A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December 13, 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.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): Breakthrough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we can begin to turn millions of Americans' hopes into reality.
RADDATZ: The FDA authorizes emergency use for the Pfizer vaccine.
ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We could be seeing people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of next week.
RADDATZ: Now the massive mission to get vaccines into the arms of Americans.
GOV. GUSTAVE PERNA, U.S. ARMY MATERIEL COMMAND: Make no mistake. Distribution has begun.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I will get vaccinated, and I will get vaccinated publicly.
RADDATZ: An historic moment, an array of hope in the midst of darkness, as we mark the country's most devastating week since the pandemic began.
Dire warnings about the months ahead.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Probably for the next 60 to 90 days, we're going to have more deaths per day than we had on 9/11 or we had at Pearl Harbor.
RADDATZ: This morning, we're live covering all the angles, the path to delivery, with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and the handoff to the states with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
Plus: The Supreme Court rejects team Trump's desperate efforts to overturn the election, the latest this morning with our powerhouse players Rahm Emanuel and Chris Christie.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
As we come on the air this morning, history is being made, the fastest development, production, and distribution of a vaccine ever in this country.
Ten months after the lockdowns began, this morning, we have something we have not had enough of this year, hope.
You're looking at Pfizer's main vaccine manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, this morning, where those vaccines will be loaded onto FedEx and UPS trucks, fanning out across the nation, just the starting point in a massive operation, nearly three million doses of vaccine shipping to 636 locations across the country, some expected to arrive as early as tomorrow.
This lifesaving science cannot come soon enough. It has been a horrible week, a horrible month, and a horrible year, as the COVID Tracking Project so aptly puts it, the U.S. marking its deadliest week since the pandemic began, more than 100,000 new cases each day for more than five straight weeks, and more than 108,000 Americans hospitalized.
And while the vaccine marks a turning point in the pandemic, it will likely be at least seven months before most Americans can receive a vaccine. The CDC is predicting up to 362,000 deaths by January 2, an unfathomable toll.
We are covering all the angles this morning, from approval, to injection, to what comes next.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn standing by, our chief national affairs correspondent, Tom Llamas, with a breakdown of the vaccine's transport across the country, ABC's Kaylee Hartung at Houston's Texas Medical Center, staff there expecting a major shipment, and Governor Phil Murphy, as states decide who gets the vaccine next.
But we begin where distribution is actively under way this hour, ABC's Alex Perez at the Pfizer campus in Kalamazoo.
Alex, what are you seeing on the ground there?
ALEX PEREZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Martha.
You could argue this moment has been nine months in the making. Take a look at the loading dock behind me here. Just moments ago, we saw some of the first trucks loaded up with the vaccine leaving this dock. It's a huge step that could help to eventually get the pandemic under control.
Now, I want you to take a look at some of these images. After getting that emergency use authorization from the FDA, the vials filled with the lifesaving vaccine began their journey from the Pfizer facility here to states across the country.
Now, from ultra-cold freezers to specially designed boxes to keep those cold temperatures, each box can hold about 5,000 doses. Now, the boxes are then loaded onto trucks, taking that precious cargo to area airports.
Now, this initial batch of the vaccine consists of some 2.9 million doses. U.S. Marshals, as witnessed there, Martha, were escorting those trucks as they head to the airports. Pfizer says they will be working 24/7 until they get that entire first batch out of here -- Martha.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much, Alex.
Let's bring in chief national affairs correspondent Tom Llamas, who has covered the COVID crisis across the country from day one.
Tom, walk us through what happens next.
TOM LLAMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, the Pfizer vaccine is one of the most valuable assets on the planet right now. So some of this information is very sensitive.
What we can report is from where Alex was reporting just now, those doses will go to Louisville, Kentucky at the major hub world port for UPS and also Memphis, Tennessee for FedEx.
FedEx has just reported the Pfizer vaccine, the doses are already in their delivery system. From there, they'll be shipped out all across the country. The first doses should hit the first Americans by Monday morning, and, Martha, we do know those first Americans will be frontline health care workers along with residents of nursing homes.
RADDATZ: And some of that will go Walgreens and CVS. They will help out?
LLAMAS: That's right, Martha. CVS and Walgreens are working with the government right now to make sure they can get all those nursing home residents. CVS and Walgreens have pledged within a month, they hope to hit every single nursing home on their list. And the residents of those nursing home, do deserve this vaccine first. More than 105,000 Americans who live in these elderly care facilities have died because of the coronavirus.
RADDATZ: And, Tom, you have seen so much tragedy up close during this period. What do you think tomorrow is going to feel like?
