ANNOUNCER: “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): Mixed messages.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The majority voted no.
RADDATZ: FDA advisers breaking with the White House, rejecting a booster for all Americans, approving a third shot only for those over 65 or at high risk, as emergency rooms flood with pediatric cases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are, quite frankly, at a breaking point.
RADDATZ: Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us this morning.
Fallout. The Pentagon admits to mistakenly killing 10 innocent Afghan civilians in a botched drone strike.
GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I’m here today to set the record straight and acknowledge our mistakes.
RADDATZ: Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen here to weigh in.
And controversy over the current chairman’s actions in the waning months of Trump’s presidency.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: And these are perfectly within the duties and responsibilities of the chairman.
RADDATZ: Plus: the heartbreaking failure to protect our brightest athletes.
MCKAYLA MARONEY, NASSAR ACCUSER: They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing.
SIMONE BILES, NASSAR ACCUSER: We have been failed, and we deserve answers.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I’m sorry that so many different people let you down.
RADDATZ: And America strong — how the pandemic helped bridge the classroom’s digital divide.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.”
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to “This Week.”
A few days before the official start of fall, what was billed as the summer of freedom has come and gone, on the National Mall, more than 600,000 flags, one for each life lost to COVID, the sea of white representing an unfathomable and devastating toll.
Just three months ago, the U.S. daily case average was nearing a record low, about 11,000 new cases. Now we’re averaging about 143,000 cases per day, reporting roughly one million cases over the last week.
And while President Biden hoped an FDA advisory panel would recommend boosters for all vaccinated Americans, on Friday, the panel voted to recommend boosters only for those 65 and older or at high risk of severe disease.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is standing by. He joins us in just a moment.
But we begin with the latest on that FDA recommendation and what it all means for some of the most vulnerable, as the school year gets under way.
RADDATZ (voice-over): It was just last month that President Biden laid out his plan for booster shots.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This booster program is going to start here on September the 20th, pending approval of FDA and the CDC committee of outside experts.
RADDATZ: That approval did not come for everyone. And while the panel did not officially vote on it, they do support including vulnerable populations, like teachers, health care and other front-line workers in this first round.
But when it comes to ending the pandemic, the message remains clear.
DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: We need to vaccinate the unvaccinated.
RADDATZ: While 76 percent of adults have received at least one dose, the millions of unvaccinated Americans are fueling hospitalizations and directly impacting some of the most vulnerable, children.
DR. JOELLE SIMPSON, EMERGENCY MEDICINE CHIEF, CHILDREN’S NATIONAL HOSPITAL: The best way to protect our children is to vaccinate our community.
RADDATZ: ICU beds here at Children’s National Hospital a precious commodity
(on camera): I have to say, just coming in and standing by that emergency room, I was stunned. It is packed down here, and it’s 2:00 in the afternoon.
SIMPSON: Yes, our emergency departments certainly have been flooded. And we have been doing a lot of planning and trying to be as agile as possible to be able to meet those volumes.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Those higher volumes of pediatric cases coinciding with the start of the school year. More than one million children nationwide have tested positive in the last month.
PTA president Cynthia Simonson lives in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the vaccination rate is higher. But she knows that’s not the case for so many districts across the country.
(on camera): When you look at the places that just flat out won’t get it, what would you say to them?
CYNTHIA SIMONSON, PRESIDENT, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, COUNCIL OF PTAS: It grieves me, but there’s not — we can’t force it, right? But what we can do is, we can educate those families as best we can.
RADDATZ (voice-over): In nearby Fairfax County, more than 80 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds in school are vaccinated.
(on camera): Tell me what your — what experience you have had here.
SHAWN DEROSE, PRINCIPAL, ANNANDALE HIGH SCHOOL: We are going through a pandemic while also recovering from a pandemic. And that is bringing a lot of emotion, a lot of ups and downs, trying to do everything we can to meet the needs of our students.
RADDATZ (voice-over): With an already high vaccination rate, the superintendent tells me he’d welcome boosters for his staff.
(on camera): As you look at the possibility of the boosters, pretty sure the community would do that?
SCOTT BRABRAND, FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOLS DIVISION SUPERINTENDENT: We have a mandatory vaccination for staff now and I think many of our staff will avail themselves for the opportunity to get the booster shot. And we’ll be supporting that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: A lot to discuss this morning. So let’s bring in the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Good morning to you, Dr. Fauci. Were you disappointed that the panel did not recommend vaccines for all? Did you think that was a mistake?
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: No. Not necessarily at all. We had a plan to be able to do it all, to go down to everyone, but we had said right from the beginning that this would be contingent upon the examination of all of the data that the FDA accumulated that would be discussed with their advisory committee, and that’s exactly what happened.
