A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 26, 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 "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR (voice-over): Showdown.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're at this stalemate at the moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats divided over the president's massive investment plans.
QUESTION: Is there any consensus yet on a price tag?
QUESTION: Bottom line, both bills or nothing at all?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): That's what it is.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Everybody's good, and our work is almost done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Biden's agenda on the line. Is it headed towards passage or collapse? What are the consequences for the party and the country?
Questions this week for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a "This Week" exclusive.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I did not overrule an advisory committee. This was a scientific close call.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The CDC director green-lights a third Pfizer shot for those 65 and older and front-line workers. When will everyone be eligible? And will we see a vaccine for all children? Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla joins us live.
Plus, the DHS whistle-blower who accused Trump officials of downplaying Russian interference and the terror threat from white supremacists, Brian Murphy, joins us live in his first network interview.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): We're saying to the president and everybody else, you got to stop this madness.
BIDEN: It's outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president under fire over the migrant crisis on our borders, that and all the week's politics on our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week," a week that may be make or break for President Biden's ambitious agenda, more than a trillion dollars for infrastructure investments, another $3 trillion-plus to address climate change, child care, education and more, all this as a government shutdown looms on Friday, plus the prospect of America defaulting for the first time in history if Congress does not soon authorize government borrowing to pay past debts.
At the center of it all, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joins us this week from the Capitol.
Good morning, Madam Speaker.
PELOSI: Good morning, George. Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, I just laid out a pretty daunting list right there. You have called the next few days a time of intensity for Congress.
Have you ever faced a challenge with so much at stake?
PELOSI: Every time we face a challenge, you say it's an historic challenge, whether it's passing the Affordable Care Act or other legislation that we passed in the previous administration.
It's all the wonderful legislative process that we have. But I thank you for calling this President Biden's agenda, because that's exactly what it is. This is the vision of the president. And he has said that, while he wants to pass the infrastructure bill -- and we will -- that he will not confine his vision for the future to just that bill, that it had to be about building back better.
And building back better has the support over 95 percent of our caucus. So, when you say Democrats divided, no, overwhelmingly -- I have never seen, actually, over 95 percent of a caucus just about for anything. There are some who disagree, and I respect that, about the size of the package, and so some in the Senate, a couple in the Senate as well.
And we have to find our common ground, respectful of each other's views. But this isn't about moderates vs. progressives. Overwhelmingly, the entirety of our caucus, except for a few whose judgment I respect, support the vision of Joe Biden. And we will pass -- make progress on it this week.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So make progress, not necessarily pass.
You said you have support of 95 percent of Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The problem is, you need 98 or 99 percent...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... to pass -- to pass the bills.
And I know you said the infrastructure bill is going to pass. But the leader of the Progressive Caucus in the House, Pramila Jayapal, is balking. She said on Friday that -- that voting on this bill tomorrow, it's an arbitrary date, adding that more than 50 members will vote no if you first don't have agreement on the broader social investment bill.
So, are you confident these progressive members are going to vote yes, even though she says no?
PELOSI: Well, let me just say we're going to pass the bill this week.
I promised that we would bring the bill to the floor. That was according to the language that those who wanted this brought to the floor tomorrow wrote into the rule. We will bring the bill to the floor tomorrow for consideration.
But you know I'm never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes. And I think, any time you put an arbitrary date, well, remember when the Republicans said they were going to overturn the Affordable Care Act on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
I knew, right then and then, they were doomed. You cannot choose the date. You have to go when you have the votes in a reasonable time. And we will. And I do believe that we will do -- first of all, let me just say, it's an eventful week.
First of all, we have to make sure -- just chronologically, we have to make sure we keep government open. And we will.
Second of all, we have to honor the vision of President Biden. And we thank him for his leadership and his courage putting forth such a bold package.
In order to move forward, we have to build consensus. It's not winners, losers. It's bring people together, and that's what we always do in the Democratic Party, and what the president has put forth will create many, many more good-paying jobs, especially in times of addressing the climate crisis which has not been fully addressed in the infrastructure bill. It will lower cost for families by lowering the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, and health care costs across the board. It will give a big -- one of the largest tax cuts for the middle class with the Biden child tax credit and it will be paid for by making everyone pay their fair share. Lower costs, tax cuts, paid for, more jobs for the American people.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR: But the question is -- the question is, can you get everybody to agree to that? If I heard you correctly, you're saying --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the vote will not necessarily be tomorrow on the infrastructure bill. You're going to put it up when you have the votes to pass it. Are we --
PELOSI: -- it may be tomorrow. If --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It may be tomorrow, but -- right. But let me just say, in order to get the votes to pass it, it sounds like you're going to need agreement on the broader social investment bill, the bill --
PELOSI: Absolutely. You're right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And so that is going to happen this week as well?
