'This Week' Transcript 1-24-21: Amy Klobuchar, Rand Paul, Vivek Murthy
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, January 24.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, January 24, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR (voice-over): Fresh start.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democracy has prevailed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: An historic oath.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Kamala Devi Harris, do solemnly swear...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Joe Biden opens his presidency with a plea for unity.
BIDEN: My whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Promising action the pandemic.
BIDEN: Let me be very clear. Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the economy.
BIDEN: We have to act now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: America's 46th president confronts multiple crises, as the Senate prepares to try a former president for the first time.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Senators will have to decide if they believe Donald John Trump incited the insurrection.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We cover it all this morning with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Rand Paul, America's next surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
The end came slowly, then suddenly. After a transition that redefined tumultuous, Inauguration Day opened with these final words from President Trump: "Have a good life. See you soon."
Followed by this first declaration from President Biden: "Democracy has prevailed."
The shift in style and substance was stark. Now comes the challenge of confronting the cascading crises outlined by President Biden in his inaugural address and confronting the behavior of President Trump that sparked an insurrection.
Our new poll with Ipsos shows a solid majority of Americans approve of Biden's pandemic plans and believe he can make progress on unifying the country.
But the divisions in Congress already demonstrating how tough it will be for President Biden to advance his agenda.
Congressional correspondent Rachel Scott starts us off.
Good morning, Rachel.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, good morning.
And it is the impeachment trial of the former President Donald Trump that will be casting a shadow over President Biden's administration. Tomorrow, we will see that article of impeachment be walked over to the Senate.
And then, on Tuesday, senators will be sworn in as jurors. But that impeachment trial will not be starting for two more weeks. We're looking at the week of February 8.
And this is a delay that both sides agreed to. Democrats were worried about this balancing act of having the Senate juggle that impeachment trial, confirmation hearings, and trying to consider Biden's agenda. And Republicans wanted to give Trump more time to prepare. He's really struggled to put together a defense team.
So, this gives both sides the wiggle room that they were looking for. But, this morning, it is still unclear how long the trial will last, who will preside over it, and whether or not witnesses will be allowed.
Of course, this is an unusual situation, where the lawmakers, the jurors in this trial, were all witnesses to what happened here on January 6. At least 17 Republicans in the Senate would need to join every single Democrat in order to convict the president. In the House, we saw 10 Republicans vote to impeach the president.
But now nearly every single one of those Republicans is facing significant backlash. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the number three House Republican, she voted to impeach. She had some of the harshest words for Trump. She's now fending off attacks from her own party. She already has a primary challenger now, some Republicans calling for her to be removed from leadership.
That vote to impeach, George, has turned into a fight for her political life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, it sure has.
OK, Rachel, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our chief Washington correspondent, Jon Karl, for more on this.
We're seeing the backlash that Liz Cheney is facing in the House. That could complicate this push for conviction by the Senate Democrats.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line, George, right now, Donald Trump is not going to get convicted in the Senate, unless there are major new revelations.
Mitch McConnell hasn't ruled out voting for conviction, but nobody who I have talked to talked to close to McConnell thinks there's any chance that he would actually vote to convict.
That said, George, during this trial, unlike the last impeachment trial, you're not going to see significant numbers of Republicans coming out to actually defend Donald Trump. They will focus on the process and the constitutionality.
They will argue that it is neither wise, nor is it constitutional, to convict somebody in an impeachment trial, a president who has already left office, that, although Donald Trump may have committed what amounts to high crimes and misdemeanors, impeachment is meant to remove a president from office, pure and simple, is what the Republicans will argue, and Donald Trump, of course, is already gone.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden has tried to stay out of this impeachment fight. He wants to advance his agenda at the same time, which means that both sides don't mind this couple-of-week delay.
KARL: No, and certainly not Biden.
Look, George, if you were to take a look at all of the priorities that Biden has for the beginning of his administration, impeachment would rank somewhere below 100.
He -- the Biden White House simply does not care about this. Their biggest concern is that impeachment could block Biden’s agenda in Congress. So no. Absolutely no complaints about the delay from either side, especially no complaints from Biden.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: And it appears that the Republican Party is coalescing around objections to the size of President Biden’s COVID relief plan.
KARL: Yes, $1.9 trillion, they've made it clear -- really every Republican including Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, the ones you would expect to work with the president on this, have made it clear that's too much.
That said, you know, there does -- I think there is an emerging possibility of a compromise. But of course, George, the big question is, whether or not the two sides can come to an agreement about how to actually organize the Senate, there's a big dispute over whether or not to rule out the filibuster. That’s what McConnell was insisting on. And until that’s resolved, they won’t be able to do any of this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Jon Karl, thanks very much.
Let’s bring in two senators who will serve as jurors for Donald Trump's second impeachment trial. Democrat Amy Klobuchar, Republican Rand Paul.
