'This Week' Transcript 6-13-21: Secretary Antony Blinken & Rep. Michael McCaul
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, June 13.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 13, 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.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news: President Biden wrapping the G7, the return to in-person diplomacy, marked by elbow bumps, smiles and humor.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II, UNITED KINGDOM: Are you supposed to be looking as if you're enjoying yourself?
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
RADDATZ: Starting with a stark contrast to a summit with Putin, now just days away.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what's your message to Putin?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you after I deliver it.
RADDATZ: The latest this morning with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Representative Michael McCaul.
Outrage and a new investigation.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is unacceptable.
RADDATZ: The stunning allegations about President Trump's Justice Department secretly targeting at least two House Democrats, raising new questions about abuse of power, weaponizing, the DOJ. Our powerhouse roundtable analyzes the fallout.
Plus: examining the origins of COVID and where America stands in the fight against the pandemic, as the virus rages across the globe.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
Joe Biden taking his first major turn on the world stage as president, attending the final day of the G7 summit in Cornwall, holding a press conference this morning ahead of the next leg of his trip, including what promises to be a more challenging face-to-face with Russia's President Putin, that high-stakes summit coming at a critical time, on the heels of cyberattacks targeting our food and fuel, a lot to prove to our allies, adversaries and Americans here at home.
According to our new ABC News/Ipsos poll, more than 40 percent think America's leadership in the world has gotten stronger under Biden, and more than half trust Biden to negotiate with world leaders on America's behalf, though that drops slightly when it comes to President Putin.
So, what does success look like at this next summit, and what meaningful progress can be achieved?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is standing by.
But we begin our coverage this morning with ABC News senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell.
Ian, let's start with the G7 summit, the president delivering the message America is back and trying to rally allies to confront real major global issues.
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
Good morning, Martha.
This has been the diplomatic equivalent of getting the band back together, if you like. Even the sun came out to bathe the G7 leaders in this warm glow of camaraderie and unity.
I think many is going to be left wondering how substantial the meat in this particular sandwich has actually been, but first to the optics. And, here, the president was always onto a winner, only by virtue of not being Donald Trump. The irascibility and truculence of his predecessor was gone.
President Macron of France, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said they wouldn't be disagreeing with the president on anything, and on the substance, major promises on COVID vaccines, combating future pandemics, climate change, investment, taxation of wealthy corporations, although it's unclear what, in the real world, this is all going to add up to, agreement again on the need to stand up to China and Russia, but less clear what this looks like, with some major differences clearly emerging from some nations who are less willing to confront China -- Martha.
RADDATZ: And, Ian, of course, the president's trip continues, and all eyes are on Wednesday's high-stakes summit with Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
PANNELL: Yes, that's right.
So, we have had Biden's closing presser, then he and the first lady meeting the queen again at Windsor, then to Brussels to reaffirm that, as you say, America is back and a leading member of NATO, but all eyes on Geneva, as you say, and the meeting with Vladimir Putin.
The Russians are saying relations are at a low ebb, which is probably an understatement. And although we will hear a lot about tough talk and confronting Putin, what we need to keep a clear eye on is what that actually means, once again, promises, pledges, but how are you actually going to confront malign behavior?
And it's worth mentioning that team Biden choosing not to hold a joint press conference with the Russian leader, not least because he's got a great record of outwitting American presidents, but also because perhaps, perhaps there's going to be a lot more heat than light when the two meet.
RADDATZ: Ian Pannell, thanks very much.
Let's take all of this to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He is accompanying the president overseas.
Good morning, Secretary Blinken. Great to see you.
As Ian just mentioned, there was reportedly some tension over China in the G7 meetings, with the president urging leaders to offer billions of dollars in loans to developing nations to counter China's global infrastructure initiatives. What was the pushback there?
BLINKEN: Martha, in fact, what we have is largely agreement on the need to offer a much more attractive alternative to the model that China is proposing for the world, and the communiqué coming out of the summit’s going to reflect that.
You know back -- the last time these leaders got together, in 2018, China was not even mentioned, but here we have a commitment to work together on something called Build Back Better for the World to work on pulling investments, pulling funds, bringing the private sector in to make investments in health and infrastructure, in technology for low and middle income countries in a way that will produce new markets for our own products and also offer a much more attractive alternative to what China is trying to do in these countries.
But across the board, I’ve got to say what I saw in the last couple of days -- I have been at a number of these G7s over the years, almost 25 years. This is maybe the most consequential one I’ve ever taken part in. This is one that’s actually demonstrated that democracies coming together can deliver in concrete ways for their people and for people around the world.
A million vaccine doses for countries around the world. A commitment to put in place a better system to prevent the next pandemic or to mitigate it. This commitment on Building Back Better for the rest of the World, an agreement on getting a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent around the world so we can avoid a race to the bottom and companies can have a stronger tax base and resources to really help their people on health, on education, on infrastructure. A commitment to deal with coal-fired plants, to stop their financing. This is the largest contributor to global emissions.
