A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, January 17, 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): Historic rebuke.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He must go. He is a clear and present danger.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump, the first president impeached a second time.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Our president incited our citizens to attack our Capitol.
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): A -- quote -- "dangerous snap impeachment."
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): It is about principle.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): It will only serve to further divide a nation.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): If inciting a deadly insurrection is not enough to get a president impeached, then what is?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Charged with insurrection by all House Democrats, a record 10 Republicans.
REP. DAN NEWHOUSE (R-WA): With a heavy heart, I will vote yes.
REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): At the end of the day, this was a vote of conscience.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Facing parallel in the Senate, the president finally condemns the Capitol siege.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is never a justification for violence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As Joe Biden prepares to take office, facing unprecedented challenges.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The vice president-elect and I will do our best to meet all the expectations you have for the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Three days from the inauguration, the Capitol an armed camp, the country on edge.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): There have been domestic terror threats against state capitols all over the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We covered all this morning on "This Week."
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
Insurrection, impeachment, inauguration, three Wednesdays, three weeks unlike any others in American history. And in just three days, Joseph Robinette Biden will take the oath of office, addressing America in crisis, plagued by a pandemic, economic hardship, deeply divided, reeling from the most dramatic act of domestic terrorism our country has ever seen, all inspired by the president leaving office.
As we come on the air this morning, there are more U.S. troops protecting the Capitol than in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia combined. The Mall where almost two million people gathered for Barack Obama's inauguration will be empty when Joe Biden swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
And not long after, all 100 senators will take an oath of their own, promising to do impartial justice in the second Trump impeachment trial.
Head-swirling, mind-bending, surreal, and historic. We are living through a major moment in the life of our republic. And we're going to try to do it justice this morning, starting with our chief White House correspondent, Jon Karl, our chief justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas.
Pierre, let me begin with you right now.
We know that Washington is on the highest alert right now. They even have a Green Zone. Now, that's a term we usually associate with Baghdad.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: George, this truly now is fortress Washington. The city is in near total lockdown.
Look at these images of more National Guard arriving at Andrews Air Force Base yesterday, pushing the number of troops toward 25,000 that will be here on Inauguration Day, just extraordinary.
There are military vehicles and police cars on every corner. Streets are shut down, fences with razor wire erected. The National Mall is essentially closed. As I drove in this morning, Constitution Avenue was blocked, no traffic allowed.
My sources are feeling more and more comfortable that Washington is secure, and that if there could be a threat, any threat could be faced down quickly, even though they're worried about improvised explosives and extremists showing up in large numbers with guns.
But this threat extends beyond Washington to all 50 states. The latest sign, the U.S. Postal Service is removing mailboxes and suspending mail collection across 17 states ahead of the inauguration, an obvious concern, the potential for bombs.
Authorities are worried that states may not have enough resources, George, to protect government buildings.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Pierre, every day that goes by, we're learning that that siege of the Capitol was even more dangerous than we knew in real time.
THOMAS: George, we have some disturbing new evidence about Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi.
Sources are pointing to a man, in the case of Dominic Pezzola, who was accused of being the man in this video smashing a window to get into the Capitol. Criminal charges filed against Pezzola state that a witness has come forward claiming to have had a conversation with Pezzola and other members of the group that stormed the Capitol.
The witness says they discussed how Pezzola and others allegedly went to the Capitol and would have killed Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Pence if they had been given a chance.
There was also discussion of coming back to D.C. to kill everyone that they could get ahold of, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, that is just chilling.
You also have firsthand testimony from two of the police officers assaulted by the mob.
THOMAS: George, on a personal and professional note, I'm still reeling from a conversation I had with two officers who've been seen in those two infamous videos that have gone viral, one crushed in the door yelling for his life, the other who had been viciously beaten by an angry mob outside the Capitol.
Their story raised the hair on the back of my neck. They talked of a medieval-scale fight, a "Game of Thrones" brawl, members of the mob frothing from the mouth with nothing but hate and anger in their eyes and both men wondering if they were going to live to tell their stories, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pierre Thomas, thanks very much.
Let me bring in Jon Karl for more on the impeachment trial that is to come. We don't know when the Senate trial is going to start, what it’s going to look like. What do we know about how President Trump is preparing?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: George, the president’s been talking to a lot of people about his upcoming trial but his strategy is very much in the air.
I had a lengthy conversation yesterday with Rudy Giuliani who said that he is working on the president's defense, at least for now, but then a former Trump campaign spokesperson put out a statement claiming that the president hasn't made his mind up as to who will lead his defense.
And George, I talked to Giuliani about his approach to the trial, what he would do. He said that he would encourage the president to -- that he would bring up all of those discredited claims about voter fraud, claims that Giuliani himself has brought up in courtroom after courtroom around the country, and has -- and have been discredited.