PELOSI: Well, that’s -- we -- we’re -- let me just say we're prepared. We're ready. Yesterday the budget committee passed out the Build Back Better legislation at the full $3.5 trillion, that was the number that was sent to us by the Senate and by the president. Obviously with negotiations there will have to be some changes in that, the sooner the better, so that we can build our consensus to go forward. And we will do that. The American people need that to happen, and that's the overwhelming --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The whole --
PELOSI: -- for the people agenda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The holdouts in the Senate, of course, everyone knows Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- at least those two. Joe Manchin says, $3.5 trillion is way too much and it doesn’t necessarily have to pass this year. Kyrsten Sinema says she’s not going to support any increases in income taxes or corporate taxes.
Have you made progress on those issues? It doesn't sound like it.
PELOSI: Well, Chuck Schumer and I and Secretary Yellen the other day came forward -- and the president and said that we had reached a framework of agreement. People said, well, what are the specifics? Well, we'll see what we need. We’ll see how the number comes down and what we need in that regard, but we have agreed on an array of pay force (ph) in the legislation.
This will be paid for, so when some say, oh well, what about inflation? It will be paid for, and that's the beauty of it, by having those in our economy and society who have not paid their fair share, paying their fair share. So, again, the Senate and the House, those who are not in full agreement with the president, right, let's see what our values -- let's not talk about numbers and dollars. Let's talk about values. The values are about --
PELOSI: I’m sorry?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the solution to paying forward a carbon tax?
PELOSI: There's an array of issues that are there, I’m not ramping (ph). Let's see what we need to have, and there are those who have suggested that. So every -- when I say we're ready, we've investigated or shall we say, documented everything that we need to be ready with legislative language to go forward.
And I’m very excited about the hard work that everybody did. We stayed on schedule. They said you couldn't do it by September 15th. We did. We had our budget committee yesterday taking the work of the committees and putting it forward. We have been carefully trying to see what could be avertable (ph). You know we -- in the House, I’m used to negotiating with the White House or among ourselves and with the Senate, but -- to negotiate with, but we don’t negotiate with the parliamentarian. She will make judgments about something that might violate the (inaudible) -- provisions of privilege, whatever that is, and that's a bath that legislation has to take.
So all of these things are in place. We're trying to get them --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s --
PELOSI: -- be as ready as possible. We are ready on our side. We just have to see how quickly the parliamentarian can operate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know the budget committee -- I know the budget committee passed a resolution calling for $3.5 trillion, but it sounds like you acknowledge that the final number is going to be somewhat smaller than that.
PELOSI: Yeah. I mean, that seems self-evident. That seems self-evident, and so it's not just -- we have some, shall we say, birdbath kind of things. It's legislation. So the fact is is that this is the excitement of it all. It's just in real-time, and exploitation of the few people not in agreement being called a division in the Democratic Party. Everybody overwhelmingly, and I think even those who want a smaller number, support the vision of the president, and this is really transformative. It's transformative for women when you think about child care and child tax credit and family medical leave, and universal pre-K, and home health care. How much in agreement are we all on that?
When you talk about the climate crisis, which we have a responsibility, again, to the children, but to our faith to protect God's creation, this planet, how much can we -- do we want to spend on that?
So, that, adding up, what our priorities are, should take us to a number where we find common ground. Can we shorten the time or some other things to make these numbers smaller? That's our discussion now, but we're ready for it.
STEPHANOPOULOS:: You said -- you said the government is going to stay open.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you as confident that the government is going to avoid default? Because Republicans made it very clear they're not going to provide any votes.
PELOSI: Isn’t that irresponsible beyond words? The full faith and credit of the United States should not be questioned. That's in the Constitution of the United States, the 14th Amendment. Go look at that. It's in the Constitution of the United States.
There's a school of thought that says we don't have to have these votes, but we do. We -- as of now, we still do have to have it, and we cooperated when -- three occasions -- when President Trump was president in order to lift the debt ceiling. Even to have the discussion that it could possibly be in default, it lowers our -- it did the last time lowered our credit rating.
I -- who said it more articulately than Mitch McConnell at the time? You cannot play Russian roulette with the debt ceiling and wellbeing of our economy. So --
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's willing to eat that right now. Are you confident Democrats can pass it on their own?
PELOSI: Well, we want this to be bipartisan. If we didn't want it to be bipartisan, we would have put it in the reconciliation bill. That would have been a decision we had to make when we wrote the budget out. But nonetheless, the decision was made that it would always be bipartisan, whether on our part as we have cooperated in the past with Republican presidents or on their part.
