A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December 27, 2020 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still continuing to follow every lead that we have.
KARL: After a Christmas morning bomb rocked Nashville, leveling buildings downtown and disrupting cell phone networks across Tennessee:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no indication of additional explosive threats.
KARL: The latest on the investigation. As authorities search for answers, we're live in Nashville this morning.
And Christmas cliffhanger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've just been in a continual struggle.
KARL: Unemployment benefits expire overnight, as President Trump upends the deal his own team negotiated. Will he sign the COVID relief bill, or will he force a government shutdown?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I beg the president to know how many people in this country are scared, fearful, hungry.
KARL: This as COVID tightens its grip.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It's really quite troublesome. So we have got to just buckle down.
KARL: Holiday travel sparking fears.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Millions are already making their way back home.
KARL: We cover it all with Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Larry Hogan, and Dr. Jerome Adams from the White House Task Force, plus insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
He's not going quietly, but, 24 days from now, Donald Trump will no longer be president. His final days in office are shaping up to be the most volatile and unpredictable of a presidency defined by its volatility and unpredictability.
This morning, millions of Americans are waking up to a grim reality, as much-needed unemployment benefits lapsed overnight. The $900 billion COVID relief bill, including $600 in direct payments and much more, is in limbo awaiting Trump's signature, while many families are forced to choose between putting food on the table or paying rent.
All of this unfolding during the deadliest month yet of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will cover it all this morning.
But we begin with that breaking news out of Nashville, where an explosion ripped through downtown on Christmas morning. More than 250 FBI personnel are on the scene, law enforcement receiving nearly 500 tips so far, authorities focusing on specific properties as they search for answers.
ABC's Marcus Moore joins us now from Nashville.
MARCUS MOORE, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Jon, good morning.
There are so many unanswered questions surrounding this bizarre case. And federal agents were at several locations on Saturday, including a home in suburban Nashville. They were searching for clues there. And law enforcement sources tell ABC News that the home, one of them is connected to an Anthony Warner.
Authorities are working to determine whether he was connected to the R.V. that blew up or if he was in the R.V. at the time of the explosion.
Now, a Google Maps search of the home pulls up a picture of an R.V. that is similar to the one in Friday morning's blast. Another detail ABC News has learned through court records is that Warner signed the deed for his home over to a woman in California just last month now.
Now, how all of that is connected to this investigation is unclear. Of course, all of this started with a shots fired call early Friday morning. Police in the area came across the R.V., where they began hearing a recorded announcement coming from inside warning of an explosion.
Police began evacuating the area, and then that R.V. blew up. Three people suffered minor injuries. And officials later discovered human remains at the site.
And, now, one working theory that investigators are pursuing is whether this was an elaborate suicide. Now, several blocks of downtown are closed right now. Investigators have been searching for clues at the ground level, as well as on rooftops here in downtown Nashville. And law enforcement sources tell us that blast residue samples will be sent to a lab to see what chemicals may have been used in the explosive.
The van that blew up on Friday morning was parked outside an AT&T transmission building. And because authorities cannot rule out that it was the intended target, a bulletin has gone out to law enforcement agencies across the country, urging them to increase patrols at similar facilities.
So, Jon, there is a lot left to learn here in Nashville.
KARL: Marcus Moore, thank you.
For more, let's bring in Elizabeth Neumann, who, until she resigned in April, was the assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security.
Elizabeth, let me ask you.
We saw one of the theories that investigators are looking at here is the possibility that this was some kind of an elaborate suicide. But, if it was a suicide, doesn’t it also seem to be intended to send a message?
ELIZABETH NEUMANN, FORMER DHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Yes, and clearly this is not a mass casualty event. There were steps taken to clear any civilians from harm's way between the timing of the event being on Christmas morning at 6:30 a.m. to the seemingly one hour period of time where warnings were issued and the loud speaker telling people to evacuate.
They weren't trying to do a normal -- what we normally expect with a bombing like this. This was not a mass casualty event. So, the suicide theory is interesting, but why this location and why next to the AT&T building which is a well-known critical piece of infrastructure. And as we have seen in the consequences of it, it’s cut out a lot of communications for the last 48 hours.
So it does -- I’m interested in seeing what the investigation unfurls. There's I’m sure lots that we do not understand but clearly seems to be designed to send a message.
