Full transcript: Correspondents roundtable on

The following is the full transcript of the year-end CBS News correspondents roundtable with Weijia Jiang, Ed O’Keefe, Nikole Killion, Jan Crawford and David Martin that aired Sunday, December 26, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION and our annual CBS News Correspondents year-end Roundtable. This year, we’re joined by some of our beat reporters here in the Washington bureau, including CBS News Senior White House and Political Correspondent Ed O’Keefe. Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent. Weijia Jiang is also CBS News Senior White House Correspondent. CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin is also here. And finally, Nikole Killion, who is CBS News Congressional Correspondent. So it’s good to have you all and see your bright, shiny faces in person. Nikole, this has been just eight months of infighting and tangling over the Build Back Better spending bill that the White House has really made a signature issue for the president. Is it dead on arrival or is this just on life support in 2022?

NIKOLE KILLION: I think life support is a better way to look at it. I don’t think Democrats are going to give this up without a fight, even with some resistance from Joe Manchin because the reality is he has been resisting all along and expressing concerns, whether it’s about the impact that Build Back Better could have on the economy, could have on inflation, that is something he reiterated towards the end of this year. So while, right now it looks like Democrats are kind of at this stalemate. Again, I think you will see Democratic leadership really try to prod him over these next couple of weeks to get on board.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Ed, doesn’t this hurt Democrats the longer this drags on?

ED O’KEEFE: I think what’s hurting them more than anything is the focus on the process of it all, which they themselves have allowed to be the focus by virtue of the arguments they’ve had in public, the incredible disagreements that they can’t seem to get over and the fact that the president engages behind the scenes, but hasn’t done necessarily as much publicly to try to get the warring factions of his party together to say, let’s just get a deal. They know going into next year that, you know, a rescue plan that was passed with really only Democratic only votes. A bipartisan infrastructure bill that probably, while historic, and massive and will bring incredible economic growth across the country, is kind of the basic work that Congress should be able to do. Plus, whatever comes of this Build Back Better debate may not be enough, when you ran in 2020 on a promise to do so much more and yet weren’t able to secure a big enough majority to make it happen. So the threat for them is a depressed and confused and upset base of support that may not feel compelled to show up if this infighting continues to bleed into 2022 too much. And if they remain so focused on all of that and don’t get out in the country to try to sell and explain it to skeptical Americans. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

WEIJIA JIANG: Remember who is at the center of this, right? And that’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has a lot less to lose politically than the others because he comes from West Virginia, a deeply red state, and he’s aware of that. So again, when you’re talking about the political ramifications of this, he is probably thinking of that less and might even be thinking the other way of how a no vote could garner even more support in his state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what he has also argued is that this would hurt the economy. On the other hand, President Biden has argued this is just absolutely a requirement for the kind of economic recovery and rebuilding he says is necessary. So what’s the strategy if you can’t get $2 trillion through?

JIANG: Well, I think the problem is that, you know, when you look at West Virginia and you look at how poor it is when you look at all the levels of unemployment and how much the need is there for some of the measures in the social spending plan, the poison pill is attached to it and that is the president’s sweeping climate proposals. So, perhaps if there was a way to decouple them, Manchin would be more on board. But I do not think that that is something that the White House would be willing to entertain because it’s really their only and maybe last shot at passing these huge climate change proposals that he would like.

MARGARET BRENNAN: West Virginia native yourself, of course. But, Ed you know, it is the Federal Reserve’s job to control inflation. Let’s be clear here, but it doesn’t matter. The Commander in Chief will get the blame for it if the spending continues to spike. Do you- does the White House believe that this price spikes are actually a short term issue?