LLAMAS: You know, from the get go, Martha, this virus has had the upper hand on America. We've tried social distancing, lockdowns. We've worn the masks. Have we been perfect? No, and yet we still have not been able to beat this virus, and still to this day, nine months in, more Americans are dying every day of the coronavirus.
We need this vaccine, and we need it right now.
The good news is the best of America is coming together to make sure we get this vaccine. The public sector, the private sector, the military, all working hand-in-hand. Companies like FedEx and UPS putting competitive differences aside to make sure these vaccines get delivered.
Those health care workers, Martha, who had no idea what this virus was like, yet they showed up to work day in and day out, sometimes with not enough PPE. They deserve this vaccine first, not because they have been the bravest in this fight, but because we need them to be bulletproof. It’s been a long nine months. It’s likely to be another long six months.
But now, Martha, for the first time, we have something more than hope. We have a solution. Enough cannot be said about the brilliant scientists at places like Pfizer and Moderna, and the Americans who lined up to be volunteers for this vaccine, putting something into their arms they had no idea what it was. They are the unsung heroes here, Martha. Finally so many Americans have been living in fear. We now have something to look forward to.
RADDATZ: It certainly is a great day, Tom.
And ABC's Kaylee Hartung, who has also covered this from the beginning, is outside the Texas Medical Center in Houston where the state's largest vaccine shipment is slated to arrive within days.
And, Kaylee, I suspect it can't be soon enough for those there.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, ABC NEWS REPORTER: Yeah, Martha, and pharmacists here tell us they're hitting refresh on their computer screens every couple of minutes just waiting for details on exactly when the vaccine will arrive.
This is the largest medical center in the world, and among the 27 hospitals here, they are expecting more than 30,000 doses to arrive in the next 24 hours.
Now, earlier this year, Tom Llamas brought us a really emotional interview with the nursing director of the ICU here at Houston Methodist Hospital. And Teal Riley, she broke down in tears trying to describe to Tom how difficult her job has been through the pandemic.
Now, six months later, she tells me her job hasn't gotten any easier, but now she has hope that we're turning a corner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEAL RILEY, DIRECTOR OF MICU: We work in a critical care area. We are in the thick of all of this. Every day we come to work we're putting ourselves at risk. Knowing that we can get this vaccine, it gives us hope again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: And Teal admitted it took some convincing for her to feel comfortable to get that shot, but after doing her own research, she says it quickly became a no-brainer and now she will be one of the first health care workers in this country to get that shot.
Martha, she tells us she is excited, she's proud, and she is eager to set an example for this community.
RADDATZ: And she is a great example. Kaylee, thanks very much.
Let’s bring in the leader of the agency that gave emergency authorization to Pfizer’s vaccine Friday night, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
Dr. Hahn, great to have you with us as always.
We have heard again and again those first shots of the vaccine will be administered within 24/48 hours. So paint us a picture of what’ll we see in the coming days.
DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION COMMISSIONER: So, FDA does not have a primary responsibility in the allocation and the distribution, and we do know that Operation Warp Speed and Health and Human Services and CDC have been working very closely with the states.
One thing we did when it was clear that we were going to authorize the vaccine is to communicate with those partners, with those folks in government and outside of government -- obviously, Pfizer -- about our decision, so that they could begin the process of distribution. And I think we’ve seen in the press that the vaccines are rolling out, as we speak, to get to locations around the country.
And then the states will operationalize that and vaccines will be administered.
Martha, one key part about this is the letter of authorization and conditions of use that FDA put really does need to be detailed as much as possible, and driven by the data, which is why we took the time to look at that application to make sure we could answer questions from providers and people who receive the vaccine.
RADDATZ: The development and manufacture of the Pfizer vaccine has really been truly extraordinary. But this initial batch doesn’t come close to covering even the estimated 21 million health care workers, 3 million in long term facilities who are at the top of the list to receive it.
So, how soon will they be covered?
HAHN: So, I am aware that many in U.S. government are working very closely with Pfizer and other developers to try to get as much out there as possible. We at FDA, what we’re doing is we’re working in terms of making sure that the supply chains are the precursors. So, anything we can do to expedite, we will absolutely do that.
But I am aware that it’s all hands on deck approach to get to the numbers of vaccine. And yes, Martha, we’re going to need to get herd immunity.
RADDATZ: And so, at what point can a general population receive a vaccine? How does that really work? People call up Walgreens? Do they call up CVS? You call your doctor?
HAHN: So, we’re going to see that play out on over the next couple of weeks. Obviously, with the supply that we have right now, it’s going to -- it’s probably likely going to be a very targeted approach, based upon the recommendations from the ACIP, that committee that helps with those recommendations and what the states prioritize.
