'This Week' Transcript 6-27-21: Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Rob Portman, Keith Ellison & Mayor Charles Burkett

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, June 27.

ByABC News
June 27, 2021, 9:13 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 27, 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.


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): Tragedy in Surfside.

DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Our top priority now continues to be search-and-rescue.

ANNOUNCER: The search for answers.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We need a definitive explanation.

ANNOUNCER: So many still unaccounted for after that deadly collapse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are praying every minute.

ANNOUNCER: We're live on the scene with the latest.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a really good meeting. And in answer to your direct question, we have a deal.

ANNOUNCER: President Biden touts a bipartisan breakthrough on infrastructure, but there's a catch.

BIDEN: If only one comes to me, I'm not signing it. It's in tandem.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): There ain't going to be no bipartisan bill unless we are going to have the reconciliation bill.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It almost makes your head spin.

ANNOUNCER: Now Biden is walking back his ultimatum, but will progressives let him? What now?

We’ll talk to the man in the middle, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, and to the lead Republican negotiator, Senator Rob Portman, both "This Week" exclusives.

Plus, I will tell you about my surprising conversation with Bill Barr, who told me what he really thought of Trump's claims of election fraud.

PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA, JUDGE: Based on the verdict of the jury, finding you guilty...

ANNOUNCER: Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for George Floyd's murder. Lead prosecutor Keith Ellison joins us live, only on "This Week."


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

Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week," a week that saw a rare display of bipartisanship, a major lawsuit brought by the Justice Department over voting rights, and the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

We will get to all of that, but first to the unimaginable horror of Surfside, Florida, and the desperate search for victims.

This morning, families are still waiting for news about missing loved ones. Human remains have been found at the site, a horrifying scene of debris and loss. And new details are emerging about what was wrong with the building.

Surfside's mayor is concerned about a sister building now. He will join us in a moment.

Our Victor Oquendo, who has been on the ground covering this story from the beginning, leads us off.

Good morning, Victor.


In the face of grueling conditions, fires, storms, and the stifling heat, search-and-rescue teams are forging ahead. They are using heavy equipment, sonar, search dogs, even robots. This is a dangerous and delicate operation.

And they have to work quickly for the safety of the crews. And they know every second counts for any possible survivors. The loved ones of those still unaccounted for wait. It's a mix of emotions from hope to grief.

Overnight, new details emerging about the plans for the building's mandatory 40-year recertification released by the city of Surfside, the estimated cost, $9.1 million, with much of the budget going toward the garage door entrance, the pool deck and the facade.

One inspection report filed with the city in 2018 claims that the entrance drive and pool deck of the building had failed waterproofing, which was causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.

However, engineers also filed another document describing the overall concrete framing as being in good condition. And experts say that both the cost and the type of repairs recommended for the recertification are consistent with what you would expect for a building of this age and size.

The investigation here will likely take weeks, months, maybe even longer. And the priority here on the ground is still search-and-rescue -- Jon.

KARL: Thank you, Victor.

For more, let's bring in the mayor of Surfside, Florida, Charles Burkett.

Mr. Mayor, our condolences for this excruciatingly awful situation that you're in.

Can you give us an update on the search-and-rescue operation?


And I took a walk around the site. And I did see substantial difference from when I left last night at about 11:00. So, there is progress being made. We have got waves of search-and-rescue teams that are just flowing over the site, going in and going out.

So, it's moving along. The persistent fire that we have had for the past couple days is apparently out. I don't say -- we don't know if it's out, because, apparently, it was very deep down in the rubble. But fingers crossed right now that that's going to continue.

KARL: What are you telling families who are still hoping to find their loved ones?

BURKETT: One thing.

I'm telling them that we are working 24 hours a day, nonstop, nothing else on our mind, with the only objective of pulling their family members out of the rubble safely. That's what we're doing and we are not going to stop doing that, not today, not tomorrow, not the next day. We're going to keep going until everybody’s out.

KARL: And obviously, there are many, many questions that will be -- that are being asked and will need to be answered in the days and weeks ahead, but what is your sense on what caused all of this?

BURKETT: Listen, buildings don't fall down in America. That is a third world phenomenon and, you know, the last time we saw something like this where we had -- we had two sections of building fall down pancake style separately and we've all seen that video and then we saw the fire. It's very reminiscent of something we’ve seen in New York and it's very disturbing.

There was something obviously very, very wrong at this building and we need to get to the bottom of it. But that’s, like I said, not today, not tomorrow and not for a long time because our first priority and our only priority is to pull our residents out of that rubble and reunite them with their family who understandably are out of their minds with emotion, sadness, anger, and just confused and want to know what is happening.

So our duty is to continue to do our jobs, which is to find their loved ones and reunite them and that's what we're do going from 7:00 to 7:00 in the -- in the evening and then again at night, over and over again. We’ve got teams from Israel now, we’ve got teams from Mexico, we’ve got world class search and rescue people, we’ve got the dogs, we’ve got the cranes. We are not resource poor. We don't have a resource problem. We’ve had a luck problem. We just need to start to get a little more lucky right now.