O’KEEFE: Well, they thought that certainly at the end of the summer into the fall. But I think if you look at what the Fed has said since, they now understand that this is going to continue further into next year. And the argument they will make is, yeah, but A, we’ve done everything we can and B, so much of this is driven by the pandemic. The longer it takes to get out of it, the longer the supply chains are disrupted, the longer the companies can’t think ahead. There’s going to be this kind of, you know, once in a lifetime, perhaps economic disruption that leads to a long and painful and expensive reshuffling. And when things are bad economically, they take it out on those in charge, and that’s Democrats. So you add that plus the historic nature of a midterm where a party in power usually loses seats anyway. And they know they could be in for a real shellacking.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David Martin, you know, I was speaking to a White House official the other day who was talking about the holiday season and saying Vladimir Putin may be making himself known to the world. Do we see a hot war in Europe at the beginning of 2022?

DAVID MARTIN: Well, the estimate is that once the ground freezes so that Russian tanks and personnel carriers can get good traction. They’ll be- they’ll be liable to go from all those Western districts of Russia into eastern Ukraine. I mean, what Putin is trying to do here is basically walk back history by pulling Ukraine back into the Russian sphere of influence. And he’s made these demands like he needs a legally binding guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO. I mean, surely he knows that’s a non-starter. So the question here is, is that just as going in position or is that his pretext for an invasion once his demands are- are turned down?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we went through a part of this back in 2014 when Vladimir Putin annexed part of Ukraine. He did it in a different way last time. Why so overt, this time with a military buildup? Why not the little green men and doing this in a more covert way like he did last time?

MARTIN: Well, there’s a much more substantial military force waiting for him in Eastern Ukraine that’s been hardened by this ongoing war that they’ve had there. So- and Ukraine has been getting military equipment from the U.S. So it’s- it requires a- a bigger operation. Whether they launch that operation–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm.

MARTIN: –of course, remains to be seen. But the U.S. clearly has intelligence that goes beyond the simple fact that these units are gathering together there in Russia. They know something about what the Russian military staff is planning and what they intend to do with those forces. And right now, they are clearly making the preparations, making the plans to go into Eastern Ukraine. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm.

MARTIN: Whether or not it happens, Vladimir Putin may not know yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And U.S. intelligence says he hasn’t made up his mind, but of course, this is being watched because it’s a test case of what President Biden will do and how he will respond to an adversary. And on the heels of Afghanistan, which looked quite chaotic, this is a big test.

MARTIN: It is, I think, one of the- the big dangers for 2022 is that countries like China, Russia, Iran are going to look at what happened in Afghanistan and decide the US is a spent force and we can roll them. And that’s not a good mindset to be in now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No. Jan– 

JAN CRAWFORD: I just have to say, every time we do these annual correspondents panels, David says, something that makes my heart stop–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Terrifying.

CRAWFORD: –We’re all kind of running around chasing kind of shiny objects. And David just says, listen, I mean, it’s every year, every year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you know, what’s scary is he’s usually right.

CRAWFORD; Oh, no, I know, believe me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Jan, in terms of predictions, we’ll get to those later on in the program. But the big one that I remember you making just a few weeks back when we were all talking about the future of Roe vs Wade and the Supreme Court was that we won’t really know the answer to the question on the court’s direction until maybe June.

CRAWFORD: Right? I mean, and- and history is a guide for that as well i you want to look back. In 1992, which is the last time the Supreme Court had a frontal assault on Roe vs Wade, they were at the brink of overturning it then. They had five votes to overturn it. And then at the last minute, of course, Justice Kennedy- former Justice Kennedy switched his vote to preserve it. So while there may be five votes now and I suspect that there are, anything can happen between now and June, so we’ll see–

MARGARET BRENNAN: And- 

CRAWFORD: –and- and then we won’t know, of course, what goes behind closed doors as the court is going back and forth. Sometimes they change their mind when they start writing those opinions. They just won’t write, and so they’ll change positions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, those who are saying it will be overturned are perhaps making too early to call.

CRAWFORD: They may be right. And I suspect they might be right. I mean, it may well be overturned. I would not be surprised, but I think it’s- you can’t say that with any certainty because so much can happen between now and when that opinion comes out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And what does that scenario look like? Then we just have a patchwork of different states –

CRAWFORD: Right– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: –with different laws.