So, my -- I think I’d be speculating as how that would happen in individual states, but taking my FDA hat on and as a physician, you can imagine that those (ph) hospitals, health care providers, et cetera, there’d be the identification of those, who have been prioritized based upon ACIP recommendations as well as the states’ prioritization.
RADDATZ: And let’s talk about these warnings. The U.K. is advising people with history of severe allergies not to get the Pfizer vaccine.
What do you advice? And is there anything that gives you pause at all?
HAHN: So, Martha, again, this is why we do a line by line assessment of the data, and I don’t know if you saw any of the advisory committee public discussion of this. But we did not see -- within the clinical trial, significant allergic reactions among the subject of trial. However that was seen in U.K. rollout and distribution.
So, what we said, we’re, first of all, taking this very seriously, that safety is very important. We put in our label that those who have any evidence of severe allergy to any component of this Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should not receive it. However, we also, out of abundance of caution, have asked at the distribution sites the available dose of medicines that might be necessary to address it.
So, again, because the clinical trial data, the risk appears to be low, but we need to be very careful about this and make sure that we administer this appropriately.
RADDATZ: And I want to talk a little bit about the skepticism of the vaccine. No matter how many times you talked about it being safe, or you delivered it, despite reassurances about that, many in the U.S. continue to voice skepticism. Recent polling shows between one-quarter and one-third of Americans do not want to receive a shot.
What kinds of problems do those numbers present?
HAHN: Martha, they -- that is a significant problem. I mean, if you think about how we get out of this pandemic, we have to continue our mitigation efforts right now. That is so important, mask wearing, et cetera.
But the way we see light at the end of the tunnel, the way we get through this is to achieve herd immunity. And that means we need to vaccinate a significant number of people in this country, including those who are hesitant.
And we need to address their fears and concerns. We need to roll this out in a way that provides confidence to people. But we also need to be transparent. What do we know? What do we don’t know?
And our process -- this is our contribution to the transparency. We want the data to be known. We wanted that advisory committee to be public. Because we wanted everyone in America -- around the world, frankly, to see what information was available and why we made the judgment we made about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
And as you can see, the experts on the panel also gave, with their vote, a thumbs up to that authorization process as well. So I think that level of transparency and information helps us.
RADDATZ: Dr. Hahn, I want to go back to the approval that you talked about at the beginning.
When President Trump tweeted at you last Friday, get the damn vaccines out now -- I know you have said that you were not threatened with being fired but did Chief of Staff Mark Meadows call you and say hurry up?
HAHN: So we have from the beginning, Martha, said that the only thing that’s going to matter in this is the science and data. And, of course -- of course, we’ve been asked to speed this process as much as possible.
RADDATZ: So this didn’t happen Friday?
HAHN: And we, internally, have been saying the same --
RADDATZ: The -- the president has now --
HAHN: So -- so --
RADDATZ: -- said he did push you and it could have been out a week earlier. Is that true?
HAHN: We do not feel that this could have been out a week earlier. We went through our process. We promised, Martha, the American people that we would do a thorough review of the application, and that’s what we did.
We followed our process. Thursday evening, after the VRBPAC (ph) -- after the Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting, our folks made the decision to go forward, but we had to continue our discussions with the sponsor. And so we put out a statement early Friday indicating that we were moving forward with this authorization with the sponsor.
So that was early Friday morning. And then we proceeded to do that throughout the day. That is the urgency of the situation that we felt -- and we did this on behalf of the American people.
RADDATZ: And -- and just very quickly, Mark Meadows said what to you? Is it possible he said you would have to resign?
HAHN: So, again, I’m -- I'm not going to discuss individual conversations. We were encouraged to move quickly and we were already moving quickly and I feel very confident about the decision we made.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Dr. Hahn. Always great to see you.
HAHN: Martha, you as well. Thank you.
RADDATZ: And joining me now is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, whose state is averaging nearly 5,000 new COVID cases per day and will receive about 76,000 vaccine doses in this first distribution.
Governor, thanks for joining us again. Good to see you.
When will the first shots be administered and -- and how do you divide these first 76,000 doses between the healthcare workers and the nursing homes?
GOV. PHIL MURPHY, (D) NEW JERSEY: Martha, good to be with you.
I’m happy to say that -- and I’ll be there Tuesday morning at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. We will begin vaccinating our heroic healthcare workers.
And you’re absolutely right, the first batch is 76,000. Split the majority towards healthcare workers, but a good slug toward our long-term care residents and staff. And then with each ensuing week, those are the two top priorities and it’ll take us a number of weeks, as you can image, to work through the entire populations in both of those groups. But it’s going to be a big day on Tuesday morning in Newark.
