'This Week' Transcript 1-3-21: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Stacey Abrams

This is a rush transcript for "This Week," airing Sunday, January 3, 2021.

ByABC News
January 3, 2021, 9:17 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, January 3, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.


MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): A new year, a new COVID mutation.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This new variant has been identified here in the state of California.

RADDATZ: As the virus rages out of control.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I think we just have to assume that it's going to be worse.

RADDATZ: Now more than 20 million cases across the country, hospitals on the brink.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the Christmas season, I'm scared to death, honestly.

RADDATZ: The vaccine rollout so far falling short.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: There's a lot of steps. And there just hasn't been much planning.

GEN. GUSTAVE PERNA, U.S. ARMY MATERIEL COMMAND: Here's what I have confidence in. Every day, everybody gets better. And I believe that uptake will increase.

RADDATZ: This morning, we're one-on-one with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

And two days to the Georgia run-off.


SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): Are you ready to show America that Georgia is a red state?



RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: The stakes of this election cannot be overstated.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R-GA): We're not taking anything for granted.

RADDATZ: The critical Senate majority hanging in the balance. What the outcome could mean for Joe Biden's presidency.

We cover it all with Stacey Abrams, plus Rahm Emanuel and Chris Christie, and insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.


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

Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning, happy new year, and welcome to "This Week."

2020 is finally in the rearview mirror, the first days of the new year bringing a critical political fight to the fore, both President Donald Trump and president-elect Joe Biden heading to Georgia tomorrow, headlining dueling rallies for candidates in run-off races.

The winners will hold the keys to the Senate majority, a balance that has the potential to shape the course of Biden's presidency, this as some Republicans in Congress ready an 11th-hour desperate push to overturn the election Trump lost.

It's also a critical time in the fight against COVID, which has now taken more than 350,000 lives, its grip on the country unrelenting. And a new, more contagious variant now reported in three states, this as hundreds wait in line for vaccines, amid mounting frustration over that slow rollout.

More than 14 million vaccines have been shipped across the country, but only about 4.2 million have reportedly made it into the arms of people, far short of the original goal to vaccinate 20 million by year's end.

And while we have just closed out the deadliest month so far, many are still flouting public health guidelines, sparking fears of yet another surge on what could be the busiest day for air travel since the pandemic began.

Dr. Fauci is standing by, but, first, ABC's Trevor Ault leads us off from New York's La Guardia Airport with the latest.

Good morning, Trevor.


To put it bluntly, this has been a grim start to the new year. The TSA has screened 15 million travelers this holiday season. We're learning about more and more New Year's Eve parties with super-spreader potential. And now the fear from health experts is, we are fanning the flames of what's becoming an inferno.

In the past eight weeks, the number of confirmed cases in the United States has doubled to 20 million. Hospitals in the hardest-hit areas like Los Angeles are on the brink of catastrophe. In some instances, ambulances are waiting up to eight hours to drop off their patients.

We have now had more than 100,000 Americans fighting the virus in a hospital for 32 straight days. And, as health experts have said from the beginning, we are still a few weeks away from the holiday wave taking hold.

And, unfortunately, the vaccine rollout is hardly easing the burden. On top of our limited dosages, we have a substantial lack of infrastructure in place to administer them, not to mention our health care workers are already overburdened dealing with those sick patients.

Plus, some areas are struggling to even convince their front-line workers to get vaccinated. In Ohio's Knox County, half the health department and 60 percent of EMS workers have just turned it down.

This weekend, I talked to Senator Mitt Romney. He blasted the lack of a federal plan. He called it incomprehensible. And he said, so far, no state has gotten it right.

To give you an idea of how this is going, on Saturday, the city of Houston opened up a phone line to book vaccination appointments. They were offering 750 shots, and they received 250,000 phone calls -- Martha.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Trevor.

Joining me now is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Good morning, Dr. Fauci.

I want to start by saying this. We report the numbers of deaths and cases every day. But I want to pause for a moment and ask you your reaction to 350,000 deaths we've now reached. Did you ever expect it to be that high?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: No, Martha, I did not. But, you know, that's what happens when you're in a situation where you have surges related to so many factors inconsistent adhering to the public health measures, the winter months coming in right now with the cold allowing people or essentially forcing people to do most of their things indoors as opposed to outdoors. And then the traveling associated with the holiday season is all of the ingredients that unfortunately make for a situation that is really terrible.

I mean, to have 300,000 cases in a given day and between 2,000 and 3,000 deaths per day is just terrible. I mean, it is. I mean, there is no running away from the numbers, Martha. It's something that we absolutely got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that -- turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures uniformly throughout the country with no exceptions.

