'This Week' Transcript 12-18-22: Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Alex Padilla, Dr. Ashish Jha and Amb. Oksana Markarova

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, December 18.

ByABC News
December 18, 2022, 9:38 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December18, 2022 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 HOST (voiceover): Surge at the border.

UNKNOWN MALE: We know that the influx on Wednesday will be incredible. It will be huge.

RADDATZ: Days before the end of Title 42, record numbers of migrants gather at the southern border.

RADDATZ (on camera): Here in Texas, along with the border with Mexico, there is a crisis about to get worse.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R-TX): It’s going to be catastrophic not just for Texas but for the United States of America.

RADDATZ (voiceover): We're on the ground and in the air with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a "This Week" exclusive.

Plus the Democratic response from Senator Alex Padilla and our Powerhouse Roundtable on the political fallout.

Holiday surge.

DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We don't want this winter to look like last winter. And it doesn’t have to.

RADDATZ: A crippling combination of COVID, flu and RSV sweeps the country, overwhelming hospitals. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha is here with the very latest.

Plus, aerial assault. Russia unleashes a wave of missile attacks and threatens unpredictable consequences if the U.S. supplies patriot missiles to the Ukrainian military.

UNKNOWN MALE: We're not going to allow comments from Russia to dictate the security assistance that we provide to Ukraine.

RADDATZ: Tom Soufi Burridge with the latest from Kyiv. And Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova joins us this morning.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.” Here now, Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to "This Week."

We are one week out from Christmas, with a record number of Americans expected to travel in the coming days to celebrate the holiday with family and friends, while across the country COVID and flu infections are climbing, challenging hospitals already grappling with RSV.

On Capitol Hill, the January 6th Committee is preparing its final hearing with Donald Trump in the crosshairs for potential legal action.

But we begin this morning with the crisis at the southern border. After a year of record-breaking migrant crossings another surge is looming. On Wednesday, the Biden administration is set to end the controversial Title 42 immigration policy, the order was first put in place during President Trump during the pandemic extensively (ph) to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

It's set to expire on Wednesday after a long legal fight, unless the Supreme Court steps in.

I traveled to the Texas border this week and saw a system under extreme strain, thousands of people crossing each day, the Biden administration projecting even more once Title 42 expires. Overnight, El Paso declaring a state of emergency as migrants flood into the city.

We'll cover the debate and potential fallout in a few minutes. But first the growing crisis at the border and the Texas governor's warning of what could come next.


RADDATZ (voiceover): They are arriving in record-breaking numbers, 2 million this year, masses of migrants, families, children clinging to their mothers, forging rivers with little but the clothes on their backs. Roughly 2,500 migrants have crossed into El Paso every day this week, pushing the state to the brink. And that's before Title 42 is set to expire when the Department of Homeland Security predicts the numbers along the southern border will swell to 18,000 a day.

UNKNOWN MALE: Looks like some migrants right there. Some people walking single file. The vehicle they’re going to is a Border Patrol vehicle.


RADDATZ: We joined Governor Greg Abbott of Texas as he surveyed the border this week. One of the Republican governors fighting to keep Title 42 in place, that Trump policy implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which allows the U.S. Government to immediately expel most migrants as a public health risk. Since March of 2020, it's been used nearly 2.5 million times.

RADDATZ (on camera): What do you think happens next week when Title 42 comes to an end?

ABBOTT: If the courts don't intervene and put a halt of removal to the Title 42 it’s going to be total chaos.

RADDATZ: But how do you -- how do you keep that in place? That is about COVID, that is about public health risk.

ABBOTT: Whether it's COVID or some other issue, when you have people coming across the globe without knowing at all what their health status is, that almost by definition is a public health risk. There’s every reason to keep that in place.

RADDATZ: You’re talking about the flu, you’re talking about RSV. In fact, you’ve seen that people coming across, they were saying maybe one person a day with COVID. So how does a judge look at that and go, oh, it's still a public health risk?

ABBOTT: But some do come across with COVID and no one knows exactly who comes across with COVID. These people are not tested when they come across the border and so who knows how many people have COVID, who knows what other type of disease they may have. The answer is nobody knows because nobody is testing them.

RADDATZ (voiceover): Critics call that hypocrisy.

LEE GELERNT, ACLU LAWYER: They have been fighting to end COVID restrictions everywhere since the beginning and now all of the sudden they want a public health restriction solely when it comes to asylum seekers, I think the real gain here is they're trying to close the border.

RADDATZ: Whatever the motivation closing the border is not working. Despite fences, walls, and thousands of armed National Guard they keep coming.

RADDATZ (on camera): There's miles of fence, miles of border wall and the National Guard along the border but you just walk down any of these paths and you can see the river right there, that’s Mexico over there, pretty easy to get across.

RADDATZ (voiceover): This group of about 50 migrants had just waded through the Rio Grande when they were apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol.

RADDATZ (on camera): Where are you from?