KARL: You've also expressed concerns about the sister building, Champlain Towers South, and the structural integrity of that building. What's the latest on that?


KARL: Are you going to -- will there be a mandatory evacuation? I mean, shouldn't that happen?

BURKETT: You know, I came back the first night and started to get calls from residents about that building. I wasn’t aware that that was the sister building, that it was built around the same time by the same contractor with the same plans and probably with the same materials. And it dawned on me that well, I can't just not consider that fact because we don't know why that building fell down and given that, we need to get in and understand what’s going on with the sister building.

So I contacted Senator Scott and I contacted Daniella Cava, our mayor here in Dade County, and they agreed that we needed to do something and quick. So what we've done is we've advised the building that we have a concern. We've worked with FEMA, the Red Cross and private donors. We're going to make alternative housing available for any resident that really doesn't want to be in that building pending the investigation, which is going to commence next week with, I would say, an army of engineers are going to get in there and pour over that building from top to bottom.

We sent our building official from Surfside with an engineer in there yesterday. They did a cursory walk through of that building and another building, called the Champlain Towers, which is right next to it. Although that building is newer and different. But they came away thinking that -- they didn’t spot -- and I’m paraphrasing right now, anything that really jumped out at them as very, very serious. But having said that, I don't know if I’d be comfortable staying in that building until I knew for sure that they had done a comprehensive top to bottom study on what’s going on with the systems in that building.

KARL: That’s for sure. Mayor Burkett, thank you for taking time to talk to us this morning.

BURKETT: Pleasure, thank you.

KARL: President Biden has no immediate plans to travel to Florida but on Friday he approved an emergency declaration, and offered up federal aid to assist in the response efforts.

It all comes as his administration and a bipartisan group of senators announced a long sought infrastructure deal totaling over $1 trillion. The president said the deal reminded him of his days in the Senate.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To answer your direct question, we have a deal. I clearly didn't get all I wanted. They gave more than I think maybe they were inclined to give in the first place. But this reminds me of the days we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress.


KARL: Let's bring in the man of the middle of it all, West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin. Senator Manchin, thank you very much for joining us.

So, we saw that moment, rare moment --


KARL: -- the kind of thing we hadn't seen for a long time at the White House, Democrats and Republicans talking about a deal but obviously, there’s been a lot of back and forth since then.

So give me the bottom-line. Is there a deal here that can get 60 votes in the Senate and that Joe Biden will sign?

MANCHIN: I sure believe there is, Jon. But before I say anything about that, I want to say that from all of us in West Virginia, our hearts go out to all of the -- all of the families in Surfside for this horrendous, horrendous tragedy. I want them to know that our prayers are with them, and we're thinking about each and every one of them. So God bless.

And let me just say this: on the deal? Absolutely. Jon, this is the largest infrastructure package in the history of the United States of America. And President Biden, there's no doubt in my mind, never has been a doubt in my mind that he is anxious for this bill to pass and for him to sign it. And I look forward to being there when he does. I can tell you there's so much good being done.

And I would hope that all my colleagues will look at it in the most positive light. They have a chance now to review it. It’s got more in there for clean infrastructure, clean technology, clean energy technology than ever before, more money for bridges and roads since the interstate system was built, water, getting rid of our lead pipes. It's connecting in broadband all over the nation, and especially in rural America, in rural West Virginia.

So much good in this, Jon.

KARL: But help me understand where Democrats exactly are on this, because we heard President Biden announce a deal, then we heard him say that he would only sign it if the Congress also passed a much bigger infrastructure bill, the one that Bernie Sanders is working on, that he wants both in tandem, now he has walked that back.

But Nancy Pelosi has said that she's not even going to bring up your bipartisan bill unless this bigger Bernie Sanders's bill also gets passed by the Senate.

And listen to what -- how Elizabeth Warren described her understanding of what's going on here.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I can't vote for some small subset that, you know, the infrastructure train leaves the station and child care gets left on the platform, green energy gets left on the platform, billionaires don't have to pay, gets left on the platform. It's that all of the pieces have to move because ultimately, it's one deal.


KARL: It's one deal, that's the way Elizabeth Warren sees it. It seems that's the way Nancy Pelosi sees it.

So what is going on here? Are you sure progressives are going to support your bipartisan bill if they don't get a guarantee on something bigger also passing?

MANCHIN: Well, Jon, I sure hope so. I hope they just look at the bill. We have two tracks. And that's exactly what I believe is going to happen.

And we've worked on the one track. We're going to work on the second track. There's an awful lot of need. And everything they talked about is something that we need.

Jon, I didn't vote for the 2017 tax cuts under President Trump. I thought they were weighted too much towards the high end, if you will. I think we need to make some adjustments. And I'm willing to step forward to make those adjustments. I've been very clear about that.

But we also, Jon, have to take into account where we are in this country, what our debt structure is. We're $28.5 trillion, we cannot continue to add on things that we can't pay for. I've always said this, we're writing checks our kids can't ever cash. And this is going to put a heck of a burden on the next generation. So we have to be cognizant of that.

