'This Week' Transcript 2-28-21: Sen. Mazie Hirono, Sen. Rob Portman, Dr. Anthony Fauci
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, February 28.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, February 28, 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 CHIEF ANCHOR (through translator): Party-line vote.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're one step closer to helping millions of Americans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's COVID relief bill clears the House, challenges ahead in a divided Senate.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is dramatically more money than is required.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Biden reshapes policy in the Middle East.
BIDEN: There will be announcements on Monday to what we're going to be doing with Saudi Arabia in general.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Facing backlash for not sanctioning the Saudi crown prince after U.S. intelligence confirms he approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump takes center stage at CPAC.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Delighting his followers, dividing the GOP.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): I don't believe he that she should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We cover it all this morning with senators from both sides of the aisle, Democrat Mazie Hirono, Republican Rob Portman, and our powerhouse roundtable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're prepared to ship immediately.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine authorized for emergency use. Dr. Fauci joins us with the latest.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
As we head into March, President Biden is making strides and facing setbacks on both foreign and domestic policy. His COVID relief package is heading to the Senate, after a Democrats-only win in the House. But his $15 minimum wage has been stripped from the Senate bill. And one Democratic defection could bring the whole package down.
Overseas, Biden ordered his first military action this week against Iranian-backed militias active in Iraq. He promised to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia after declassifying the CIA's conclusion that the Saudi crown prince approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
But the president is facing criticism from fellow Democrats demanding a tougher response. And just weeks after the Capitol siege and a second impeachment, the man he defeated is heading back to the arena with a high-profile speech promising a return to politics.
We're going to cover it all this morning, starting with my "This Week" co-anchors Martha Raddatz and Jon Karl.
And, Jon, let me begin with you right now.
That vote in the House on the president's COVID relief package is about as close as it could get. There's no votes to spare in the Senate, where the Democrats are now wrestling with how to handle that stripping of the $15 minimum wage from the bill.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George.
Biden is on the verge of his first major legislative victory. And make no mistake, this would be a really big one. But there is absolutely no room for error. The COVID relief bill passed in the House, as you mentioned, without a single Republican vote. There are almost certainly no Republican votes in the Senate either.
And that means he can't afford to lose a single Democrat. Thanks to the ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, the provision raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not in the bill. But with two Democrats opposed to it, the $15 minimum wage doesn't appear to have 50 votes regardless.
Some progressives are pushing for an all-out war to save the minimum wage increase, even if that means calling for the parliamentarian to be fired. But here's the bottom line from the Biden White House. Even without the minimum wage, this $1.9 trillion bill has almost everything that Biden wants.
They will take it. They will consider it a huge victory, even if that means the hike in the minimum wage is gone for now and it's a battle to fight another time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, Donald Trump is coming back. His presidency was far from normal. His post-presidency seems headed in the same direction, extraordinary that he's giving this speech just weeks after the -- after leaving office.
And it's -- he still -- it's going to be clear from what we have seen in the speeches at CPAC already that he's still got an iron grip on the GOP.
KARL: Oh, no doubt about that, George.
Back in 2016, Trump actually skipped CPAC because there was talk that conservative activists could walk out on his speech. They didn't consider him a real conservative. Now they're calling it, some people, TPAC, the Trump Political Action Conference.
And speaker after speaker has declared that Trump is the dominant force or the leader of the Republican Party. Any Republicans who have been seen to defy Trump have been banished. There is no Liz Cheney at CPAC, no Mitch McConnell, no Nikki Haley, not even Mike Pence.
And even, by the way, Mitch McConnell, who said that Trump was responsible for the riot on January 6, who said that Trump could be prosecuted, even suggested he should be, he said this week that he would support Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee in 2024.
I have spoken over the past couple of days with several people who have been talking to Trump. He is plotting his reemergence. He is still falsely claiming the election was stolen from him, often going on and on and on in these conversations about the individual states. And he is talking about getting revenge on Republicans who have defied him.
I suspect that is essentially the message that you’ll hear from him today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will be listening today. And, of course, he’s also facing possible prosecution in New York and Georgia.
Let me bring in Martha Raddatz, our Chief Global Affairs Anchor as well.
Let's start with President Biden and Saudi Arabia, Martha. He declassified that intelligence spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia, not the crown prince. But he's facing really blowback for not doing more to punish the crown prince for his approval of that killing.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It’s really hard to see, George, what any sort of punishment the crown prince got, other than that public rebuke. No visa restrictions, no sanctions.
Listen to what candidate Joe Biden said. Khashoggi was in fact murdered and dismembered and I believe on the order of the crown prince and I would make it very clear, we were not going to sell more weapons to them. We were going to make them pay the price and make the pariah that they are.
As far as weapons even go, there's a pause in weapons, they may not sell them defense -- offensive weapons, only defensive weapons, but it's very unclear what that would be.
Adam Schiff is saying, look, the crown prince has blood on his hands, you punished the people who carried out the order but have not punished the person who ordered the killing, George.