GROUP: Cuba.

RADDATZ: You’re all from Cuba?

GROUP: Cuba. Yes.

RADDATZ (voiceover): The migrants come from everywhere. Some from countries with no way to repatriate. meanwhile waiting in the U.S. --

RADDATZ (on camera): Do you know what Title 42 is?

UNKNOWN MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

RADDATZ (voiceover): I spoke with two migrants who had just made the harrowing journey from Colombia and Peru.

UNKNOWN MALE: Well, he says he knew that, you know, that right now there's a little bit of transition where Biden had some Trump policies still in place but that Title 42 was about to change so he wanted to kind of take advantage of that moment.

RADDATZ: These men told us they came for more economic opportunity but there are many seeking asylum who fear for their lives.

RADDATZ (on camera): There are people in terrible shape outside of this country who want to come into this country for very good reasons, they're persecuted, relatives have been killed. Do you look at them and think some of those people really do deserve to be here, how can I help them in?

ABBOTT: Martha, this is very important, because there are people across the globe who have a valid, a solid reason to come to the United States, but they can do so legally right now. The people who have the ability to come to the United States illegally get pushed further and further and further back the line every single day with the thousands of illegal immigrants coming across the border.

RADDATZ (voiceover): Abbott has spent more than $4 billion on Operation Lone Star his border security initiative with surveillance, Border Patrols and the National Guard, who are armed and aim to intimidate when they confront migrants crossing into Texas.

RADDATZ (on camera): So you can arrest them?

MAJ. GEN. TOM SUELZER, NATIONAL GUARD: Yes, so under state law the governor has called forth the militia to protect the Texas citizens and in that he has given us arrest authority.

RADDATZ (voiceover): When that show of force fails and they cross anyway, Abbott has been sending many of the migrants north, busing more than 14,000 to so-called sanctuary cities, like New York, D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia. A strategy that's drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle.

RADDATZ (on camera): You have used your taxpayer dollars here in Texas to bus migrants out of here. You know people have looked at that and said that's just a political ploy to bring attention on the backs of these migrants and some families and some very young children.

ABBOTT: The real reason behind it is because communities like Del Rio and Eagle Pass and others, they are having thousands of people dumped off into their communities, thousands of migrants, dumped off in their communities. They don't have the capability of dealing with that vast number of migrants and I removed them to locations that self-identified as sanctuary cities that have the capability and the desire to help out these migrants and so that's exactly what's taken place.

RADDAT: You talk about the border wall, you talk about open borders, I don't think I’ve ever heard President Biden say, we have an open border, come on over. But people I have heard say it are you, are former president Trump, Ron DeSantis, that message reverberates in Mexico and beyond. So they do get the message that it's an open border and smugglers use all those kind of statements.

ABBOTT: It was known from the time that Joe Biden got elected that Joe Biden supported open borders. It is known by the cartels who have sophisticated information whether or not the Biden administration is going to enforce the immigration laws or not is known across the world but most importantly, known among the cartels.

RADDATZ: And how do you play into that? What can you do better?

ABBOTT: So we have every level of government doing everything we can to prevent people from coming into the country illegally or repelling them or arresting them and putting them behind bars.


RADDATZ: And joining me now is Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, and chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration.

Thanks for joining us this morning.

Senator, you heard Governor Abbott say it will be absolute chaos on the border if Title 42 is lifted. I know you have wanted it lifted since last April.

What do you think will happen when it is lifted?

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): So, good morning, Martha. Happy to be here for this obviously timely and important conversation.

Well, look, the Biden administration has been preparing for months now for Title 42 to be lifted, not just because the courts have dictated that but as you mentioned in a prior segment, Title 42 is not immigration policy. Title 42 is put in place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as health policy. Even then I disagreed, but that's what brought Title 42 to bear.

We're in a much different place when it comes to COVID today than we were two, almost three years ago. So it's past time for Title 42 to be gone.

The administration has made it clear that while Title 42 is technically lifted, they're ready to put in place a system at the border that keeps them fairer but also more orderly and more safe.

RADDATZ: So you expect order and safety --


RADDATZ: Senator, you expect order and safety at the border on Wednesday?

Your own Governor Gavin Newsom told ABC News that the immigration system will break when Title 42 is lifted. He said your state is not prepared, that sites are already at capacity.

So, what do you really expect? And what are the preparations that you --

PADILLA: I’m not --

RADDATZ: go ahead.

PADILLA: Go ahead. So, I’m not suggesting that it's not going to be a challenge. But let’s understand why it is such a challenge, because the prior administration starved the very departments and agencies of the resources they need, not just to patrol the border but to process these lawful asylum claims. And the case, that’s -- that's the reason individuals, or even families are coming across the border.

Again, most Americans understand and appreciate there are people who want to come to the United States for a number of reasons. That's why we have student visa programs. That’s why we have work visa programs.

