'This Week' Transcript 12-26-21: Dr. Anthony Fauci & Dr. Ashish Jha

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, December 26.

ByABC News
December 26, 2021, 9:04 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December 26, 2021, on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Rampant spread.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: It has a doubling time of about two days.

KARL: Omicron quickly becomes the dominant COVID variant in the U.S., as testing demand skyrockets over the holiday weekend.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should all be concerned about Omicron, but not panicked.

KARL: President Biden announces his plan to combat the surge, but should we have been better prepared? Dr. Anthony Fauci is here with the very latest.

Roadblock.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.

QUESTION: Did Senator Manchin break his commitment to you?

BIDEN: Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done.

KARL: Senator Joe Manchin derails Biden's social policy bill. What does the setback mean for the president's agenda? And what Biden told David Muir about whether he will run for reelection.

BIDEN: Why would I not run against Donald Trump if he were the nominee? That would increase the prospect of running.

KARL: Our powerhouse roundtable covers the fallout.

Also: starting over.

ABDUL, FORMER AFGHAN INTERPRETER FOR U.S. MILITARY: I was just thinking about the flight.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Just get on that airplane.

ABDUL: Just get on that aircraft to go out from Afghanistan.

KARL: After fleeing the Taliban, an Afghan interpreter and his family make a new life in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

KARL: Good morning, merry Christmas, and welcome to "This Week."

As we come on the air this Christmas weekend, there are signs of the holiday spirit almost everywhere. In New York, the tree is up in Rockefeller Center, and preparations are under way for New Year's in Times Square.

Supply chain disruptions didn't keep Santa's helpers from getting their job done. Despite those dire predictions, store shelves, for the most part, have been stocked. And we have learned Americans have been particularly generous this giving season, with charitable donations up nearly 10 percent compared to last year.

COVID couldn't stop Christmas, but here we are again, yet another holiday season overshadowed by the pandemic that just won't go away, this time with the fear things may actually be getting worse. Omicron is sweeping the country, becoming the dominant COVID strain in just a matter of days, smashing hopes for a return to normal anytime soon.

President Biden came into office vowing to get the pandemic under control. Now he's outlining yet another strategy, this time to combat Omicron. He said the federal government will distribute 500 million free at-home test kits starting in January and dispatch 1,000 military medical personnel to help overburdened hospitals. It will also create vaccination and testing sites.

While much of this will take time to implement, Biden issued an immediate plea to unvaccinated Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Get vaccinated now. It's free. It's convenient. I promise you it saves lives, and, I honest to God, believe it's your patriotic duty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And we begin this morning with the president's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining us.

We just heard the details of the president's latest strategy to deal with the pandemic. Let me just ask you, bottom line, what in what he announced is going to help deal with the immediate crisis, this rapid spread of Omicron?

FAUCI: Well, there are a few things.

The one that would be immediate is to make sure, given the rapid spread of this extraordinary variant, that we don't get an overrun on hospitals, particularly in those regions in which you have a larger proportion of unvaccinated individuals.

We want to make sure that, given the sheer volume of number of cases that you see now, every day, it goes up and up -- the last weekly average was about 150,000, and it likely will go much higher.

The president's multipart component of the response is to make sure that we have adequate backup for hospitals with military personnel, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, making sure that there's enough PPE and that, if needed, there's enough ventilators in the National Strategic Stockpile. Those are the things that are immediate.

Obviously, testing, Jon, is going to be very important, that we get a greater capability of testing, particularly when the demand for testing is so high, with the combination of the Omicron variant itself, as well as the holiday season, where people want to get that extra level of assuredness that they're protected, even if you are vaccinated and boosted.

One of the problems is that that’s not going to be totally available to everyone until we get to January, and there are still some issues now of people having trouble getting tested, but we're addressing the testing problem, and that very soon that will be corrected.

KARL: The president seemed to me to be quite defensive when he was asked about that, particularly when David Muir asked him about the testing issue. He said, this has not been a failure, but I mean, I have been asking questions about testing, often with you standing with the others at the podium since, you know, the beginning of the pandemic. Testing was a colossal failure in the early days and why is it that now nearly two years in we still -- we still don't have affordable tests widely available to anybody who needs it? I mean, this must frustrate you I imagine as well.

