A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, November 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 “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR (voice-over): COVID concern.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We should expect that this variant will come to the United States and will become truly global soon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: New travel bans, the stock market tumbles, as the Omicron variant spreads across continents.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: This is something you got to pay really close attention to and be prepared for something that’s serious.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will get the latest on this new pandemic threat from Dr. Anthony Fauci.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Disruptions related to the pandemic have caused challenges in our supply chain and contributed to higher prices.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden taps the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to combat soaring fuel prices. Will it control inflation? For how long?
JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, EASTERN CIRCUIT SUPERIOR COURT: “We, the jury, find the defendant, Travis McMichael, guilty.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: Days after the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal, three guilty verdicts in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The jury system works in this country. And when you present the truth to people, and they can see it, they will do the right thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will discuss it all this morning with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Bill Cassidy, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
And grim milestone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like genocide. That’s what it looks like.
STEPHANOPOULOS: America surpasses 100,000 deaths from drug abuse. This morning, we’re in an American city hit hard by opioids, debating a controversial solution.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.”
Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to “This Week.”
As we come on the air this Thanksgiving Sunday, a new COVID strain is raising alarms around the world. The Omicron variant, first discovered in Southern Africa, has now spread across Europe to Australia and Hong Kong. Global markets plunged when the news broke. Countries are imposing new travel bans, the most restrictive in Israel, which has closed its borders to all foreigners for two weeks.
Here in the U.S., New York’s governor has already declared a state of emergency.
The big questions now: How dangerous is this new variant? Will it evade our defenses? Are new lockdowns and vaccine mandates coming, as we approach the third year of this pandemic?
So, we begin this morning with the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining us this morning.
Have we detected the Omicron variant here in the United States yet?
FAUCI: No, we have not, George. And we have a pretty good surveillance system.
But, as we all know, when you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably, it will be here. The question is, will we be prepared for it? And the preparation that we have ongoing for what we’re doing now with the Delta variant just needs to be revved up. And that’s — the bottom line of that is the preparation by getting more and more people vaccinated and getting the fully vaccinated boosted.
That’s what we could be doing. But we are on the lookout for this. The CDC has a good surveillance system. So, if and when — and it is going to be when — it comes here, hopefully, we will be ready for it by enhancing our capabilities via the vaccine, masking, all the things that we do and should be doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s go through what we know and what we don’t know about the Omicron variant.
Number one, is it more transmissible than other variants?
FAUCI: It appears to be, George.
It has the molecular characteristics that would strongly suggest that it would be more transmissible. It has a bunch of mutations, a disturbingly large number of mutations in the spike protein, which is the business end of the virus, which really binds, particularly in one particular component of that spike that binds to the receptors in your body, in your nose, in your nasopharynx, and in your lung.
The mutations would strongly suggest that it would be more transmissible and that it might evade some of the protection of monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma and perhaps even antibodies that are induced by vaccine.
If you look at the pattern of what’s going on right now in Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa, when you have a spike of infections, they are very heavily weighted towards this new variant, the Omicron. And, therefore, you have to presume that it has a good degree of transmissibility advantage, which is very likely what is going on right now in Southern Africa and would likely be going on in other countries as it spreads.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we know if it causes more severe disease?
FAUCI: Great question, George.
And we don’t know that. In fact, we were on the phone with our South African colleagues, who have been incredibly good about being so transparent about what’s going on there, on Friday, and we’re meeting with them again today later — a little bit later on, in a couple of hours, to try and find out if the cases that they have identified that clearly are caused by this variant, what is the level of severity in that?
Hopefully, it will be light but, you know, South Africa has a relatively small proportion of the population that’s vaccinated. So you got to take that into the equation when you’re trying to figure out where this virus is really going and what its impact is going to be. But bottom line, George, we don’t know yet what the level of severity will be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the possibility that it could invade our defenses. What do we know about how resistant it is to the current vaccines?
FAUCI: We don’t have a definitive answer to that, George. And we will know that likely within a period of about two weeks. And the way you find that out is you get the virus and you put it either as the whole virus or as what we call a pseudo virus and you take antibodies or serum from people who have been vaccinated and you determine if those antibodies can neutralize the virus. That whole process is already under way right now and hopefully we’ll be able to determine.
When you talk about that, George, it really is important to point out that when you have a high level of antibodies, the way you get with the boosters that we’ve been doing lately in this country and elsewhere, you lift up the level of the neutralizing antibodies high enough that it generally crosses over and covers several of the variants including the Delta variant, which makes us even more emphatic in saying even with a variant that we don’t know yet the full impact that it’s going to have on protection against vaccine-induced antibodies, get boosted, get vaccinated and you’re going to bring that level right up.
I don’t think there’s any possibility that this could completely evade any protection by a —
STEPHANOPOULOS: And —
FAUCI: — vaccine. It may diminish it a bit, but that’s the reason why you boost.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what do we know about whether vaccines can then be tailored to address this variant?