And yes, it is lawful for someone seeking violence -- fleeing violence, excuse me, fleeing violence, fleeing poverty, fleeing for their lives to come to the United States seeking asylum, and it's our obligation to consider that and make a determination.

I appreciate Governor Newsom’s frustration. He and I spoke just a couple of days ago. The state of California I think is a prime example. More than a billion dollars of state funds going into humanitarian assistance for asylum seekers. When they come to the United States while they wait for their hearing, do they deserve some basic food and shelter and health screening? Absolutely.

And, frankly, the federal government should be investing more in that humane treatment of asylum seekers. That's what we're talking about.

RADDATZ: Senator, I just want to go back again because you said the Biden administration is preparing for this on Wednesday. So do you expect everything to just go smoothly on Wednesday?

Give us a sense of what will happen in your state given what Gavin Newsom has said for these first couple of weeks when they do expect 18,000 people a day crossing the southern border?

PADILLA: Yeah. Again, we will -- I’m sure -- see the departments and to make every effort to maintain the safety, the orderliness, the fairness of people seeking asylum or having other determinations that they're coming for other reasons or in other places.

But here's the biggest frustration -- you know, for all the Republican rhetoric about chaos at the border, open borders, et cetera, number one, they have yet to come forward with a plan of how to better handle the scenario. Number two, they have not willing to commit the additional resources that departments and agencies say that they need to handle this big influx.

They go to border, have these political stunts, whether it’s a press conference at the border, flying over in a Black Hawk, but offer no meaningful solutions is totally irresponsible.

RADDATZ: The Republicans blame the Democrats. You just said it was the prior administration, the Trump administration.

Is there really a plan? Could anybody come together on some sort of plan?

PADILLA: Yes. God, I hope so because the ideas are already there. The solutions are already there. We can go back to the – 2013, when the Senate, yes, the United States Senate passed, on a bipartisan basis, a comprehensive modernization of our immigration law. Sadly, didn’t make it out of the House that day, but, you know, the political climate being what it is, I'm not sure that the very -- same Republicans who voted for it then would vote for even that same proposal now. So, it’s – it’s a matter of --

RADDATZ: Would you vote for – would you vote to secure the border first? I know that's something Republicans want to do. Is that something you would go along with, secure the border first before anything else?

PADILLA: I look -- look, that – look, as you know, immigration policy is complex. And there's no state that has more stake in it than the state of California. So, yes, we do need to invest more in border safety and security, but we’re going to have to do it in a smart way. The build – the years we lost to the build the wall debate was foolish. We know that whether it's migrants, whether it’s, you know, whatever the Republicans are afraid of, contraband, et cetera comes primarily through ports of entry. And so that’s got to be the first and foremost focus on border safety dollars.

But I'll give you another dimension to this. An individual, a family, coming to the border seeking asylum today is very different than the millions of immigrants who are in the United States already and have been here for years. Yes, in many cases undocumented, but working, paying taxes, raising families, contributing to the success of our economy, working in essential jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, they deserve better than to live in fear of deportation. Can we separate, you know, the – the need to do right by them from addressing somebody coming to the southern border next week. Republicans, are they willing to do that as well?

RADDATZ: And we'll see how both sides handle this in the coming weeks.

Thanks very much for joining us this morning, Senator.

Up next, the White House warning of a potential Covid holiday surge. Dr. Ashish Jha is here with the very latest.

We're back in 60 seconds.



DR. TOMAS ARAGON, DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The hospitals, both for kids and for adults, are very stressed right now. And it's – it’s a combination of -- really of all these virus.

DR. STEVE MCLAUGHLIN: Lots of very sick patients. Lot of patients on the ventilators in the ICU. Our overall hospital capacity is well over 100 percent.


RADDATZ: The triple-demic of Covid, flu and RSV is hitting Americans and filling hospitals as millions are expected to travel this holiday season. Infections are on the rise in many parts of the country.

White House Covid response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha joins me now to discuss the latest.

Good to see you, as always, Dr. Jha.


RADDATZ: More than 40 percent increase since Thanksgiving in Covid cases and hospitalizations. That is a very big spike.

JHA: It's a – it’s a clear increase. It’s a substantial increase. We're seeing it across 90 percent of the country. So, yes, Covid cases are rising across the country right now.

RADDATZ: And – and there was a statistic that really stood out to me from – from your White House briefing, less than half of nursing home residents have gotten their updated Covid – Covid vaccine, even though deaths are occurring mostly concentrated in people over 65. You say you're talking to leadership, trying to get them vaccinated.

Why hasn't this been happening?

JHA: Yes, so, you know, there’s -- people are still, I think, learning about the new Covid vaccine, the updated booster. There are still a lot of people that are confused about whether they need one or not. We’re being very clear about this. If you’ve not gotten a vaccine in the last six months, it is essential to go out and get the new, updated bivalent.

This is an ongoing – this is ongoing work. But I actually think we’re seeing real increases in the last couple of weeks, and my hope is that that momentum continues.

