will notice, and will hesitate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We know President Biden has ruled out military involvement. How far is he willing to go on the sanctions?

RADDATZ: I think with the sanctions, he can certainly try to hit the pipeline and bring something on that, but he says it's very, very tough economic sanctions.

You know, George, I think of the rest of the world looking at America right now, what happened in Afghanistan, that chaotic and deadly evacuation from Afghanistan. They look at Iraq. Have we won two wars? Absolutely not.

So, I think Putin calculates that as well and the rest of the world, and I also think they look at January 6th and think, what's up with America?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, do you believe in the end, Putin will invade?

TAYLOR: I think not. I think it's 55/45, but 45 percent chance that there's a major war in Europe. You have to take it seriously. You have to be prepared. You have to be ready, and these actions that we're talking about are designed to avoid that 45 percent and deter -- deter the war.

STEPHANOPOULOS: William Taylor, Martha Raddatz, thanks very much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is here and ready to go. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): To pay tribute to Senator Bob Dole is to honor someone who redefined and elevated what it means to serve country.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Bob was the last of the greatest generation to run for president, but he was never stuck in the past.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I found Bob to be a man of principle, privatism and enormous integrity. He understood that we're all a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rare, bipartisan agreement in Washington in tributes to Bob Dole at his funeral at the National Cathedral on Friday.

Let's bring in our roundtable.

We're joined by Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Justin Amash, former libertarian member of Congress, and Margaret Hoover, host of "Firing Line" on PBS, also a CNN contributor.

And we can talk about Bob Dole later, Chris Christie, but I want to begin with President Biden, his political situation right now. We have -- we saw those inflation numbers come out on Friday. The worst inflation numbers in 40 years. Truly depressing President Biden's popularity right now. Is this the biggest problem he faces?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it is the biggest problem he faces because it cuts across all demographics. It doesn't matter who you are in this country, where you live, what your income level is, inflation affects everyone. And it makes everybody feel nervous, George, because they think to themselves, like, what if I can't afford, fill in the blank, whatever it is they want to try to get for their families, and the president seems to be in denial about it.

And that's the other thing, you can't -- when you're a leader, you can't appear to be out of touch with a problem that's touching everyone. And I think right now the problem, and what you see reflected in those poll numbers is, the president is not -- is saying it's not a problem. You know, he had his folks saying it was transitory. Now it's not transitory. Now, well, it isn't quite as bad, and the economy's really rebounding. Don't be telling people -- we use this line today -- you know, you going to believe me or your lying eyes? Well, they're believing what they're seeing when they go into the supermarket, to the gas station, and everywhere else where they buy things, especially on Christmas coming up now and the holiday season and people buying things. This is a real problem for the president, and I think he's got to get with it. He's got to start dealing with it and addressing it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What would that mean, or what could he do?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, part of it is, first of all, just acknowledging it. I think a lot of people, George, when a leader just says, look, I understand this is a problem and I'm going to go fix it, they don't necessarily need to know every specific what you're going to do it. Eventually they will. But he's not even going to get to that point yet.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I -- I -- I disagree with you for obvious reasons.

CHRISTIE: I can't believe it.

BRAZILE: No, no, look, look, Covid was a shock to our economy, not just here in the United States, but across the globe. The supply chain -- it's impacted that. It's impacted consumer buying patterns. So I think there's an acknowledgment that this is -- this is hurting our economy at a time when the American people want to get back on their feet. The president has acknowledged this with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I've got to always remember where all the gas might be hitting. But gas price haves already gone down 25 percent. He has also started to focus on the ports and the supply chain. He's focusing on the anti-competitiveness. So yes, there's a focus on inflation, but this is a problem not just facing the American people, but it's all over the globe because of what happened when we shut down our economy and the world shut down their economy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Justin, inflation is clearly an issue, on the other hand, you also have wages going up across the country, the lowest unemployment in a generation as well. What else is behind this, I guess, malaise right now?

JUSTIN AMASH (L), FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, I mean, when you look at the unemployment, you've got to remember there are a lot of people who aren't going back to work. And the unemployment figures are just taking into account people who actually want to work. So we have to keep that in mind. But you had the federal government pumping trillions of dollars into an idle economy while there's still some demand, and then the supply is artificially being restricted by government at the same time. It was a recipe for inflation. I saw this a long time ago. I tweeted about it, frankly, toward the beginning of the, you know, pandemic saying this was going to be a problem. We're going to have inflation, and it came to be.

And now you have the Federal Reserve, its balance sheet has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. When you keep pumping money into this economy while there's still demand and while supply is restrained, you're going to have inflation. And that's what we're seeing.

MARGARET HOOVER, PBS HOST, "FIRING LINE": That's -- it's -- Donna might appreciate this, but it's really when you go back to it, you would too, George. It's all Bill Clinton, and it's all of the economy, stupid. OK, this is the bread and butter issues that the politics of this is what people are feeling. And it's Christmas season and people are trying to buy presents. And it's -- inflation is the insidious tax on the lower and middle income people in this country. The wealthy are fine. They're able to -- they're having -- their asset values are increasing. They're doing great. But the middle and lower income Americans are feeling it, and it's pressing down.

