'This Week' Transcript 2-21-21: Jen Psaki, Rep. Steve Scalise

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, February 21.

ByABC News
February 21, 2021, 9:48 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, February 21, 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.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't give you a date when this crisis will end. But I can tell you we're doing everything possible to have that day come sooner, rather than later.

KARL: Americans are looking for answers on when life will get back to normal, how and when schools will reopen, as weather delays slow vaccine distribution in all 50 states.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We're going to just have to make up for it, namely, do double-time when this thing clears up.

KARL: And cascading crises in Texas, President Biden approving a disaster declaration.

We cover it all this morning with two exclusives, Jen Psaki in her first Sunday show interview as White House press secretary, and the response from the number two Republican in the House, Congressman Steve Scalise.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I started having second thoughts really as I sat down on the plane.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate.

KARL: Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Andrew Cuomo under scrutiny and on defense. Insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.

And honoring John Lewis' legacy on what would have been his 81st birthday.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): You have a moral obligation to say something and do something. You cannot be quiet.


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

Here now, chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl.

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

Joe Biden has now been president for a month, but this week seemed to be a new start for the Biden presidency. His predecessor's impeachment trial over, the biggest distraction is over too, at least for now.

The stage is Biden's, and so are the challenges. As the nation approaches the once-unthinkable milestone of 500,000 confirmed American deaths from COVID-19, there are signs of hope. Infections are down dramatically. And there are signs of just how difficult the road ahead will be, dangerous new variants of the virus and mixed messages from the White House about when vaccines will be available for all, when schools can be fully reopened, and when life will get back to normal.

We will talk about all of that with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in just a few moments.

This week, we also had our first post-Trump political scandals, Ted Cruz's misguided trip to Cancun, and the allegations of cover-up and deadly mismanagement facing Andrew Cuomo. We will explore all of that with the roundtable.

But we begin this morning with the latest on those deadly storms that crippled Texas and brought frigid temperatures to much of the nation. Dozens have died. Millions were left without power and drinking water. And vaccine shipments have been delayed from coast to coast.

ABC's Marcus Moore is on the ground in Dallas.

And, Marcus, the frigid weather may be over, but the cleanup across the region is really just beginning.


This is a catastrophe that is still unfolding, people's homes flooding after thawing pipes burst over the weekend, the president just signing a major disaster declaration for parts of this state. And, really, the enormity of the situation is still being realized.

But we know as of this morning that at least 70 people have died nationwide as a result of this winter storm, and 10 people here in the Houston area, Houston area alone, have died from hypothermia. And relatives say that includes an 11-year-old boy, who, sadly, passed away on Tuesday in his home after they -- they lost power.

And beyond that, more than 14 million people here are being told to boil their water because it's not safe to drink. And there are a lot of people at the same time who have no water at all. And basic necessities are also scarce at many of the local stores across the state.

But we have seen those empty shelves and also long lines at the grocery stores here. And, of course, this crisis started with massive and widespread power outages. ERCOT, the agency that manages 90 percent of the state's power grid, they have been under fire. People are frustrated here, because they want to know why the power grid was left so vulnerable and why more wasn't done to ensure that the grid was winterized to sustain an extreme storm like this one.

In the meantime, federal and state aid has been arriving in the way of food, water and generators delivered by military jets. And the president has said that he plans to visit the Houston area midweek.

But, Jon, as you said earlier, there is a real sense that this is far from over for so many people across this region.

KARL: Thank you, Marcus.

We are joined now by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, her first Sunday show interview since taking office.

Jen, let's start in Texas.

When do you expect that we will see President Biden in Texas? Where will he go?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I traveled with the president to Michigan on Friday to go tour a Pfizer plant and I can tell you that he was getting updates from his acting FEMA administrator, he was closely watching the news, talking to his team, and he is eager to go down to Texas and show his support. But he is also very mindful of the fact that it's not a light footprint for a president to travel to a disaster area. He does not want to take away resources or attention. And we’re going to do that at an appropriate time in coordination with people on the ground. Could be as soon as this week.

KARL: And let me ask you about those 6 million doses that have been delayed because of the weather, do you have any update? What's the plan for getting them out? Have you already been able to distribute some of them?

PSAKI: We have and we knew we can't control mother nature, no one can, but we can certainly contingency plan. And what our team has been doing and preparing to do is engage with and work with the Postal Service, work with FedEx and others to get those doses out to vaccination centers, to communities as quickly as they can handle them. Because, of course, they need to be at level of refrigeration, so we've been able to get 2 million of those 6 million doses out. We expect to rapidly catch up this week, fill that backlog, make sure they’re out to communities and also meet our deadlines and our timelines of the doses that are due to go out this upcoming week.

KARL: And regarding Texas, the president signed that disaster declaration, it affected 77 of the 254 counties in Texas. Governor Abbott has asked for everything. Has the president talked to Governor Abbott? Are they on the same page now about this?

PSAKI: We've been in very close touch with Governor Abbott. I know members of our team spoke with him just last night. The president spoke with him just a few days ago and he is getting regular updates from his team.