RADDATZ: And why this 40 percent increase? Is it no masks? Is it no vaccines? What -- what do you say about that?

JHA: Well, so we're not totally surprised by this, right, because we've seen increases each of the last two winters. And then what else is happening, in colder, drier air, the virus spreads more efficiently. People are gathering, as they should, because it's really important to gather with family and friends.

And so that combination is what is driving the increase. The -- the good news here is that we can prevent those infections from turning into serious illness if people go out and get that updated bivalent vaccine. The updated vaccine is essential for keeping people out of the hospital. So we're making the case that we're at a point where it's safe to gather, but you still have things to do. If we don't do those things, obviously things can get much worse.

RADDATZ: OK, Dr. Jha, we've talked to you many times. You say the White House strategy is to get boosted, get tested, wear masks. You and I have both talked about the lack of masks across the country. You're just not seeing them. That's the strategy, but only 14 percent of people who can get that booster have done it. So how can you say that is really working?

JHA: Well, what I would say it is a -- it is a comprehensive strategy, testing, treatment, vaccines. Our job is to make sure those things are widely available, easily accessible, they remain free for Americans. We're going to continue making that case.

And then, obviously, a lot of our efforts are focused on older Americans. Those are the ones who really tend to get sick, end up in the hospital. This is ongoing work. It's shared collective responsibilities. It's not just the White House. We're asking governors to step up, mayors to step up, religious leaders to set up. Because, if we're going to get a country as big and diverse as ours through this difficult period, we're all going to have to pull on this together.

RADDATZ: Well, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the top two reasons people are not getting vaccinated are, number one, they don't think they need it, or they don't think the benefit is worth it.

JHA: Yeah, so first of all, from a benefit point of view -- and these are incredibly safe vaccines -- they clearly work; they clearly reduce infections to some degree, hospitalizations and deaths to a very, very large degree.

You know, the thing I remind people -- people often say, "Well, I got my booster last year; do I really need it?" And I say, "Well, I got my flu shot last year. I don't expect that to protect me this winter. I go out and get my flu shot every winter, and the same way, people have to go out and get their COVID shot every winter."

RADDATZ: And I want to talk about some anecdotal evidence about the lack of medicines, like Children's Tylenol, Amoxicillin. You say the supply is out there. Manufacturing is out there. And you're going to work to get that supply into pharmacies. How do you do that? Are people hoarding?

JHA: No, see, here's what's happening. We constantly, FDA, the Health Department, constantly track supply, making sure that manufacturing is going well, that the distribution is going well. Right now, manufacturing is going 24/7. Supply is good. Demand is unprecedented, for all the reasons you laid out. We have more RSV, flu, COVID, out there, So that demand, that increased demand, is what is causing, at moments, spot outages in certain places.

Our job is to make sure that supply continues, in fact ramps up further, and that we get it into stores. That, I am confident will continue to happen. The supply is really good. And the -- and the thing is that we've seen RSV peak and come down. My hope is, with that, demand will ease up a little bit. And that will also make a difference.

RADDATZ: And we're almost out of time, Dr. Jha, but I want to talk about China. There are some very dire predictions that there could be 1 million to 2 million deaths. Do you believe that will happen?

JHA: Yeah, look, we're obviously tracking what's happening in China very, very closely. We've been very publicly clear, the president's been publicly clear that we are ready to help any country in the world that needs it, with vaccines, treatments, whatever else is necessary. So that offer stands generally for every country in the world. We're going to watch what happens in China closely.

RADDATZ: OK< thanks very much for joining us today. Always good to see you.

JHA: Thank you.

RADDATZ: Coming up, fresh concerns in Ukraine that Russia is preparing for a new offensive next year. And the roundtable previews what we can expect from the January 6th Committee's final meeting tomorrow. That's next.


RADDATZ: The latest news from Ukraine, plus the Roundtable on the backlash Elon Musk is facing after those surprise Twitter suspensions. We'll be right back.



BRIG. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The U.S. is not at war with Russia. We do not seek conflict. Our focus is on providing Ukraine with the security assistance that it needs to defend itself, and that's something we said we would do well before Russia chose to invade, and something we will continue to do for as long as it takes.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: The Biden administration has committed roughly $20 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia's invasion this year. More could be on the way. The president is poised to approve the delivery of a vital new defense system despite new warnings from Russia.

Tom Soufi Burridge is in Kyiv with the latest.

Good morning to you, Tom.

TOM SOUFI BURRIDGE, ABC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Martha, more nuclear saber-rattling this weekend. The Kremlin deploying another nuclear-capable hypersonic missile system, putting its regiment on active combat duty. This week, Russia firing a wave of 76 cruise missiles at Ukrainian power stations.

Ukraine saying it shot 60 of those down with the U.S. now moving to bolster Ukraine's air defense.