Senator Klobuchar, let me begin with you. And we just heard Jon Karl say that there is some hope, Senator Klobuchar, that there will be some bipartisan support for the president's bill.
Do you believe that or will Democrats have to go it alone?
UNKNOWN: Hey, guys. I’m down (inaudible).
UNKNOWN: I didn’t -- I wasn’t --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sorry, Senator Klobuchar, are you there?
Okay, let's start with Senator Rand Paul instead. I think we have some audio problems right there.
Senator Paul, let me begin with a threshold question for you. This election was not stolen, do you accept that fact?
SENATOR RAND PAUL, (R-KY): Well, what I would say is that the debate over whether or not there was fraud should occur, we never had any presentation in court where we actually looked at the evidence. Most of the cases were thrown out for lack of standing, which is a procedural way of not actually hearing the question.
There were several states in which the law was changed by the secretary of state and not the state legislature. To me, those are clearly unconstitutional and I think there’s still a chance that those actually do finally work their way up to the Supreme Court.
Courts traditionally and historically don’t like to hear election questions. But yes. Were there people who voted twice? Were there dead people who voted? Were there illegal aliens who voted? Yes, and we should get to the bottom of it.
I’ll give you an example. In my state, when we had a Democrat secretary of state, she refused, even under federal order, to purge the roles of illegal voters. We got a Republican secretary of state and he purged the rules.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator Paul, I have to --
PAUL: -- difference and those things do have to --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to stop you there. No election is perfect. But there were 86 challenges filed by President Trump and his allies in court, all were dismissed. Every state certified the results --
PAUL: Chris, not for --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- after an investigation --
PAUL: Not for -- but --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- count (ph), after investigations --
PAUL: -- of evidence. They were dismissed --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- counts and recounts.
PAUL: -- for (inaudible).
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Department of Justice led by William Barr said there's no widespread evidence of fraud. Can’t you just say the words, this election --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- was not stolen?
PAUL: Well, what I would suggest is -- what I would suggest is that if we want greater confidence in our elections, and 75 percent of Republicans agree with me, is that we do need to look at election integrity and we need to see if we can restore confidence in the elections.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, 75 percent of Republicans agree with you because they were fed a big lie by President Trump and his supporters to say the election was stolen. Why can't you say --
PAUL: Well, I think --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- President Biden won a legitimate, fair election --
PAUL: -- I think where you make a mistake in -- hey, George. George. George, where you make a mistake is that people coming from the liberal side like you, you immediately say everything's a lie instead of saying there are two sides to everything.
Historically what would happen is if said that I thought that there was fraud, you would interview someone else who said there wasn’t. But now you insert yourself in the middle and say that the absolute --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well --
PAUL: -- fact is that everything that I’m saying is a lie.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, because --
PAUL: (Inaudible) fact --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Senator, I said what the president said was a lie because --
PAUL: -- we’re going to.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on a second. He said the election was stolen. This election was not stolen. The results were certified in every single state --
PAUL: You’re saying --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- after counts (ph) and recounts.
PAUL: -- there was -- you’re saying -- you’re saying that absolutely it was -- you’re saying there was no fraud and it’s all been investigated and that’s just not true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what I said, sir.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I said the Department of Justice found no evidence --
PAUL: (Inaudible) --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me finish my point.
PAUL: But you say it’s all lies --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said something that was not true.
PAUL: You say we’re all liars. You just simply say we’re all liars and --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I said it was a lie --
PAUL: -- (inaudible) --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that the election was stolen.
PAUL: -- premise (ph) that you’re right and we’re wrong.
Well, let -- no. Let’s talk about the specifics of it.
In Wisconsin, tens of thousands of absentee votes had only the name on them and no address. Historically those were thrown out, this time they weren't. They made special accommodations because they said, oh, it’s a pandemic and people forgot what their address was.
So they changed the law after the fact. That is wrong, that's unconstitutional. And I plan on spending the next two years going around state to state and fixing these problems and I won’t be cowed by liberals in the media who say, there's no evidence here and you're a liar if you talk about election fraud.
No, let's have an open debate. It’s a free country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There is no widespread evidence of election fraud that overturned that results. That was stated as well by the Department of Justice led by President Trump's attorney general.
In Wisconsin, there were counts and recounts --
PAUL: It was never studied. Even that's not true. Even that’s not true. Even that's not true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: William Barr said that directly.
PAUL: Barr said that, but there was -- yes, he said that, yes. That was a pronouncement.
There's been no examination, thorough examination of all the states to see what problems we had and see if they could fix them.
Now, let me say to be clear, I voted to certify the state electors because I think it would be wrong for Congress to overturn that.
But at the same time, I’m not willing just to sit here and say, oh, everybody on the Republican side is a liar and there is no fraud. No, there were lots of problems and there were secretaries of state who illegally changed the law and that needs to be fixed.
And I’m going to work hard to fix it. And I won’t be cowed by people saying, oh, you’re a liar.