RADDATZ: Dr. Fauci, the president just tweeted that the number of deaths is far exaggerated, blame the CDC's what he called "ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries." Your response to that?

FAUCI: Well, the deaths are real deaths. I mean, all you need to do is to go out into the trenches, go to the hospitals, see what the health care workers are dealing with. They are under very stressed situations in many areas of the country, the hospital beds are stretched. People are running out of beds, running out of trained personnel who are exhausted right now.

That's real. That's not fake. That's real.

RADDATZ: And, Dr. Fauci, we saw that the U.S. is vaccinating only about 200,000 people a day with many states using just a small percentage of the vaccines they have received. What's the biggest cause of this delay?

FAUCI: Well, I think it's just trying to get a massive vaccine program started and getting off on the right foot. There have been a couple of glitches, that's understandable. I think the important thing, Martha, is to see what's happening in the next week to week-and-a-half, because the original projection that General Perna, who is in charge of the actual ultimate shipping and distribution, there is allocation, there is shipping, there is distribution, and then there is putting into people's arms.

So they were promising that they would have about 20 million doses that were allocated, shipped, and distributed. They fell short of that by the end of December. But in the first couple of days in January they're catching up with that. What we need to catch up with now is getting into people's arms, because there's now about 4 million. We wanted to get to 20 million.

But some little glimmer of hope is that in the last 72 hours they've gotten 1.5 million doses into people's arms, which is an average of about 500,000 a day, which is much better than the beginning when it was much, much less than that. So we are not where we want to be, there's no doubt about that, but I think we can get there if we really accelerate, get some momentum going, and see what happens as we get into the first couple of weeks of January.

RADDATZ: And, Dr. Fauci, the president puts responsibility on the states, but Utah Senator Mitt Romney, as you might have just heard, wrote this week that it was unrealistic to think that health care workers, already overburdened, or CVS and Walgreens, could really handle that vaccination program, writing: "That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is incomprehensible as it is inexcusable."

Is that inexcusable?

FAUCI: Well, what we need to do, Martha, is we’ve got to get interaction between the federal government and the states. To say the federal government should do it themselves, that’ll never happen.

So this leaves (ph) the states on their own without any help, without any instruction, without any resources, is going to be tough. You’ve got to have a combination of both. You have to have a real interaction, a real partnership between the federal government and the states.

That’s what we’re trying to do. Hopefully that will then materialize as we get into the beginning of this year.

But you’re absolutely right. If you try and do it one way or the other it’s not going to work. It’s got to be pulling together both federal and state.

RADDATZ: We’ll have a new president in a few weeks. What difference do you think the public will see when Joe Biden is president?

FAUCI: Well, I mean, we’ve already heard the -- President Elect Biden talking about the kinds of things that he wants to see done and that’s going to be hopefully uniform throughout the country. What the -- what the president-elect said about masks, everybody wear a mask, no exception. Everybody for the first 100 days, probably well beyond that, but at least for the first 100 days.

The goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days is a realistic goal. We can do 1 million people per day. You know we’ve done massive vaccination programs, Martha, in our history. There’s no reason why we can’t do it right now.

The classical one that people should just go back and look at, go Google it, it’s really interesting. In 1947, when there was a case of smallpox of an American who vacationing in Mexico, came back to New York City and infected a group of people -- there were a total of about 12 hospitalizations and two deaths.

New York City in March and April of 1947 vaccinated 6,350,000 people; 5 million of which they did in two weeks. I was a six-year-old boy who was one of those who got vaccinated.

So, if New York City can do 5 million in two weeks, the United States could do a million a day. We can do it.

RADDATZ: Well, we’ll hope that happens, Dr. Fauci.

We’ve heard about this new strain, this new variant. How concerned are you about that and would the vaccine protect against that?

FAUCI: Well, let me tell you what we know about that, Martha, and we’ll get more information because we’ll be studying it ourselves because as you know, that mutant is already here in the United States. It’s been well-reported.

The Brits have a lot of experience with it. They tell us that it is of a mutant that seems to spread more easily, namely it is more contagious, going from one person to another. But what they tell us is that it is not as -- is not more virulent. In other words, it doesn’t make people more ill or cause more death. And it doesn’t appear to evade or elude the protection that you would get from the antibodies that are induced by the vaccines that we’re currently using.

That’s what they’re telling us. They know what they’re doing. I believe them. But we’re going to look at it ourselves. We have a lot of people right now carefully looking at each of those.