CRAWFORD: If the court would take a position that, as conservatives have long maintained since Roe was released, that it’s a lawless opinion with no basis in the Constitution, there’s not a right to an abortion in the Constitution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg had problems with the legal–

CRAWFORD: Certainly on the- on the grounds that Roe was decided, right?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

CRAWFORD: But so that would mean that the court would be neutral and the Constitution is neutral on the issue of abortion. So it would go back to the states and the legislatures, which are closer to the voters, as the argument would then decide whether to allow abortion, what restrictions to allow. The political process would happen in the individual states or in Congress. If Congress decided to pass a law, which I mean, I don’t know how likely that is–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: I would guess probably not. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: No– 

CRAWFORD: And it would take the court out of the issue of abortion, basically and let the state legislatures decide.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it would put it right into the political football space, Weijia. And Weijia, with that, I mean, it’s hard to find a more emotional issue and certainly politically it is a galvanizing one. So what happens after June? How does this change the midterm races in 2022 or how the White House even communicates going into 2024?

JIANG: I think it’s really difficult for President Biden and a sore spot because he is very aware that there is only so much he can do. And that is the case with so many of his promises that he made going into his presidency. And we’re seeing that with voting rights. We’re seeing that with abortion, we’re seeing that with gun control. And I think one of the biggest pieces of news that the president made happened in Oct, when he said he was open to doing away with the filibuster when it came to voting rights and maybe other things. And I do think that–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which would move us away from a 60 vote requirement–

WEIJIA JIANG: Correct, it would move us away. It would allow the Democrats to get something done on abortion, on voting rights without any Republican support. However, he didn’t elaborate on that. He said he would have more to say later. And we have yet to hear what that more is and where he really stands on supporting, you know, getting rid of–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

WEIJIA JIANG:  –the filibuster. So I think we have to press him on that to see what he means because obviously heading into June, he needs a victory in many of those areas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Nikole, Sen Joe Manchin has the thing to say about the filibuster as well if you start changing voting rules.

KILLION: Well, and Sen Sinema as well. But we do know that there have been active discussions in the Senate about these rule changes. Just recently, we know some Democrats met with former senate parliamentarians to try to see what they can do. There’s obviously been talk of trying to do a talking filibuster, but clearly, especially on the issue of voting rights, there is a strong desire and a strong will on the part of senators to try to get things done, even if they can’t get Republicans on board. So, what that looks like to Weijia’s point, I mean, that may be part of it because we don’t know that the senators actually know exactly what it looks like or some of them, you know, kind of dodged questions when you ask about it. But I do think at the start of the year, we will see a very deliberate move to try to get this back on the table and agenda.

O’KEEFE: But to your point, because there’s at least two senators who don’t like this idea and frankly, probably more, but they just don’t say it to Jan’s point. Keep an eye on the states. We’re going into a year where you’re going to have dozens of competitive governors races, and I would argue, at least in recent history, this will probably be the most consequential cycle for governors races for a lot of reasons. One, because abortion may very well become an urgent issue. Two, because voting rights remain a concern, and there are ways in the states for either party to restrict or expand access. But for- the biggest reason perhaps if certain presidential battleground states swing towards control of one party or another, they are potentially setting up the playing field going into 2024. You have big races in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, which we’re all deciding factors in 2020. If Republicans take full control of those, there will be pressure put on them by a certain former president to put some things in place that would make it harder. Or Democrats are going to have to stand in the way of Republican legislatures, potentially so to the issue of abortion and to all these others, given the inability to get anything done in Congress. Increasingly, political observers tell you, go to state capitals, worry less about what’s happening here because the disagreement is causing virtually no action on anything significant. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you go to those state capitols, Nikole, What is it, 19 states, 33 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote. The White House points to that. They look at the anniversary of the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol, and they say politically or at least optically, they’re going to start talking about building momentum for voting rights. Does anything actually get passed in 2022?