That’s the problem with the media today is they say all Republicans are liars, and everything we say is a lie. There are two sides to every story. Interview somebody on the other side, but don’t insert yourself into the story to say we’re all liars, because we do think (ph) there’s some fraud and the election needs to be fixed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sir, there are not -- there are not two sides to this story. This has been looked in every single state.
PAUL: Sure there are. There are two sides to every story. George, you're forgetting who you are. You’re forgetting who you are as a journalist if you think there's only one side.
You're inserting yourself into the story to say I’m a liar because I want to look at election fraud and I want to look at secretaries of state who illegally changed the voter laws without the permission of their state legislatures. That is incontrovertible, it happened.
And you can't just sweep it under the rug and say, oh, nothing to see here, and everybody is a liar and you're a fool if you bring this up. You’re inserting yourself into the story. A journalist would hear both sides and there are two sides of a story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m standing -- I’m standing by facts. There are not two sides to facts. I did not say this was a perfect election. I say the results were certified. I said it was not stolen. It is a lie --
PAUL: You’re saying people are liars. You're saying people are liars if they won't investigate what happened in the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not what I said.
PAUL: Should we investigate the fact that tens of thousands of absentee ballots did not have addresses on them and normally were disqualified, but this time, they were counted? Should we examine that?
I don’t know whether it affected the election or not, but I have an open mind. And if we had actually examine this and we find out it didn’t, that’s fine. But it still should be fixed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There can be more investigations. The investigations that have taken place have shown there’s not enough fraud to change the results of this election. That has been certified by every state. It was stated by the Justice Department and the attorney general.
PAUL: And I accepted the states' certifications. But it doesn't mean that I think there wasn’t fraud and that there weren’t problems that have to be investigated. And it doesn’t mean that the law wasn’t broken.
I believe in Pennsylvania, they broke the law, and I believe if that ever will get a real hearing in the Supreme Court, it was denied for standing. It wasn’t actually taken up. If it were taken up, I do believe that the Supreme Court would overrule and say that they did break the law illegally.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I asked you a very simple question, was the election stolen or not?
PAUL: I think there was great deal of evidence of fraud and changing of the election laws illegally. And I think a thorough investigation is warranted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Paul, thanks for your time this morning.
Let me bring in Senator Klobuchar now.
Let me talk, first of all, Senator Klobuchar, about this impeachment proposal now in the Senate, the trial's going to start on February 9th. I was hoping to get to this with Senator Paul. We ran out of time there.
But the GOP signaling they're going to make a process argument, that it's not constitutional to try a former president. That it won’t be legitimate if Chief Justice Roberts does not preside.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): It is constitutional. We have precedent from way back when a secretary of war was tried after he had left office and, obviously, there's a remedy that would help in the future which would ban former President Trump from running again.
But as I listened to Rand Paul, George, I just kept thinking, man, this is why Joe Biden won.
The American people right now are struggling. They need pandemic relief. They are literally trying to balance their toddlers on their knees and their laptops on their desks, and teaching their first graders how to use a mute button just to go to school. They need help.
And I thoroughly believe that we can handle this impeachment trial and just as the American people are doing, juggle what we need to get done. Get the homeland security secretary through.
We just had the insurrection at the Capitol. Get people confirmed for Joe Biden's cabinet. And yes, get people the help that they need. That’s what this next month is going to be about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Jon Karl say he doesn’t believe there are the votes there to convict President Trump right now. And we saw President Trump after the first trial, and we’re going to show these pictures right here when the votes weren’t there to convict. He waived the acquitted headlines, said this was vindication for him.
Are you concerned that could happen again?
KLOBUCHAR: My colleagues have not yet committed about what they're going to do and the news we just got out of "The New York Times" yesterday that the president was actually actively trying to take out his own attorney general and put in an unknown bureaucrat conspiring with him. I think we're going to get more and more evidence over the next few weeks as if it's not enough that he's sent an angry mob down The Mall to invade the Capitol, didn't try to stop it, and a police officer was killed. I don't really know what else you need to know. The facts were there. We saw it right there on the platform during the inauguration, as you could still see the spray paint at the bottom of many of the columns.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if the votes aren't there to convict, would you pursue instead either a censure or some kind of a resolution under the 14th Amendment to prevent President Trump from running for office again?
KLOBUCHAR: We're focused on impeachment, but there are many options. Things can be looked at. But I think the thing that your viewers need to know right now, George, is that we must do many things at once.
There is so much problems out there for the American people. They want those vaccines. And I am so glad that Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act so we can get them produced, we can get the distribution centers set up, we can make sure that schools can open again. That's what he's focused on. That's what we're focused on. And we can do this impeachment trial at the same time.
We could run it in the afternoons. Confirm the nominees in the morning and pass legislation at night.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, you don't have an agreement with the Republicans --
KLOBUCHAR: I'm just stick and tired of hearing about the politics of how this would work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, you don't have an agreement yet to get that --
KLOBUCHAR: Well, that's going to be the thing that has to be negotiated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's what I want to ask you about.
