A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 1, 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.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Alarming surge.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BU SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: This is an incredibly, incredibly contagious version of the virus.
KARL: As the Delta variant spreads, the CDC makes a big reversal on masks.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: This moment could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage.
KARL: And the president predicts more restrictions. Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us with the latest, plus Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Biden's balancing act and the future of the infrastructure bill.
SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: It was an attempted coup.
MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. MET POLICE DEPARTMENT: I heard chanting from some in the crowd: "Get his gun and kill him with his own gun."
KARL: Searing, emotional testimony from officers who fought to defend the Capitol on January 6. We discuss the fallout and what could come next with one of only two Republicans on that panel, Representative Adam Kinzinger.
And new revelations on how Trump tried to use the Justice Department to undermine the 2020 election. Our roundtable analyzes it all.
JOEL CASTON, ELECTED OFFICIAL AND D.C. INMATE: I noticed that, not only can we vote; we can also run for office.
KARL: A convicted felon elected to office from prison, his journey of redemption.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
At the beginning of July, it seemed as if we were winning the fight against COVID, with schools preparing to reopen, masks destined for extinction.
But, as August begins, there are frightening signs our COVID nightmare is far from over. The Delta variant, as contagious as chicken pox, is spreading fast. In parts of the country, emergency rooms are once again filling up. The death toll is expected to rise. And the CDC is once again recommending masks indoors in areas where transmission is high.
The mask recommendation even applies to people who are fully vaccinated, because, while they are unlikely to get severely ill, they can help spread the disease.
This week, more than 100,000 new cases were reported in a single day, for the first time in nearly six months.
There is some good news. The pace of vaccinations is picking up, an average of 650,000 shots administered per day. That's a 21 percent increase in the last week.
So, where do we go from here? Is this a temporary setback or a deadly new trend?
Dr. Anthony Fauci is here to help us make sense of it all.
So, Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining us.
Help me understand. Are we headed towards a period once again where we're going to see lockdowns, businesses shutting down, masks routine for everybody, or is this -- or is this potentially just a temporary setback?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Jon, I don't think we're going to see lockdowns.
I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter.
But things are going to get worse. If you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially. You know, what we really need to do, Jon -- we say it over and over again, and it's the truth -- we have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not getting vaccinated.
We are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated. There are some breakthrough infections among vaccinated. You'd expect that because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. But in the breakthrough infections, they are mostly mild or without symptoms, whereas the unvaccinated, who have a much, much, much greater chance of getting infected in the first place, are the ones that are vulnerable to getting severe illness that might lead to hospitalization and, in some cases, death.
So, we're looking not, I believe, to lockdown, but we're looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we're seeing the cases go up, which is the reason why we keep saying over and over again the solution to this is get vaccinated, and this would not be happening.
KARL: And is this pain and suffering, for the most part, pain and suffering for those that have not been vaccinated?
I mean, the bottom line here is, isn't it, that there are breakthrough infections for those that have been vaccinated, but you are highly unlikely to either be hospitalized or to die if you have been vaccinated; isn't that right?
FAUCI: That is correct, Jon. There's no doubt about that.
That's one of the really very, very important reasons you want people to get vaccinated. The vaccines are doing what they're supposed to do. They're protecting one from getting seriously ill, requiring hospitalizations, and perhaps even dying.
However, when you have unvaccinated people getting infected, you're propagating the dynamics of the outbreak, which ultimately impacts everybody from the standpoint of having to wear masks, from the standpoint of the safety of the kids in school, from the standpoint of being able to open up everything the way we were when we were normal.
So yes, from the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are the much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected from severe illness for the most part. But when you look at the country as a whole in getting us back to normal, the unvaccinated by not being vaccinated are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak which ultimately impacts everyone.
KARL: Okay, but walk me through this mask guidance. The CDC is now recommending in certain circumstances people that are fully vaccinated to wear masks indoors, even though you are highly unlikely to get either severely sick or die if you have been vaccinated. So walk me through the science. Why this recommendation of masks --
KARL: -- for people that are fully vaccinated and unlikely to get very sick?
FAUCI: Right. All right. Masks for the fully vaccinated, the change and the modification of the guideline, which was formerly if you're fully vaccinated you did not need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, the change as we know now is that even if you're fully vaccinated when you're in an indoor setting in an area of the country that has a high or substantial degree of transmissibility, what we know as the orange and the red zones, you should wear a mask even if you in fact are vaccinated.
That has much more to do with transmission, Jon, in the sense that we know now that there are situations, as unusual as they are, but they occur. We hear about them all the time because no vaccine is 100 percent effective, which means in areas of high volume of infection, vaccinated people will get infected.