FAUCI: The companies are already doing that as you and I are speaking, George. So there are two ways to approach it. There’s to get the level of the regular type of classic antibodies that we’ve been dealing with right now, get it at a high level and/or develop a variant specific boost, a variant specific vaccine. And we’ve been on the phone with all of the companies right now and they’re already in the process of doing that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re seeing these travel bans. Are they going to make any difference?
FAUCI: You know, it will slow things down, George. Travel bans, when you have a highly transmissible virus, never completely would get the virus to coming — prevent it from coming into the country. No way that’s going to happen.
But what you can do is you can delay it enough to get us better prepared. And that’s the thing that people need to understand. If you’re going to do the travel ban the way we’ve done now and that we’re implementing right now, utilize the time that you’re buying to fill in the gaps. And by time buying (ph), you learn more about the virus, you learn what its relationship is to the antibodies induced by vaccines, and above all, you use this time to really, really put your pedal to the floor and get people vaccinated and get people boosted.
It’s going to give us a period of time to enhance our preparedness. I think we have to give kudos to the South Africans for being so transparent so quickly by giving us this information.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And —
FAUCI: So they’re giving us time to be better prepared.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what’s your best guidance about traveling outside of the country right now?
FAUCI: You know, travel during a period of a pandemic, George, is always risky. Right now people should just be prudent. And the best way to protect yourself, if you’re going to travel, have to travel, or want to travel, is to get vaccinated and to be prudent when you travel about wearing masks in indoor settings, such as if you go to the airport, which is one of the most congregate settings you can imagine with all the crowds in the airport. Make sure you wear a mask. But above all, vaccination will be the really most important way to really prevent you from being at such a high risk that you would not want to travel.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should we expect to be seeing more lockdowns again, new lockdowns, more mandates?
FAUCI: You know, I don’t know, George. It’s really too early to say. We just really need to, as I’ve said so often, prepare for the worst. It may not be that we’re going to have to go the route that people are saying. There’s — we don’t know a lot about this virus. So we want to prepare as best we can, but it may turn out that this preparation, although important, may not necessarily push us to the next level.
People talking about lockdowns, people talking about that, let’s see what the information that we’re getting in real-time tells us and we’ll make decisions based on the science and the evidence, the way we always do. But you want to be prepared to do anything and everything. And that’s the reason why we’re paying such close attention to this and why we’re all over it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Fauci, thanks, as always, for your time and your information.
FAUCI: Thanks. Good to be with you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, Democrat of Minnesota.
Senator Klobuchar, thanks for joining us this morning.
We just heard Dr. Fauci there. I know you guys got a tough situation in Minnesota right now with COVID. How big a setback is this new variant?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): It’s hard for everyone. People have been going through hell all over the country because of this pandemic. We know that.
And Dr. Fauci just gave you the answer — get vaccinated. And right now when the show is over, George, everyone watching — get your appointment to get a booster, to get your kids vaccinated.
If you say you care about our health care workers who are increasingly exhausted, get your vaccine, get your booster. If you care about our troops who in my state right now are staffing our nursing homes, who are helping out at our hospitals, then get vaccinated. Get a booster. That’s his message.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about —
KLOBUCHAR: That’s my message.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about the other big challenge the country has been dealing with this week, the economy and inflation. We saw the president tap the strategic petroleum reserve at the beginning of this week.
What more must be done right now?
KLOBUCHAR: I look at it this way — we’ve got an increase demand, shortage of supply. The petroleum reserve was a temporary measure. Obviously, in the long term, we’ve got to bring down greenhouse gases, and we’ve got to get the investment done to do something finally about climate change.
But in a bigger way, supply/demand, what does that mean? That means that we’ve got to improve the infrastructure at our ports. Take some emergency actions. And by the way, the infrastructure bill — bipartisan bill we just passed — does that.
Secondly, demand. We’ve got workforce issues. And that’s why this Build Back Better agenda is so important, George. Look at it. We need people, we need kids to go into jobs where we have shortages.
We don’t have a shortage of sports marketing degrees. We have a shortage of health care workers. We have a shortage of plumbers, electricians, construction workers. This bill puts us on the right path.
Helping people with childcare, a lot of people want to go to work, but they don’t have child care that’s affordable in their area. Or they’ve got aging parents that they have to take care of.
And then in my state, what we see in ag areas, what you see in the Midwest and in tourism areas, we need to do something about immigration reform — also in Build Back Better.
And, finally, making things more affordable for families. That means bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. To me, that’s what we do about the problem right in front of us, which is to have the backs of the American people. That’s our top priority.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve laid — you laid out what you see as the benefits of the plan. But your colleague, Democratic colleague from West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin, continues to signal that he wants to push this off until next year.
What are the consequences of delay? Are you confident it will get done before Christmas?
KLOBUCHAR: I am. Senator Manchin is still at the negotiating table, talking to us every day, talking to us about voting rights, getting that bill done, restoring the Senate. He’s talking to us about this bill.