KARL: And it’s interesting, you point out it's right by the AT&T building. It knocked out cell phone communications for much of Tennessee. And you had those audible warnings telling people to back off, to get away because a bomb was about to go off.
What do you make of those two pieces of information?
NEUMANN: You know, it's -- it reminds me that we have been concerned about the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure in this country really since 9/11. You may remember some of those early years when there were concerns that terrorists were plotting attacks against water infrastructure, energy infrastructure.
And then in 2003 we had that massive black out in New York City and initially everybody thought it was a terrorist attack. And we haven't really been talking about infrastructure in this country in the context of individuals trying to conduct attacks of harm against it, but it -- it's just a stark reminder that it is extremely vulnerable and we're overdue for some pretty significant investments.
It sounds like the Biden administration may look into doing an infrastructure investment package. And if they do, I really hope that security and resilience is built into any future investments in infrastructure because we are just so vulnerable right now.
KARL: And there's little doubt that this could have been much worse, much deadlier if this had been at a crowded time this bomb went off, or if it weren't for those six police officers who went in there -- went right to the heart of the location into the line of danger and warned people to get out, to get away from that RV bomb.
Thank you very much, Elizabeth Neumann.
Now to the uncertainty facing millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. The president stunned law makers by attacking the bipartisan corona relief bill after it passed overwhelmingly, calling it a disgrace. And with the government poised to shut down at midnight tomorrow, our White House correspondent Rachel Scott has the latest.
Good morning, Rachel.
RACHEL SCOTT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jon, good morning. That coronavirus relief bill is in the president's hands but he still has not signed it. And the stakes are high. Up to 14 million Americans have already lost their unemployment benefits. And to make matters worse, the government will shut down tomorrow at midnight. The federal moratorium on evictions expires in just a few days.
President Trump spent the weekend doubling down on his demands for Congress to increase the amount of those stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. But this is the bill that his own team helped negotiate. His secretary of treasury indicated that those checks would be going out to Americans as soon as this week.
Democrats say the president was not involved in the negotiations, that he was absent. That he’s now coming in, in the 11th hour, making these demands. They already tried getting a measure passed that would increase the amount of those stimulus checks, but Republicans in the House objected. They wanted to keep the overall price tag of this bill down.
The bottom line here is that time is running out and relief for millions of Americans is now just hanging in limbo, Jon.
KARL: But Rachel, help me understand something. I heard the president call this bill a disgrace. He's attacked it on Twitter. But he hasn’t actually said that he will veto it. And I have also heard from some Republicans who, despite the president's attacks, say that they hope he still signs it. So what’s the White House saying? Is he going to veto this bill?
SCOTT: Yes. And, Jon, the White House has been absolutely silent on this. They will not say whether or not the president will sign this bill. But they previously indicated that he was behind it.
So the president now has a few options. He can sign this bill and get immediate relief to the American people or he could veto it. Now that would force lawmakers back to Washington to try and override the president.
But if he does nothing, over the course of the next several days, the bill will expire and it’s going to be up to the next Congress, the next administration to try and do this all over again and get relief to the American people.
But this bill took Congress six months to make. And we have heard from so many Americans who have said they don't even know how they're going to get through the next few weeks, Jon.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Rachel Scott, thank you very much.
Let's bring in Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
So, Senator Sanders, you've been pushing for these relief checks, these direct payments to Americans for a long time. And now the president is issuing a sort of veto threat. Not saying whether or not he will sign this bill.
What's next? What's going to happen? Are we -- is this bill going to be signed into law?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I'll tell you, Jonathan, what the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel.
Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits. They're going to be evicted from their apartments because the eviction moratorium is ending. We are looking at a way to get the vaccine distributed to tens of millions of people. There's money in that bill.
And this president is diddling around and he may actually veto it.
My view is that given the terrible economic crisis facing this country, yes, we do need to get $2,000 out to every working class individual in this country, 500 bucks for their kids. But you can't diddle around with the bill. Sign the bill, Mr. President, and then immediately, Monday, Tuesday, we can pass a $2,000 direct payment to the workings families of this country.
KARL: The president came up with this. This was out of the blue. I mean, the White House actually had said or suggested that he was going to sign it as soon as it hit his desk.