So there's a lot of blowback to this and you have to wonder if there is another Saudi dissident who does not live in America, who does not work for an American newspaper, what the world will think and what the crown prince will think.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we'll be watching to see what the president says. There will be more coming tomorrow and Saturday. But in the meantime, we also saw his first military action this week, striking Iranian-backed militias, even as this team is working to engage with Iran on their nuclear program.
RADDATZ: And that's exactly what's happening, George. As you know well, it's a little easier to campaign than govern, they did carry out this air strike in Syria to a compound of Iranian-backed militias, but it was the least lethal option.
But Joe Biden had to act. There was a rocket attack on a coalition base in Iraq and there were contractors wounded. There was one contractor who was working for the Americans who was killed. A service member was also wounded. So we had to fire back in some way but he wants to get back to the negotiating table.
The nuclear policy is a much bigger issue to Joe Biden and the administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha Raddatz, Jon Karl, thanks very much.
Let’s bring in now Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator Hirono, thanks for joining us this morning. I do want to begin with that action against Saudi Arabia. President Biden said his team, as I said, is going to be announcing more actions tomorrow. Should he be doing more to target the crown prince personally?
SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO, (D-HI): He is re-assessing our relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is an ally, and I don't think the chapter is closed on the outcome of the disclosure of this report. That's my hope.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what would you like to see done?
HIRONO: I don't know because, let's face it, George, it's a very complicated situation. Saudi Arabia is an ally, and so -- yes, there are calls to do more, and I await the reassessment that Joe Biden is going to engage in, regarding Saudi Arabia, and the pause in arms sales, that I think hits Saudi Arabia, and I think that there will be more. I hope so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the COVID relief bill. The minimum wage, as we talked, about has been stripped from the Senate package. And there are a variety of proposals to respond to that.
Senator Sanders is proposing to strip tax breaks from big companies who don’t pay $15 an hour. Joe Manchin, on the other hand, and some Republicans are proposing smaller increase. What's the best way to address this right now?
HIRONO: First of all, we need to get the massive COVID bill passed and we know that we’re going to have to do it without any Republican support. And the question should be, you know -- it’s on the Republicans lie (ph), we’re having a hard time with getting the COVID bill done bipartisan way in the Congress, not across the country.
So we are looking for other ways to, in effect, require increase of the minimum wage, which hasn't been increased in over 10 years or so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can the bill be passed if some minimum wage increase is included in the COVID relief package? Or should it be separate?
HIRONO: According to the parliamentarian, it would not be -- we can't do it. We can’t raise the minimum wage directly so we’re going to look for indirect ways to effect that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that would be restricting the tax breaks for corporations --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- who don’t pay?
HIRONO: Among other --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, you support that?
HIRONO: -- (inaudible) ways. Yes, I do. I will support all kind of ways. I mean, I basically support raising the minimum wage in the COVID bill because that is a huge part of economic recovery. The people who are suffering most from the minimum wage and what's happening in the pandemic are the essential workers, many of them are women and many of them are getting paid very low wages.
Seven twenty-five an hour is $15,000 a year. That's poverty level.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about Governor Cuomo of New York. “The New York Times” is reporting this morning that a second state employee has come forward accusing him of sexual harassment. We see “The New York Times” right there. He denies the charges.
You've been outspoken about sexual harassment charges in the past, said men should shut up and step up, during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. You’ve asked every nominee about sexual harassment during confirmation hearings.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s the proper response to these allegations against Governor Cuomo?
HIRONO: Well, the proper response for any of these kind of allegations of reprehensible, inexcusable behavior is to listen to the -- mainly women who come forward because it takes great courage for them to come forward, to listen to them and then to do the appropriate investigation and corroboration of the allegations.
In the case of Governor Cuomo, it seems to me that the New York attorney general would be the independent entity to conduct such an investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, not the investigation that he’s announced himself?
HIRONO: No, I wouldn’t consider that to be independent. It should be, I would say, the attorney general of New York.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Senator, you were the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate. In this past year, we’ve seen a striking surge in anti-Asian hate crimes here in America. Why is this happening and what should be done about it?
HIRONO: It's happening because we didn't have leadership at the top starting from President Trump calling it the China virus and the kung flu and all of that, which I -- apparently, it unleashed this kind of targeted hate crimes against Asian-Americans. And the increase is dramatic.
And, in fact, just last week in New York, a person who was just walking down the street got knifed, he is in serious condition. And soon thereafter, four people walking in New York were knifed, one died. In California, you have incidents of 90-year-old people being knocked down, attacked. That person died.
And so, I’m glad that Joe Biden, unlike President Trump has put this issue forward through his executive memorandum which, by the way, contains many of the provisions that I have put in a resolution that I tried to pass last year condemning targeted hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
And that the idea is for the attorney general, our new attorney -- soon to be new attorney general -- to work with state and county officials and community groups to prevent and prosecute these kind of hate crimes.
So, it's being recognized by President Biden and that’s -- you know, leadership throughout our country should condemn in no uncertain terms.
When you have Asian-Americans afraid to walk down the street for the fear of being knifed, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Hirono, thanks for your time this morning.
HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio.
Senator Portman, thanks for joining us this morning.