The G7 is coming together to do something about it. So across the board, whether it's China or anything else, we're demonstrating that democracies can actually deliver, and President Biden, I think, has done a very effective job in bringing all of our countries together in common cause.
RADDATZ: We are just days away from the summit with Putin which comes after a string of serious cyberattacks in our country, the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny that forced landing of a commercial airliner to arrest an opposition journalist in Belarus. Was there any thought of canceling this upcoming summit?
BLINKEN: Martha, on the contrary. The president is not seeing President Putin in spite of all of these things, it's precisely because of them, to be able to talk to him directly, clearly about these profound differences, and also to see if we can have a more predictable, stable relationship, but equally to make clear that if Russia chooses to continue to act aggressively, to act recklessly, we'll respond forcefully, as the president’s already done, including a response to election interference, to the attack on Mr. Navalny, to the SolarWinds cyber attack.
RADDATZ: You know we’ve already sanctioned Russia for the SolarWinds hack last year. But Microsoft says it was the exact same group that was behind the cyber attack on government agencies this year. In 2014, President Obama authorized tough sanctions after Russia moved into Crimea. They're still there. Can you give us an example of when sanctions have changed Vladimir Putin’s behavior?
BLINKEN: Well, there are a few things. One is you never know the dogs that don't bark. Sanctions on Ukraine for -- on Russia for Ukraine, for example, may well have prevented even further Russian aggression and trying to take more of the country over the years. We we've worked to sustain those sanctions and we're making sure that we're showing our commitment to Ukraine’s territory on integrity and sovereignty, its independence.
But here's what's also different, Martha, we’ll be coming -- the president will be coming to this meeting with President Putin coming --
RADDATZ: But do you think -- but do you --
RADDATZ: But I want to stop you there.
BLINKEN: -- the NATO summit --
RADDATZ: -- do you think --
BLINKEN: -- the meeting with EU --
RADDATZ: -- work?
BLINKEN: I think that sanctions are -- can be, especially when they're done in coordination with other countries, and this is what's critical. When we do them alone, they tend to be less effective than when we do them in close collaboration with other countries.
We're now coming off of G7, we’ll be coming off of NATO, we’ll be coming of an EU meeting. Collectively, when our countries are actually working together, rolling in the same direction militarily, economically, diplomatically, politically, it's an incredibly powerful force.
We represent together more than 57 percent of the world's GDP, and one of the things you may have noticed this week is there was a poll done across most of the countries that we'll be working with this week, 75 percent now have confidence in President Biden and in American leadership. That's up from 17 percent a year ago. That means we're in a much stronger position than we’ve been in recent years to have all of our countries working together in common cause including dealing with the excesses of Russia.
RADDATZ: Before the G7 meeting, some European leaders had expressed some concern about the America is back message after years of Donald Trump's “America first”.
Did you sense any of that mistrust, and his hold on the Republican Party, worries from them that he could be back or someone just like him?
BLINKEN: I think, Martha, that if we can continue to actually demonstrate in concrete ways that democracies working together are making a difference for their people and for people around the world, that's going to be something that sustains itself.
There's going to be support for that. We have to -- we have to prove the point, and I think we made a very, very strong start this week, just start with the G7 alone -- again, on a billion shots in arms.
By the way, not twisting arms, as some other countries are trying to do when they’re getting vaccines around the world, but actually getting shots in arms. No political favors involved.
On the environment, on investments in economies, on equitable tax treatment --
RADDATZ: I think I’ve let you cover that.
BLINKEN: All of this is --
RADDATZ: I want to turn back to the cyberattacks, and those ransomware attacks --
BLINKEN: Go ahead. Please, Martha.
RADDATZ: -- like the Colonial Pipeline attack.
BLINKEN: Uh-huh. Sure.
RADDATZ: I know you say the Russian government isn't to blame for that, that it was Russian bad actors. But you do think Russia should take some sort of action. What do you expect them to do?
BLINKEN: Well, I’m going to leave that for the president with President Putin in the next few days.
But here’s what I can tell you: no responsible country should be in the business of harboring in any way criminal organizations engaged in cyberattacks, including ransomware. And the president is going to make that very clear to President Putin. We are looking for Russian cooperation in dealing with these criminal organizations to the extent they’re operating from Russian territory.
RADDATZ: The White House has said that President Biden will not hold a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin. Why not?
BLINKEN: Martha, I think if best way for the president to share with the free press and take as many questions as possible about -- about the meeting, about the conversation with President Putin as well as to wrap up an entire week's worth of travel with the G7, with NATO, with the EU, is to be able to talk to that free press and to spend as much time as we can answering their questions.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for that last answer. Appreciate you seeing -- joining us this morning. And good luck this week.
BLINKEN: Thanks, Martha. Good to be with you. Thank you.