RADDATZ: And Dr. Fauci, do -- we have just a couple of minutes here. You had predicted that things could be back to normal by next fall. Does that count on herd immunity from 75 to 80 percent of the population before things are back to normal? And you heard those reports about some healthcare workers aren’t even taking the vaccine.

FAUCI: Yes. It is totally going to depend on the uptake of vaccines. If we get 70 to 85 percent of the population vaccinated. And we start, let me -- right now we're getting the people in the priority groups, by the time we get to the end of March, the beginning of April, I would have hoped that we would have taken care of all of those priorities and have what I call open season on vaccines.

Namely anybody who wants a vaccine can get a vaccine. If from April, May, June, July, and August, we do the kind vaccine implementation that I'm talking about, at least a million people a day and maybe more, by the time we end the summer and get to the fall, we will have achieved that level of herd immunity that I think will get us back to some form of normality and maybe quite normal.

RADDATZ: OK. We'll all hope for that in the New Year. Thanks for joining us this morning, Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: Good to be with you, Martha. Thank you for having me.

RADDATZ: Now to Tuesday's critical Georgia runoffs which will determine control of the senate.

The latest FiveThirtyEight polling averages show the race nearly dead-locked. Republican incumbent David Perdue trails Democratic challenger John Ossoff by about a percentage point in the regular election, while Senator Kelly Loeffler who was appointed to fill a vacancy trails her Democratic challenger, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, by almost two points in the special election.

Our correspondent Rachel Scott is in Atlanta with the very latest.

Good morning, Rachel.


And Georgia already seeing record voter turnout for a special election. More than 3 million have already cast their ballot here. With just 48 hours to go, one of the Republicans in the race, Senator David Perdue, is now on the sidelines. He is in self-quarantine after coming into close contact with a campaign staffer who tested positive for COVID-19.

And the stakes could not just be higher. Republicans are calling this their last line of defense. Democrats say what happens here in Georgia will set the course of Joe Biden's presidency. So, to pull this off, Democrats will have to win both of their races. That would bring the split in the Senate to 50/50 and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote.

But if one of those Democratic candidates lose just one of their races, Republicans will be hanging on to majority in the Senate. And at this point, it's all about turning out the base to vote. So that's why tomorrow you will see President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden campaigning here.

Even though Biden was the first Democrat to win the state of Georgia in nearly 30 years, runoff elections in this state have largely favored Republicans. But then, on the flipside, you have Some Republicans who are concerned that the president's own words that the election is rigged, that these runoffs are invalid will then cost them majority in the Senate, Martha.

RADDATZ: And, Rachel Scott, thanks very much.

For more let's bring in the former Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, and the founder of Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams.

Good morning to you.

We've seen those polls that give Democrats a slight edge, but is there anything you're seeing on the ground that gives you concern?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: No concern, just a great deal of urgency. We did very well in vote by mail. We did very well in early vote. But we know Election Day is going to be the likely high turnout day for Republicans, so we need Democrats who haven't cast their ballot toss turn out. And if they have any questions, to go to iwillvote.com to find their polling places.

RADDATZ: And two months ago, even as Joe Biden was winning Georgia, Jon Ossoff trailed Republican David Perdue by nearly 90,000 votes. And in the special election, the Republican candidates combined for nearly 50,000 more votes than the Democrats.

I know that roughly 75,000 new voters have been registered since early November, but how certain are you that those are Democrats?

ABRAMS: We're very certain that most of those are Democrats given the composition based on race and age. And, let's be clear, we know a number of the people who voted for Joe Biden as Democrats sometimes just skip the rest of the ballot. They came out to vote for the president because you have a number of low propensity voters who came out for Democrats.

What we're so excited about is that we haven't stopped reaching those voters. Millions of contacts have been made, thousands of new registrations have been held. And we know that at least 100,000 people who did not vote in the general election are now voting in this election. And they, again, are disproportionately young and disproportionately people of color.

RADDATZ: And does the fact that Biden outperformed the Senate races indicate that his win really was more about President Trump than it was representative of some kind of ideological shift to the left in the state?

ABRAMS: Not at all. We know that for new voters, especially new voters of color, there's a tendency to only vote in races where they are certain of the outcome. They know Joe Biden. Joe Biden's been a part of American politics for 40 plus years. And so for a number of new voters, they are going to vote only when they're confident. That's why we've spent this time over the last night weeks educating voters about Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. They've crisscrossed the state and we believe we've closed the distance and that the voters that are turning out now absolutely know them and are standing by their side and voting for them.