I do want to start with the COVID relief bill. You’ve said that the passing this through the reconciliation process would poison the well of bipartisan. But you voted to pass the Trump tax cuts and repeal the Obamacare through the reconciliation process. So, why -- so why isn't right for the Democrats to do this now?
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): George, we’re just talking about difficulties of passing this legislation. There's an easy answer to this, which is let's make it bipartisan. I mean, COVID relief has never been a partisan issue. Over the last year, we’ve passed five bills, as you know, with overwhelming bipartisan margins.
In fact, there are a bunch of us Republicans, I was one of the ten Republicans who went to see the president a few weeks ago and said, let's negotiate. You know, we’ve done this five times before, we can do it again.
So, this is not like taxes or healthcare, this is COVID relief, which has always been a bipartisan issue. And, by the way, it doesn't fit in reconciliation as we’ve seen, because it has to be directly related to the budget, to revenues, or spending, which is why the minimum wage got knocked out. Everybody knows that.
So, I have not figured it out yet but I think what he should do is what you did in the Clinton administration, what the Bush administration did, which is to start off with more bipartisan measures, so that we don’t poison the well, so that we can continue to work together. And in this case, it would be very easy to get Republican support for a COVID relief package.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there is Republican voter support for this package, 40 percent, according to "The New York Times", Republican support what's in the package right now. That is certainly one definition of bipartisanship.
PORTMAN: Well, yeah. I guess, if, you know, checks are coming out to people's homes, that's going to be popular, but that doesn't mean that this is the right bill.
It's $1.9 billion. More half of it, George, won't even be spent in this calendar year, based on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. So, how could it be about COVID relief? No one expects a year from now that we’ll be in the COVID crisis that we’re in now.
So, it just doesn't make any sense. So a number of things in here that have nothing to do with COVID relief.
There's $100 million for an underground transit system in the Silicon Valley. There's a bridge in New York. There's Hundreds of millions of dollars for the arts and so on. There are things that have nothing do with COVID that are unrelated. Minimum wage was one, of course. Even the child tax credit and earned income tax credit increases won't occur until next year in terms of people getting that credit.
So it's just -- it's just not targeted. We have a Republican alternative. As you know, we've been talking with the president and his people about it but have gotten no response, which is much more targeted and focused on the real health care and economic matters that are urgent. And that's what we ought to do. We've done it again five times before. This is not difficult. We can work together on this one and then continue to work together on infrastructure and retirement security and supply chain issues with China and so on. So my hope is that they'll change their mind before this over.
And it is going to be very, very close, as Jonathan Karl said well, for them to get this done is going to be difficult. Hopefully they'll back up and say, let's work with some Republicans and do something bipartisan as we have done over the past year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about Saudi sanctions. Back in 2018, you said that the Saudi crown prince should be removed from the line of succession if he was found responsible for this attack on Jamal Khashoggi.
Has President Biden gone far enough?
PORTMAN: No, I don't think he does go far enough, although you have to give him credit because he's actually increased sanctions and he's increased the travel bans on those individuals who were directly responsible.
But, George, I don't think anybody thinks that the crown prince was not responsible. In other words, that he knew about it and that he approved of it. So I do think there ought to be something additional that focuses on him. And it could be along the lines of sanctions or travel bans, just as they've done for those who were directly involved in the killing of Khashoggi.
And, look, I know this is tough because the Saudis are pushing back right now on Iran. That's very important. We've seen what the Iranians are doing, most recently with the rocket attacks you talked about through Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. So it's a delicate area and was said earlier, you know, it's easy to campaign, it's harder to govern. But I think there should be something directly related to the crown prince.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump back to campaigning today. He still dominates the Republican Party. Some of your colleagues like Lindsey Graham say Republicans can't win without him.
Are they right? Is Trump's dominance a blessing or a burden for the GOP?
PORTMAN: Well, he's very popular among Republicans. And the polling all shows that.
I do think that the policies are what's even more popular and that's why Republicans actually did pretty well in 2020. Other than at the presidential level, as you know, not a single House Republican lost. In fact, 15 seats were picked up in the House. That was unexpected. We did better in the Senate than was expected. We picked up some statehouses, unexpected.
So I think if you look at our country right now, most people are supportive of the general policies the Republican Party has put in place with regard to tax relief, with regard to regulatory reform that's smart, with regard to rebuilding our military, certainly with regard to Operation Warp Speed, which has gone remarkably well. So there are a number of things we can talk about from a policy perspective that I think will help to move the party forward. And that's where we ought to focus.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can you talk about that when President Trump is out there in the lead?
PORTMAN: Well, it sometimes makings it more difficult. But, look, I think he has an opportunity today to talk about his accomplishments. I mean instead of talking about personalities or, you know, who might have not agreed with him on the impeachment process, talk about what you did. I mean when you think about it, a year ago, as we were going into the COVID-19 crisis, we had the 19th straight month of wage growth of over 3 percent. We had the lowest poverty rate in the history of country. You know, we were bringing people back in to work and off the sidelines. I mean it was a strong economy, but it was also an opportunity economy. And we didn't talk about that. And why was that? Why did we have energy independence for the first time in my lifetime? These were because of good, good policies. So I think there's lot for him to talk about other than the personalities and the politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you mentioned the supply chain issues. There's a semiconductor shortage in the country right now. President Biden signed an executive order on that -- on that issue this week.