KLOBUCHAR: All right. OK.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Whether you can get the organizing resolution through. And also with Republicans now saying that the president's plan is far too big, do you still hold out hope for a bipartisan agreement or are Democrats going to have to go it alone through reconsolidation?
KLOBUCHAR: We had a fine agreement back in 2001. I wasn't there. But George Bush was president. And we worked it out with even numbers on the committees. But Democrats can be in charge this time because of the fact that we have the deciding vote. Those are things that can be worked out easily. Mitch McConnell knows it.
Secondly, when it comes to how we're going to get things done, we're in charge and we've -- with even votes we should be able to get legislation to the floor, including the pandemic relief package. As for the amount, the amount that Joe Biden has proposed, that's exactly the numbers we were talking about last summer. And at some point the administration was talking those numbers.
And why do we need it? Because we don't even have areas of our country are getting very small numbers of the vaccine. We've got people with pre-existing conditions that have been literally isolated for nearly a year waiting for help with this vaccine. Of course we need the funding to get that vaccine distribution out there. We've got to stop messing around and get our economy going again. That's what Joe Biden's proposal is about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar, thanks for your time this morning.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden's pick for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is up next.
Plus, our powerhouse roundtable.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Our plan starts with mounting an aggressive, safe and effective vaccination campaign to meet our goal of administering 100 million shots in our first 100 days in office.
QUESTION: Is that high enough? Shouldn't you set the bar higher? That's basically where the U.S. is right now.
BIDEN: When I announced it, you all said it's not possible. Come on, give me a break, man.
STAFF: (inaudible), guys...
BIDEN: It's a good start, 100 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Joe Biden bristled a bit when asked if his vaccine plan is ambitious enough. But there are big questions going forward, as the COVID death toll threatens to climb past 600,000 in the coming months.
Here to answer some of them, the president's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Dr. Murthy, thank you for joining us this morning.
Let's talk about that goal for 100 million vaccines in 100 days. As you know, it's -- many experts have weighed in, saying the plan is not ambitious enough; we need to do better.
Can we do better? Will we do better?
MURTHY: Well, thanks, George. It's great to be with you today. You know, as President Biden has said, he's set a goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office. That's a floor; it's not a ceiling. It's also a goal that reflects the realities of what we face, what could go right but also what could go wrong.
And I think President Biden fully understands there's a larger goal here, as we all do, which is that we've got to vaccinate as many Americans as possible. And that's going to take a lot of work, work dispelling this disinformation, working on the supply, increasing distribution channels.
And that's some of what the vaccine plan that he announced over the last week is intended to -- to achieve.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are there ways to increase the supply, number one?
And number two, on the distribution, it appears, at least in these first vaccines that have gone out, they've been going largely to wealthier areas of the country, largely to whiter areas of the country.
Is there a way to get more equitable distribution and increase the supply?
MURTHY: Well, it's the right question, George, because success has to be gauged not just by the number of vaccines we deliver but also by how fairly we deliver those vaccines, how equitably we deliver them.
We already know from the COVID crisis over the past year that there are certain communities that have been hard hit by this virus, that rural communities have had a harder time getting access to resources, that communities of color have experienced more cases and deaths, that seniors have struggled, especially those in long-term facilities.
And what we've got to do here is not just, again, increase supply, which we can do using the Defense Production Act, making specific syringes that can extract more vaccine from the Pfizer bottles, but we've also got to set up the kind of distribution channels, like mobile units, like strategically placed community vaccination centers, that can reach people who traditionally are hard to reach and don't have access to health care.
Lastly, George, we have got to track our progress. We have got to make sure that we have data on where the vaccine is being administered, so that we can ensure that it, in fact, is being distributed equitably.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the next vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Is that close to approval?
MURTHY: Well, we're hopeful that we will get good news on that front, George, because the truth is, the more vaccine that we have in terms of options, in terms of supply, the more quickly we will be able to vaccinate the country.
But what's important is that we focus and plan for what we have right now. And the goal of achieving 100 million shots in 100 days is one that is achievable with the supply that we have and that we're anticipating from Pfizer and from Moderna.
And that's what we have got to focus on. So, we hope for the best, but we have got a plan for the situation we have now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you about this variant of the -- COVID that is now in the United Kingdom. At least 20 states say it's here now as well.
And the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said this week there is evidence that it is more deadly than other strains. I know that, last month, you said we didn't have enough evidence to say that it's more deadly. Has that changed?
MURTHY: Well, I'm glad you're bringing this up, George, because the variants are very concerning.
But they are not surprising, because this is what viruses do. They mutate, they change. And we should expect them. But here's what we know. We know that the variant, not just the U.K. variant, but likely the South Africa variant, the Brazilian variant, P.1, are likely to be more transmissible.
And while there's some early data that was reported on earlier this week that the U.K. variant may, in fact, be more deadly, we still need more data to clearly understand the answer to that question.