So I want to ask you, you had been proposing $2,000 payments. You actually wanted monthly payments, for months, since the spring. And then you finally got Republican Josh Hawley to join you in the effort for a larger payment.
During all of that time of lobbying for this, did you hear from the White House? Did they join you in --
SANDERS: Not a word.
KARL: -- pushing for this?
SANDERS: No, not a word.
No, everybody assumed, everybody, that Mnuchin was representing the White House. I talked to Mnuchin a couple of weeks ago. And that was the assumption that everybody had.
And suddenly, because we have an extraordinary narcissist, pathologically narcissistic in the White House, he said, well, yes, I know they're in tense negotiations, you pass the $908 billion bill, it has, you know, the extending unemployment, it has direct payments, it has this, that, and everything else, but you know what, I've now decided that I'm going to jump into the game and I want $2,000.
Well, I want $2,000. The American people want $2,000. They need it given the economic crisis.
So what we need to do is have the president sign that bill today, right now. Or else the suffering of this country will be immense and then we can immediately deal with the 2,000.
KARL: OK. So, we don’t know what the guy’s going to do. What happens if the president does not sign this bill? What would happen?
SANDERS: Oh my God (ph).
Jonathan, look, we are dealing with an unprecedented moment in American history. So many people are hurting. We’re looking at millions of people who maybe evicted from their homes. We’re looking at the highest level of hunger in the modern history of the United States.
In the midst of this terrible pandemic, the hospitals are now being overwhelmed. We got 90 million people who have no health insurance or they’re underinsured. They can’t get to a doctor on time. We want to get the vaccine out from hundreds of millions of people as quickly as possible. Money in this bill that does that.
So if he does not sign this bill -- and by the way, the government may shut down because this was a combination of a COVID bill plus an omnibus bill which keeps the government running. So you’re not going to have all the protections that working people need and then on top of that we may be looking at a government shutdown in the midst of the most difficult moment in modern American history.
It is insane. It is really insane and this president has got to finally get -- do the right thing for the American people and stop worrying about his ego.
KARL: This is a $900 billion bill. The administration actually before the election had proposed a $1.8 trillion bill and Democrats wouldn’t move on it. Was that a mistake in hindsight? Should have Democrats have taken them up on the offer of a $1.8 trillion relief bill?
SANDERS: All I can tell you, Jonathan, is that given the enormity of the problems that we are facing, $900 billion is simply not enough. We should have been talking about at least double that, maybe even more.
You’ll recall that the CARES package that passed in March was $2.2 trillion. It was $600 supplementary unemployment and on top of that it was $1,200 direct payment, significant help for states and localities who desperately need that help, money for hospitals, for schools, et cetera. That’s what we should be talking about.
Now, let us be clear, at this moment, working families are suffering more economic desperation than any time since the Great Depression. We should be responding to that need.
And let me say this, I think that President-elect Biden understands that reality. And if we can get through this Trump administration the next few weeks without doing terrible harm to the American people, I suspect one of the first items on the Biden agenda will be following up on what we’re doing here in providing that kind of assistance.
KARL: Seems like a safe bet. Let me ask you about the emerging Biden Cabinet. Is it progressive enough?
SANDERS: Well, what I have said many, many times is the progressive movement itself probably is 35 or 40 percent of the Democratic coalition. And I believe that the progressive movement deserves seats in the cabinet. That has not yet happened.
So, you know, I would like to see strong progressives in the administration who are going to stand up for the working families of this country, who believe that healthcare is a human right, who believe we’ve got to make sure that public colleges and universities are tuition free and that we have to be aggressive on issues like climate change, racial justice, immigration reform.
KARL: You know, we've heard on attorney general’s last big nomination, the major, major nomination to be made, and we’ve heard a few names. We’ve heard Sally Yates, Senator Doug Jones, Merrick Garland. Some reporting suggesting Merrick Garland is the front-runner there. Would Merrick Garland be a progressive enough choice from your perspective as attorney general?
SANDERS: I don't know Mr. Garland very well. But I think we could probably have a stronger progressive than him. But I’m not going to comment on Biden’s particular appointees -- appointments.
KARL: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you very much for joining us.