RADDATZ: So after these initial doses are given to the healthcare workers, nursing homes, how are you prioritizing which groups should get the next shots? Utah’s Governor, for example, announced school teachers would be in the first phase of vaccinations there.
Do you know exactly who is next in your state?
MURPHY: Yes, we’re still working that through. I think every state is doing the same, working with the CDC, federal guidance, the so-called 1A bucket, our healthcare workers in long-term care, and then 1B is a much larger group, every one of them a worthy population of getting to early. We’re working through that right now.
Remember, Moderna is up for their Emergency Use Authorization this week. And, God willing, they get in. Then you’ve got not only increasing batches from Pfizer, you’ve then got a second vaccine coming online with -- with shipments each week. And those larger populations will then be dealt with.
I think of it as in overlapping waves. You know, we’ll be doing, for instance, the second shot for healthcare workers, long-term care residents as we’re beginning first shots for the broader populations in that 1B group.
RADDATZ: And one of the biggest concerns now is ensuring enough residents get the vaccine to control COVID spread. A survey from your health department in mid-October found that fewer than half of New Jersey’s nurses would definitely or probably get vaccinated.
What are you telling residents skeptical of taking the vaccine if even nurses won’t get it?
MURPHY: Yes, I think the number, please God, as it relates to nurses and healthcare workers, has gone up meaningfully because I think this confidence has been building around these two vaccines now pretty much on a -- as a drum beat for weeks upon weeks.
But, listen, Martha, we’ve got to begin with a skeptical anti-vax bloc, which is a minority, but they're -- you know, they’re -- they're strong. And then you’ve got on top of that what -- what some folks sense was the politics getting involved in the development of these vaccines.
I would just say to folks, first of all, we’re not waiting until we get them. We’ve already been pounding away that these are safe, they work, and that’s a message I’ll repeat right now. We have had our medical folks kick the tires up and down. We believe in these vaccines. They’re safe. They work. We want people to get them.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn now to the alarming number of COVID cases surging nationwide. This is a great, hopeful day. But including in New Jersey, you've had a real surge which averaged about 5,000 new cases per day this week, as we said.
RADDATZ: CDC Director Robert Redfield recently warned that for the next 60 to 90 days we're going to have more deaths per day than we had at 9/11.
What's the most important thing you're telling residents to do about this pandemic?
MURPHY: Yeah, Martha, for all the good news, the light at the end of the tunnel, and the vaccine exemplifies that as much as anything, the next number of weeks are going to be hell, I fear. So we're begging people to please, please, please don't let your guard down, even when you're in private settings. You know, we think somewhere between 60 to 80 percent of our transmission is in private settings right now.
Celebrate holidays small, with your immediate family. We know that stinks, but, please God, that's your down payment for a more normal one next year. Social distancing, face coverings, the basic stuff we cannot let up. And the next, I think, six to eight weeks are going to be really challenging. But we'll get through it, but we've got to not let our guard down in the meantime.
RADDATZ: Do you worry at all that the vaccine coming might make people less inclined to follow these instructions?
MURPHY: I do. I take the other side of it, which is, hey, listen, we're going to be putting shots in the arm Tuesday morning in Newark. This is coming.
And by the way, I think by April, May, everybody will have access to one of these vaccines. And so therefore this is not forever and for always. It's a short sprint. So do the right thing.
I do think the concern on the other side is real, Martha, where folks say, particularly younger folks say, heck, I haven't gotten it so far. This vaccine's right around the corner. I'll take my chances. Please God go the first route and not the second.
RADDATZ: And we were-- we are hoping the same thing, and that is for sure. Thanks very much for joining us, Governor.
Up next, after the Supreme Court's stinging repudiation of President Trump and efforts to overturn the election, there are mounting questions about the future of the GOP. We'll discuss that and more with Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am so disappointed in them. No judge, including the Supreme Court of the United States, has had the courage to allow it to be heard.
The Supreme Court, all they did is say, we don't have standing. So they're saying essentially that the president of the United States and Texas and these other states, great states, they don't have standing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Trump reacting Friday to the Supreme Court shutting down an attempt by his Republican allies to overturn Joe Biden's victory -- the latest in a string of legal losses for the president -- and it comes as the Electoral College is set to cast their votes for president tomorrow -- one more step toward Joe Biden's inauguration in January. For more, let's bring in our Powerhouse Players -- ABC News contributors Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel.
And, Chris, I'm going to start with you.
You have said numerous times the president should just end his quest to overturn the election results. But he continues to dispute it, with 60 percent of Republicans in the House supporting that Texas case.