Now what happens here is the governor requested a federal disaster declaration. The president asked his team to expedite that. And FEMA determined where the counties should be -- where it should focus the immediate resources, where the counties that are hardest hit so that they can make sure they get to the people in most need.

Now, as your earlier report alluded to or talked about, that means not just getting people through this emergency but getting people through the recovery, people who don't have water, don’t have heating, need a place to stay for a while, that's what that major disaster declaration will help address, or that’s our hope.

KARL: Well, it certainly looks like this is a disaster that affected the entire state.

I want to turn to the question of schools reopening. Obviously President Biden first had said he wanted to see the majority of schools reopened by the end of his first 100 days, that would be April, now the goal is K through 8 five days a week. Is this realistic? Are we going to see the majority of schools in this country open by April?

PSAKI: That's our goal, that's our objective, that's our plan, Jon. And -- but what we need and what the president said at the time we need is funding. That’s why he’s proposed $130 billion in the American Rescue Plan because many schools across the country don't have the resources to be able to invest in improving facilities, on hiring more bus drivers, on hiring more temporary teachers so we can have smaller class sizes.

There have been some important steps in the last week, including the CDC guidelines that give clear science-based guidelines for school districts on a range of steps they can take to be safe. But every school in the country does not have that funding and does not have the resources and we need to, from our -- from the federal government help address that.

KARL: Does the president support the idea of making that funding in the America Rescue Plan contingent on schools reopening? So a requirement, you receive funding, you bring students back.

PSAKI: That's not a contingency that we're putting in -- that we’re recommending to go in the bill or in legislation, Jon. I think what he believes is that school districts working with our secretary of education, who we certainly hope will be confirmed this week, need to make a determination about what works best for them based on these CDC guidelines.

There are a number of mitigation measures and steps that can be taken. Vaccinating teachers is one of them, but also hiring more bus drivers, hiring more school teachers, having smaller class sizes. And we’re going to work with school districts -- our secretary of education, this will be his first priority to do that. But many of them need funding because they don’t have additional funding in their budgets to be able to do that and plan for the school years ahead.

KARL: As you know, some teachers unions are saying that they don't want to see schools reopen until every teacher is vaccinated, that's the message out of the teachers union in Los Angeles and Sacramento. And in Beaverton, Oregon, they’ve actually prioritized teachers and the union there actually doesn’t -- isn’t comfortable yet with schools reopening, even with teachers vaccinated.

So I know I’ve heard you address this and say flatly that you don't believe that teachers -- all teachers need to be vaccinated to reopen schools, that's the CDC guidance. It’s unnecessary. Fauci has said it's impractical.

But why is it that the president and the vice president have -- seemed to have such a hard time saying it as clearly as you have?

I want to play you what Vice President Harris had to say on “The Today Show”.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Can you reassure teachers who are listening right now that it is safe for them to go back to school even if they are not vaccinated?


GUTHRIE: I know there are teachers listening. And the CDC has said they don't have to be vaccinated to go back to school. Of course, it’s a priority.


HARRIS: We think they should be a priority. We think they should -- we think they should be a priority.


KARL: I mean, why can't she say what you said? That you don’t believe that teachers -- all teachers need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Jon, look, the vice president and the president and the federal government, we all believe that teachers should be prioritized. I mean, about half of the states in the country also have prioritized teachers and they've put them in the priority -- or the priority category of frontline healthcare workers because of the role that they play. But it doesn't need to be a prerequisite. And that’s what the CDC is saying.

The CDC is saying, in order to be safe, there are a number of steps that can be taken. Vaccinating teachers is one of them, but having smaller class sizes, having kids more separated on buses, more PPE, more testing, facilities upgrades, those are additional steps that can be taken. And our secretary of education will work with school districts to implement that.

So they should be prioritized, but our science, experts are saying it's not a prerequisite, and that’s the guidelines that we follow.

KARL: So, a number of states, including New Hampshire and Iowa have mandated local school districts reopen in the coming weeks. Other states, including the Democratic governors, Minnesota and Virginia, have -- have urged this strongly.

Is the White House okay with that? Is the president okay with governor mandating school districts reopen schools, in-person learning in the coming weeks?

PSAKI: The president is married to a teacher. He knows how vital it is for students to be in classrooms.

The role we’re playing from the federal level is to support the CDC guidelines, science-based guidelines that are giving school districts the road map they need to reopen.

But these decisions are not made by the federal government. They're made by states. They’re made by local school districts and we certainly respect that.

KARL: Okay, I want to turn to another controversy that raged this week. Andrew Cuomo under fire for allegedly not being transparent and misleading on his -- on the number of nursing home deaths in New York.

Last spring, President Biden cited Andrew Cuomo as the gold standard for leadership during the pandemic.

Take a listen.


JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your governor of New York has done one hell of a job. I think he's sort of the gold standard.