But here's a larger lesson, George, from the variants. They are really a shot across the bow. The virus is basically telling us that it's going to continue to change, and we have got to be ready for it. And what does that mean?
Well, it means we have got to, number one, do much better genomic surveillance, so we can identify variants when they arise. It means we have got to double down on public health measures, like masking and avoiding indoor gatherings.
It also means investing more in something we haven't talked about very much recently, which is in treatment strategies, which have received a lot less attention than vaccines, but are really important.
And, above all, this means in -- that we have got to invest a lot more in testing and in contact tracing, because these also are going to be essential. So, the bottom line is, we're in a race against these variants. The virus is going to change. And it's up to us to adapt and to make sure that we're staying ahead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident that we can meet President Biden's other goal, to get most elementary schools open in the first 100 days?
MURTHY: Well, that's a very important goal.
I'll tell you, as a parent who has two young children, one of whom is trying to do virtual learning because his school is not open, and we're all struggling with that, I know how critical it is for schools to get open, for parents, for the economy, for all of us.
But it's going to take a lot of work, though. And on several fronts, we have got to focus, number one, getting clear guidance to schools on what they need to do to reopen. Number two, we have got to make sure schools have the resources to be able to reopen and take these measures.
And a lot of them don't have the resources. I mean, keep in mind, George, that, each and every day, we have teachers across the country who are reaching into their pocket to find a few dollars to pay for supplies for their kids. They don't have money to pay for the safety provisions that are needed on their own.
We have got to get them those resources. If we get them the resources and the guidance, I do think that we can get on a path to reopening schools more safely. But it's also going to take us getting the background number of cases down in our communities.
And that's where we all come in. Achieving these goals, turning COVID around, is a goal that we have to undertake together as one nation. And if we -- if we do that, then I'm confident we can turn this pandemic around.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, finally, can we get to herd immunity before the next school year begins in September?
MURTHY: Well, I think that's an ambitious goal. I think what -- I think we can see improvement. I think we can see reductions in cases and hospitalizations and deaths. I think we can see many more people immunized.
But I think what's important here, rather than focusing on a specific number in terms of percentage of the population for herd immunity, is to recognize that, the more people we vaccinate, the better we will do, the fewer outbreaks we will see, the sooner we can get back to our way of life.
And that's what we have got to focus on right now. That means each and every one of us has to think about how we can dispel misinformation, make sure our family and friends have the right information. It means, as soon as possible, as -- when the categories are open to us, that we make an appointment and go get vaccinated ourselves.
If we do these things, and if we continue to work on taking the safety precautions, like masking and avoiding indoor gatherings of people outside your household, then I think we can be on a path to not only turning the pandemic around, but, most importantly, getting our schools open, our workplaces back up and running, and regaining our way of life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Murthy, thanks for your time this morning.
MURTHY: Thank you so much, George. Good to be with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Nate Silver and our roundtable coming up. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT FROST, POET: The land was ours before we were the land’s. She was our land more than 100 years. Before we were her people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: It is Joe Biden's inaugural week. And as we noted up top, our new poll with IPSOS shows most Americans are confident that Biden can make progress on unifying the country.
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver took a look at how long that might last.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: President Biden is starting out with positive marks as Americans look to turn the page after a challenging year. According to our recent ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, 67 percent of voters approved of his presidential transition as compared to 40 percent for President Trump four years ago.
Odds are, though, that this will fade as it has for previous presidents. Barack Obama's approval rating peaked at 65 percent when he first entered office but failed to under 50 percent within his first year. And Bill Clinton's numbers fell from 60 percent to 37 percent just five months into his term.
At the same time, Biden could have more of a wind at his back than you might think. There are a couple of key reasons for that. So let's break them down.
First, the economy is expected to grow by 4.3 percent this year as it recovers from the COVID pandemic, which, if it happens, would make for the strongest year since 1999.
One more thing that could help Biden, ironically, is that Democrats have such narrow majorities in Congress that they're unlikely to have the votes for anything terrible unpopular, like Obamacare was in 2009. And the stimulus package that Congress might consider poll pretty well.
Finally, although there aren't that many swing voters left these days, Biden has always done well with independents. He carried them by 13 points on election day.
And his more, how do I put it, traditional approach to governments is likely to form an especially favorable contrast to Trump after the violent end to his term.
So if the question is, do you buy that Biden can unite the country? I mean it's a pretty high threshold to clear and I think the obvious answer is no. But I do think he has above average chances of having a successful first year or two in office if he can get the COVID pandemic under control.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Nate for that.
The roundtable is up next.
We're back in 60 seconds.
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: It is my greatest honor and privilege to have been your president. I will be watching; I will be listening; and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they'll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular. So have a good life. We will see you soon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump's final words as president, right there, on Wednesday, Inauguration Day.