He said that if he can prove that those claims are true or that the president had reason to believe they are true, then you can't accuse him of inciting the mob. I don't know how that legal strategy will fly, but Giuliani also said that he would not rule out the president himself testifying in his Senate trial.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that would be something. Our new poll shows that 68 percent of the country opposes a self-pardon, but the president’s still considering that?
KARL: I'm told he's very much still considering it. He's been advised by all of the lawyers who are still here working at the White House not to do it, that it probably wouldn't stand up to constitutional scrutiny, and it could complicate efforts after he leaves the White House leaving the president vulnerable to civil lawsuits.
But Giuliani for his part, told me that he thinks the president would be fully justified in pardoning himself, and then he said about that concern about civil lawsuits, George, his legal life -- the president's legal life is going to be complicated no matter what. I’d much rather have my civil life complicated, than my criminal life. That was what Rudy Giuliani said about a self-pardon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. You know, the Trump White House has never been a conventional White House. I take it right now it's more strange than ever?
KARL: George, it's bizarre. This place is basically empty. Most of the senior staff and almost all of the junior staff have already packed up their desks, packed up their offices and are gone. It is a very empty place, and I’m told that the president is spending a considerable time planning his exit.
He wants a big farewell with lots of military fanfare, a red carpet up to Air Force One, military vans and even is talking about a military flyover. Fighter jets flying over as he prepares to board Air Force One for the last time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We shall see. Gentlemen, thank you both very much.
Now, let's bring in two members of Congress, central to the second impeachment of President Trump, Democrat Joaquin Costner, who will be one of the House impeachment managers in the Senate trial; (inaudible) Republican Peter Meijer, one of ten republicans who voted for impeachment.
Congressman Castro, let me begin with you. I want to get to impeachment but first you just heard Jon Karl say the president’s still considering a self-pardon. If that happens, should the Biden justice department investigate and bring a suit against President Trump?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D-TX) IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Well, obviously that's going to be a decision that's going to be left up to the Department of Justice under President Biden. You know, I have said over the years that I think it's quite possible that there were crimes committed by President Trump, but I’m going to leave that to the Biden folks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about impeachment. I know it's a fluid situation right now. What do you know about when Speaker Pelosi is going to send the impeachment articles to the Senate so the trial can start?
CASTRO: Well, all of us on the impeachment manager team are ready to go when the trial does start. We're ready to lay out the evidence that the president incited a deadly insurrection that resulted in the loss of lives of five Americans, and so there is, of course, conversations going on between Speaker Pelosi and the Senate, but we'll be ready to go when it starts.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And would you prefer it sooner rather than later?
CASTRO: You know, we're preparing as though we're going to go in the next hour. We have been working very hard. We have been gathering all the evidence, and so of course, all of us are very anxious to get started.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How lengthy a trial should we expect? Would you expect to be calling witnesses in this trial?
CASTRO: Well, most of all, you know, we're going to do whatever it takes to lay out the case. You had a president who for months was talking about a rigged election, who, after the election, insisted to his supporters that he was cheated, that the election was a stolen one, and of course, these are folks who support him very strongly, and so that aroused people incredibly.
It created strong emotions in folks and so we're going to do whatever we need to do to lay out the evidence to show the American people and, most of all, the senators who are voting on this, that Donald Trump through his words and actions got these folks riled up on that day, asked them to march down to the Capitol and when all of this was going on, when there was a riot inside the U.S. Capitol, also didn't send relief to quell it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the points that Republicans have made in opposing impeachment, those who did oppose it, they’ve raised a First Amendment argument, pointed out that in his rally speech, the president also at one point told the crowd to remain peaceful.
CASTRO: Yeah. I think this is quite separate from the First Amendment. This is a president who knowing that he was in a very combustible, and mostly charged situation, continued to work up his supporters not once or twice, but repeatedly over and over, telling a big lie about a stolen election, even though as you know, George, they went to court 60 something times, and lost about 61 times in court.
And so, this is a president who knew what he was doing, and watched as that mob took over the U.S. Capitol. In fact, took over the Senate floor of the United States, and was slow to act after that to quell it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Jon Karl report that Rudy Giuliani is talking to the president perhaps about testifying in the impeachment trial. Is that something you would welcome?
CASTRO: Well, you know, we're still discussing strategy obviously, and how we're going to handle the witnesses and so forth. And so, you know, certainly, if the president is -- if that's something he wants to do, then he's probably going to be able to do that because he's part of the trial because it involves him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cotton has said he won't vote to convict because a Senate trial of a former president is unconstitutional in his view. He cited the writings of retired Appeals Court Judge Michael Luttig who wrote in “Washington Post”: the very concept of constitutional impeachment presupposes the impeachment conviction and removal of a president who is, at the time of his impeachment, an incumbent in the office of which he is removed.