Thank goodness for the most part they will not get seriously ill. They will generally be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. But we do know now with this very difficult Delta variant it's different than the Alpha variant in a very important way. And the important way is that it's much more highly transmissible and when you do get infected, even if you don't have symptoms, the level of virus in the nasopharynx is quite high and in fact recent studies have shown the level of virus in the nasopharynx of a vaccinated person who may not be symptomatic or mildly symptomatic is the same as an unvaccinated person.
We know that vaccinated, asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic people who are infected can spread the infection. So you want them to wear a mask so that if, in fact, they do get infected, they don't spread it to vulnerable people.
KARL: We're almost out of time. But I want to ask you about the reaction we've seen from prominent Republican governors. We’ve seen Florida Republican Governor DeSantis, Republican Governor Abbott of Texas, Governor Ducey in Arizona push back strongly against the notion of mask requirements.
Let me read you a quote from Governor Ducey in Arizona. He said, “Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated.” They are arguing that this is individual responsibility and an individual’s right to decide. What is your answer to these -- these are Republican governors in some of the largest states in our country?
FAUCI: Well, Jon, I disagree with them. I respectfully disagree with them. The fact is there are things that are individual responsibilities that one has an there are things that have to do with you individually which also impact others. And get -- the spread of infection that we're seeing now, the surge in cases, Jon, is impacting everyone in the country.
So although you want to respect a person's individual right, when you're dealing with a public health situation -- and we are, in fact, in a very serious public health challenge here with a pandemic, with a virus that has an extraordinary capability of spreading rapidly and efficiently from person to person.
So a person's individual, individual, decision to not wear a mask, not only impacts them, because if they get infected -- even though they say it's my decision if I get infected, I'll worry about that. But the fact is if you get infected, even if you are without symptoms, you very well may infect another person who may be vulnerable, who may get seriously ill. So in essence, you are encroaching on their individual rights because you're making them vulnerable. So you could argue that situation both ways.
KARL: OK. Dr. Fauci, thank you very much for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
FAUCI: Good to be with you, Jon. Thank you for having me.
KARL: As the White House continues its effort to encourage more vaccinations, President Biden announced new requirements for federal workers -- to be vaccinated or face mandatory testing.
Here to discuss all that, plus the bipartisan breakthrough in Congress on infrastructure is Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Let me ask you about this new rule and the pushback we are seeing from a lot of federal employees, unions -- unions that are representing workers, including at the Department of Transportation. One of those unions, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, called this new rule a clear violation of civil rights.
So, what do you say these unions -- and there are several of them -- that are uncomfortable with the new rule and how it came about?
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, this is about protecting lives. This is about setting a good example.
And to be clear, employees have a choice. Either attest to their vaccination and indicate that that’s happened, or there has to be other measures to keep the workplace safe, including masking and social distancing, testing. This is a basic safety measure at a time when we continue to see this very dangerous variant spreading around our country.
Look, we have so many obligations in so many dimensions of employee safety, to make sure that this is a safe workplace. This is part of that. But it’s also important I think for our federal workforce to lead by example because we’re asking the whole country to do what it takes to make sure that we get beyond this pandemic. And this is a very important part of how to do it.
KARL: And I know that this is not part of your purview as the secretary of transportation, not something that you’re focused. But there’s a lot of outrage over the expiration of the eviction moratorium, the failure of Congress to actually renew it, the belated way that the White House urged Congress to do it.
Listen to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Everybody knew this was coming. We were sounding the alarm about this issue. The fact that statement came out just yesterday is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, I’m asking you as a member of President Biden’s cabinet. Did the White House fail on this? You know, now, we have millions of people potentially facing evictions.
BUTTIGIEG: Let’s be clear, the administration has been acting throughout, and the president views as a moral issue, not just a political one. And so, that’s why you see not just the guidance that went out recently through the agencies on steps that they can take, but also the work that’s been going on from the beginning to get emergency rental assistance out to families, it’s out to states but it’s not yet necessarily getting to everybody.
But the pace has picked up. In fact, the last one, we have reporting on, it was more than the previous months, and we need to continue getting this emergency assistance out to people so that they can stay in their homes. Yes, the president enthusiastically supports movement to extend this, but we’re not waiting for that, and haven’t been. There have been steps at every level, at using every lever available to this administration throughout, and will continue to be.
KARL: Okay, let’s move on to infrastructure. This was a major breakthrough. You had 17 Republicans voting to begin debate on this. Obviously, it hasn’t passed yet. Lot of potential obstacles. But if this comes together, more than a trillion dollars on new infrastructure spending.
What will this mean to the average American?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, every American is going to see a difference and I think that’s one of the reasons why you had this extraordinary sight, something you just don’t see in today’s Washington very often, on a major issue, which is Republicans and Democrats coming together, saying, “Let’s do this.” And for that matter, business and labor rarely are on the same page about a major economic issue, at the table saying, “Okay, let’s get this done.”