It is totally irresponsible, and it just -- I would think that the business community would -- would speak out on this because it has devastating impact on our credit rating as well as global economy. This is a big -- beyond a big deal.
So let's hope that the Republicans will find some -- enough of them, find some level of responsibility to our country to honor what's in the Constitution, that we not question the full faith and credit of the United States of America. They know full well what the consequences are. They preached it when the former president was in office, and we always cooperated.
It's always been bipartisan, and it should be again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Madam Speaker, thanks for your time this morning.
PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you, George. Bye-bye.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about this now in our roundtable.
We’re joined by Donna Brazile; Patrick Gaspard, new president and CEO of the Center for American Progress; Justin Amash, former libertarian member of Congress; and Jane Coaston, our newest ABC News contributor. She has "The New York Times" podcast "The Argument".
And, Justin, let me begin with. Where is this all headed?
JUSTIN AMASH (L), FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, I mean, when people look at the situation, they've seen it so many times before. It happened when Republicans were in charge, and people ask, how does this happen?
And I think Speaker Pelosi actually laid out how it happened, but she doesn't realize that she's responsible for it. She said she's never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes.
This is precisely what's wrong with Congress. Congress is supposed to be a place where you discover outcomes. It's not supposed to be a place where a few people get in a room, craft legislation and then foist it on everyone else and say, hey, this is what you -- this is what you’re going to take. Take it or leave it, and if you’re not with us, then you're against us and we're in, you know, we're in gridlock.
When you have this top-down sort of structure, you end up with a lot of friction, and actually it makes these things take forever. Look at what happened with criminal justice reform and policing as another example.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It died this week.
AMASH: Right. That's an issue where if they had put bills on the floor -- if the speaker had put bills on the floor or a bill on the floor and had a robust amendment process, not just a bill, but a robust amendment process, let people be apart of the process, then whatever comes out of it is the will of the body. And that's the will of the people as reflected through their representatives. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It could be a recipe for gridlock or everything going down.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I think the future rests on the shoulders of the Democratic Party. I never thought I would say that, and I’m not saying that because I’m a Democratic Party strategist or former chair of the party, or Democratic Party organizer.
It is because the Democrats who are the one who are putting forward their ideas. They're taking these ideas through the committee process. Every committee in Congress this past week, Ag and Labor, Natural Resources, Transportation Infrastructure, they all had hearings on parts of the Build Back Better agenda.
And because the Democrats are willing to put the sausage before the American people -- the American people don't like what the sausages look like. Trust me. But they want to see the results. So the future of this country rests on the shoulder of Democrats and they have to show leadership, backbone. The Republicans are whipping against the infrastructure bill. An infrastructure bill that had 19 Republican senators, very conservative ones I might add, and they are whipping against something that will help the American people. So my message to my Democratic friends, focus on the people. Stop this process. Stop this polling conversation. Stop this personality because, as you all know, with all different notes, everybody can sing a different tune. You can't get a harmony.
JANE COASTON, NEW YORK TIMES 'THE ARGUMENT' HOST AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: But you're -- you're also getting intra-Democratic pressure. It's like a football team that starts fighting with itself. And I've seen that before and it ends poorly. But you're seeing Senator Sinema say that she won't support any income or corporate tax increases. You're seeing the most pressure going on Senator Sinema and Manchin. This is, I think, the result of a Democratic Party becoming a bigger tent than they perhaps ever expected.
So you're having progressives and moderates fighting with each other and you're not actually getting that much grassroots pressure from conservatives. Conservatives in the states are going to school board meetings to yell about masks and comparing themselves to Rosa Parks. They're not. This isn't like the Tea Party. It's like if the Tea Party was really focused on, I don't know, the MTV VMAs or something.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Patrick, it is true that Republicans are feeling no pressure whatsoever to cooperate. Even on the debt limit you saw what the speaker tried to do there, but they're -- they're -- they're perfectly comfortable standing back.
PATRICK GASPARD, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT & CEO: They are. And there's a sense that they could actually pay a steep price for this next year. There's no doubt that Democrats are at a significant disadvantage if you look at the math for 2022, but if this party -- the Republican Party continues to be completely co-opted by its Trumpian right, there could be consequences for them, as we saw in California where Gavin Newsom overperformed in that recall precisely because of that.
But can I just, Jane, if I could -- if I could for a second. Everything old is new again. We've had these kinds of disagreements when we're trying to get big legislation done. And there are so many people who have gone bankrupt placing really bad bets against Nancy Pelosi's ability to get big things done. Donna's right, this has been a long, deliberative process just as it arrives here at a point where it's clear that $3.5 trillion package will not pass as it currently exists.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Clearly, yes.