RADDATZ: And joining me now in Washington is Congressman Michael McCaul, Republican leader of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Great to see you this morning.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: I was really struck by that contrast coming out of the G7. You just heard Tony Blinken talking about the contrast between President Biden, former President Trump's visits with European leaders. The images alone are pretty striking, and so was the substance. We've seen new agreements on everything from vaccine-sharing to global minimum tax rates.
Boris Johnson called talks with Biden a breath of fresh air.
Does this change concern you or do you welcome it?
MCCAUL: You know, look, I think it's important we work with our NATO allies. We work with the G7.
I think in the past and I think Trump -- you know, the frustration was there's a lot of talk and no action. And so, that's why he espoused America first. We want to espouse our ideals over our European partners.
Now, I think it's better that we work together. I do think it’s smart to meet with our NATO allies and G7 prior to the Putin summit which is going to be the most powerful and most dangerous meeting on this trip.
RADDATZ: And some in your party say that President Biden shouldn't meet with Vladimir Putin because of these enormous cyberattacks and what's happening in Russia. You've said it looks like a reward.
MCCAUL: Well, I think --
RADDATZ: Tony Blinken said, you know, this is something we want to do.
MCCAUL: I think the price for admission, to a ticket for this seat, was way too high. I mean, he -- for instance, Nord Stream II pipeline.
The president waved in the natural interest Nord Stream II which will be Putin’s pipeline going into Europe so that Europe -- European -- you know, our partners will be dependent on Russian energy.
I don't think that's in the United States' national interest. And, quite frankly, it’s not in Europe's best interest either. And this really empowered Putin when this happened. And I think we're giving him a lot of stuff.
RADDATZ: I want to just stop you there for a second. The Germans, one of our key allies, support the project and say that not seeing it through would have larger ramifications with Russia than canceling it.
MCCAUL: Right. And, Germany is the only sympathetic country in Europe that wants this. Their former chancellor is a lobbyist for the Russian, you know, Federation which calls into question a lot of this.
I think it’s -- I think it's a bad move. I don't think it's in our national interest to do so. And I think we’re not -- you know, you want to go into these talks at positions of strength, not of weakness. And I think he’s going in a little bit out of weakness because he’s made all these concessions including Navalny, which Congress mandatorily called for those sanctions on Nord Stream, but also on Navalny. And President Biden has not enforced those secondary sanctions on the -- the chemical poisoning of the opposition leader of Putin.
RADDATZ: And -- and what really should he do? I -- I -- I put this to Tony Blinken as well. Sanctions have not changed Vladimir Putin's behavior much.
MCCAUL: Well, the threat of sanctions on Nord Stream did shut it down. That's a good point to make. I agree with you. And when it comes to cyber-attacks. I mean here -- here we go. We -- we let him go forward with the pipeline, Martha, and then the Russians hacked Colonial Pipeline, or an organized criminal element, which I think it's all interconnected, personally. I think Putin has tacit approval on this. But we had SolarWinds, which was state -- it was state sanctioned. And now we have what's -- what's happened with Colonial Pipeline, yet no repercussions. The irony is the two pipeline here, right? We allow Putin's pipeline, shut down Keystone, and then the Russians hack Colonial Pipeline. To me that's -- there's something disturbing about that.
RADDATZ: Who -- who wins in a cyber war with Russia?
MCCAUL: Well, I think -- I think we need to let -- demonstrate and the president needs to demonstrate with Putin, there will be consequences to your actions if you continue to do this.
They have been mounting this up in the last just month. And, extraordinarily. And I think sanctions are great, but I think it's time to start thinking about hitting back.
When we do attribution, we need to have rules of the road. I have -- I passed the Cyber Diplomacy Bill out of my committee. We need -- they need to know that -- that when they do this, there are consequences to their actions and we're going to hit them back. Until we do that, they're going to continue with bad behavior.
RADDATZ: And -- and I want to turn to the DOJ and ask you about that. "The New York Times" report that in its hunt for leaks, the Trump Justice Department seized data from Apple for at least two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, committee staffers, family members and even a minor.
You used to work at the Justice Department. Are you troubled by that report?
MCCAUL: Yes, I worked for the DOJ for a long time. I think, look, any time you -- and in the public integrity section, right? So any time you open a case against a -- or a subpoena against a member of Congress or a journalist, there's a very high predication to that. And I think it -- with -- in the journalists' case, you're looking at First Amendment protections. With a member of Congress, obviously, you've better have your facts together before you do something like this.
I don't have all the facts here, but what I will tell you is, the inspector general is -- DOJ is now investigating this. And I think that's where it properly belongs. That's where the investigation should take place. And let's see how that investigation turns out.
RADDATZ: And would you encourage Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify under oath?
MCCAUL: You know, I think we should have the benefit of the doubt of the decision-making that took place. You know, whether -- whether it has to be under oath or, you know, in what context that is, I think we need to know why this decision was made and I think the IG, that's within the proper purview of the IG.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so much for joining us this morning. More to come (ph).