KILLION: I mean, again, I think it comes down to the numbers. And so long as you have somebody like a Sen Manchin or a Sen Sinema who says they are not going to back a rule change and end the filibuster. It’s hard to do. You know, I was talking to Sen Warnock, who has been a very vocal advocate of voting rights for obvious reasons coming from the state of Georgia. But you know, he was asked multiple times, how do you get the votes? And he couldn’t give an answer. So it is going to be a difficult thread to- to weave. But as I said, I think there will be a very deliberate effort to try to move forward on it if they can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House wants to get caught trying, Weijia.

JIANG: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they are making a point that the president just held a big meeting with senators. Obviously, the vice president is spearheading this effort as part of her portfolio. But again, we were just talking to some White House folks who said they were really realistic about this as well, and they know that it- it is going to be a struggle. The- the problem is the president knows also, he always says himself that you got to dance with the person who brought you to the party. He’s very well aware of how critical this issue is for the Black community. He’s aware of the promises that he’s made, so he has to show that he is at least doing everything he can to get it done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And David, you know, when we talk about what’s happening on the state level and concern about election integrity and votes, all of this gets intertwined into Jan 6th and the insurrection. When you look at what’s happening right now and the folks you talk to at the Pentagon, do they believe the biggest national security threat is internal or external?

MARTIN: Internal, no question. Military people will say that to you. The biggest threat to the United States of America is a reincarnation of Jan 6th. And if we lose our democracy. What the heck is all that other stuff, who cares about hypersonic weapons if you don’t have a democracy. So, yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do they talk about that internally? I mean, is that a concern within the military or it- what does that mean? Is this a Jan 6th was a dress-rehearsal type scenario?

MARTIN: Well, they had their own dress rehearsal during that period, from the election up to Jan. 6, when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was almost convinced and certainly worried that Donald Trump was going to declare some sort of national emergency that would allow him to suspend the results of the election. And the military made a lot of preparations for dealing with that, and they seem quite confident that a president. Can’t get away with that because he would have to issue an illegal order to them and they are bound by law not to carry out illegal orders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jan, I mean, it’s incredible that we’re talking about this. And it was a very real moment and very real conversations. This is not in any way theoretical, I know. Jan, when you look to the courts and this question of faith in our institutions, whether- what David is just sketching out is, he’s saying, essentially, the military followed a chain of command and orders – the institution did what it was supposed to do. It looks like, when we look around the capital, there’s a lack of faith in a lot of institutions. 

CRAWFORD: True, although–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that still there in the court?

CRAWFORD: No, I mean, I think there’s- I think there’s still faith in the United States Supreme Court, and historically and even recently, it’s been the institution that polls the best – way better than Congress and certainly the press. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You picked like the two lowest there, Jan.

CRAWFORD: I did. Yeah. Used car salesmen are also- and lawyers. But the court has- and I think that that is the way the court has conducted itself. You know, and- and Justice Breyer has been a big proponent of that. This court’s senior liberal, going out, talking to groups and expressing, you know, his strong belief that you see that it’s like this beacon of democracy. And you know, that’s- gets to the question is how much longer is Justice Breyer going to be around on that Supreme Court? He may very well retire this year. There’s been a lot of pressure, of course, from people on the left that he would step down while President Biden could nominate and have his replacement confirmed. So, you know, there’s a lot we can talk about about the court and its legitimacy. So far, it’s definitely declined, but it hasn’t taken the kind of hits that other people have. Some people suggest that if they overturn Roe, that would further weaken its legitimacy–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Justice Sotomayor certainly indicated that…