GASPARD: However -- that's clear. However, Democrats have to understand that doing nothing is not an option here. They've got to get something done. They've -- they've -- there -- there will be compromise. There will be negotiation. But if you're Terry McAuliffe and you're sitting in Virginia and you've got an election coming in November, you understand that right now this moment for -- for Democrats is like the trade deadline in baseball. You've got to decide now if you're going to go all in, in order to win something this fall (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to put that question to Justin. He has some experience being kind of an outlier among the caucus. You're a libertarian. You've often voted with Republicans or often taken them on as well.
Talk about the politics of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Do -- do you think they believe -- they -- they -- they -- they believe that they have a responsibility to pass this, or are their politics better to strike an independent profile in their state?
JUSTIN AMASH, (L) FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: I think they're standing up for what they believe in, in terms of their own situation. And I don't see anything wrong with that. This is like -- this is what drives me crazy about Congress. We're supposed to send these 535 members of Congress to represent us, and they're not supposed to just go and take their instructions from leadership and follow the leader. They're supposed to go there and represent their constituents. And they're -- the reason there's so much focus --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it's a balance, right?
STEPHANOPOULOS: They're supposed to represent their constituents and do what they think is right.
AMASH: The reason -- yes, absolutely. They're -- they have to -- I mean they have to follow the Constitution first and foremost. I mean that's -- that's their oath.
But the reason there's so much focus on Manchin and Sinema is because we don't have any focus on anyone else. There's no one else participating in the process.
COASTON: Well, they also seem to be representing their constituents. Like, let's -- let's be real here. Nobody else -- no other Democrats are going to be winning in West Virginia for the foreseeable future.
AMASH: That's right.
COASTON: And we've seen Kyrsten Sinema be very successful in a reddish, purplish state.
I think that that's one of the challenges here is that we send -- because of the nationalization of politics, which is a hobby horse of mine, we sent people to Congress and are stunned when they do not act like the national party would have us believe. But what the national party looks like is complicated. Like, not all Republicans look like Steve Scalise and not all Democrats are going to be voting like -- yes, like the most liberal.
GASPARD: Yes, they're -- they're
BRAZILE: Let's -- let's -- let's be clear, we don't have a MAGA crowd inside the Democratic Party. It's not MAGA.
BRAZILE: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are good Democrats. They're good senators. They represent their states. And that's why when I hear people complaining about the progressives, I say, they're good Democrats. They're good Americans. They're representing their districts.
The fact that we're having this conversation within the Democratic Party is healthy.
GASPARD: It is healthy. But let's also -- but let's also remember, nationally, seven in 10 Americans support the provisions that are in this legislation, including the majority of independents and a plurality of Republicans.
So indeed this is all good policy, as Speaker Pelosi noted, but it's also good and sensible politics right now for Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to find some way get to a -- a medium ground here to pass the bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will be watching this week to see how it all plays out. I know you guys are going to come back later in the program.
Up next, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla joins us to discuss the new booster shots and the race to vaccinate the world's population. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: As CDC director, it's my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact. Had I been in the room and on the committee, I would have voted yes, and that is reflected in my resulting decision to allow the use of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 booster dose for those 18 and older at high risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational and institutional exposure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announcing on Friday that the Pfizer booster shot is now cleared for older adults, those at high risk and frontline workers.
Big questions now about who else should be eligible, what's next for children under 12, and how this will impact the course of the pandemic.
And here to take those on, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla.
Dr. Bourla, thank you for joining us this morning. I know Pfizer believes that the booster is safe -- is safe for every eligible American right now. Did the CDC go far enough?
BOURLA: I think that the -- it is the responsibility of the CDC, and of the FDA, to assign the policies. Clearly there were people that were thinking that maybe it is time to go broader, and there were other people that were thinking that it's not really the time to go broader.
But -- and both of them, they have the best of intentions, and they are having very high scientific competency and they have very high integrity. At the end of the day, I think the decision that they made is a very good one, I think, and we are looking forward to be able to vaccinate all these vulnerable people so that we can put an end to this pandemic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The World Health Organization reiterated this week that now is not the time for widespread rollout of booster shots. Instead they said wealthier nations should focus on getting more first shots to countries with low vaccination rates. Your response to that?
BOURLA: I think it's not right to decide if you're going to approve or not boosters based on other criteria other than if the boosters are needed. I think it is also not the right thing to try to resolve it with an or, when you can resolve it with an end. It's not -- sorry -- give boosters or give primary doses to other people. I think the answer should be, let's give both boosters and doses to other people.
And this is the way, why we have invested so hard and we put all our scientists and engineers to work hard, so that they can produce enough doses for all. Right now, by the end of the -- of this month, we will have produced two billion doses.