RADDATZ: And you talk about the enthusiasm and getting them out to vote and how you're doing it and they know about these two candidates. But if they didn't come out in the general election, how are you convincing them of the importance of the Senate race?

ABRAMS: In fact, it's the Republicans who have done it for us. Their refusal to pass $2,000 relief checks, their refusal to support municipal governments, where you have a lot of people who are frontline workers. You've got firefighters and teachers and municipal workers who have been struggling to make certain that families survive the COVID-19 pandemic and Republicans balked (ph) it, providing any support.

The hypocritical idea that it's OK to support business but not to support the business of government, the business of serving the people has really galvanized voters. They feel the very real consequences of COVID-19 here in Georgia where we've had more than 630,000 infections, we have more than 10,000 deaths we have hospitals at capacity. Republicans have no intention of responding to COVID-19 and they know we need a President-elect Joe Biden, to have a partnership in the Senate and that's why Joe Biden needs Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

RADDATZ: And Joe Biden and President Trump will be there tomorrow. Do you believe that President Trump's continuing unsubstantiated claims that the election there and across the nation was rigged hurt him there?

ABRAMS: I think it's always dangerous to undermine the integrity of elections without evidence. When we challenged voter suppression, we were able to prove it, we were able to correct for it in many ways, and that's why we saw a dramatic increase in turnout from 2018 to 2020 where more voters were able to cast their ballots and have those ballots counted. In contrast, the continued notion that undermines the election I think is having a deleterious effect on Republicans. But my mission is to ensure that everyone trusts the system and that we make certain that it's a system that's worthy of that trust.

RADDATZ: And -- and you know that some Republicans are arguing that President Trump’s efforts to undermine the election are no different than yours in 2018, where you did not concede the gubernatorial race.

I know you say that is different. It’s different circumstances. But are you concerned about that reputation?

ABRAMS: Well, it’s not simply different circumstances. It’s apples and, you know, bowling balls.

I pointed out that there were a series of actions taken that impeded the ability of voters to cast their ballots. And in almost every one of those circumstances, the courts agreed, as did the state legislature.

We saw the evisceration of exact match. We saw a consent decree to make certain that people could vote by absentee without having their ballots discarded. We saw an expansion of training and an investment in local polling places so people had the ability to go and cast their ballots. We saw reduction of lines from eight to 10 hours to 30 minutes, two hours. These are all things we proved both in court and we sought remedies to.

By contrast, President Trump has lost every single one of his challenges in the State of Georgia, and he has no evidence.

In fact, an audit -- the fourth, I think, of this election -- found that there was zero fraud in our signature match process. One person acted -- or inadvertently signed for her husband against the rules, but otherwise we know that the signatures match and that the process works.

RADDATZ: OK. And we’re going to leave it there. Good luck to you this week.

Coming up, we’ll ask Chris Christie and Rahm Emmanuel about those GOP efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s election victory in Congress on Wednesday.



SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Now when Republicans, 74 million Americans, have concerns about election integrity, we're supposed to just sit down and shut up?

This is the one opportunity that I have as a United States senator, this process right here, my one opportunity to stand up and say something. And that's exactly what I'm going to do.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): This is just grossly irresponsible by Senator Hawley.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): It's a lot of B.S.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): It borders on sedition or treason.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): It is a misuse of office.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): This is the political equivalent of barking at the moon.


RADDATZ: Fierce criticism from Senate Democrats over plans by at least a dozen GOP senators and senators-elect to contest the Electoral College vote certification in Congress on Wednesday, which will confirm Joe Biden won November's election.

For more, let's bring in our powerhouse players, ABC News contributors Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel.

Happy new year to you both.

And, Chris, I want to start with you.

Those senators are joined by at least 140 House Republicans who will also object. Mike Pence says he welcomes the effort. They know it will go nowhere in a Democratic-controlled House. What are they doing?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's my point, Martha.

Listen, Joe Biden will be confirmed, his electoral votes will be confirmed in the House and in the Senate. And -- but this is not unusual either. Let's remember the Democrat -- Democrat members of the House objected in 2000, objected in 2004, objected in 2016.

But the thing that matters the most is, the reason it will go nowhere is because there's been no evidence of widespread fraud. And that's been determined by Republican and Democratic governors across the country. It's been determined, most importantly, by the Republican attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, who no one could say has not been a loyal fighter for the president.

And so the facts are the facts. And that's what I have been saying since election night. If there was evidence, show us. There's been no evidence shown. And that's why Joe Biden will be confirmed next week.