What's your message to the Republicans?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, listen, the legal theory put forward by his legal team and by the president is an absurdity.
And the reason why the Supreme Court didn't take it is because it's an absurd idea to think that any state or any number of states, no matter how good they are, can challenge another state's right to run the election as they see fit.
And, also, there's no evidence. As we have -- as I have been saying since election night, show us the evidence. And what's gotten even worse, though, Martha, I think, is the attacks by the president on good, hardworking, decent Republican governors.
And you have seen his attitude towards these folks change. And let's think about why. Back in September, he said about Doug Ducey, Doug is tough, Doug is strong, Doug is a good governor, the Arizona governor.
He said about Brian Kemp back in the summer that Brian is a capable man, he knows what he's doing, and he's done a very good job as governor.
Now, after the election is over, and he lost Arizona and Georgia, he says they're RINOs that are working harder against him. He's calling them corrupt, and also telling people things that aren't true.
RADDATZ: So, Chris, what happens to your party?
CHRISTIE: For instance, in Georgia, he's talking about signature verification.
Listen, Martha, it's going to be -- people are going to have to stand up and start to say these things. I mean, the fact is, in Georgia -- and people should know this -- that signature verification, which the president continues to tweet about, has been done twice in this election.
It was done when the application for a mail-in ballot was sent in, and it was done when that mail-in ballot was ultimately sent in. And Governor Kemp has said this. The lieutenant governor has said it. The secretary of state has said it.
And so it's gone -- the reason the Supreme Court is not taking this is not because of a lack of courage. It's for the same reason that every court has thrown this out. It's a lack of evidence and a lack of any type of legal theory that makes any sense.
And the worst part, though, is attacking these guys, guys like Brian Kemp, Doug Ducey, and others, who are following the Constitution and executing the oath that they took.
RADDATZ: And, Rahm, New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell tweeted Friday that Speaker Pelosi should refuse to seat the House Republicans who signed onto the Texas suit.
Do you agree?
RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, no.
Look, I think the telling sign there, Martha, is 100 percent is that Speaker Pelosi hasn't actually responded to that. I don’t think that’s -- while Bill Parscale's fundamentals, a question about their loyalty and a sense of what the oath is, is a legitimate question.
I actually think there's a bigger challenge here and I agree with Chris on this basic point. You have a fundamental problem in the Republican Party, the energy and I’m trying to remove all of Trump's mechanics because it's more -- it's deeper than him. He energizes it, but there's a core disbelief in democratic process, in democratic institutions with many, many Republicans, way more than just a loud minority. This has now become a majority which is frightening.
You have two generals who are calling for a coup d’etat. You have people that are -- attorney generals who are responsible for upholding the law with not just frivolous lawsuit, who fundamentally don't believe in the results and legitimacy that come from an election.
But I also would think us as Democrats, I would say that we also have a challenge. While the Republicans don't believe in the democratic process and institution, and that is really, really threatening, in this election outside of basically a transactional decision to support Joe Biden to get rid of Donald Trump, Democrats did not do well with the rest of the ballot. We have a fundamental reflection point to look in the mirror and say, why in the worst public health crisis, the worst economic area since the depression, worst public health in 100 years, that everywhere else and the rest of the ballot which should have been a transformational election, became a transactional election with Joe Biden to get rid of Donald Trump.
And both parties have a lot of soul searching. If we're going to answer the sole question to the United States, because we are as a crossroads as a country. And I think that, if you look at it fundamentally, both parties are talking to very angry people that don't feel -- and I think this is legitimate -- either seen, heard or listened to, and that is a fundamental difference to where we were in the last 60 years since World War II, as a country, of both parties talked to a core group in the middle that believed in a America.
The energies in both parties now are being driven by people who don't believe that either the economic or political system is giving them legitimacy and being part of that process, and are asking in.
And Joe Biden's task now is not only to heal the country from a public health and economic crisis, but to heal the country in believing in America.
RADDATZ: And, Chris, I want you to jump in on that, and you talk a lot about what Donald Trump has done, and things he has said, but really address this larger issue that Rahm talks about.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think that Rahm is fundamentally correct about his analysis of the election, you know? And this is why I think the Republican Party will move one and move on briskly after the inauguration because there's a lot of good things to move on from.
You know, picked up 14 seats in the House appears I think to only lose one seat in the Senate ultimately, and keep control, flipped two state legislatures, flipped the only governorship that was flipped on election night.
Except for the very top of the ticket, the Republican Party had a great night on election night.
