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This is a rush transcript of “Fox News Sunday” on April 17, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Mike Emanuel.
The president struggles to reboot his domestic agenda against the backdrop of midterms and war in Ukraine.
EMANUEL (voice-over): Inflation hits a 40-year high and the president’s poll numbers sink as consumers face higher prices for gas, groceries, and travel.
The White House blaming Russia for the surge.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin’s invasion in Ukraine has driven up gas price and food prices all over the world.
EMANUEL: And lawmakers travel to Europe, pressing the White House to do more for Ukraine as Putin pivots to the east.
We’ll ask House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about Ukraine, inflation, midterms, and Republicans’ chances to win back the House. It’s a “FOX News Sunday” exclusive.
Plus, as the COVID cases spike in half of U.S. states, the White House extends mask mandates for air travel. And the Texas governor sends busloads of migrants to Washington’s doorstep amid a backlash over plans to end COVID restrictions at the border.
We’ll talk to White House COVID response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, about changing COVID rules as well as vaccines for kids, boosters, and how to plan for travel.
Then, a DNC vote this week puts Iowa’s first in the nation status in doubt ahead of 2024. We’ll ask our Sunday panel what’s driving the push to change how Democrats pick their presidential nominee.
And, we’ll discuss the growing debate over power and free speech on Twitter.
ELON MUSK, TESLA CEO: I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech.
EMANUEL: All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday.”
EMANUEL: Hello again, and happy Easter from FOX News in Washington.
Another week of hopes dashed for a White House trying to bring its policy successes to the forefront as the war on Ukraine dominates headlines. The U.S. is sending millions of new security assistance as Russia presses the besieged city of Mariupol and prepares former clashes in the east.
At home, Americans continue to feel the affective rising prices and a rise in COVID cases is raising concerns about return of restrictions just as summer arrives. This as lawmakers gear up for bruising midterm battles.
In a moment, we will speak with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
But we begin in team coverage this morning, Matt Finn live in Ukraine, where we could see fighting intensify this week, but first to Lucas Tomlinson live at the White House — Lucas.
LUCAS TOMLINSON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mike, the White House announced it’s sending more weapons to Ukraine. President Biden says the economy also needs reinforcements.
BIDEN: We need to address these high prices, and urgently.
TOMLINSON (voice-over): President Biden traveling to North Carolina and Iowa this week as inflation surged to a new four-decade high, of 8.5 percent. The president’s approval rating sinking to an all-time low of 33 percent as he struggles to deliver on key agenda items like lowering the cost of college, child care, and prescription drugs.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know from the top of our government through the ranks, we all recognize that we have the capacity to do much better.
TOMLINSON: With gas prices soaring across the country, the White House announced it would reverse course and allow new oil and gas leases on federal land, after the president signed an executive action just days after taking office halting new drilling leases.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a court filing Friday, encounters with migrants on the southern border now the highest in more than 20 years. And next month, the Trump era public health measure that barred 1.7 million migrants from entering the country over the past two years will be repealed.
De donde es?
TOMLINSON: Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott made good on his promise to start sending migrants here to the nation’s capital on chartered buses.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR: The Biden administration and a lot of leaders in Congress have no idea about the chaos they have caused by their open border policy.
TOMLINSON (on camera): The expecting migrants surge this summer comes just months before the midterm elections — Mike.
EMANUEL: Lucas Tomlinson reporting from the White House — Lucas, thanks very much.
Now let’s turn to Matt Finn in Stradch, Ukraine, on the outskirts of Lviv – – Matt.
MATT FINN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Happy Easter, Mike.
We are in the western side of the country, just four Russian missiles were intercepted here yesterday and this morning, we are in front of this Greek Catholic Church that is taking in refugees from all over this country.
And in Ukraine right now, there is a growing sense of dread, because Russia has indicated it is going to increase the number of missile attacks in and around Kyiv and also Russian troops have pulled out of Kyiv and Western intelligence officials say that they are likely regrouping, expected to possibly renew attacks on Ukraine with an even greater force than what we’ve seen so far.
FOX News spoke one-on-one with the head of the military in the Donetsk region, he says Russian forces are expected to mount a surge in the east to take control of the Donbas region.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAVLO KRYLENKO, HEAD OF DONETSK MILITARY ADMINISTRATION: They are regrouping and enemies will be attacking the territories at the Donetsk and Luhansk regions from several directions in order to occupy the entire region. They are aiming at territories that are currently controlled by Ukrainian forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINN: And this week, Ukraine dealt a major blow to Russia by seeking one of Russia’s premier warships, the Moskva, with two missiles. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is also warning once again that the world must be worried about Russia’s nuclear threat.
Moscow has also formally warned the United States that we need to stop sending weapon systems here or there will be, quote, “unpredictable consequences”.
And at this Greek Catholic Church, one young woman, a refugee from Mariupol, told us her grandparent’s were murdered, she escaped that town and she was unable to recover her grandfather’s body because his apartment building was so badly damaged.
And also, Mike, during the services right now we can hear explosions in the distance. Ukrainian troops practicing, just a stunning reminder during these peaceful services that this country is at war — Mike.