And, by the way, 500 million of these doses already will have gone to middle- and low-income countries. In the remaining of the year, we will produce an additional billion doses, so a total of three. And one billion of these doses will have gone to low- and middle-income countries.
BOURLA: That will not change because of the approval or not of boosters.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Many experts say you should be doing more, including Tom Friedman -- Frieden, the former CDC director.
Here's the tweet he put out this week. He said: "While focusing on selling expensive vaccines to rich countries, Moderna and Pfizer are doing next to nothing to close the global gap in vaccine supply. Shameful," he says.
He believes you should be waiving intellectual property to speed vaccine distribution. Is that a good idea?
BOURLA: No, it's not.
I think the intellectual property is what created the thriving life sciences sector that was ready when the pandemic hit. Without that, we wouldn't be here to discuss if we need the boosters or not, because we wouldn't have vaccines.
And, also, we are very proud of what we have done. I don't know why he's using these words. We are very proud. We have saved millions of lives with the...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there more you could be doing now?
BOURLA: ... vaccine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there more you could be doing now?
BOURLA: I think we -- always, there are more that we can do.
But I want to make sure what -- we understand what we are doing right now. And what we are doing right now, in order to have vaccine available everywhere, the first one is that we need to have a vaccine, because now it is considered given, but, 10 months ago, nobody thought that we will be able to do it.
The second is that you price your vaccine in a way that everybody can access it. And you need to know that you are giving the vaccine in the high-income countries at the cost of a takeaway meal, but in the middle-income countries, we are giving half of this price. In the lower-income countries, we give it at cost.
And the third that you need to do, it is that you have enough doses for all. And we have invested billions of dollars. So, right now, we can make, only Pfizer, three billion doses this year, and, only Pfizer, four billion doses next year.
By the way, also, with a recent agreement with the U.S. government that stepped up significantly to enhance the global equity, they are buying one billion doses from us at cost. But they themselves donate them at no cost, completely free, to the poorest countries of the world.
I think no one can claim that the -- has -- there is no other company that can claim that we have done so much good to humanity as we have done. So it's unfair, the comments and the words that he used.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about children's vaccines.
Pfizer announced this week that the vaccine was safe for children 5 to 11. When should they be eligible for the vaccine?
BOURLA: I think we are going to submit this data pretty soon. It's a question of days, not weeks.
And then it is up to FDA to be able to review the data and come to their conclusions and approve it or not. If they approve it, we will be ready with our manufacturing to provide this new formulation of the vaccine, because the vaccine that the kids will receive which is 5 to 11, it is a different formulation.
It is almost one -- not almost -- it's one-third of the dose that we are giving to the rest of the population.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Moderna's CEO said this week that the pandemic is on course to be over in about a year. Do you agree with that?
BOURLA: I agree that, within a year, I think we will be able to come back to normal life. I don't think that this means that variants will not be continuing coming.
And I don't think that this means that we should be able to live our lives without having immune -- without having vaccinations, basically. But that's -- again, remains to be seen.
The most likely scenario for me, it is that, because the virus is spread all over the world, that we will continue seeing new variants that are coming out. And, also, we will have vaccines that they will last at least a year.
And I think the most likely scenario, it is annual re-vaccinations. But we don't know really. We need to wait and see the data.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Bourla, thank you for your time this morning.
ALBERT BOURLA, PFIZER CHAIRMAN & CEO: Oh, it was a great pleasure speaking to you. And we are having (ph) a common heritage (ph). So, it was --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, we certainly do.
BOURLA: -- honor to talk to you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Honor for me as well. Thank you very much.
Coming up, he's one of the highest ranking whistleblowers in the history of American intelligence. Homeland security veteran Brian Murphy joins us live for his first network interview. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA) (October 2020): Serious and credible allegations emerged that senior officials at DHS had engaged in efforts to politicize intelligence assessments and sought to downplay the threat posed by white supremacist violence.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA) (October 2020): It may seem that the whistle-blower has credibility problems. SO here we go again, indulging the Democrats' dream that they'll find the holy grail of scandals that finally gets rid of Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There you see the House Intelligence Committee reacting to a whistle-blower complaint from Brian Murphy, a top Homeland Security official who accused Trump appointees of manipulating intelligence to help Trump in 2020. Murphy retired from the agency Friday after more than two decades of public service and he joins us now for his first network interview.
Thank you for coming this morning.
As I said, you spent more than two decades as a public servant. You're a Republican who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Why did you become a whistle-blower?
BRIAN MURPHY, FORMER DHS ACTING UNDERSECRETARY FOR INTELLIGENCE: Sure. Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
I think I became a whistle-blower because when I arrived at DHS in 2018, from the outset, everything that I had stood for, all the, you know, finding objective truth when I was in the FBI and serving in the Marines and serving the American public was quickly told to me that's no longer acceptable. And, you know, I heard --
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
MURPHY: I heard on the -- the intake there that, you know, it was a -- I have a credibility problem. And I want to explain some of that right now.