But there's a lot of need out there, whether it be child tax credits, whether it be helping those kids have a start in life, whether it be fixing a lot of the human infrastructure that has fallen by the wayside, of helping middle class hard-working people have a chance to get ahead and enjoy the American dream. I'm all for that. To what degree, we'll see what we're able to pay for.

KARL: So you know what Bernie Sanders is working on, he's talking about a bill that's $6 trillion. I know that's a little rich for -- in terms of what you want. But what is your bottom line? How much more do you want? As you just said on top of this, the bill that you're negotiating with Republicans would be the biggest infrastructure bill in the history of the United States. How much more are you willing to add on top of that?

MANCHIN: Well, when you look at it, Jon, we paid for all this. This is not going to be added to debt. The infrastructure bill that we've done in the bipartisan way has pay-fors. We've used money that we've had. We've moved money that we haven't used yet to make sure that it was used in the most productive way. I think we’ve all done a good job. And that’s what we have to look for when we do the next -- the next piece of legislation.

I understand the concerns. I understand the desires of everybody in my caucus and also on the Republican caucus. I know we can work together.

Look what we’ve done. Look what President Biden has accomplished in five months. I’ve never seen this type of accomplishment in modern history from a president coming in, the American Rescue Plan, $1.9 trillion. And then we do bipartisan bills on top of that. The Hate Crimes Bill that we did 94 to 1. We just did the competition with China bill in a very bipartisan way.

KARL: But --

MANCHIN: The Endless Frontier.

KARL: But what is --

MANCHIN: So many good things, Jon, we can do. We can work this out.

KARL: But what’s your bottom-line? The question is, this is over $1 trillion --

MANCHIN: The bottom-line --

KARL: Bernie Sanders wants $6-more trillion.

MANCHIN: Here’s --

KARL: What -- what do you -- how far are you willing to go?

MANCHIN: Well, let me just say this, Jon. Right now, I never thought that the net corporate tax should have been 21 percent. I always felt that 25 was very fair and balanced. So I’m willing to go to 25. I think that basically capital gains should be at 28 percent, not at 21.

There’s changes that we can make that still keeps us competitive. I’m not going to be supportive in voting for things that does not meet -- make us competitive. We’re in a global economy. I want to make sure that we’re the leader of the free world, that we can still compete, that we can still manufacture and create great jobs and pay good salaries with benefits. That’s what I want to make sure happens.

Now, let’s see when we do all that and make the adjustments, how much money do we have. This is how you run your household. It’s how I run my household or small businesses or large businesses. How much can we invest and how much return do we get on that investment?

I want to make sure we pay for it. I do not want to add more debt on. So if that’s $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion, whatever that comes out to be over a 10 year period, that’s what I would be voting for.

KARL: Well, I think there’s some real questions about whether or not this bill is truly -- is truly paid for. But let me ask you about the bigger question (ph) (INAUDIBLE). You get hammered --

MANCHIN: It should be, Jon.

KARL: You get hammered all the time --

MANCHIN: It should be --

KARL: -- by fellow Democrats, especially progressives who say you are constantly drawing redlines for what you’ll support and creating limits on how far Democrats will be able to go now that you control all -- the House, the Senate and the White House.

What do you say to those that say, why don’t you draw some redlines with Republicans? Why don’t you say, unless they come around and agree to the stuff you just talked about, bring up the corporate tax rate again, some of the other issues, maybe voting rights, some of the other issues that Republicans are blocking -- why don’t you draw a redline and say, look, if you guys don’t move on this, I’m going to go and endorse doing away with the filibuster? I mean, that’s your leverage --

MANCHIN: Well, Jon, first of all --

KARL: You are the man with the leverage.

MANCHIN: First of all, you -- well, and I don’t wish this on anybody. Jon, I’ve not voted any differently than I voted for 10 years. I’ve always been very moderate, very centrist. I tell people, I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate. And I want to find that middle. And I think there’s always a middle to find.

It’s the way I live my life, it’s the way I’ve basically been in public life, and I’m not changing. I’m sorry that this 50/50 worked out and people were unhappy with it, but it is what it is. And if they think that I’m going to change and be something that I’m not, I won’t. And I’ve been very clear.

I’m willing to meet everybody halfway. If Republicans don’t want to make adjustments to a tax code which I think is weighted and unfair, then I’m willing to go reconciliation. That’s how you’re able to do it.

But if they think in reconciliation I’m going to throw caution to the wind and go to $5 trillion or $6 trillion when we can only afford $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or maybe $2 trillion and what we can pay for, then I can’t be there. I’m very, very openly (ph) and I think we can find our priorities. We can help a lot of people and lift them up. But people have to get up and make an effort too. We all have to be fighting for the same greater country that we live in. And so (INAUDIBLE) were here. So I don't know what they're expecting, different than who I am and what I am. And they know me. I've been there for 10 years.