KARL: So, now, we've seen that Governor Cuomo has allegedly undercounted nursing home deaths, misled legislators in New York. He called the New York assembly -- I mean, Ron Kim, raising questions -- you know, basically threatening to destroy him, I think was his actual words.

So, does President Biden still consider Andrew Cuomo the gold standard when it comes to leadership on the pandemic?

PSAKI: Well, Jon, we work with Governor Cuomo, just like we work with governors across the country. He’s also chair of the NGA.

So, he plays an important role in insuring that we're coordinating closely and getting assistance out to people of his state and to states across the country. And we'll continue to do that.

And there are, of course, will be a process. There are investigations. We'll leave that to others to determine -- the appropriate law enforcement authorities to determine how that path is going to move as we look forward.

But we’re going to continue to work with a range of governors including, of course, Governor Cuomo because we think the people of New York, the people of states across the country, need assistance not just to get through the pandemic but to get through this difficult economic time, and that's where our focus remains.

KARL: All right. But, Jen, my question was, does President Biden still believe that Andrew Cuomo is the gold standard -- represents the gold standard on leadership during this pandemic? Just a yes or no. Does he still consider him a gold standard?


PSAKI: Well, Jon, the president -- the president -- well, it doesn't always have to be a yes or no answer, Jon. I think the president is focused on his goals, his objectives as president of the United States. He's going to continue to work with Governor Cuomo, just like he’ll continue to work with governors across the country.

And I’m not here to give new labels or names from the president. I’m here to communicate with you about what our focuses are and what his objectives are as president.

KARL: All right, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, thank you for joining us here on "This Week." I hope it will be a first of many appearances.

PSAKI: Thank you.

KARL: Thank you.

All right, let's get a response now from the House Republican whip, Steve Scalise.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

I want to pick up on that question of schools. You've been highly critical of how the administration has handled this. But, ultimately, the decisions on when to reopen schools are local decisions.

What exactly do you want the administration, the president to be doing?

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R-LA): Jon, good to be with you, first of all. And the first thing that the president can do is give strong guidance and follow the science. There's so much science out there that says that this is hurting kids, millions of kids in America right now, that are not getting in-classroom learning every day.

And, again, you look at CDC guidance, you can look at the American Academy of Pediatrics, they all lay out how you can safely reopen schools. About 40 percent of children in America today are learning in schools. So you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Those are in hot spots and places where the virus is not as serious.

But if you look at what the priorities should be, it should be the children. And that's not the case because right now you can see, as the unions have stepped up and said that they don't want in-classroom learning, you've seen the White House pressure the CDC to reverse guidance, which was very clear.

But this money idea, by the way, that you have to wait until the money comes out, Jon, that's not the case. There's over $60 billion still remaining in previous relief package specifically for reopening schools. The money's there. This idea that you have to pass more money -- the Congressional Budget Office said the money in this relief package moving through Congress this next week, that money will not even be able to be spent, 95 percent of it won't even be able to be spent until 2022. So do they really want to pass a bill that's going to delay reopening schools even more?

Our kids can't wait. They need to be in the classroom today. The science says they can be in the classroom today. The question is, is the will there for some politicians in Washington who are bowing to the teachers' unions right now? First priority should be the kids. The science says they can be and need to be in the classroom.

KARL: OK, but -- but -- but --

SCALISE: There's devastating impact.

KARL: But -- but, Congressman, the -- the White House is not mandating that the states do anything on this. They have been -- they have issued guidance from the CDC.

Are you suggesting that the president should be effectively ordering local school districts to reopen? I mean what -- what do you -- what are you saying? Because this -- I mean I assume you agree. I've heard you many times over the years say that education decisions are local. I mean, they -- they aren't mandating one way or the other. The president is leaving it up to the localities on this.

SCALISE: Right. I strongly agree that education should be run at the local school system. In fact, I had a call just this week with hundreds of parents around the country who are leaders in their local communities at getting schools reopened.

This was a wide swath, Republicans, Democrats, independents, parents who care about their children and demand that schools reopen. But what -- what Jen Psaki just said is, I think, the biggest concern, that is they're saying they want to pass over $100 billion of new money that's not even tied to schools reopening.

So the real question is, look, my colleague, Ashley Henson (ph) from Iowa, had a bill that would say, if they get new money, it has to be tied to reopening schools. I think that's what parents are demanding all across this country. And yet they rejected that proposal.

So the question remains, why do they need hundreds of billions of dollars of new money from the federal government if they won't reopen schools? There's money out there already. There's over a trillion dollars in relief package money that's still available across the board without this bill, this almost $2 trillion bill that even Larry Summers said would wreck our economy. So let's target the money. But this idea that Washington should be giving out 100-plus million of new -- billion of new money to school and not even requiring them to reopen, that's an insult to those children who are demanding that they go back to school.

KARL: Now that bill, which it looks like they're poised to pass without any Republican support, has, it seems, in the polling, overwhelming support across the country. Look at the latest Quinnipiac poll, 68 percent support the bill. 24 percent oppose.

