A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 17, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Mideast mission.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am.
RADDATZ: President Biden defends his controversial meeting with the Saudi crown prince as he pushes for more oil production.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: For the president himself to be there I think it sends the wrong message.
RADDATZ: Now returning home to an anxious economy and a major blow to his domestic agenda.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I'm not going to do something and overreach that causes more problems.
RADDATZ: This morning the very latest with Mary Bruce, Rebecca Jarvis on the new economic indicators, and Senator Bernie Sanders responds to the demise of the progressive agenda.
Winning the West?
UNIDENTIFIED: Yes, I did vote for President Trump the first time around but I will never vote for him again.
RADDATZ: We travel to Wyoming where Donald Trump won by his largest margin to see how the January 6th hearings are playing out as the committee prepares to wrap its latest series of hearings.
PAT CIPOLLONE, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: You're asking one simple question, where is the evidence?
RADDATZ: Our exclusive interview with committee member Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: It is certainly the most immune evasive.
RADDATZ: The newest COVID variant drives up cases and hospitalizations once again. Dr. Ashish Jha gives us the outlook ahead.
ANN: From ABC News, it's "This Week." Here, now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
As we come on the air this morning, President Biden has just concluded a controversial four-day trip to the Middle East where he recommitted the U.S. to the region and celebrated closer ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But after promising during the 2020 presidential campaign to make Saudi Arabia a pariah for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the president traded tough talk for fist bumps, urging the oil-rich nation to boost production amid rising pressure to combat sky high inflation and soaring gas prices. The Saudis made no such guarantee during the trip.
And while overseas a big story breaking here at home. The president receiving a major blow to his domestic agenda, moderate Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia putting a stake in the heart of Biden's major climate and tax reform proposals.
The question now, with Biden back in Washington, can his administration turn the economy around with less than four months to the midterms? Chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis is standing by, but we begin with senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce who has been traveling with the president.
And, Mary, the president is now home after a week of criticism, but also some important achievements abroad.
MARY BRUCE, ABC SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martha, the White House is defending this trip. Look, the president knew he was going to face blowback for this, but it was a risk he was willing to take to try and lower gas prices back home and advance regional security and stability. The White House saying you can't make progress on these issues if you aren't in the room. And they were able to make steps towards normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. And the president did leave with an expectation that more oil will be flowing into the market that could bring Americans some relief. But there was no firm announcement.
And then, of course, there are the optics of this, that highly choreographed welcome, that fist bump. It was the image the Saudis were hoping for and were eager to release to the world, an image the White House had been hoping to avoid but that now will be a lasting image of this presidency, Martha.
RADDATZ: And, Mary, as the president was pushing for more oil production to combat inflation, this announcement from Joe Manchin dealt him an equally crushing blow.
BRUCE: A crushing and potentially fatal blow to the president's top agenda items. Manchin is firm here. He is not going to support funding for climate change programs. He is against raising taxes on the most wealthy. And that effectively kills the president's hopes of passing his ambitious climate change agenda and also of passing that sweeping social safety net programs that included things like universal pre-K and paid family leave.
Now the president is trying to salvage what he can here. He is urging Congress to act to lower health care costs. That is something that Manchin says he will support. And Biden says he will take executive actions to do what he can to counter climate change. But, Martha, there's just no question, this is massive setback for the president's top policy goals.
RADDATZ: It certainly is. Thank you, Mary.
Let's turn to our chief and business and economics correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis.
Rebecca, the economy is sending very mixed signals. Inflation keeps rising but the unemployment rate remains near historic lows.
REBECCA JARVIS, ABC CHIEF BUSINESS & ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, and that's part of the issue right here, Martha. What we heard this week from JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is that the economy is facing these two conflicting factors. On the one hand, you have robust jobs growth, you have the addition, the continual creation of jobs, historically low unemployment at 3.6 percent, not an all-time low, but near those records. And on the other hand, you have these 40-year highs in the rise of inflation, 9.1 percent year-over-year prices going up. And that is costing in real terms American families real money, $493 per month more than they were spending last year on the same goods and services, according to Moody's.
And while you have seen gas prices come down in recent weeks, we're now paying about $4.50 nationally, that's about 50 cents lower than we were just a month ago, you still have these other areas that continue to climb, things like rents, which, Martha, in some places are up as much as 25 percent from a year ago. And that's not the kind of thing that just adjusts overnight for families.
RADDATZ: It certainly isn't, and something they're all noticing. Meanwhile, Rebecca, the Fed has signaled another massive interest rate hike coming later this month. Many economists concerned it could bring on a recession.
JARVIS: And the Federal Reserve is in this situation where some believe they began acting too late, they misjudged it and thought inflation was going to be temporary. It is not. It's deeply entrenched in the economy. They're hiking rates very likely later this month and they'll continue to do that. And now it becomes, in most of the CEO and analyst surveys of economists, not a matter of if but when where there will be a recession and how severe. This week, Martha, Bank of America put out a call that they believe we will face a mild recession some time this year.