Are you concerned that they may be able to find that this is not constitutional, this trial?
CASTRO: I don't believe so. In fact, one of the other purposes of impeachment in this case is to make sure that the -- that President Trump is not able to run for federal office again, that he's not able to seek the presidency. The reason for that is that somebody who incited a riot, an attempted coup of the United States government should not be president again.
So it's not just about making sure that there are consequences to his behavior. Certainly it's that, but even after he's left office, it's also making sure that he can't run for president again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, you only get to that vote if you find 17 Republican senators who will convict. It doesn't appear you have those votes right now, although it's a very fluid situation.
Are you worried that if the Senate fails to convict a second time, this will be some kind of vindication for President Trump?
CASTRO: You know, for any president, when you are dealing with impeachment, there's a high bar. You need 67 votes, but our plan is to -- is to go after every single vote. We want to make sure that every senator is standing up for this country, that every senator is considering the evidence against President Trump, and the fact that he incited a deadly insurrection. And so, we're optimistic that when we lay out our case, we'll be able to convince folks that, in fact, President Trump is responsible for inciting this deadly insurrection, and that the Senate should convict.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, we've heard from some of your colleagues who believe there is evidence that some members of Congress, congressional staff, Capitol police might have been accomplices in some way with the rioters on January 6th.
Do you have any evidence of that? And how do you expect to follow up? What should be the consequences if true?
CASTRO: Well, sure. Look, anybody who helped, who actively participated and helped the people who ended up rioting and taking over the Capitol and a mob should be held accountable. And right now, I’m focused, of course, as an impeachment manager on the Senate trial of President Trump, but there will be a separate process to deal with the folks who may have also participated and helped in that riot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Castro, thanks very much for your time this morning.
Let's bring in Congressman Meijer right now, one of, we said (ph), 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment, freshman Republican from Michigan.
Thanks for joining us this morning.
First of all, let me get to that last point I had with Congressman Castro. Do you have any evidence that any of your colleagues or congressional staff may have been accomplices in some way?
REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): Thank you, George. I have not seen any evidence of that so far.
I think it's important that we don't jump to conclusions and we don't get ahead of the process. And I know all too often, we let feelings get ahead of the facts. If anyone was responsible or participated, they should be held to the fullest extent of the law and we can talk about those remedial processes later.
But at the moment, I think it's important we don't jump to conclusions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the wake of the Capitol siege, you called this the worst week of your life. You voted for impeachment. I read that you and some of your colleagues may also be buying body armor to protect yourselves.
What have the last few days been like?
MEIJER: Absolutely gut-wrenching. Impeaching a president, especially a president of my own party, was nothing that we ever hoped to do. Many of us deliberated deeply. This was not as easy as just saying what is in our best political interest, but, frankly, looking at the evidence, looking at the facts of the case, reading the article and -- and asking, is this true by our own experience, by our lived experience? And it was.
You know, I think this is a time for -- for reflection, but it's also a time for accountability. And that's something that I am deeply committed to. You know, I'm calling on my party to restore trust, to restore the trust of the voting public and to ensure that we never allow the actions that led up to January 6th and what happened on January 6th, we never allow that outburst of political violence to occur in our name again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you explain how -- why so few of your Republican colleagues agreed with you on impeachment, why so many joined those objections to the elections and propagated those false claims about voter fraud?
MEIJER: You know, I can't speak to what's in anyone else's hearts. I know I've -- I've talked with many of my colleagues, asked them, you know, and compared where we were on various issues. Many of them arrived at their decisions, I think, in -- in an honest and forthright way, specifically when it came to, you know, the objections to certifying the Electoral College or, you know, kind of more cloakly (ph) an attempt to overturn the election. You know, there were concerns there.
And, to me, the challenge is not what the individual concern of one individual was. It -- what happens when all of those concerns are -- become a collective. And the narrative becomes something that could be very powerful. You know, that's what we saw with the stop the steal argument after November 3rd. It was individual concerns about electoral integrity building to something that ended up supporting the president's, you know, false idea that he had won in a landslide. And that was what inspired his followers to come out on January 6th. That was the message that he was propagating. But we need to make sure that we move away from a politics of deception. We need to make sure that we have leaders who are telling folks who trust them what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And because of those claims, you've even said that your -- your vote to impeach, because the president still has such a stronghold on the Republican Party, so many in the Republican Party believe what he said about the election, you say your vote might have been political suicide. That caught the attention of one of the president's advisers, Jason Miller, who retweeted it as well.
Are you concerned you ended your career with that vote?
MEIJER: Oh, I may very well have, but I think it's also important that we have elected leaders who are not thinking solely about what's in their individual self-interest, not what is going to be politically expedient, but what we actually need for country. It's not lost on me that I hold the seat that Gerald Ford held from 1948 to 1973. You know, he committed a -- a courageous act when he pardoned Richard Nixon, but it ended his political career going forward.