What more should be done?
PORTMAN: Well, it's a very, very difficult issue. Automobiles are hit particularly hard right now. So have about 120,000 cars that have not been made this year that would have been made but for the lack of semiconductors. So not having this one item with more electronics in all of our -- all of our lives, including in our vehicles, we're actually going to see furloughs and we're going to see more and more of this.
We're going to see it in the home appliance area. We're going to see it in the consumer electronics area. This is a huge problem because we're totally reliant on Taiwan. And one company in particular in Taiwan that makes these chips, these semiconductors. So it's an example of a larger problem, George, which is that we are too reliant on foreign sources for so many of our products and these supply chains need to be moved back here so that we have more reliability.
We're starting to do that, I believe. The president issued an executive order this week, President Biden did, that I support. But it's a two or three-year process.
In the meantime, we've got to do something with the urgent crisis that we face and to get the production up in Taiwan and do whatever we can here in this country to -- to move production back here to our shores.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Portman, thanks for your time this morning.
PORTMAN: Thanks, George. Good to be on with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next -- up next, the latest in FDA authorization for Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to join us. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: We've all seen the news about Johnson & Johnson vaccine today. It's just the third safe, effective vaccine, and it's out. They've approved it today.
This could unite us as a country, to vaccinate America, to protect America, to heal America. And I know we can do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good news on the vaccine front, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved for emergency use.
We're joined now by President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us again this morning.
Let's talk about this Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The first shipments are expected this week. It's great news to have a third vaccine out there, but as you know, there's a fair amount of skepticism out there as well, because the vaccine has a lower effectiveness overall than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, about 72 percent to 95 percent.
What do you say to those who want to wait for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?
FAUCI: We've got to -- we've got to get away from that chain of thought, George, for the following reason. The only way you really know the difference between vaccines is by comparing them head to head.
We have three highly efficacious vaccines that are safe and efficacious. That's the bottom line. And the J&J, if you look at them, particularly in things that we really care about, that are important, it's got greater than 85 percent efficacy after severe disease and critical disease. And there were no deaths or hospitalizations in any of the countries that were tested. And, remember, they tested in the United States, in South Africa and in South America.
This is a good vaccine. I think we need to pull away from this comparing and parsing numbers until you compare them head to head. Just be really grateful that we have three really efficacious vaccines.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, bottom line, if you're offered a vaccine, whichever one you're offered, you should take it?
FAUCI: Absolutely, George. The most important thing, from a public health standpoint, is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.
I can tell you, I'm vaccinated now. But if I were not vaccinated, and I was going to go into a clinic, and they said, hey, we have J&J now, or you can wait three weeks or so to get another one, I would take the one that is available to me now, because the quicker you get vaccinated, the more quickly you will be protected, and you will add on to the overall protection in your county, in your country.
I mean, to me, that is a no-brainer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We don't know a lot about how the vaccines affect transmission, whether they truly prevent transmission.
So, for people who have been vaccinated, what can they do? How should they still be careful?
FAUCI: Well, you still -- you should still be careful, George, that you -- you could conceivably have -- because the end point of the vaccine efficacy trial is preventing symptomatic disease, which means that potentially, theoretically, and maybe in reality, you're going to have infection that you don't get any clinical manifestation.
So, you could be protected from disease and still have virus. If that's the case, then that's the reason why you hear us all, all the public health officials, saying to wear a mask. And the reason is essentially to protect other people from occasionally you may inadvertently infect someone else, even though you are protected.
That's the reason.
Now, when you get two people that are vaccinated and protected together, like in a home setting, you can have two people that you would not need to do that. We're working with the CDC right now on trying to get updated, reasonable recommendations of what we can tell vaccinated people to do as you get more and more people vaccinated.
But the reason we say mask -- and, sometimes, people don't understand that and think it's being too rigid -- there will be a time -- and I believe it will be reasonably soon -- when we will know exactly whether or not a vaccinated person really has such a low level or none at all of virus in their nasopharynx.
That will be based on data. We have some preliminary data from some Israeli studies that the level of virus in the nasopharynx of vaccinated people is extremely low. If that's the case, and the future studies show that it's that low, then you will be pulling back on some of the restrictions.
But you want to do it based on data, George, not on guessing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: CDC experts also meeting today to discuss which population groups should receive priority for the vaccines.
And we know that the vaccine rates for Latinos and black Americans are still lagging behind white Americans.
FAUCI: Yes, that is clear.
And that's one of the reasons why what the president is doing -- and we are seeing that through the Equity Task Force -- is, we're getting community vaccine centers that are being put up. We have over 400 of them will be come up.
And we're going to designate that they go specifically, several of them, in areas in which, demographically, you see more minorities, in addition, mobile units that will be going out into the less-well-served areas, and then get a lot more vaccinators to quickly get it to them.
We have an Equity Task Force that's chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, whose virtually only job is to make sure we have equity in the distribution. You're absolutely correct. Since minority populations, particularly brown and black people, clearly have a greater risk of getting infected and a greater risk of serious disease, we have got to get the vaccines to them in an equitable manner.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Fauci, thanks very much for your time and your information this morning.