So as you well know, the approval was for people 65 years of age or older, and a considerable number of people who are 18 to 64 who have underlying conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe disease, and people from 18 to 64 who are in institutional or occupational situations that would put them at an increased risk to exposure and infection. So that’s a pretty good chunk of the people.
If the decision was made based on the data that they examined — but that was always the plan, Martha, to make a proposal to be ready and prepared to do the entire amount right from the beginning with everybody, but if not, to be prepared to do what the advisory committee and the FDA finally authorized, which is fine. So I’m not disappointed. I think the process worked.
RADDATZ: This seemed to come down to the lack of enough data. Some FDA experts saying that evidence from Pfizer and others was not enough to convince them this third shot would be that effective in stopping the spread. Is that right?
FAUCI: Well, I mean, it depends on what you mean about stopping the spread and protecting people from getting severe disease and hospitalization. There are two different concepts there.
We would hope that ultimately when we get the proper vaccination to everyone or we get a more extensive distribution of the boosters, that it will have an effect of stopping the spread, but the — but the goal of this particular decision was to prevent people from getting serious disease who are at risk, such as the elderly, and those that have underlying conditions. So there’s a multistep process in this.
Ultimately, Martha, we hope that enough people will be vaccinated either with the primary regimen or following a third shot booster with Pfizer that we will get that effect of preventing spread.
RADDATZ: And Dr. Fauci, you’ve repeatedly cited the Israeli data showing waning vaccine protection across all age groups as justification for booster shots. Yet the panel revealed that Israel has different definitions of severe illness, which also look to play into the decision?
FAUCI: Well, see, that’s the reason why you get the data, and you present it to a group of very qualified people to examine it. What’s happening, Martha, is that in real-time more and more data are accumulating. So I would tell you, and I can predict with some confidence, that three, four weeks from now as we get more data from the Israelis and more data from our own United States cohorts, that there will be a continual re-examination of that data, and potential modification of recommendations.
But based on what the committee, the advisory committee saw in that presentation on Friday, based on that, they made a decision to do what we just said about individuals in certain categories, which is fine. But the story is not over because more and more data is coming in and will be coming in.
RADDATZ: And the recommendation is just for the Pfizer vaccine booster. What about Moderna and Johnson & Johnson? How quickly might they have data?
FAUCI: Yeah, good question, Martha, because everybody is asking that, understandably. It is not any more than a couple of weeks away, two to three weeks or so away. Right now the data are coming in from both the J&J as well as the Moderna. People say these individuals are being left behind. By no means. Within a few weeks we’ll be examining it in the same manner as we did with the Pfizer data.
RADDATZ: You know, you yourself have said how important consistency is, and you mentioned earlier President Biden talked about planning for September 20th rollout for all Americans. I know he said planning. I know he said it depends on the FDA. But isn’t a timeline like that just confusing to people?
FAUCI: I’m not — I’m necessarily thinking (ph) that that’s the case, Martha, because we want to be ready. These are the kinds of things that when you make a decision, you don’t snap your finger and it gets rolled out the next day. And that’s, I think, the thing that the people in the United States need to understand.
The plan was that we have to be ready to do this as soon as a decision is made. And when you have a plan, you put a date on it, and you say, we want to be able to get ready to roll out on the week of September the 20th. And as it turns out, when the FDA makes their final determination and very soon thereafter this coming week, you’re going to see the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that advises the CDC to perhaps even fine-tune that, so it can be implemented expeditiously.
So, getting that date I don’t think was confusing. We needed a date to be able to say, let’s get ready to roll this out pending the decision and the deliberation by the FDA and, ultimately, the CDC.
RADDATZ: And, Dr. Fauci, I do want to ask you about children. In many areas of the country, pediatric cases and hospitalizations are at an all-time high in this.
I went to the emergency room to report on this at Children’s National, and was really shocked. There were people lining out the door for sick children and COVID, of course, hitting them hard.
When do you think there will be a vaccine for children?
FAUCI: It will certainly be this fall. When you talk about the rollout for vaccines again, there will be a little bit of a different in time frame, maybe a couple of weeks between Pfizer and Moderna and others.
So, what we’re going to almost certainly see is that sometime in the next few weeks as we get into October, we’ll be able to see the vaccines for children get enough data to be presented for safety and immunogenicity, but when it gets to Moderna, it will probably be a few weeks beyond that, maybe the end of October, beginning to have November.
But in the fall, you know, rather than specifically saying what week, sometime in the mid to late fall, we will be seeing enough data from the children from 11 down to 5 to be able to make a decision to vaccinate them.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so much, Dr. Fauci. That’s good news to end on. Thanks for joining us.