SANDERS: Thank you very much. Happy New Year.
KARL: Happy New Year to you.
Coming up, a popular Republican governor has harsh words about Donald Trump's efforts to overturn an election he lost.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Do you think that the climate will be different after President Trump than it was before then?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we'll see. I don't know. I mean, I'm not a fortune-teller. But I can tell you that the calls I've gotten from sitting Republicans in powerful positions, they know me, they know I level with them, they know I never mislead, they know I tell them the truth, and they know I don't go out of my way to try to embarrass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Joe Biden makes another pitch to Republicans. Let's talk about it now with Maryland's governor, Republican Governor Larry Hogan.
Governor, you've heard -- you heard Joe Biden. He talked in his campaign about reaching out to Republicans. What's your sense? Is he doing it?
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: Well, so far I think he is doing it. You know, I liked what he had to say at the end of the campaign where he said it didn't matter if you voted for him or not, he wanted to be a president for all Americans, and that he was going to reach out in a bipartisan way.
I can tell you that we've had a couple of conversations already. He did reach out to the governors on both sides of the aisle. He seems to be listening to us and our concerns about the things that are important in our state as we go through this, you know, critical fight against the virus and the economic troubles we're going through.
So I'm hoping he's going to follow through on that. I know your previous guest probably would like him to move more -- more to the left, but I've been pushing to try to keep him, you know, in a more moderate place where he's willing to reach across the aisle and work together with Republicans.
KARL: It was interesting hearing Senator Sanders suggest there isn't a progressive yet among his nominees for his Cabinet.
Let me -- let me ask you, though, we have 24 days left of Donald Trump. And we've seen these pardons for his political allies, the veto of the defense bill, of course, refusing to sign, apparently, this COVID relief bill.
Are you concerned about the damage Donald Trump could do in his final weeks in office?
HOGAN: Well, obviously these -- I just gave up guessing what he might do next. But it has been troubling, particularly the -- look, vetoing the defense authorization bill, this is something that has overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats and has been, you know, signed into law by the president 60 years in a row.
But the -- the one that really bothers me is the fact that for eight months we've been trying to get a stimulus package through. And here we are, you know, after all this work went on, and the -- you know, both parties were so far apart in the House and the Senate, the Problem Solvers Caucus, some really bipartisan folks on both sides of the aisle, brought everybody to the table. They reached an agreement.
Secretary Mnuchin worked together with them and made commitments on behalf of the administration. And then not eight months before or even eight days before, but after it was passed, then the president raises these objections.
Look, millions of people are going to suffer. The Paycheck Protection Plan ran out in July. Unemployment benefits are about to run out tomorrow. And we've got to get this done.
KARL: So why aren't more Republicans standing up to him?
HOGAN: Well, I think more and more are and will.
And I can tell you, there's an awful lot of concern right now. I mean, Republicans were put in this position. A lot of them came to support this bill, even though they didn't like everything that was in it, even though perhaps it didn't have all the things we needed in it.
Like, we've been pushing for help for state and local governments since April, when we had a commitment from the president. It's not in the bill.
Now the -- you know, the Republicans did have a bill for $1.8 billion, as you were talking about, and Pelosi turned it down. She was holding out for 3-point-something, $3.4 trillion. So now here we are with 900. It's not enough. It doesn't solve all the problems. But it's something.
And if the president wants to come up with more money to help more people, terrific. Let's sign this bill now, so we can start getting our unemployment benefits out right away, and then quickly pass another bill.
KARL: He is also still focused on challenging the election results, planning a last-ditch effort on January 6, when the Electoral College votes are formally brought into the -- into Congress.
What is it going to take for Republicans? We see, like, in some polls upwards of 70 percent of Republican voters who think there was widespread fraud, despite the lack of evidence.
What's it going to take to convince people that Joe Biden -- people in your party that Joe Biden is the elected, properly elected president-elect of the United States?
HOGAN: Well, Joe Biden is the properly elected president of the United States, whether people like that result or not. And he is the president-elect. He will be sworn in on January 20.
And, on January 6, which is coming up pretty soon, he will be certified by the Congress. So, look, there is a lot of disinformation out there. Everybody wants every single legal vote to be counted. We want the election to be fair and proper.