The roundtable is up next.
We will be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Let me tell you this right now, Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We will not go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: They said we were going to lose 20 seats that night. No one said we'd win seats. You know why we won that, President Trump worked on all these races.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Still Donald Trump's party. The CPAC conference is getting ready to see him today. We’re going to talk about that on the roundtable.
We’re joined by Rahm Emanuel, Chris Christie, the CEO of Democracy for America, Yvette Simpson, and Republican strategist Alice Stewart.
Now, he’s the former president, we’re going to get to him later. Rahm, we must begin with President Biden and this COVID. We saw the difficulties he’s facing right now in the Senate. You have senators like Mazie Hirono saying minimum wage has to be in the bill. You lost one Democratic senator, it goes down.
How does he solve that problem?
RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I think Democrats will support this package because it has a lot in it that's very good both for the COVID and the economy. I actually think the minimum wage, if it’s not in it, is an opportunity, and that is you can both --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It can’t be in it, can it?
EMANUEL: No, I don’t -- I think the parliamentarian is pretty clear, and the White House is pretty clear they're going to live with that ruling. But it’s an opportunity to build a bipartisanship coalition, taking the minimum wage, earned income tax credit, Mitt Romney’s idea of a child credit, and build a coalition around fighting poverty.
And I actually think you will -- the -- and I think the president will have, and this is also a challenge to Republicans, if you think COVID's out of control and the economy's bad a vote no is going to look OK. But if you think you're getting COVID under control and the economy is coming bac, then a no vote on a very popular package is going to come back to haunt you in 18 months politically.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette --
EMANUEL: And so I do think that this is an opportunity to get the minimum wage and get his entire package done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you do it somewhere else, I that good enough for progressives?
YVETTE SIMPSON, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA CEO AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think so. You have to do it here. And I think what we're -- we're realizing is that this is a very, very popular position, $15 minimum wage.
SIMPSON: And if you don't attach it to this package, you're going to compromise it away. We're already seeing Republicans say let's start at $10, let's work our way up, when we know that this number is already really low compared to what it should be based on inflation. And so you put it on -- in the bill, you whip your caucus. Joe Biden is saying he --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Joe Manchin has already said he's not going to do it.
SIMPSON: Joe Biden came in on the promise that he could bring Republicans in. If he can't control his caucus, we're in trouble. He needs to do whatever it takes. And, guess what, if Manchin is bold enough to vote down the entire bill with $15 an hour, then he -- he needs to be ready to take the heat.
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But why --
SIMPSON: People in West Virginia need this $15 an hour. They need this COVID package.
STEWART: Why are we worried about compromising away $15 minimum wage? That is a policy that progressives have wanted for a long time. I mean that's not a timely one. COVID is a timely issue. We need this now. We need it timely and we need it targeted.
SIMPSON: We need it all of it.
STEWART: And Democrats have taken a non-partisan issue that is important to the health and the economy of this country and made it a partisan issue. And so Joe Biden campaigning on being a moderate has -- has put partisanship in an issue that is timely and very critical to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Perhaps that holds on minimum wage, but -- but, Chris Christie -- and I have talked to Senator Portman about this as well, the provisions inside this COVID relief bill are popular with Republican voters.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR : Well, listen, yes, about 40 percent, right. So it's not a majority of Republican voters for sure. But I've known Joe Manchin for 12 years. He's not voting for it. It's over.
SIMPSON: Good riddance.
CHRISTIE: He's not -- well, good -- you know, this is what I love, Yvette, because then Joe Manchin is literally the only standing, living Democrat left in West Virginia. So you want to treat Joe Manchin that way, believe me, we'll welcome him and -- to the Republican Party and that --
SIMPSON: We can organize all of the working class West Virginians who need this bill.
CHRISTIE: No, no -- good. Good, you can --
SIMPSON: We can organize them.
CHRISTIE: You can organize them.
SIMPSON: They need it more than anybody.
CHRISTIE: And in the meantime, Mitch McConnell will be the majority leader again because if you bully Joe Manchin around on this, he -- it's hard to be a Democrat in West Virginia right now, especially statewide. And I take Joe -- I've known him for 12 years. I take Joe Manchin at his word. He thinks this is bad for the Senate and he's not going to do it. So if they -- this is what I love. I love every Sunday being here, watching these guys argue. It's great.
SIMPSON: If Joe Manchin wants -- listen, if Joe Manchin wants to be a Republican, let him be a Republican. We will play a Democrat against him.
CHRISTIE: That's good. That's -- that's excellent.
EMANUEL: That -- I -- that issue -- that -- that is not a --
CHRISTIE: I appreciate that.
SIMPSON: What I don't -- don't need --
CHRISTIE: Burn down the village in order to save it.
SIMPSON: No, no.
CHRISTIE: That's great.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, jump in.
SIMPSON: Because we're not -- if we can't get this done, then we can't get anything done. The caucus needs to stick together on this.
