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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on December 26, 2021

12/26: Face The Nation
12/26: Harris, CBS News correspondents roundtable 46:12

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Vice President Kamala Harris
  • CBS News correspondents Weijia Jiang, Ed O'Keefe, Nikole Killion, Jan Crawford and David Martin

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.And this week on Face the Nation: my exclusive year-end conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris, and our annual CBS News correspondents on what's ahead in 2022.  2021 was a year of ups, downs and surprising setbacks for America, with a COVID pandemic that is suddenly intensifying, despite the lifesaving distribution of vaccines, and an economy that's created millions of jobs, but sent prices soaring.  The latest setback for the Biden administration? West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin putting the president's $2 trillion social spending plan on ice, as Congress wraps up for the holidays.  

(Begin VT) 

KAMALA HARRIS (Vice President of the United States): I'm not giving up. The president's not giving up, and, frankly, the stakes are too high. 

(End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Vice President Kamala Harris will tell us about the administration's priorities in the new year and what the scrutiny of her first year in office has taught her. 

(Begin VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think you're being set up to fail? 

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: No, I don't believe I'm being set up to fail. I'm vice president of the United States. Anything that I handle is because it's a tough issue and it couldn't be handled at some other level. 

(End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We talked policy and saw the personal side of the first woman, first black and first South Asian vice president. 

(Begin VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What gets you fired up? 


(End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Plus, a Face the Nation holiday tradition. Our year-end correspondents panel returns to wrap up 2021 and look forward to 2022. 

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation. 

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation. 

On this day after Christmas, we bring you a special conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris. 

We met up with her last week in her ceremonial office in the Old Executive Office Building for a wide-ranging conversation, everything from COVID, to voting rights, to the criticism that she has faced in her job. 

(Begin VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Medical experts are projecting that we could see as many as a million infections per day because of this new Omicron variant. Is our health care system prepared for what's coming? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We are prepared for it. 

And there's no question. There is a lot about this moment that is frustrating. But let's not forget our individual power to actually do something about it. 

Everyone has to get vaccinated. The vaccines are free. They are safe and they'll save your life. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're already seeing hospitals overwhelmed with Delta. Inflation is real. It's going to be with us as long as the pandemic dominates. 

As you know, the exhaustion is just with us all the time. When can you tell the American people this will end? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We have the power today to have an impact on tomorrow, and we can't shortchange the significance of that. We have the power today to go out and, if you've not been boosted, go get boosted, the power today to go and get vaccinated. 

And that will have an impact on where we end up tomorrow. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it the fault of the unvaccinated? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I don't think this is a moment to talk about fault. 

It -- it is no one's fault that this virus hit our shores or hit the world. I would not blame it on anyone in that way. 

But it is more about individual power and responsibility, and it's about the decisions, that everyone has the choice to make, no doubt. But it is clear that everyone has the ability to make a choice to save their lives and to prevent hospitalization if they get vaccinated and if they get the booster. And so I urge people to do that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is going to be hard for the economy. Are you going to need to ask Congress for another relief package? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Well, let's talk about the economy. 

What is within our grasp? To pass Build Back Better. When we talk about the economy, the average person in America is going to measure the economy based on, can they actually just afford to get through the day and through the month? The cost of living, can they keep up with the cost of living, child care, eldercare, prescription drugs? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about the Build Back Better Act like it still has some life to it. 

As you know, Senator Joe Manchin said he's a no. You don't have the votes. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I'm not giving up. The president's not giving up. And, frankly, the stakes are too high. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is the cost of the bill that has led Senator Joe Manchin, at least publicly, to say it's actually going to hurt the economy. His argument is, it'll add to inflation, among many other things. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I think there is, without any question, room for discussion about what actually will be the impact to the economy. 

And objective, leading and highly respected economists are weighing in on this discussion to say, in fact, no. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you look at what's actually possible right now... 


MARGARET BRENNAN: ... do you feel that Senator Manchin is playing fair with you? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I think the stakes are too high for this to be in any way about any specific individual. We have to -- you know, one of the things... 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's a 50/50 Senate, though, so you need him. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: It is. I'm the tiebreaker. I'm the tie vote. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's -- exactly. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: In fact, the president and I joke. 

And when I leave one of our meetings to go break a tie, he says, "Well, that's going to be a winning vote." Whenever I vote, we win. It's a -- it's a joke we have. 


VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: But the stakes are so high. 

And we can't afford, in this moment of time, where we have an opportunity to do something so substantial in terms of public policy in America, to literally help families, I refuse to get caught up in the what might be personal politics, when the people who are waking up at 3:00 in the morning worried about how they're going to get by could care less about the politics of D.C. 