He -- Biden may not have many -- any Republicans in Congress on board, but he must, according to the polling anyway, have a lot of Republicans across the country in favor of what he's trying to do.

SCALISE: Well, Jon, you don't have to be a good pollster in Washington to ask the question, hey, would you like the federal government to send you a $3,500 check. Of course the answer is going to be yes.

KARL: Yes.

SCALISE: If you said, do you want us to borrow that money from your children, because that's what this is, I think their answer might be a lot differently. And especially if you told them a fact that there's over a trillion dollars of money unspent from previous relief bills that were bipartisan. The money's still sitting in a bank account and we're going to pass $1.9 trillion of additional spending to bail out failed states, to raise the minimum wage? What does that have to do with COVID? It should be focused on helping families and small businesses who are struggling, not bankrupting our children.

KARL: All right, Congressman, I want to turn to your trip down to Mar-a-Lago. You met with -- with Donald Trump this past week. Before I ask you about this, though, I want to play you what Kevin McCarthy the Republican leader in the House, had to say in January about the president and January 6th.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CALIF.) HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump. Accept his share of responsibility.


KARL: You heard him say the "facts require immediate action" from President Trump. We obviously didn't hear it then.

When you met with the former president, did you ask him to take responsibility? Did he take responsibility?

SCALISE: Well, Jonathan, I was in Florida doing some fund-raising throughout a number of parts of Florida, ended up at Mar-a-Lago, and the president reached out, and we visited. I hadn't seen him since he had left the White House. And it was actually good to catch up with him. I noticed he was a lot more relaxed than -- than his four years in the White House.

He still cares a lot about this country and the direction of our country. But, you know, it was a conversation more about how he's doing now and what he's -- you know, what he's planning on doing and how his family is doing.

KARL: But -- but, wait a minute, I mean, he hasn't taken responsibility. You heard Kevin McCarthy say -- I mean, do you agree with what Kevin McCarthy said there, that the president must take responsibility, that the facts demand that he take responsibility for what happened on January 6th?

SCALISE: Well, first of all -- now, I wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial about where I think the responsibility lays for January 6th. And surely, there's a lot of blame to go around.

But at the end of the day, the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, it was a disgrace. And they need to be held accountable. And in fact, over 180 have already been arrested. And I know the FBI's working to root out every person who broke into the Capitol, who attacked police. There's no place for that.

KARL: I mean, that's -- that's obvious. I'm asking you about Donald Trump's role in this. You heard, again, Kevin McCarthy. Do you agree with what he said, that he bears responsibility for what happened...


KARL: ... for what happened...

SCALISE: Well, again, you could go back -- you can go back and look at the impeachment trial, the second impeachment trial -- it seems like all they've done since the day he walked into office was try to impeach him -- but, again, when you look at that trial, they ran a clip of pretty much every United States senator who voted to impeach President Trump who talked about things like "go and fight like hell" and other things like that.


KARL: So you're saying he doesn't bear responsibility as president?

SCALISE: When you look at -- look, Donald Trump has denounced what happened, and I think everybody should have been unequivocal in their denouncing of what happened, not only on January 6th but during the summer, when they were burning down cities, shooting cops, beating people in the streets. You -- you saw...

KARL: So...

SCALISE: ... the left denouncing January 6th, as we did. They didn't denounce what happened during the summer. So let's be across the board and say anybody who resorts to violence to settle political disputes...


SCALISE: ... there's no place for that in America and it should be disputed unequivocally.

KARL: Let's also be clear, the president, then-president Donald Trump did not denounce what happened on January 6th on January 6th.

But clear this up for me. Joe Biden won the election. He is the legitimate president of the United States. The election was not stolen, correct?

SCALISE: Look, Joe Biden's the president. There were a few states that did not follow their state laws. That's really the dispute that you've seen continue on.

And, look, if you're Joe Biden, you probably want to keep talking about impeachment and anything other than the fact that he's killed millions of American energy jobs, that he continues to -- they just signed the Paris Accord. It's going to kill manufacturing jobs in America.

But at the end of the day, when you look at where we are in this country, either we're going to address the problems that happened with the election that people are still -- millions of people are still concerned about -- the Constitution says state legislatures set the rules for elections. That didn't happen in a few states. And so, going forward -- look, Joe Biden's the president. But does he...


KARL: I mean...

SCALISE: ... towards what people are angry about?

KARL: But -- but, Congressman, I know Joe Biden's the president. He lives at the White House. I asked you, is he the legitimate president of the United States, and do you concede that this election was not stolen?

Very simple question. Please just answer it.

SCALISE: Look, once -- once the -- once the electors are counted, yes, he's the legitimate president. But if you're going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own state legislatively set laws, that's the issue at heart, that millions of people still are not happy with and don't want to see happen again.

You know, look, we -- you can rehash the election from 2020 all day long, but there are people concerned about what the next election is going to look like. Are we going to finally get back to the way the rule of law works?

And I think that's the biggest frustration many people have, is those states that didn't follow the law, are they going to keep doing that in the future, or are we going to finally get back to what the Constitution calls out for electing our leaders?