EMANUEL: Matt Finn reporting from Ukraine — Matt, thank you and please be safe.
Joining us now is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Leader McCarthy, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday”.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Thank you, and happy Easter to all Americans.
EMANUEL: Happy Easter.
You’re just back from a trip to Europe and meeting refugees at the Polish- Ukrainian border. What did you take away from your time there?
MCCARTHY: Yeah, I just came back from a bipartisan trip to Poland, Romania, and to Brussels. Not only did we sit there and go to the border and down to the Black Sea, it’s extraordinary what these countries are doing.
Remember, these countries are doing all this humanitarian aid, taking millions of Ukrainians in into their homes, while at the same time they had increased their spending above 2 percent of GDP to protect their military and what’s going on.
But I would go and actually see our own troops there, the 82nd Airborne, that’s responsible for bringing the supplies in, down to the Black Sea the day before they shot at that Russian ship. It is a remarkable what is being done, but what I took away most from all of it is the fortitude of the Ukrainian people and the devastation of what is happening that Russia is doing, the targeting of children, of women.
This is going to get stronger and rougher, and what really needs to happen is Ukraine is not asking for American men and women to fight. All they’re asking for is the weapons to defend themselves. If we would have taken those actions earlier instead of waiting until after Russia invaded, they probably never would have invaded had we done that sooner.
EMANUEL: You said the president acted too slowly on Ukraine and say the U.S. should keep sending weapons. Just this week, the president announced $800 million more in military assistance. The United States has now sent $2.6 billion in security assistance, including shipment after shipment of weapons.
What more should the commander-in-chief be doing?
MCCARTHY: Well, I had this discussion with President Biden long before when he just would threaten sanctions after Putin entered. I believe Putin never worried about the sanctions. He only looks at could he be deterred from entering Ukraine.
Ukraine was craving the ability to defend themselves. Had we moved the weapons to Ukraine earlier, that they could defend themselves, it would have saved thousands of lives and probably the decision of Putin not to enter.
And then after Putin entered, we had President Biden tell us, well, the sanctions take a long time to work. And then the president denied Ukraine and denied Poland for providing MiGs to Ukraine to protect themselves on a flyover. All of that is a wrong action going forward.
But what we need to do is learn from here, provide the weapons to Ukraine, but also look to the future of what China is doing. Taiwan has been waiting more than a year for weapons they’ve already purchased to defend themselves.
MCCARTHY: Let democracies defend themselves. This is a lesson we should learn today.
EMANUEL: Last week, 63 House Republicans voted against a symbolic resolution of unequivocal support for NATO. Are your colleagues wrong on this one?
MCCARTHY: No, there’s a strong support for NATO moving forward. Always has been.
NATO is on the process of defending themselves but the one thing we need to make sure these NATO countries spend the money, more than 2 percent.
In Romania, they’re sending 2.5 percent.
MCCARTHY: There is a desire there because they see on the forefront, on their borders, what is happening.
We haven’t seen any atrocities like this before since World War II. And there’s no think — thought that Putin is going to stop here.
What has Putin done? He’s consolidated his troops. He’s brought in one of the most ruthless generals out of Syria with one of the worst reputations to start entering, to try to take over the Black Sea, to control Ukraine, their inability to provide food to the world as well.
This affects everybody. That’s why we should stand up for Ukraine and provide them the weapons to defend themselves or Putin cannot continue to do these atrocities.
EMANUEL: Let’s look ahead to midterms. The Quinnipiac poll this week has President Biden at 33 percent approval, only 76 percent of Democrats approve and only 26 percent of independents.
You’ve expressed confidence heading into midterms. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: We’re going to win the majority and it’s not going to be a five- seat majority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seems a little more cautious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I could just screw this up. It’s actually possible. And we’ve had some experience with that in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: Is there any chance Republicans are a little overconfident this year?
MCCARTHY: No, we’re not overconfident, but the one thing you have to look at, why is the president’s approval numbers are so low?
It’s the wasteful, irresponsible spending that has led to higher prices and inflation. It’s the irresponsible actions of this president along the border that has led to an immigration and the fentanyl crisis. It’s the irresponsible policies of this administration that has led to dangerous streets, ineffective schools, that has got to stop.
But it’s got to be more than just to criticize them. What Americans want, need, and deserve is a clear, common sense alternative.
And that’s what’s happening with the House Republicans. We will provide to the American public a commitment to America, one that could stop this runaway spending that causes in inflation. That we’re able to become energy independent, not dependent on Russia or any other country for our energy, and lower the price of fuel.
We will make our streets, our schools safe again. We will secure our border to stop this immigration crisis, but more important, to stop the fentanyl that is coming into America. We just found that fentanyl is now the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.
MCCARTHY: And it’s not because Americans are taking more drugs. They are actually taking less. It’s more dangerous of what’s coming across this border.
That’s the difference of why the president’s approval ratings are so low, and that’s why America will make a new course and Republicans will take the majority.