When I look at this drama in the next month, I break it down into a mini series. And the first part is the defense bill and a bridge to the budget. Vast majority of senators support that. We’ll get that done.
Second thing, the debt ceiling. You know, if the Republicans want to scrooge out on us, and increase people’s interest rates and make it hard to make car payments — go ahead, make that case. We’re going to stop them from doing that.
And the third as I mentioned, voting rights, fundamental to our country. You see partisan gerrymandering going on. And what we’re talking about here is restoring the rules of the Senate so we can pass a bill that Senator Manchin has signed his name on to. The bill I lead, the bill Senator Schumer has been bringing every people together on, and that is the Freedom to Vote Act.
And, finally, what we just talked about, the Build Back Better bill. We can get this done. It’s — to me, it’s an old song.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you can get it all done.
KLOBUCHAR: Go ahead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, go ahead. I want to hear the song now.
KLOBUCHAR: The song is a little less talk and a lot more action.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There does seem to be —
KLOBUCHAR: That’s what we’ll need in this next month.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There does seem to be a lot of talk as well.
You mentioned the debt limit. Are you confident Democrats can do that alone?
KLOBUCHAR: I am. If you saw what happened back in November, both Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, who as you know I — I personally would get rid of the filibuster. They don’t want to do that. But they push the envelope, so made sure that we didn’t welsh on your debt. And I believe we’re going to find a way forward on that again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar, thanks as always for your time and your information.
KLOBUCHAR: It was great to be on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana.
Senator Cassidy, thanks again for joining us this morning.
Let’s start out with the pandemic. You’re a medical doctor. We just heard the message from Dr. Fauci and Senator Klobuchar — go get vaccinated.
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Yeah, totally agree with that. Get vaccinated. If you made the guidelines, go ahead and get your booster shot.
Folks ask me about vaccinating children. Yes, less likely to have significant illness, but little children bring it home to grandmother, grandfather and to the parents. And so, follow the recommendations.
As a physician I would just say, follow the recommendations on who to be vaccinated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you still seeing resistance in your state?
CASSIDY: Yes, but if you look at my state right now, we actually have, I think, the lowest or near the lowest incidents of infection. One beef I’ve had, and I think it’s a very valid beef, it’s clear that previous infection gives immunity. Dr. Fauci has said that in a committee hearing. There’s been no analysis as to the effect — as to the longevity of that or anything else that folks want to know. I’ve been previously infected. Am I immune? CDC is totally not interested in looking at that. I think the American people know they’re being gamed a little bit. I would still get vaccinated. The CDC should get on their job and do that — do that work too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Klobuchar on the Build Back Better plan. She believes the Democrats are going to get it done this month. I know you voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill but you’re against the Build Back Better plan.
You say it’s going to fuel inflammation. The administration has put forward 17 Nobel Prize winning economists who say it won’t.
CASSIDY: So those 17 Nobel Prize — if you go back, Glenn Kessler (ph) in “The Washington Post” looked at them. They said that was the bill they had then, not the bill they have now. And they point out that if you are going to avoid inflation, then you’ve got to be able to pay for it.
The Wharton School of Business has a better analysis. Their analysis is that it’s about $1.53 billion in new revenue. But as it’s probably going to be implemented, those things that don’t sunset are — that are supposed to sunset don’t, it’s going to cost $4.65 trillion. $4.65 trillion on top of what the federal government is going to pay.
And may I make a note, George, one-third of the expenditures are tax cuts for billionaires. There’s corporate welfare. It’s going to raise the price of gasoline at least about 20 cents a gallon. And it begins to have federal dictates as to how your child’s preschool is handled, the curriculum even. What’s not to like? It’s — it’s — it’s a bad, bad, bad bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the tax cuts. Republicans passed a huge tax cut under President Trump. That’s one of the things that extending the debt limit has to pay for. So why are you against extending the debt limit?
CASSIDY: Yes, so the debt limit in the past has been the result of bipartisan negotiations, bipartisan both about the spending, bipartisan both about the debt limit.
If you haven’t noticed, Republicans have not been invited in at all to discuss this.
I wouldn’t be giving the tax cuts to the billionaires that this bill does. The corporate welfare in this bill, if you earn $500,000 a year and buy an $80,000 electric vehicle, you can get like a $7,600 or $12,000 credit. What? My middle class person can’t afford a used car is giving — is paying for a tax credit for someone who makes $500,000 a year? We — Republicans wouldn’t agree to that, yet now we’re being asked to increase the debt limit to pay for it. That’s — that’s not a fair deal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to be taking a close look at the opioid crisis later in the program. Your state has been hit so hard by this problem. What should be done?
CASSIDY: Yes, clearly, it’s multifactorial. But what is also clear is that the situation at the southern border is contributing. If you look at the amount of drugs being interdicted at the southern border, along with the millions of people that are coming, are coming tens of thousands of pounds of drugs. That is contributing to our opioid overdose. You’ve got to control the southern border.
