'Momentum,' 'unifying message' is Biden's goal with inauguration: Rahm Emanuel

The Powerhouse Roundtable discusses President-elect Joe Biden's agenda and how President Donald Trump’s impeachment will impact it on "This Week."
15:03 | 01/17/21

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Transcript for 'Momentum,' 'unifying message' is Biden's goal with inauguration: Rahm Emanuel
Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the constitution of the united States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help you god? I do. Congratulations, senator. I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. Do solemnly swear -- That I will support and defend the constitution of the United States. That I will support and defend the constitution of the United States. Against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Against all enemies, foreign and domestic. So help me god. So help me god. And now Joe Biden who is who was the youngest senator to take the oath will become the oldest president to take the oath. Let's talk about the challenges ahead with our round table with Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, democratic strategist Karen finney, and CNN commentator and Republican strategist Sara Fagen. And Rahm, let me begin with you. This challenge for Joe Biden as he comes in faces these multiple crises in this country could no be higher. No, it could not. If you look at it, Abraham Lincoln had the civil war. Wilson had obviously the Roosevelt had the depression, and obviously Lyndon Johnson had the civil unrest in the united States. Joe Biden gets all of it. You haven't seen something like this in the United States -- some presidents have had one of these, not all four, and he then also has an opportunity. These crises offer a huge opportunity, and when you look at polling and his presidency, people will reflect and love his decency. They are drawn to it. The policies, he has right down the middle support, and he has to keep driving his person in front. Remember, the American people want to turn from this type of Donald Trump politics of hunger game into normalizing, lowering the temperature and reaching out. That's where Joe Biden does great. The policies, he's going to be unbelievably important to bring and keep moving forward. Momentum is his key goal and also a unifying message. His person will be his greatest asset in speaking to that unity, but major, major challenges in the covid and reducing that. I'm sorry, George. The covid reducing that impact is going to open the doors on the economy for him. Chris Christie, how does he speak to Republicans? So many still believe the election was stolen and are still followers of president trump. Well, he's got to do his job, George. In the end, I think what the American people have learned especially over the last year or so is that competence really matters in the oval office in terms of managing things, and that he's going to have to deal now with the challenge of covid. I hear all the other things that Rahm mentioned and I don't disagree necessarily, but the number one issue is covid. Until the covid vaccine gets broadly distributed, until life gets back to some measure of normalcy, it will be what dominates Joe Biden's job because until that happens, he can't really bring back the economy to where it needs to be. You can't really deal with a lot of those underlying issues effectively until you get people feeling once again, as if they're safe, and this pandemic with over 300,000 Americans dying, they don't feel safe. So we need to get back to that. That's going to be his first task. If he does that, he has the chance to achieve a lot of other things that he might want to do in a very closely divided country, as long as he keeps his eye on getting covid under control. The rest of it I think, will come to him over the course of his first year. It's a divided country, Karen finney, but there's a divided party. A lot of Democrats want Joe Biden to go further than he might be able to go. Well, look. I think the most important thing is that Joe Biden stays focused on the agenda that he was elected overwhelmingly -- an overwhelming majority of American people to implement. We're seeing both in the measures of the things that Biden has talked about since becoming elected that a majority of the Americans agree with and appreciate the way he has handed himself, and in addition to that, I think we will see this president answer the memo that Ron klain put forward yesterday. I slightly disagree with Chris Christie, an agenda that will not only deal with the covid crisis, but start to deal with the economy. People have not just fallen off the cliff. They are down into the ravine, and so, you know, the incoming president has taken these issues on as well as our environmental crises and the racial justice crises. The last thing I'll say, George, is the most important thing, and I think all Democrats and Republicans of good faith agree is accountability. We cannot move forward in unity from this moment if there is not accountability for what has happened, and look. Donald Trump is not the -- he drew the Mack truck of gasoline into the tinderbox. The politics of polarization of policy for too long has dominated and there has to be accountability for what we saw at the capitol if we are to move forward, and I have full faith both in Biden and congress that we can do both things and all these things at the same time. Sara Fagen, that will be the question though. Can they handle dealing with President-Elect's agenda and also handle the senate impeachment trial? I think that is the real challenge for Schumer. Having to try to manage really this covid package which is likely going to have to get done. If he wants it as robust as the President-Elect wants it which includes the minimum wage and so many other policy priorities that are really democratic policy priorities, not just covid priorities, he's likely going to have to do it through the reconciliation process, and that becomes incredibly complex. Of course, he's got to confirm Janet Yellen and many other cabinet secretaries and he's got to manage an impeachment trial, and it's a no-win situation for both parties. Getting rid of Donald Trump, I think is a win situation for the country as a whole, but the Democrats are going to have to choose between a robust policy agenda and a month-long impeachment trial while Republicans have to decide if they don't impeach the president, we look complicit in the events on Wednesday. If we do impeach him, we risk the loss of a big portion of our base. It is a very complex, political dynamic, and I think while I agree with Karen in the fact that Donald Trump should be held to account for the riot at the capitol, I don't know that -- I don't know that that is in Joe Biden's best interest. How do Democrats deal with that dilemma, Rahm? Well, I think this is going to take a deft hand. Right now as you can see in the transition, the Biden people have done pretty good of navigating the Shoals here and not knocking off, but I think chuck Schumer has his hands as Sara said, and the question is foremost, get the cabinet confirmed and Mcconnell's offered to do that. I think that's a place you can do that without the impeachment becoming an impediment. I think it's too early right now, I think, on the economic package. You always have reconciliation which is a 51 vote. Some things will drop out. I think it was smart to offer it to be bipartisan. On the impeachment effort, and I want to say this because this is