EMANUEL: Some suggest it can’t be a big red wave because of the way districts are drawn, the gerrymandering. Do you buy that?
MCCARTHY: There are fewer competitive districts because we’ve just gone through redistricting. So — and there’s fewer seats for Republicans to win. In the last election, there were 30 Democrats sitting in seats that Trump carried, only 13.
If you look at Virginia, Virginia for governor — the governor to win there and to turn the House, he had to win Democrats seats.
That’s why we need people to join with us. If you believe these irresponsible policies are wrong, you want a new direction, you want to hold visit administration accountable, I believe — join with us and we can hold this administration accountable and make the next century the American century.
EMANUEL: To the GOP agenda, you’ve said House Republicans will put out proposals this fall on key agenda items, fighting inflation, increasing domestic energy production and securing the southern border. But if you take the House back, you still have a Democrat in the White House.
How will you get to actual consensus and get bills signed?
MCCARTHY: We’ll pass them out of the House, but I believe going through this current administration and these poor policies — remember what happened after 1994. We balanced the budget, we reformed welfare, and you did that with a Democrat in the White House after they had a rude awakening when the American public spoke very clearly that they wanted a new agenda and a new transformation.
The other thing that comes with a new majority is you’re able to hold this in administration accountable. We’re able to stand up to an attorney general who goes after parents and calls them terrorists if they want to go to a school board meeting. We’re able to actually find, why did we have 13 new Gold Star families based upon the peeling out of Americans out of Afghanistan?
We can look at the IRS releasing taxpayers’ filings.
MCCARTHY: Why is that going forward?
There are numerous places to hold this administration accountable.
We’ll finally get to the bottom of the origins of COVID. Why did it kill so many millions of people across this world? Where did it start? And make sure that never happens again.
EMANUEL: Some suggest with divided government — if we get divided government, that that’s an opportunity to actually get big things done. Do you think there is any opportunity out there to tackle a major issue like, say, the nation’s debt?
MCCARTHY: We have — not only can we, we should, and we will. This is one of the biggest problems.
Even look at Democrats — and this is why I believe it’s capable of doing. Steve Rattner, who was a counselor to the Treasury Department under Obama, he said the $1.9 trillion American bill that the Democrats passed is probably going to go down as one of the most extraordinary mistakes in policy.
We need to have sound fiscal policy, stop the irresponsible spending to curve inflation and make America in a stronger path. But it’s not just to balance the budget, you have to pay off the debt.
MCCARTHY: And the only way we’ll be able to do that is with fiscal responsibility, with Republicans in the majority.
EMANUEL: You say Republicans won’t try to impeach President Biden for political purposes, only if he breaks a law. But at least a dozen House Republicans signed on to impeachment resolutions over his handling of the southern border.
Congressman Bob Good says, quote: How can we not impeach this president for his purposeful violation of his Article 4, Section 4 constitutional responsibility to protect the states from invasion.
What you’re telling them about their resolution?
MCCARTHY: Well, there’s — it’s very clear, they believe in the rule of law as well. We’re not playing political games about some phone call what somebody thought are made up Russia collusion. What we’re looking at is real policies about that’s harming America.
Today, you have an administration that tells every American flying, they have to continue to wear a mask. But now he looks at the border and raises Title 42.
And to your viewers, what that means is if a border agent finds somebody coming across the border illegally, they send it back to their country. He wants to lift that in a time that we have COVID as well. That’s irresponsible in his policies moving forward.
But we will always go to the rule of law and wherever it rises, we will hold him accountable to that.
But we have tried to make sure that he does not lift Title 42. We have a number of Democrats, but we have a discharge petition that only needs a couple, a handful of Democrats to sign and it can pass the floor.
This is what we need to make sure to protect not just our border from the illegal immigration crossing and this crisis, but this is where the fentanyl is coming in, from China and others.
Plus, we are catching people on the terrorist watch list —
MCCARTHY: — from Yemen and other countries coming into our nation. We want to make sure we’re safe.
You know, it’s a simple principle. If Americans do not feel safe, nothing else matters. And that’s really becoming in doubt.
But the question for the next election will be, can we afford it? Can we afford these Democratic policies not just on the border, when it comes to inflation, when it comes to crime, when it comes to gasoline, when it comes to foreign policy?
In a short time frame they’ve had one party control, we have inflation higher than we had in 40 years. We have gasoline prices higher than we’ve ever had before. The disrespect around the world based upon this president’s actions and lack thereof on foreign policy. We have children on streets and neighborhoods that feel unsafe anymore.
That has got to stop, and the only way we can do that is going to the polls, firing Pelosi, and sending a really clear message.
EMANUEL: There are some high-profile moderates deciding not to run for reelection. I want to read a quote this week from Congressman Don Bacon about that. He said, quote: We can’t have this mindset of burn the house down. We got to be a governing party when we’re in the majority.
What is the mindset if Republicans take over?
MCCARTHY: Well, if you look at who is retiring in Congress, there’s 31 Democrats retiring.
MCCARTHY: That’s the highest number since 1992. There’s a reason why, because they are not even agreeing with their own policies.