There’s other issues as well. But the — yes, but the prescription drug problem is now largely abated. We have treatment plans in place. We’re working on capturing that which comes through the mail. It is the southern border which is out of control, which, by the way, is squarely in the lap of this administration that is contributing to the abundance of drugs, which is contributing to the opioid overdoses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cassidy, thanks for your time this morning.
CASSIDY: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable’s next.
We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s ready to go. We’ll be right back.
(UNKNOWN): We the jury in the above entitled manner, as to count one, unintentional second degree murder while committing a felony, find the defendant guilty.
(UNKNOWN): As to the fifth count of the information (inaudible), we the jury find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty.
(UNKNOWN): Count one, malice murder, we the jury find the defendant, Travis McMichael, guilty.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Three verdicts in three of the most consequential cases in America this year, amid a national reckoning on race and criminal justice. Our round table is going to analyze the fallout after this report from Chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ahmaud Arbery, Kyle Rittenhouse, George Floyd, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
But America’s quest for the more perfect union is constantly being tested. In the Ahmaud Arbery murder case, many, especially African-Americans, worried aloud about whether a largely white jury in the South would convict three white men for chasing down and killing an unarmed black man who had committed no crime.
The answer, yes, the jury would.
(UNKNOWN): We the jury find the defendant guilty.
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: The jury of 11 whites and one black in the Deep South said that black lives do matter.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
THOMAS: Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal team argued the young man had a right to self-defense, even after inserting himself in the chaotic protests in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
But many people pondered whether a 17-year-old black boy could walk around a volatile situation with an assault-style rifle and not be arrested or potentially killed by police if he had fatally shot two people and wounded another.
Rittenhouse acquitted on all counts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kyle H. Rittenhouse not guilty.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He should not have had to suffer through a trial for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This system’s corrupt as hell.
THOMAS: George Floyd, a black man, asphyxiated to death by a white officer in a confrontation somehow erupting over allegations over a counterfeit $20 bill.
Many, especially people of color, were holding their breath right before the jury’s verdict for Derek Chauvin was read, worried that the white officer might be given the benefit of the doubt and that George Floyd fighting to live just to breathe might be seen as resisting arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find the defendant guilty.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD: Let this be the precedence where we overcome systematic racism and oppression.
THOMAS: These three cases and the debates about them in a deeply divided nation simultaneously reflecting signs of progress, but also a journey toward a more perfect union that is far from over, with many challenging miles yet to be traveled.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Pierre Thomas for that.
Let’s bring in our roundtable now, Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, former Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and the Manhattan Institute president, Reihan Salam.
And, Donna, let me begin with you.
Do you look at these cases and say the system works, justice was served?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I look at this past year, George, and I say that the system is still imperfect.
I said that it still requires a video in order to convict someone of murder. I say that we must continue to hold onto hope, but understand that we still have a long way to go, as Pierre just said.
You got the two lawyers here, so I don’t want to mess up the law. But there’s a law on the books in 1863 that says, if there’s someone running away from slavery, you can capture them. That’s — that was the law. And that law was finally abolished in May of 2021.
We argue about Critical Race Theory, but when the law is still embedded with the — what I call the hate of the past, what will it take for us to correct it? I don’t want to wait for a video to know that somebody should be charged with murder.
And yet the first prosecutor said, go home, wash your hands. And it took the pastors and a crying mother and a community that was outraged and a video that was leaked, or accidentally leaked, for us to get justice in Brunswick, Georgia.
We don’t have too much longer to wait for this perfect union to come together. I would hope that this case and cases going forward that we can finally put the rest some of the old vestiges of the past, so that we can go down that road of a more perfect union. I welcome that day.
So should you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot to unpack there.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, I agree with most of it.
But what I would say is, the jury system did work in all those cases, because, as a prosecutor, what you learn is that your job is not to set social policy. Your job is to investigate cases, evaluate the evidence. If the evidence supports bringing a charge, because the guilt is beyond a reasonable doubt, you bring the charge. And if it doesn’t, you don’t.
And in this instance, each time, the jury system, imperfect as it is, is still the best system that anyone’s ever devised to be able to bring justice in a civilized society.
And I think, in all these cases, despite all the doubts that people had on both sides of the argument, the juries sat there, the only ones who probably listened to all of the evidence, sat there and listened to everything, I think came up with the right verdicts, George.
And I think what that should give us is a sense of hope that we’re making progress, not that we’re there, because you’re absolutely right about that, Donna, but that we’re making progress towards that. And if we had said 30 or 40 years ago that, in the Deep South, that kind of verdict would have happened for Ahmaud Arbery…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Would it have happened without the video?
CHRISTIE: Well, you know what, George? That’s the evidence in the case, though.
In the end, where we are now as a society — that’s why bodycams are so important with law enforcement. People — we’re in a visual society now. Juries are used to watching TV shows where evidence is put out in that way. They want to see things like that themselves.