RADDATZ: Thanks for joining us this morning, Rebecca. And thanks to you, Mary.
And we're joined now by Senator Bernie Sanders.
It's good to see you this morning, Senator Sanders. President Biden is back from his trip, a trip that has gotten a lot of blowback from even your fellow Democrats, especially that fist bump with the Saudi crown prince. You've referred to Saudi Arabia as a brutal dictatorship that crushes democracy. Should Biden have gone?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): No, I don't think so. You have the leader of that country who is involved in the murder of a Washington Post journalist. I don't think that that type of government should be rewarded with a visit by the president of the United States.
RADDATZ: But at the heart of the discussions was oil. And President Biden said that Saudis would take action in the coming weeks. Could that make a difference? And doesn't that explain why he went? What would you have done?
SANDERS: Well, I'm sure that -- Martha, I'm sure that that is why he went. But the truth of the matter is, if you're looking at the outrageously high cost of gas at the pumps right now, one of the things we have got to look at is the fact that while Americans are now paying $4.50, $4.80 for a gallon of a gas, the oil company profits in the last quarter have been extraordinarily high. And I happen to believe that we've got tell the oil companies to stop ripping off the American people. And if they don't, we should impose a windfall profits tax on them.
RADDATZ: So would you just ignore the Saudis if you were president?
SANDERS: Look, you've got a family that is worth $100 billion which crushes democracy, which treats women as third-class citizens, which murders and imprisons its opponents. And if this country believes in anything, we believe in human rights, we believe in democracy. And I just don't believe that we should be maintaining a warm relationship with a dictatorship like that.
RADDATZ: And I want to go back to economy. How concerned are you about a recession?
SANDERS: Well, what I am really concerned about is that increasingly, Martha, and I think most Americans know this, we are moving rapidly into an oligarchic form of society. You know, we talk about the economy doing poorly for the working class, for the middle class, that's true. But we should also recognize the economy is doing extraordinarily well for the people on top, for the billionaires who have seen a $2 trillion increase in their wealth during this pandemic while a million Americans died.
So the struggle must be to create an economy that works for all, not just the people on top, a political system which is not dominated by superpacs and billionaires, a media which is not owned by large corporations. And I think the American people, what is very clear, whether you're Democrat, Republican, or independent, people are looking at Washington and they're saying, you know what, you don't represent me, you don't know what's going on in my life. I can't afford health care. I can't afford the cost of prescription drugs. I can't afford child care. What are you doing about it?
And what people are doing about it is taking money from superpacs or being influenced by superpacs, and the rich get richer.
RADDATZ: Senator, I want to turn --
SANDERS: So, what we need to do is we all go (ph) about people taking -- yeah, go ahead.
RADDATZ: Senator, I want to turn Congress and the agenda there. Senator Manchin, of course, abruptly pulled the plug this week on the Democrats’ plans to pass --
SANDERS: No, Martha, he didn't abruptly -- Martha.
RADDATZ: OK, let -- OK, he abruptly on Friday did that.
SANDERS: Martha, let me disagree with you. He didn't abruptly do anything.
RADDATZ: He was negotiating for a while.
SANDERS: He has sabotaged the president's agenda.
No, look, if you check the record, six months ago, I made it clear that you have people like Manchin, Sinema to a lesser degree, who are intentionally sabotaging the president's agenda, what the American people, what a majority of us in the Democratic Caucus want. Nothing new about this.
And the problem was that we continue to talk Manchin like he was serious. He was not. This is a guy who is a major recipient of fossil fuel money, a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires. If you think this guy is serious --
RADDATZ: OK, Senator, I want -- OK, you say he wasn't serious. But Manchin says his main goal is to do what's good for West Virginia and he's worried about inflation.
Listen to what he told a West Virginia --
SANDERS: Really, really?
RADDATZ: -- radio station. Listen to this, please.
SANDERS: Is that right?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Inflation is absolutely killing many, many people. They can't buy gasoline. They have a hard time buying groceries. Everything they buy and consume for their daily lives is a hardship to them.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Your reaction to that, Senator?
SANDERS: Look, the same nonsense that Manchin has been talking about for a year.
West Virginia -- it’s a beautiful state, and I’ve had the pleasure of being there. Great people. It is one of poorest states in this country.
You ask the people of West Virginia whether they want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses. You ask the people of West Virginia whether we should demand that the wealthiest people and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. Ask the people of West Virginia whether or not all people should have health care as a human right, like in every other country on Earth. That’s what they will say.
In my humble opinion, you know, Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country, not working families in West Virginia or America.
RADDATZ: And, Senator Sanders, I want to end if these provisions don't get passed -- doesn’t like they will -- what does that mean for Democrats’ climate goals and the climate itself?