very, very important. There's not a single lawyer especially for the one who is about to be disbarred by the new York bar, in Rudy Giuliani, who wants to defend president trump. That tells you something. You can have the impeachment and deal with both confirmations and getting things moving. If anyone wants to not deal with so covid, they have a problem. If the impeachment becomes a weight stopping you from dealing with covid, that becomes a problem. Both parties have a challenge, not just chuck Schumer and everybody is going to be looking in the first hundred days. Are you going to be working together or using this to score political points? And the president -- Chris Christie -- I don't think -- Go ahead, Sara. What I was going to say, is we're calling this a covid package and there are elements in this package that are very important for covid relief. Vaccine distribution of course, and money for getting schools back on track, but there's a lot more in here that Republican senators are not going to go along with. A minimum wage may make sense in Boston. A $15 minimum wage may make sense in Boston and Los Angeles. Doesn't make sense in Iowa. And the other constituencies, particularly the state and local governments. The Republicans aren't going to support that. If the President-Elect wants to get that accomplished, he will have to do it through reconciliation, and that is a much more complex process that the impeachment will detract from. Chris Christie, I want to bring to you this deal for the Republican party as well. There was a smart column in "The Washington post" where he says, president trump is leaving behind a Republican party that is broken but still in his grip. Does the Republican party have to reject president trump to move on? Well, listen. I think what the party has to do is stand by its principles, George. It has to stand by the issues that have moved the party forward by gaining 14 seats in the house, and flipping two legislative chambers, flipping a governorship. Most of what happened on election day was good for the Republican party. Most of what happened in the runoff was bad, and we can attribute that directly to what was going on in terms of what the president was doing. I think we have to stand by our principles and what's going to happen in the senate now, I mean, listen. Chuck Schumer has been called a lot of things. A guy with a deft touch is not one of them. This guy is a sledgehammer, and so for those of us who live in the area where I love, watching the press conferences every Sunday afternoon, it seems like for the last hundred years, this is not a deft touch guy. So the challenge is going to be more to people like Joe Manchin and others in the democratic caucus. Angus king. They're going to say, don't do it this way. Calm down a little bit to be able to get the agenda moving if they want to do more than one thing at a time. I don't think chuck Schumer is the guy to give the deft touch to running things in the united States senate, and I think we'll see that very clearly right from the start. Karen finney, what's the response to that? Again, I have faith and confidence in Democrats, and look. If Republicans are sincere, we've heard a lot of attempts to try to minimize the violence at the capitol, to try to sweep it under the rug and call for moving forward. If Republicans are sincere about that, they will support the President-Elect, soon-to-be president Biden, and they will in good faith, we may have policy differences. They will vote for his cabinet appointees. They will not try to use the impeachment as a way to slow down the progress of moving forward with this agenda, and I think it's incumbent on Democrats also as we now know in this modern media environment to do a better job of communicating who we are, what we stand for, and what we're fighting for in terms of the things that are in the package that Biden has put forward. Anybody who is opposing that, again, a majority of Americans voted for Joe Biden. These are all the ideas that he campaigned on, so if you are opposing that, you're opposing the moving forward of this country. I do want to correct one thing. What happened in Georgia was the hard work of many incredible people including black women like Stacey Abrams and black voters. It was not just because of Donald Trump's ridiculousness. It was because people came out and voted and because of changes -- I mean, what happened in Georgia reflects changes that are happening in this country that are going to continue, and I will go back to my core message here which is, there can not be unity in this country without accountability, and that is part of how we move forward. That is part of how chuck Schumer is going to have to leave the senate in terms of holding people accountable if they don't vote to support these policies. On Karen's point, I want to point to this. If you have an open wound which people talk about, the only way to heal it is to get the infection out. Donald Trump has to be held accountable for inspiring this, and that's why at the end of the day, you look at impeachment, but you also look at the 14thedment. It doesn't require 67 votes. It says he should be banned from running and if you look at the polling, that's where a good two-thirds of the country, majority is for that. Let me press you on that. I want to do a follow-up question there because they're going to face -- It's your show. You can do anything you want. Not always. They're going to face a tricky dilemma. Do you move that vote on the 14th amendment banning the president from running again before you move to a final vote on impeachment or after? You know, first of all, it's your show, but we just -- the round table likes run it periodically. I would just say on this point, it's way too early to say, George. On this point, I would just say you start with impeachment. If it looks like the impeachment the dragging everything else down, you have a lot of backup. You go for 60 votes on the economic package and you have reconciliation of 51. You always have an offramp to how to get these things done, and I think on the impeachment, you're going to go straight forward. If you wait, you have other options. I have to go to Sara Fagen on this. Does Mitch Mcconnell vote to convict or not? Sara? I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if he will vote to convict or not. He's certainly leaving it open, and I would argue that, you know, him letting that story in "The New York Times" unanswered that said he was unsure of what he was going to do speaks volumes about where his head is, and the fact that he's certainly not going to whip his caucus on this vote. That means that more Republicans will vote to impeach the president, but if this is a long trial -- Quickly. I'm sorry. I think we fail -- Go ahead, Karen. This is a long trial. If there is a long trial -- Okay. I'm just going to ask you quickly. Final question. Yes or no answer. Will the senate vote to convict? Go down the line. Karen finney first. They should, but more importantly, the test is not just about convicting Donald Trump, but it's about accountability and understanding the divisions in this country and figuring out how we unify and heal and move forward in acknowledging that these divisions have been exploited by trump, but they exist. This is who we are. It's not who we have to be. That is all we have time for. I don't get all the yeses or noes. Thanks very much. We'll be right back.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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