But, like you say, we haven't seen any evidence of widespread fraud. And people feel like there is, but they haven't proven it in a court of law.
KARL: And last question. What kind of influence does Trump have after he leaves the White House? Is he still the kingmaker of the Republican Party? Does he control this party?
HOGAN: Well, he certainly has an oversized voice in the party. It's going to be a lot different after January 20, when he's not in the position to exert such influence as he does now.
But there's no question he's not going away, and there's going to be a big chunk of the Republican Party that's going to still follow his Twitter page and listen to what he has to say.
There's an awful lot of people that want to be the next Donald Trump. But I'm going to be fighting to try to return our party to its roots, and to become a bigger tent party to reach out, a more Reaganesque party, more positive, hopeful vision for the future.
KARL: All right, Governor Hogan, thank you very much for joining us, and happy New Year.
Up next: concerns about a post-holiday coronavirus surge, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For weeks now, Mikhail Gorbachev has been a president without a country. Soon, he'll be a man without a job. He's begun to deliver his resignation speech from the Kremlin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Surgeon General Jerome Adams is ready to go.
We'll be right back.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I would think that you would need somewhere between 70, 75, maybe 80 percent of the population vaccinated. If we get that, we would develop an umbrella of immunity that would be able to protect even the venerable who have not been vaccinated or those in which the vaccine has not been effective. You can get that kind of immunity with that percentage of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Dr. Fauci there on how much of the American population needs immunity to the coronavirus for life to return to normal.
For more let's bring in Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.
And, Dr. Adams, I wanted to ask you, you, among other public health officials, have been urging people to stay home for the holidays, to forego large family gatherings. But we've seen a lot of people traveling. The TSA says that 7 million people were screened in the week leading up to Christmas.
Are you concerned that we're going to see yet another post-holiday surge?
DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, we're very concerned. And we always see a little bit of a bump after holidays and sometimes a large bump. But what the important thing for people to understand is that even if you travelled, it doesn't mean you just throw your hands up in the air and say, oh well. There are measures that you can take. And the CDC, I'd like to remind people, recommends that three to five days after travel or after you've been around people without a mask on, you go out and get tested. And getting that test now means that if you were exposed to asymptomatic spread from someone else, we can find out and we can limit your ability to spread to others. And you should definitely stay away from vulnerable people, your grandmother, your aunt, over the next 14 days or so if you travelled so you don't give them coronavirus from your holiday gathering.
KARL: The CDC is now requiring a negative test for any travels coming from the U.K., but officials had been downplaying the threat of these -- of these new strains that we are seeing, these variations in the U.K. I think you had said earlier this week that a mutation doesn't mean the virus is more dangerous or more deadly. And Dr. Fauci said that these -- these -- these variations may already be here in the United States. So why -- why this new step? Why this new restriction?
ADAMS: Well, important for people to know that we're layering protection on top of protection on top of protection. No individual protection is going to be 100 percent. A lot of Americans don't know that back in March, through the presidential 212-F authority, we restricted the ability for people to come to the United States from the U.K. and travel is down 90 percent even pre-knowledge about this new variant from the U.K. So we've already had severe travel restrictions from the U.K.
Testing within 72 hours isn't 100 percent. It's not perfect, but it does further decreases the number of people who will come in. And then what we recommend to people, according to the CDC, is that once you get here, you still isolate for seven days if you've had a negative test or for -- for even longer than that if you don't get a test on this end (ph), 10 to 14 days. So those things layered together will significantly decrease our chance of exposure to a new variant.
But here's what the American people most need to know, mitigation works. The science shows that it works. So if you're worried about a new, potentially more contagious variant, it is that much more important that we follow the four W's, wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, and the fourth one is, wait on gatherings, especially with one last holiday coming up, New Year's. We need to be very careful.
KARL: You've said that you understand the skepticism from many African-Americans about the vaccine, obviously given the history of medical racism in this country. And, you, of course, got vaccinated on camera to send a message.
What else needs to be done to convince people, including some of those most vulnerable, that this vaccine is not only safe but it's effective and it's necessary?