RADDATZ: And you have also heard what Mitt Romney has been saying. He said he never could have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world, and asking, has ambition so eclipsed principle?

So, I do want to go back to that. What are they doing? I mean, you cite other elections. 2000 was an extremely close election. This is not. Is this a case of ambition eclipsing principle, Chris?

CHRISTIE: I'm not a mind reader, Martha, so -- yes, I'm not a mind reader, Martha, so I don't know what's in each one of these folks' heads.

But what I can say is that 2004 wasn't that close an election, and Democrats objected. And 2016 was essentially the same election as this one, certainly from an electoral vote perspective, and there were some Democrats who objected.

That's not to justify what's happening, Martha. But it's just to say that it's not unusual for politicians in Congress to play politics. And that's what's going on.

What matters the most and what makes us the most vibrant democracy in the world is, it will be confirmed in a bipartisan fashion next week by both the House and Senate, by both Republicans and Democrats. And the reason for that is because the American people's votes will be respected.

They are being respected by a bipartisan majority in both houses. And then we will move on to the very important issues of the day.

RADDATZ: And, Rahm, will the country really move on after something like this? What's your reaction to what Chris said?

RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I actually think the country wants to move on and deal with the COVID illnesses, getting the vaccine out, making sure that the economy gets moving, those that are unemployed.

In fact, if anything -- and this is why I think, not out of principle, but out of politics, Senator McConnell and some of the other Republican leaders do not want exactly this, is because they know that it's reminding the American people at large that the Republican Party is still the party of Donald Trump and that they're going to create all this chaos and all this confusion rather than deal with the fundamental issues, and that gives Democrats a great opportunity.

But let also me pick up on what Chris said in this last point, I think this is important, Martha, which is I want to take this time to compliment all the Republicans at the state level, the judges, the leaders, speakers and Senate majority leaders across the country who basically understood there was a fundamental principle here, when the voters speak, we respect their decision. And to all of those who stood up for the law, the Constitution, legal processes, disregarded politics and said, this is the declaration of the American people. They deserve to be held up in the same way that you’re holding up 11 Republican senators who are all basically using politics to try to advance themselves for 2024 when we haven't buried yet the 2020 election -- not buried it but at least close the books on it.

And to me, there are a lot of Republicans that know very well that this election was a fair election and the American people spoke. We have real issues in front of us, focus at the party, and to them, I applaud them for respecting the rule of law.

RADDATZ: But let's look at going forward. What if Donald Trump remains on the political stage? Then what happens in that -- in the Republican Party in particular?

And, Chris, I’m going to come back to you on that as well.

EMANUEL: I like to talk about the Republican Party.

Here’s what I would say, Martha. There's a plus and a minus. On the plus side, it's going to create a huge opportunity for Joe Biden on one level because it will remind people that he’s going to -- it's not Biden versus Biden, it's Biden versus the chaos and confusion and the constant conflict that Donald Trump brought, that the American people clearly said in November we want to move on.

The bigger problem is it doesn't create a space for other Republicans, although Mitt Romney and Susan Collins and others that showed their willingness to break ranks, to actually deal with the core issues of investing in the American people, investing in their education, investing in science, investing in the infrastructure. And so, there's going to be a plus and a minus.

At one level, it’s going to create a real high floor for Joe Biden, meaning he won't sink because people know there's a contrast.

On the other hand, it's going to actually limit the narrowness of Republicans willing to work in a bipartisan fashion. There are those who show it is courage to do that. But as you can see by these 11 Republicans in the Senate, I would just say, when you look at Senator Cruz's education at Harvard, you look at Senator Hawley's education at the Yale, I really want to go look at what they're teaching in constitutional law, those two law classes, because I have no idea what this is except for raw, crass politics.

RADDATZ: And, Chris, pick up on that. What do you think the future Republican Party looks like? You got a president who is calling for protests next week -- if he does not exit the political stage, which it doesn't look like he will do?

CHRISTIE: The future of the Republican Party starts next Tuesday, Martha, when in Georgia I believe both Republicans will be elected to the seats and keep a Republican majority for three reasons.

One, if you look at David Perdue's performance on Election Day, in November election, he got nearly 62 percent of the two-party vote.

Two, the Republican Party in Georgia and around the country started knocking on doors, masked and socially distanced the weekend after the general election. They’ve been doing it ever since. It’s been the greatest turnout effort in any state by the Republican Party in history.

And, third, election integrity is going to be watched by over 8,000 certified poll watchers that will be doing that on Tuesday.