CRAWFORD: –But on the right, they have just a different view – that if they uphold Roe, the quote “lawless decision,” that that would undermine it. So, you know, those arguments cut both ways as well. It dipped after Bush vs Gore, but then it ticked back up again. But it’s important, as Justice Breyer points out, the Supreme Court doesn’t have a standing army to go enforce its decisions. It relies on the public’s confidence and trust.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. David, when we talk about national threats, I mean, China and those phone calls after Jan 6th last year- I mean, the rest of the world was concerned about the state of American democracy, or at least our stability. When you look at the Pacific right now, there are concerns about the amount of overflights China has been conducting into Taiwanese airspace. This is the projection. This is the war that’s coming, right? What does that actually look like? Is this a conventional military conflict? How soon is it? Is this something that’s more? I don’t know. Are we thinking about it the right way?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, I think- nobody I talk to thinks a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is imminent. Near the end of World War II, the U.S. looked at invading Taiwan, which was then called Formosa, as it closed in on Japan. And when they did the analysis, it required an invasion force of one million people. So, it may look on paper that big, bad China can just swallow little Taiwan in a single gulp, but that’s not the case. They don’t have the military capability to launch a cross-strait invasion. They’re working on it, but they’re not there yet. If they’re going to seize something of Taiwan’s in 2022, I would think it’d be much more likely that it would be one of these small offshore islands, which would be much less of a military challenge. And it also would be a little bit of a test case to see how the rest of the world reacts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Taiwanese have said they project Beijing wouldn’t be on track to invade until 2025. But what I hear often is that it doesn’t look like a conventional military action. It would be more destabilizing – more of a Vladimir Putin model.

MARTIN: Well, that’s going on right now. I mean, the flights are- are what we see, but there are constant cyber attacks, and there are constant attempts to isolate Taiwan – diplomatically, economically. At the beginning of the COVID crisis, China blocked Germany from sending vaccines to Taiwan. I mean, that’s- they just leave no stone unturned in trying to make life difficult for the island of Taiwan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, it’s a diplomatic arm twisting when it comes to the balance of power here in Washington, Nikole. And we talked a little bit about this earlier, Ed. 2022 and the question of who- who is in the majority? Democrats just eked out a majority in 2022. Do we assume that this is a Republican controlled Senate Republican controlled House in 2022?

KILLON: I think Republicans assume that and that is what they are working towards. I mean, look, on the House side, it’s really not that hard. There are only five seats they have to flip to get back in power. And so very often you will hear House Republicans even referring to Speaker Pelosi already as a lame duck speaker. So they’re measuring the drapes, OK. You know, in the Senate, it’s a little trickier because of this split dynamic. Certainly, it’s possible, I’d say at this stage in the game where it could go either way. But I think Mitch McConnell is there to stay. And I think whether- this- he’s in the majority or the minority, I think you will see him continue to take that role in the forefront. But definitely, history is not necessarily on the side of Democrats this go round and many of them have acknowledged, you know, that they do face some difficult headwinds going forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So does Speaker Pelosi end her congressional career as speaker or as minority leader?

O’KEEFE: You want that one?

MARGARET BRENNAN: No one wants to answer the question. Majority Leader McCarthy? 

KILLON: I mean, the bottom line is the speaker hasn’t shown her cards. And you know, from those sources that I’ve talked to, they do fully expect her to stay in her position through the midterms. I mean, keep in mind, she’s one of the biggest fundraisers for Democrats, so there’s no way I would say it’s very unlikely we would see her step down prior. And she’s also indicated that she’ll likely run for re-election. So you have that, but you do have to wonder if the chamber flips control, if she would stay in that minority role because we know there is some pretty bad blood between the two of them, between Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy. You know, they don’t talk all that often. I mean, you could see, speaking of Jan 6th, I mean, they couldn’t even agree on a commission. That’s one of many issues they can’t find agreement on, and they’re constantly trading accusations and attacks amongst each other. So I think, you know, it is a jump ball, but I think looking forward at some point we do have to prepare for that generational shift when Speaker Pelosi- if she does retire, Jim Clyburn, Hoyer, you know, at some point there is going to be that shift. Will it happen in 2022? Don’t know yet, but–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But whatever the outcome is, it dramatically changes, Weijia and Ed, what’s possible for the Biden White House?  