You know, I -- I think that is the -- that's -- you know, obviously, don't want to follow in the footsteps in terms of the next election, but I want to make sure that we have leaders in office who are focusing on, you know, the fact that we're a nation of laws, not men, and that we're putting the interest of the country first rather than their own political careers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Liz Cheney also, like you, voted for the impeachment, called it the greatest betrayal of a Constitution by a president in our -- American history, but she's facing a lot of blowback from your colleagues, your Republican colleagues in the House. They want to remove her from leadership.
Will that happen?
MEIJER: You know, we're -- we're going to do everything we can to make sure that those who stood by their principles, like Liz Cheney, that that is not something that is punished. I know there's a division that has already occurred. We need to address some of the issues that we have within, you know, the congressional Republican conference.
But I've been very impressed by the leadership that Liz Cheney has shown. We differ on many issues, but in terms of somebody who is putting the best interest of the country forward, she has demonstrated that in her actions over the past two weeks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it time for the Republican Party to move on from President Trump?
MEIJER: I think it's time that we acknowledge that what happened on January 6th was a betrayal of what had been accomplished over the past four years, that it was a culmination of a politics that had all too often, you know, fanned flames rather than focusing on -- on building and governing. You know, the president brought some necessary energy. He brought some necessary ideas. He shook the tree. He was a change agent. The challenge was that he -- he didn't know when to stop, and he didn't draw a line.
And, to me, political violence is the line that we must draw. We've seen that outgrowth on -- on my side of the aisle. But that's something that has become all too common, the threats, intimidation, violence more broadly. You know, this all goes back to the fact that too many Americans don't trust institutions, don't trust the process that we have on the civil and legal side to resolve their disputes. So while I think we need to move past, you know, those events and, we need to have accountability first and foremost, we also need to commit to resolving our differences through legal processes.
We need to build that confidence in the public that they don't need to take to the streets; they don't need to engage in violence to make their voice heard. That's how we're going to get through this as a country and make sure we get back to focusing on what matters.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the most important thing President Biden can do to heal that divide?
MEIJER: I think he can have an open and honest and transparent discussion. I think it's incumbent on both parties to ensure that they are not promoting folks within their ranks who are engaged in a politics of deception, but rather having open, thoughtful, honest, engaged conversations.
I hope that President Biden will do the same, that he will not give in to some of the more, you know, some of the lower impulses that -- that folks in the progressive wing may try to bring out, but rather say that this is a time for the country to focus on rebuilding; this is a time for the country to focus on rebuilding trust, rebuilding our institutions, rebuilding governance.
You know, we need to get through the pandemic. We need to deal with the economic consequences and the fallout. But we also need to heal all of the divides that have been exposed over the past several years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Meijer, thanks for your time this morning.
MEIJER: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Biden's agenda for the first 100 days, plus our powerhouse roundtable. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: In the midst of the dark winter of this pandemic, as cases, hospitalizations and deaths spike at record levels, there is real pain overwhelming the real economy.
We didn't get into all this overnight. We won't get out of it overnight. And we can't do it as a separated and divided nation. The only way we can do it is to come together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There is Joe Biden laying out his COVID relief plan.
And as he prepares to take office, our brand-new poll with "The Washington Post" shows that more than two-thirds of Americans approve of how Biden has handled the presidential transition.
Rachel Scott will be covering the Biden administration from the White House.
And, Rachel, we can expect a blizzard of action from President Biden right after he takes the oath on Wednesday.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, George, it will be the first action that Joe Biden takes as president of the United States.
Much of this is going to be focused on undoing what President Trump did during his administration. Biden does plan on rejoining the Paris climate accord. He plans on reversing that travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries and making it mandatory to wear a face mask on federal property.
He can do that on his own, but much of his agenda is going to require Congress. And that Senate impeachment trial for President Trump could start as soon as next week. If it does happen during his first 100 days in office, there is no doubting this will pose a significant challenge for the president-elect.
He has already unveiled a massive COVID relief package that he wants Congress to get through. He has a long list of Cabinet secretaries that will need to be -- need to be confirmed by the Senate. He is expecting Congress to multitask, even suggesting that they can split the day.
But, George, this is just going to be an inauguration that we have never seen before. Just take a look at the security perimeter behind me, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is something.
OK, Rachel Scott, thanks very much.
Let's bring in Kate Bedingfield, who is going to be the communications director in the Biden White House.
Kate, thanks for joining us this morning.
Give us more of a flavor of what to expect on Wednesday in terms of action from President Biden.
KATE BEDINGFIELD, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes.
So, president-elect Biden, then President Biden, is going to come into office and take decisive steps to roll back some of the most egregious moves of the Trump administration. And he's going to take steps to move us forward.