EMANUEL: No, no, first of all -- wait a second. Wait -- wait -- here -- the truth is, the caucus is together is how to do it. I think the -- this is an opportunity rather than a burden. And I think we're approaching it wrong. You get -- people are going to remember when this passes not that minimum wage wasn't in it, but that you got actual relief for COVID and the economy -- get the economy moving. That is what all the trajectories shows.
Number two, I really get (ph) this, the minimum wage has to be done.
SIMPSON: It has to be done.
EMANUEL: And I think Nancy did a smart thing putting it in there because that's going to be, to be all due respect, knowing it's not going to be in the final package, that's a TV spot against Republicans. Florida showed you $15 is popular. Put that package. Allow states to ramp off if they don't want to do it. They want to do it at $12.50, they want to do it at $13. And then, with other things like that are important for fighting poverty, the earned income tax credit and the child credit, then you have a package that people can come together on. I think it's an opportunity.
And Joe Biden, I think, showing that he's going to fight is doing exactly, and I believe this, the Democrats will rally behind the president because we need a popular president. And saying that we're going to threaten somebody, when you go back -- '92, Bill Clinton won 50 out of 72 counties. Neither Barack Obama or Joe Biden won a single county in West Virginia. Saying we're going to threaten Joe Manchin only makes him more popular in West Virginia and it's going to back -- it could backfire.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, you just -- you just reminded me that --
SIMPSON: I'm saying get him on this (INAUDIBLE) by any means necessary.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A guy named Richard Shelby in 1992. It didn't work out so well for --
EMANUEL: That -- I was not for that. You were for that. I was against that strategy. That Richard Shelby flipped parties. That is not the way to do that in West Virginia.
SIMPSON: We can -- we cannot allow one man from West Virginia to control this -- this entire next four years, no more than we could allow one many from Kentucky to do it in the last four.
STEWART: But at the same time --
CHRISTIE: No more than (INAUDIBLE).
STEWART: At the same time we can't allow one facet of the Democratic Party dictate COVID relief. And it you say minimum wage is such an important issue, then it should have been taken care of long ago and stand alone.
EMANUEL: Well, in 2007 (ph) --
STEWART: And the key is -- but -- but you also need to talk to, not just those that are going to benefit from minimum wage, all of the people that will lose their jobs if you force businesses to raise the wage.
EMANUEL: No. In 2007 -- here's the one thing that people have got to remember. Every one of the Republican leaders voted for the 2007 minimum wage that George Bush signed into law with small business tax cuts. It can be done. Mitch McConnell voted for it.
EMANUEL: Roy Blunt voted for it. The rest of the Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate that were there in '07 voted for that package.
So there's actually a road map that is not hard, and George Bush signed it into law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the Republican Party and CPAC. Chris Christie, history seems to be repeating itself again.
Three weeks ago, you had Mitch McConnell saying the president bears responsibility for the siege. Kevin McCarthy says the same thing. Kevin McCarthy's at CPAC saying this is Trump's Republican Party. Mitch McConnell says he'd vote for him in 2024.
CHRISTIE: Right, I -- see, let's start with the McConnell comment. To me, that's not groundbreaking. McConnell has supported every Republican nominee for president, and when he's asked that question, he says, "Well, if Trump's the Republican" -- he didn't say he wanted Trump to be the Republican nominee. He said, if Trump was the Republican nominee, he would vote for Trump. And so that, to me, wasn't groundbreaking at all.
The bottom line is this, George. You know, Donald Trump is not a departing two-term president like George W. Bush was. And as a result, he's got an opportunity to come back again if he wants to. And there are going to be some in the party who want him and there are going to be some in the party who don't.
But what is consistent is many of the policies that were pursued over the last four years -- take aside the personality; take aside the tweets -- a lot of those policies are things that Republicans support.
So this is going to take some time. I know everyone's anxious to have a resolution of this issue. We are literally 40 days since he left office. So let's all take a deep breath. The party will work its way through. And when Joe Biden and these -- and the Democrats start to put policies forward, there will be things for Republicans to oppose as the -- as the...
CHRISTIE: ... party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the Trump presidency was never really about the policies.
STEWART: No, it was about the personality. And, look, while he is certainly a defeated candidate, he is by no doubt the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and certainly at CPAC...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that good for the Republican Party?
STEWART: It is in terms of his base and keeping them engaged and on board. And we'll see that today, from his speech today. He will really focus on the policies. He will focus on conservative principles, limited government and individual liberties.
But from what I'm hearing, he's going to really lean in on appealing to working Americans across this country, every race, every creed and every color.
Now, that is good language, but he needs to follow that up with action. And -- and that will be important. But the key is for -- not to focus on the personality but to focus on the policies. And those that are upset with his tone and tenor, they weren't going to vote for him anyway. It needs to be more on the policy.
EMANUEL: Two things. One, Donald Trump lost, never won the popular vote in any election. And in one he also lost the electoral vote.
Second, while he was president, he never, ever broke 50 percent in support.
Third, he is the only president since Herbert Hoover to lose the White House, the Senate and the House. If you guys want to keep him, have him, OK?
Because that is an electoral defeat.
SIMPSON: I'm not -- I'm not...
EMANUEL: The Republican Party got more upset about tweets this week than they did around the policies of $1.9 trillion. The Republican Party built itself opposing the New Deal, the Great Society. They are now for spending but against tweets. And that is a morally bankrupt party.