MCCAUL: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: Tune in Wednesday. I'll be in Geneva joining David Muir and the whole ABC News team with live coverage throughout the day of President Biden's summit with Vladimir Putin. The roundtable's next.
And later, as the U.S. nears 600,000 COVID deaths, new reporting from our team on the mystery surrounding COVID and that Wuhan lab.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know Vladimir Putin. Do you think he's a killer?
FORMER PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: Um-hmm. I do.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: So what price must he pay?
BIDEN: The price he's going to pay, well, you'll see shortly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MUIR, ABC ANCHOR: When President Biden is asked whether he believes you are a killer, he said, "I do."
Mr. President, are you a killer?
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: I'm always guided by the interests of the Russian people and Russian state. And sentiments in terms of who calls somebody who, what kind of labels, this is not something I worry about in the least.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ: Vladimir Putin laughing off that comment from President Biden calling him a killer, just one topic that might be on the agenda at their summit next Wednesday. Let's talk about it with our roundtable now, former Republican Congressman Will Hurd; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under President Obama Michele Flournoy, now managing partner of WestExec Advisors; PBS NewsHour Senior National Correspondent Amna Nawaz; and ABC Political Director Rick Klein.
Great to have all of you here this morning, a lot to talk about.
Rick, I'm going to start with you. Joe Biden does have bona fide foreign policy experience, but this is his first foreign trip as president. How's he doing politically?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, so far, it's -- it's all kinds of elbow bumps and smiles. It seems like it's very friendly. Of course, that's different than a domestic political audience.
And on that point, Martha, there are a couple data points in our new poll, ABC/Ipsos poll, that I think are really instructive. We talked about this earlier, but more than half of people say that they have confidence in President Biden to negotiate on the country's behalf. That's about where his approval rating is.
But look at the comparison to President Trump. At the same point in his presidency, barely a third of Americans felt the same way about him. And of course, that's reflected in the numbers on Putin.
And this is really interesting, because we've heard so much about this foreign policy for the working class. We asked people a whole range of topics, what should be a priority in foreign policy?
And protecting U.S. jobs, American jobs, two-thirds of Americans are saying that's a top priority when you're talking about foreign policy. That's about the same number that say that a priority should be protecting against terrorism.
So I feel like Biden gets that, and he's trying to communicate that message to a domestic audience.
RADDATZ: And China, China, China is what he's talking about.
And, Amna, up next, of course, the Putin summit. The White House -- we've talked about this a little bit this morning. The White House: No joint press conference. Is it really just because they decided they -- he would do it alone, or is there more to it?
AMNA NAWAZ, PBS NEWSHOUR SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there's a lot of potential for that joint press conference, for the optics to be pretty bad. But also, you heard Secretary Blinken there saying, "We think the best way to communicate with the free press is just to continue to deliver our message."
If there's one thing we know about this White House, it's message discipline. They're going to deliver the same message in as controlled a way as they can. And speaking one on one with the press is probably the best way for them to do that.
But there's a lot riding on that Putin summit. As you mentioned, those cyber attacks, that message that's being delivered. I think any journalist would want to be a fly on that wall in that meeting, to see how that really goes down.
But we know that, right now, the message is engagement, right? They are going to have this meeting, despite all the questions around that. We know, previously, Biden has reached out to Putin. They've had one on one phone calls, especially after, earlier in the year, you remember, where Russia was amassing troops on the Ukrainian border and they did have that call. Russia pulled those troops back.
We don't see a clear plan yet, but Russia is clearly top of the list, along with, as you mentioned, China, China, China.
RADDATZ: And, Congressman Hurd, this summit, as Amna said, comes amid those cyberattacks, some really serious moves in Russia.
Should -- should this summit have happened? Is it a reward?
HURD: I don't think it's a reward.
You have to talk -- you -- we should engage our allies, right? I think, going to the G7 and efforts there, we should be strengthening our alliances, not weakening them. But we should also be talking to our enemies as well.
And let's be frank. Russia is not going to change. Unless there's radical new leadership in that country, the Russians aren't going to change, the government's not going to change. They're not going to be a cooperative member of the global economy.
That's why the West needs to continue to penetrate Russian society with our Western values and Democratic values and ideals to -- in order to encourage opposition to that regime. And one way we should do that, we should be doubling down on our support to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, those kinds of places.
And so this is not going to be -- the Russians aren't going to change. I hope that Joe Biden going into this knows that. But, unfortunately, ever since the -- George W. Bush, every American president thought they could reset relations with Russia, and that's not going to happen.
RADDATZ: And, Michele, you have spent your entire life in foreign policy and looking at these countries and see many summits in your time.
What do you think Vladimir Putin wants out of this?
FLOURNOY: I think Vladimir Putin wants to be seen on the world stage as an equal, and as a...