What we find in the Republicans, that we will have a very clear common sense alternative that will secure the border, make us energy independent, give a sound fiscal policy to stop runaway inflation —
MCCARTHY: — to have — to have parents have a say in our kids’ education.
I think that is common sense. That’s united. And it’s not just the conference that’s united. I believe America is united when you look at the polls from independents, Democrats, and Republicans alike. They want a new direction.
EMANUEL: To your future — if Republicans take back the House, are you going to be House speaker?
MCCARTHY: Look, that’s an opportunity, but first and foremost responsibility is to take that House back. But we’ll be prepared to govern.
EMANUEL: You weighed recently about this during a House GOP retreat. “The Wall Street Journal” reports you said you wanted to move quickly to lay out a clear agenda in order to tamp down divisions.
But you also said, quote: It’s Republican nature that they want to take on their leaders. It’s just what they do.
Do you see any legitimate challenges to your leadership status?
MCCARTHY: At this time, no. I’ve never seen our party more united. We’re not focused on individuals. We’re focused on the country first and the policies.
We’ve never seen ourselves in this position with so many challenges out there in America since the late ’70s, and we watched it time and time again. With the right policies, with the country united together, with our conference united, we can tackle any problems out there.
Our problems are too big to fight among ourselves and think so small. And that’s exactly what we’re doing — putting this country first to solve our problems.
EMANUEL: Leader McCarthy, thank you. Thanks for taking time on this Easter Sunday to speak with us.
MCCARTHY: Thank you, and happy Easter to all.
EMANUEL: Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group on both parties’ prospects in midterms and on the new DNC plan that could upend the 2024 primary calendar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: So far, I’m optimistic that in the places they’re going to determine who the next majority leader is, we’re going to have fully electable nominees. Having a fully electable nominee is critical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell emphasizing and reemphasizing his call for Republican primary voters to choose candidates who can win general elections in fall’s midterms.
And it’s time now for our Sunday group. Catherine Lucey of “The Wall Street Journal”, FOX News contributor Ben Domenech, Mo Elleithee of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Services, and “National Journal” political commentary Josh Kraushaar.
Welcome, all of you.
Catherine, Leader McConnell sounds optimistic but also sounds like he’s concerned that they don’t mess up. What you make of his calculations?
CATHERINE LUCEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, he’s trying to walk a line here, right? He was really clear that he thinks this is a good environment for Republicans, the best in many, many cycles, and you saw Speaker McCarthy just talking about that. They think they have a strong message. They think this is a good moment for them.
But he is really sounding a warning though about electability and saying that they need to, you know, nominate candidates that can win in general elections, and if you put up candidates who are unfit, unacceptable to a big group, that’s a problem. And you’ve seen that in past cycles. You know, an example of people like Todd Akin or other candidates like that that the GOP had issues with.
So I think that’s the question and that’s the thing he’s trying to draw attention to. There are certainly some people we could talk about up there we can talk about. Eric Greitens in Missouri, whose ex-wife has accused him of abuse. You know, he’s denying that and moving forward, but there are some candidates out there that people are anxious about.
EMANUEL: Former President Trump, Josh, is trying to play a role, basically trying to support his preferred candidates, attacked those he opposes. His super PAC reportedly transferred a half million dollars to David Perdue’s run for governor and the former president delivered an anti-endorsement in Pennsylvania.
How essential is the former president’s support in these races?
JOSH KRAUSHAAR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: He is adding a lot of volatility to an otherwise very promising environment for Republicans. The former president endorsed Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania and ticked off a lot of his own supporters in this state because they are not sure if Dr. Oz is as conservative as the real MAGA candidate in that race.
He just endorsed JD Vance in this very important Ohio Senate race. And that’s what Mitch McConnell is talking about.
He knows full well that the political environment is very strong for Republicans, but he also remembers that when Republicans don’t nominate strong candidates, when they have divisions within the party, it can cost them otherwise winnable races, and that’s what’s keeping Mitch McConnell up before these midterm elections.
EMANUEL: Ben, he made reference to battleground Ohio, former President Trump made an endorsement of JD Vance while Republicans ask him to stay out of it. Is he trying to play kingmaker?
BEN DOMENECH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: He definitely is trying to play kingmaker and there is some risk associated with that. I mean, Josh mentioned Dr. Oz but I think one of the other situations that you have here, is just kind of this question of in competitive situations such as Ohio, where you have a variety of candidates who can go with, picking Vance, especially someone who has been in the past very critical of Donald Trump, which he made reference to any endorsement is — has an association with risk that you don’t normally see a former president, you know, weighed into in these ways.
If at the end of the day you have a number of these candidates lose, what does that tell us about Donald Trump’s strength within the coalition of the right going forward, particularly in a situation and cycle where you’re going to have a lot of people end up winning and really changeup the conference in ways that, you know, may not make it a more Mitch McConnell- esque party and may become a more Trumpian party just by the dint of the people who were running this time.
EMANUEL: Mo, to battleground Nevada, you’ve got incumbent Democratic Senator Cortez Masto showing some vulnerability this week. Governor Steve Sisolak also facing some challenges.