Big week in politics. Let's talk about it on our roundtable, joined by Chris Christie; Rahm Emanuel; Margaret Hoover, the host of "Firing Line" on PBS, also a CNN contributor; and our political analyst Matthew Dowd.
And, Chris, let me begin with you. I mean, let's start out with that back-and-forth I had with Rand Paul. You've got significant members of your party who simply can't say the election wasn't stolen.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, listen, George, I don't think there's any question that what the whole country needs to -- needs to focus on, in terms of our elections, is making sure that we have some effective electoral reform.
Nobody wants to wait a week or two weeks or three weeks, which happened in some of the House races, to get election results. We need to work on that and make the system better for 2022.
But this election was not stolen. All of the facts point in that direction. And I'm a former prosecutor, George. I make decisions based upon evidence, not based upon feelings or partisanship or loyalty. You make those decisions based upon evidence.
And the evidence here has shown right from the beginning that, while every election has some irregularities and I'm sure this one did, too, there were no type of irregularities that would have changed the result in any one state, let alone the four states that would need to have been changed for the result of the election to have been changed.
And folks in my party who are doing that quite frankly are just trying to make political points with those people who the president and others lied to about this over the course of the 10 weeks after the election. And it's shameful that they're doing it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Margaret Hoover, what does it mean for the Republican Party going forward?
MARGARET HOOVER, PBS "FIRING LINE" HOST AND CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, the Republican Party, there's no question, it's fractured. And we -- a lot is going to depend on how Mitch McConnell, the leaders in Washington -- frankly, a real difference between the Republicans in the Senate and the Republicans in the House of Representatives -- navigate the next two to four weeks, and then what President Trump does out of office.
You know, there's -- he's rabble-rousing that he's going to start his own third party. I don't think he has a real sense of historic irony there. There is a history of conservative populist third parties in this country that don't have a lot of political success. I'm looking at the Know Nothings, the American Independence Party, the Dixiecrats.
So they can do that. But the Republicans, if they're going to be successful, are going to need to grow the party from the middle, build out with Latinos and black Americans. And Republicans know how to do this. If you look at Republican governors in blue states, Larry Hogan, Phil Scott, Charlie Baker, they need to take a page from those playbooks. That's how you grow the Republican Party into the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew Dowd, let me finish this off with you. Can the Republican Party avoid this reckoning? Is it going to fracture?
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it can't avoid the reckoning, because the problem is, is that they have a loyalty to a person or a party more so than they do the truth.
There are some Republicans like Chris Christie that have spoken the truth in this regards in the aftermath of the November election. But when you put the interest of a person and an autocracy over the interests of our democracy and our Constitution, this is the problem you get into.
Right now, though, the fracture is going to only be a small part of people, of Republicans who are reasonable and who believe in the truth and a much larger part of the Republican Party who buys into conspiracy theories and only wants power for power's sake. And in the end of it -- and so if there is a fracture, it means a small part of the Republican Party, who probably ends up aligning with the Democrats in the short term, and is that small part, and then the larger 75 percent or 80 percent of the party, if you look at every poll, still supports the, sort of, autocratic moves that President Trump made before Election Day and spoke and made after Election Day.
That's the fundamental problem today with the Republican Party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- so, Rahm Emanuel, what does this mean for President Biden's agenda going forward?
You see resistance to his -- to his COVID plans right off the bat. And you know that this impeachment trial is going to complicate his early days.
RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, George, I actually -- let me reframe the question, because I think, actually, impeachment for both parties, your question is, does it derail the president's agenda?
And so far, he's shown nothing but concentration and capability around COVID and also about moving the country forward. I actually think, for the Republicans, rather than for Biden, it's about derail for them. It is about this division.
We just spent three answers about how bad Donald Trump still is for the Republican Party. And he's driving a Grand Canyon-like wedge in the Republican Party. You see what's going on in Arizona. The 10 Republicans in Congress all have primaries.
And I would say to you that the impeachment is more of a threat of division within the Republican Party than it is about derailing Joe Biden's agenda. They're going to be able to show that they can move forward. And that's what the executive orders showed. And that's what the agenda has showed.
And I do think one other thing. We shouldn't confuse unity that the president's calling for with consensus in Congress. Those are not the same thing, and collapse them into the same -- into some one meaning.
Unity is actually having a White House that has best practices, rather than being a super-spreader event. Unity is around how to achieve 100 million doses of vaccination, vs. having bleach and Lysol recommended as health care events, so -- or health care medications.
So, to me, the country's responding to the president's notion COVID of concentration, capability and competence. And there is unity around that. And I think the country's responding to Joe Biden because it's calmed down, it's focused, and it's dealing with the number one threat to the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris -- Chris Christie, what's the best way for Republicans in Congress now in both the House and the Senate to approach that?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think they have to be smart about supporting a COVID package that makes sense.