Those three factors I think are the largest factors along with the quality of the candidates that will start a new day for the Republican Party next Tuesday when David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler I believe will be elected to the Senate and keep the Republican majority.

That’s the way you look forward, win the next election in front of you. Don’t keep looking in the rear view mirror of the election that the president just lost.

RADDATZ: And, Rahm, obviously, that is a very tight race and the Democrats seem to have a slight -- in the polls, they're ahead.


RADDATZ: But should the Democrats be confident? We only have about 40 seconds, Rahm.

EMANUEL: I would not say confident, but I think, look, when you look at it today, who you would rather be, you’d rather be a Democrat going into this? It's clear based on everything that the Democrats at the local level have done to energize their voters, there’s nothing like taking the wind of November with wind at your back, and then making sure that you build off of that, and I give a compliment to the way the Georgia Democrats have actually done that and make sure that the voters that usually drop off are energized, ready to go.

You’d rather be us. We know that. We're going into the election with a big majority in that effort. And they have to do something exceptional.

I do think also Donald Trump has played the role he wanted to be which is disrupter. If they win, he's going to claim, I came there Monday. If they lose, he’s going to say, I’m not on the ballot, nobody can win unless I’m on the ballot.


RADDATZ: Well, we’re --

EMANUEL: You get a head, I win, tails you lose type of scenario. But I’d rather be a Democrat going into Tuesday right now, given what the Georgia Democrats have done.

RADDATZ: Something everyone is watching very carefully.

Thanks. It’s great.

CHRISTIE: No shock there, Rahm.

RADDATZ: Thanks. And it's great -- no shock there is exactly right.

EMANUEL: Yes. well, I didn't want to start of the year for you two (ph) there.

RADDATZ: Chris -- Chris getting in the last word. OK. OK, you both get the last word. That's it.

Thanks for joining us this morning, guys, and Happy New Year.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Martha.

RADDATZ: The roundtable's up next.

We'll be right back.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Who was the last U.S. senator to win their seat in a runoff election?


ON SCREEN TEXT: Who was the last U.S. senator to win their seat in a runoff election?

Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) MS.


CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R-MS): I'm so humbled for the honor that you have given me, to elect me as your United States senator.


RADDATZ: And the roundtable is standing by ready to go.

We'll be right back.



PRESIDENT-ELECT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: As our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the hand-off between administrations. We've encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.

Right now, we just aren't getting all the information that we need. It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.


RADDATZ: President-elect Biden blasting the transition process over key areas of national security.

Let's talk about that and more now with our roundtable, our chief national correspondent and "Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts; Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press Julie Pace; political analyst Matthew Dowd; and the New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser.

Welcome to everyone and happy new year.

And, Julie, let me start with you. We've talked about the objections that will occur this week. But that is not really what Mitch McConnell wanted, is it?

What -- what does that tell you?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we knew, if Donald Trump lost the election, which he did, that there would be this fight for the future of the Republican Party. And we're seeing that play out right now even before Trump has left office, where you have Mitch McConnell, several other Republican senators, who are saying this is not good for the party's future and this is not good for the country's future.

And yet you see a growing number of Republicans who are trying to join this effort, to back the president's baseless attacks on the election. And that is for political reasons. They want to make sure tjhat they are well-positioned for whatever comes next, 2022, 2024, to capture the enthusiasm of the president's supporters.

They are not doing this because there are real claims against -- about election fraud. If there were, they would be pointing to those and they would have the backing of election officials in some of these key states. They do not. This is a political maneuver, a political maneuver for them to try to capture the future of the Republican Party.

RADDATZ: And -- and let's stay on the Hill for a minute. Susan, it doesn't appear McConnell is budging on those $2,000 stimulus checks. But he's got pressure building within his own party. So will he eventually allow a vote on that?

SUSAN GLASSER, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER: Well, that's a good question. I think, you know, there's a new Congress that's going to be sworn in starting today. So, you know, in effect they're hitting the reset button.

But, remember, Martha, that once again you have a situation where it's Trump who is dividing the Republican Party from within. He seems determined to, sort of, burn things down on the way out the door. It's not an accident that Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who was the first to announce that he would object to the electoral votes, is also the one who's been leading the push to have increased stimulus checks.

And so I think you see probably the most significant rift becoming public of the Republican Party in the Trump era, and it's happening on his way out the door.

RADDATZ: And, Byron, so many Americans could use those larger checks.

New unemployment claims remained high during the holidays, millions more still reliant on food banks to fight hunger. But it would also increase the deficit by $462 billion, right?