RADDATZ: Thus another reason not to have that press conference.
FLOURNOY: It is. I mean, we don't really want to give him that platform for propaganda and disinformation and spinning things his way.
But I do think the president has to go sit down with him face to face. This is not about a reset.
This is about a very clear-eyed approach to Putin that says: Look, these are our interests. We are resolved to defend them. These are our concerns about your behavior in all these different areas. These are our expectations. And we want to get things on a more stable, predictable footing, so that this relationship between two nuclear powers doesn't go completely off the rails.
I think you have to do that as a start. And it's really a test for Putin as to whether he will sort of reduce some of his worst behavior going forward.
RADDATZ: And, Rick, we heard in the interview Friday, the NBC interview with Putin, that he praised Donald Trump. I think he said he was an extraordinary individual.
Do you think, in the back of his mind, that America first -- Putin, I mean -- America first really might return, that he's thinking about those midterms, keep an eye on that, thinking about 2024?
KLEIN: Yes, those things that Putin doesn't have to worry about, free democratic elections.
He knows the American political process and the political system. And I think that comment is designed to remind people that, yes, those same forces that powered Donald Trump to office, they're still around. They haven't gone anywhere.
And I think, yes, part of it is about a warning to Biden that I think he's aware of about those forces that are still there. It's also, I think -- nudges Trump back into the political arena. He put out a statement this week saying he hopes Biden gives Putin his best.
I don't think he's going to do that.
KLEIN: But it's a reminder that Trump's still there. That relationship that he had with Putin and Russia still looms over the conversations now.
And Putin knows that Biden may rent, and he still owns. He's going to be -- he could be around when he's gone.
RADDATZ: And, Congressman, the -- Donald Trump put out a statement to sort of reaffirming his love of Russia, of the Russian leader.
So what do you think Donald Trump's thinking about?
HURD: Well, I think Donald Trump's thinking he wishes he was still president and was going to have this conversation, right? But that doesn't change the goals of what President Biden has to do.
Also, President Biden's will be coming off of a NATO summit. And, hopefully, after that NATO summit, you're going to have NATO reconfirming or talking about, what does Article 5 in a digital world look like, and so that so that President Biden can go in through a position of strength and show that he has a posse with him, right?
And that's what he has to -- that's what he has to accomplish. And it's going to be -- it's going to be a tough decision. It's going to be a tough conversation. And I think not having a dual press conference is the right move.
RADDATZ: And, Amna, I want to turn to the DOJ.
We're learning more about how far the Trump administration went, revelations about subpoenaing journalists' records, and now that bombshell report about subpoenaing records from members of Congress.
What's going to happen here?
NAWAZ: Well, I think we're going to see some more investigations. I think there's going to be a lot more details coming out about exactly how expansive some of those prosecutorial advancements were.
I think it's important to remember, too, like this is a bit of a trend. We did see under the Obama administration a much heavier hand towards going after leakers, including journalists, using the Espionage Act as a tool to be able to do that, and there was some concern that that was laying groundwork for somebody like Donald Trump who has authoritarian tendencies to leverage it even further.
We know that the Trump administration messaged they were doing this, right? AG Sessions came out and said, we have tripled the number of investigations going after leakers. We knew this was a priority for them.
I think now learning the extent to which they were doing that, the extent to which they were leveraging the tools of democratic institutions to be able to what looks to be like carrying out political missions there, that is what’s really worrying and alarming because the backstops didn’t seem to be there, and that still remains a question.
RADDATZ: And, Congressman, you served on the House Intelligence Committee with these members of Congress whose records have been looked into. You have been critical of how Congressman Adam Schiff talked about investigations.
So, do you see these as legitimate pursuits or as Trump trying to use the DOJ to do his bidding?
HURD: Well, first and foremost, using federal law enforcement and DOJ to go after your opponents is wrong and shouldn't happen, right? But also leaking classified information shouldn't happen either, and what is going to happen here.
We're going to have an inspector general to review what actually happened, why it happened. And then after that, it gets presented to Congress. Then you have all the relevant people coming to testify to make sure that the process was being done in the right way.
RADDATZ: And, Michele, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco referred this to the DOJ’s watchdog to investigate. How much should the Biden administration probe the Trump era offenses?
FLOURNOY: Well, I think it's important in a democracy to hold people accountable, and to avoid politicizing something like the Justice Department which is -- it's so important for that to remain independent and a trusted institution by the American people.
So I do think accountability is very, very important. We don't want to spend all our time looking back. I mean, I think one of the things we're seeing at the G7 summit is how seized these leaders are with this critical moment. They feel the weight of COVID, of the economic impacts of the challenge of China, the challenge of climate. So we want to look forward.
But you have to make -- you have to do the necessary probing and investigation for accountability to prevail. You can't have a functioning democracy without it.
RADDATZ: And, Rick, we only knew about this just recently because of a gag order on the news organizations.