SOUFI BURRIDGE (voice-over): This week, Russia wreaking more destruction on Ukrainian power stations, in videos posted by Ukrainian officials. Its campaign to cause misery and suffering for the Ukrainian people this winter unrelenting, meaning millions go into this weekend without running water and heating in their homes.

The U.S. providing Ukraine with parts and equipment to repair the damage, and in a major shift now moving to help Ukraine better protect its skies. U.S. officials saying President Biden poised to sign off on long-range Patriot air defense missile systems for Ukraine. Moscow reacting, calling it a provocative move.

But a senior Ukrainian defense official telling me it would be, quote, a game-changer in the war.

Some in the U.S. say it will help.

COL. STEVE GANYARD, CONTRIBUTOR: It will go a long way to plug those gaps in the Ukrainian air defense.

SOUFI BURRIDGE: But for the people in Ukraine who shelter and sing in the metro when it’s raining missiles outside -- more U.S. military aid can't come soon enough. That trademark defiance shining bright.

Today's strikes cutting the power for millions of people across Ukraine. It's dark and freezing outside, but inside these temporary shelters, there's light, heating and internet, too.

We found Dasha studying her. Each time a missile lands, she says, her determination grows.

DASHA HRYHORIEVA, STUDENT: Everything that doesn’t kill us make like more braver.

BURRIDGE: Ukrainian bravery could be tested again in the New Year. Ukrainian defense chief’s warning in a series of interviews that the Kremlin could mount a new offensive and possibly even target Kyiv again. Russia potentially has hundreds of thousands of recently mobilized soldiers heading towards the front lines.


SOUFI BURRIDGE (voice-over): That senior Ukrainian defense official telling me Ukraine desperately needs a fleet of modern, Western-made tanks. Ukraine warning that if it doesn't get more advanced military aid, this war would simply grind on, or worse, Russia could retake the initiative on the battlefield -- Martha.

RADDATZ: Thanks, Tom.

Joining me now is the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova.

Madam Ambassador, thank you for joining us this morning.

And let’s start where Tom Soufi Burridge left off.

President Zelenskyy has bee asking for U.S. Patriot missile batteries. If he doesn’t get them, what happens?

OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: We have been asking for all air defense. And we see what happens when we don’t have enough air defense. For 299 days, not only there were -- there is a full-fledged war and atrocities, but during the last two months, and you’ve seen it also personally, there is a massive attack on civilian infrastructure. Fifty percent of the energy is destroyed of the energy grid.

We have to stop it. And the only way to do it is with increased number of air defense everywhere in Ukraine.

RADDATZ: And these increased air defenses, if the Patriot missiles defense system goes in particular, the Russians have warned of unpredictable consequences, said they’ll target the missile batteries.

What do you think Putin means by unpredictable consequences, and does that concern you?

MARKAROVA: This is very cynical of them. I mean, they have attacked a peaceful country. They’re doing all atrocities and all war – war crimes in Ukraine and they’re trying to scare someone that we cannot even defend ourselves. I mean I – I think it’s the moment where we stop listening and analyzing what he says and focus on, a, winning, and, b, taking him into accountability and actually working on a tribunal and all their criminal cases that we already have against not only all the Russians that are on the ground in Ukraine doing the war crimes, but everyone starting from Putin and the leadership who’s responsible for it.

RADDATZ: The Ukrainians, when I was there, saw many successes the Ukrainians are having, but the Russians are pushing back. This is – this is a long, long way from over.

Are you concerned about a new winter offensive, or a new, big offensive next year, which we’ve heard about possibly?

MARKAROVA: Of course, we have to be prepared for everything. And we just have to push back and liberate more. As you said, we have already a number of victories on the battlefield, that’s why they have resorted to this terror. But we just have to be proactive and together, with all of our friends and partners, and we have – we are thankful for all the support that we are getting, to continue to stay the course, liberate the territories and defend Ukraine.

RADDATZ: And – and what about Crimea? President Zelenskyy says you will take back Crimea. That seems like a clear red line for Vladimir Putin. How do you take back Crimea?

MARKAROVA: Crimea is Ukraine. He illegally attacked us in 2014. He illegally took Crimea. Crimea is no different from any other Ukrainian (INAUDIBLE).

RADDATZ: But taking it back would be very, very difficult.

MARKAROVA: Well, taking everything back is very, very difficult. Russia is a very large aggressor, is a nuclear terrorist state. They have nothing to do to be on our land since 2014. So, everything is very difficult. And, ultimately, we are paying a higher price for liberating our land and our people. But there is no other option because we know what happens under Russian occupation. They are killing and torturing and destroying Ukrainians.

RADDATZ: On Tuesday, Belarus announced an unscheduled so-called emergency check of their army’s readiness. What does that really mean? Are you – are you concerned that there might be a buildup that they might join the war up on the border.

MARKAROVA: Well, since –

RADDATZ: They’re Russia’s ally.