KARL: Well, I think it's safe to say that you are probably the only Democrat that could have been elected to the Senate from West Virginia. So thank you very much. We appreciate you taking time to talk to us, Senator Manchin.

MANCHIN: Well, I'm very appreciative to represent my great state of West Virginia, I can assure you of that. Thank you, Jon, I appreciate being with you.

KARL: Let's get the Republican response now from one of the lead negotiators on the GOP side of the infrastructure deal, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

So, Senator Portman, we saw it -- the president a deal. Then we saw the president say there's no deal unless you also -- the Senate also passes this much bigger Bernie Sanders' plan. And now we have this pretty incredible walk-back from President Biden.

So what is the bottom line right now? Where are we in all of this?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Well, first, I was very glad to see the president clarify his remarks because it was inconsistent with everything that we had been told all along the way. We were all blindsided by the comments the previous day, which were that somehow these two bills were connected, the reconciliation bill, which is a trillion dollars of social spending that's going to be entirely partisan, the largest tax increase in American history, on the one hand, and the other hand the infrastructure bill, which is bipartisan, has no taxes, focuses on core infrastructure, and has been bipartisan from the start. So it was -- it was a surprise, to say the least, that those two get linked.

And I'm glad they've now been de-linked and it's very clear that we can move forward with a bipartisan bill that's broadly popular, not just among members of Congress, but the American people. Over 87 percent of people who we're told by one poll believe we ought to do a bipartisan infrastructure bill because it's needed.

Our roads and bridges are in tough shape. Our ports, our rail system, our grid, our broadband system needs to be expanded. So these are all things that -- that people are looking for. So we were glad to see them disconnected and now we can move forward on something that really makes sense for the American people.

KARL: So what's your sense -- you've spent a fair amount of time directly talking to the president, your former Senate colleague, President Biden. Is he negotiating in good faith on this?

You saw The Wall Street Journal editorial board say this was a bait-and-switch, Mitch McConnell say it was head-spinning. We’ve had the clarification. But can you -- as you sit down face-to-face with President Biden, can you trust what -- what he’s negotiating with you?

PORTMAN: Well, I think there’s been good faith on both sides, and, you know, it’s true that there was a miscommunication there in terms of linking the two, but that was never part of our discussion and never part of the bipartisan group discussion that been going on now for almost four months now, and certainly not when the president and his team engaged to negotiate the final aspects of this.

So the bottom-line is, it's -- it's a popular bill for all the right reasons. It’s the right thing for the country. You know, every analysis of our infrastructure system gives us low grades. We do have crumbling roads and bridges. We also are not competitive with the rest of the world.

And this is the kind of spending, Jonathan, that is long-term, that makes our economy more efficient, therefore more productive. This is the kind of thing that's going to create a lot of great jobs with good benefits. So it’s something that we need to do to be able to compete with China and our other global competitors and to, frankly, do something that presidents through the ages have talked about.

I remember when Donald Trump talked about it -- the need for a $2 trillion infrastructure bill. But so did President Obama before him and so did President Bush before him. So we’re finally getting something done here that's been talked about in Washington for decades.

KARL: Well, I’ll tell you, it was -- it was a sight to see Democrats and Republicans together at the White House, smiles, a few backslaps. This is, like, about the least controversial thing that you could be working on with -- with the other party.

What does it say if you fail here, I mean, if you can’t even come to an agreement on this?

PORTMAN: Well...


KARL: How important...

PORTMAN: ... that’s a great question. By the way, I wasn’t backslapping because there’s still a long way to go.

KARL: Yeah.

PORTMAN: It’s impossible to get things done in Washington these days and so, you know, it’s a minor miracle when you can pull things together, as you say.

But you’re right, infrastructure is different. We’re not talking about healthcare or taxes. We’re talking about something where there’s broad support, again, not just among members of Congress, where we have now 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats part of this group, but also among the American people. And that’s what matters, is that people are looking for us to get something done, specifically on infrastructure, but more generally, to work together to solve big problems --

KARL: To actually show you can do that...


PORTMAN: I think this is a step in the right direction in both of those categories.

KARL: So before you go, President -- former President Trump was in your home state, was in Ohio last night. You weren’t there. I understand you had -- you had a family commitment. But would -- would you be on stage with him again at a rally?

I mean, is he -- is he still the leader of the -- the effective leader of the Republican Party?

PORTMAN: He’s definitely the leader of the party in the sense that he has high popularity among the Republican base, and that's what you saw last night, I think. You saw a big turnout. But, you know, my view is pretty simple, is that the Republican Party and President Trump ought to focus on two things.

One is policies. You know, during the Trump administration a lot of good things were done for the country. Going into the pandemic, we had not just historically low unemployment but we had historically low employment for Blacks and Hispanics. We had the lowest poverty rate in the history of the country. We had the 19 straight month of wage increases of 3 percent or more annualized. So there was a lot of good stuff going on.

We ought to talk about that, the tax cuts, the tax reform. The regulatory relief was working. Our military was being rebuilt. And that was crucial and is crucial now as we face so many challenges around the globe. And -- and the Operation Warp Speed worked remarkably well. So let’s focus on the policies that worked and also on what’s not working now. Because the largest tax increase in American history...