How are Democrats planning to gain momentum?
MO ELLEITHEE, GEORGETOWN INSITUTTE OF POLITICS & PUBLIC SERVICE: Look, I think Democrats — I mean, I think what we are seeing across the country is just this shaping up to be another close election. We may see a wave, but it’s going to be on the back of a lot of super close elections, and I think that’s a reflection of just how polarized we are.
But on this point that we’ve been discussing with how the Republican primaries are going to play out, one thing I think we have learned is that Donald Trump’s popularity or unpopularity is not transferable down ballot unless Republicans make it so, unless Republicans are talking about him.
If Democrats are just talking about Donald Trump heading into the fall, that’s not going to be a good thing for them. But if Republicans are talking about Donald Trump and Donald Trump is coming into these states, if he’s going into Nevada, if he’s going into Ohio and getting bear hugs from the Senate candidates there, that’s what Mitch McConnell is worried about. That’s what he’s referencing there, and that keeps the Senate very much in play for Democrats.
EMANUEL: Catherine, the current elected officials on Capitol Hill are back home in their districts this week for the Easter recess. What are they hearing from their constituents?
LUCEY: I mean, I think (INAUDIBLE) show I think one really — the biggest thing on the minds of pretty much everyone across the country, and we see this in polling and this is a big concern on the Hill and the White House, inflation and prices. Americans are concerned about gas prices, they are concerned about grocery prices, and we really see this in all of the interviews we’re doing and polling we’re doing and people we’re talking to, that this is something that people are feeling every single day, they feel it at the — at the pump, they feel it at the grocery store when they’re buying milk and it’s really sort of seeping into everything.
So, I think — and you heard that in your previous interview, that this is something that everyone is talking about trying to do something about. And so that remains the defining issue right now, is price increases.
EMANUEL: Moe, the DNC made a big move this week, with huge applications for how Democrats select their presidential nominee. Have been going to Iowa since ’96 and they are proud to be first. Why did the Democrats vote to change the order?
ELLEITHEE: Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m on the DNC Rules Committee and was one of the people that voted for this resolution to open the process up. The DNC rules and bylaws committee with the resolution, with the plan they passed this week, sent a message that — that they wanted the states in the early window to reflect the diversity of the Democratic Party, they wanted them to be as inclusive as possible. They wanted them to demonstrate a level of competence in how they run elections.
ELLEITHEE: And they want as many general election battleground state voters to be part of that process.
So, states haven’t been selected yet, but a message was sent with this resolution that the status quo isn’t necessarily going to carry over, and let’s let new states into the process make their case and, in a couple of months, I think you’ll see there’s a chance you may see a different looking calendar on the Democrat side.
EMANUEL: Iowan love that first in the nation status, though. Do you worry about a backlash?
ELLEITHEE: Look, there’s — there are a lot of states out there that can give what Iowa gives, that can give rural voters, that can give — you know, there’s still going to be geographic diversity, there’s still going to be demographic diversity, there’s still going to be a lot of different things, but maybe we can get a primary state in there instead of a caucus state. Maybe we can get a different state that’s got rural and urban voters together in there. It’s not predetermined, but the notion that Iowa is the only one that can offer this, I think is a little — and this is my personal opinion — I think a little misguided.
EMANUEL: Josh, President Biden visited Iowa, North Carolina. Is he sending a message to potential primary challengers?
KRAUSHAAR: Well, look, he is. And Iowa’s such an important state. It was a state that President Obama campaigned in. It propelled his presidential campaign in 2008.
KRAUSHAAR: And the fact that President Biden was in Iowa, I think, speaks to the need for this White House to win over at least some rural voters. This has been a big problem for the Democratic Party in that they have just lost so many of these rural voters that once voted in large numbers, or at least in competitive numbers for Democrats, and they have not been competitive in recent elections. And that’s a challenge not just for President Biden, but for the Democratic Party going forward.
EMANUEL: Ben, Republican’s voted to keep Iowa first. What about that?
DOMENECH: I think that they are — you’re seeing a situation now where Democrats are responding to the bungled approach, frankly, that happened in Iowa last time around. They’re doing so for a lot of justifiable reasons. But I think that Republicans want to lean into a lot of those former Democratic voters who they believe are now part of their coalition going forward and they want to keep it that way.
EMANUEL: All right, thanks, panel.
We have to take a break here.
Up next, the United States extends Covid emergency authorities as Covid casas spike again. We’ll bring in White House Covid response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, for a conversation about mask mandates, travel, and those lockdowns in China.
EMANUEL: Right now as millions of Americans are making their summer travel plans, the United States is once again seeing an uptick in Covid cases. This comes as the U.S. is extending mask mandates for travel but also preparing to end some Covid restrictions at the southern border.
Joining us now, White House Covid Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.
Doctor, welcome back to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Good morning, Mike, thanks for having me back.
EMANUEL: Let’s start with a broad look at Covid nationally. The BA.2 variant is now dominant and cases are up in about half of states, but hospitalizations are low and the vast majority of Americans live in low risk areas.