KLEIN: Yeah, and we're learning more about this as time goes by. And I think it’s ultimately going to be a major challenge to the Biden Justice Department because Merrick Garland was brought in, a former judge, with the idea of being independent. He is not the partisan warrior that many people on the left wanted to see in that, to respond to Trump.
And whatever these inspector general investigations find, it’s going to be up to the Biden Justice Department to put that into action, pursue that wherever it goes. And there will be a lot of pressure for accountability and a lot more, depending on what it finds. And I think that's now going to be a major headache among many for this Merrick Garland Justice Department that’s tried to find a different path.
RADDATZ: And, Amna, when you look at Donald Trump and what he's doing now, he's got a lot of things to take to voters. He's got the Wuhan lab. He's got the border.
NAWAZ: There are a lot of messages from the Trump administration that still very much resonate with the Republican base. I have been out in the field reporting on a lot of these issues, including on immigration, some of what we call the culture war issues. This issue of critical race theory being taught in school, the spate of anti-trans legislation that’s making its way through Republican legislatures across the country.
There's a lot of issues that get people motivated and those are still very much coming from the legacy of the Trump administration.
Part of the complications for the Biden administration right now is, to Michele's point, accountability is key, but how do you continue to move on while you're still looking into the previous four years.
RADDATZ: OK. We'll be back with all of you shortly.
But coming up, an exclusive new look at the probe into COVID-19's origins, plus the latest on the concerning new Delta variant. Tom Bossert and Dr. Ashish Jha join us next.
RADDATZ: Tom Bossert and Dr. Ashish Jha are standing by. We'll be right back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no international process for investigating the origins of the pandemic, but there are two major hypotheses. The other one is the accidental lab incident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump weaponized this subject and made the very questioning of the origins of the virus radioactive for a lot of people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
There was so little space, even for Democrats, even for progressives, to ask the questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: A preview there of a "NIGHTLINE" special airing this week with exclusive, new reporting on the origins of COVID-19.
So let's talk about that and more with ABC News contributor Tom Bossert, who served as homeland security adviser to President Trump, and Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Welcome to you both this morning.
And, Tom, I -- I want to start with you.
Why was the laboratory theory seemingly dismissed so quickly by scientists?
TOM BOSSERT, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, a 300 page report conducted by scientists and researchers and they early abandoned the notion that it could have been intentionally or accidentally released from this lab. No real reason for it other than from what we can tell they thought it was least likely as an option.
RADDATZ: And -- and what does it take to know for sure where it did come from?
BOSSERT: There's kind of these three competing theories. The -- was it naturally occurring from animals and then spreading naturally? Was it naturally occurring zoonotic, you know, from animals, then captured, harvested, studied and accidentally released; or were they tinkering with it, for scientific purposes, but in a controversial way, and then let -- this gain of function research -- and then let it out?
BOSSERT: I think the biggest and fastest way to resolve this would be to find the animal reservoir, find that missing link. You remember we found a civet cat, the animal that was the most, you know, closely related link before it jumped to humans for the last COVID, the SARS outbreak. We don't have that animal reservoir right now. It would put to rest all of these concerns. But it also fuels the belief that it might have been a gain of function accident. So we don't know yet.
RADDATZ: And, Dr. Jha, how important is it to the medical community to know the origins of this pandemic?
JHA: Yeah, so, Martha, I think it's pretty important. I mean, this has obviously been a horrendous pandemic, and we need to understand where it came from, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it will be very helpful for preventing the next one.
If it is indeed from a lab, that means we have got to really think about lab safety at a very, very different level. If it's zoonotic, then we have to put in a very different set of policies to try to prevent something like this. So I think it remains critically important that we figure this out.
RADDATZ: In terms of lessons learned, where we are right now, what have we really learned?
JHA: Well, we've learned a lot about this pandemic and how to prevent it. We have learned that vaccines can be developed quickly if the scientific community puts its mind to it. And we've learned that there are still deep inequities in our globe in terms of how the pandemic plays out.
Right now, America is in great shape. That's terrific. And many, many parts of the world are struggling. And if we're going to get out of a global pandemic, we've got to have much more global coordination.
I think one of the things we've learned is, without global coordination, it's very hard to fight a global pandemic.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Tom, to his point, I know President Biden said the U.S. will buy 500 million Pfizer vaccines for global distribution, but that is really a fraction of the 11 billion doses...
RADDATZ: ... that are needed. And while cases in the U.S. are indeed falling, there have been more COVID-related deaths worldwide in 2021 so far than in all of 2020. So how bad is this going to get worldwide, and what does it mean for us here?
BOSSERT: Well, you know, Dr. Tedros, the head of the World Health Organization, called this a "two-track pandemic," and I thought that caught my eye.
What he's saying is, for wealthy countries that can afford it, we're going to have a return to normal. And for those who are poor and can't, we're going to have a continued struggle, loss of life, and death.