The roundtable joins me now to discuss. ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott; chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl, and a co-anchor of “This Week”; Evan Osnos, “The New Yorker” staff writer, author of the new book “Wild Land: The making of America’s Fury”; and, Vivian Salama, “Wall Street Journal” national security reporter.
And, Jon, I want to start with you.
The FDA’s recommendation on the booster was more narrow than President Biden wanted. You heard Dr. Fauci’s explanation of that. But he has been criticized for jumping the gun. What happened?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looked like the White House was getting ahead of the science, that the White House was getting ahead of the health experts. And, you know, Dr. Fauci seems to be in a little bit of a spin mode in saying, look, we just wanted to be ready by this.
But make no mistake, Martha, when the White House rolled this out, the expectation was we would begin the process for boosters for everybody on September 20th. That was not the recommendation of the FDA advisory panel and not be what the FDA goes forward with in all likelihood.
And this is important because Biden’s credibility on COVID has been his — has been what has driven the level of his popularity. This is what he is trusted most on, and what he needs to be trusted most on, and we’ve seen it eroded over the past several weeks.
RADDATZ: And, boy, Rachel, you’re sure seeing that on the Hill. His poll numbers are falling and Republicans are pouncing on this, and everything else.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and to Jon’s point, I think Republicans really do see an opening here. They know that his approval ratings have dropped when it comes to his handling of the pandemic and they’re seizing on this opportunity, bringing up some of the past comments that President Biden has said.
Look, on July 4th, he said we were closer than ever to declaring independence from the virus and we had the upper hand. We saw the guidance come back for indoor masking, and in a few weeks, then we saw his vaccine requirements get rolled out when it comes to the federal government workers as well as private businesses.
At this point, you have both sides accusing one another of playing politics when it comes to the virus. We know the virus does not discriminate along party lines, but the bottom line here is that we know Republicans at this point are less likely to be vaccinated.
And that is the challenge that’s going to be for President Biden. He came in and he said, he would be the president that will be able to get this under control. And at this point, you still have a lot of Republicans — polls show — a lot of Republicans are still questioning whether even doctors and scientists are biased when it comes to their judgments on this virus.
RADDATZ: And, Vivian, I — one of the reasons they didn’t do this booster for everybody is because there was concern they had been facing significant pushback after giving boosters to the general public, and why not take it overseas? I know you cover overseas all the time and national security, but — but that’s a real concern. Why shouldn’t America give away these extra doses to those who are needing it?
VIVIAN SALAMA, WALL STREET JOURNAL NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, first of all, we want to see that everybody in the United States has access to these vaccines. And while there have been — there has been a lot of progress in recent months with regard to the vaccines, there are certain communities that have — that want access to it and haven’t been able to access it. Lower income communities especially. A lot of minority communities that still need to get it.
So there’s that factor on top of the fact that you also have disparities between political — on political — on political lines, and the — the bottom line is the White House has determined that it wants to see everybody in the United States kind of get those numbers up and get more people vaccinated in the first round before it starts dispersing elsewhere.
And, of course, that comes with a lot of problems because you have travel restrictions that come with regard to, you know, giving those vaccines away. The more that we can kind of get the world vaccinated, the more you’re going to have freedom of movement again and kind of things going back to normal.
And so there’s an economic component to that as well when you close the borders and you can’t get people in and out of the U.S. Economically, there are setbacks as well. And so it’s a double-edged sword with regard to trying to get people vaccinated in the U.S. and saving those vaccines for people, but also limiting their exposure to the rest of the world, which comes with its own set of setbacks and —
RADDATZ: And — and, Evan, I really want to drill down on the divide in the country. Biden continues to face backlash over vaccine mandates, over mask mandates. Your new book, “Wildland,” examines the division and anger in the country. Tie it into this.
EVAN OSNOS, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER & AUTHOR, ‘WILDLAND: THE MAKING OF AMERICA’S FURY’: Well, we’ve seen over the course of the last seven or eight months that the vaccine has become part of our political tribalism. You know, it’s easy to forget, this didn’t exist as an issue a year ago, and now it has become one of the central defining features by which people put them in one tribe or the other.
One of the things to remember here though is that the fact is that we are now at a point when they are drawing clearer lines. The White House is bolder and bolder about saying, look, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And the setback this week makes it harder to be able to say, look, you are going to lose out on things if you don’t participate in it. The message you’re going to hear over the next few weeks is, join the vaccine, your life will get better and you’ll be able to have more of a normal life.
RADDATZ: And we just have to make people listen to that.
OSNOS: That’s the hard part, right?
RADDATZ: OK, thanks to all of you.
The roundtable will be back later.
And, coming up, bombshell new revelations about Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley’s efforts to avert armed conflict in the waning months of the Trump administration. Admiral Mike Mullen weighs in next.