How concerned should the average American feel?
JHA: Yes, Mike, it’s a really good question. If you look across the country, infection numbers are still low by historical averages. And hospitalizations, as you said, are at the lowest level of the pandemic. So that’s the good news.
BA.2 is causing an increase in cases. We’re going to want to watch that carefully, see if it translates into severe disease. At this point it’s much more about paying close attention, seeing what happens, and that’s what we’re doing right now.
EMANUEL: OK. Now a bit of a lightning round.
First, Philadelphia just brought back its indoor mask mandate. Do you expect more cities to do the same?
JHA: Yes, I’ve always said for two years, Mike, that these are decisions that should be made at the local level. The CDC has guidance for what local communities should do, but local communities are going to make these decisions. Some may choose to go down this road, others won’t. I think that’s exactly where these decisions should be made.
EMANUEL: CDC scientists just defended the federal travel mask mandate another 15 days, saying they want more time to gauge the current rising cases. Will 15 days’ worth of data make that big of a difference?
JHA: I — you know, I’m counting on their assessment of this, and they say it will. They say that 15 more days will give us a much better sense of whether these cases are leading to severe disease, hospitalizations, and death. And I think 15 days is a pretty reasonable amount of time to collect more data and make a more durable decision.
EMANUEL: Meanwhile, the CDC is ending some Covid restrictions at our southern border, yet the White House has extended the Covid public health emergency authorities for another 90 days. Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona says the extension proves we still need the border restrictions. Is the White House having this both ways?
JHA: No. Look, the bottom line is, the CDC, again, the scientists, look at the data. And if you look across the country, as I said, infections are still at a relatively historic low. Hospitalizations are very low. And the CDC scientists determined that that Title 42 is not necessary at the border.
And, by the way, that goes into effect in late May. It gives us time to assess things and that’s a public health decision made by the CDC, and I think that they’re following the evidence as they see it.
EMANUEL: What is your sense of the timeline for vaccines for children under age five?
JHA: Yes, it’s a great question. I have a lot of friends who have kids under five who are anxious to know. We know that Moderna is in the middle of filing its data with the FDA. And my hope is that we’re going to see data from Pfizer as well. So, it will — you know, as soon as the FDA can get through the data, put together some sort of an assessment, we will see this. My hope is it will be in the next couple of months. But it’s — you know, we — it’s hard to gauge exactly when this will become available.
EMANUEL: Is the science there for the vaccine helping small children?
JHA: Yes, look, the science on vaccines and kids is actually quite strong. We know it prevents severe disease, prevents kids from getting hospitalized. It prevents longer-term complications of the virus. So that’s true for kids five and above. Whether that’s true for kids five and under, that’s what we have to assess right now. So that’s what we’re waiting for. We always want to be guided by evidence on this stuff and we’re waiting to see what Moderna and Pfizer’s data show.
EMANUEL: How urgent is the need for people over the age of 50 to get that second booster shot?
JHA: Yes, it’s a great question. You know, the data out of Israel is pretty compelling for people over 60. It actually — when people got that second booster shot four months after their first booster, what we saw was a substantial reduction, not just in infections, but in deaths. So I think people over 60 should be getting it. And 50-59, I think it’s dependent on risk profile. Talk to your doctor. It’s much more of a closer call. But for people over 60, I think people should be getting that second booster.
EMANUEL: We’re seeing some troubling images in China where people seem increasingly frustrated by lockdowns.
Take a look at this.
EMANUEL: Does the science support this kind of lockdown, Doctor?
JHA: No, I think that we — certainly not a strategy that we have taken in the United States, right. We don’t think that a zero Covid strategy, what China is pursuing, is one that is likely to work. I think it’s very difficult at this point with a highly contagious variant to be able to curtail this through lockdowns alone. And that’s why our strategy, which we have advocated, is, people should get vaccinated and boosted, we should make sure treatments are available. That is a much more effective, long- term, durable strategy for living with this virus.
EMANUEL: Do you understand Covid fatigue in this country? People burned out saying, you know, I thought this was going to be a few months, wearing my mask, I got the vaccine, and here we are, we’re going into year three of this.
JHA: Yes, I totally understand Covid fatigue. I think we all have it, right? And we all wish this thing was over and we could put it behind us.
Certainly, if you’re vaccinated and boosted, it’s going to make an enormous difference going forward, and that is essential for people to do. But, you know, at the end of the day we’re going to have to continue watching what the virus does, responding to it.
I will remind all of us, we are in so much of a better shape than we were just even a year ago, let alone two years ago. So, while that fatigue is there, and I totally feel it and appreciate it, we’re making substantial progress and we just got to keep going.
EMANUEL: In hindsight, should some of the government experts not spoken with such certainty early on in Covid and rather just been honest in saying this is a new disease, we’re learning as we go, we’ve got the best and brightest on it, but we don’t know everything about the disease, because then when people find out that the initial guidance wasn’t correct, they’re like, well, what’s the deal?