ADAMS: Well, we need to continue to acknowledge what's happened in the past. And I've talked about Tuskegee. I've talked about Henrietta Lacks. But there are real issues going on today, right now in this country, when you look at 700 women dying of pregnancy-related complications, most of them black and brown in the United States. When you look at not just COVID, but hypertension and cancer disparities. We need to acknowledge these things and we need to show people meaningfully, in a real sense what we're doing to improve on these measures. And that's why as surgeon general, even before COVID, health equity was a critical part of everything that I did.
And then we need to engage with trusted influencers. We need to make sure our pastors, and imans and rabbis, all of whom I'm working with, have the facts so that they can spread it to -- to their congregants.
And we need to walk the talk. And that's why I got vaccinated on live TV. I want people to know that as a scientist, as a doctor, I've looked at the data. I know the protections that are in place. I know an African-American female helped develop this vaccine and Tony Fauci and I made sure that the trials were -- were enrolled with diverse participants.
ADAMS: And I got vaccinated because I trust it and that's how we end this pandemic.
KARL: So before you go, I want to ask you about -- you know, you had these warnings urging people, small gatherings, you know, forego the traditional holiday, you know, large gatherings.
And then we saw Vice President Pence on Tuesday go to Florida. I've got a picture here of this rally he -- he addressed, packed, people -- no social distancing, not a lot of masks.
I mean, what -- what -- doesn't this hurt your -- your effort to model good behavior and to urge people to act responsibly?
I mean, why -- why is the vice president doing something like this?
ADAMS: Well, I can only speak for me, and what I consistently say is we need to understand how this virus spreads. It spreads person to person when we're close together and especially if we're not wearing masks.
So we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves from this virus. Because we've got vaccines. Hope is here. It's not on the way; it's here. And we're quickly getting people vaccinated.
So everyone out there, get the facts about vaccines from a trusted resource so that you can get the vaccine when your time comes. Because that's how we end this pandemic.
But we need to remain vigilant now, in all quarters. Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, wait on those gatherings so we can as many people as possible across the finish line.
That's how we beat this virus. And I feel confident that we have the tools. We just need to have the will to actually utilize those tools effectively so that everyone gets across the finish line.
KARL: Dr. Adams, thank you very much for joining us. And happy New Year.
The round table's up next. We're right back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: George W. Bush of the state of Texas has received for president of the United States 271 votes. Al Gore of the state of Tennessee has received 266 votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Barack Obama of the state of Illinois has received for president of the United States 365 votes. John McCain of the state of Arizona has received 173 votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Donald Trump of New York has received for president of the United States 304 votes. Hillary Clinton of the state of New York has received 227 votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: The three most recent vice presidents presiding over joint sessions of Congress to formally count the votes of the electoral college.
Let's talk about it with our roundtable, Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey; Heidi Heitkamp, former senator from North Dakota; Republican pollster Frank Luntz; and Leah Wright Rigueur, professor of history at Brandeis University.
So, Governor Christie, my question to you is, obviously the next vice president in line to count those votes is Mike Pence on January 6th. Does Donald Trump understand that that is a purely ceremonial job and that Pence has no choice but to announce that Donald Trump lost?
CHRISTIE: It doesn't sound like it, Jon, from some of the tweets and other comments the president has made. But I'm hopeful that the vice president understands that and will execute his constitutional duties on January 6th and announce the votes as they've been cast by the electors based upon the votes that were cast by the American people in each one of the 50 states.
And so I'm confident that will happen and, while there may be some -- some histrionics that go along with it, in the end I'm confident that the Congress will confirm what the American people did on Election Day, which was to elect Joe Biden the next president of the United States.
KARL: Senator Heitkamp, you're from a state that has a lot of -- a lot of people, a lot of Republicans who believe that this -- that these allegations that the president has put out there are true. How do you -- how do you get out there and convince people who believe some of these unfounded theories of widespread election fraud? What do you do to get those people back on board?
HEIDI HEITKAMP, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think that you aren't going to convince people at this point that the president is wrong.
You just have to get through this process, move on, and begin to govern again. And I think that's where the proof is going to be in the pudding.
I mean, it's absolutely mind-boggling the number of people who will believe this president, regardless of what he says. And, as Chris said, there is no hope for this president. And the rank amateur hour of him suggesting that Mike Pence could actually change the outcome just tells us that this is a president who has never understood the Constitution.
We just have to get through this and then build back these relationships.