We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL KENNETH F. MCKENZIE JR., COMMANDER OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike. It is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to U.S. forces.
This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake, and I offer my sincere apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That stunning admission from the Pentagon that a drone strike in Kabul amid the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan killed 10 civilians with no connection to ISIS-K.
It comes with the Pentagon already reeling from the revelation that Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley privately conferred with his Chinese counterpart to avert conflict in the final months of the Trump administration.
Joining me now here in Washington is one of Milley’s predecessors, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen.
It’s great to have you here this morning, Admiral Mullen.
I want to start with that drone strike, taken in what they called the earnest belief there was going to be an imminent attack. How can such a huge mistake happen?
MULLEN: Tragic, tragic mistake, and just my heart goes out to those family members that were so deeply affected. And I thought — I thought what General McKenzie did was right, admit the mistake and apologize. And look — and he also spoke later of possible reparations. And, in fact, in the end, Secretary Austin has also committed to a review that hopefully will look at accountability for this.
RADDATZ: And should there be accountability for this?
MULLEN: Absolutely, I think there should. This was obviously an incredibly complex, fast-moving situation. We’d lost those 13 military members a couple days before that. There was clear intelligence that were — additional strikes were on the way, so it was in that environment in which this strike actually took place, as — as sad as it was.
And it was almost like you had an individual, you know, in a truck who was loading water. It turned out — you know, big water bottles, all of which, sort of, fit it, and it’s almost as if we — we just got caught up in the specifics of it and stayed with it no matter what.
RADDATZ: It’s almost like I remember an intelligence officer telling me, “You’ve got to be really careful. If you’re deer hunting, everything looks like a deer.”
MULLEN: Yeah. And I think there’s — there’s truth in that, certainly, in that comparison. It’s — it was a tragic mistake. I think the Pentagon rightfully admitted that it was a mistake, and then we’ll see going forward.
RADDATZ: And I just want to say, the timing of this — the strike was August 29th. The New York Times had an incredibly compelling piece, gathering surveillance from the ground. Obviously, they didn’t have that on the day of the strike. That was a week ago, more than a week ago, and yet it took five days more for the Pentagon to say, “This was a huge mistake.”
Wouldn’t they, even in the aftermath, have seen all those children run out?
MULLEN: Well, I think you’re going to want to try to get this right. Clearly they were convinced at the time it was a good strike, and it takes — it takes some time to do that. And this is the same command that’s been evacuating Afghanistan and — and all that that entails. So I’m not overly concerned about how long it took.
RADDATZ: What — what does it say about our ability to conduct over the horizon counterterrorism?
MULLEN: Well, we’ve done this for years. I think they have to be — it has to be a situation where you focus on it for an extended period of time. You validate the intelligence.
We’ve had drone strikes that were very effective over many years and didn’t kill any civilians, and we’ve also had drone strikes which did. I think it’s just a — a marker that says we need to focus on that in the future and make sure we have it right as best we can.
The over the horizon capability is really there. Doing it in an extremely quick, confused, chaotic environment made this one that much more difficult and problematic.
RADDATZ: I — I want to turn to Chairman Milley. You’ve seen the stories about General Milley’s comments that he made in the book “Peril” to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, the chairman quoted as saying he reassured China during those last tumultuous months that we weren’t going to strike. He says, “This is routine.”
Is it routine? What’s your reaction?
MULLEN: Having — having communications with counterparts around the world is routine, and even having them now with China. There was a time when we had no communications with China, or we’d have a problem with China, they’d cut off all mil-to-mil connections. And so, actually, I’m encouraged at the fact that the line of communication is there.
And this was routine. I think it was also overseen, certainly listened to by many other in the interagency process. So, Milley wasn’t out there by himself.
RADDATZ: Even something like, as — as quoted in the book — and I know — know you don’t know this exactly — something like: “We’re not going to strike. Don’t worry. I will call you”?
MULLEN: Yes, well, I’m hopeful that actually — that part of it isn’t true, per se.
But, at the same time, having the conversation is really critical. What’s a little bit alarming to me, though, is that the Chinese would read the situation, as they did, as really chaotic and as if we were going to possibly strike.
It’s very clear — and I don’t know this because I haven’t talked to Chairman Milley. It’s very clear he had good intel that this was the case. But the misread by China is also worrisome. And it speaks to the need to have these open communications, so that we don’t miscalculate.
RADDATZ: And there was also something in the book about the nuclear — possible nuclear strikes, and Chairman Milley going around and saying: Look, make sure you call me.
MULLEN: To me, as I understand it, the — Milley went to the National Military Command Center, and he just looked the watches in — the watch standers in the eye and said: If this is going to happen, make sure you get a hold of me.
And it’s fairly routine that you would look everybody in the eye and say, “Do you get that?” particularly for something this serious. Do you understand that? I didn’t consider that abnormal at all.