Across the course of the first week-and-a-half in office, you're going to see him move on promises that he made on the campaign trail to ensure that we are focused on workers. You will see him make good on his buy American promise. You're going to see him make good on promises to move us to -- toward a more just and racially equitable society.
You're going to see him make movement on racial equity. And you're going to see him make movement on climate, on jobs.
So, over the course of the first week-and-a-half, he's going to do everything that he can within his power to move us forward.
But then, as your correspondent just said, that's only one piece of the agenda. The second piece of the agenda will be working with Congress. You saw president-elect Biden roll out the American Rescue Plan on Thursday night.
This is a plan to get desperately needed direct relief to people who've been hardest hit by this crisis all over the country. And it's an effort to fund a coordinated federal vaccine effort.
It's an effort to get shots into American arms to ensure that we can once and for all finally get this virus under control and get our economy back on track.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're already hearing some Democrats and many Republicans saying it's just too expensive.
BEDINGFIELD: There's been bipartisan support for all of these pieces. That's -- I would really point that out.
I mean, if you look at the big core planks of this plan, for example, Senator Rubio supports direct relief checks. Senator Romney supports expanding the child tax credit. I mean, there is bipartisan support for the big planks of this plan.
And I would also note that the plan came about as a result of consultation with bipartisan governors and mayors from all across the country. The president-elect spoke with Republican governors, with Republican mayors to hear what they need, what's going on with their constituents, what the most dire and important needs are for their constituents.
And so, this plan reflects the urgent needs, the things that people need right now. I mean, you know, we've got millions of Americans unemployed. We've got thousands of Americans dying from the virus every day.
There's no question we are in a state of emergency here, and this plan is designed to get the relief that people need to them right away, and President-elect Biden looks forward to working with Congress to get bipartisan support for this bill and get it done as quickly as possible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: First things first, the inaugural address comes on Wednesday. You just heard Congressman Meijer say it's time for an open, honest and transparent discussion from President Bi -- from President Biden. He says rejecting politics of deception.
What can Americans expect to hear on Wednesday? What is the major goal of this address?
BEDINGFIELD: So I think what you’ll hear from President-elect Biden on Wednesday will be a reflection of a lot of what you heard from him on the campaign trail, which is that he believes we can bring this country together. He believes that we have to bring this country together, that a unified America is the only way that we're going to be able to tackle the massive crises that we're grappling with.
I won't go too much farther in terms of previewing the speech because I’ll let the president-elect speak to it on Wednesday, but I think you can expect that this will be a moment where President-elect Biden will really work to try to turn the page on the divisiveness and the hatred over the last four years and really lay out a positive, optimistic vision for the country, and lay out a way -- lay out a path forward that really calls on all of us to work together.
I think that's what Americans all across the country want. They want a government that once again is focused on doing the right thing by them, and helping them in their day-to-day lives, and so, you're going to hear President-elect Biden really lay out a vision to get us to a place where we can work together because that's what Americans want. That's what they voted for in this election, 81 million Americans voted for President-elect Biden, in part, because he was laying out a vision for this country that gets us to a place where we can work together. So you'll hear a lot of that from him on the 20th.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He'll be delivering that message across an empty Mall there, the Capitol Mall, and the entire U.S. Capitol has become an armed camp right now. You had to cancel certain parts of inauguration, including the train ride in Washington, D.C., including some rehearsals.
Are you certain that the ceremony is going to take place on the west front of the Capitol as planned?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, that is certainly our plan. I think that will send an incredibly important visual image to the world about the resilience of American democracy, and so, our plan and our expectation is that President-elect Biden will put his hand on the bible with his family outside on the west side of the Capitol on the 20th.
Look, there is no question though. Of course, we are in a volatile time. I think, you know, unfortunately you only have to look at the chatter on social media to see that we are in a volatile time, and so we are making preparations. We'll begin meeting tomorrow, daily meetings with the outgoing leadership in national security and law enforcement to ensure that we're preparing for any scenario that should arise after noon on January the 20th.
So we're working to ensure that we will be prepared, but we have full faith in the United States Secret Service and their partners who’ve been working for over a year on the planning to ensure that this event is safe. So we're very much looking forward to President-elect Biden putting his hand on the Bible at noon on the 20th.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Has the president-elect weighed in with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer on when the Senate trial of President Trump should start and how long it should go?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, obviously, ultimately, the mechanics and the logistics of -- the pace of the trial and how it should play out is up to congressional leadership. You know, I think the president-elect has spoken publicly about his view here which is that he hopes that the Congress will be able to do its -- its constitutional duty, to discharge its constitutional duty while simultaneously being able to focus on the business of the American people.