KARL: All right. Congressman Steve Scalise, thank you for joining us on this "This Week." Appreciate it.

Up next, the roundtable and the latest -- with the latest on those scandals involving Ted Cruz and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

And, later, we honor the legacy of late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.

Please stay with us.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I want to set the record straight on nursing homes. We created a void by not producing enough public information fast enough. I take responsibility for all of it, period.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I flew down with my family last night.

In hindsight, if I'd understood how it would be perceived, the reaction people would have, obviously, I wouldn't have done it. It was a mistake.


KARL: Andrew Cuomo and Ted Cruz both facing political scandals this week, and expressing some remorse for their actions.

Let's talk about it with the roundtable.

We're joined by Rahm Emanuel, former Democratic mayor of Chicago, Margaret Hoover, the host of "Firing Line" on PBS, also a CNN contributor, Leah Wright Rigueur, professor of history at Brandeis University, and Chris Christie, the former Republican governor of New Jersey.

Rahm, let me start with you.

Both of these guys, Cruz and Cuomo, have at various times looked in the mirror and saw a president. Who was damaged more this -- this week?

RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Anybody in the Senate chamber or the governor's office looks in the mirror and sees -- that...

KARL: And some mayor's offices, maybe.

EMANUEL: That's not a distinguishing quality.


EMANUEL: So, a couple things I would say here.

One is, they violated a couple rules. And number one rule is, you can't say, we're all in this together, and not think you're all in it together, also hypocrisy.

But I actually think there's a slightly larger point here, which is, when Trump was president, all the governors looked, like, unbelievable, because they just were getting measured against a failure.

Right now, Biden's White House is doing unbelievably well. And this gets spread a little bigger. You got governor of Texas not doing very well. Governor of California has got his own recall challenges.

So, there's a real, I think, shift here, because the measurement, which is off the Oval Office, the Oval Office is doing very, very well, and, all of a sudden, all the blemishes that have been covered up are coming out.

They have a real problem here, these two. And they have got to explain. They did the right thing, in my view, the first thing. Get out. Don't try to explain. Own it, and then say, we're going to correct it, and then take whatever other actions you got to do.

KARL: But, Margaret, how soon for Cruz to come out and say it was all the media's fault?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yes, I mean, look, the repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy, right? That’s not me. That’s William Hazlitt.


EMANUEL: We’re going to Hazlitt --


HOOVER: And so, yes, too little too late. We were all crying the crocodile tears.

But with Cuomo, he -- in his situation, it’s -- it chucks of, this isn't much of the crime perhaps as it is the cover-up.

Just stop lying, right? I mean, stop saying that such -- that Dr. Michael Osterholm is your medical adviser. Stop saying that, you know, you were just afraid of the Trump politics, right?

Just fess up and be honest about it and stick with the line rather than it's the belligerence and the posturing that is also undermining his trust with his voters.

KARL: What did you read, Leah, of the significance of AOC calling for an investigation into Cuomo?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUER, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think AOC is having a really good week, and I think she’s having a real good week, because, you know, we’ve seen that she's raised millions of dollars for Texans, she's gone down, she's going down to Texas.

But also, she’s one of only people in Congress to say and speak out against, you know, a person of his own party, a very popular member of her party, and say, we need to have some kind of investigation.

Now, we all know that sunlight is the best disinfectant. And here, I think that’s exactly what she’s doing. But she's also willing to take on that challenge.

And I think it’s necessary for us to do this because when the dust settles, particularly in the aftermath of a moment of crisis, a major crisis, she wants to be on the right side of things, on the right side of history. And so, if there are people within her party who are unwilling to do that, she's not, she’s willing to call them out, but also willing to do the hard work of calling out, you know, Cuomo and saying, something needs to be -- something needs to be done about this.

KARL: Governor, with Cuomo, it's not just the cover-up here, it's how -- I mean, he so enjoyed being the star of the pandemic with those press conferences, his book. Doesn't this also raise questions not simply about what he's done with the numbers but also the decisions he was making at the time when he was being lauded?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, everyone's going to -- everyone’s going to go back and do a postmortem on this on all of decisions that were made by governors across the board.

I think Rahm is right in one respect that because the general view was that President Trump was not responding appropriately quickly enough to the pandemic that the governor's actions weren't really scrutinized.

You know, listen, in my own state, Governor Murphy signed the same executive order that Governor Cuomo did on nursing homes three days later. You’ve heard nothing yet about Phil Murphy. But you will.


CHRISTIE: But you will, right? You will.

KARL: I’m sure he appreciates you --

CHRISTIE: And I would caution Rahm -- listen, Rahm's cheerleading for the president, and we all want to cheerlead for the president in terms of getting the pandemic under control.

But there are a lot of governors across the country who are not being criticized right now. People like Larry Hogan in Maryland, and Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Jim Justice in West Virginia. I’ve seen --

KARL: Those are three Republicans. Just --

CHRISTIE: That’s three Republicans, that's fine. And, by the way, J.B. Pritzker in Illinois, you know, Rahm’s governor, he’s gotten some, you know, very good notices as well on how he’s handling this.