We’re talking about roads and bridges. We’re talking about ports and airports. We’re talking about rail and transit, not to mention the work that’s going on on water, on broadband.
There is no county, no community, certainly no state in this nation that won’t see improvements because of this. Just like every part of this country has seen the cost of us failing to invest over the last 10, 20, 40 years the way that we should have been.
Now, my department stands ready to get to work as soon as we get those dollars once a bill is signed by the president. But, of course, we got more work to do to make sure everything comes together.
BUTTIGIEG: Bottom-line is that we cannot remain in 13th place as a country with transportation infrastructure. And as we change that, the other thing I want to mention that Americans are going to see in every part of the country is new jobs. Millions of good paying jobs, most of which are available to workers whether they have a college degree or not.
KARL: OK, so that’s quite a pitch for this. But we’ve heard from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that -- she says she will not take this bill up in the House unless the Senate also passes the much larger social infrastructure bill that is opposed -- that all Republicans oppose, even a couple of Democrats are not necessarily supportive of.
Would that be a mistake for Democrats in the House not to pass this bill unless they can also pass this other larger bill? I mean, isn’t this good in and of itself --
BUTTIGIEG: Well, we’ve --
KARL: On its own?
BUTTIGIEG: We believe in both of these packages and we believe in each of these packages. And the president has made clear that he supports them both and looks forward to signing them both.
But I don’t want to give up on the idea that at least some Republicans could vote for the second bill too. I mean what’s taking shape there on what’s called the human infrastructure side, maybe they don’t want to call it human infrastructure. Fine, they can call it whatever they like. But cutting child poverty in half by extending the childhood tax credit -- excuse me -- making sure that Americans can have paid family leave so that we’re not virtually the only country in the world that lacks that.
KARL: But --
BUTTIGIEG: Why can’t at least a few Republicans vote for that? We’re going to keep pushing on that end.
KARL: But -- but -- but -- but can I -- can I --
BUTTIGIEG: Especially now we've seen success on the physical infrastructure.
KARL: I understand. And can I just ask you a yes or no question, should Congress pass this even if this is the only infrastructure bill that is passed, or should this basically be held up unless you get both?
BUTTIGIEG: We think Congress should pass both and the president looks forward to signing both.
KARL: OK. All right. Not quite an answer, but we tried.
Secretary Buttigieg, thank you very much for joining us.
And up next, after emotional testimony from four police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6th, we'll speak exclusively with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger about what's next for the insurrection investigation and when the first wave of subpoenas will arrive.
We'll be right back.
(UNKNOWN): There was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hitman sent them.
(UNKNOWN): I was crushed up against the door frame. The -- the man in front of me took -- took advantage and beat me -- beat me in the head.
(UNKNOWN): I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than my entire deployment to Iraq.
(UNKNOWN): The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.
KARL: Harrowing testimony from four police officers before the House committee examining the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Joining us now for an exclusive interview is one of the two Republicans serving on that committee, Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
Congressman Kinzinger, thank you for joining us. I want to ask you, Bennie Thompson, the chair of the committee, said that there will be many subpoenas issued as part of this investigation, and issued soon.
Who do you expect that we'll see subpoenaed to appear before the committee?
KINZINGER: Well, I don't want to get into naming names at this point. I think what we need to know is what happened. So, if you look at it, what is it going to take to find out what happened?
It's going to take talking to a lot of people. It's going to take thorough investigations. We want to do this expeditiously. We want to get to the answer. We don't want to drag this out.
But we want to know -- I think this is, kind of, like the shot we have as a country to get answers to what led up to it, what really happened and what happened in the aftermath.
And so I would expect to see a significant number of subpoenas for a lot of people. But I think the bigger thing is just what is the message that's going to come out this, is that the American people deserve the truth. They need the truth. Even if they -- even if there are some folks on, you know, some TV channels that don't want to talk about it, the truth needs to be out there for event those folks' kids to know in the future.
So it's going to be a thorough investigation, that's for sure.
KARL: One -- one of the big questions is what Donald Trump was up to in the White House as this riot was unfolding. Liz Cheney has suggested, including in an interview on "This Week," that anybody who spoke to Donald Trump during those hours should come and testify before the committee.
She suggested it could even mean subpoenas -- a subpoena for Kevin McCarthy. Now we've learned Jim Jordan also talked to Donald Trump on January 6th.
Would you support subpoenas to the Republican leader in the House and to -- and to Jim Jordan?