STEWART: The hypocrisy of the tweets is -- is clear. But the key is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're talking about Neera Tanden?
STEWART: But we can't -- we can't completely throw Donald Trump off the train because he did bring in a lot of people...
EMANUEL: No, don't. Keep him.
STEWART: We need to keep his people, the 74 million that voted for him that are still on board. We need to keep them and build on that. And that's the -- that's the key. We need to tone down...
SIMPSON: What does one man have to do to get disregarded by this party? He is now the president of white supremacists, violent insurrectionists, QAnon conspiracy theorists. And you all are our "He's our standard-bearer." It is embarrassing and it is shameful. He should have been disqualified and he shouldn't be able to run again.
And here's what I will tell you, as I've said it many, many times. If Donald Trump says he's going to run again, he's going to run again. And I think the signal from McConnell that he's going to support him means that the party is getting ready for that to happen. And it is a really dangerous thing...
SIMPSON: ... not just for Republicans, but I think it's dangerous for our country.
CHRISTIE: Listen. I think that...
SIMPSON: You guys never believe Donald Trump when he tells you something.
And he's always telling the truth.
CHRISTIE: Are you done?
CHRISTIE: I think...
SIMPSON: Just -- just warning you.
CHRISTIE: OK, I guess you weren't.
Just let me know when you're done.
Now, listen, George, the bottom line on this, from a Republican who actually knows Donald Trump and knows this party, is that this is too early for anybody to be making determinations about what's going to happen in 2024. And so the fact is every party looks dysfunctional and like a bunch of losing candidates when they lose the House, the Senate and the White House. There's no way to avoid it.
When the Democrats did it, which wasn't all that long ago, they looked pretty bad, too. And so Barack Obama came in with a 60-vote majority in the Senate. He came in with a huge margin in the House. Two years later, he lost both of those. And then, you know, at the end of it, besides -- except for his personal popularity, he wouldn't have been the president.
So every one of these parties look that way. What I say to folks is exactly what you said, which is we need to focus on the policies and let the personalities filter their way...
EMANUEL: You guys...
CHRISTIE: ... through, over the course -- I know these guys wish for Donald Trump to come back. I understand why they do.
SIMPSON: We -- oh, absolutely not.
CHRISTIE: I understand why they do.
SIMPSON: We -- oh, absolutely not.
EMANUEL: ... actually, because he has legitimized racism and anti-Semitism as part of the political dialogue.
SIMPSON: That's right.
EMANUEL: Until the Republican Party, which is a house that...
EMANUEL: Wait a second.
I said, listen, you are a house divided, your party. And he has legitimized the ugliest parts of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. And the Ronald Reagan party, when David Duke and others came in, in that party, rejected and spoke out.
And nobody in the party has the leadership or the character to attack that anti...
CHRISTIE: By the way, that's simply -- wait a second. That's simply not true.
EMANUEL: Chris, you are a minority voice.
CHRISTIE: There have been plenty of us who have sat out here and spoken -- and spoken against it. Well, you know what?
EMANUEL: You are...
CHRISTIE: That's what happens when a party is divided, Rahm. And you have been a minority voice in your party at times. I have been a minority voice in my party.
And, sometimes, we have both been in the majority.
EMANUEL: Let's just hug it out then.
CHRISTIE: What matters is, do you stand up for your principles, or don't you?
CHRISTIE: And there are lots of Republicans who will continue to stand against...
EMANUEL: And the party is aimless when it comes to principles.
CHRISTIE: ... will continue to stand against anti-Semitism and white supremacy.
EMANUEL: It hasn't.
CHRISTIE: And, yes, they have. There are plenty of Republicans who have.
EMANUEL: They have not.
EMANUEL: I apologize. I'm not going to take a lecture on anti-Semitism from Chris. And I love Chris, but I'm not going to do that.
Chris, you have a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, her and her husband, he's a state rep, who talked about Nazi ideology and legitimacy. You had people on the south -- on the lawn of the House of Representatives who said six million is not enough, Camp Auschwitz, and it did not come to the condemnation of the Republican Party, because they are still of the view that the Antifa and others were part of that protest.
I am sorry. The party needs to reject anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, if it's going to be a majority party anywhere in a country that respects human rights.
CHRISTIE: And, Rahm, the majority of this party does reject it. And I disagree with you.
EMANUEL: It doesn't.
STEWART: And they certainly do. And I will be one to say so.
But the key to the party you say being divided, one thing is for sure. The Republican Party is united in their full-throated effort to try and stop these progressive policies that Joe Biden is full-throated pushing forward, when he campaigned as being a moderate. He is very far to the left. And that's what Republicans...
STEPHANOPOULOS: No Republican votes for his package.
SIMPSON: These are not progressive, far left policies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yvette, before we go, I do want to ask you about Andrew Cuomo.
We saw those headlines this morning. A second person has come forward with sexual harassment allegations. Can he survive this?
SIMPSON: No. He shouldn't.
I mean, honestly, when you think about someone who's in a position of power like this, and we know we have been here before. We have had these conversations around this table. And you take advantage of your relationship with women and the -- and I believe these women. I always stand with women.