So, there are a lot of governors across the country that even since Donald Trump has left the White House are still being seen by their constituents doing a good job. Larry Hogan's approval ratings, as you know, in Maryland are still over 70 percent, because he’s telling the truth, he’s out front and he’s not overpromising, and he’s delivering.

EMANUEL: Can I just say one thing, though? Put aside the personalities and what either the governor or the senator, or any governor. In Texas, let's get to the real crisis. In Texas, you had a face off between climate change and unbridled free market, and climate change won.

And whether you buy -- what I would say, in this case, you have to have actually a very managed economy as it relates to climate change in this area. On COVID, we've learned a lot as it relates on how to handle this. We’re now in a position that maybe one shot can work, rather two if you had it before.

So, I would say, in both cases, as preparation for climate change, preparation for the next pandemic, the real lesson isn't about Cuomo and Cruz, is what do we take away so we get ready for the next crisis that’s going to come? And both of these case, we’ve not seen the last of climate change and we’ve not seen the last of a pandemic, and that to me is where we should really focus.

KARL: Although, Margaret, it was a little odd to hear Governor Abbott come out and suggest it was somehow the Green New Deal that was responsible for what happened. I mean --

HOOVER: Yeah, and it’s also -- it's also a little odd, I mean, we're a week into this. We don't actually really have the full autopsy on why the electrical system, why the grid wasn’t able to -- why the transmission lines didn't work. We know it wasn’t windmills just freezing, but we also know the transmission lines didn’t work and we don’t know that it was because regulatory -- you know, the regulatory apparatus ran free and was improperly managed by conservatives, right? I think we let --


KARL: But we know it wasn’t caused by the Green New Deal. At least we can say that. I mean I --

HOOVER: Right, we know the president -- we know -- so -- so -- so in order to prepare for the next pandemic, let's -- let's be thoughtful and methodical about -- about really analyzing why this has happening. And -- and -- and, of course, we have to prepare for climate change and we have to do plan but it's, of course, doesn't also, as conservatives say, have to be at the cost of the economy.

KARL: Yes.

EMANUEL: No, 100 -- no, actually, I think preparing for climate change, I mean to have this point, climate -- preparing for climate change could be actually a boom for the economy, investing in new technology and all the investment. There was no regulation in Texas, and that is part of the problem.

On the pandemic, we have to upgrade our entire public health system and we have to actually have an early warning system, how to get to actually communities that are at risk so they don't become their own public health crisis. Those are investments and job opportunities. Actually, the opposite, I think there's going to be a real boom.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Jon, what we should learn -- what we should learn from this, though, is that this one size fits all on energy policy is a -- is a problem. One of the things that we don't have here is base load support, is a reliable way of doing this.

Right now, no matter what you think of solar and wind, you can't store it. You can't store it. And if it's not using it, you can't -- it doesn't -- it's not going to supply the power that we need. So we need to be look at -- at gas, and natural gas as one of the ways to have a reliable base load and we've got to be re-looking at nuclear.

And I saw Bill Gates gave an interview on "60 Minutes" last week where he said we can't deal with climate change without nuclear. And I can tell you in -- when I was governor, 53 percent of our electricity was supplied by nuclear in New Jersey and supplied safety, without incident. And we have to stop -- some of the people in the environmental movement who want to deal with climate change but don't want to deal with nuclear, we have to deal with nuclear because in instances like Texas, if you don't have a reliable supply of baseload, this is what happens. And so we need to reexamine the unclear issue in this country.

KARL: It is carbon neutral.

But I want -- I want to get to this question of COVID in the schools.

How -- how is Biden handling this? I mean clearly they've had a hard time with the messaging. They've had a hard time with setting the goals, with what exactly the guidelines are.

What -- what -- what -- what is your -- what is your sense on this?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think the reality is, is that the pandemic has exposed the failures, like the -- the -- the vast failures that are happening in America in that several administrations, not just -- you know, not just the Biden administration, not just the Trump administration, certainly on COVID, but on other issues as well, have really struggled to deal with. And so now everything, all of those weaknesses, all of those failures are really coming to the front of our discussion.

Now, with the Biden administration I think in particular is that they're caught between a rock and a hard place. They certainly know that there needs to be funding, there needs to be vast investment in solving this. They have campaigned on having the answer to COVID.

But the thing is, there are no easy answers to what's going on with the schools, right? There's no easy answers. And I say this, as a parent who has three children who should be in school, who I want to be in school, but I don't know if it's safe for them to be in school. And so I think they're -- they're working through that right now --


RIGUEUR: And trying to think through, you know, what you -- what do we actually do about this?

KARL: Well, anticipating the governor, isn't there an issue with the teachers unions here? I mean when you have teachers unions in L.A. and Sacramento that are saying, you know, every teacher needs to be vaccinated before schools reopen, when -- in Beaverton it's -- it's -- it's -- even if they're vaccinated, we've -- we've got issues. I mean isn't -- isn't there a -- isn't there a problem? Is Biden facing -- is Biden going to have to confront the teachers unions on this?