KINZINGER: I would support subpoenas to anybody that can shed light on that. If that's the leader, that's the leader. If it's anybody that talked to the president that can provide us that information, I want to know what the president was doing every moment of that day, after he said, "I'm going to walk with you to the Capitol," after Mo Brooks stood up and said, "We're going to kick backside and take names. Today's the day that, you know, patriots take their country back from other people."
I want to know what they were doing, because that's going to be important. I want to know -- you know, if the National Guard took five or six hours to get to Capitol Hill, did the president make any calls?
And if he didn't, why?
And if he did, of course, then how come the National Guard still takes five hours?
I think, had the president picked up the phone and made a call, the Guard would have been there immediately.
This is stuff that we can't, you know, sweep under the rug of "That was a whole seven months ago, you know, history," that some people are trying to do because it's political inconvenient.
If anybody is scared of this investigation, I ask you one question, "What are you afraid of? I mean, either you're afraid of being discovered of having some culpability in it or, you know, what?" If you think it wasn't a big deal, then you should allow this to go forward.
So this is -- it is essential for history, for the American people, for truth, that we get to the bottom of this. I think anybody with parts of that information, with inside knowledge, can probably expect to be talking to the committee.
KARL: So -- so if somebody like Kevin McCarthy, who clearly has some of that knowledge, and Jim Jordan, who seems to have some of that knowledge, refuse to testify, refuse to comply with subpoenas, if it comes to that, I don't think we've ever had a situation like that.
How -- how could you enforce, or how would you enforce a subpoena for a fellow member of Congress?
Would there be, like, a vote of...
KARL: ... or what -- how would you do it?
KINZINGER: Yeah, I think that's -- that's a question more for the lawyers that know what constitutional, I guess, trigger mechanisms or enforcement mechanisms are there.
I'll say this, I intend, at least, on the committee, to get to a full accounting of the truth. And if somebody thinks that they can stand up and use, you know, maneuvers to try to string this investigation out and hope that people lose interest and hope that they can resist, at least me, and I know the other members of the committee, are determined that we are going to get to that answer.
So it may cost you a lot in legal fees to try to resist, but we're going to get to that answer. I don't know what, you know, specific things we can do to compel.
And I'm not even sure where this -- this investigation is going to lead, who we're going to need to talk to. But I do know that the facts are going to lead where the facts lead to. And we're going to have a full accounting of that.
KARL: Well, based on what you have said, it seems clear that you would want to talk to Donald Trump himself. Am I right?
KINZINGER: Well, I -- look, I don't know.
Again, it's going to depend on where the facts lead. We may not even have to talk to Donald Trump to get the information. There were tons of people around him. There were tons of people involved in the things that led up to January 6.
Obviously, if you talk to the president, the former president, that's going to have a whole new set of kind of like everything associated with it. So, when I look at that, I'm like, maybe.
But I know that we're going to get to the information. If he has unique information. That's one thing. But I think there's a lot of people around him that knew some things.
KARL: And I have to ask you, before this hearing, before this -- you kicked off this first hitting -- hearing, the Republican leadership held a press conference where they placed blame for the riot on Nancy Pelosi.
I want to play you sound from the conference chair, Elise Stefanik.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): The American people deserve to know the truth, that Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on January 6.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I mean, my God, they have protected Donald Trump from blame here, and they're blaming Nancy Pelosi for the fact that Trump supporters invaded the Capitol, and including her office?
Can you -- can you explain to me what they're talking about?
KINZINGER: Yes, to me, it's mind-blowing, and it basically shows the desperation to try to derail this.
Now, if you think about the different audiences that exist, there's the audience of the American people, and then there's the audience of Donald Trump. All Donald Trump needs to see is that you're making a defense, no matter how nonsensical that defense is.
So, if that defense goes from -- of course, we all know it was Trump supporters and it was QAnon types that launched to this insurrection on the 6th. But if you stand in front of the proper news channel that Donald Trump watches, and you say, this is Nancy Pelosi's fault, you have just done your job. It doesn't matter if it doesn't even make any sense anymore. What matters is that you have said something to placate him.
And so, look, I mean, the speaker and I don't get along on a lot of things. On this case, we do, which is, we need answers. It's been seven months. It's time to get to the bottom of this.
And, by the way, blaming what happened on January 6 on the security posture -- and, certainly, we're going to get to the bottom of the security posture -- but that's like blaming somebody for being the victim of a crime, when the perpetrator actually executed that crime. It's insane.
And this is where we have to take back the narrative, particularly speaking as a fellow conservative to conservatives. It's like we can't do this alone.
That's why I started Country First, Country1st.com, to just say, let's take back -- let's mend division in this country, and actually get back to telling the truth to people, instead of being able to stand up and say, it's Nancy Pelosi's fault, and know that Donald Trump's happy and the truth doesn't matter.