MARKAROVA: Since – since February 24, they’re not just Russian ally. They – the Russian troops that attacked Kyiv or tried to take Kyiv actually entered from Belarus. The rockets always from Belarus. They’re training the soldiers, which are engaged in war crimes in Ukraine. So, in an sense, they already are on the Russian side attacking Ukraine.

We have been warning -- and I know the – the people in Belarus do not want to be part of this war. So, you know, we are concerned. That’s why you see us preparing to defend Ukraine everywhere. That’s why our readiness is pretty high, not only on the east and south, but everywhere in Ukraine. And, hopefully, you know, they will be able to stay away, at least from the direct involvement in this war, and stop what they’re doing already.

RADDATZ: And – and just finally, Congress approved $800 million for Ukraine assistance, security assistance over the next year. But, as you know, many Republicans have signaled the U.S. aide for Ukraine will be under much bigger scrutiny.

Are you concerned about that scrutiny?

MARKAROVA: No. We actually welcome all the transparency and accountability, and we are working with Congress on a very strong bipartisan basis, not only about reports of what we already have received.

And there is a number of systems already in place. The NATO system on the – on the security assistance, but also the full reporting on the budget support. So, we look forward to continuing doing that. And, actually, we really count on Congress continued support, especially for 2023.

RADDATZ: All right, thank you so much for joining us this morning, Madame Ambassador. It’s good to see you.

MARKAROVA: Thank you.

RADDATZ: The roundtable is coming up next.

We’ll be right back.



FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER, (R) OHIO: Madam Speaker, you and I have disagreed politically on many things over the years. But we were never disagreeable to each other. My girls told me, "Tell the speaker how much we admire her."


So if you couldn't tell, my girls are Democrats.



RADDATZ: A rare display of bipartisan friendship this week, as former Republican speaker John Boehner brought to tears at the unveiling of Speaker Pelosi's official portrait.

Congress has a busy week ahead with a lot to tackle before the holidays. Let's dig into it now with our roundtable, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie; former DNC chair Donna Brazile; Astead Herndon of the New York Times; and Wall Street Journal White House reporter Catherine Lucey.

Good morning to all of you. A busy week indeed. But all focus on immigration this week.

Donna, like so many other issues, it's totally polarizing. You heard Republicans blaming Democrats, Democrats blaming Republicans. Do you realistic see any sort of compromise?

BRAZILE: Well, as you well know, Kyrsten Sinema and Mr. Tillis, two senators, this past week tried to come up with a framework to not only protect the border, which everyone agrees must be a high priority, but also to keep Title 42 in place for several more months.

But they also had a framework for the Dreamers. That deal collapsed. The problem is, every time they get close to a deal -- you heard Senator Padilla say this -- it just evaporates. So, yeah, we have a problem. What I'm glad to see is that the Biden administration now has a plan. They have a six-pillar plan to continue to protect the border, to ensure that there are more resources at the -- at the border, and to provide for more assistance for those who are coming in, or to deport them out.

So there's a lot more that needs to happen, but at least we understand what may happen if the Biden administration allows Title 42 to expire.

RADDATZ: And, Chris, what do you see happening at the border?

CHRISTIE: I think -- I think most Americans think it's pretty disgraceful, Martha. You've been to the border more than Kamala Harris and she’s supposed to be the borderer czar. Never been there. President Biden hasn’t been there.

The reason they’re not going, I understand from a political perspective, is an ugly story for them. They have induced this problem, they've made promises well over their skis on Title 42, now don't know how to get out of it because they have a war within their own party. And if we're looking at 14,000 to 18,000 people cross the border a day there's going to be mayhem down there.

Look, I --

RADDATZ: But really, hanging on to Title 42, it's a public health risk. You heard Governor Abbott.

CHRISTIE: Well, look, I don’t think the Biden administration has much credibility in that when they say that forgiving student loans is because there’s a public health risk as well. So they’ve shown themselves to be fairly flexible in that regard, Martha.

Look, in the end, they have let this crisis get to the point where it is. That’s why they don't want to go down there. What politician doesn't want to go to the scene of crisis -- only if they created the crisis themselves. And the fact that neither the vice president or the president hasn't been to the border is something that’s going to be very noticed this week as much -- even more then it’s been noticed before.

RADDATZ: And Astead, we don't know exactly what the Biden administration is going to do. They say they’re preparing, are they prepared enough?


RADDATZ: Can you give us any hints on what you think we might see?

HERNDON: Yes, I mean, I looked at the six-point pillar plan that's Donna's talking about. That was coming from Homeland Security. You’ve also seen White House officials, I talked to one last week, trying to say that they are trying to direct Congress to take this issue more seriously.

But to your point, it is a kind of blame game that's happening here mostly. They're trying to say that Republicans haven't really come to the trouble to create a comprehensive bigger look at immigration reform and I think that's -- I think that’s a fair thing to point out.