RIGUEUR: Absolutely. I think he's married to a teacher. So if -- certainly -- I mean that's certainly part of the conversation. But I do think the reality that they're going to have to come up against and that the Biden administration is going to have to deal with is that they have to have a plan. At the very least, if they don't believe that teachers have to -- all teachers have to be vaccinated to be in the schools, they have to have a plan in place that allows teachers to feel safe going back into the schools.

CHRISTIE: Jon, let's --

KARL: That's a legitimate question.

RIGUEUR: And they have to be able to -- they have to be able to say that out loud.

CHRISTIE: Let's -- let's talk about the science and the politics. All we heard was follow the science, right, from Joe Biden.

KARL: Right.

CHRISTIE: Absolutely follow the science. The science tells us, in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," that children and staff are less likely to be infected with COVID in classroom than they are in their community by eightfold.


CHRISTIE: So the science says, get kids back in the classroom. The science says that our children have a higher suicide rate now, they have higher other mental health problems and drug abuse. The science tells us kids need to get out of home and get back into the classroom. And that's what Joe Biden was saying until Randy Weingarten (ph) and the AFT said, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Then --

KARL: Well, he's still saying he wants the majority of schools open here, right?

CHRISTIE: Well, but, yes, he's saying it, but he's not -- but he has a CDC person do the back flip of the century. Within 17 days she went from the science, tells us that schools are ready to be reopen. Parents -- let me tell you, and now the politics of this, Jon, this is a problem for Vice President -- or for President Biden. He's got the teachers union who has been a huge supporter of his and who expect him to be loyal. On the flip side, he won this election with suburban, white, educated voters who, when they see this science, they're already mad that their kids are not back in school.

KARL: Yes.

CHRISTIE: They're going to be even angrier.

CHRISTIE: And this is the issue.

KARL: Well, clearly, the Republicans see -- see an opening.

CHRISTIE: This is the issue.


KARL: Go ahead, quickly, and then I've got one more thing I've got to hit.

EMANUEL: OK, well, it's very quick. One is, it's a cost on both sides.

KARL: Yeah.

EMANUEL: Let's just step back.

Kids in, has risks. You've got to mitigate them. Kids out, have risks if they stay out, and they've got to be dealt with. Those are equities.

The fact is, when he made the pledge 100 million vaccines, he could keep it. He can make a pledge about wearing masks. He could keep it. You've got 7,000-plus school districts. He has no control over that.

KARL: And he doesn't control them.

EMANUEL: OK, so two things -- one, your commerce secretary, former governor of Rhode Island, had a great plan. Do the Rhode Island plan as a test case for everybody. She did a great job.

Number two, you have a -- you're married to a teacher, send her into schools to greet kids on day one back, showing -- depoliticize it. This has become too much a political between science and politics. Depoliticize it. You have a plan. Your commerce secretary actually did a great job, starting six months ago. That should be the blueprint for every state and every city to follow.

KARL: All right. Margaret, before we go, we've heard now that Donald Trump is going to be giving his first speech at CPAC in Florida a week from today. What do you expect from Trump?

And, I mean, is Lindsey Graham right? Is he the leader of the party?

HOOVER: Well, Donald Trump was the leader of the party. He continues to be the leader of the party. I mean, there -- is there a fissure and a rift in the -- in the party between the likes of Mitch McConnell and really a minority of Senate Republicans and Republicans generally?

Yes. There is. There's a rift within the party. But Donald trump has not been, you know, thrown into the dust bin of history. Donald Trump will continue to be the leader of the party and will probably run for president again. I can't think of any reason why he shouldn't, if I were in his position. And I can think of a lot of reasons why he should.

So this party, for the foreseeable future, is Donald Trump's party, until he decides it's not going to be.


KARL: Wait -- Governor Christie, do you agree with that? Is he going to run for president?

CHRISTIE: Listen, anybody who tries to predict what Donald Trump is going to do would be a losing battle each and every time.

But what I will say is this. The problem for Donald Trump and the reason why we lost is not because of the issues that we stood for. It's because of the way he conducted himself. That's very clear now in all the post-election polling.

Even his own pollster came out in the 10 states that were the most contested states and said in aftermath "The reason you lost was you, not the issues you were advocating." And that's what we have to struggle with as a party.

HOOVER: But -- but the reason he continues to be the leader of the Republican Party isn't because of the issues. It's because of his personality.

EMANUEL: I'm with -- I'm with Joe Biden. Four years of him, enough.


Let's focus on the American people. The best line of the -- at his town hall was exactly right. The country's had enough of this guy.

CHRISTIE: And, listen...


EMANUEL: You guys don't want to move on? Great, stay with him. We've got to move on and deal with the American people.

CHRISTIE: The media's addicted, Rahm. The media's addicted.