KARL: All right, Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, thank you for joining us. We appreciate the time.
The roundtable is up next.
And, later, we will meet the D.C. inmate elected to public office in a groundbreaking campaign for voting rights and racial justice.
Stay with us.
KARL: The roundtable is here and ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Leader McCarthy says “it's against the science”.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He’s such a moron.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: In the Senate, you don't have to wear a mask. But in the House you do and you get fined if you don't. That doesn't seem to be based on science, but you might have to talk to Dr. Nancy --
PELOSI: To say that wearing a mask is not based on science, I think, is not wise. And that was my comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: The heated and increasingly personal debate on Capitol Hill over COVID and mask wearing.
Let's talk about it all and more with our roundtable, Manhattan Institute President Reihan Salam, former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, ABC News political director Rick Klein and POLITICO Playbook co-anchor, Rachael Bade.
So, Donna, this was a pretty tough week for the Biden administration in the handling of COVID. You had the back-and-forth on mask, over whether or not there could be an actual mandate for vaccines.
How are they playing this?
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think they've been trying to keep the same message that we can defang this virus, but not defeat it unless every state, every locality work together to ensure that Americans are being vaccinated. There's no question that the Biden administration was under a lot of pressure after the CDC began to put out these new mandates. Cities like Washington, D.C., mandates. Los Angeles, new mandates, mask mandates.
And so I think the Biden administration was a little behind, but hopefully we're all on the same page.
Look, there are still variants of the 1918 Spanish flu that we see in the seasonal viruses every year. So if we're not all working together to stop this virus, it's going to continue to mutate.
KARL: But that's a reminder also, this thing isn't going to go away entirely. It's always going to be there.
BRAZILE: No, you can de -- you can defang it, but you can't defeat it.
So, and -- and you've got the -- the mandates that Donna mentioned, but you also have DeSantis, Abbott, Ducey saying no mandates of any kind. In fact, they're prohibiting, in some cases, localities from -- from making -- from having mask mandates.
REIHAN SALAM, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE PRESIDENT: There are interesting tensions within the coalitions. We often see this as a team red versus team blue kind of issue. But, for example, if you look at vaccine mandates for public employees, there are many public employees in very blue cities around the country who are very skeptical, very reticent to get vaccinated. That's a tension that needs to be managed.
Similarly, when you're looking at mask mandates, you know, there is a lot of debate over the scientific soundness of this, you know, when you're talking about masking, particularly if the objective is to convince people to be vaccinated, that your life is going to change, you're going to be able to return to normalcy.
So I think that, you know, though this is described as very binary, there are a lot of tensions within that have to be managed.
You saw this a bit, by the way, with the eviction moratorium. This was an issue where the Biden administration was kind of struggling to get money out the door. They couldn't do it. Punted this to Congress. And then, in Congress, you had Democrats lawmakers who said, wait a second, we have a lot of landlords, mom-and-pop landlords who are concerned about extending this.
So, again, I think that it's not exactly fitting the partisan binary in a lot of respects.
KARL: Well, there's something binary going on in Congress. I mean -- I mean Republicans are not -- in the House -- I mean you have basically all out civil disobedience it seems in terms of the requirement of a mask in the House. I mean how is Nancy Pelosi going to enforce this?
RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: I mean it's going to be a challenge for her. And I think that, you know, Republicans, some of them at this point are just saying they're going to -- they're going to pay the fine or they're trying to find out a way to keep from being fined because, you know, Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi, has tried to sort of double down on these mask mandates by saying, OK, if you're not following the rules, you know, you could -- you could face some of your salary being cut.
But, I mean, things right now in the House are just totally ugly, not only over this issue, but also, you know, when it comes to the January 6th panel. I mean you had Pelosi calling Kevin McCarthy a moron this week. You had Kevin McCarthy saying something yesterday about how when he gets the gavel to be speaker, you know, he'll try not to hit her with it, which is just incredibly insane the type of rhetoric we're seeing right now. Things are really, really heated.
KARL: I mean it does -- it's been bad. I remember Gephardt, at one point, making the joke that when he handed the gavel to -- to Gingrich that he thought of using it. But -- but -- but I think it was a joke.
But, I mean, Rick, it's -- it is unbelievable. I mean the Congress actually seems maybe even more divided.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, and this is a time where you need national unity or some consensus about what kind of signs, what kind of signals you're going to follow and you really have the opposite.
And, look, you can blame the virus for being confusing and for adjusting --
KLEIN: But at this stage I -- you don't have a reservoir of good will that the Biden administration has been able to build up because there's been conflicting information, there's been conflicting advice. The science has been changing. We don't know what zone we're living in or what the mandate's going to be for indoors versus outdoors, vaccinated, unvaccinated. People want their lives back.