SANDERS: Martha, it ain't Democrats. It isn’t the president. It is the future of the planet.
So, when Manchin sabotages climate change, this is the future generations what's going on right now. In the West, all over the world, we’re looking at significantly increased -- more and more heat waves. You’d have to look at more flooding. This is an existential threat to humanity.
And what this election must be about is whether or not we’re going to vote for candidates who will have (ph) to stand up for working people, stand up for the planets and have the courage to take on the billionaire class who dominates our economy and our political life.
That's what this election is about. The Republican Party is not there. We need more progressive Democrats who are going to fight for worker.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks for joining us this morning, Senator Sanders.
As we mentioned, a major blow to president's domestic agenda this week, as new polling suggests Americans are souring on his leadership. Just 33 percent say they approve of the president's job handling. And now with Biden's legislation blocked again by Senator Manchin, will that polling get worse? And what about Manchin himself who keeps stressing his decision to thwart the climate change plan, is all about inflation and serving the people of West Virginia?
We'll talk with the roundtable about the fallout in a moment.
But first, we wanted to hear from voters in Manchin's home state to see what they think of their senator's latest move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN TAYLOR, PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA: I used to think that Joe Manchin was for West Virginia and for coal, but now I’m not so sure.
KATHLEEN DISALLE, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA: Why would somebody go out of their way, like Senator Manchin, to hold us back and not let us move forward and think that's what the people want.
MICHELLE GRIGGS, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA: I think a lot of the climate crisis is just a made fairytale and it’s not going to fly in West Virginia.
As far as thwarting Joe Biden's plan, I think he's simply follows his convictions with every decision and I totally respect him for it.
HOWARD POWELL, PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA: He’s the one in negative polls (inaudible). I mean, you know, he's holding things up. So, yeah, I’m not really happy with Manchin. It’s all about negotiations. West Virginians, you say they’re hurt and they need help, well, then, help us. Quit talking about it and do it. Do something.
HANNA AGRABRITE, PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA: Just kind of looking at the state that West Virginia is in doesn't look like Senator Manchin is doing much to help West Virginia economy-wise, in my opinion.
JIM FARNSWORTH, PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA: We'd rather he didn’t work for Biden. We’d rather
Senator Manchin, stay West Virginia pride.
RADDATZ: OK. For more let's bring in the roundtable. “National Review” editor Ramesh Ponnuru, former Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, ABC News political director Rick Klein, and “Washington Post Live” anchor Leigh Ann Caldwell.
Good morning to all of you.
Bernie Sanders was pretty fired up there. It seems Manchin is getting blowback from everywhere. Maybe not a few people from West Virginia. But he is a Democratic senator in Trump country.
HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
RADDATZ: In coal country.
HEITKAMP: Yes. I mean, the thing is that this has been building, right, from the very beginning after they passed the infrastructure package. They had hoped they would bet Build Back Better. That had been stalled out. And so this – this has been a long slog.
And, you know, I – I love Bernie. I think he is absolutely committed to what he's saying. But his criticism of Manchin isn't that relevant, right? He's going to be critical, has been critical since day one. The question is, what is Catherine Cortez Masto saying to Bernie? The people who are in a little tougher races. What is, you know, the Senator Hassan from – from New Hampshire saying? And how do these senators who are in tough midterm races, how are they reacting right now? Because they would love something to come home to that they can say, look what we've gotten done, whether it’s $35 insulin, whether it is the expansion of subsidies for Obamacare, whether it is negotiation on prescription drugs.
RADDATZ: And, Rick, Manchin says he did this because of his views that further spending would increase inflation, which he's been consistently warning about.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.
RADDATZ: And he’s not the only one.
KLEIN: Yes, he's been saying this out loud since the beginning, even during the whole long process last year on the infrastructure bill. And all – all – all along Democrats have hoped they could get something else because they’ve had this narrowest of majorities.
And, yes, it is striking now to see a 9.1 percent inflation report. How many Democrats came out and blasted away as if they weren't the party in power? You saw people on the progressive side, people like Tim Ryan, people like John Fetterman running for Senate in Pennsylvania, were saying, we’ve got to do something about this now.
Now, what they want to do is a lot different than what Joe Manchin wants to do, but Democrats will recognize, this is an existential threat to their – to their majority. And it makes it hard now to build up the pieces. To Senator Heitkamp’s point, there is a window here to get some things done on – on ACA subsidies, on prescription drug pricing. These are things that Democrats could still do. In fact, the White House still thinks there’s a window to do this. But as long as there’s this infighting and this anger inside the party, it becomes very difficult to piece something together.
RADDATZ: And, Ramesh, as you watch all of this with Manchin, what do you think?