JHA: Yes, you know, in a — in a once in a century pandemic, that’s what we’re living through right now. Worth remembering. Evidence is going to change. Science is going to change. That is a reality. That’s actually a good thing, it means we’re learning along the way. As science and evidence changes, we’re going to want to communicate new data, new updates.
It’s really import for people to understand that you actually want changing guidance as evidence changes. And that’s what we should be doing. And we’ve got to keep communicating to the American people that we’ve learned a lot, we’re going to learn more and we’ll keep sharing what we know with the American people.
EMANUEL: You came into your new role at the White House with a background in academia and you’ve been praised for how well you’re able to break down Covid confusion for Americans trying to deal with the pandemic.
But I want to read a quote a state health official gave to “The Washington Post” when you were named coordinator. The official said, quote, the skills we need now are management of fiscal and legislative issues. You need a Washington insider. We need a person who makes the trains run on time.
What do you make of that comment?
JHA: Yes, what I would say is that what you need is a team of people working on these issues. You need people who understand the science and evidence. You need people who understand how Washington works. That’s the team we’ve built. We’ve got a broad group of people working on this, both in the agencies and at the White House. And combined I think we have all the skills that need — we need to deliver for the American people. And that’s what we plan to do.
EMANUEL: Congress left for the Easter recess without a deal on additional Covid funding. When do you expect a deal on that additional money?
JHA: My hope is as soon as possible. Congress comes back next week. Let me be very clear on why we need the money. We’re going to have a new generation of vaccines my hope is in the fall. There are a lot of really promising treatments coming down the pipe. None of those things are going to be available for the American people if Congress does not step up and fund these efforts.
So, Congress comes back next week. My hope is that they picked this issue up right away and make sure that we get funding to the American people so that we can make sure that treatments, vaccines, tests, all continue to be available for Americans.
EMANUEL: Finally, the number of American lives lost a Covid is nearing 1 million. How do you see us recognizing with that kind of massive loss?
JHA: Yes, it is an enormous toll that the American people have suffered. I just think about all of those families celebrating Easter, Passover without their loved ones. It’s heartbreaking. And what it means to me is two things. First, we’ve got to unify and commit to reducing the mortality and morbidity of this disease. There’s so much we can do. There’s so much we are doing. And, second is, obviously, we also want to make sure we’re prepared for future ones. The best way I think to honor the memory of those we have lost is to save lives going forward and to prevent future catastrophes like this.
EMANUEL: At the end of this month is the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Do you think it should be canceled, because are you worried about it potentially being a super-spreader event?
JHA: Yes, you know, we are at a point in this pandemic, Mike, where I think we can gather safely. That’s the key point. I don’t think events like that need to be canceled. I think of people put in good safeguards they can make them substantially safer, make sure people are vaccinated, make sure you have testing, improve ventilation. These are the strategies we have learned over the last two years. And if we implement them, do I think it’s safe for people to gather together indoors? Absolutely, we can make those events much, much safer now than they were — they would have been, let’s say, a year ago.
EMANUEL: Dr. Jha, thank you for your time this weekend. It’s always great to speak with you.
JHA: Thank you.
EMANUEL: When we come back, tech giant Twitter scrambles after billionaire Elon Musk says he wants to buy and make major changes. We will bring in our Sunday group to discuss, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR: And if they’re not going to come to the border, I’m going to take the border to them in Washington, D.C.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are all migrants who have been processed by CBP and are free to travel. So, it’s nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await in their — their outcome of their immigration proceedings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: That’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Abbott’s decision to bus migrants to Washington as the nation sees a major new surge in border encounters.
And we’re back now with the panel.
Josh, the White House called that moved to bus them here to Capitol Hill a publicity stunt. Is that a fair assessment?
KRAUSHAAR: It’s a little bit of a publicity stunt. Governor Abbott has his own reelection. It’s good politics in Texas. But it also is putting political pressure on the White House to understand the consequences of the rising migration levels, especially given that we’re going to see even higher levels likely after Rule 42 is off the books as the White House has promised next month.
And this is not just an issue that divides Republicans and Democrats. There are a lot of prominent Democrats on the ballot in 2022, Nevada Senator Cortez Masto, Congressman Henry Cuellar in a border district, Texas/Mexico border, that are among the loudest critics of this White House. So, ultimately, it’s not going to be worrying about Greg Abbott that the White House needs to be concerned about, it’s about the White House’s own party and Democratic senators and congressmen.
EMANUEL: Mo, the CDC extended the travel mask mandate by another two weeks and extended public health emergency powers. Moderate Democrats say those policies mean we should have the restrictions at the border. Can you blame the average American if they feel like they’re getting mixed messages here?
ELLEITHEE: No, I can’t. And I think that there is quite a bit of Covid fatigue, right? Like, all of us are tired of this. All of us just want to be able to go about our days. I’m glad that the doctor said we could go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, right, because I want to get together with — I’ll — I’ll take any opportunity to party these days. So, I think — and I think a lot of people do feel that way, that we are ready to move on.