And Joe Biden told us just a few weeks ago, told the American people, that we were about there. We were getting our lives back. Now we're seeing this backslide. We're seeing his advice adjusting.
And it is confusing. And I think on -- on the other side, when you get to the politics, it's become a cultural touch zone. When you have people like Ron DeSantis raising money off of anti-Fauci imaging, don't Fauci my Florida is what the -- what the t-shirts and the koozies say right now.
KLEIN: And you have Republicans who are in outright open defiance of what the federal government in telling you. You have a major clash. And a clash that has public health consequences, not just for people who are unvaccinated, but for people who are venerable. The way that Dr. Fauci outlined it today, everyone's health is at risk.
KARL: But Reihan makes a good point, doesn't he, that the question here of requiring masks or recommending masks for people who have been vaccinated fights what has been the argument, get vaccinated, be protected, get your life back to normal.
BADE: Yes, and I think that's why this is -- this is a tough issue. It's going to be a tough few weeks for the White House right now, just, you know, both politically and on a policy issue when it comes to the vaccine and handle -- the pandemic and how to handle -- handle what they're doing right now.
I mean, from a political standpoint, you know, Biden ran on this pledge that he was going to, you know, help the country find its way out of the pandemic. They've gotten really great numbers and reviews from Americans saying that they're doing what they need to do. This sort of sets that back potentially.
Also, you know, he wants to talk about this huge bipartisan victory he's going to have in a couple of days when it comes to infrastructure. This could, you know, completely overcloud that victory right now.
And then on a policy perspective, you know, what does it mean if, you know, we see another -- a shutdown of some sort, you know?
We already are seeing inflation rates soar through the roof. You know, can the economy handle another shutdown? It -- it's going to be tough for Biden World, not just, you know, in terms of messaging but in terms of what they want to do with their agenda.
BRAZILE: But -- but it's not over until the American people say it's over. And it's not over until everyone is vaccinated. I mean, this virus has more legs than any mutant I've ever seen on HBO.
And that is because we started with alpha. We now know delta. And then iota, epsilon. God forbid if we ever get to omega. So this virus is going to continue to mutate until we all receive the vaccine that can help us save not just our lives but the lives of other people.
It's hard to govern in these polarized times. Because if I say -- wearing blue today, of course -- that -- "Get vaccinated.:
Somebody would say, "Well, hell, no, I'm not getting vaccinated. I've got to hear from someone else."
Look, honestly, I don't want to hear from Joe Biden, McCarthy, Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer. I want to hear from my doctor. I want to hear from the scientists.
And I think, the more we hear from them, the less this polarization on who should get vaccinated. We should all try to protect each other, and especially our children, those who have not received any vaccines.
I'm -- I'm speaking up today for the babies. Let's protect those children.
KARL: OK. Over all of this is the re-emergence -- and I think it's, like, fair to say, re-emergence of Donald Trump. Because he is out there more aggressively now. And we just learned that he raised, you know, between him and his committees, some $80 million.
On the other hand, we had this Republican primary in Texas where the candidate he endorsed lost. This is a republican -- I mean, it was a Republican-Republican election.
What does that -- I mean, is he -- is he the leader...
SALAM: Well, I think he...
KARL: Is he the leader of the Republican Party?
SALAM: He certainly is the most visible and galvanizing figure. The question is, is this something that accrues to him personally or can he actually shape policy outcomes?
You know, you saw this outcome in the special election in Texas. But, really, that wasn't an ideological divide between the candidates. It wasn't something that was, you know, particularly personal and it wasn't something that was really amplified all that much within the race.
Similarly, if you look at, you know, the special election in Ohio, you know, Donald Trump has a horse. He's picked a candidate that he likes. But there's...
KARL: A candidate with a criminal record, a candidate, you know...
SALAM: But there's not an ideological element to this. So I think that the -- you know, infrastructure: Donald Trump has said he's campaigned aggressively against this infrastructure bargain, right?
But it doesn't actually appear to have deterred that many Republican lawmakers.
So this seems to be about him, his voice, his visibility. It's certainly augers well if he wants to run for president again. But can he actually shape what Republicans are doing if it's something that they wouldn't otherwise want to do?
That's the question.
KARL: But I think this is a good one. I mean, are we overstating his -- his hold on the party here?
BADE: Well, that's exactly, sort of -- well, I was going to say, are people, sort of, questioning if he's -- his influence is waning too much this week, actually?
Because, you know, I do think there's a lot of Trump critics out there who want to see him lose influence, and least among them -- not least among them, Senate Republicans like Mitch McConnell, who want the party to go in a different direction. They want to win back the Senate.