RAMESH PONNURU, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR & BLOOMBERG OPINION COLUMNIST: I think that the continued drama about Manchin as the sort of focus of progressive ire in the Democratic Party is obscuring a change in what’s happened with this reconciliation bill. It was – it’s always had a problem finding rational. It was always a grab bag of everything the Democrats wanted that they thought that they could get with 51 votes in the Senate. It didn't have a coherent message behind it. And now I think it has shrunk down, even if Manchin agrees to it, it is – they are now playing not to lose. They are now trying to get something so they can just say, we came up empty after all of these months.
RADDATZ: And, Leigh Ann, Senator Manchin does support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Republicans go along with that?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, WASHINGTON POST EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR & WASHINGTON POST LIVE ANCHOR: It's a big question. Democrats have a choice on if that’s what they’re going to move forward with. If something is better than nothing. And that's what they're going to be discussing this week.
As far as Republicans are concerned, they have to also decide if they are going support it too. And that’s going to be a decision for Leader McConnell and how that's going to impact races around the country. Democrats hope that Republicans don't so that they can go back to voters and say, we are the party that’s going to lower your prescription drug costs, we’re going to keep your subsidies for the American -- Affordable Care Act low. But we’ll see how Republicans respond to this and see what Democrats can actually get done.
RADDATZ: And, Heidi, on the latest inflation report, which was not good, President Biden's response was that it's not reflective of current condition. And it’s -- it's true, that gas prices have gone down, but people continue to feel it every day. This is the big story.
HEITKAMP: It -- it's the huge story. And unless the Democrats have a response like, we're lowering your healthcare costs, we’re doing everything that we can to subsidize low-income housing credits, because we’re going to be going into the heating season, never mind this heat wave that we're experiencing where we're now seeing high energy prices and electricity.
And so what -- what they've got to do, what -- to me, what the Democrats have to do is they have to draw a distinction to motivate their base. This now has become a base turnout midterm. I think they’ve got to – they – they have a big base motivator with Roe being overturned. We have, I think, McConnell now saying I'm going to hold up CHIPS." Most people in North Dakota, most people in the country, don't even what that is, and he's only hurting Republicans in Ohio by saying that.
And so the Republicans don't have a lot of leverage right now to stop the Democrats from putting together a package that responds to low-income, middle-income concerns about inflation. And that's really what they need to do at the midterms.
RADDATZ: But, meanwhile...
HEITKAMP: ... or with reconciliation, excuse me.
RADDATZ: But, meanwhile, Rick, as gas prices are falling, so are Joe Biden's numbers. How does he come back from this? What does he do?
KLEIN: Well, the White House view is, if they could get some points on the board, get something done significant that impacts people's lives around healthcare, that's the window they can work with Manchin. The president says he's going to continue to work on climate, and that's something that a lot of parts of the base care about pretty deeply.
Their view is they're hoping, as the president said when he got off the plane last night, they're hoping that the inflation numbers get better. They think there's still a chance to deal with Manchin, if that happens, and then, more broadly, making this into a choice and not a referendum. That's what incumbents always say.
The fact that Biden's numbers are falling, even as the Democrats seem to be doing a little bit better in the generic ballot -- they've got a bunch of Senate races right now where they're leading -- maybe you've got an opportunity for the -- for the midterms not to be a total wipe-out for the party. That's kind of the best they can hope for, four months or so out.
RADDATZ: And, Ramesh, I want to turn back to the -- to the foreign trip. Jamal Khashoggi's murder was rightly looming over this trip to Saudi, but Biden went there to re-establish relationships and for oil. There is clearly nothing happening immediately, but is there any hope for some long-term solution here, and will it really make a difference?
PONNURU: Well, I think that you've got several problems here. One is that the president has sacrificed some reputation in return for not much that's immediate. The second is there are some questions about whether the Saudis even have the capacity to increase production at the levels that Americans would like to see. And then third, does the U.S. have the refining capacity in order to make that translate into lower prices at the pump?
So I -- I don't think that this trip is going to be a political win for the administration.
RADDATZ: And, Leigh Ann, Biden of course met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. You heard what Bernie Sanders said about that this morning. This is what Democrat Adam Schiff said about the fist bump between the two men. "If we ever needed a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, we got it today. One fist bump is worth a thousand words."
So, to Ramesh's point, is this trip thumbs down?
CALDWELL: Yeah, Democrats aren't pleased about it, the fact that they are criticizing the president of their own party. But the White House is saying, "Look, we didn't want to leave a vacuum in the Middle East; we need this oil." And then you have to balance all that with human rights. And so what we're going to have to see, looking ahead, did this trip do all of those things? Was he able to implore about human rights? Was he able to get the oil? And was he able to fulfill that vacuum in the Middle East? And that's not going to be answered today. It's going to happen in the next few weeks.
RADDATZ: And -- and send a message to China and Russia that we're back in the Middle East.
RADDATZ: We'll see how that goes as well.