So, in 2018, I issued my first whistle-blower complaint. It was only six months after I arrived. I think that's often missed. From the outset, there were three things that I was told that we would look to manipulate intelligence on and bend the truth about. And I told them up front that I wasn't going to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What are the three things?
MURPHY: So, the three things were Russian disinformation as it related to the president. The second was the southwest border. And the third was white supremacy. Those were three issues that I was -- there was intense pressure to try to take intelligence and fit a political narrative. And right from the outset I had a target on my back because that objective truth --
STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- so take us inside if I'm one -- let's take one example. Take the issue of the Russian disinformation, as you say. How would that work? What -- what were you finding? What were they trying to get you to say?
MURPHY: Sure. So, you know, it's all now in the public domain, but I'll just go back a little bit to give an example. In 2020, late 2019, early 2020, it was highly classified that President Putin had ordered all of the Russian services to denigrate the Democratic candidates and support then-President Trump. So, there was a push on across government at the senior levels, the cabinet officials, to do everything possible to stifle anything to get anything out to the American public or to our overseers in Congress --
STEPHANOPOULOS: About that interference?
MURPHY: About that interference. They did not want the American public to know that the Russians were supporting Trump and denigrating the -- what would soon be President Biden.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about downplaying the threat of white supremacists?
MURPHY: Absolutely. After Charlottesville, it became a third rail issue, if you would, within the department to talk about white supremacy in any meaningful way. I disagreed with that. I made that known to my superiors. And, like I said, I issued two complaints, two IG complaints detailing what was happening in the department well before 2020 occurred.
And even when 2020 came along and they were -- I think the whistle-blower complaint that I'm better known for, I -- I had no intention for that to become public. You know, that -- that was leaked by somebody. I don't know who did it. It was my intent to work within the system to protect classified information. That's what the whistle-blower process is set up for, and that was my intent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, your critics are saying you do have a credibility problem. Chad Wolf, who was the head of Homeland Security, acting head under President Trump, said your claims were patently false. He went on to say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAD WOLF, ACTING HEAD OF HOMELAND SECURITY (September 2020): I removed or reassign Mr. Murphy at the beginning of August for a very specific reason, that I had received allegations that he abused his position, he abused his authority, and possibly violated numerous legal requirements when he personally directed the collection of information on U.S. journalists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's talking about the collection of information during the Portland riots. Your response?
MURPHY: Sure, so I appreciate the question. That's absolutely not the case. I've sworn under oath twice now, you know, to Congress and to the inspector general's office, and I'm prepared to appear at any time to tell you unequivocally at no time was I aware or direct anybody in my organization to collect information on journalists.
What did happen was Portland was a very chaotic situation. We were collecting information, open source information available -- you know, people put things out on Twitter, Facebook, et cetera, primarily about violence.
We weren't collecting information on reporters. We weren't collecting information on first amendment protesters. It was about violence. And in there we have a very structured way to collect information about leaked information or whether it's classified or not.
Very -- a lot of oversight went into it, and, you know, I understand why, at the time, the media reacted the way they did. Because anything coming out of Chad Wolf's mouth, quite frankly, and many members of the department at that time, was false, and people did not trust them. There was a war against the media, and I wasn't going to be a part of that. And that's why, when the moment they had their opportunity, they took their shot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this week the inspector general did put out a report that said that Customs and Border Patrol had lookouts placed on journalists during the migrant crisis in 2018 and 2019, and you were in charge of intelligence then.
MURPHY: Sure. I -- I don't know anything about what Customs and Border Patrol was doing with respect to journalists. I can tell you right now that if I had become aware of it, I would have followed a pattern that I did before. And unfortunately, you know, I'm not surprised that they were doing that. It's shameful that they did that, if -- you know, I believe the inspector general's report. And if that had ever come across my radar, I would have quickly reported it to the inspector general as well as told my bosses that it was unlawful and unethical.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You managed to make it through the Trump administration. What was the pressure like inside?
MURPHY: It was intense. You know, when I left the FBI -- you know, I'm an apolitical person in the sense of I don't let politics get in front of my work. I had never experienced that personally at the FBI. But when I got to DHS, it was all about politics.
And, you know, I made it -- as you noted, I'm not -- I was not an anti-Trumper. I voted for the guy in 2016. I am a Republican. But that doesn't come in front of my obligation to use the truth as a north star, to follow it where it goes. And in the intelligence profession, that's -- that's the sacred part of it, is to put out the truth regardless of what it says.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump is making moves to run again perhaps in 2024. In your view, what would that mean for the intelligence community and the country?