KARL: All right...

PORTMAN: ... is the wrong thing to do as you're coming out of this pandemic. So there’s a lot to talk about. And second, let’s focus on 2022 and getting the House majority back and...

KARL: Of course...

PORTMAN: ... and the Senate majority. So that’s...

KARL: Of course...

PORTMAN: ... what I would focus on and not the other stuff.

KARL: Of course, he was spending a lot of his time on that other stuff, the false claims that the election was stolen.

Senator Portman, thank you very much for joining us. The roundtable...

PORTMAN: Thanks, Jonathan.

KARL: ... is up next.

Thank you, sir.

The roundtable is up next. And later, a preview of my exclusive interview with former attorney general Bill Barr. He was astonishingly candid in telling me what he really thought about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

We’ll be right back.



GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I do think it's important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read.

I have read Mao Tse-Tung. I have Karl Marx. I have read Lenin. That doesn't make me a communist.

And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being -- quote -- "woke" or something else because we're studying some theories that are out there.


KARL: Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley with a fiery defense of the military over questions about teaching critical race theory.

We will talk about that more in a moment.

First, our roundtable, Sarah Isgur, a veteran of the Trump Justice Department who is now a political analyst for The Dispatch, former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of "National Review" and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, and CEO of Democracy for America Yvette Simpson.

Thank you very much, all, for joining us.

So, Donna, I want to get to this walk-back from Biden. Biden announces the big deal. Then he says it's not a deal unless he gets the big -- the big one along with it, and then this rather detailed walk-back. I have never really seen anything quite like it.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't -- I watched it. I watched the walk out to the tarmac, which rarely you see a president walk out to the tarmac.

KARL: Yes.

BRAZILE: And then I watched the East Room presser.

And I said, OK, what's the disconnect? I saw the disconnect, OK, because he said on the tarmac, we got a deal, let's kumbaya. And then, in the East Room, he said, but we also have another package that we have to put forward.

What he did yesterday was clarify what he said on the tarmac.

But the truth is, is that Mitch McConnell, who, on June 15, he understood that there would be a dual-track strategy. Chuck Schumer said early that morning a dual-track strategy.

I -- in Washington, D.C. -- for those of you who don't know, I have lived here for almost 40 years. I call it what I call -- this is like performative outrage.


BRAZILE: The Republicans are outraged because he said, we're going to have two tracks.

Yes, we're going to have two tracks.

KARL: No, but wait a minute.

I mean, what he said, to be clear, is, he said that he wasn't going to sign the bipartisan...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

KARL: ... bill unless the other one passed. That's what he's walked back.

BRAZILE: That is what he walked back.

And I'm glad he walked it back, because now perhaps he can keep those 10 Republicans inside the tent, because, as you well know, getting an infrastructure package in Washington, D.C., is as difficult as putting together an infrastructure project.

It takes a lot of time. And this deal is still not done, in my judgment.

KARL: I mean, spending money is usually the easy part.

But, Yvette --

SIMPSON: On what is the question?

KARL: So, let me -- let me get straight here because Biden walked it back, but I haven't heard Elizabeth Warren walk it back. I haven’t heard Nancy Pelosi walk it back.


KARL: They are both saying that they -- you got to pass the other bill, too.

SIMPSON: That is very true and what I noticed was missing from that presser and that photo-op was progressive members of the Senate. So, you had, you know, the moderate Democrats who agree almost certainly with the Republican colleagues. You had no progressive representation in that room at that press conference. That means that you didn’t have the story.

And progressives have been very, very clear. We know Republicans care more about, you know, bridges than they do about people. We know they really are not prepared to help in the human infrastructure but we will not budge if they're not willing to compromise. It is not bipartisan if Republicans don't give an inch.

And they have given nothing here and now, we're not going to require them to support the other bill?

KARL: OK, will --

SIMPSON: That is the challenge. We worry that if you pass the bill, this bill with Republican support, then our Democratic moderates will be off the hook to support the bigger package and we can’t have that happen.

KARL: All right. We'll get to what Republicans have or haven’t given up. But on this question, can Democrats, can Biden get Democrats to pass a bill, this bipartisan bill if they don't have a guarantee that the bigger bill passes?

SIMPSON: Absolutely not. I mean, I think --


KARL: So both or none?

SIMPSON: I think you have to do both or none. Progressives have been very, very clear about the fact that Republicans have shown they only care about physical infrastructure and we have to do this bill in a way that makes sure we're fully inclusive because reconciliation is the only way to get things done. And if we don't make sure we have 50 votes or maybe the 60 votes to get it done, we're going to leave people high and dry.

So, yes, progressives have to put their foot down and say if you have a photo-op with Republicans and they get the bill they want, what about the bill we need?

KARL: So, Ramesh?

PONNURU: So, part of the difficulty that this is going to create I think for progressives who take that stance is there’s a timing problem. The infrastructure bipartisan deal is at a much later stage of development than this partisan Sanders bill, which is really kind of notional at this point.