But here's the reality for a lot of Americans. The deficit, in their minds, is a rich people's problem at this point. There are many families in America that are struggling. They're dealing with the pandemic, also without paychecks.

This is the conversation going on in barbershops and beauty salons and, yes, on family Zoom calls. If America could bail out banks, could bail out the auto industry, if we as a nation could muster the energy to create these vaccines so quickly, why can't we send these funds to families that have played by the rules?

They have done all that their nation has asked them to do. Why can't they be bailed out? Now, a lot of these people, Martha, these are part of that Trump base that Senator Cruz and other Republicans are so energized now to try and gain their loyalty moving forward.

These are the -- these are the people who are struggling in these economic times. So, I think this is a real challenge for the Republican Party. How do you gain control of those Trump Republicans, but hold on to what were your values about the deficit before?

RADDATZ: And, Matt, I'm going to ask you the same question.

And, also, to Susan's point that Trump is dividing the party, how are you seeing this?


Martha, I'm -- I have worked -- worked both sides of the aisle. I worked on Democratic campaigns. I worked on Republican campaigns. And, as you know, for the last 12, 13 years with ABC, I have criticized both sides of the aisle.

We're in a much different space today with the two legacy parties. One legacy party seems to be team democracy, supporting all the elements of democracy, and what the country wants. The other seems to be team autocracy, in the midst of where we are now, putting power over principles, putting ambition over our American republic, and putting partisanship over the common good.

And the common good really is a couple of things. I think the destructive force that has been Donald Trump and many people in the GOP today has hurt the citizenry of our country in two fundamental ways, one, miss handling of COVID and mishandling of the economy -- that happened simultaneously -- which has hurt millions and millions of Americans, but, two, Donald Trump, through lies and prevarications and all those things, has fundamentally hurt the health of our democracy by questioning the election results.

So, Joe Biden going forward has a huge thing to do. I think he's said all the right things over the last few months in the course of this, wanting to reach out, wanting to do all that.

But, as I say, it's not two different sets of policies that are getting debated. It's two fundamental value views, where one seems to support a move towards autocracy, and the other seems to support an expanded democracy.

And when you have those two things, which we have never really had in our country, Martha, when you have those two things, it makes it very difficult for Joe Biden starting on January 20.

RADDATZ: So, let's stick with that, Julie.

The new Congress is being sworn in later today. Obviously, we don't know who's going to control the Senate yet. But what is the biggest change you see coming on Capitol Hill?

PACE: Well, I think there are a couple of things to watch on Capitol Hill.

On the House side, Democrats have a very narrow majority. This is a -- this is a Democratic majority that is going to be extremely tenuous. And Nancy Pelosi, we expect that she will be continuing on as speaker with that vote coming later today.

She is going to have a divided caucus of her own that she is going to have to deal with. How does she try to keep liberals on board, knowing that she doesn't have a lot of margin for error?

And then the big unknown, of course, is the Senate. You were talking about Georgia earlier, Martha, but which party comes out of Georgia controlling the Senate? That is going to shape so much of what Joe Biden is able to do or not do in his opening months.

RADDATZ: And, Susan, will the increased numbers in the so-called Squad, those younger progressive members, mean they have more power?

GLASSER: Well, look, I think that you're seeing pressure in both parties from the ideological extremes, given the structural changes in American politics, where politicians, in the House especially, are more worried about a primary challenger coming from within their own party.

That's really significantly changed the party. Now, so far, what you have seen is, I think, with the new president, incoming President Joe Biden, trying to establish a Cabinet and a government that reflects the broad coalition of different stripes of Democrats who elected him, but, fundamentally, Biden is a politician from a different era.

He has not only been around for a long time, still remembers an era when bipartisan deals were more the currency of the land. But also, he's more of a centrist by inclination, and I think those fissures are going to be very apparent quickly.

You know, Nancy Pelosi will not have a strong number of people to come in and if she's still negotiating with Mitch McConnell, if he keeps the majority in the Senate, I think that dynamic is going to make it hard to get anything significant done. And, of course, you have Trump wanting to burn it all down on the way out the door as I mentioned.

RADDATZ: And just another reminder, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

And, Byron, one sure-fire way to move forward is to get this vaccination program going. You mentioned COVID. You heard Dr. Fauci say if we get back to normal, it's pretty much if people follow the rules and you get 75 percent of the American public vaccinated.

How tough really is this for Joe Biden to fix this given the mood of the country, given the divisions?

PITTS: Well, I think polls show the majority of Americans believe in the vaccine. I think the majority of Americans trust what Dr. Fauci says. And he made the point this morning basically it’s a math problem. And eventually, the math will work in the country's favor.