Having said that, I do think that, one, on Covid, people are — we’re still not 100 percent of the way there, that there are going to still be some common sense safety measures that are in place at a lot of these things, and we’re just going to have to deal with that a little bit longer, as tired as we are.
And then, on the political side, I think that they’re — you know, there are people out there who never miss an opportunity to try to conflate different issues for political gain and that’s what they’re doing with Title 42, right, trying to conflate Covid and immigration for political gain. And it might work.
EMANUEL: Catherine, immigration is not the only issue this White House is dealing with, the worst inflation since 1981. They’ve suggested it will come back down by the end of the year, but what about that?
CATHERINE LUCEY, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: This is the biggest issue facing them. As we’ve been talking about, this is the number one issue for voters. They are concerned about prices. They’re concerned about gas. And it’s really dragging down the president’s approval ratings and it’s a real issue and a concern for Democrats heading into midterms.
What you’re seeing from the White House and from Democrats, they’re kind of trying to do two things. They want to remind people of what they have gotten done, so they want to try and, you know, note that, you know, job creation is up, that incomes are up, that the economy is going well in other ways, but they also are trying to make clear that they understand that people are being hurt by prices and that they are trying to do things. And there’s only so many things they can do. So, you saw the president out this week in Iowa where he announced this plan to, you know, temporarily allow the sale of high ethanol gas.
LUCEY: That’s, you know, one thing they are pointing to. It’s potentially a pretty modest effort. This kind of gas is only currently sold at a fairly small number of gas stations. It’s not clear how much it will bring down prices but they are looking for opportunities to show, even if they are just chipping away, that they are trying to chip away at these problems.
EMANUEL: All right, Ben, let’s talk Elon Musk.
EMANUEL: He picked a huge fight with Twitter this week saying he’d like to buy the company and make it a platform for free speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELON MUSK, TESLA MOTORS CEO: Having a public platform that is maximally trusted and — and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you’ve — you’ve described yourself —
MUSK: I — I don’t care about the economics at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: Ben, what do you make of this?
DOMENECH: Well, it’s nice to be able to be in a position where he doesn’t have to care about the economics.
DOMENECH: That’s the best thing to have.
But I was fascinated by the reaction that his — that his attempt to purchase Twitter got from a lot of people on Twitter who suddenly overnight discovered the negative and risky business of having billionaires own major media companies. You know, if you look around at the landscape, you know, in Washington, D.C., alone you have “The Atlantic,” you have, “The Washington Post,” you know, owned by very prominent billionaires. And you have, you know, a situation generally in media where a lot of people are taking these things on because they believe that they’re important, just as Elon Musk is saying there.
Look, I think this is going to be a fascinating thing to watch play out. And whether Twitter succeeds and their poison pill strategy approach of preventing him from buying the company, what that does to their stock is going to be a fascinating thing to watch. But I wonder how big of a change could happen if you had Twitter go back to being the way that it once worked where more free speech was allowed, there was a wider latitude of allowance and you didn’t have this kind of crushing form of private censorship, which is really what it is, that prevents people from being able to speak freely or feel like they’re actually, you know, heard when they speak. I think that that could be a major change and it has enormous, political implications as well.
EMANUEL: Josh, Musk has a history of exaggeration. Do you think this is all bluster or do you think he’s prepared to act on it?
KRAUSHAAR: It’s a lot of bluster whenever Elon Musk is involved. But, look, I think this is a proxy battle over politics as much as Twitter’s business model. Ultimately, I — there’s some real concerns about censoring newsworthy stories that Twitter and other social media companies have done, and that’s legitimate, and it should be discussed and debated. But the big question is, is Donald Trump going to get back on Twitter? Are we going to have a free-for-all like we saw in the past? And I think that is the subtext of a lot of this Twitter debate.
EMANUEL: Mo, Twitter is one of the most influential platforms for not only politicians but journalists. You know, it’s interesting ownership. A Saudi prince has shares of it.
What do you think of possible changes to Twitter?
ELLEITHEE: Well, that’s — that’s what I want to hear from Elon Musk, right? Like, Elon Musk is out there saying, I want to make Twitter this — this paradigm of free speech, but I also want to make it entirely — completely trusted and get rid of the spam and the bots.
Well, Twitter has been talking but that. Twitter’s been trying to do that. I’m not saying it’s done it well. But that proves how hard it is, right, for a private company to walk that line. We have seen the abuse of Twitter by spammers, by bots, and it has free speech implications in tackling that.
So, stop — if I — the old communications guy in me would give — giving Elon Musk a little free advice, like, stop being a Twitter troll right now and get out there and explain what you mean by this.
DOMENECH: Do you want to come back, Mo? That’s — that’s the question.
EMANUEL: All right, we’ve got to leave it there.
ELLEITHEE: Do we have a choice?
EMANUEL: Thanks, panel. See you next Sunday.
Up next, a final word on the week ahead.
EMANUEL: And that’s it for today.
For the latest on the war in Ukraine, keep it tuned to your local Fox station and to Fox News Channel.
I’m Mike Emanuel. From all of us, have a Happy Easter and a great week and we’ll see you back here next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
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