He hopes that they’re going to be able to immediately take up this package, the American rescue package he laid out at the end of last week, and start to move forward on getting that money out the door in order to get a comprehensive vaccine distribution program set up. So his great hope is that they're going to be able to do that, and I think if you look, you know, there's precedent for that. If you look at the previous impeachment trial, the Senate was able to move forward on floor business while also conducting the trial.
So, his hope as he's spoken privately to congressional leadership, but also publicly about, is that the Congress is going to be able to move forward on focusing on the virus and on the economy while simultaneously doing their constitutional duty.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Kate Bedingfield, thanks so much for your time this morning.
BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, George. I appreciate it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round table is up next. We'll be right back.
ON SCREEN TEXT: Who was the first president sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, facing the National Mall?
ON SCREEN TEXT: Who was the first president sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, facing the National Mall?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (January 20, 1981): The orderly transfer of authority, as called for in the Constitution, routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, in the eyes of many in the world. This every four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is ready to go.
We'll be right back.
UNKNOWN: Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help you God?
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: I do.
UNKNOWN: Congratulations, Senator.
BIDEN: I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. do solemnly swear...
UNKNOWN: That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
BIDEN: That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
UNKNOWN: Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
BIDEN: Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
UNKNOWN: So help me God.
BIDEN: So help me God.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now Joe Biden, who was the youngest senator to take the oath will become the oldest president to take the oath.
Let's talk about all the challenges ahead on our roundtable with Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Democratic strategist Karen Finney, also CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Sara Fagen.
And, Rahm, let me begin with you. This challenge for Joe Biden as he comes in facing these multiple crises across the country could not be higher.
EMANUEL: No, it could not. I mean, if you look at it, Abraham Lincoln had the Civil War. Wilson had, obviously, the pandemic. Roosevelt had the Depression. And, obviously, Lyndon Johnson had the civil unrest in the United States. Joe Biden gets all of it.
You haven't seen something like this in, obviously, in any point in history. Every president has had -- some presidents have had one of these, not all four. But he also then therefore has an opportunity. These crises offer a huge opportunity.
And I do think, if you look at your poll and you look at his presidency, his person is where he gets support. People reflect and love his decency. They are drawn to it. The policies, he has right-down-the-middle support, and he has to keep driving his person in front.
Remember, the American people want to turn from this type of Donald Trump politics of hunger game into normalizing, lowering the temperature, reaching out. That's where Biden does great.
The policies, he's going to be unbelievably important to bring and keep moving forward. Momentum is his key goal, with also a unifying message. And I think his person is actually going to be his greatest asset, in speaking to that unity.
EMANUEL: But major, major challenges, and the COVID and reducing that -- I'm sorry, George -- the COVID, reducing that impact on society, is going to open up so many more of the doors, like on the economy, for him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Chris Christie, how does he speak to Republicans, so many who still believe the election was stolen, who are still followers of President Trump?
CHRISTIE: Well, he's got to do his job, George. In the end, I think what the American people have learned over especially the last year or so is that, you know, competence really matters in the Oval Office in terms of managing things, and he's going to have to deal now with the challenge of COVID.
I hear all the other things that Rahm mentioned and I don't disagree necessarily, but the number one issue is COVID. Until the COVID vaccine gets broadly distributed, until life gets back to some measure of normalcy, it will be what dominates Joe Biden's job, because, until that happens, you can't really bring back the economy to where it needs to be, you can't really deal with a lot of those underlying issues effectively, until you get people feeling once again as if they're safe.
And this pandemic, with over 300,000 Americans dying, they don't feel safe. And so we need to get back to that. I think that's going to be his first task.
If he does that, he has a chance to achieve a lot of other things that he might want to do in a very closely divided country. As long as he keeps his eye on getting COVID under control, the rest of it, I think, will come to him over the course of his first year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a divided country, Karen Finney, but there's also a divided Democratic Party. A lot of Democrats want Joe Biden to go further than he might be able to go.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think the most important thing is that Joe Biden stays focused on the agenda that he was elected overwhelmingly, by an overwhelming majority of the American people, to implement.
And I think we're already seeing, both in the measures that and the things that Biden has talked about since becoming elected, that a majority of Americans agree with and appreciate the way he has conducted himself.
And in addition to that, I think we will see this president, as the memo that Ron Klain laid out, put forward yesterday, some very quick -- not surprisingly, I slightly disagree with Chris Christie -- an agenda that will not only deal with the COVID crisis, but start to deal with the economy.
People have not just fallen off the cliff. They are down into the ravine. And so the incoming president has taken these issues on, as well as our environmental crises and the racial justice crisis.
But I think the last thing I will say, George, is, the most important thing -- and I think all Democrats and many Republicans of good faith agree -- is accountability. We cannot move forward in unity from this moment if there is not accountability for what has happened.