FAUCI: Well, obviously it does, Jon. I mean, even with the amount -- I mean, if you look at the beginning of the administration, the beginning of the year, there were essentially no rapid point of care home tests available. Now there are over nine of them and more coming.

The production of them has been rapidly upscaled, and yet because of the demand that we have, which in some respects, Jon, is good that we have a high demand because we should be using testing much more extensively than we have. Even in a situation where you have people who are vaccinated or boosted, but the situation where you have such a high demand, a conflation of events, Omicron is stirring people to get appropriately concerned and wanting to get tested, as well as the fact of the run-on tests during the holiday season.

We've obviously got to do better. I mean, I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn't help us today and tomorrow. So you're right. That is something that is of concern.

KARL: So in terms of Omicron, we know how wildly contagious it is, but what is your sense about how -- what do we really know about how sick people are getting from this? As you know, there was data out of South Africa that suggested that it was less than 2 percent of those that were infected were hospitalized. That compared with about 20 percent that had been hospitalized under the Delta wave. That, by the way, is a country that doesn't have, you know, anywhere near the kind of vaccination level that we have. And we saw some indications out of England too that it seems to be less severe.

What is -- are you comfortable now in saying that Omicron is --

FAUCI: Yes.

KARL: -- wildly contagious, but not as severe a disease?

FAUCI: Well, there's one thing that's for sure that we all agree upon, that it is extraordinarily contagious. It's just outstripped even the most contagious of the previous ones, including Delta. There's no argument on anybody's part about that.

When we first saw the data from the U.K., that it was very clear that the ratio of hospitalizations to cases was lower. Interestingly, the duration of hospital stay was lower, the need for oxygen was lower. And when you’re in a demographic situation like South Africa where you have most of the people have gotten infected with prior variants, either the Delta or the Beta, that it was very likely a combination of perhaps the virus is inherently let virulent or more likely there's an underlying degree of residual protection from prior infections of those who have been infected and survived.

The data from the U.K., and particularly Scotland and England, two separate studies, really confirmed that. They're seeing less of a severity in the form of manifestations by hospitalizations. The issue that we don't want to get complacent about, Jon, is that when you have such a high volume of new infections, it might override a real diminution in severity so that if you have many, many, many more people with less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people.

And we're particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class, that, you know, tens and tens of millions of Americans who are eligible for vaccination who have not been vaccinated. Those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people and infecting them the way Omicron is.

So even though we're pleased by the evidence from multiple countries, that it looks like there is a lesser degree of severity, we've got to be careful that we don't get complacent about that --

KARL: So --

FAUCI: -- because it might still lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the United States.

KARL: Right. So, as an individual, your chance of having severe disease and needing to go to the hospital if you -- if you get infected with Omicron might be less. Because there are so many more, the hospitals could still be overrun.

Let me --

FAUCI: That is the -- yeah, that's the concern. That's the concern.

KARL: Let me ask you about something else from the president's interview with David.

David asked about the vaccine -- the lack of a vaccine requirement for air travel. There is no vaccine requirement for domestic air travel in the United States. And when the president was asked should there be one, he said that his team has said it's not necessary at this point.

Do you agree with that, that there shouldn't be a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel?

FAUCI: Well, it depends on what you want to use it for. I mean, vaccine requirements for people coming in from other countries is to prevent newly infected people from getting into the country.

A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated; namely, you can't get on a plane unless you're vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be.

So I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome. But with regard to the spread of virus in the country, I mean, I think if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration on planes, things are reasonably safe.

We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering --

KARL: Which is (ph) --

FAUCI: But that's what we meant by it depends on what -- the goal of getting people vaccinated before they get on a domestic flight.

KARL: Yes. And of course, the airline CEOs were suggesting that -- you know, that we may not -- may no longer need a mask. I hear you loud and clearly, you disagree with that on an -- on the airplane.

You know, it was interesting. On this question of vaccination, I'm sure you saw President Trump -- former President Trump, said -- came out and said that he had received the booster shot. He actually got booed a little bit by the crowd of -- of his supporters as he said that.

And now, you know, there's another interview he just did with a conservative outlet, with Candace Owens, where he really pushed back on the idea that the vaccine is not protecting people.