Now, I’ll say to you. I was disappointed that the president lost, and I understand the disappointment in the party among some people for losing that election, but we need to face the facts. Elections have consequences. In the same way Democrats were horribly disappointed by Donald Trump's victory four years ago over Hillary Clinton in what was actually a closer election than this one from a popular vote perspective, and the same margin from an Electoral College perspective.
Republicans now need to say, thank you, Mr. President, for your service. Thank you for the good things you did while you’re in office that we agree with, and we now need to move on to make sure that we're stating Republican principles that matter to the people in this country, which, by the way, Martha, they supported in very large numbers.
And I think Rahm's right. That’s the fundamental problem for Democrats --
RADDATZ: And, Chris, I want to -- I want to let, Rahm --
CHRISTIE: -- and the fundamental challenge for Republicans is to move on. Move on.
RADDATZ: I want to let Rahm have the last word.
And to that point, the polls this week on whether Americans think Biden’s win was legitimate, 34 percent of registered voters think it was illegitimate, but they don't trust -- they don't trust the election results.
So how does Biden deal with that? We have about 30 seconds.
EMANUEL: I think there's a multiple way. One, show that government and he can attack (ph) the vaccine. Two, come up with economic policies that create more winners in the economy right now because the last 20 years, we created more losers and very few winners.
And then third, this goes to culture. And this gets to the larger point which on both parties, the energy -- I’m not saying the majority -- the energy right now is being driven by people who feel they are not seen, they are not heard, they are not listened to, and they are not represented.
And part of what I think Joe's appeal is going to be, and I think his strength is, is the fact that through his decency he understands the core decency of America. And if he can bring that out from Americans, he can once again create a belief in the system.
Remember, everything Putin's tried to do is divide Americans, not only among themselves, but from their government. And right now we're seeing the ramifications of that. And I do think that as the system sees Trump leave, we have an opportunity to get back to the core belief in strengthening America.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for that, Rahm, and thanks to you, Chris. We'll see you again soon. Have a great weekend.
The roundtable's up next.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Let there be no doubt. While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ (voice over): That historic moment 20 years ago today. The roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Vice President-elect Harris and I knew we'd have our work cut out for us when we got elected, but we also knew we could build a team that would meet this unique and challenging moment in American history. Some are familiar faces. Some are new in their roles. All are facing new circumstances and challenges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President-elect Biden defending his latest Cabinet picks amidst growing consternation among Democrats. Let's talk about it on the roundtable with our senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega; ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd; our powerhouse couple, New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker and the New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser.
Susan and Peter are co-authors of the new book "The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James Baker."
And, Cecilia, I want to start with you. You heard the FDA commissioner at the top of the show say he was told to speed up the vaccine approval process. So what's going on with this at the White House? What was Donald Trump trying to do there?
VEGA: Well -- well, in short answer, Martha, it's classic Donald Trump 101. He wants to take credit for this right now. This -- this getting this vaccine out during his administration, at the end of it, was first and foremost for him.
Part of this is potentially about gearing up for a 2024 run. We could see this come back as -- as a selling point, a check -- things he could check off on his list. But the big issue, I think, right now, is on this push to have the FDA speed this up, is the FDA is supposed to be an apolitical organization. There are not supposed to be decisions being made based on whether a department's head was -- was threatened with being fired.
And that is what sources were telling us had actually happened, despite Hahn's kind of dance around that issue with you.
When you have got so many people that are already skeptical of this -- of this vaccine, and not wanting to take it, and having now politics kind of enter this again and muddy the waters, it's giving -- it's raising this question for folks who are already skeptical of if this is being rammed through and, frankly, potentially making it even worse for folks.
RADDATZ: And, Cecilia, of course, this vaccine comes, as we have said all -- at the same time there are these record number of COVID deaths.
The president has really -- hasn't really said anything meaningful about that or addressed that. He's still having those holiday parties.
Will anything change in these final days of his presidency?
VEGA: No, because everybody that is talking to us behind the scenes says that the president is laser-focused on the election, that COVID is not right now front of mind.
But you mentioned those holiday parties. We're talking 20, about 20 of them, by the end of the season. We saw one just last week in the White House for Hanukkah with 200-some-odd people there.
And I do want to say you are now finally seeing more folks in these large gatherings at the White House wearing masks. But you're still not seeing people in the administration, high-ranking officials in the administration wearing masks in images that are coming out of these holiday parties.
It's a clear violation of CDC guidelines. But, really, it's just kind of going back to the beginning of these mixed messages that we saw from this administration at the very start of the pandemic sort of this do as I say, not as I do.
RADDATZ: And, Peter, you wrote this week about the tale of the contrasting images coming from Donald Trump and president-elect Joe Biden.
How does that play out with the public?