Then you should not be in a position of authority. And, honestly, with -- Andrew Cuomo has had a very, very bad couple of weeks with the issue with COVID and the nursing home facility. And this is just another shoe to drop.
EMANUEL: To the core question, one is, women need to be heard by all of us.
SIMPSON: All of us.
EMANUEL: Respected and have the capacity to step forward and be listened to.
Second, it has to be a robust and transparent process, not one that he came up with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, the attorney general.
EMANUEL: Whatever it is, but it has to have...
SIMPSON: And he doesn't get to pick his own judge.
EMANUEL: It has to have legitimacy. And, right now, what it is, is the process itself is being questioned, let alone the -- what happened.
And for him -- everybody involved, given that it's a governor, et cetera, at this, it needs robust transparency and a process that has legitimacy in whatever it concludes. And people need to have the space to say what they have -- what they believe happened to them. And we have to respect that space.
STEWART: And I think the key -- that is right. This is certainly troubling.
We're hearing from key Democrats. Jerry Nadler says this is very troubling. And we have had state senators, one calling him a monster and he must go. And the key thing is, as Rahm says, these women should be heard, we should listen to them, they should have the environment and the space to speak, also the notion of due process for the accused.
But what we're seeing is, instead of isolated allegations, potential for a pattern of behavior, which is very disturbing. And an aggressive investigation needs to ensue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thirty seconds.
CHRISTIE: Listen, I agree with what everyone said about people and the women in this instance having be heard. These are very serious things.
But I also want to caution. There are a lot of people who jumped to conclusions on Brett Kavanaugh and what happened there. And I think we need to hear from Governor Cuomo. We need to be able to hear from him. He needs to have an opportunity to say what happened with -- from his perspective.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he has denied the allegations.
CHRISTIE: Right, and he...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Independent investigation?
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Thank you all very much.
Coming up, more on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi -- an exclusive interview with his friend and colleague from "The Washington Post," editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: At what point did you know he’d been killed?
REPORTER: I wanted to believe he was alive until the end, she says. It wasn't until the Saudis confessed they killed him that I acknowledged the horrible tragedy of what had happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There you hear Hatice Cengiz, who was the fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi when he was murdered by Saudi operatives.
And we're joined now by Khashoggi's friend and colleague from “The Washington Post”, editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt.
Fred, thanks for joining us this morning.
Your editorial page wrote that President Biden is essentially giving the crown prince a pass. What more should he be doing?
FRED HIATT, THE WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Well, hi, George, and thanks for having me.
You know, I think the question is, what can you do so that the next time MBS or another would-be butcher like that is thinking about doing a heinous crime like this will stop and think, it's not worth doing? And so far the calculation for him is, you know, he's paid a price and the release of the report last week was a good step forward, but it's not a sufficient price. And, you know, Biden's own Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, last week said that those responsible for the reprehensible murder of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. We now know that the man most responsible is the crown prince and he hasn't yet been held accountable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the administration is trying to strike a balance, in the words of Secretary of State Blinken, they don't want to rupture the relationship. Even you in your editorial page acknowledged that we need Saudi Arabia's cooperation with counterterrorism, with the stability of global oil markets. Can we afford to rupture the relationship over this?
HIATT: Well, two things about that, George.
First, I think this was a missed opportunity to rethink the alliance and how important is Saudi Arabia now to the United States and why. Why are we making an alliance with a dictator who is making trouble in the region?
But even more there's a bigger issue here going on all around the world, which is dictators like MBS and Putin and Xi Jinping are not only repressing their own people, but they're reaching beyond their boarders to harass, intimidate, kidnap and assassinate. And it's a way of striking fear at home and abroad. And if the United States and its fellow democracies don't stand up against that, then we're going to live in a world where nobody feels safe anywhere. Not even inside the borders of the United States.
I would say that's a more important principle even than the alliance with Saudi Arabia.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jamal Khashoggi was a brave journalist, a valued colleague of yours at "The Washington Post." What should our viewers know about what he was doing and why he was murdered?
HIATT: You know, he was a brave journalist, as you say. He really had the interest of Saudi Arabia at heart. He didn't even want to be seen as a dissident. He wanted to believe that the crown prince, on the days that he talks about reform, really means it. And he believed that the way for Saudi Arabia to enter the modern world was to let its own people speak freely and act feely and live for their potential.
Why would the crown prince kill somebody like that? It shows how afraid he is of his own people. And it's like a crime boss who's -- who says, you know, if I can get away with this, kill a "Washington Post" columnist who's a northern Virginia legal resident, then I can get away with anything and everybody will be afraid of me.
You know, I think there are things the United States could do. There's travel bans. There's asset freezes.
We had an op-ed a couple of years ago, by Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University and a legal scholar, who said that there are ways the United States could charge MBS criminally. Now, that wasn't going to happen when you had the Trump administration with Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner and Donald Trump fawning over this murderer. But, now, maybe it becomes possible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fred, I'm afraid -- I'm afraid we're out of time.
Thanks very much for remembering Jamal Khashoggi.
That is all for us today. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."
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