And in cases like this, where you have the evidence, the jury did the right thing. And what it means is that race didn’t play a role in their determining guilt or innocence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that is one of the interesting points, Heidi, Heidi Heitkamp.
The prosecutor in the Arbery case made what many considered a risky decision, mentioned race only once, fleeting comment in the closing arguments.
HEIDI HEITKAMP, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it’s critically important. But to their point, we’re so focused right now on what happens in the trial, what happened before the trial?
It’s what Donna said. You know, the prosecutor tells him, go home, wash your hands. She’s now being charged. Good for — good for the grand jury there indicting her.
But, you know, as somebody who worked on missing and murdered indigenous women, now you see an African-American movement to talk about all the missing and murdered African-Americans who have never received justice, a trial is just one part. And in fact, it’s kind of a crescendo at the end.
We have to look behind that. And the Department of Justice has to do a deep dive on all the incidents where there wasn’t a prosecution, whether there wasn’t an investigation, there wasn’t even a search party to look for a Native American girl who went missing.
And so, we are a long way. If we just look at the justice system as this one slice, we will miss the underbelly that is so dangerous to this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, Chris Christie, Reihan, said that the justice — the jury system worked in this situation. You saw President Trump — former President Trump say in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, justice wasn’t served because he was prosecuted in the first place.
REIHAN SALAM, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that what you see is a social media climate where everything gets nationalized, where every story, every incident is de-contextualized and placed in the context of what is the most useful political agenda to advance, what is the most compelling from the perspective of building an audience. Whereas when you’re looking at the jury system, the whole idea is to contextualize, to make things very specific, to have a deliberative process.
And I think that that’s a very good and healthy thing that we have this deliberative process. There’s a reason we have that process. But there’s a conflict here between the appetite of social media and what you actually need to ensure that justice gets done. And my concern is that, you know, with these video images, these are incendiary.
And guess what? With a video image, you can take images out of context. You can use them in ways that advance preexisting —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about — but how about Donna’s point but for the video in the Ahmed Arbery case, but for the video in the George Floyd case, justice might not have been served?
SALAM: I absolutely think that we just live in a world where we’re saturated with video images, right? But what I think we need to do is always take a beat and have some faith that a deliberative process is going to work. I’m not saying that we don’t use video.
What I’m saying is that when you see these video images go viral, in the moment, as opposed to think, what is the context I’m not seeing. What am I missing in this case?
Now, in the Arbery case, this was extreme, egregious and you had a prosecutor who approached it in exactly the right thoughtful way. Not in a way that would inflame, but rather in a way that would really deal with the process as it should work.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Let me ask you a question. Why is it when we talk about race, we get inflamed? What is it about race that inflames emotions? It is because some people are denied their human rights, their right to exist.
Emmett Till had no video. And therefore, when he was murdered, it took his open casket for people to see how this young boy who we know now was innocent, how he was murdered.
So, we need some way to reconcile the past. When we talk about race, we should be able to say we’re bringing it up because it’s a social construct that needs to be pulled apart so that we’re not judging people simply because of the way we look.
I don’t want my nieces, or nephews or even myself to be targeted if I’m jogging or if I’m going to a store. You know, you never have to worry about me on a Black Friday because I’m not going nowhere. I’m staying home. I don’t want to be targeted.
I have a purse. I have a credit card or two, maybe some cash, but I don’t want to be targeted. And so, this is the reality.
I’m not trying to prolong any conversation. I don’t want to make nobody uncomfortable. I don’t want any child to be scared. But I want people to understand we have to sometimes put these difficult issues on the table if we’re going to resolve this matter.
SALAM: Here’s what worries me. When you’re looking at the number of murders that do not fit a narrative, right, that get ignored, that — where you don’t see the resources necessary to actually, for example, solve crimes. When you talk about missing and murdered indigenous, black, you name it, women and children, what’s going on here is that we do not clear homicides. We do not clear shootings.
The reason for that is, in my view, under investment in policing and public safety. That is a real crisis, but it’s an invisible crisis. It does not fit existing narrative.
HEITKAMP: You can’t ignore the fact if it’s a white girl we spend all kinds of resources at the FBI looking for her murderer. So, you say we’re under resourced. I totally agree. Nothing could be more true on an Indian reservation.
But why is it that when the resources are deployed, they all seem deployed to the white girls who go missing as opposed to Native American girls who go missing or black girls?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, let me put that question to you. When you were a prosecutor, how did this resource scarcity affect your decisions on these kinds of things?
CHRISTIE: Well, you can only make a decision as a U.S. attorney on the cases that the FBI or other investigative agencies bring to you. And so that’s the way it affects it the most is that it’s not like — it’s the very, very rare instance where a prosecutor will go out and say, I want you to investigate that matter. Usually it’s the other way around.