Now, what it's starting to look like to me is, it's becoming a Christmas tree where everybody gets to hang their favorite ornament on it. I don't know what a $15 minimum wage has to do with COVID relief at the moment. We're talking about immediate relief that we need to get to individuals, to small businesses, and to make sure that our vaccination program is as efficient and effective as possible.
That's what Republicans should be talking about. And I think that, again, this is going to be one of those battles we're going to see. And we're much better as a Republican Party when we're talking about issues that are going to matter to the American people.
We're going to need to get a COVID package done. We will get a COVID package done. But we shouldn't just give in on every one of those pieces. And that's what we should be focused on, is talking about it and challenging why certain things are in that package that, quite frankly, in my view, don't belong there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Margaret Hoover, that is going to present a big challenge to Joe Biden. He is going to, in some ways, have to choose between size and speed.
The bigger the bigger the package is, the harder it's going to be to get Republican support quickly. The smaller it is, he can get it out quickly, and show tangible results for real Americans.
HOOVER: That's exactly right.
And I think, if anybody can negotiate that, navigate that, look at the 50/50 Senate. And Joe Biden is a pragmatist, and he knows how to negotiate. I think we're going to see a COVID package, and it won't be everything that Chuck Schumer and the progressives want, but it'll be a package that will probably be more targeted, frankly, to the real businesses that need the relief, rather than these blanket checks to everyone.
Look, I have a lot of confidence in Joe Biden. He does get a little bit of a honeymoon period. And then we're going to be onto impeachment. I just have to say, reconciliation, with what happened in the Republican Party, is something that I suspect you're going to have Mitch McConnell and the Republicans go along and try to get a COVID deal done.
But I suspect that Mitch McConnell would like to see the climate created for a very fair and judicious impeachment project -- impeachment process that could lead to conviction of the president. And I think that's why you see him -- Chuck Schumer agreeing to his timeline.
I think that's why you see them being very methodical about it, so they can't hang this out on a procedural vote, that they -- that it is fair. And if he is able to create the circumstances and the climate around a fair trial, they may just get 67 votes to convict.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It seems like a hard climb right now, Matthew Dowd.
Is it necessary for the Republican Party?
DOWD: Well, to me, the impeachment vote, we have to separate the parts of the impeachment vote.
I mean, other countries have gone through this before, Germany, Japan, South Africa. And the thing before you get to -- before you get to reconciliation and healing, you have to have some element of truth and accountability-ness.
And even besides those foreign country examples, we have an example in our country during Reconstruction, in the aftermath of the Civil War, when we went through -- we were supposed to go through a process of truth and accountability and changing the nature of what went on.
And when Abraham Lincoln was killed, and Andrew Johnson took over, reconciling, the idea of forming a thing and demanding truth was stopped.
What did that result in, George? It resulted in this country of Jim Crow laws, it resulted in this country of the KKK, and it resulted in this country of 100 years more of a fight for justice and truth and equality in our country. And so, we have to get to a situation where, yes, let's have a discussion of what was the truth, what did Donald Trump do, what should be his accountability and the final stage of that should be, what should be his punishment.
And to me, the only way to do that is to have a conversation in the trial in the Senate or facts and knowledge and data and information that’s presented in such a way that the American public can see exactly what went on, what was Donald Trump responsible for, what should he held accountable to, and then ultimately, what should his punishment be?
But we should not do what happened in reconstruction, when reconstruction was ended and we went through this huge, long, century-long process when justice finally prevailed in the end.
We have to have an insight into the truth before we get to reconciliation and healing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Agree with that, Rahm Emanuel?
EMANUEL: One hundred percent. Let me say this, George, when somebody's running around the capitol with t-shirts that say Camp Auschwitz, Confederate flags, 6 million wasn’t enough -- I’m sorry, there is not a statute of limitation when it comes to defending the constitution. And if you have a wounded body in politic, it must be disinfected to be cleaned.
And this story is going to get worse as time goes on and that’s what Mitch McConnell knows. It is not going to get better in the next three, four weeks, information is not static here.
And you're going to find out that the president of the United States was more than just encouraging from the sidelines, what happened here, and Republicans in Congress. And if we're going to move guard in some sense as a country, you must come to terms with a president of the United States who encouraged people who are walking around with t-shirts that said Camp Auschwitz, where one of the greatest horrors against humanity was committed. And I’m sorry, you can't have a process point which says, well, he's out of office.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what I want to bring up --
EMANUEL: To Democrats, I would argue it's not just about the conviction. It's about focusing that he can never run again for office and that that is because of what he's done. And he has to both be morally judged and then politically and legally judged.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that could be a resolution on the 14th Amendment.
Chris Christie, let me bring that question to you. It does seem like more and more Senate Republicans are coalescing around this argument, a process argument that it's not constitutional to try a former president. Is that enough of an exit ramp?
CHRISTIE: Well, we're going to see, George, based upon what Rahm just said, depending upon on the facts. Again, I go back to let’s see what the facts are.