BAKER: Well, I think one of the most important things here is that the outgoing president and the incoming president both embrace this vaccine, right?
This virus has been politicized for months. The idea of wearing a mask has become a partisan issue, which seems rather remarkable. And so the fact that the president, outgoing president, President Trump, wants to embrace this vaccine as a legacy is probably very important in terms of endorsing its veracity and its trustworthiness with the same public that's going to hear from president-elect Biden that he also trusts this vaccine.
You're going to see, I think, three former presidents of both parties, Bush, Clinton and Obama, take this vaccine on camera. Apparently, they're planning to do just to show the public this is something that does not have anything to do with partisan politics, doesn't have anything to do with party. You can trust this vaccine, they're going to tell the public.
And that's why I think, actually, seeing Trump and Biden endorse this vaccine has such a powerful and important impact at this point, when we have spent months and months and months arguing about lockdowns and masks, as if that was somehow a partisan issue.
RADDATZ: We will hope that message gets through.
And, Susan, I want to turn to the extraordinary actions by the president and his supporters to try to overturn an unequivocally free and fair election.
You heard me talk to Chris Christie about it. But what will the blowback be for all those Republicans who supported the president's efforts in the Texas lawsuit?
GLASSER: Well, Martha, that's what's so remarkable, really.
You have a situation where two-thirds of the House Republican Caucus, including people from the states whose results were being challenged, meaning their own election was being challenged, who signed on to this spurious lawsuit rejected out of hand by the Supreme Court.
The question is, did they do so because they thought that courts would throw it out? Is this an instance where they felt that the lack of accountability gave them leave to essentially engage in a sort of performative display of loyalty to the president? Are there going to be any consequences?
I don't think that they believe that there are going to be. Really, it tells you that Trump himself has taken over the Republican Party to an extent that would have been inconceivable.
And I have to say, to me, that is a crucial question, what's gone on after the election, this very toxic convergence of election denialism and virus denialism. Will the Republican Party face any consequences for it, to me, is the question right now.
RADDATZ: And speaking of inconceivable, Matt, you are out there in Texas, where the GOP Chairman and former Congressman Allen West issued a response to the Supreme Court's move, suggesting Texas and its partner states secede, saying: "Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a union of states that will abide by the Constitution," a jaw-dropping statement, Matt.
DOWD: Yes, well, Texas always seems to have a part in this play, ever since I have been here and watched this unfold.
Allen West has little respect among the voters in Texas and little respect among the elected officials in Texas. So, I'm not so concerned about that.
I would like to, though, underline something that you started the show with, Martha, which is, this is a day to celebrate. We have had such bad news since February. It is the fourth night of Hanukkah. It's the third Sunday of Advent. It's Gaudete Sunday -- a time of rejoicing, a time of joy, a time of hope.
The fact these vaccines are getting shipped out I think is a monumental sort of positive sign.
And for me, as you know I’ve criticized the president. Let him take him credit.
The problem for the president on this vaccine and all the things going on, which underlines what Alan West, as you said is, he can't seem to get out of his own way. I mean, he should be celebrating the fact that we had a successful election, that we had a record turnout, that all these people turned out, that we had a free and fair election, and move on and then basically take credit for the vaccine.
But every time he tries to take a moment of credit for the vaccine, people like Alan West, congressman, other people in the country, and the president get in their own way at this really, really good news in this moment, being shipped out of my birth state in Michigan, in K-Zoo.
RADDATZ: Matt, there’s no doubt it's good news.
DOWD: You think he would celebrate it.
RADDATZ: And we’ve talked about the good news.
But I want to talk to Susan's point about the Republican Party, and what I asked Chris Christie as well. Really truly, what happens now to those Republicans who support this? How dramatically has the Republican Party changed?
Matthew, that's to you.
DOWD: Oh. I mean, it’s dramatic -- I mean, I’ve watched the changes. You know I worked for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. There was a struggle in the party among the people that were much more on the line with the way Republicans normally dealt (ph).
I think the Republican Party has basically become the autocratic party in America. It’s almost as if there's team democracy versus team autocracy in this country.
It’s not the Donald Trump that’s changed the Republican Party. Donald Trump represents what the Republican Party’s changed. So, the defeat of Donald Trump isn’t going to fundamentally change this because the Republican Party itself over the last 20 years has moved to this position.
RADDATZ: And, Cecilia, I want to turn those cabinet picks that Joe Biden made. He had promised he'd install a next generation of leaders.
Is that how you see this? A lot of familiar names there.
VEGA: A lot of familiar names. We were just crunching the numbers earlier, Martha. If you look at it, more than half of the 43 positions that have been announced so far in terms of cabinet level or just top picks in the incoming Biden administration are former folks from the Obama administration.