He said that the people going to hospitals are -- are the ones largely that haven't been vaccinated. You don't die if you get the vaccine.

That -- those were Donald Trump's words. I mean, it'll be interesting to see if his supporters listen to that.

FAUCI: Well, I certainly hope so, Jon. We'll take anything we can get about getting people vaccinated.

I was a bit dismayed when former President Trump came out and made that statement. And his followers booed him, which, I was stunned by that -- I mean, given the fact of how popular he is with that group, that they would boo him, which tells me how recalcitrant they are about being told what they should do.

And I think that his continuing to say that people should get vaccinated and articulating that to them, in my mind, is a good thing. I hope he keeps it up.

KARL: Yes, let's hope he says it loudly and clearly.

Hey, before you go, one question. Some news this week that a second antiviral pill, this one by Merck, has been approved for emergency use authorization by the FDA.

This one, not quite as effective as the Pfizer pill which is 89 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. Is this -- is this really the breakthrough that you've been waiting for?

Do you think ultimately that our path out of this, I know your -- the emphasis now is on vaccines, but that these antiviral treatments could be ultimately the real silver bullet?

FAUCI: Jon, I agree with you that a highly effective orally administered -- and that's the critical issue.

There are two things that are really encouraging about this approval of these, particularly the Pfizer product which is about 90 percent effective in preventing you from getting to the hospital or dying, compared to placebo.

That's part of the comprehensive approach to this outbreak. Vaccines, and boosters, masks and now very importantly a highly effective therapy is really going to make a major, major difference.

We've just got to make sure that there is the production of enough of that product that we can get it widely used for those who needed as quickly as possible.

KARL: I assume that will be a top priority going forward, right -- I mean, possibly including Defense Authorization Act, the -- the Production Authorization Act and the like?

FAUCI: Absolutely, Jon. Absolutely. We've got to get that product into the mouths of those who need it.

KARL: Yes.

All right, Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining us, and Merry Christmas.

FAUCI: Thank you, Jon. Thank you for having me.

KARL: As many Americans head home after the holiday weekend, we wanted to get more information that could help you stay safe.

So, let's turn to our friend, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, thank you for joining us.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Thank you for having me back.

KARL: So, I wanted to say, we're looking at the numbers. I mean, sometimes it seems as if everybody is getting infected with omicron. I mean we're just, like, I mean, I'm sure many people in your life. We're seeing public figures and friends, neighbors. People are getting infected at an alarming rate. That has some people panicking, but not you.

So, explain why. Why aren't you at a more alarmed level of concern about this?

JHA: Yes. So, first of all, it is concerning. And, obviously, infections are spreading quickly, they're rising very, very rapidly. And if this was March of 2020, I would be -- I'd be panicked. I'd be terrified. It would be a very bad situation.

It's not March of 2020. What we're seeing is two sets of things. We're seeing a lot of infections in vaccinated people. But because they are vaccinated, and -- and many of them boosted, these infections are very, very mild. And that's the big saving grace.

And the second -- and the part that does concern me more, Jonathan, is that we are seeing still, obviously, vaccinated -- unvaccinated Americans getting infected at very high rates. And that's the group I'm worried about because that's the group that's going to end up in the hospital. That's the group that's going to end up in an ICU.

So, we really have to look at this in a very different light. For vaccinated people, this is a very different infection than for the unvaccinated.

KARL: So let's take first the vaccinated people because one thing that we're seeing, it seems to me at an alarming rate, are breakthrough infections, and not just with people who have been vaccinated, but people who have been vaccinated and boosted. Why are we seeing so many breakthroughs?

JHA: Yes. So, omicron is a virus, is a -- you know, it's a variant that has a lot of immune escape. All of those mutations you've been hearing about means our antibodies just work a little bit less efficiently. And so if you get a high enough dose of this virus, it will break through that first wall of your immune system.

But your immune system has a second wall, which really prevents severe illness. So if we think about all of these cases we're hearing about, most people are reporting kind of a mild cold-like symptoms, a couple of days of feeling lousy, and then they get better. That's the vaccine working. Omicron, the biggest part of it is all that immune escape is leading to a lot of breakthrough infections, less among people who are boosted, but it's still a problem. But -- but it's not leading to significant consequences for those who have been vaccinated.