And, look, Donald Trump is not the -- he threw the Mack truck of gasoline into the tinderbox, but we are a divided country. We have been divided for some time. The politics of polarization as policy for too long has dominated. And so there's got to be accountability for what we saw at the Capitol if we are to move forward.
And I have full faith both in Biden and Congress that we can do both things and all these things at the same time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen, that's going to be a big question for the Senate, though. Can they handle the president-elect's agenda, deal with the president-elect's agenda, as they're conducting the Senate impeachment trial?
SARA FAGEN, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think that is the real challenge for Schumer, having to try to manage really this COVID package, which is likely going to have to get done.
If it -- if he wants it as robust as the president-elect wants it, which includes the minimum wage and so many other policy priorities that are really Democratic policy priorities, not just COVID priorities, he's likely going to have to do it through the reconciliation process.
And that becomes incredibly complex. Of course, he's got to confirm Janet Yellen and many other Cabinet secretaries. And he's got to manage an impeachment trial. And it's a no-win situation for both parties.
Getting rid of Donald Trump, I think, is a win situation for the country as a whole. But the Democrats are going to have to choose between a robust policy agenda and a month-long impeachment trial, while Republicans have to decide, if we don't impeach the president, we look complicit in the events on Wednesday. If we do impeach him, we risk the loss of a big portion of our base.
It is a very complex political dynamic. And I think -- while I agree with Karen in the fact that Donald Trump should be held to account for the riot at the Capitol, I don't know that -- I don't know that that is in Joe Biden's best interests.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do Democrats deal with that dilemma, Rahm?
EMANUEL: Well, I think that this is going to take a deft hand
Right now -- and you can say in the transition, the Biden people have done pretty good of navigating the shoals here, and not knocking off. But I think that Chuck Schumer has his hands, as Sara said -- and the question is to, first and foremost, get the Cabinet confirmed.
And McConnell's offered to do that. So, I think that's a place that you can do that without the impeachment becoming impediment. I think it's too early right now. I think, on the -- on the economic package, you always have reconciliation, which is a 51 vote. Some things will drop out.
I think it was smart to offer it to be bipartisan. On the impeachment effort -- and I want to say this -- I mean, this is very, very important. There's not a single lawyer, except for one that's about to be disbarred by the New York bar, Rudy Giuliani, who wants to defend President -- President Trump. That tells you something.
And I think you can have the impeachment and deal with both confirmations and getting the country moving. If anyone tries to use the impeachment not to deal with COVID, they have a political problem. If the impeachment becomes a weight stopping you from dealing with COVID, that also becomes a problem.
So, both parties have a challenge, not just Chuck Schumer and there’s -- everybody is going to be looking in these intense first hundred days, are you going to be working together or are you just going to use this to score political points? And the president --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie --
SARA FAGEN, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: But I don't think --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead, Sara.
FAGEN: What I was going to say, look, we're calling this a COVID package and there are elements in this package that are very important for COVID relief. Vaccine distribution, of course, and money for getting schools back on track.
But there's a lot more in here that Republican senators are not going to go along with. A minimum wage may make sense in Boston. A $15 minimum wage may make sense in Boston and Los Angeles. It doesn't make sense in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
And the other things for the Democratic constituencies, particularly the state and local governments. Republicans aren’t going to support that.
So, if the president-elect wants to get that accomplished, he will have to do it through reconciliation, and that is a much more complex process that the impeachment will detract from.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, I want to bring to you this dilemma for the Republican Party as well. Dan Balz had a smart column in "The Washington Post" today where he says, President Trump is leaving behind a Republican Party that is broken but still in his grip.
Does the Republican Party have to reject President Trump to move on?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I -- listen, I think what the party has to do is stand by its principles, George. It has to stand by the issues that has moved the party forward by gaining 14 seats in the House, and flipping two legislative chambers, flipping a governorship. Most of what happened on the Election Day was very good for the Republican Party.
And, obviously, what happened in the runoff in Georgia was bad, and I think we can attribute that directly to what was going on in terms of what the president was doing. So, I think we have to stand by our principles and what's going to happen in the Senate now.
But, listen, Chuck Schumer has been called a lot of things. A guy with a deft touch is not one of them. This guy is a sledgehammer.
And so for those of us who live in the area where I live, who’ve been watching Chuck Schumer have press conferences every Sunday afternoon, it seems like for the last hundred years, this is not a deft touch guy.
And so, the challenge is going to be more to people like Joe Manchin and others in the Democratic Caucus, Angus King, and others who are going to try to say, no, no, Chuck, don't do it this way, calm down a little bit to be able to get the agenda moving, if they want to try to do more than one thing at a time.
I don't think Chuck Schumer is the guy to give the deft touch to running things in the United States Senate, and I think we'll see that very clearly right from the start.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Karen Finney, what's the response to that?