BRAZILE: But, Margaret, you feel it when you go into a bar or restaurant. I was at one recently. And you feel it because they're raising prices to keep their workers. They're raising prices to get the supply. So this is a problem that the -- not just our economy, but across the world. People are not ready to go back to work. That's why the president's plan, Build Back Better, I call it the Family Fairness Act, will help. It will help the American people with some of these rising prices.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Workers do have incredible leverage right now. We saw -- and we're seeing workers across the country use that leverage. We saw the Starbucks unionize for the first time, at least one branch up in Buffalo. We saw John Deere recently getting what, 5 percent wage raise increases over the next four years.

CHRISTIE: Yes, look, workers do have more leverage now, but, you know, Donna, it's time for them to go back to work. I, quite frankly, don't care whether they're ready or not. You know, it's time to go back to work. And if the president continues to give people excuses not to go back to work, he's not going to get over this problem. And saying that I'm working on the supply chain or working on everything else is something that the public is not going to understand. He has to acknowledge the problem. He will not acknowledge the problem. And people then think he's not getting it.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, we don't want another...

CHRISTIE: And then he becomes his favorite president...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: ... bumper sticker for the Republicans.

CHRISTIE: Joe Biden has said his favorite president was Jimmy Carter, and he is becoming Jimmy Carter. Weak, ineffectual, riddled by inflation, and a work force that won't go back to work.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: ... that's like the big '70s to me.

BRAZILE: Investing in the long-term for the American people. Six million new jobs created, an unemployment figure that was over 6 percent a year ago down to 4 percent. Look, at every step...

CHRISTIE: And then people sitting home on the couch.

BRAZILE: At every step along the way, President Biden has shown that he's going to deliver for the American people regardless of all the obstruction by Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Margaret, the big question on the table now for the president, he says that over time the Build Back Better plan will get inflation under control in the long term. Joe Manchin is still sitting on the sidelines saying, because inflation is so high, he thinks this should all be pushed off to next year. How critical is it for the president to get it done now?

HOOVER: I think -- I think he believes it's critical to get it done now, but it's, by the way, not just Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema indicated earlier this week -- in the last two weeks that perhaps this doesn't need to happen in the -- by the end of the year. Meanwhile, there's other members in the Senate saying we have to come back between Christmas and New Year's to get it done. I think President Biden wants to get it done, but there's a lot of crosswinds in terms of how this will affect the economy and how additional continued spending will actually impact the economy. And, frankly, it's up to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. It's not up to President Biden.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You spent several years in the House. Do you think President Biden gets it done?

AMASH: I think they get something done, but, you know, Build Back Better has so many problems, and I think people are starting to see it now, as it sits out there. The longer it sits out there, the more problems people are going to see. And when you are in Congress, what you know is the leaders -- they want to get these things done quickly because they don't want people to pick holes in everything. So it's sitting out there. They're going to have problems. I don't see how it helps with inflation. I think it makes inflation worse, if anything. And the inflation excuse for passing Build Back Better seems like something that came along later. They were pushing this thing for a long time. And then they were like, oh, now there's inflation, so let's just say it helps with inflation. That's, like, total baloney, and I think the American people can see that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, I want to switch gears.

The Congress also trying to move quickly on this January 6 investigation. We saw a lot of developments on that front this week, more to come this week. They're signaling they're going to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt tomorrow.

We saw another appeals court this week saying the president has -- former President Trump has to turn over his documents.

Where is this going next?

BRAZILE: I still believe that Chairman Thompson and Liz Cheney are set to get this done by the spring, despite the fact that two or three people, Bannon, Meadows, Clark, they're holding out.

There's no question. They have had over 300 witnesses to date. And they are -- they're getting to the bottom of how it started, who funded it, and how it escalated to an attack on our democracy. And I know that there are some people in this country that don't care what happened on January 6, but I hope this committee is able to really dig deep and get the truth behind the attacks and what I think is the persistent lie that is still ongoing about what happened last year.

Joe Biden won. And this lie is destroying our democracy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It seems like, every single day, Chris Christie, we're learning more about what was going inside -- what was going on inside the White House in those days leading up to January 6, most recently, this week, this PowerPoint presentation that was sent Mark Meadows detailing all of the ways the White House could interfere in the investigation.

It may explain why the president, former president, and his allies are working so hard not to cooperate.

CHRISTIE: Well, look, all the things that you see were driven from the top, George.

I mean, the president made it very clear that he did not want to concede the election, that he would not concede the election. And you got a bunch of people around him by the time we got to the end, with very few exceptions, that were C team players, at best, on their best day.

So, C team players get in there, and they tell the boss what he wants to hear. There were plenty people on the outside who were telling him, this is over, and you need to concede. He didn't want to hear that. So he went to the C team players and got that.