KARL: So, I mean, really since the start of this pandemic, the figure, the number that we've tracked, in addition to, obviously, hospitalizations and deaths, but the number that we've tracked has been infections. New cases. How many new cases are? That's been the leading indicator of how bad things are getting or how, you know, effectively we're dealing with the pandemic.

Are we getting to the point where that -- where that indicator really isn't the one that matters? I mean if new cases, as you said, among the vaccinated are not leading to serious sickness, is it an indicator that we should really be paying so much attention to?

JHA: Yes, I think this is the most important part of this moment in this pandemic. We have to do a shift. Look, for two years infections always preceded hospitalizations which preceded deaths. So you could look at infections and know what was coming. Even through the delta wave that was true because it was largely unvaccinated people getting infected.

Omicron changes that. This is the shift we've been waiting for in many ways where we're moving to a phase where if you're vaccinated and particularly if you're boosted, you're going to have -- you might get an infection. It might be a couple of days of not feeling so great, but you're going to bounce back. That's very different than what we have seen in the past. So, I no longer think infect generally should be the major metric. Obviously, we can continue to track infections among unvaccinated people because those people will end up in the hospital at the same rate, but we really have to focus on hospitalizations and deaths now.

KARL: And among the unvaccinated, do we have a sense of whether or not this is as dangerous or significantly possibly less dangerous than delta? Because you did see those numbers out of South Africa. And South Africa is a country where the vaccination rate is much lower, and population's younger, but the -- but the vaccination rate is much lower than the United States.

JHA: Yes, this is -- this is the big question and it's obviously critically important. What we know about South Africa is they just had a massive delta wave over the summer into the fall. So a lot of those unvaccinated people have just recovered from an infection.

So the question is, what about people who have not had a recent infection and are not vaccinated, how will they do with Omicron? We don’t have very good data. It is possible that it might be a little bit milder. Obviously, I hope it'll be a lot milder, but I don't know that we have data on that, and right now it's it reasonable to assume that even if it's milder, it's not milder enough. We're still going to see, I think, a lot of unvaccinated people end up in the hospital.

KARL: So we've seen that the booster seems to be quite effective in at least preventing the severity of disease even with Omicron. Obviously, the data’s still coming in. But what about those who are still -- still have, you know, younger -- younger people in this country who can get the vaccine, but can’t -- yet they're not eligible yet to get the booster, how concerned should they (ph) be? The people that are 16 years old and younger. How concerned?

JHA: Yeah. So first of all, it is absolutely essential that if you are in a higher risk group, you get a booster. That, to me, feels like just critically, critically important. But for the question that you ask about younger people, healthy people, I’d like all of them to get a booster. I think the data on adults getting boosters has been crystal clear since the end of August, that all adults need one.

You know, if you’re a 16, 18-year-old relatively healthy person and you have not gotten a booster, you're also protected in large part by age, that if you have a breakthrough infection, it's going to be very, very mild anyway. So I’d like to have every adult get a booster, but, to me, the most important priority, of course, is getting the high-risk individuals boosted.

KARL: And we've seen some countries, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Germany, that are shortening the length of time when they’re recommending boosters from six months down to four or five months. And in fact, we've also seen Israel is talking about a fourth shot. I guess a second booster. Are we -- what do you think of either of those ideas? A shorter time period for getting the booster or adding -- are we going to need to be getting kind of an infinite number of boosters here?

JHA: Yes. So first, let's talk about shortening that time period. I think it's actually pretty reasonable. The data suggests both from Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that shortening it to as little as three months, but probably more in the sort of four to five months range, because we do see a waning of the immunity of the antibodies by four to five months. That’d be a pretty reasonable thing to do.

The problem is we don't have a good mechanism to do that. Like FDA and CDC usually wait for the companies to file. It can take months. We saw that with the booster rollout. I would love to see our agencies move forward on a shorter timeline. It'll make more Americans eligible, and I think it will make more Americans protected.