RADDATZ: There’s a part in the book also that Chairman Milley just thought Donald Trump was having a diminished mental capability.
What should a chairman do?
MULLEN: Well, I think that — that makes it that much more difficult if that’s the case.
I don’t know that any chairman — since 1986, when Goldwater-Nichols created the responsibility of the chairman specifically in law, I don’t know if anybody’s been in a more difficult situation than Mark Milley. And I don’t know the specifics of it, per se.
But, certainly, that kind of situation, as it’s depicted, would make it that much more difficult. And you’re on this line between the Constitution and serving the president. And I sense he was there quite a bit. And I know him well enough to know that he would really try to do the best thing for our country. And I think he did that.
RADDATZ: And, just quickly, the submarine, that we have now said we will provide nuclear submarines to Australia or the technology to do that, and France pulled its ambassadors.
MULLEN: Yes, it’s a big deal.
I mean, to see the Australians, the U.S. and U.K. come together for that technology, and it’s going to give that part of the world and Australia significant sustaining capability in undersea warfare that they don’t have, and I think, I hope, strengthens the security environment in that part of the world.
But it is a big, big change. And I’m very much in favor of what’s happened.
RADDATZ: We have about 10 seconds, but Afghanistan, the withdrawal, should there be accountability?
MULLEN: I also think there should be accountability there as well. And I hope that there is.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks so much for joining us this morning. Always great to see you.
Up next, the roundtable returns.
And, later, an in-depth look at the FBI’s stunning failures in the case of those Olympic gymnasts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Right now as we’re speaking, there are 10,503 people under that bridge. It’s a political decision that Joe Biden could end tonight by simply following the law and saying, we’re going to send people back to Haiti.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, DHS SECRETARY: A fair, orderly and humane system is how we addressed the situation, but frankly feel that individuals can be returned to that country at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: A surge of Haitian migrants crossed the southern border into Texas this week, posing another challenge to the Biden administration’s immigration policy.
And the roundtable is back.
And we’ll get to that in a minute.
But, Rachel, I want to start with you. You were on the Hill yesterday. That so-called “Justice for January 6th” rally, they said maybe 700 would show. It pretty much fizzled.
SCOTT: Yeah, it was pretty much fizzled out there. Luckily, it remained mostly peaceful. At one point, at the beginning of the rally, I think there was more police than there actually were demonstrators.
You know, the former president weighed in, you know, just right before that rally saying that those who were behind bars, the jailed rioters are being persecuted so unfairly. You know, I do think it’s important to note here that many of those that are still behind bars prosecutors say posed a significant risk to public safety.
But even after January 6th, I think in a lot of ways this is a party that has grown a lot closer to Trump. We saw what happened with Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who Jon interviewed, being ousted from party leadership. And then this week we saw with what happened with Congressman Anthony Gonzalez saying that he’s not going to run for re-election in the midterms, noting the toxic political environment at the moment. Former President Donald Trump said, you know, obviously recognizing that he was one of 10 that voted to impeach him in the House. You know, one down, nine more to go.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: And — and — and, Vivian, to — when you saw that yesterday, we did see Donald Trump trying to fan the flames. He didn’t say go to the rally, do this or anything. But — but that didn’t really turn out for him yesterday.
VIVIAN SALAMA, WALL STREET JOURNAL NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: No, and it really raises questions about whether his influence is waning. Obviously, he had a base that are — that contained a lot of diehard supporters of his, but after January 6th and sort of the months that followed, there’s — there’s been a waning support. There are still people who are diehard. They’re willing to go out there and show their support for President Trump or the causes that he supports. And we see that kind of manifesting itself in state politics all over with COVID and other issues.
But, at the end of the day, whether or not they’re going to be willing to storm the Capitol or not and go to that extent for the former president, we just didn’t see that. And it’s really indicative of sort of where we stand as a country eight or nine months into the Biden administration where the country has sort of moved on. We saw a lot of violent images on January 6th. And so a lot of people wanted to step back and send — disassociate themselves. Even some people who were at the rally yesterday saying they were at the January 6th protests but they believed that those were bad apples who went and stormed the Capitol and they wanted to disassociate themselves.
And so you’re starting to see a little bit of a schism even in that base that once upon a time was just all in for President Trump.
RADDATZ: And — and, Evan, you’ve been working on your excellent book “Wildland” about the division in America for many years, but January 6th sort of anchors the book in the end. How –how did you see it, after all the work you have done on this, after all you have seen?