But we also need to remember here, too, and this is going to be the challenge for President Biden in terms of bringing the country together. All of the things that Rahm said were absolutely right, in terms of what happened up on Capitol Hill. It's inexcusable. I said that I though that it was impeachable, and that these things are just wrong.
But also, the violence that's happening in other parts of the country are wrong, too, George, and the president needs to speak out about both. You can’t just continue to talk about what happened on Capitol Hill which deserves to be spoken about, and all the facts need to come out and those responsible need to be held responsible criminally and politically.
But so does the violence that's happening in other parts of the country, George. We can't allow that to be two different standards.
So, one of the challenges for the president is going for him to speak clearly when there are other violent act that continue to go on in the country and to be able to say, that's wrong, too, peaceful protests is one thing. Violence that destroys lives, destroys property, and destroys the peaceful enjoyment of our country is also wrong, just as wrong as what happened on Capitol Hill on January because it affects those citizens who live on those places.
And I know, Rahm, you've had plenty of time to talk this morning. Let me finish. If we want fairness and we want unity in the country, and let's have fairness and unity and have comments on everything that's happening in this country, not just that very awful incident which I think many Republicans have denounced including me.
EMANUEL: What I would say here, first of all, the president has spoken that there's no place for violence, but what I will reject that somehow happened in Portland is morally equivalent to a Confederate flag and 6 million is not enough. One is defending the constitution and our country, the organizing principles and values of this country and also prosecuting people who committed property crimes. And if you draw moral equivalence, you're morally loss.
CHRISTIE: You’re not morally loss, excuse me --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on.
MARGARET HOOVER, HOST, PBS “FIRING LINE”: What I’m looking forward in the Biden administration, the cessation of the what-aboutism that we had we were so addicted to in the Trump era. Well, if they're doing this, what about this?
You know what? Let's not do what-abouts. Let's separate them.
There was an insurrection on the Capitol that the president of the United States actually encouraged and -- and -- and pointed his supporters to. We can deal with that in its own vessel and then separately deal with other act of violence. They are separate. There is no what about-ism here. And we can do that. We can do all of it.
HOOVER: And -- and what I will say about the impeachment is -- is just give it time to have a fair and -- and timely and open, transparent process. And the American people and the Senate may very well do exactly the right thing, which is truth and justice that can then lead to reconciliation.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, this is not about moral equivalence. And Rahm knows better than that.
The fact is, for the people in Portland, for the people in other places in this country who have seen their cities and their neighborhoods destroyed and disrupted, their constitutional rights are being violated as well. And so there are constitutional arguments to be made on both sides. And it's not about making the two of them equivalent. What I'm saying is that a president of the United States who says he wants to unite the country, has to talk about both of them and has to talk about them not just this broad sense of violence is bad --
RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Agreed.
CHRISTIE: But then squawk about -- speak about all of the rest of that. And I think that's what I'm talking about. And a real president who wants to unite the country will do that.
EMANUEL: George --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let Matt go and you talk.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I'll -- listen, I'm not saying this, that Chris is doing this, but that it is incredibly frustrating to listen to so many Republicans talk about, why isn't Biden talking about this, I mean why isn't Biden, and we need unity, and we need healing, and we need fiscal level of responsibility. I mean it is the triple crown, American Pharaoh level of hypocrisy and dishonesty after what we've witnessed the last four years in division, in polarization and no condemning of white supremacists and white nationalists throughout -- throughout many Republicans who enabled this. So just give me a break about calling Joe Biden out for any of this right now because of what happened over the last four years.
EMANUEL: Yes, George, I would say, look --
EMANUEL: The impeachment, as I -- Margaret said, and I agree, let it happen. You're going to -- the facts are going to come out. And I think the American people are going to make a judgment. We will have its own political imperative.
And, second, to -- a compliment to what I think President Biden's done, he is focusing -- he's concentrated. He's -- and he's showing capability around COVID. And that is where there is consensus in the sense of urgency that the country is -- got to be focused on. And the country's rallying behind Biden because they know if he succeeds in all this, their lives are going to get better.
And that's why, in fact, it's more than just a honeymoon. It is a real turn of a page and contrast to a White House that was, at one time, a super spreader event and a White House that was literally hocking different kinds of crazy theories of medications that could help. And that is the return to normalcy that Biden presents and he is in perfect ways still actually debating Donald Trump and it's working.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, is getting -- Chris, we have 30 seconds left.
HOOVER: Rahm --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is getting something done beast for both sides on COVID?
CHRISTIE: Yes, it is.
HOOVER: Yes. Well, getting something done is good for both --
CHRISTIE: Getting something done (INAUDIBLE) both sides for COVID because -- because -- because, George, that's what the American people want. But what the American people also they want is to make sure they have a president who truly wants to unify the country and speaks to all of it. And that's not comparing it to before. That's Joe Biden trying to reach the goal he set out in his inaugural speech on Wednesday. And I hope he does it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is all we have time for.
HOOVER: Big idea for Joe (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."
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