We're going to come back. The roundtable will be right back for more. But first, an inside look at this week's primetime January 6th Committee hearing. Plus, I traveled to Wyoming to speak with voters about Congresswoman Liz Cheney's pivotal role in the investigation, with just weeks to go until the state's primary election. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: Now the argument seems to be that President Trump was manipulated by others outside the administration. The strategy is to blame people his advisers called, quote, "the crazies" for what Donald Trump did. This, of course, is nonsense. President Trump is a 76-year-old man, he is not an impressionable child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: January 6th Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney laying out some of the case against Donald Trump we'll see in this week's primetime hearing. While the investigation has gripped the nation's capital, we wanted to see how the hearings are resonating with voters outside of Washington. So we traveled to Wyoming where Donald Trump carried his biggest margin of victory in 2020 and Liz Cheney faces a vigorous Trump-backed challenger in next month's primary, which could serve as a canary in the coal mine for Donald Trump's future.
RADDATZ (voice-over): It's the least populous state in the country, but the most Republican. Wyoming giving nearly 70 percent of its vote in 2020 to Donald Trump. At Darrel Hackleman's house in Casper, the Trump flag is still flying. So we asked him to come on out and talk about the new revelations in the hearings.
DARREL LEE HACKLEMAN, WYOMING VOTER: Well, I just think it's just all politics, there's nothing there. They're just trying to make something out of nothing.
RADDATZ: In fact, Darrel said he didn't really watch much of the hearings or seem to know that much about the assault on the Capitol itself.
HACKLEMAN: I think it was wrong what they did, you know, about -- in the Capitol Building and everything, but I don't think it was an insurrection or anything like that.
So, they did what they did. But, you know, nobody was hurt.
RADDATZ (on camera): Nobody was hurt? What about the police officers?
(voice-over): We showed him videos from that day but...
HACKLEMAN: Well, of course that's not right. But that happens in all demonstrations.
RADDATZ: Needless to say, Hackleman's support for Trump has not wavered.
As for Liz Cheney, no way would he vote for her again. It is the Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman who will likely get his vote this time.
(on camera): Liz Cheney won overwhelmingly here in Wyoming in 2020 with more than 68 percent of the vote. But that was before she voted for impeachment and before the January 6th Committee.
(voice-over): Sue Schilling, also a Casper resident, told us Cheney's vote to impeach Trump and her role in the hearings turned her off completely.
(on camera): You voted for Liz Cheney in the past.
SUE SCHILLING, WYOMING VOTER: Yes, I voted for her last time.
RADDATZ: But not this time.
SCHILLING: I will not vote for her this time.
RADDATZ: Why not?
SCHILLING: I think that Liz has really gone after President Trump on this J6 debacle.
RADDATZ (voice-over): But we spent eight hours driving through Wyoming, and there were plenty of Cheney signs scattered throughout, and plenty of people who support her, even lifelong Democrat Nancy Roberts.
NANCY ROBERTS, WYOMING VOTER: I am absolutely appalled and beyond myself that I would have a Cheney sign in my yard. I have never been a Cheney fan. But on this particular issue, I just admired that and that's why it's there.
RADDATZ: At a country store in Casper, we met bronc rider John Long, who also supports Cheney.
JOHN LONG, WYOMING VOTER: I think she's doing a good job holding President Trump accountable. And that's -- you know, and that's a tough deal because she's a Republican and so it looks like she's a Benedict Arnold. But in my opinion she's standing her ground.
RADDATZ (on camera): Did you vote in the 2020 presidential election?
LONG: Yes, I did.
RADDATZ: Who did you vote for?
LONG: Well, I voted for Trump.
RADDATZ: Would you vote for him again?
RADDATZ (voice-over): At the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, Charlotte and Chris Kinner stopped to talk. He is a Republican, she a Democrat.
CHARLOTTE KINNER, WYOMING VOTER: I do plan to go, prior to the primaries, change my affiliation back. And I am going to vote for Liz.
RADDATZ (on camera): If she wins the Republican nomination, would you vote for her in the general election?
CHA. KINNER: Absolutely, yes, she's amazing.
CHRIS KINNER: I'm a registered Republican and I have never voted in the primary election, but I'm going to do this year because I want to vote for Liz. I'll be honest with you, I did vote for President Trump the first time around, but I will never vote for him again.
RADDATZ: And we are joined now by a member of the January 6th Committee, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Good morning.
RADDATZ: Thanks for coming in this morning. You watched that. We obviously saw some minds that were changed by the hearings, but a recent Monmouth poll found less than a quarter of Americans are paying attention and 90 percent of those say the hearings have not changed their minds. Did you go into this believing you could change minds?
LOFGREN: Well, we went into it trying to do our job. We were assigned the task as a committee of uncovering all of the facts about the 6th and the events leading up to the 6th so that we could report on that.