O’KEEFE: Totally. And I think the best way to gauge Republican success in November will be who prevails in the spring in the argument of, we need to be nominating Republican conservative purists, which is what former President Trump would want versus we need to be nominating political crossover artists, which is what Mitch McConnell has always rooted for. He listed recently a list of people; Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin, the kind of Republican candidates a few years ago who let a lot of hair on fire, scored a lot of headlines, but never won an election he goes, “we don’t need that kind of person.” Will a Trump backed purist work in some states? It might, but it’s not going to work in Ohio. It may not work in Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia. And those are the states where they need to win or hold on in order to take back control of the Senate and to some extent in the House. But the issue with the House is that the mechanics are being controlled by Republicans in the states by redrawing the lines.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

O’KEEFE: So by virtue of that, you could probably write off almost a dozen, maybe two dozen seats by the spring that are going to go back to Republican hands just by virtue of the way the lines are being drawn.

JIANG: But to your point, MARGARET, I mean, I think it’s difficult to imagine the president accomplishing much on his agenda when it was already so difficult with Democrats in control. And I think that actually exposed how much conflict there is within that party. And I don’t know that they had anticipated it being done in the open in the way that it was. But even when you look at all of the president’s successes, it came with a lot of public fighting when it came to the American Rescue Plan or even the bipartisan infrastructure law that just passed. You saw how moderates and progressives really butted heads and had to, you know, had to put that aside. But it was still out there. Everybody–

KILLON: –I don’t think–  

JIANG: -saw it.

KILLON: -Democratic leaders argue, I mean, that’s the sausage making process in Washington, right? I mean. Yes, we could all be Kumbaya, but on the same token, there are some differences and we have seen that evolve in the party over the last couple of years. At the end of the day, they have gotten some things done, maybe not everything, but you know, it’s a work in progress.

JIANG: Because the party is involved, so much so I think that, you know, we’ll see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to get to underreported stories as well, Jan? 

CRAWFORD: Oh, I- just for me, I mean, my kids hear me rant about this every day, so I might as well tell you guys it’s- it’s the crushing impact that our COVID policies have had on young kids and children. By far the least serious risk for serious illness. But I mean, even teenagers, you know, a healthy teenager has a one in a million chance of getting, and dying from COVID, which is way lower than, you know, dying in a car wreck on a road trip. But they have suffered and sacrificed the most, especially kids and underrepresented at risk communities. And now we have the Surgeon General saying there’s a mental health crisis among our kids. The risk of suicide girl suicide attempts among girls now up 51% this year, black kids nearly twice as likely as white kids to die by suicide. I mean, school closures, lockdowns, cancellation of sports. You couldn’t even go on a playground in the D.C. area without cops scurrying- getting- shooing the kids off tremendous negative impact on kids, and it’s been an afterthought. You know, it’s it’s it’s hurt their dreams, their future learning, loss, risk of abuse, their mental health. And now, with our knowledge, our vaccines. If our policies don’t reflect a more measured and reasonable approach for our children, they will be paying for our generation’s decisions, the rest of their lives. And that, to me, is the greatest underreported story of the past year.

BRENNAN: Well said and frightening, David.

CRAWFORD: Sorry, David, I didn’t mean to take your role.

MARTIN: Mine is going to seem awfully paltry compared to that. So I think it’s- on my beat I think it’s the arms race in space. China and Russia are hard at work, developing ways to take out American satellites, using rockets, lasers, electronic beams and our- our way of life, plus our military’s ability to operate depend on those satellites. So, as you might think, the U.S. is doing everything it can to counter that threat. So there’s this arms race going on and it’s almost all going on in secret. We just know so little about it because everything that happens in space, at least on the military side, is, in my opinion, is way over classified.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Weijia. 