On the future of more boosters, I think we don't know at this point. Is it possible we'll need more boosters? Possible. Maybe even likely. The way I think about it, I get an annual vaccine for the flu. I guess, I get an annual booster. I think that's fine. The question is, are we going to need something more frequent than that? I haven't seen evidence yet that we will. Let’s see where Israel goes with this, what their data shows, and then we can make decisions based on that.

KARL: And as we go into the new year, I don't think any of us expected to be in the situation we're in now, where we're seeing increasing numbers of people infected, worries about hospitals possibly becoming overburdened in January, particularly in areas where people have fewer -- fewer people are vaccinated. What though is your view? Look into your Dr. Ashish Jha crystal ball. What does -- what does 2022 look like? Is it the year we finally get this thing under control, or are we in this for the long haul?

JHA: Yeah. I think it is definitely the year we get this under control, and I -- let me explain why. I mean, you know, this holiday season, no one thinks that this is the holiday season we were hoping for, but contrast it to last year. It's so much better.

Well, next holiday season, I doubt COVID will be completely gone. Actually, it won’t be gone. It'll be endemic, it’ll be around. But it’ll be much, much better than this year because while the virus continues to change, so do we. We're building better tools. We now have PAXLOVID, the new Pfizer pill that will be widely available, hopefully, by earlier part of this new year. That’ll be a really important tool. More people will get vaccinated. Unfortunately, a lot of people will get infected but that will build population immunity.

We'll have more variants. I’m actually convinced that we’ll have more variants. But each of them will impact us less and less, and we will get to a point, certainly by the end of this new year coming up, we will get to a point where we’ll see new waves of infection, it will not have a big effect on hospitals. People will go on. People will not get really sick and die. And we will learn to live with this virus, and it will stop being disruptive to our lives.

KARL: All right, well, thank you for bringing us a hopeful note here at the end of 2021. Dr. Ashish Jha, I appreciate your time.

Coming up, after Joe Manchin torpedoed President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, the Powerhouse Roundtable weighs in on the future of Biden’s agenda. And the president’s exclusive comments to David Muir about his plans for 2024.

Will he run for reelection? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MUIR, "ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" ANCHOR: I want to ask you about something I asked weeks before the election when we sat down.

You said you would absolutely serve eight years if elected. Do you plan to run for reelection?

BIDEN: Yes.

But, look, I'm a great respecter of fate. Fate has intervened in my life many, many times. If I'm in the health I'm in now, if I'm in good health, then, in fact, I would run again.

MUIR: And if that means a rematch against Donald Trump?

BIDEN: You're trying to tempt me now.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Sure. Why would I not run against Donald Trump if he were the nominee? That would increase the prospect of running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: President Biden speaking exclusively with "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir about his political future.

Let's dig into this more with our roundtable, our political director, Rick Klein, deputy political director Averi Harper, and senior national correspondent Terry Moran.

So, Rick, let me start with you.

What did you make of that answer?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: A fascinating exchange, Jon.

I think it opened the door into Joe Biden's thinking wider than he ever has in any previous setting.

Look, on the surface, he still says he's running for reelection. And that -- that is the answer he's been giving all along. But this is the first time that you heard him explicitly acknowledge there's a scenario where he doesn't, talking about his own health.

And even the part about President Trump, and the former president, the possibility that he runs again, for Biden to say that makes it more likely that he runs, that at least admits the possibility that he isn't running.

And I think it also gets to Biden's attempt to shore up the base, because, for a lot of Democrats who are skeptical about him and his health, frankly, at this moment, they also know that he is the one man who beat Donald Trump. And that may be the most important quality in a candidate in 2024 as well.

KARL: Yes, it was interesting. He has said that he plans to run before. He's invoked the idea that fate could intervene.

But that was a direct "Yes, but" answer.

So, Averi, I got to say, when you think about that, this decision, or the hands of fate, whatever it is, hangs over Democrats in a way that is pretty dramatic, because the world for Democrats looks much different going into 2024 if Biden is running than if he isn't.

AVERI HARPER, ABC NEWS DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.

I think the question really is, are Democrats preparing for that possibility? I think when you talk to Democratic operatives, it's clear that there isn't a consensus around Vice President Kamala Harris as the heir apparent to the nomination.