EVAN OSNOS, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER & AUTHOR, ‘WILDLAND: THE MAKING OF AMERICA’S FURY’: You know, it’s strange to say it, Martha, I was standing there at the Capitol covering the events of January 6th for “The New Yorker,” and I had this feeling it was at once shocking and almost it felt inevitable. It was like the confluence of these factors, political, economic, matters of racial justice, that had all been coming together over the course of these years I’ve been thinking and writing about this. And, frankly, I started working on this book before Donald Trump was president. And I often thought to myself, I still would have written it even if Donald Trump hadn’t become president because the forces that divide us are still raging today. And we have to contend with them if we’re going to try to prevent this kind of fury again.
RADDATZ: And — and how does —
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: I —
RADDATZ: Go ahead, Jon.
KARL: I mean, and I’m not sure his influence is waning in the way — I’m not sure that the — that the rally is any indicator of that. He did tell people it was a trap, don’t go. I don’t think that’s a factor.
But — but — but Trump also called them protesters. And — and I can tell you, Martha, from my interviews for Trump for — for my book that’s going to be coming out, I was absolutely dumbfounded at how fondly he looks back on January 6th. He thinks it was a great day. He thinks it was one of the greatest days of his time in politics.
Now, he doesn’t necessarily say that because of the storming of the Capitol. He has this sense that this was like, you know, the — the biggest crowd he’d ever seen. But — but, look, he — he sees that incredibly fondly, and his hold on the Republican Party has been far more resilient than I thought it would be, frankly.
RADDATZ: And — and, Rachel, I want you to pick up on that, the hold on the Republican Party.
SCOTT: Yes, it’s tremendous, as — as Jon notes, in a lot of ways. Again, they’ve moved a lot closer to former President Donald Trump since January 6th. And there’s this — been this attempt to try and rewrite history, rewrite what happened. Even being out there yesterday, talking to the demonstrators that gathered, who told me there was no violence on January 6th. Martha, we were both there. We know what we saw. We saw a mob storming the United States Capitol. They chanted to hang the vice president.
And so the president, the former president now, trying to — in an attempt to whitewash what happened that day, obviously, as he’s potentially eyeing possibly running again. But, still, this is a party that, in a lot of ways has grown a lot closer to former President Donald Trump.
RADDATZ: And — and, Evan, I want to go back to you on this.
So what does Joe Biden do about this? And — and what he has done so far hasn’t really worked.
OSNOS: Yes. Well, and one of the things you’ll hear him doing, frankly, is redefining what unity means. You know, he came into office talking about way of unity and sort of appealing to this idea that we might find our way back together again. The blunt reality is, that’s not happening. And so you hear him being much clearer about the fact that there are people who are choosing to get on with it, get the vaccine, get back into the economy, stop, you know, protesting about an election that they lost, and he’s being blunt about it.
And so, in a sense, he is acknowledging that we may not ever achieve unity, but as he says, you have unity is among the 75 percent American adults who want to get the vaccine. That’s a kind of unity. It’s one that should be celebrated even if it doesn’t encompass everybody.
RADDATZ: And, Vivian, I want to move onto General Milley, Chairman Milley.
You heard what Admiral Mullen said about that, and it’s — they’ve all said it’s routine. But how does this really look for him?
SALAMA: It’s pretty significant to confide in a top adversary like China about a situation that’s going on domestically, as General Milley reportedly did. But it really shows, sort of, where we were as a country at that time, in this period that we’re talking about, where there was so much chaos domestically here that our top general had to, kind of, express that and explain that to our top adversary.
There’s a line in the book where he says, “Democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” Reportedly, General Milley said that to General Li.
And he was really, kind of, confessing something that was truly felt by some of the top officials in January and even in the lead-up to the January 6th riots, in terms of just what was taking place here in the country.
And so for him to go out on a limb a way, it shows that there was diminishing faith in the president of the United States, the commander in chief, to be able to make a good call that would essentially try to avoid armed conflict with China, which would be catastrophic.
And so it really shows where we were, that we could have been possibly on the brink of a very, very dangerous conflict.
RADDATZ: And, Jon, I want to turn to you on — on immigration. We saw those images. We saw the dueling — the dueling sound there. More than 10,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, have — are sitting under a bridge. Apparently, there are going to be flights out today.
How much does this complicate any immigration policy? What does Joe Biden do with that?
KARL: Well, first of all, they’re obviously fleeing a humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti. That’s why you see this immediate — that’s why you see, you know, 10,000 people under that bridge.
But this is a — this is a problem on the border that — that Biden has not addressed. And Biden, in his early comments after becoming president, said, you know, predicted that the flow of immigrants across the southern border would go down as the weather changed, which is the typical pattern. It gets really hot. It gets dangerous to be out there, and you see the — the pattern is that fewer people are coming down.
But we are seeing record numbers at the border before we saw the crisis under that — under that bridge. And Biden has not — does not have a plan yet to deal with it.