And not just that, it's also worth pointing out that the average age at least of the picks so far is about 61 years old.
Now look, the Biden team says that this about bringing folks who are battle-tested, ready to jump into action, particularly given the economy and this pandemic on day one. And it really is a contrast to the incoming Trump administration that we saw four years ago and the picks that he put in his top positions there.
And you do have to point out that they have made some pretty big history already in the picks that the Biden administration team has chosen, right? Nominating the first African-American for the secretary of defense, you got Latinos at HHS and DHS and the list goes on and on. But you are hearing criticism, and it is a pretty broad coalition of folks, from progressives particularly, who are -- who are saying that the Biden picks are not diverse enough, at least at this point in the names that they're seeing so far.
RADDATZ: And, Peter, it seems like the key thing here is a personal relationship with Joe Biden, and that was particularly pronounced to me with Lloyd Austin, who was the commander to Beau Biden and he will be the defense secretary.
How are you viewing these picks?
BAKER: Well, I think that's exactly you've got a new president coming in willing to put together a team of people he knows and likes and has worked together with before in the past successfully. He’s not put in people he didn't particularly like or didn't particularly know. And you see that with, as you say, General Austin, is being put in at the Defense Department if he gets confirmed, and he has the waiver of his recent service in the military approved.
But you also see that I think in Denis McDonough who was the White House chief of staff when President-elect Biden was in the White House, being put in at the Veterans Affairs Administration.
You see Susan Rice who the president-elect considered as his running mate and was a national security adviser, spent a career in foreign policy, now suddenly being shifted over to Domestic Policy Council not because of obviously her background on domestic policy, but because this is a president who likes her and knows her and has worked with her in the past.
So, I think you’re right. Instead of a team of rivals, there's a team of buddies. There’s some concern on the part of some Democrats, that might make for an insular administration than they might like, but this is a president-elect who wants to hit the ground running on day one, I think, and he wants go there with a team he knows and trusts.
RADDATZ: And, Susan, on Lloyd Austin, there has been some pushback about this waiver, and surprisingly wanting a waiver because he's a retired general -- a move that Donald Trump made as well.
GLASSER: Well, that's right, Martha. I think it’s -- it’s really notable that, you know, this might be an example where Trump shatters a norm when Jim Mattis received a waiver to -- because he had been a general more recently than the law allows -- received a waiver to -- because he had been a general more recently than the law allows, he received a waiver from Congress. You know, is this an example where we've now, especially if we have two presidents in a row who seek that waiver, that that norm is essentially gone, which had held ever since, you know, George Marshall was famously in to office after having been a general?
I think the question of civilian control is an important one to those who pay close attention to national security. They've been talking about that a lot this week.
But I also note the politics of it, 17 Democratic senators voted against Jim Mattis receiving that waiver. So immediately President-elect Biden has forced those Democrats into an awkward and difficult position. Do they vote against an historic nominee of their own party who would be the first black Pentagon chief, or do they look like hypocrites. It's a very difficult choice. And, in the end, actually, some of them are saying they're not going to vote for the waiver, like Elizabeth Warren. And so it may need Republican votes in the end to secure that waiver for Lloyd Austin. It's an awkward, political start certainly for those senators up on Capitol Hill.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Peter, I want to quickly get to this Hunter Biden investigation. The president has -- has not yet named an AG, but he's clearly furious with Bill Barr right now after "The Wall Street Journal" reported that Barr knew about this investigation of taxes into Hunter Biden. There's no proof of anything done wrong yet. We should make that clear.
Do you think Barr could be on the chopping block?
BAKER: Well, Barr has been on the chopping block basically since Election Day. Everybody's been counting the days and the hours, expecting at some point or another that the president might go ahead and fire him. He's -- he's upset about the Hunter Biden thing. He's upset that the -- that the attorney general said after the election that he saw no widespread fraud that would have overturned the election, disrupting the entire thesis of the president's challenge to the November 3rd vote. And he said before the election he wouldn't, you know, he wouldn't investigate or prosecute Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as the president repeatedly asked him to do publicly.
So he's been -- the president's been mad at Bill Barr, you know, now for weeks and months. It's an interesting thing, of course, because Bill Barr has done so many things that the president wanted him to do in regard to Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, but they're on the outs at this point.
RADDATZ: Peter, I'm going to have to wind you up right there on that point. Sorry to interrupt you there, Peter.
Thanks to all of you.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
Tune in tomorrow night for our ABC News special, "The Shot: The Race for the Vaccine." It airs Monday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here on ABC.
Have a great day.