KARL: And you heard Manchin, by the way, say he's not on board with $6 trillion.

PONNURU: Are you going to leave this infrastructure bill hanging for several months while you get this partisan reconciliation bill together? And are progressives really willing to say we're not going to vote for one of the Biden administration's priorities?

KARL: I think you heard the answer was yes.

PONNURU: Even if it’s things that they themselves support because it doesn't include other things they support? That sounds like a bluff.

KARL: And Republicans are going to be on board, Sarah? I mean, now that they've heard? I mean, they’ve heard the walk back, but they’ve also heard Pelosi?

ISGUR: I mean, this is the problem, Biden snatched defeat from the jaws of the victory here, and by doing so, with or without the walk back, he opened up this whole conversation. Now, progressives have cornered him. Republicans feel like they got sandbagged.

But, I mean, you do look at this conversation and everything Yvette was just saying, this isn't about Republicans. This is a fight within the Democratic Caucus. Progressives want to corner their moderate Democrats to make sure that they don't lose their vote. It’s not about Republicans at this point.

So whether Biden can keep those ten Republicans, yeah, I think the walk back helps a little but to Ramesh's point, what does it look like in six months if he has to wait for Bernie Sanders to convince Joe Manchin, which isn’t going to happen? Is he really not going to sign this bill? Really going to let Nancy Pelosi have the progressive wing hold them hostage? I don't think so. They have 2022 in their sights.

BRAZILE: But, Sarah, there is one thing we know about Nancy Pelosi, and that is she know -- she knows how to lead her caucus. She knows how to bring not only progressives but moderates to the table to achieve the goals for the American people.

KARL: There is not much room for error now.

BRAZILE: She has no room for error but she understands how to put together the deal. So, as I said a couple of weeks ago, this may look like Boudin sausage and it may taste like something different. But it is going to come together.

And Democrats know that the calendar is short, but the needs of the American people are long and they have been waiting for not just the core infrastructure, rails, bridges and roads, but they also want human infrastructure.

SIMPSON: That’s right.

BRAZILE: I mean, we just had a pedestrian bridge collapsed here in Washington, D.C. We're witnessing this horror in Florida. What are we waiting for?

This partisanship has gotten so out of control that we're now debating the semantics of what the president is saying and not what the Democrats are going to be able to deliver. I think they’re going to be --


ISGUR: Democrats don’t have their own caucus on board with this. This isn’t about bipartisanship.

BRAZILE: This is -- no, no, no, Democrats love to order the finer points and the finer details, because in making sausage, we want to make sure that all of the right ingredients because we’re going to get bite at this.


BRAZILE: Because we know Republicans don't want any taste of this. So, we're going to do it right and just relax. It’s going to be okay.

SIMPSON: I wished I had her faith and confidence.

BRAZILE: I have lots of things.

SIMPSON: And I love this woman, first of all, but I wish I had her faith and confidence. I do not.

The reality is, is if you're going to negotiate a bill on infrastructure and you don't have progressive senators at the table, then you're assuming progressives are coming along, and that's not fair. Progressives have been very clear about the fact that we have to take care of people first. Republicans have been clear that they could care less. And so we need to make sure -- and we don't need ten senators to do a reconciliation bill. We don't need Republicans at all. Democrats could actually come together and say, we're going to protect people. And the people of West Virginia need human infrastructure the most.

KARL: Was this a waste of time? I mean -- I mean should --

SIMPSON: More than most.

KARL: Should he just bypass this whole bipartisan effort and just gone right to the --

SIMPSON: No. If -- if you ask people in America who are suffering whether they care about that photo op, whether they care about whether the people in D.C. get along, they would say, no. Every single study we have shown shows that the nation is bipartisan. You go to main street, Republicans and Democrats agree, we need to do something. In Washington they can't seem to figure that out.

KARL: But -- but, Ramesh, I heard some real frustration on Manchin's part, even in a -- in a conversation after -- after our interview. He says that Democrats, and channeling what -- exactly what you're saying, Yvette, are acting like they've got a 60 vote majority.

PONNURU: Yes. Right. That's right.

KARL: But it's -- this is -- this is the narrowest majority you could possibly have.

PONNURU: And it's a narrow majority and it could prove to be an evanescent majority as well. And I think that Senator Manchin is mindful of that even if not all of his colleges are.

And then there's just the question of whether the public's really wanting $6 trillion in additional spending after all of the spending that we've seen over the last several years and the bipartisan deals that we've already seen, there is a point at which the public's demand satiated (ph).

KARL: Hey, so I -- I want --

BRAZILE: It's like that tax cut. You know, we -- we always talk about how much and -- and -- and -- and not talk about the -- the cost, the human cost and -- and the infrastructure cost. I mean this is costing our economy money because we have not upgraded. We have not planned for the future.

ISGUR: Great. There's a bipartisan bill. Let's get that signed and move on.

BRAZILE: Move on.

ISGUR: And if you want to do the reconciliation bill next, great.