JIANG: Well, I have to agree with Jan, but I did come up with a backup just in case because, you know, obviously as parents were always thinking about this and especially as a parent of young children thinking about the long term impact on their development, I think is something that we just don’t know yet. And perhaps that’s one reason why it’s not reported as much. But I think another underreported story is the global vaccination picture. We’re so focused on the fight here in the U.S. as we should be. But you know, ending the pandemic is not just getting every American vaccinated, it’s ending the pandemic worldwide. And even though we can pull up stats and figures quickly about how many doses have been administered, how much has been donated by rich countries to poor countries, how many people have been vaccinated. We don’t really understand what’s happening around the world, especially in those poor countries. And it, you know, until we do, it’s hard to really understand our path forward. And I think that was really illustrated by Omicron. We didn’t understand the skepticism in South Africa of people getting vaccinated and how that impacted their vaccination rate–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JIANG: –and why, you know, it was there and then came here very quickly. And I think that will continue to happen until there’s more of an understanding and effort to end the virus worldwide.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ed?

O’KEEFE: The most underreported and under-discussed issue in this town is immigration. There has been a real failure to act for too long, and it continued this year, certainly plenty of urgent priorities that had to be addressed, whether it’s the economic recovery, the ongoing fight with the pandemic. Now, of course, things like inflation and just keeping this country together, frankly. But one of the things that just undergirds everything about this country, the economy, job creation, the fight over illegal drugs, schooling, you know, and yeah, national identity and security is this issue that for too long, this entire century, presidents have said they would try to tackle and they just have not. There were some modest attempts made in this debate over Build Back Better to see if they could tuck something into an already big bill. I think most of those involved knew that that was not going to happen, but they had to at least appear as if they were trying. But the problem for Democrats going into next year is if they expect to be able to turn out the kinds of people that they need to win congressional elections and governors elections in the west, especially, they have to show serious commitment to having tried. This happened to them in 2014, and they failed and they’ve tried it again. Republicans and Democrats at other times, and they claim they’re going to try again. But absent presidential leadership, and this is an issue he seems allergic to discussing when he gets asked about it or when he’s confronted with it. It’s going to be a problem for this country that just persists for too long

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because it’s such a tough nut to crack.

O’KEEFE: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nikole. 

KILLION: On my beat, I would say it’s the Violence Against Women Act, and this is something that has always been bipartisan. It hasn’t been reauthorized in years, and once it expired in 2019, it hasn’t moved forward, it hasn’t advanced. We saw the House Pass a reauthorization in March. But in the Senate, it’s been a much more difficult battle in terms of trying to find compromise between Republicans and Democrats. And what’s interesting is that during this pandemic, there has been so much talk about an uptick in domestic violence to the point where it’s been described as a pandemic within a pandemic. And yet there hasn’t been that same push that we’ve seen on issues like voting rights or police reform in terms of trying to get more done with respect to the issue of domestic violence, especially considering you have someone like President Biden in the White House who was a key proponent and author of the Violence Against Women Act. So, I think that as an issue to watch going forward, we saw Angelina Jolie on the Hill multiple times this fall and this winter. And so the expectation is that maybe they can present some compromise legislation by the beginning of the year. So, that is something to watch.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We are going to take a quick break right now, and we’ll be back with more from our panel.

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MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back now with more from our correspondents panel, and this is when we ask you to do the thing you hate doing, which is predict the future, but they are informed predictions, I know. Jan, what is it that you see happening in 2022?

CRAWFORD: Well, I normally predict that Alabama will win the national championship. So you know, that’s getting kind of too easy to predict. So- but I’m going to focus on the court and the issue of abortion. I’m- I- I predict that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe vs Wade, say that the Constitution and the court is going to be neutral on the issue of abortion, which would send that back to the states to decide how they wanted to handle it; specific state by state issue. The vote could well be 6-3, with the Chief Justice joining the five more conservative justices after failing to put forward a more incremental approach.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That would have huge implications. 