MURPHY: I think it would be a disaster. I think he has denigrated -- he's put out -- the intelligence community. He's -- puts out disinformation. And that's an existential threat to democracy, and he is one of the best at putting it out and hurting this country.
As I was saying before to you, I have the opportunity to go work for a company called Logically. That's my next step in life -- I'm very appreciative of it -- where we are going to go combat disinformation at scale across the globe. We're not the thought police, but disinformation is a deliberative campaign to put out false information, often for nefarious reasons.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you explain the relative success of the strategy?
MURPHY: The strategy, in...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Spreading disinformation.
MURPHY: So disinformation is -- is a slow-moving threat that is in front of us. It's on social media. It's not really understood by a lot of people. I think it's conflated with a lot of political talk. But in reality disinformation is the type of threat that, if we do not do something about it; if we don't build resiliency within this country so people know and take the scrutiny and the time to evaluate the sources of information, it polarizes us.
Political polarization in this country is at the worst it's ever been. And the director of national intelligence in -- put out a report a few weeks ago. I encourage the American people to read it. It's a forecast about what 2044 (sic) would look like, and disinformation and polarization is one of the number one threats they articulate. And we are no stranger to that in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Brian Murphy, thanks for your time this morning.
MURPHY: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The round table's up next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You said on the campaign trail that you were going to restore the moral standing of the U.S.
Given what we saw at the border this week, have you failed in that promise? Do you take responsibility for the chaos that's unfolding?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course I take responsibility. I'm president.
But it was horrible what you see, you saw, to see people treated like they did, horses nearly running them over.
I promise you, those people will pay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our Rachel Scott questioning the president this week on the migrant crisis at the border.
Joined again by our roundtable.
Patrick Gaspard, you went to the border on Thursday. What did you see?
GASPARD: It was really difficult, George.
You know that I'm Haitian American. I went to the border with civil rights leaders, faith-based leaders to bear witness and to lift up our advocacy. We saw thousands of Haitian asylum seekers who were basically sitting in mud, overwhelmingly women and children, who were being denied access to sanitary facilities.
And, regrettably, there was no transparency on whether or not their asylum cases were being adjudicated. I spoke to many of the migrants at the border. They told me about their harsh crossing, thousands of miles, pregnant women. I saw one pregnant woman going into contraction in the mud and not getting the services that she needed.
And they told us, very clearly: Haiti is in disarray, earthquakes, tropical storms, political assassinations. We cannot be sent back there without some conversation about our...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And many of these Haitians were living in South America, not in Haiti.
GASPARD: So, some were, George.
So, we have some who were living in South America for just a few months, others who moved to South America through legal migration following the 2010 earthquake. Their circumstances became unstable in Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, and they moved northward towards the border.
The overwhelming majority of them actually have family here in the United States, and they were to be reunited with their family.
You will recall that the Trump administration eliminated the Haitian Family Reunification Act in 2014. And that needs to be reinstated now.
I want to acknowledge the progress that we have seen this week. In two separate appearances, the president and the vice president made it clear that what was happening at the border was inhumane and there ought to be consequences.
Vice President Harris directly connected the circumstances of the border to the lack of democratic outcome in Haiti itself which the U.S. has outsize responsibility.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We saw one of the envoys resign in protest this week.
STEPHANOPOULOIS: Justin Amash, you know, you look back, even go back to when President Obama was in office. This seems to be a recurring series of crises on our border, no matter who's the president.
JUSTIN AMASH (L), FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, we're always going to be difficulties when there are difficulties in other countries. You know, people want to come to the United States. My dad came here as a refugee, and we have always been a welcoming place.
So, the best we can do is deal with the circumstances, make sure we have the resources to address those circumstances, and deal with people in a humane way, and -- and not use abusive practices like Title 42. This is something that --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You should explain what that is in shorthand.
AMASH: So, Title 42 allows people to be expelled for health reasons because of the pandemic without actually getting the asylum request in.
So I think that kind of practice which was used under Donald Trump and Democrats rightly complained about it then, Joe Biden is still using that practice, and I think we need to address that.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I agree. Look, the system is not just broken, George. It's rotten. Let's just be honest. Our immigration system is beyond repair unless we begin to take what I call small steps now, and not just about building a wall or securing the border, but also steps to improve the process.
The fact that there were no border patrol guards -- and I’m not throwing it on the shoulders of those protecting our border, but not one of them -- nobody could communicate in Creole.
BRAZILE: They knew Spanish, but not Creole. That's number one.
Number two, they should have anticipated what was happening. There was this miscommunication out there that the TPS program was about to expire and people were rushing to this border. They found the entry point, Del Rio.