We hope to do it in a way that is accessible to all Americans. And I think, you know, some people have heard us. More than 55 million people have watched some part of the committee proceedings.
But in the end, it's an obligation to do our job that is motivating us.
RADDATZ: And, late Friday, your committee subpoenaed the Secret Service --
RADDATZ: -- for text messages that you believed was erased. The Secret Service -- and those were from January 5th and 6th -- the Secret Service said that was part of a planned system migration and none of the messages were pertinent to the investigation.
Do you believe that's true?
LOFGREN: Well, you can imagine how shock we were to get the letter from the inspector general saying that he had been trying to get this information and that they had, in fact, been deleted after he asked for them. We did get a briefing from the inspector of general of Homeland Security.
And then there was a statement made by the spokesperson for the department saying that it wasn't true, it wasn't fair, and that they, in fact, had pertinent texts -- and we go, fine, if you have them, we need them.
And we expect to get them by this Tuesday. So we'll see.
RADDATZ: And just all the text messages?
LOFGREN: We need all the texts from the 5th and the 6th of January.
I was shocked to hear that they didn't back up their data before they reset their iPhones. That's crazy. I don't know why that would be.
But we need to get this information to get the full picture.
RADDATZ: And what could be the final hearing is on Thursday in primetime. It's focusing on Donald Trump's actions on January 6th. We’ve heard Liz Cheney say what he didn't do that day.
But do you have specific evidence beyond that for what you have called dereliction of duty?
LOFGREN: Well, I’m going to let the hearings speak for itself but we hope to go through minute by minute what happened, what didn't happen on that day, and people can make their own judgment.
RADDATZ: And the committee also talked about possible witness tampering with the potential witness getting a phone call, will this week's hearing back up that claim at all?
LOFGREN: I don't think we're going to go into that in this hearing, but we do it's highly improper for the former president to be calling witnesses and making them feel under pressure. That's not the right thing to do.
RADDATZ: And Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters the committee is still discussing possibly trying to interview Mike Pence or even Donald Trump.
RADDATZ: Have you not decided yet? Everything is on the table.
LOFGREN: Everything is on the table.
RADDATZ: When will you make that decision?
LOFGREN: We will make it in the appropriate time frame.
This investigation is very much ongoing. The fact -- and the fact that series of hearings is going to be concluded this Thursday doesn't mean that our investigation is over. It's very active, new witnesses are coming forward, additional information is coming forward. There are things that we're looking at still.
And so, that -- those discussions will be very pertinent.
RADDATZ: So you could have another series of hearings?
LOFGREN: Well, I’m not suggesting we will or won't.
We will, we’ve indicated this, we will have a report this fall. And whether we have, you know, a public unveiling of that, you know, that's yet to be decided. But we will have a summation, an interim report, and then a final report later this year.
RADDATZ: And the Department of Justice obviously does not have to wait for any criminal referral from your committee. We’ve talked about this a lot, over the last couple of months. But has there been a decision whether you might make a criminal referral?
LOFGREN: We haven't made that decision and likely we won’t until we more or less completed our investigation. There's no real legal process for the so-called criminal referral. It's essentially just writing a letter to the Department of Justice saying, here's what we think, and we might well do that.
But the DOJ should be looking at all of this, doing their own investigation and obviously we're cooperating with them on certain matters at their request. But they're the ones that make the criminal charges, not a legislative committee.
RADDATZ: You talk about when your investigation is over. Will the investigation, do you believe, be over by the midterms?
LOFGREN: Well, I can’t say for sure because it depends on what comes in. Frankly, if the president's supporters had not engaged in frivolous litigation for months on end, we would be farther along than we are. But we're going to plow ahead and get our job done, find all of the facts and then lay all the facts out for the American people.
RADDATZ: You talked about the Department of Justice and looking at criminal referrals and things such as that.
Rep. Thompson said the Justice Department’s only asked the committee for witness testimony over the fraudulent electorates. Do you think there’s more the Justice Department should be looking into?
LOFGREN: Well, I do think that there's a much broader plot here. I think that's pretty obvious. I would not want to tell the attorney general how to conduct his investigations. But I will say this, they have subpoena power and they have a lot easier way to enforce their subpoenas than the Congress does. So, I presume that they are looking at everything. I would hope so.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
LOFGREN: You bet.
RADDATZ: Good to see you.
And a programming note, David Muir will anchor live coverage of Thursday's hearing at 8:00 Eastern right here on ABC.
And, up next, the Biden administration is debating whether to expand Covid booster shot eligibility as the most transmissible Covid variant yet drives a new wave of cases across the country. We'll discuss the latest outbreak with Dr. Ashish Jha, next.
RADDATZ: Dr. Ashish Jha is standing by, ready to go.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: Now we have BA.5, which clearly, because of its ability to evade immune responses either from the vaccine or from people who have been previously infected, the ability to infect an individual is enhanced over prior variants. So this is something you don't want to panic about, but we really need to pay attention to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Dr. Anthony Fauci discussing the latest COVID variant driving a spike in new cases across the country. Here to discuss is the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha.