You have to remember, Biden campaigned on the notion of being a bridge to a new generation of Democratic leadership. Well, you know, so far as it relates to the presidency, that new generation has not yet emerged. And so, I think if you look at that caveat that he plopped into that question to that answer about 2024, I think within the party that the wheels should be turning in order to deepen the bench.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: And I guess, Terry, the question is, if he's not going to run, when is a good time to announce that? I mean, LBJ is the last president we had who announced he wasn't running for re-election. He kind of stuck it at the end of his speech on Vietnam.

When -- I mean, how do you make a decision like that? How do you suddenly come out -- when is a good time to declare that you are a lame duck?

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. That's the problem. As you point out, as late as possible for the president, as early as possible for the party and the other candidates.

I think Averi is exactly right. I think there's a pent-up demand in both parties and across the political spectrum, independents included, to begin the politics of tomorrow. We're going to get a re-run of 2020 if it's going to be Biden/Trump, a lot of stake obviously in that election, we may well get it. But I think the possibility of someone on either side being able to burst through on the simple claim that those politics are over, and that it is time to move forward.

I think one of the challenges that Biden has had as president is he seems to a lot of people to be an enervated executive. He -- it is partly his age. It's partly that he hasn't seized hold of a lot of the issues that people are most concerned about. He's obviously behind the eight ball on testing and COVID.

And I think people are eager for more energy in the executive and more youth as well. Look, we may not get it, but the first party that gets there has a huge advantage.

KARL: And, you know, for all the talk of a rematch of 2020, it's quite possible that neither man is on the ballot next time around.

Speaking of the former president, something struck me this week. Well, two things. One was when he was asked about being vaccinated, and he acknowledged that he had taken the booster and he got booed at an audience that was listening to him with Bill O'Reilly, and this exchange that I want to play for you for an interview he did with Candace Owens with "The Daily Wire." Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I came up with the vaccine -- with three vaccines. All are very, very good.

CANDACE OWENS, THE DAILY WIRE: And yet more people have died under COVID this year by the way, under Joe Biden --

TRUMP: Yeah, that’s right.

OWENS: -- than under you, and more people took the vaccine this year. So, people are questioning how --

TRUMP: Oh, no. The vaccine worked, but some people aren't taking it. The ones -- the ones who get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don't take their vaccine. People aren't dying when they take the vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: I mean, Terry, that was -- first of all, I don't know where that Trump has been. I mean, this anti-vax movement has really grown among largely -- not exclusively, but largely among his supporters, and that was a direct pushback to the misinformation that is been peddled frankly by -- largely by his supporters.

MORAN: It's the most important event in public health in this country in awhile that President Trump who has a loyal following of tens of millions of people is now telling them openly something he wasn't before.

Take the vaccine. He's going beyond that. He’s saying it's our vaccine. We can be proud. Our movement, the Trump movement should own this vaccine.

I think that is huge as is President Biden somewhat belated crediting of the work that was done in the Trump administration -- the remarkable work that was done in the Trump administration to get this vaccine production stood up and going.

I would say though that if you look closely at people who aren't getting the vaccines -- yes, there are a lot of people who do it for ideological reasons, but the bottom line is people of lower access to health care, lower education, lower income. It’s people that we have trouble reaching with public health in general.

The ideological resistance to vaccinations is making all of that worse, but this is a -- this is a challenge for public policy in a lot of areas and the fact that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are now on the same page is a huge deal.

KARL: It's a very good point. There's also an issue of access still in this country, an issue of access.

But, Averi, I kind of wonder, I mean, Trump has never been anti-vax. I mean, he said he took the vaccine. He's -- but he hasn't really spoken out or pushed back until this interview here.

And I think back to when he himself was vaccinated which happened when he was still president, but it was something he didn't tell the world about. In fact, they didn't -- nobody knew about it until about two months later.

I wonder how different that kind of anti-vax movement among his supporters would be if he had gone out and publicly done what a lot of other political figures have done and said, look, here's a picture of me or a video of me being vaccinated. Go out and get the vaccine.

AVERI HARPER, ABC NEWS DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. I mean, look. I think that the former president has looked for credit for Operation Warp Speed for getting those vaccines available to Americans as soon as they could be.