It’s the — the way — what Reihan is talking about affects it, the under resourcing is — and it’s also prioritization at those agencies. An that’s always the fight. The fight between the prosecutor and the investigative agency. Might fight with the FBI when I was U.S. attorney or the DEA or any of the investigative agencies was, here’s what I want you to focus on. And much of what you’re talking about, Donna, I think are things that we need to make sure that prosecutors who are either elected or appointed, depending upon the system, make as an emphasis of their work and say, I want this tuff to be done because you can — you can pressure appropriately investigative agencies to spend the resources they do have on things that you think are very important at this moment in time in your jurisdiction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move on to another topic.
Heidi, let me bring you in on the Build Back Better plan.
Your — your friend, former colleague, Senator Amy Klobuchar —
HEITKAMP: She did a great job, didn’t she?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, she expressed great confidence this is going to get done this month. Not everybody shares that opinion.
HEITKAMP: Oh, I think it will get done. I think there is so much pressure now after the Virginia election, you know, where — where — and now we see Biden’s numbers sliding. I think there is a kind of a come to Jesus moment among the Democratic factions, if you say, to, let’s get this done. Let’s — let’s spend a year talking about the great things, implementing, doing our ribbon cuttings or whatever it is. I think that that there is a whole recalibration that occurred after Virginia with these poll numbers. So I agree with Amy, I think it’s going to get done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we certainly saw that in the House. Reihan, I’m not sure if Senator Manchin’s a part of that faction that are coming together.
SALAM: I think that there’s a huge struggle over the fact that the Democratic Party increasingly relies on upper middle income, affluent voters and donors and yet there’s also this commitment to a blue collar working class base. There’s also the rise of a kind of more ideological faction reconciling those things in the name of some kind of majority coalition is really, really challenging.
And you see this with the debate over the SALT cap. You know, Senator Cassidy was talking about it earlier on today for a good reason. This is an instance where, if you’re talking about, you know, Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco, Chuck Schumer from Brooklyn, New York, close to where I live, these are both very interested in protecting the interests of those affluent professionals. But, guess what, that’s a lot of money that’ then off the table for other social policy priorities.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me put this question to Chris Christie and, of course, it’s important to the state of New Jersey as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it is interesting to hear Republican senators who voted for the huge tax cuts under President Trump to be complaining about the tax cuts in the Democratic bill.
CHRISTIE: Well, what I think is there’s an ideological inconsistency, right, so that the Democrats are saying, you know, we’re for the middle class folks. In New Jersey, the middle class folks, despite our high property taxes, the highest in the country, they will not be the one who get the majority benefit from bringing the SALT tax — the SALT tax back as a deduction. It will be — it will be folks in the higher income brackets who pay higher state and local taxes in blue states who will benefit from it.
So I think what they’re — what they’re seizing on is the ideological inconsistency, some would say hypocrisy, of saying that you’re for these folks. But, on the other hand, you know, let me tell you, the average property tax bill in New Jersey is $8,000 a year. So under the current SALT cap, everybody who has the average property taxes in New Jersey can fully deduct them. So who you’re benefitting in New Jersey are the higher income folks.
CHRISTIE: And that’s not the Democratic, you know, hymnal. So, when you’re speaking — you know this, George, when you’re in politics and you’re speaking against brand, people kind of raise an eyebrow.
HEITKAMP: Yes. Right.
CHRISTIE: And the SALT — lifting of the SALT cap is an against brand Democrat moments and the Republicans are going to seize on it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Fair point.
BRAZILE: Republicans will seize on anything. They will seize on the opening of an envelope because they didn’t provide, you know, the stamp.
Here’s what Democrats need to do. I agree, they need to pass it. If we spend another month talking about what’s in the bill and how much it costs and who’s going to get what, we’re going to lose the debate and the Republicans will continue to win by — by just not offering anything.
This is what I tell my friends in the party, get real. It’s over. Pass it and go home and tell the voters exactly how this will benefit them. We spent 20 years investing trillions of dollars in two wars. Trillions of dollars. And now we’re hearing about the debt. We’re hearing about how much it’s going to cost. We’re investing in transforming our society and making this country stronger for the future. And that’s what Democrats have got to go out there and talk at the street level and get a — get out of this bubble that we’re in. That’s why you’ve got to leave Washington, D.C.
Chris, I may have to come and visit you a little often.
CHRISTIE: You should.
BRAZILE: Because I found toilet paper and paper towels on sale.
So I’ve got you, baby.
CHRISTIE: OK, lookit, you come up and you bring them.
BRAZILE: I’m bringing them, baby.
CHRISTIE: You’ll be very popular with Mary Pat if you do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Reihan, when people do hear the — the specifics of the bills, they are popular.
SALAM: I’ve got to say, there are a lot of ticking time bombs in this legislation. If you look at the child care provisions, it’s been fascinating to see a lot of people on the left pointing out the fact that this is a provision that actually changes the cost structure of child care. You’re introducing new regulations, all of which you can make a case for, good or bad, regulations that are designed to increase wages, right?