SIMPSON: What? And for what?

ISGUR: Then do the reconciliation bill next if you can get your own caucus on board.

SIMPSON: We -- that --

ISGUR: But don't hold up the infrastructure bill.

SIMPSON: That -- that -- that deal could happen any day of the week. It could happen any day of the week. It is the least we can do. After -- after a --

ISGUR: That's why it took three months for them to sit there and do it?

SIMPSON: Because Republicans don't want to do anything.

KARL: But -- but wasn't --

SIMPSON: But they could. And this is -- this is the bare minimum that you could get out of this.

ISGUR: That's right. So, take it. Take it. Let bake it.

BRAZILE: No. No, no, no, no.

SIMPSON: We need more. We just got through a pandemic.

BRAZILE: As -- as -- as a -- let me speak as a former Hill staffer, it takes time to make this -- this --

KARL: Donna Brazile, former Hill staffer.

BRAZILE: Former Hill -- and proud of it, too.

And, by the way, the interns are going to get paid now. I -- I wish I could come back from, you know, my experience.

But, look, this is a moment -- this is a real important moment for the America people. They want Joe Biden to succeed. In a Fox News poll -- you know, I had to mention Fox News. I used to be on the network. In a Fox News poll, Joe Biden is getting 56 percent. I mean he's getting some love, OK, from Republicans. So he has -- he has --

KARL: And let's not --

SIMPSON: (INAUDIBLE) actually does something.

KARL: One of his promises was to work with Republicans. I mean that was a promise.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. And he's going to -- he's going to not only achieve that goal, but also bring the Democrats to the table. Yes, the progressives and the moderates and everybody in between will come to the table and we will agree that we need a duel track. It will happen.

KARL: All right, we've got to take a quick break. The round table will be back with more.

Up next, our exclusive interview with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison about Derek Chauvin's prison sentence.

Stay with us.


KARL: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is standing by. We'll be right back.



JUDGE PETER CAHILL, FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA: The court commits you to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for a period of 270 months. This is based on your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd. What the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy.


KARL: That was Judge Peter Cahill sentencing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.

Here to discuss the sentence, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who oversaw the prosecution in Chauvin's trial.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you for -- for joining us. You...

ELLISON: Thanks for having me.

KARL: The maximum sentence here was 40 years. The prosecution asked for 30. He ended up getting 22.5. You had said the state never wanted revenge, that what you were looking for was accountability. Did you get it?

ELLISON: I believe that the sentence is based on the facts and the law. It's based on the criminal history score and the severity.

Look, it's 10 years beyond the guideline sentence. The recommended guideline sentence is 12.5. We got 22.5. And I think that the judge is right. Given the particular cruelty, the abuse of trust, committing this crime in a group, in front of kids, is -- this sentence works.

Now, you can’t replace the life of George Floyd, so true satisfaction is simply not available to us. But I think that this is certainly a sentence that reflects the seriousness. And, of course, this matter is not over yet.

KARL: I want to ask you about something that your Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said at sentencing. Please take a listen.


MATTHEW FRANK, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: Being a police officer is a difficult job. We ask a lot of them. But we give them a substantial amount of training. And most officers do it right.

This case wasn't about police officers, all police officers. It wasn't about policing. This case was about Derek Chauvin.


KARL: That, of course, is literally true. This was about Derek Chauvin, but, obviously, in another sense, this really was about a lot more than Derek Chauvin, wasn't it?

ELLISON: Well, I'd say legally, Matt Frank is absolutely right. But, historically, sociologically, you're right. It's actually about more than that.

We had to focus on proving a case based on evidence in a courtroom. But I do believe that the larger society must grapple with the bigger issues. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has not passed. We need it to pass.

All over the United States, states are looking at police reform. We need them to act. We need departments to act. We need prosecutors and we need other police officers to look inside and say, what can we do to build greater trust and greater cooperation with our communities that we protect and serve every day?

So, yes, you're right. From a larger -- in a larger perspective, we have got a lot of lifting to do. And when it comes to Congress, I think they could lead the way by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I think it's essential, and the country needs it.

KARL: You heard President Biden this week saying that he's concerned that we could see a significant spike in violent crime this summer.

I know you have expressed similar concerns. And you have raised the point that you just raised now, that we can't afford to have a distrust, given that, distrust between the police and the community they serve.

So what steps need to be taken right now, as we face this potential for an increase in violence now? You mentioned the bill in Congress, but what else needs to be done now?

ELLISON: Well, yesterday, I was at a community meeting right here in Minneapolis, and a group of pastors came together and calling themselves 21 Days of Peace.

And this is a community-led effort with cooperation with law enforcement. So, communities said to the Fourth Precinct inspector, a guy named Charlie Adams, where are the hot spots? And he said, the hot spots are on this corner, that corner, and that corner.

And local community people went to those hot spots, and said, we're just going to hold this space. And, statistically, a number of those spots have seen a reduction in violence. So, a community-led effort to engage neighbors, to build relationships with neighbors, in cooperation with law enforcement, might just be the key all over the country.