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Again, I have faith and confidence in Democrats. And look, if Republicans are sincere, we've heard a lot of attempts to try to minimize the violence at the Capitol, to try to sweep it under the rug and call for moving forward, if Republicans are sincere about that, they will support the president-elect, soon-to-be President Biden, and they will in good faith.
We may have policy differences. They will vote for his cabinet appointees. They will not try to use the impeachment as a way to slow down the progress of moving forward with this agenda.
And look, I think it's incumbent on Democrats to also as we now know in this modern media environment to do a better job of communicating who we are, what we stand for, and what we're fighting for in terms of the things that are in the package that Biden has put forward. Anybody who is opposing that, again, a majority of Americans voted for Joe Biden. These are all the ideas that he campaigned on.
So if you are opposing that, you're opposing the moving forward of this country.
I do want to correct one thing. What happened in Georgia was the hard work of many incredible people including black women like Stacey Abrams and black voters. It was not just because of Donald Trump's ridiculousness. It was because people came out and voted and because of changes -- I mean, what happened in Georgia reflects changes that are happening in this country that are going to continue.
And I will go back to my core message here which is, there can not be unity in this country without accountability, and that is part of how we move forward. That is part of how Chuck Schumer is going to have to lead the Senate in terms of holding people accountable if they don't vote to support these policies.
EMANUEL: George, on Karen's point, I want to point to this -- if you have an open wound which people talk about, the only way to heal it is to get the infection out. And Donald Trump has to be held accountable for inspiring this, and that's why at the end of the day, you look at impeachment, but you may also look at the 14th Amendment. It doesn't require 67 votes. It says he should be banned from running and if you look at the polling, that's where a majority, a good two-thirds of the country is for --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on that, though, before we leave. Wait, let me just say because I want to do a follow-up question there because they're going to face --
EMANUEL: It's your show. You can do anything you want.
RAHM EMANUEL, (D) FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: For -- that all -- that (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: So let me -- let me press -- let me pressure you on that, though, before you -- before we leave.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST AND CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But can I --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean does it -- wait, but let me just say --
FINNEY: But can I --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because I want to do a follow-up question there because you're going to -- they're going to face a -- a --
EMANUEL: It's your show and you can do anything you want.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. Not always.
They're going to face a tricky dilemma. Do you -- do you move that vote on the 14th Amendment banning the president from running again before you move to a final vote on impeachment or after?
EMANUEL: It's wait -- it's -- you know, first of all, it's your show, but we just -- the roundtable likes to rent it periodically.
But I would just say on this point, that's way too early to say, George, on this point. I would just say that right now you start with impeachment.
FINNEY: But --
EMANUEL: If it looks like the impeachment's dragging everything else down, you have a lot of backup. In the same way you go for 60 votes on the economic package and you always have reconciliation of 51. You always have an off ramp to how to get these things done.
FINNEY: Can -- but, George --
EMANUEL: And I think on the impeachment, you're going to go straight forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: See, I -- I want --
EMANUEL: But if it's a wait --
FINNEY: But --
EMANUEL: You can then have other option to see what --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I've got to go to Sara Fagen on this --
FINNEY: I --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because, Sara, I want to bring you in on this.
CHRISTIE: Hey --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does Mitch McConnell vote to convict or not? Sara?
FAGEN: I think -- I don't know. Yes, I don't know if he will vote to convict or not. I think he's certainly leaving it open. And I would argue that the -- that, you know, him letting that story in "The New York Times" unanswered that said he was unsure of what he was going to do speaks volumes about where his head is, and the fact that he's certainly not going to whip his caucus on this vote means that more Republicans will vote to impeach the president --
FINNEY: You know, but --
FAGEN: But if -- if this is a long trial --
CHRISTIE: Hey -- hey, George -- George --
FAGEN: And if there --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finish -- finish the -- quickly.
FINNEY: I'm sorry, very quickly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The -- I want to -- I just --
FINNEY: I think we've failed --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead, Karen.
FAGEN: If this is a long trial -- if this is a long trial, we will --
FINNEY: Just very quickly, George, I think we've failed the test of history of this moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, I'm just going to ask you all real quickly, final question, yes or no answer --
FAGEN: Go ahead, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the Senate vote to convict? Go down the line. Karen Finney first.
FINNEY: They should. But, more importantly, the larger test of this moment in history is not just about convicting Donald Trump, it is about accountability and understanding the divisions in this country and figuring out how we unify and heal and move forward in acknowledging that these divisions have been exploited by Trump, but they exist. This is who we are. It's not who we have to be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is all we have time for, so I don't get all whole -- all the yeses or noes.
Thank you all very much.
We'll be right back.
EMANUEL: Thanks, Karen.
CHRISTIE: George, if --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
Tune in Wednesday for our special coverage of Joe Biden's inauguration. I'll be anchoring with our whole political team starting at 7:00 a.m. and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."