But you’re only subsidizing people below the median income in state x, y, or z. These are provisions that are temporary and these are provisions that require state lawmakers to pass enabling legislation. There’s a huge amount of complexity in this bill, and I think the attitude of “let’s pass it and then figure out what’s in it” — you know, it’s an attitude you see, but…
BRAZILE: No, we know what’s in it.
SALAM: … I’ve got to say there are a lot of things in there, when people find out…
HEITKAMP: You have…
SALAM: … particularly those voters that Democrats depend on, they’re not going to like it.
HEITKAMP: You have to evaluate this in the context of not just the daycare provisions, but also the pre-K provisions. And we can argue about whether we should federalize the regulation of pre-K, which I think Senator Cassidy talked about.
But this bill clearly is targeted towards working families. And that’s what we need to do. We need to send a message that we’re about helping working families.
And let me tell you, there’s a lot of people deferring having children today in America because they can’t afford daycare. They can’t afford to raise children. We’ve got to turn that around today.
And I want to just say, about the SALT tax — I want to say about the SALT tax. It is cumulative with the income tax. So to say, oh, you know, the average is $6,000, well, your income tax in New Jersey it’s pretty darn high, too.
HEITKAMP: And you add that to it…
CHRISTIE: Well, and…
HEITKAMP: This is going to help a lot of middle-class families.
CHRISTIE: Sure. And we’re…
HEITKAMP: We can argue, Chris, about whether it should be 80 grand or whether it should be 50 grand, but I think that there’s a lot of middle-class families who are going to benefit in those blue states for the cap.
CHRISTIE: Well, of course. You’re subsidizing in blue states the decisions of blue state governors and legislators to continue to raise their taxes.
HEITKAMP: Yeah, and — and if you…
CHRISTIE: That’s what you’re doing, Heidi, so that’s OK.
HEITKAMP: Yeah, but if you want to go there, Chris…
CHRISTIE: That’s OK. You want to do that? That’s fine. But what you’re doing is, you’re saying that higher taxes at the state level and at the local level are going to be forgiven in New Jersey by people in South Dakota.
HEITKAMP: Yeah, and those people — those people…
CHRISTIE: Shouldn’t be.
HEITKAMP: … who pay those taxes in New Jersey subsidize southern states who get more federal assistance than — than northern states…
SALAM: It’s not about state…
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s all we have time for today.
We’ll have you all back in a week or two.
Up next, as opioids fuel a record number of overdose deaths, we’ll take a closer look at how one American city is dealing with it and speak to the country’s top drug enforcement official. Stay with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our special look at the opioid crisis is next.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Synthetic opioids like fentanyl, stimulants like methamphetamines and cocaine, and other drugs are harming and killing our citizens at an alarming rate.
Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths in America has increased 250 percent. And the pandemic has only made things worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra addressing the opioid crisis days before a new report revealed 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the last year.
We’re going to discuss what to do about this epidemic with DEA Administrator Anne Milgram after Kaylee Hartung reports from one of the nation’s hardest hit cities.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, another crisis is gripping the nation.
CEDRIC AKBAR, POSITIVE DIRECTIONS EQUALS CHANGE: It looks like genocide. That’s what it looks like.
HARTUNG: Deaths from drug overdoses in this country have set a new record every year for the past 20. But now, for the first time ever, the number of Americans who fatally overdosed over the course of one year surpassed 100,000, up nearly 30 percent from the previous year.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The severity and worsening nature of this epidemic requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.
HARTUNG: The Biden administration releasing a plan last month to fight the spike in overdoses, and earmarking $4 billion in the COVID relief packages for expanding services for substance abuse disorder and mental health.
Cedric Akbar and Cregg Johnson, both recovering addicts, provide substance abuse treatment through their organization, taking actions they say government officials aren’t.
AKBAR: We’re in an emergency, a state of emergency. But we’re not treating it that way.
HARTUNG: In San Francisco, more people have died of opioid-related drug overdoses during the pandemic than from COVID.
AKBAR: People don’t even know they’re taking fentanyl.
CREGG JOHNSON, POSITIVE DIRECTION EQUALS CHANGE: They’re taking drug with fentanyl.
HARTUNG: Fentanyl is ten times more deadly than heroin and other opioids, but it’s cheaper to produce.
In Dr. Mary Mercer’s emergency room at San Francisco General Hospital, already pushed to the brink by COVID cases, she’s seeing more lethal side effects of the pandemic.
DR. MARY MERCER, SF GENREAL HOSPITAL EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: The pandemic exacerbated, you know, really free to the social fabric that our most vulnerable San Franciscans are relying on to literally keep them alive.
MAYOR LONDON BREED, SAN FRANCISCO: There’s no way that my sister who was in her 20s should have died from a drug overdose.
HARTUNG: Mayor London Breed lost her sister 15 years ago. Now she’s on a mission to give others the support her sister didn’t have.