And look, they had some perhaps, you know, hopeful signs from them this week between this Texas primary, also, you know, 17 Senate Republicans coming out and voting to basically not filibuster this bipartisan infrastructure deal when Trump was putting out press release after press release blasting it.
But, look, I mean, Trump is still the leader of the party. You can see it over and over again.
KARL: Those are two big failures in one week.
BADE: People go -- it is; it is, but you still see candidates vying for his endorsement. You still see people going to Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago to fund-raise with him. It is still blasphemy to say something bad about Trump if you are an elected Republican official.
And even in Texas, that race in particular was two Republicans against each other, but Democrats could vote in that. And the Democrats obviously voted for the non-Trump candidate. So, you know, it's not a black-and-white test case right there. So I wouldn't -- I would just take it with a grain of salt, I guess.
KLEIN: You know, one person that might breathe a little easier out of all of this is -- is Liz Cheney. Because the whole idea of defeating her in the primary is predicated on finding one candidate, the Trump-endorsed candidate, to do it. And if it's messy; if Trump isn't able to winnow a field because of a perception that he isn't influencing local politics, that might be the ticket for the Liz Cheneys, the Adam Kinzingers to potentially survive in primaries next year.
KARL: And the January 6 committee?
KARL: How does that fit into all this?
KLEIN: Well, look, we're just learning more and more all the time.
I mean, it's just -- it's remarkable to me how much new information continues to come out. And now you have these Republicans who are giving it a little credence.
And, Jon, I got a chance to read a book that's coming out in a couple of months.
KLEIN: It's a pretty good book, I will tell people. It's by a pretty good author as well.
And there's a lot more that's coming out. That's the backdrop for so much of this. You're going to have these hearings play out against the backdrop of new information, new information that's brought by witnesses.
You saw Congressman Kinzinger today basically taunting Kevin McCarthy into appearing before that committee. It seems very likely that they're going to move in the direction of significant witnesses. The committee is also going to dig on the technical end in a substantial way.
I think this committee, I think anyone that underestimated it and said it's just going to be a partisan thing, I think they were proved wrong this past week. And I think it's going to continue to gain in influence.
BRAZILE: Jonathan, I had to look at this: "Leave the rest to me. Leave the rest of me. Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest..."
KARL: This is what Donald Trump said on December 27 to acting Attorney General Rosen.
BRAZILE: And leave the rest to me.
BRAZILE: Which is the same thing as saying, corrupt the...
KARL: And Republicans in Congress.
BRAZILE: Corrupt the election yourselves and leave the rest to me.
BRAZILE: I mean, first of all, Donald Trump has juice. I don't know how he's squeezing it...
BRAZILE: ... who's squeezing it, but he has juice.
I think Ms. Wright lost because she didn't run a good campaign.
KARL: In Texas, yes.
BRAZILE: She didn't run a good campaign.
BRAZILE: She didn't have a lot of money. She had the message, but she didn't have the mojo.
So, Donald Trump still has juice. And anyone who thinks that his juice is waning, uh-uh. I'm not playing with that ball of fire, because I watched from 2016 to 2020 how his support continued to grow. So, he has juice. Let's leave that alone.
But he is one corrupt individual. And I hope the January 6 commission will keep digging and investigate this as impartially as possible, so that we can get to the bottom of it.
SALAM: One interesting question for Democrats is, do we want to have a Trump conversation, and is that going to help get out the vote for Democrats, or is that actually going to distract from other messages around economic policy, a bipartisan infrastructure deal, et cetera?
I think, for Republicans, it's not obvious, because it could be that actually focusing on January 6 and what have you actually could not necessarily be the worst outcome. So, it's very interesting to see how this is going to play out.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when Republicans out in the grassroots working on campaigns, they're very passionate about, for example, K-12 schools, what's happening with masking mandates, what's happening with critical race theory, for example.
And when the president is talking about those issues, it resonates. When he talks about opposing the infrastructure deal, it does not resonate. So, it's not as though he can really dictate exactly what is going to resonate with conservative audiences.
When it aligns, it can be very powerful. When it doesn't align, it doesn't necessarily land.
BADE: I think that you're tapping into an issue that is undercovered right now. And that is this question, again, about how much of January 6 will focus on Trump vs., like, basically everything else on January 6?
There are Democrats -- and they won't say this on the record in public -- who are concerned about this panel becoming too Trump-focused because of what you just said. They want to focus on policy wins. Obviously, this would be more moderate Democrats.
But if you look out at the people who are saying, we need to subpoena everyone, it's people like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger. And then everybody asks the Democrats on the panel, are you going to do this, and they're all saying, yes, we're not going to -- we're going to do everything we can. We're going to do everything we can.
But Democrats also have a very, like, technical challenge here, and that is, Trump ignored their subpoenas for two years during their investigations.