EMANUEL: I 100 percent agree with...


CHRISTIE: He's sitting down in Mar-a-Lago with his mouth shut...

KARL: No, now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute...

CHRISTIE: They're addicted. Jon Karl is addicted to Donald Trump.


EMANUEL: Joe Biden's...


KARL: Thank you all. We are -- we are out of time.


We'll be right back.


KARL: Nate Silver and a special reflection on the late John Lewis are up next.


KARL: The seven Republican senators who broke rank and voted to convict Donald Trump faced immediate blowback within a Republican Party that is still intensely loyal to the former president.

And with Trump expected to make his first speech since leaving White -- the White House next week, we asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver just how much retribution the senators who defied him will face.


NATE SILVER, ABC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: For the time being, there is no doubt that the Republican Party is still the party of Donald Trump.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 75 percent of GOP voters still want Trump to play a prominent role in the party, as compared to 21 percent who don't.

And some of the Republicans who voted to convict Trump on impeachment charges, such as Louisiana's Bill Cassidy and North Carolina's Richard Burr, were censured by their state Republican Parties.

Now, look, these seven senators did do something fairly bold. Other than Mitt Romney's vote on Trump's first impeachment, no senator had ever voted to convict a president of his own party.

At the same time, there's a reason why the Republicans who chose to convict Trump elected to do so. Their personal electoral circumstances made it a little bit safer. North Carolina's Burr and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey are retiring, and so had very little to lose. Susan Collins is from Maine, a state Trump lost by nine points. That vote to convict could actually help her reputation as a moderate.

In Alaska, there's a new nonpartisan blanket primary starting next year, where the top four finishers advance to the general election regardless of party. So, Lisa Murkowski doesn't need to worry about a Republican primary challenge.

While recent polling shows Romney's popularity has plummeted among Republicans in Utah, it's improved among Democrats, leaving him at a respectable 50 percent approval rating overall.

That just leaves Louisiana's Cassidy and Nebraska's Ben Sasse. But they're not up for reelection until 2026. It may be enough time for Republican voters to forgive or forget.

So, I buy that these senators' votes to convict Trump could make their lives a bit more complicated, but none of them have signed an electoral death warrant.


KARL: Thank you, Nate.

We will be right back with our special tribute to the legacy of the late John Lewis.


KARL: Before we leave you this morning, we're remembering the life of civil rights icon John Lewis. His final words to America which were posthumously published called upon the next generation to carry the mantle of social justice activism.

Our chief national correspondent Byron Pitts looks back at how that legacy is carrying on.


BYRON PITTS, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today would have been John Lewis' 81st birthday. A share cropper's son who became the soldier of justice, who became the soul of Congress until his death seven months ago.

JOHN LEWIS, DECEASED CONGRESSMAN FROM GEORGIA: I got in trouble. God trouble. Necessary trouble.

PITTS: Congressman Lewis packed a whole lot of life in 80 plus years. A wise warrior whose weapons of choice were faith and prayer, optimism and grit.

PITTS (on camera): You still come here often.

LEWIS: Oh, yes, sir.

PITTS (voice over): We spoke many times over the years. Once on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. In 1963, he was a young man.

LEWIS: We do not want our freedoms gradually, but we want to be free now.

PITTS: In 2013, he was still young in spirit.

LEWIS: I stood right here, 50 years ago, on this very spot, with the other speakers, and this always gives me a sense of belonging to come here, because this spot is almost sacred.

PITTS: Lewis was, of course, a protege of Martin Luther King Jr. He also subscribed to the philosophy of American educate (ph) and orator (ph) Booker T. Washington. It was Washington who said, plant your bucket where you stand. In other words, do your best, make your impact, whatever your gifts, whenever you stand in America. Lewis believed that of himself, of all of us.

LEWIS: The dream is still in the process of becoming a reality. It's not there yet, but we're on our way and there will be no turning back.

PITTS (on camera): You smile when you --

LEWIS: Because I believe it. It's part of the DNA of the American psyche.

PITTS (voice over): That DNA lived in Lewis and perhaps in all of us. Those who choose to get in the way, plant their buckets where they stand. From athletes, to activists, from those who show heroism, to humility. From fellow Georgian Stacey Abrams, who lost her governor's race in 2018 but two years later registered a record number of Georgians to vote in 2020.

AMANDA GORMAN: The norms and notions of what just is isn't always justice.

PITTS: To 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, who touched the nation at this year's inauguration.

GORMAN: There is always light if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave enough to be it.

PITTS: She was a year younger than Lewis when he stirred souls in 1963.

LEWIS: It is very simple. When you see something that is not right, something that is not fair, something that is not just, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. You cannot be quiet.

PITTS: John Lewis knew success and setback, because he believed so deeply in America, fought so courageously, we have no excuse to do any less, wherever we sand.

For THIS WEEK, I’m Byron Pitts in New York.


KARL: I miss him. We all miss him. But John Lewis' legacy certainly lives on. Our thanks to my friend Byron for that.

That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and have a great day.