And it's going to slow return to trade, return to travel. And ultimately, the biggest concern, beyond just the amazing loss of life that still could lay in front of us, and tragic loss of life, is the fact that we could have a variant that's resistant to the vaccine and start this all over again.
RADDATZ: And -- and we already have some variants.
And, Dr. Jha, the Delta variant, first discovered in India, now makes up to 90 percent of new coronavirus cases in Britain, 6 percent of the new cases in the U.S.
How significant a threat does that pose to unvaccinated people and also vaccinated?
JHA: Yeah. So the Delta variant is by far the most contagious variant of this virus we have seen in the entire pandemic. The reason it makes up 90 percent in the U.K. is because it has just outcompeted every other version of the virus. It's a very, very contagious virus.
The good news is the data suggests that, if you've been fully vaccinated, you remain protected, that the vaccines hold up. But a third, more than a third of American adults have not yet been vaccinated. Obviously, a lot of younger kids have not. It's a pretty substantial threat to them. So we have got to get more people vaccinated if we want to get the Delta variant dealt with.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Tom, there are many, many people out there who have not been vaccinated. Do you believe those people, other than younger people, and that goes on, those people who just haven't gotten vaccinated yet as adults will?
BOSSERT: I don't know if they will, but they should. In fact, this is a story of two vaccines and two pandemics right now. In this country, I think the doctor is right. We're going to see a third wave. It won't be as bad or perhaps not have as high a mortality rate tied to it. But -- but these aren't just evenly distributed numbers. There are geographic pockets in this country of people that are not vaccinated.
I think five states, Tennessee and others, are below 50 percent, at or below 50 percent. And so, in those areas, I would imagine -- and, in fact, I would predict here -- that this Delta variant and -- and some of the other variants, P.1, the one we first saw in South America, will take root and we will have another spike in those regions.
So it's not over for you if you're not vaccinated. And for me, I see 42 percent vaccinated fully, and most places I go, 100 percent of the people not wearing masks. So there's some difference there, and we're going to have to get to the bottom of it. I don't know how to convince them.
RADDATZ: And, Dr. Jha, just finally, and we just have a couple of seconds here. What about boosters? Some people have been vaccinated for about five months now. When will those start being distributed, and is there a plan for that?
JHA: Yes, I -- you know, I have to tell you, Martha, I'm not thinking about boosters right now.
These vaccines look so incredibly good and so durable that I don't think most Americans are going to need a booster this year. They might at some point next year. I know we have heard from the companies that people might need a booster within the year.
I -- we have got to pay attention to the data. If the data suggests that there are starting to be more breakthrough infections, then maybe. But I expect that if people -- if we're going to get boosters, it'll be in 2022 and maybe even beyond.
RADDATZ: OK, we will end on that good note.
Thanks very much to both of you.
As Tom and Dr. Jha know well, President Biden's goal is to have 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The White House has launched a month-long vaccination blitz for June.
But with the pace of shots averaging below one million per day, we wanted FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver to analyze the data to see if the U.S. can meet that goal.
NATE SILVER, ABC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, if you do the math, I think we're likely to fall a little short of 70 percent.
As of this week, 64 percent of adults had received at least one vaccine dose, according to the CDC. That's not bad at all. But the problem is that only about 1 percent of adults are getting newly vaccinated each week. You play this out, we might get to 67 or 68 percent by July 4, but 70 is probably a stretch.
One thing that may have slowed things down is when federal officials paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Before the pause, the U.S. was giving out about 400,000 doses of J&J per day. It was supposed to be the quick and easy one-dose vaccine.
But we have been stuck at more like 100,000 doses per day since the pause. And, in fact, there's the risk of unused J&J doses expiring.
However, a new Gallup poll this month found that 76 percent of adults either already have been vaccinated or plan to be. And states are getting creative with a variety of carrots and sticks to encourage vaccination, everything from free weed, to free doughnuts, to a lottery to receive a year of free college tuition.
Whatever your incentive, my advice is the same as before. With new, more contagious variants spreading, such as a so-called Delta variant that is causing a rise in cases in the U.K., it's still a great time to head out to your pharmacy and get your shot.
So, anyway, I don't buy that we're going to hit 70 percent on July 4, but I do think we're going to get there eventually.
RADDATZ: OK, our thanks to Nate for that.
There's more roundtable just ahead.
Stay with us.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is back for more. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We're trying to get an outcome on infrastructure, something that is popular on both sides of the aisle. All we're insisting on is that the infrastructure bill be about infrastructure.
SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): It sounds like to me that they have a package which is climate denial masquerading as bipartisanship.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We have a majority. I know it's a little tiny skinny, skinny majority, but it is a majority, and that means we need to deliver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: The heated debate over infrastructure continues in Washington.
We're back now with the roundtable to discuss.
No surprise about that heated rhetoric.
Amna, bring us up to date on where this stands. A lot of movement this week.