KARL: What do you think -- you think this does, Frank, lasting damage to the Pence/Trump relationship? I mean, Pence has never uttered a word critical of this president, but now he will be the public face announcing the finality of these results.
LUNTZ,: Well, it's going to impact him.
Fifty-three percent of Trump voters, half, think that Donald Trump still won this election, after all the evidence to the contrary. And those people are going to be mad as heck on January 6 when Pence makes that statement.
And so the challenge for the vice president is that he clearly would like to seek the office in four years. Trump is clearly going to be agitated with him. And I think that this is the beginning of a very painful period for the Republicans in Washington and across the country.
KARL: Leah, what's your sense of how Biden has dealt with this? I mean, he's been very measured. He -- he's kind of let Trump act out, in a way. He's obviously spoken his piece on this.
But you do hear from a lot of Democrats wishing that there was a little bit more of an angry pushback from Joe Biden. Is he going to be able to -- how's he going to be able to work with these Republicans who, at this point, even now are unwilling to recognize that he's -- that he's won?
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think that the attitude of the Biden/Harris camp has largely been measured, we want to work with these people, we want to reach across the aisle.
And I think that's -- that may be a little bit of a mistake, particularly given that, in this moment and on this issue in particular, that these are people who are saying, we don't want to accept the outcome of the election.
We have been hearing rumblings of people saying, there's going to be some kind of spectacle, perhaps, when -- on January 6. Even though it may not mean anything, it may be enough that -- the symbolic aspect.
And I think, in that moment, it's enough for Biden to push back, and to push back hard, and even perhaps show a measure of anger on behalf not just of all Americans, but particularly of the American people who elected him into office.
So, now is the time to show some of that. You can still be measured. You can still talk about how you're going to work across the aisle as part of your administration, but enough is enough at a certain point.
The president has been -- has been throwing a tantrum now for months since the election. And now's the time to say it's time to let it go and it's time to move on.
KARL: So, Governor Christie, I have got to ask you about the pardons.
One of the big pardons that the president has issued so far, Charles Kushner, of course, the father of Jared Kushner, who you prosecuted and said that he -- "was one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes I prosecuted."
And then we see what the White House has put out in explaining the pardon, saying that his work on charity and record of reform overshadows the convictions that you brought.
So, what's your sense of this pardon in particular?
CHRISTIE: Well, Jon, what it doesn't overshadow is the extraordinary work that my office did 16 years ago, with assistant U.S. attorneys Ralph Marra and Scott Resnik, who were professional prosecutors who brought that case.
And let's remember that the case was not tried. Mr. Kushner pled guilty.
So, we will stand on the record of our of our prosecution at that time and of the conduct that was engaged in the case. And that's the only thing that really matters to me. The responsibility I had at the time was to prosecute federal crimes that occurred in New Jersey without fear or favor.
And I think everybody, after watching the events of the last 16 years, right up through the pardon, can say that I prosecuted without fear or favor.
LUNTZ: And, Jon, Jon and Governor, I think this is the first time ever that the children of Jared and Ivanka, that their children, one grandpa was pardoned by the other grandpa.
Never happened before in American history.
KARL: And it may never happen again.
KARL: Senator, Senator Heitkamp, the -- you also had former members of Congress pardoned from corruption charges, all -- actually, two of them were the first two members of Congress who endorsed Donald Trump's campaign back in 2016, Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins.
What kind of message does this send, full unconditional pardon to members of Congress convicted of corruption?
HEITKAMP: In all of the hateful, horrible things that this administration has ever done, this will be the capstone in my opinion. When you look at the incredible chance that we had to send a message about public corruption and the president just completely undoes that for political reasons.
We have got to look at pardon reform. We got to look at within the bounds of the Constitution how we can restrict this again. This is another one of those examples of the movement towards autocracy of this president that needs institutional reform.
KARL: Leigh, obviously, this is happening in the backdrop of the Senate races down in Georgia. The president really undermining those two Republican senators facing this election in just over a week now, who voted for the coronavirus -- the COVID relief bill, took credit for -- I mean, there's an ad up, one of the senators actually had an ad up boasting about voting for this bill and the president comes out hours later and calls it a disgrace.
What's going to be the impact in Georgia?