Title 42 is a microcosm of a much larger problem and Democrats have not really come out with an affirmative framework to what to do on the immigration, quote/unquote, issue. Until that happens, until there is a compromise, until there’s a real look at the system largely, we will continue to go back to this because as you said the reality of the people coming is going to make this a kind of rolling situational crisis that neither D or R really has a solution for.

RADDATZ: And Catherine, how worried do you think the White House is? Look, I know they’ve put out this plan and we want more. But some of those we want more this is (ph) are not until 2023. And this is going to happen Wednesday.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right, this is imminent unless there's some further appeal to the Supreme Court from some of those Republican-led states.

I mean, certainly the administration says they are, as Astead said, putting things in place. They are -- we are told that they are putting more resources at the border, they’re trying to get ready for what is I think widely expected to be a surge. There’s also some policies that our reporting shows that they are potentially looking at. There’s a Trump-era thing called the transit ban, which would bar some migrants from seeking asylum, they could potentially revive. There's also a program they could potentially do which would give would-be migrants coming from countries like Haiti or Cuba or Nicaragua the opportunity to seek to come in here temporarily, legally on a humanitarian basis.

So there are some policies they are looking at. They are also trying to send a message that the border is not -- this does not mean the border is open. But obviously as you see from your reporting and others, people are coming and so this is -- and the push --


RADDATZ: -- is saying that the border’s secured -- just a month ago he said, the border is secure.

LUCEY: I mean, they are -- they are certainly arguing that they are doing everything that they can and that they are looking at other ways that they can control this and I think this is, again, to us a -- a problem that predates them and comprehensive immigration reform has bedeviled lawmakers for a really long time.

CHRISTIE: Martha --



CHRISTIE: -- you can doesn’t mean it’s secure. And he's living in a fantasy land. I mean, this is a guy who, you know, you have to look at it and say, be honest with the American people --

BRAZILE: -- we need more than --

CHRISTIE: Be honest with us --

BRAZILE: -- political slogan (ph). We need more than political posturing (ph) --

CHRISTIE: What’s that?

BRAZILE: We need more than political --

CHRISTIE: The border --


CHRISTIE: Slogan, Donna? Come on.

BRAZILE: We need more than -- I can even --

CHRISTIE: It’s a slogan.

BRAZILE: -- I can even quote Donald Trump with his wall right now.


BRAZILE: So let’s --

CHRISTIE: Guess what?


BRAZILE: -- people trying to slander. Kamal Harris, first of all, the vice president convened a meeting in Central America to begin to talk about this. She has been to the border. As vice president --

CHRISTIE: No she hasn’t.

BRAZILE: Yes, sir. If I'm wrong, I’ll come back and give you a beer. But she has been to the border --

CHRISTIE: Two (ph).

BRAZILE: But this is not about posturing (ph). This is about, as you said, the Republicans and Democrats have not really sat down and come up with a real strong framework. Migration crisis didn't start yesterday and it will not go away tomorrow because people are fleeing violence, they're fleeing climate (ph), they are fleeing things, not just coming to the United States but Europe is faced with a migration problem.

We have a serious issue at hand. So we just want to say oh, it's Kamala's fault or Joe's fault or Donald’s fault or Mike Pence. No, it is -- our system is broken and unless we fix it, it’s going to continue to be a problem.

RADDATZ: Astead, I want to switch over to -- a mild transition here to Elon Musk, okay?


RADDATZ: Get off the immigration for a second. Maybe we can stay on that with Elon Musk, I don't know what will be next with Twitter.

But he suspended a lot of accounts of journalists this week, mostly tech journalists because he said they doxxed him -- meaning they put out where his location was or his family or his airplane or something. Brought them back in, now he's suspended Taylor Lorenz from “The Washington Post”.


RADDATZ: What’s going on here?

HERNDON: I mean, if I had that answer -- I mean, it seems -- it seems as if Elon Musk is acting in search of the next 10, 20 minutes, rather than an actual full strategy or something that is cohesive rubric for what -- who let on the platform and who is not.

We should be very clear that these journalists who are largely doing their job and that -- and that him taking them off of Twitter is clearly hypocritical to the stance that he had before about free speech and the openness of journalists on the platform.

But he’s not someone who’s really shown an interest in being anything other than hypocritical. The only consistency I see through these bans on Twitter is he’s taking people off the platform who he doesn’t like, and that includes these tech journalist and that is not the place for open discussion as he has called -- as he said his goal to make Twitter. That is not consistent with that viewpoint.

RADDATZ: And, Catherine, he does seem to be changing the rules as he goes along. I think the E.U. even threatened sanctions over these suspensions.

LUCEY: Yeah. I mean, this has been chaotic by any definition, right? There’s been announcements of new rules, and he rolls them back. He bans people, he reinstates them. He often seems to be making decisions based on polling people on Twitter about what they think.

So, it has been a chaotic leadership period, and it raises questions for news organizations, for advertisers about how to engage with the platform. And I think that’s what one of the questions going forward.