NAWAZ: A lot of movement for sure. It was one step back when President Biden cut off negotiations with the lead Republican negotiator, Shelley Moore Capito, from the Senate. And then one step forward, when a group of bipartisan senators, 10 senators, came together to try to reach a deal and they said, we've reached a deal, $1.2 trillion over eight years.
Major hurdles, though. How do you pay for this? We know Biden wants to raise corporate taxes to be able to pay for it. Republicans say we do not want to raise taxes.
And also, what constitutes infrastructure? We know Democrats have a much more expansive view. That should include child care, and broadband, and connectivity. Republicans, as you just heard from Mitch McConnell, want a much more narrow definition.
The timeline here is also a challenge. The longer this goes on, does it start to lose support? You start to see Democrats starting to break away, and we’re starting to see that around the edges. Much more vocal outrage from progressive Democrats in particular saying it’s time to move ahead and just get this done.
RADDATZ: It sounds like what we were talking about weeks ago. It doesn’t sound like we were actually much closer, Rick.
KLEIN: Infrastructure Week. It's the running joke of the Trump years. We're back.
KLEIN: I do think we're in a window now. The month of June is critical. I think for this, for policing reform, there's a huge range of issues that if they're going to happen, they're going to happen now.
And I think as soon as Biden is back from this foreign trip, we're going to get a yes or no. Is this happening or not?
RADDATZ: And, Will, Leader McConnell has publicly said the GOP should be united against the Biden agenda. Are Republicans serious about making a deal here?
HURD: There are plenty of Republicans that are serious about making a deal.
The Biden administration is losing steam on some of their successes after COVID-19 victories and they’ve got to deliver on this, and the only way this is going to get done in a bipartisan way -- and let's be frank. The only way big things in this country have ever been done is if we do them together. And there's a -- there's enough Republicans on both sides, on the Senate and the House, that are willing to do something.
RADDATZ: And -- and are they looking forward to the midterms as they decide and is it good for them?
HURD: I'm -- I'm sure some are thinking about that. But -- but here's the reality, here's what the country needs. When -- when you talk about infrastructure, one thing that is part of infrastructure is our digital infrastructure. And that is crumbling. We're seeing that from the attacks in -- in Florida, on our water supply. We've seen it on our energy supply. And let's -- we're not even talking about what happens when the Chinese get to a quantum supremacy and their ability to read all of our information and the impact that's going to have. These are some of the conversations we should be having to make sure that this country has the -- the infrastructure, digital and physical, to get things done.
RADDATZ: How vulnerable are we, our grid? We heard Jennifer Granholm recently say it could be wiped out, water supply --
HURD: It could. Just look what happened to my home state of Texas a couple of months ago from the -- from the -- the -- the weather incident. We have to make sure that we have a resiliency in our grid and -- and we have to recognize that our adversaries have the ability to attack us. And, guess what, the Chinese government, they are trying to surpass the United States of America as the sole superpower in this world. And one way they're going to do that is being a leader in advanced technology. They're further along than -- than what -- what we think they are. And the technological advancements we're going to see over the next 30 years is going to make the last 30 years look insignificant.
And these are major problems that we have to address to make sure that America stays a superpower, we lift -- uplift humanity for the next 250 years. And those are the conversations we should be having.
RADDATZ: And -- and we will be having those conversations for a very long time and yet those threats are still out there.
FLOURNOY: Right. I mean this is why investing in infrastructure, it's a strategic imperative at this point. We are facing incredible competition with China. This is a key driver of American competitiveness, not just in physical terms to enable transportation and supply chains and so forth, but also digitally, as the congressman said.
This has got to be 21st century infrastructure that really enables us to compete in things like artificial intelligence, in quantum computing and the technologies that are going to define the future. If we don't make this investment, we will risk falling behind. So my hope is that people see the strategic nature of this rather than just the -- the partisan angle on it.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and, Amna, I want to talk to you about the border. Kamala Harris made a trip to Guatemala and Mexico, avoided the border this week. Was that for political reasons? She obviously said she wanted to get to the root of the problem.
NAWAZ: She insists that because her portfolio is addressing the root causes, you have to go to where those root causes originate. Obviously, those are the countries of origin.
But, yes, she's gotten continued questions about why she has not yet visited the border. I have to say, I think anyone is maybe hesitant to go there because the optics are not great. There's still very much a backup at the border. We know that some of the numbers have been coming down in terms of the family units and unaccompanied minors. But just this past month, in terms of encounters at the border, those numbers did tick up again and there was a very high rate of recidivism, that means people trying again and again in the last 12 months to cross the border. That's because this Trump pandemic rule remains in place, this Title 42. It's an incredibly complicated, challenging situation and I'm not sure we know exactly what success looks like there.
RADDATZ: And we will be looking out for that.
It's great to see all of you. Have a great week. We look forward to Geneva.
That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
We'll see you Wednesday in Geneva for the big summit.
Have a great day.
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