But the fact is that the former president has sort of almost lost control of the narrative in this respect. I think you're seeing here the limits of his influence on a factor and a subset of Americans that are typically aligned with him. So even when he comes out and he says he's been vaccinated, you're still going to get that pushback from portions of his base.

KARL: So, Rick, let's get back to the current president who had a -- what seemed to be a major setback this week to his domestic agenda. Obviously mostly in the person of Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin coming out and saying he's not in favor of Build Back Better.

I noticed that when Biden was asked about this, he said at one point that Manchin had acknowledged to the progressives on The Hill that he misled them, that Biden didn't mislead them, but that Manchin mislead them. But that -- what was he talking about?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't know, Jon, because no conversation like that took place according to Manchin's office for the progressives.

What I think is going on here, and I think the president illuded to this in the interview with David Muir, he's looking to find a way back into the negotiations. A week ago they fell apart spectacularly with Manchin going on Fox News saying that he was a hard no. The White House flamed him right back with a statement that suggested that he broke his word. Since then, we've seen President Biden try to dial that back -- dial back the harsh words. That's not him. That's also not Joe Manchin. And I think there's a -- the shared commitment to trying to get pieces of Build Back Better done in the new year.

Now, there's progressives who say we have to start at the same number that we had before. Anything less than that is unacceptable. I don't think they're recognizing the reality here. Manchin has made it as clear as possible he's not budging.

I think, though, what Biden is trying to do is to -- to lay the groundwork for productive negotiations that can restart in the new year. Everyone's temperature is going to be down just a little bit, and then they can start discussing that all over again. There's a lot of work that has to get done to get Manchin over the finish line. Clearly he didn't like the pressure campaign that was mounted by the White House and others. It's going to be on Biden to try to get things working again.

KARL: Averi, what's -- what's your sense -- what's our reporting on just how caught by surprise the White House was and, frankly, Manchin's colleagues on The Hill as well? They seemed to be stunned when he went on -- said that to Brett Baier on Fox News.

HARPER: Right. I think that this caught folks by surprise. If you talk to folks within the White House, they did not think that he was going to go onto Fox News and make a statement as scathing as he did.

But, look, it's no secret that Joe Manchin is often at odds with members of his own party. He has been a consistent spoiler of Democratic agenda items for the past year. And so, look, when you look at these statements that he made. The fact that he felt like he could not go back to West Virginia and argue in favor of the Build Back Better social spending plan, that is not an indicator of negotiations and a deal that's about to be struck. There's still a large gulf between Manchin and other members of his party, and if the Democrats hope to get the Build Back Better Act passed, there's a lot more work to do.

KARL: Yes, there was some reporting about what Manchin was saying about how the child tax credit would be used or was being used in West Virginia. What was that all about?

HARPER: Right. There were reported comments from Senator Manchin in which he privately expressed concerns about parents using the child tax credit payments to buy drugs or if family paid leave was initiated that folks might use it or exploit it in order to go deer hunting. Effectively, you know, resurrecting the myth of the welfare queen, that Reagan era trope used to argue against entitlements, implying that the poorest among us are inherently irresponsible and incapable of using government services for their intended purposes. And that is such a glaring statement that outraged folks who heard it, and illustrates just how out of step Senator Manchin is with this current Democratic Party.

KARL: And, as you know, Terry, he's from a state that Biden only got, what was it, 30 something percent in?

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so he's got that to deal with. He does represents one of the poorest states in the Union. He seems to represent the politicrats (ph) lot. But, look, Manchin is just part of the problem. This is a hugely ambitious bill to restructure health care, education, immigration, climate, all different kinds of things. The public in West Virginia and other places focus on inflation, pandemic, crime, the border --

KARL: All right, Terry. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Thank you for the Roundtable. We’ll see you next year.

Coming up, four months after the hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Martha Raddatz reunites with one former Afghan interpreter and his family as they make a new life here in the United States.

(Commercial Break)

KARL: "This Week" continues after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Last month, my colleague Martha Raddatz interviewed Abdul, an interpreter who was on the front lines with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

What would be your message to Abdul, his wife, and his three young daughters?

BIDEN: We want you to be able to get to the airport, contact us. We will see whatever we can do to get you there. We have got to get you out.