CRAWFORD: Yeah- no. I mean, it would radically shift the debate, which in the confirmation process for Supreme Court justices, it would shift all of that back to the states. It would also mean that state legislators could no longer play politics with the issue of abortion, knowing that the Supreme Court would overturn it. So, all of a sudden in the state legislatures, those positions that politicians now are taking to pander to the left or more- more specifically to the right knowing the court will step in, all of that now is real. And so they will actually have to make real decisions based on what their voters want or they’re out of office.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David.

MARTIN: I’m going to duck the tough one of whether Putin will invade Ukraine or not, if he hasn’t made up his mind. I shouldn’t have to make up mine. There are two mysteries out there. What’s causing Havana syndrome, this- these debilitating symptoms that hit Americans overseas that seem to be the subject of some kind of directed energy attack. And where are these unexplained aerial phenomena we call UFOs? These drone mike objects that show up in the middle of U.S. military exercises. Where the heck are they coming from? So I’m predicting one of those two will be solved in 2022.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll hold you to it, David.

MARTIN: OK.

JIANG: I can’t follow that. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about the president’s goals ever since he took office and how a curveball like Omicron can just set everything back. And I- I do predict that things are going to get worse before they get better with the pandemic. And I don’t think that the president will implement any lockdowns or restrictions that we saw in 2020, which is something that we’ve been talking about a lot because, you know, what can you do if you can’t force someone to get the vaccine and the virus continues to spin out of control? Is he going to have another 15 days to slow the spread? And I think the answer is no, because he is so committed to his economic agenda and he understands what a shutdown would mean. So, I think it will be up to states and local officials to do that. But I don’t predict any federal guidelines for shutdowns in 2022.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And even the governors are hesitant because–

JIANG: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –the political cost at this point. So Ed, it’s up to you to protect yourself, all of us to protect ourselves. What is your prediction for ’22?

O’KEEFE: I’m going to tiptoe slightly in the direction of what you and David covered with this by predicting that the president, once we get clear of the worst of this, and once he’s able to globetrot a little more, will make trips in the coming year to Latin America and Africa.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You didn’t put Ireland on there.

O’KEEFE: I did not put Ireland on there because that one’s going to happen no matter what. But Latin America and Africa and people may wonder why they have to remember everything this president does has China in the background. And this would be designed as an attempt to go to those parts of the world and say, stick with democracy, stick with the United States, avoid the Chinese influence and investment that’s coming your way and remember that we stand with you as well. President Trump didn’t go to Africa. There’s been a belief in the Biden administration that such a trip needs to happen sooner rather than later. Latin America as well, and so many struggling democracies in that part of the world, going would send a big signal, and he would try to meet with some leaders from that region. But those are two trips they would probably like to make, and I predict he will make.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nikole.

KILLION: I think in terms of the midterms, I think one dynamic to watch and in covering politics for many years now, we keep talking about the increased number of women who are running and people of color. And I think especially when you look at Black women in particular, I think you will see a barrier being broken, whether that’s in the Senate or whether that’s in the governor’s mansion. And I think what’s jaw dropping is there has never, never been a black woman elected as governor in U.S. history. You have five running, Stacey Abrams, you have candidates in South Carolina, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Iowa. There are a number of Lieutenant Governors, we will see Winsome Sears be inaugurated in Virginia, the first African-American woman lieutenant governor for that state, a Republican. I also think, you know, for all of the talk of having the first Black president, Barack Obama having the first Black vice president and vice president of South Asian descent. I think sometimes people forget that there’s a deficit now in the Senate. As diverse as Congress is right now, there’s no Black women in the Senate. So you have a number of candidates Val Demings, Cheri Beasley and others who are running. But I do think those are two spaces to watch in the midterms in 2022.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We’ll be watching. Thanks to all of you for joining us. Great holidays to think we’ll see in the new year.

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