RADDATZ: And, Chris, Musk has called himself, as you pointed, this free speech absolutist, do his actions really match that?

CHRISTIE: Look, you know, one of things that you can say about Elon Musk is, at least he's doing it transparency. You know, what was happening under Jack Dorsey in Twitter was, you just got yourself suppressed and nobody even knew about it.

All of a sudden, you weren't being put forward as much. You were being suppressed in terms of how your communication was going around and the result done in quite and in private. I don't know which one is more offensive, Martha. I think both are.

Btu I will tell you, I think at least Musk is saying, this is who I am and what I’m doing. You may disagree with it and you’re free to disagree with it. He now owns it, but so he has to do with it what he wants.

But what I will say to you is, it's kind of funny to me to see some of folks who are now complaining about it. We're not complaining when “The New York Post” was barred after the Hunter Biden laptop story. When the entire newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch was completely banned from Twitter because of a story that turns out to have been true during an election period.

If that had been the opposite, I can only imagine what would have been said. So, you know as most things in Washington, D.C., there's enough hypocrisy to go around.

BRAZILE: Well, freedom -- freedom of speech and freedom of the press is an American valuable. We want to protect both. Mr. Musk says that he is a champion of freedom of speech and yet many people believe that the platform over the last couple of weeks has become a platform of hate, of dissension, and I regret that.

Now I’m saying that because I’ve been, you know, and I’m sure you have been --

CHRISTIE: It wasn’t that before?


RADDATZ: I think we all have --

CHRISTIE: It’s a sewer.

BRAZILE: If you claim to be -- well, it’s a gutter.

CHRISTIE: Come on, yeah. I go with that, too. Sure.

BRAZIE: But if you're claiming to be a champion of freedom of speech, freedom of press, that’s essential to our democracy.

RADDATZ: OK. I want to turn more news on the tech front. TikTok, the Senate unanimously passed for the second time a bill to ban TikTok on government devices. House Republicans have been pretty clear that they will take that up next year.

Why are they doing that? First of all, what are you doing in government offices with TikTok, I don't know. But why are they doing that?

HERNDON: I mean, they're doing that because of the real privacy and data concerns that come from those who own TikTok, particularly when it relates to China and the owners of that platform. But at the same time, TikTok is part of the fabric of social media at this point.

To your point about what will people use TikTok for? I mean, that is just as much of a news communication tool for a lot of people as Twitter or as Facebook in some senses.

So, it’s a real kind of question that is on the platform, but this came up under President Trump. This has been a consistent kind of threat looming over that platform because there are real security and data concerns about where that information is stored and what the owners might do with it.

But that's not going to stop the reality of TikTok's real foothold in American pop culture and in the American news gathering because it's here to stay on that front.

RADDATZ: But – but the White House has expressed concern about – about TikTok too. Is this really all about, in the Senate there, about being tough on China?

LUCEY: I mean certainly lawmakers from both sides have talked about concerns about data privacy, what this means for Americans. This conversation has been going on for some time. It was also a concern of the Trump administration.

There is also an effort to negotiate, you know, a deal with TikTok, you know, to try and address some of these data collection concerns, but that has yet to be resolved.

BRAZILE: Martha, the only time I go on TikTok is when I feel like I don't know what my nieces and nephews are doing and I need to learn the new – the latest dance step.

RADDATZ: And – and get – and you get your latest news, Donna, there you go.

Donna, I just want to turn to you on the January 6th committee holding its final hearing tomorrow.


RADDATZ: What do you expect? And – and when we look at it, what did it accomplish?

BRAZILE: First of all, I want to applaud the committee and especially the staff, 1,000 interviews. Everybody from Bill Barr to the inner circle of the Trump team. They're going to make referrals. Three, 18USC (ph), 2383 (ph), 18USC (ph). I said, if I figure this out this morning, we don’t – we won't need Chris here. So many criminal referrals. But, you know, is it symbolic in nature? What will we learn tomorrow? We’ll learn that there was -- there's a lot more that we should know about what happened on January 6th.

RADDATZ: Chris, we – we have 20 seconds. We have reported that Donald Trump -- they will recommend prosecution of Donald Trump.

CHRISTIE: Look, I think if they really want the Justice Department to do their job objectively, they should not do referrals. You think the Justice Department doesn’t know what happened on January 6th. They're doing their own investigation with an independent council. This is politics at play here by doing the referrals. And I think it’s politics that really hurts the cause of getting to the bottom of who’s responsible for January 6th and to make sure they’re held responsible.

BRAZILE: Get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th?

RADDATZ: OK. All right. All right.


RADDATZ: No more, Donna. No more. We’ve got to – we’ve got to get going.

Thanks to all of you. Have happy holidays.

We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Tune in tomorrow for ABC’s live coverage of the January 6th committee’s final meeting.

Happy Hannukah to all who celebrate.

Have a great day.