So, I think -- actually, I don't believe that COVID-19 and the vaccine will be President-elect Joe Biden's biggest problem. I do think, one of the benefits potentially that both -- people on both sides of aisle that people are looking for with Joe Biden is the return of civility.

I’ve talked to evangelical Christians who supported Donald Trump. I talked to people in communities of color who support Joe Biden. And both agree -- they’re looking forward to the day when they wake up and their president isn't attacking someone on Twitter.

As was mentioned earlier, Joe Biden comes up from a different generation. Friend or foe, all have said he's a gentleman. He's civil.

So, I think that will work in his favor in the beginning, than just that the nation will be able to take a sigh of relief that some of the nastiness will go away. I think the math will eventually work in the nation's favor, and therefore, President-elect Joe Biden's favor.

RADDATZ: And, Matthew, Biden said this week, you heard at the beginning there, that his transition team is having trouble with the Department of Defense and OMB. They’re not cooperating. The Defense Department certainly denies that, that they are cooperating.

Is there a real danger that you see to national security in this transition period?

DOWD: Oh, absolutely. There's a danger both domestically with how we're going to do to handle COVID and this is the most important in the whole pandemic crisis right now. And if there's not a good transition and there’s not a competency that's being shared, it harms us and it harms us internationally in how we deal with other countries who are not only going to a pandemic but worry about America's place in the world, who have been -- have lack trust in the current president’s leadership in all of this.

So, yeah, it's absolutely a huge problem in the midst of our country.

I think Joe Biden -- I would say one thing about COVID and the pandemic for Joe Biden demonstrating internationally and domestically. FDR, when he took office in the midst of a major crisis, he figured out what he had to do first was not big programmatic things but rebuild trust in the government's ability to do the job. And that's what he did in the first six or nine months.

Joe Biden if he handles the COVID, and it’s going to -- it's off to a difficult start because of this transition and the lack of response. If he handles that well, it sets him up very well. If he handles it well, deals with it well, gets the vaccine out there, if he does that, he can rebuild trust and then you can start going after the big programmatic things he campaigned on.

RADDATZ: And, of course, one of the things he’s going to have to face is foreign policy and national security -- obviously, a very different approach to that.

Susan Glasser, I want your expert brain to think about what the challenges are. But start with Iran. Today is the anniversary of the U.S. drone strike on Soleimani. There’s been a nuclear scientist killed in Iran presumably by Israel. The president had the carrier in the Persian Gulf moved out there.

What’s going on with Iran and how much concern is there that Iran will strike, or that we’ll strike Iran?

GLASSER: Well, I think there is. This has been one of the major risks of this transmission period, especially because you received both erratic signals from the Trump administration. They put the carrier in there, and then apparently, the new civilian leadership of the Pentagon -- remember, President Trump fired his defense secretary, Mark Esper, in the immediate aftermath of the election and there's an acting defense secretary who apparently overruled military officials to send that carrier back out of the Gulf.

So, there's conflicting messages coming from the administration. Trump himself has suggested that if there are any attacks by what they view as Iranian proxies on American interests in the region, perhaps in Iraq, that you could see some retaliation. I know there's real fear inside parts of the Pentagon that this is something that President Trump -- he's been surrounded by hawkish advisers on Iran from the very beginning of his administration. Is this the final days' scenario? There's been a lot of anxiety around that. And, of course, we don't know what Iran itself will do. And so that remains perhaps the most volatile situation.

The other thing to flag, Martha, is that there's been this extremely serious, perhaps the most serious hack of American government agencies that has become public since the election. We're still finding out about it. You've heard silence from the president even as many have attributed this to Russia. It's really quite extraordinary the national security damage that appears to have been done just by this hack that we found out since the election.

RADDATZ: And, Julie, we have about 20 seconds here. I want to see what you think the big story line of 2021 will be.

PACE: I think it's COVID. I think it's how the United States responds to this pandemic. And I think that will shape Joe Biden's presidency. I think we will know by the summer whether Joe Biden is emerging from the pandemic as a weak president or a strong president. And that will determine how much running room he has for the rest of that term.

RADDATZ: And, Byron, can you -- can you sum that up in ten seconds what you think will happen in 2021, the storyline?

PITTS: I agree. I think the pandemic is number one. At some point on this short list, I think, is America's racial divide. Can Joe Biden begin to bridge that divide that has been a part of this country since '16 (ph) '19 (ph)?

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks to all of you and Happy New Year again to all of you.

We'll be right back.


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Have a great day and a better new year.