And I think that the committee is doing important work.

I go back to making one point, though, which I wish Nancy Pelosi would have done differently. If, in fact, she would have let Kevin McCarthy put the people on the committee he wanted to put on the committee, with Democrats in control, it wouldn't have made any difference anyway. And it would have given the committee more credibility with Republicans.

The problem now is that, because she dictated for, the first time in my memory, who the minority party can have on a committee, it does affect to some extent, among people in my party, the credibility the committee has.

In the end, the facts are going to come out, but let's not kid ourselves. This was a driven-from-the-top process executed by C team players. And that's why it looks like a Keystone Cops operation, because it was.

HOOVER: The PowerPoint that you just referenced, Mark Meadows was cooperating and handed over a slew of e-mails that included this PowerPoint that showed exactly how they were line by line that day one path for overturning the election.

He's -- President Trump got involved. He's no longer cooperating. But exactly what happened that day in terms of what happened when the crisis calls were coming in, in those hours that the president didn't act, the committee needs to figure that out. They're not there yet.

The committee also needs to figure out what happened with members of Congress potentially aiding and helping some of the rioters perhaps in the days before. That also hasn't been -- they haven't gotten to that yet. But that is left to do and still on the docket.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Justin, Martha -- Donna talked about Republicans taking hold of this big lie.

Sixty percent of Republicans don't acknowledge that President Biden won the election. It seems like that that has solidified over the last several months. Will this committee change anything?

AMASH: I don't think so.

We saw this with impeachment. And I was one of the Republicans who called for impeachment. So, I know at the time what it was like. And I thought maybe more Republicans would come on board and see the problems within the administration, and they didn't.

And partisanship is just so high right now, that I don't think anything the committee does is going to persuade anyone. I wish that you could persuade people in government, but you can't persuade anyone.

The -- and I agree with the governor that having a committee where the Republicans were selected by the Democrats is a bad idea. Again, I don't think you're going to persuade anyone, even if you had Jim Jordan on that committee, even if you had other -- a whole bunch of other people.

But I do think that would have helped. It would have helped give it some credibility. But, look, partisanship is just -- is rampant right now. And I don't think it's going anywhere, ultimately.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of the things you're seeing, Donna, in state after state after state, you're seeing state legislatures changing the rules for the next election. Those who stood up to President Trump in the last election have been targeted by Republicans, leading to some fears that even if the Democratic candidate wins next time around by more, they still might not take office.

BRAZILE: I mean, there's no question. There's a concerted campaign to basically clean the deck. David Perdue this week announced that he's running against Brian Kemp.

All -- I mean, your great state of Michigan, where Republicans are targeting local election officials. In Georgia, they're targeting Black people who are serving on county election boards. This is dangerous. This is dangerous to the future of our democracy.

You know, I listened to both the governor and the congressman talk about Nancy Pelosi selecting the Republicans. Nancy Pelosi is trying to protect and preserve our democracy. The Republicans are opposed to the creation of this committee. They have put in everything in to stop this committee from getting its work done.

I -- I applaud Pelosi for taking the steps she took to keep this committee clean of the kind of partisanship that you talk about.

Liz Cheney is -- Liz Cheney has been pilloried for just standing up to the truth. And that -- and she deserves credit for that as well.

CHRISTIE: Two things on that. The Republicans were willing to put people on the committee. Kevin McCarthy named people for the committee. That's not trying to stop the committee. Now, maybe people --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, people who completely disagree with the very premise of --

CHRISTIE: But, George, guess what? It's okay to have people who completely disagree. And they're going to either be judged as credible or not credible based upon the facts that are produced.

And so, secondly, and I -- to get to Georgia -- look, I think that Brian Kemp has done a great job as governor of Georgia, and I think he stood up when he needed to stand up to the president on the election results in Georgia, and he did a great job of it. And I don't know which way that primary is going to do, but if I were David Perdue, I wouldn't be sitting there all that confident that it's going to go his way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn’t your side of the Republican Party losing this fight right now?

CHRISTIE: No, and, in fact, I talked to Justin about this this morning off the air. Look, I’ve seen polls now in Iowa where 62 percent of Iowa Republicans when they had to choose between loyalty to the Republican Party or to Donald Trump picked the Republican Party. Twenty-six percent picked Donald Trump.

This is got going to -- it's not going to happen overnight, George. He's out of office 11 months, and the question is going to be, over the course, of time with no social media presence, and with continued really awful things that he said this -- just this week about General Milley and about Bibi Netanyahu, these are not the kind of things that are going to wear well over the course of time. Everybody needs to have some patience.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word today. Thank you all very much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: Who did Bob Dole select as his running mate in the 1996 presidential election?

Jack Kemp.

BOB DOLE: I'm here today as the future of the president to issue my choice for vice president, a man of unlimited talent, energy and vision, an American original, Jack Kemp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: 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."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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