And I will tell you this. We have seen massive numbers of people unemployed during the pandemic. People are out of work. People are worried about rent. This is injecting stress into the community. And, sometimes, that manifests in violence.

I think we do need those economic supports. The unemployment insurance and the eviction moratorium are coming to an end. These things are going to add stress. They might add to the violence toll. And we have got to be aware of these things.

Let's have religious leaders, faith leaders, community leaders get out there, working with law enforcement to try to stave off what could be a difficult summer, if we don't get ahead of it. And I think we need to.

KARL: All right, Minnesota Attorney General Ellison, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate your time.

ELLISON: Thank you.

KARL: There's more roundtable ahead, plus why Bill Barr told me he thought Trump's allegations of election fraud were B.S.

We will be right back.


KARL: The roundtable is back in 60 seconds. Please stay with us.


KARL: Back now with our roundtable, and I want to get right to this amazing interview. I mean, I would say --

SIMPSON: You do say so yourself.

KARL: -- that I did series of interviews -- well, I did say so myself, that I had with former Attorney General Bill Barr where he talked about what he really thought of Donald Trump's claims of election fraud.

So, I’m going to put up a quote. This is -- this is one of many quotes about what he thought of this. He said: My attitude was, it was put up or shut up time. If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all along was that there was nothing there. It was all B.S.

So, Sarah, the context here is, obviously, Barr did come out in December and say that he saw no widespread -- no evidence of widespread fraud. It caused a huge explosion at the White House, big break with Donald Trump.

But what -- what I find out here is that he actually did investigate, it was an informal investigation but he looked at all of these allegations and when -- you'll see in this article, went chapter and verse that there was nothing to it.

ISGUR: This is the interesting position that the Department of Justice was in for four years during the Trump administration. It did not matter how loyal the attorney general was, how politically in -- in, you know, cahoots they were, there was never enough because the Department of Justice had a really specific and independent role when it comes to investigations like this. It was never enough with Sessions during the Russia investigation, even though the Mueller report actually, for the most part at least, exonerated the president. When it came to Bill Barr, you know, there were so many people criticizing Barr thorough his tenure.

What I found most interesting in your piece was that Barr did, in fact, break with DOJ protocol to open that investigation right after the election, instead of waiting until the election was certified. He was criticized for that. Understandably so at the time. But when you read in your article that the reason he did it was so that he could come out publicly and said there had not been election fraud, that was an important role for the Department of Justice to play.

KARL: Ramesh, let me ask you, and he -- Barr is probably among the Trump base the most popular cabinet member. I mean he -- he was -- he was Trump's guy. And now we see chapter and verse, not just the statement he made in December, but I go through, and this article's "The Atlantic." It's going to be in my book that's going to come out later in the fall, more details. But he goes chapter and verse on these -- on these allegations and why that it was all BS. Is it going to matter with those people that we saw in Ohio with Donald Trump?

PONNURU: You know, I think one of the more revealing parts of that article was when in the White House Barr is explaining he didn't find any evidence for this and Trump's instant response is, you must hate Trump.

BRAZILE: That's right.

PONNURU: It's not about the evidence, it's, are you willing to go with me all the way regardless of the evidence? That's what some portion of his base is like. And that's what Trump is cultivating in his base, that extreme personal loyalty. How hard a core, how large of a group that's going to be in the Republican Party going forward, that's very much to be seen.

KARL: Yvette, you must hate Trump.

SIMPSON: I'll -- I'll hold my judgment. But, yes.

You know, I think the real challenge here is, when I was reading your article is, there was this whole orchestration about protecting a man's ego while our democracy was at stake.

KARL: That -- that's -

SIMPSON: Like the idea that -- that we had to navigate this very fragile man while people were challenging our state of democracy, whether votes were cast. And as someone who -- who works on this every day, that is horrifying.

And we see what's happening now with our democracy, with attempts at voter suppression. The idea that an entire agency of the U.S. government was holding out information that they knew showed that there was no election fraud and they waited until the political calculation, according to McConnell in your article, and also to protect the president.

KARL: Donna.

BRAZILE: A great article and I wish I could have been there for the interview.

SIMPSON: That would have been something.

KARL: That would have been good.

BRAZILE: That's -- I mean you -- you were really getting in -- you -- you were getting the goods. And, by the way, I can't wait to read this book "Betrayal" because if -- if -- if we learn more about what happened in the White House, perhaps we can prevent this from happening again.

At the heart of our democracy is the right to vote. The right of every American citizen to be heard. And somehow or another, this was about Donald Trump and not the American people.

And, no, I don't hate him.


BRAZILE: I don't. But I love my country more.


BRAZILE: And that, I think --

SIMPSON: You've got to care about somebody to hate them.

BRAZILE: That's right.

KARL: That's -- that -- that's -- that's a good note to end on.

Donna Brazile, thank you. Thank you all.

That is all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Tune in next weekend for Martha Raddatz's exclusive reporting from Afghanistan as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw after nearly 20 years of war.

Have a great day.