That's the commitment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: When the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban regained control, many Afghans who had helped American forces were in danger and forced to flee.

Our Martha Raddatz was in touch with an interpreter named Abdul as he tried to escape during those chaotic days at the Kabul Airport.

Earlier this week, Martha reunited with Abdul and his family at a military base in New Jersey to reflect on their daunting journey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ (voice-over): It was a moment many months and thousands of miles in the making, an emotional reunion with Abdul, Lima, and their three daughters, after their harrowing escape from Afghanistan.

When we first met the family last summer in Kabul, as the Taliban was sweeping through Afghanistan, Abdul, who had worked alongside American Marines as an interpreter, already feared Kabul would fall and he, like so many other interpreters, would be a target.

ABDUL: I know that I would be killed by the Taliban.

RADDATZ: His fears were well-founded.

ABDUL: It was 18 August that I was out of my home. Suddenly, I received a call from Lima, my wife. She told me the Taliban came to our house and was asking about Abdul.

RADDATZ (on camera): Tell me about that day, Lima.

LIMA, WIFE OF ABDUL: I didn't open the door. I told him, there is no man at home. And after a few minutes, they left. And they told me that: "We are coming back."

And, on that time, I was really scared.

ABDUL: I love her. She saved my life.

RADDATZ (voice-over): They knew they had no choice but to flee.

Abdul reached out to old friends in the military and anyone else who might help, and this successful engineer and his journalist wife left their home and belongings behind and made the perilous journey to the airport.

ABDUL: It was very difficult, because I told to Lima, I can put my life at risk, no problems, but I couldn't put the life of my wife and my children at risk, because many people's husbands killed in there and around the airport.

RADDATZ (on camera): What were you telling the girls?

LIMA: I was -- told them that: "Be patient. Everything will be fine."

With my hands, I put on her ears.

ABDUL: Yes, like this.

LIMA: Yes.

RADDATZ: So, she couldn't hear.

LIMA: That she shouldn't...

ABDUL: Couldn't hear.

LIMA: That she cannot hear the sound of firing.

RADDATZ (voice-over): They were the lucky ones. Cutting their way through the chaos, with help from ABC News, they made their way into the airport, spent the night on the tarmac, boarded a plane to Qatar, and then eventually onto the United States.

(on camera): Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

CHILD: Yes, we want...

CHILD: Yes.

RADDATZ: What do you want to be?

CHILD: Dentist.

RADDATZ: A dentist.

What do you want to be?

CHILD: Pilot.

RADDATZ: Pilot.

(voice-over): And for two months now, home has been this temporary camp at a military base in New Jersey. It's a far cry from the comfortable life they led in Afghanistan.

But they show nothing but gratitude, worrying only about the girls, that longing something the officials running the camp have grown used to dealing with.

(on camera): Colonel, what are the -- you are from Afghanistan, correct?

COL. SOLEIMAN RAHEL, U.S. AIR FORCE: Yes, ma'am.

RADDATZ: You know the culture. You know the challenges. What is the challenge that you are seeing right now?

RAHEL: Well, the biggest is when you leave your home, right? That's the hardest part, because they're a very traumatized population. They have left a lot of loved ones behind.

BRETT DREYER, DHS DEPUTY FEDERAL COORDINATOR: You know, the other night, we had a -- we hold town hall meetings to talk to the population.

And a man held up a cell phone with a picture of a person and said: "This is my cousin. And he was murdered two days ago by the Taliban."

It's things like that that happen all the time, and they really hit home and remind you of why these people are here and why we need to help them.

RADDATZ: It is still unclear when Abdul and the family will be able to leave this camp and start a new life in this new country. And for Abdul, a chance to find some way to find some way to fight for the one he lost.

I’m remembering the message you had that if the Taliban found you, you were willing to die, and you were proud of what you had done with the Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still I am proud. Still I am proud. And I will fight against the Taliban. Against their ideologies, against their insurgents. Until the end of my life. Because I am Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: Our best to Abdul and his family as they begin a new life here in the United States.

Thanks to Martha Raddatz for that. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: That is all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Christmas weekend with us.

And before we go, we want to pay special tribute to the team that works so hard behind the scenes each and every week to bring you THIS WEEK.

Have a happy, healthy, and safe new year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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