RADDATZ: And, Rachel, how is this going over on the Hill?
SCOTT: I think Democrats and Republicans look at what’s going on at the border and they see it as an issue. I think there’s a willingness from both sides to do something about it, but obviously, per usual politics, they can’t come to terms on what exactly to do there.
You know, Senator Dick Durbin noted to a couple reporters just last week that it’s been 36 years since comprehensive immigration reform was passed on Capitol Hill.
So there’s a willingness to get something done. You know, I think that Democrats are now trying to push a pathway for citizenship for dreamers in this reconciliation package, while I’ve talked to Republicans on the hill who say, “If they do that, that’s going to take any hope for comprehensive immigration reform,” because, first, they want to address what we’re seeing down at the border and they want to address border security.
RADDATZ: OK. And, Evan, I want to — I want to end on this. We have about 40 seconds. That nuclear-powered submarine deal…
OSNOS: Um-hmm, yeah.
RADDATZ: … has really created some chaos. Not every day the French ambassador leaves the country.
Admiral Mullen obviously said it was pretty serious stuff. But — but where did this go wrong?
OSNOS: Well, in a sense, this is, I think, a sign of just how tense the U.S.-China relationship has become. You now have a place like Australia, which, after all, has said for years they don’t want to have to choose sides. This was a choosing of the sides. And part of this is because China has been stepping up its confrontation with other countries and we’re beginning to see some of the reaction.
There’s going to be a lot of work to be done in the U.S.-French relationship. But the long-range consequences here have much more to do about China, Australia, and the future of the Pacific.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much to all of you. Always great to see all of you on a Sunday morning.
Just ahead, Pierre Thomas and Christine Brennan tackle all the fallout after emotional testimony from four USA gymnasts about the botched investigation into sexual abuse allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILES: To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar. And I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.
MARONEY: If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know, who are they trying to protect?
ALY RAISMAN, NASSAR ACCUSER: It disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: This searing testimony from U.S. gymnasts pushing for accountability after failures at the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee enabled years of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar.
So, where does the investigation go from here?
Joining us for their analysis, our chief justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas, and “USA Today” sports columnist Christine Brennan.
Good morning to you both.
Christine, you have covered this extensively from the beginning. But to have these young women, these elite athletes, before Congress telling this story, how they were ignored by the FBI, was infuriating.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, “USA TODAY”: They are American heroes. They will always be American heroes.
And their story is so important, even though much of this has been known. We have been talking about this, hearing from them, and hearing about the absolute failure of the adults to help these young athletes who all, by the way, young women, but also winning Olympic gold medals for the United States, the nation cheering for them, we have been talking about this since 2015 or 2016, and full blown 2017, ’18.
And I think many people remember the victim impact statements in January of 2018 in that Lansing courtroom, Martha. And here we are again.
The reminder is essential. They — as I said, they are national treasures. Thank goodness for them. But the suffering for them, when they tell the story over and over again, how many more times do we have to hear this story before people listen and the adults realize what they have to do to protect kids?
RADDATZ: But what we heard about so much was the colossal failure of the FBI, Pierre.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, this is perhaps the most confounding, baffling, shocking case of individual failure by the FBI that I can recall covering.
These women are heroes. What they did was public service. It’s one thing to have 100-page-plus report by the inspector general laying out what the FBI did or didn’t do, it’s another thing to hear from the women.
And let me be clear about what happened here. The FBI received allegations that these women were being molested. They dragged their feet for weeks, interviewed only one of the three women they got the information about. Then proceeded not to open a formal investigation, not to even document the case, and most importantly, they did not contact any of the authorities in the locations where Mr. Nassar was working, meaning that 70 more women at least were attacked and molested.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: So Christine, where does this go from here? I know they called for an independent investigation, but what happens now?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: There have been investigations. Maybe more. I think that would be warranted.
I wonder if we shouldn’t be looking at these women, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols and so many others, as people that we can look to as a nation, not just sports. Is it time for ombudspeople? If they are up to it, and that’s the key question because it’s so difficult for them to tell the story and the strain on them. They’re spent after they talked.
But can we use them? There is Safe Sport. They are catching some of the bad guys now. That has changed.
Coaches are mandatory reporters in the way they weren’t before. There have been some positive changes. But more needs to be done, and I think these women are the key — if they want to be — to a successful national push to try to deal with this, not just in sports, Martha, and the Olympics, but through our American society.
RADDATZ: And, Pierre, what happens now with the FBI? I mean, one agent was fired, but who’s held accountable? We had Chris Wray apologizing, but — but what happens next?
THOMAS: Well, there’s a lot of pressure to examine the actions of the agent that is accused of falsifying a document to investigate further or to do more, prosecute the agent who is accused of lying to the inspector general, agents who were investigating the case. But the main thing that we saw from the FBI is to say, this cannot happen ever again.