It's great to see you again, Dr. Jha.
This new BA.5 variant is described as the most transmissible. We don't want to panic, but it is now the most dominant. Deaths are also increasing. So how dangerous is this?
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Good morning, Martha. Thank you for having me back.
As you heard from Dr. Fauci, it is the immune-evasive. What that means in practical terms is that if you were infected three, four months, you can get reinfected. We're seeing high levels of reinfection. We're seeing people who are not up to date on their vaccines have a lot of breakthrough infections.
But the good news here, Martha, is that our tools and our vaccines, if you are up to date, if you got vaccinated recently, if you get an infection, if you get treatments, those continue to work really, really well. So this is an area of concern, but we know how to manage this.
RADDATZ: But are those who have been vaccinated, boosted and have been infected before getting infected at the same rate as those who have not?
JHA: Yeah, we're still seeing protection against infection. I mean, obviously protection against serious illness is still preserved. And that's the good news. But we're still seeing some protection against infection but not as much. This is that immune-evasive nature of this virus.
So, if you got your booster, let's say, last November or December, you don't have as much protection against this virus as you'd like. So one of the key messages coming out of this moment is, if you are 50 or over and if you have not gotten a shot this year, in the year 2022, it is absolutely critical that you go out and get one now. It will offer a very high degree of protection.
RADDATZ: You know, I have to say I've been traveling again this week, on airplanes, in airports, so few people wearing masks. And in New York City, where they have a 15 percent positivity rate, the New York Times described it as, kind of, a "meh" reaction to this variant. So what do you do?
JHA: Yeah, so first of all, I think it's really important to remind people of the science, the public health science. And the public health science is very clear. If you're in a crowded indoor space, especially if it's poorly ventilated, wearing a mask reduces your risk of infection and reduces your risk of spreading it to others.
So we've got to continue to encourage people to do that. We've been doing a lot to make testing widely available. It's a really good way of slowing down the spread, and then encouraging people to get, you know, vaccinated and get up to date on their vaccines; and then, obviously, as I said earlier, if you end up having a breakthrough infection, getting treated, because we don't want people ending up in the hospital. And treatments are working really well.
RADDATZ: And L.A. County announced this week that, if cases continue on the same trajectory, they will have an indoor mask mandate. It looks likely that that will happen. I assume that's something you support. Should -- should other states look at this?
JHA: Yeah, my view on this has been, really for two years, well before I came into this current role, my view on this has been very clear, which is local jurisdictions, cities, counties, states, should make decisions about mask mandates because communities are different and their patterns of transmission are different.
That said, CDC has very clear guidance on this as well through their COVID community levels. And the CDC recommendation is that when you're in a high zone, that sort of orange zone, as L.A. County is, you know, people wearing masks indoors is really important and it really will make a difference.
RADDATZ: What does it say about this virus with all these new variants? What is the future?
JHA: Yes, this is a very good question. The way I look at this is this is a virus that is still evolving rapidly. We're still in the middle of this pandemic. Now obviously we're in a way better place than we were a year-and-a-half ago. For instance, when the president came in to office, think about where we were in January of '21 versus now, much, much better. But we still have work to do.
We've got to stay on top of this virus. We've got to keep building new generations of vaccines. We've got to make sure we're -- we have adequate treatments. We can get through this but it is not -- if we take our eye off our ball, we've got to really stay focused. And we are. And we're staying focused on managing this.
RADDATZ: And just quickly, Dr. Jha, if you can, according to CDC data, about 60 million adults over 50 are eligible for that second booster, but only one in four have gotten it. Do you think that's because they're waiting for a new booster in the fall and should they?
JHA: Yes, what I'm recommending, everybody over 50, if you've not gotten a shot in the last six months, if in the year 2022 you have not gotten a shot, you need to get one now. You still can get a booster -- an omicron-specific booster this fall and winter. Getting a shot now will not preclude you. But it will protect you for the rest of this summer into the fall. I think it's really critically important.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so very much for your advice, Dr. Jha. Always good to see you.
When we come back, Donald Trump is teasing another run in 2024. Will he announce before the midterm elections? The "Roundtable" weighs in, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I like Ron DeSantis, but I know what I’m getting with Trump, the good, and the bad, and everything in between. Trump sounds pretty good to me right now.
Look, you know, Gavin Newsom may be the only guy that Biden is willing to deport.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: I do know -- you know, it’s one of those things. I’ve tried to say no, no way in every way I possibly can. It's just fodder. It's made up and it is -- frankly, it's not helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Some early chatter already under way for the 2024 presidential race.
We're back now with the roundtable.