KARL: A very good point.
BADE: And because of that, they chose not to subpoena some really high-ranking people during their impeachment fights.
So, we will see how they navigate this...
KARL: All right.
BADE: ... because it could end up with a court fight.
KARL: Very, very good point.
We are out of time.
Coming up: After nearly three decades behind bars, an incarcerated felon became the newest elected public servant in Washington, D.C.
His incredible story is up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THIS WEEK TRIVIA)
SUBTITLE: Which president visited Camp David the most while in office?
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think that without Camp David, there would be a sort of element of jail to holding the job that we hold. So I just want you to know how much we appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Fifty-six years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. He called it a triumph for freedom, as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield.
Today, the promise of that law is under intense political debate.
But as our Devin Dwyer reports, an historical election here in Washington, D.C. this summer is charting a new course for voting rights and racial justice.
JOEL CASTON, DC INMATE: Can anybody in this circle relate to loss of freedom?
DEVIN DWYER, ABC NEWS SENIOR WASHINGTON REPORTER (voice-over): After 27 years behind bars, Joel Caston is seeking redemption through politics.
CASTON: I notice that, wait a minute, not only can we vote, we can also run for office.
DWYER: The 44-year-old felon convicted of murder as a teenager became D.C.'s newest elected public servant this summer, winning a groundbreaking campaign for neighborhood commissioner on the city’s southeast side.
CASTON: It sounds great to have an official title. I must admit that. However, what it feels like is that now I have to deliver.
DWYER: His constituents are fellow inmates in D.C. jail.
How many all voted?
All casting ballots in a local election that’s pushing the boundaries of voting rights and racial justice.
D.C. last year joined just Maine and Vermont as the only places in America that prisoners can vote.
COLIE LAVAR LONG, DC INMATE: When I actually put a checked in that box and actually said that he won and this is the person I voted for, it like reaffirmed that,. you know, I am worthy to be back in society.
DWYER: Less than 1 percent of the nation's estimated 1.8 million incarcerated residents has the right to cast a ballot from behind bars, setting the U.S. apart from many other democracies.
MARC HOWARD, DIR, GU PRISONS AND JUSTICE INITIATIVE: In other words, in most places you don't lose your humanity, you don't lose your civil rights, social rights, political rights when you're incarcerated.
DWYER: Georgetown Professor Marc Howard, a leading advocate for felon voting rights, says it's also an issue of racial injustice. One in 16 black American adults is disenfranchised because of a conviction, a rate 3.7 times higher than among non-blacks.
HOWARD: Ultimately, this is about human beings with the right to express themselves. And I think that voting is a really fundamental right that they should have.
DWYER: Caston is now the first incarcerated American elected into office with votes from incarcerated peers.
DWYER (on camera): How can you represent a group of people, a community, when you're cut off from a big segment of that community?
JOEL CASTON, DC ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONER: At lot of meetings, a lot of engagement has taken place over Zoom. So now, as the NC commissioner, one of the things I do have access to is a computer.
DWYER: You oversee everything from liqueur license approvals, to sidewalk repair, to public safety. Can you credibly advocate for public safety from in here?
CASTON: I can. I believe that my story, my campaign is giving a lens to individuals who may not have considered this as being a viable option to obtain public safety.
DWYER (voice over): But enfranchisement of felons remains highly controversial.
REP. GREG MURPHY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: It's called punishment. Punishment for their crime.
DWYER: Many Republicans opposed House Democrats' sweeping election reform bill, HR-1, this spring, in part because it would have restored the vote to millions of ex-felons. While 21 states automatically return voting rights after release, 16 withhold the vote through periods of probation or parole and 11 more suspend the vote indefinitely for some crimes.
CASTON: Oftentimes we would just cast off individuals who are inside incarcerated (ph) spaces and think that he or she does not have a value. I believe that my story demonstrates that, yes, we do have value.
DWYER: The family of the victim in Caston's case has given its full endorsement, in a statement to ABC News saying, we believe in forgiveness and hope Joel will do good work in the community. His constituents told us Commissioner Caston, who expects to be paroled by the end of the year, is already inspiring them to be better citizens.
AHMAAD NELMS, DC INMATE: The thing I would like for Joel to do is continue to make the impossible possible.
DIEGO LOPEZ, DC INMATE: Because it helps young men to become better people.
RICHARD BYRD, DC INMATE: And break the back of this pipeline that's feeding our young black kids to the system.
LONG: You know, he's inspired that we're more than inmates. You know, we are fathers, we are sons, we are brothers and also we are politicians. Thank you, Joel.
KARL: Thank you to Devin Dwyer for that amazing story of redemption.
That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," and have a good day.