Who -- I mean, I had to look Del Rio up. I know all of the other places along the border.
So this was a major -- a mistake, but I hope going forward that the administration not only used the authority on the Title 42, but they look at ways to strengthen the Haiti -- the country. Haiti has to be strengthened. Haiti has endured earthquakes, but the political fallout in Haiti needs to be addressed as well.
JANE COASTON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. I think that that's something, and let's keep in mind that the Haitian government is in some ways, our responsibility, and one of our failings. This is the -- this is not new. This is going back decades and decades, and so I think that that's -- that political stability has to be there, but I also -- what I sense now is that you're seeing that the same people who were very enthusiastic about Trump's border policies are now arguing that these border policies are somehow draconian.
I think that Democrats in this particular issue need to recognize that you are not going to get any help from Republicans on this issue. That immigration has become less of a process and more of a political cajole. When you curtail ways for people to seek legal asylum, they will -- they are not going to say, oh, I’m not going to continue to seek asylum. They are going to try to find another way in the same way any of us would.
I think the way we have been thinking about immigration, even having it being discussed on panel shows rather than being discussed as a political concept, because you don't have a host of people in this country who think that all immigration is in some ways evidence of a great replacement, white nationalist conspiracy theory who think that all immigration is suspect. And I think that it's really time to recognize that there are legal means by which to enter the United States. Many of the people who are attempting to do so right now are being prevented from doing so, and then being treated as if they are -- they are the danger for attempting to do so.
GASPARD: And it is legal to seek asylum.
GASPARD: And I just wanted to add one thing about Del Rio. On another network, people are lifting up that racist theory about the great replacement. I’ve spoken to residents of Del Rio who were given humanitarian relief to those at the border and I think they represent the best of America and we need to support their interests.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Before we go, I want to talk about Arizona. Finally, after many months, this so-called audit of the election results that the Republicans have called for in the state of Arizona, actually found that Joe Biden won more votes than they originally thought he had back in November.
But, Donna Brazile, this is not going to stop this effort right now to inject state legislatures into the process of elections.
BRAZILE: You know, a real audit would clear the air, but this audit muddied the waters. I mean, I’ve never seen --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the audit didn't. It cleaned them.
BRAZILE: But it muddied the waters because look. Look what came out of this. They were looking for some paper with bamboo. That was number one.
The machines are now going to have to be replaced, and now you have other states who are taking up this effort to -- include Texas, Donald Trump won Texas --
PATRICK GASPARD, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT & CEO:: But that's --
BRAZILE: And yet some of the largest counties in Texas are now being required to do this.
GASPARD: For -- but this -- but this is not about truth-telling. The whole -- we should not cover this whole situation as if it's a state by state crisis. There's an attempt here to create lots of doubt across the board about the efficacy of our elections. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, all now have measures to review the results of their election. Republicans who are invested in this know well and good what the outcome's going to be of those reviews. They don't really care. They're just trying to see cynical doubt in order to pass restrictive measures that would create a more inclusive democracy.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: How big a danger is this?
JUSTIN AMASH, (L) FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: I think it's a huge danger. But it's another example of illiberalism creeping into our system. And this is illiberalism on the -- on the right and there's also illiberalism on the left. And I've talked about this earlier in this broadcast about representative democracy breaking down, this idea that we don't allow people to actually make decisions as representatives. It's a top-down instruction.
So we have to be on the lookout for this from both parties. And I'm not trying to say that they are evil.
BRAZILE: Well --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that a false (INAUDIBLE)?
AMASH: I'm not trying to say that they're evil.
BRAZILE: Well, I --
AMASH: I'm not a Republican, so I'm not trying to say they're evil.
BRAZILE: Can I (INAUDIBLE) -- well, I can -- I'm going to -- I'm going to use my -- yes.
AMASH: I think this is -- I think this is dangerous.
AMASH: But -- but we have to be on the lookout for illiberalism.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have 30 seconds left. You get the last word.
BRAZILE: But -- this is a well (ph).
JANE COASTON, NEW YORK TIMES 'THE ARGUMENT' HOST AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, I think that this is -- I think that this is indicative also of a Republican Party that cannot lose. There is no means by which it can lose. We saw arguments that Larry Elder's loss in California was going to be because -- be because of fraud, not because it's California. And I think that we're seeing again and again, especially because of counties being targeted in Michigan and Pennsylvania, it's Wayne County in Michigan, which is somehow, it's -- the argument is that if you have a high minority population, obviously there will be fraud here. This is incredibly dangerous because it's not -- this wasn't a real audit and this is about the idea that Republicans should lose.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It -- it should have been put to bed, but it clearly is going to be coming back.
Thank you all for your insight today.
We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is 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."