WRIGHT: Well, I think one of the things Donald Trump has made clear is that on his way out the door, he's smashing everything in his way. Part of the thing in his way is the current Republican Party.
And so, because the currency that Donald Trump deals in is loyalty, part of what we're seeing here and part of what’s going on here is that he's punishing those people he feels haven't been loyal enough to him. And so, he's punishing the people in Georgia. He's punishing those who are running for Senate.
But I think one of the things that we’ll see is that it's been enormous in terms of fund-raising for Democratic opponents of these Republican congressmen. It’s had devastating effects in terms of financial fundraising. But also, in terms of -- you know, this bill actually not getting out -- this coronavirus, COVID relief bill not getting out, we're seeing it's had an added number in turnout.
We’re going to see record numbers in terms of turnout already, particularly amongst black people, amongst white suburban people, among Asian-Americans, who are really angry about the way that the federal government has really bungled this entire mess. And so, I really want to cast votes that essentially cast out the people in office they're holding responsible. And Trump is just, you know, putting another nail in the coffin by helping out with that.
LUNTZ: And I want to add, Jon, if I can add polling data to that. One of those races, the Democrat has now gone ahead, in the Ossoff-Perdue race. In the race, Kelly Loeffler race, she is dead-even with the reverend.
So, the numbers have been getting worse over the last seven to 10 days for the Republicans. They had a four-point generic ballot advantage. That is gone, because the president -- it's amazing. We're right now talking about politics when there are still record numbers of people dying.
We did a study for the de Beaumont Foundation just in the last 48 hours. The number one group that is adverse to taking this vaccine, that you talked about in your show earlier this morning, are young Republicans. Instead of tweeting out this ridiculous stuff about the legislation or how he claims he won the election, the president should be telling at least his own people, if not every American, take the vaccine, get the vaccine, be careful. Don't be travelling. Don't be going out.
This president is responsible for the sickness and for the potential casualties because he's not doing enough. Stop with the politics. Focus on the pandemic. Spend the last four days going out on a positive note and stop embarrassing yourself and the rest of the country.
KARL: So, Governor Christie, I don’t --
KARL: Go ahead, Senator.
HEITKAMP: I would -- I would just going to add, the complicating factor for Georgia if he vetoes this bill, those two senators have to go back to Washington and go on the record against what probably will be a lot of motions to add the extra $1,400 per person in this bill, and it puts them in a very, very tough spot.
And I think the president intended that. I think this is retribution from his ego being hurt by the fact that all these people did not rush to his defense.
KARL: Yeah. Governor, how much of this is an effort to really torment Mitch McConnell?
CHRISTIE: I think, George, what’s going to happen is the voters of Georgia can distinguish between the actions of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and the actions of the president in this regard. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have done everything that they can do in terms of advancing COVID relief for the people of Georgia and the people of the United States. They fought for it in the Congress and they voted for it, and they placed it now on the president's desk.
The people of Georgia and the people of the United States. They fought for it in the Congress and they voted for it and they've placed it now on the president's desk. And they -- the people of Georgia know that no matter what happens on January 5th that Donald Trump will not be the president on January 20th. And the question is, who do you want representing Georgia at that period of time? Someone who will be objective and be a check on the Biden administration, or someone who will just be a rubber stamp for the Biden administration, which is what Ossoff and Warnock will be.
And so I think the voters of Georgia will be able to distinguish between those two things. And I still believe very strongly that Loeffler and Perdue will both be elected on January 5th.
Governor -- Governor, this is affecting turnout. We know it's affecting turnout already. We can see on the ground. If you go down there, if you focus group, if you listen to these voters, they're so frustrated with what's happening in Washington that they are not participating. This president's having exactly the impact he wanted to have.
CHRISTIE: I just -- so, Frank -- Frank, I'm -- all right, Frank, I'm looking at the real numbers. I'm looking at -- I'm looking at polls. I'm looking at the real numbers.
JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: All right, we're -- we're -- we're -- we're -- we're going to have to finish this conversation another time. We are out of time.
Governor Christie, Senator Heitkamp, Frank, Leah, thank you very much for being here.
That is all of us today. But before we go, our annual tribute to the team that worked so hard behind the scenes to bring you THIS WEEK every week. Have a happy and healthy New Year.