And, Rick, I want so start with you. I want to go back to those interviews in Wyoming. You heard people say it's anecdotal. It’s obviously not a scientific poll, saying they wouldn't vote for Trump again.
But have the hearings, have what’s going on -- January 6th itself, moved the needle in a significant way, do you believe?
KLEIN: I think you’ve got something really interesting in that report, Martha, because I think if you look at the narrow sense of, did Trump voters, Trump supporters still support him? I think the answer is yes. I don't think the hearings have changed that.
But I think where they have moved the needle potentially is what it's put in the water, put in the ground for 2024. You now have a body of evidence that can be used against the former president in a competitive primary situation which we're going to be in. He's not going to get a free pass, which even if you don't talk about criminal charges, and Merrick Garland goes nowhere, you have a body of evidence that's going to be used against him to say, this is how he acted. And I think to that extent, these hearings have been extraordinarily effective. There’s been a lot of evidence, a lot of new information about the conduct of the former president himself that's impossible for him to avoid.
RADDATZ: But, Leigh Ann, you look at what happened in those hearings. You heard Zoe Lofgren say, it's ongoing, it’s ongoing. Does that really help Democrats particularly with the economy the way it is now? That's really what people are talking about.
CALDWELL: Absolutely, and Democrats aren't under illusion that voters are going to go to the polls especially in these midterms on January 6th. Speaker Pelosi has told her caucus behind closed doors that people are going to vote on inflation and the economy. It's Democrats' job to be steward of democracy and they must go forward anyway.
But the question is, as Rick, you kind of laid out, is, you know, what about those moderate, those voters who had Trump out of their mind, they weren't thinking about Trump but now it's kind of put it back into place, do we want a Republican Party that continues to support the former president? We're going to have to wait and see how people, ultimately it's the economy that's going to drive them to the polls.
And perhaps, though, with the issue of abortion and guns in the news that could be a motivating factor for some Democrats. That's what Democrats hope anyway.
RADDATZ: Democrats hope, is that what you hope?
I want to go back a little bit to the to the char -- possible charges we talked about. You were attorney general in North Dakota. What do you is the issues that still need to be investigated?
HEITKAMP: I think there needs to be more nexus, what we call nexus between the president and the insurrectionists. You saw his two big supporters, both General Flynn and I use that term lightly, the general side of that, General Flynn and Roger Stone meeting with them being -- you know, being provided security.
But how much dialogue was there between the White House, between the president and Stone and Flynn about what the next step was after Pence decided I’m not going to do what you want me to do?
And so, I don’t think they have the nexus yet. I think the more important thing is that the president has been re-injected. There’s a reminder. I mean, I think a lot of the people you talked to, Martha, already made up their mind whether they wanted President Trump to run again or be the president again. This is just a reminder.
And for the midterms, this is base motivator. When we people say, look, we now remember why we fought so hard for Joe Biden in spite of challenges he’s had, we cannot let this party who has supported this kind of behavior back in power.
RADDATZ: I have to say, watching those hearings, one of the most stunning moments was hearing the testimony of Michael Flynn when he was asked whether he believed in the peaceful transfer of power, and he took the Fifth. That’s from a retired four-star military officer.
Ramesh, you -- you again saw those interviews in Wyoming as well. A recent “New York Times”/Siena College poll shows that less than half of primary voters would choose Donald Trump as their candidate.
We do know his fundraising has slowed. So, what’s your take?
PONNURU: Yes, I do think he’s losing altitude in the party. But the fact is, he is still the most important, single figure in the Republican Party. There is no other individual whose endorsement matters more. But every month I think, as we get a little bit more distance from the Trump administration, Republicans move into a more post-Trump frame of mind.
And I think the one way that the January 6th committee might have aided that process is by creating a little bit of Trump fatigue on the part of Republican voters where there’s -- there might be growing a sense, we don’t want to just keep relitigating this over and over again.
RADDATZ: And there are reports that – that Trump may announce his bid for the presidency this fall. I think a few weeks ago they thought it might be this week. You never know with Donald Trump. What are you hearing and why so soon?
KLEIN: He clearly wants to do it. And he's told people around him he’s interested in doing it, wants to do it, wants to do it sooner than the traditional timeline of after the midterms.
I think there’s two main reasons for him to do it. One would be potentially shielding himself from Merrick Garland and from an investigation. The idea that you wouldn’t want to go after an active candidate for president. The other thing would be to take advantage of the political environment. That he’d be able to take more credit for how Republicans do in the midterms.
The flip of that is he may ruin it for Republicans. We’ve already seen some of his choices for Senate appear to backfire early on. We’ve had scandals. We’ve had lagging fundraising. We’ve had major flaws on some of these candidates. And if this is about, as I said earlier, choice versus a referendum, you made it easier than ever for Democrats to make this a choice between Republicans and Democrats if Biden is, you know, if Trump is actually a candidate.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks, Rick Klein.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and have a great day.