BREED: We’ve always had people who suffered from substance abuse disorder. The question is, how do we adapt to providing the support and services that are going to get people clean?
HARTUNG: One innovative solution in the Bay Area, the straight overdose response team.
MICHAEL MASON, SF FIRE DEPARTMENT COMMUNITY PARADEMIC CAPTAIN: The person is often at the brink of death, right? Paramedics arrive, this individual is not breathing well, and they require immediate life-saving intervention.
HARTUNG: After Captain Michael Mason and his team of paramedics respond, nurse practitioners like Kevin Lagor follow up with the individuals.
KEVIN LAGOR, STREET MEDICINE NURSE PRACTITIONER: We really all came to the table and said, how can we rewrite the playbook? How can we improve our care and do something that no one in the country is doing? So, we’re bringing the clinic to you.
HARTUNG: The mayor also proposing legislation to open controversial safe injection sites.
Anyone who wants drugs can find drugs. You’re saying let’s do it in a safe manner.
BREED: We need to look at solutions that make us uncomfortable in order to try and change this.
HARTUNG: Experts say injection sites have been proven to save lives. But to open in the U.S., laws would need to change. And Cedric and Cregg say don’t bother.
AKBAR: It’s ten years too late.
JOHNSON: Right, it was a good idea a long time ago. If they had safe injection sites, we wouldn’t see so many people on the street using. So, why should I go inside and use drugs when I can use drugs outside?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Kaylee Hartung for that.
We’re joined now by the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Anne Milgram.
Thank you for coming in this morning.
ANNE MILGRAM, HEAD, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s start with those safe injection sites. Good idea?
MILGRAM: So, the Department of Justice is under — is in the midst of litigation on safe injection sites. So I can’t speak about that.
What I can say we’re seeing this devastating overdose crisis. And right now in America, 100,000 lives are being lost.
And so, at DEA, what we try to do is go after aggressively the people who are causing the harm, and the criminal networks and then to help the people who are harmed. So, what we do do at DEA is we prioritize can we improve access to treatment, to things like the medicines like buprenorphine which can help with medically assisted treatment for folks who have opioid use disorders.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this issue that Senator Cassidy was talking about? He says that the opioid crisis he believes has been — the problem with the manufacturers here has been mostly solved, he believes. The real problem now is the border.
MILGRAM: So, the real problem are the criminal drug networks in Mexico that are mass-producing fentanyl, which is driving the overdose deaths that we’re seeing. And so, we should be really clear that 64 percent of all those overdose deaths are attributable to fentanyl. About a quarter of those deaths are attributable to methamphetamine.
Those two drugs are being manmade, mass produced in Mexico. Sourcing chemicals mostly coming from China. What those criminal networks then do is they flood the United States with those drugs in any way they can, whether it’s the border, by air, by ports.
Those networks want to sell drugs to Americans. It’s how they profit. And so, they will exploit any vulnerability that they can to get those drugs to the United States. And we’ve seized more drugs this year, fentanyl and meth, than we’ve ever seized before.
So, those drugs are coming to the United States from those criminal drug networks and we have to be aggressive in dismantling these networks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the supply problem. How do we deal with the demand problem?
MILGRAM: So, there’s a couple of pieces I think — I think we need to be focused on. One is, is the supply — is the supply challenge.
The drug threat today is different than it ever was before. You know, when I was a prosecutor coming up, we did cocaine cases, we did heroin cases. Those largely came from plants. Now, today, this is all synthetic or manmade. There is an unlimited amount of these drugs that can be made.
So what we’re also seeing is that the networks are doing — or doing this in new ways. So they’re making these counterfeit pills that are fake pills. They’re made to look — and they’re exploiting our opioid epidemic in the United States and the fact that we take a lot of pills. So they’re making these pills look almost identical to real hydrocodone, to real Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax or Adderall, but they’re fake and they contain fentanyl and sometimes they contain meth.
And when we seize those pills now, and — and it’s every age, and it’s really important to say, this cuts across every single line, rural, suburban, urban, by race, by geography, by — by religion. I mean this is in every state in America. Those pills are meant to look like they’re real pills, and they’re not. And they’re deadly. We’ve seen four out of ten pills that we’re seizing now have potentially deadly doses of fentanyl.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As we enter the holiday season, what’s your message to those who fear that a family member or friend might be abusing these drugs?
MILGRAM: So, I think there’s two really important message. The first is that talking about it works. So we know from the research that just making individuals aware that the only pill they should take is a pill that is prescribed to them from their doctor and that they get at their pharmacy, and also understanding that we are now seeing other drugs, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, being laced with fentanyl. So everything is potentially deadly right now and people need to be aware of this and have these conversations because the holidays are a high risk time. We do see overdoses spike at this time of the year. And so it’s really important. We’re out there at DEA trying to make communities safe and healthy but all of us can do our part by talking about this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Anne Milgram, thanks for coming in today.
MILGRAM: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT” and I’ll see you tomorrow on “GMA.”
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