The scale of this kind of problem is mammoth. The FBI in the last five years has investigated over 18,000 cases of sexual predation, abuse and exploitation. So, they knew they have to say to the world, we will trust the word of victims.
RADDATZ: So Christine, what about the committees? What about the U.S. Olympic Committee? What does accountability look like beyond this hearing?
BRENNAN: There has been some change. The men at the top of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee are gone, replaced actually by women who are running the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
Safe Sport does exist and even though there’s a lot of controversy about Safe Sport, I’ve covered a lot of those sports, and dealt with figure skating sexual abuse, they are getting people — bad people, coaches out of the sport. They are doing that. That is happening.
I think with Safe Sport, if we really care as a nation about this, Pierre and Martha, and the nation cared, it was wall to wall coverage and front page of the newspaper, right? If we really care, then is it time to fund Safe Sport or another organization with millions and millions more dollars for hundreds more investigators? These are the kind of question I think this nation has to answer if we don’t want to continue to see the stories we saw this week.
RADDATZ: And we don’t want to see those stories anymore.
Thanks, both of you for joining us this morning.
Our special look at “America Strong” is next.
RADDATZ: All this month, ABC News is showcasing our country’s strength and resilience in a special series “America Strong.”
This morning, senior national correspondent Terry Moran travels to Cleveland, Ohio where the pandemic brought to light a glaring inequity and where unlikely heroes are still at work.
TERRY MORGAN, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tina and seventh grader Natalia McFadden reunited and in-person this school year, get to work on their latest project.
TINA KOVACH, TEACHER: When we were on quarantine and we couldn’t meet in person, what did you miss the most?
NATALIA MCFADDEN, 7TH GRADE STUDENT: When we 3-D printed stuff.
MORAN: Kovach runs a donor-funded robotics team at Tremont Montessori in Cleveland. These children face so many challenges. One hundred percent of the students in Cleveland Public Schools qualify as economically disadvantaged under state law. For Tina Kovach, herself a proud Cleveland native, giving these kids every opportunity is a personal mission.
KOVACH: When I was younger, school was everything. I grew up very poor. I didn’t have a lot of role models at home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the pandemic closed Cleveland’s schools, Kovach and Cleveland Metro School District’s CEO Eric Gordon faced an immense challenge, staying connected to the kids.
ERIC GORDON, CLEVELAND METROPOLITAN SCHOOL DISTRICT CEO: Thirty-seven thousand kids all sent home to the worst connected city in the country, the highest childhood poverty in the country. We don’t have the devices to send home. They don’t have the Internet to be connected to.
MORAN The problem, in large pockets of the city, everywhere highlighted in red on this map, fewer than 40 percent of residents in 2017 had access to high-speed Internet. Many of them were living in dead zones. Even if a resident has the means to pay for it here, big telecom companies never built the infrastructure to connect them because low income areas offered less profit potential. And one of the students living in a dead zone, Natalia McFadden.
MCFADDEN: So I would restart it and then it would start again. And then I would be able to get on sometimes.
MORAN: Stuck with an old laptop and slow Internet connection, online school proved to be a challenge.
EDNA WEST-MCFADDEN, MOTHER OF STUDENT: That was the most important thing, making sure that she was connected so that she can get her education.
MORAN: We learned Natalia wasn’t alone on the robotics team.
MORAN (on camera): How many of you had problems at the beginning connecting to reliable high speed Internet or just getting on a device at all? Who had problems? One, two, three, four, five. Five. We’re going to say everybody, right?
MORAN (voice over): So using pandemic funding, the school district bought nearly 57,000 devices for students and 23,000 hot spots, and teachers like Tina Kovach mobilized outreach and getting them out to students.
GORDON: One of the things that I love about Cleveland is that we are — we endure.
MORAN: And Eric Gordon found a new partner, the non-profit group DigitalC, located smack in the middle of the most unconnected part of Cleveland dedicated to closing the digital divide.
MORAN (on camera): But you saying right here in a great American city.
DOROTHY BAUNACH, DIGITALC CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Yes.
MORAN: Tens of thousands of people can’t get access.
BAUNACH: Yes. And all we need to do is tap into that pipe that’s under concrete —
MORAN: And get to these neighborhoods.
BAUNACH: And get to these neighborhoods north and south.
MORAN: You talk about it like it’s a civil rights issue.
BAUNACH: It is. It’s a civil rights and human rights issue.
MORAN (voice over): But the work isn’t over in Cleveland.
GORDON: I think what the pandemic did was make people, again, unable to look away at disparities. My job is to make sure that they don’t turn their head again.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to Terry.
That’s all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT,” and have a great day.
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