They just want us to fix things. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the child care tax credit has already expired. How do you... 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We have to extend it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: ... come up with... 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We have to extend it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you do that without Senator Manchin? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: You don't give up. That's how we do it. We don't give up. That's how. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the president has also put you in charge of voting rights. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Yes I -- and I have asked, yes. 

There is so much about this fight for justice and the ideals of our democracy that are part of my DNA. You know, I have been meeting with prime ministers and presidents from around the world. One of my favorite interactions was with the now past Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. 

She came over for breakfast. And we talked about everything that has to do with our relative security as nations and our priorities. And then she asked me about voting. She asked me about voting, and she knew what was going on here. And this is not a subject that was unique to my conversation with her, by the way, in terms of world leaders, because people around the world watch what we do as America. 

And right now, we're about to take ourselves off the map as a role model, if we let -- if we let people destroy one of the most important pillars of a democracy, which is free and fair elections. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about what's happening in state capitals around the country. 


I'm talking about that, and I'm talking about what's not happening in this Capitol in Washington, D.C., which is the passing of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. 

This is literally about our standing in the world. It's about the integrity of our democracy. When our kids look back five, 10 years from now at this moment, it will be on our watch that we either stood for and fought for our democracy or not. And that -- I think that is all at stake right now. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you still have the reality of a 50/50 Senate... 


MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have two senators who say they're not on board for changing the filibuster in order to try to push this through. 

So, how do you overcome that democratic reality of not having the votes and not having a clear path forward? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We will do and look at whatever is necessary to push for Congress to take this issue on. 

And we have to. We have to. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: A carve-out to the filibuster? 


What I'm saying is that we are going to urge the United States Congress, and we have been, to examine the tools they have available ,to do what is necessary to fight for and retain the integrity of our voting system in America. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like you're open, though, to a carve-out to the filibuster to get there. ... 


MARGARET BRENNAN: You were when you ran for president on the issue of climate. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Are voting rights as important to you? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I believe that voting rights is one of the most significant issues that is facing us as individuals and as leaders today. There's no question, no question. 

Voting rights lead to every other right, every other right. And so we need to prioritize it as a nation. I think it's really important that, in this conversation about what's happening in Washington, D.C., on the issue of voting, that we not lose sight of the fact that there is one whole group of people, half of the United States Senate, who are refusing to even debate this issue. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, to that point, you were just in the Senate. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: And the president spent decades there. How come you can't pull someone across the aisle on this... 


MARGARET BRENNAN: ... or manage Joe Manchin within your own party? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We are not going to give up on these issues. 

But you're right. It's a 50/50 Senate. It's a 50/50 Senate. And so -- but it has to be a combination of us, as an administration, but also everyone weighing in. And I'm glad we're having this conversation. I think we have to continue to elevate the conversation about voting rights. 

Given the daily grind that people are facing, this may not feel like an immediate or urgent matter, when, in fact, it is. And the more we have the opportunity to talk about it, the more I think people will see, yes, I don't want an America of the future for my kids to be in an America where we are -- are suppressing the right of the American people to vote. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you see is the biggest national security challenge confronting the U.S.? What is the thing that worries you and keeps you up at night? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Frankly, one of them is our democracy. 

There is, I think, no question in the minds of people who are foreign policy experts that the year 2021 is not the year 2000. You know, I think there's so much about foreign and domestic policy that, for example, was guided and prioritized based on September 11, 2001. And we are embarking on a new era, where the threats to our nation take many forms, including the threat of autocracies taking over and having outsized influence around the world. 

And so I go back to our -- our point about the need to fight for the integrity of our democracy. In addition, it is obviously about what we need to do in the climate crisis. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we going to see a hot war in Europe in the next few weeks? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Well, we are having direct conversations with Russia. 

We are very clear that Russia should not invade the sovereignty of Ukraine, that we must stand up and we are standing up for its territorial integrity. We are working with our allies in that regard. And we've been very clear that we are prepared to issue sanctions like you've not seen before. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean sanctioning Vladimir Putin directly? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I'm not going to talk about specific sanctions, but we are making that clear to him. And we are in direct conversations. 

And we are also working very closely with our allies. And, again, let's use this issue as an example of the importance of the strength of those relationships. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in the past, alongside allies, we've sanctioned. It's been punitive. It hasn't prevented anything. It hasn't stopped Vladimir Putin to date. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: And I will repeat that the type of sanctions that we're talking about are sanctions that we've not done before. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said you were last in the room on the decision in Afghanistan to pull out. You've talked about not abandoning allies. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you feel personal responsibility for the chaos of that withdrawal? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I fully supported the president's decision to -- after what was taking on the fact of being an endless war, of pulling American troops out. 

And I think it's really important to remember that the previous administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban, did not invite the Afghan government to be at the table, and negotiated a deal that required and promised as part of an agreement that we would pull out by the end of May. 


VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: So, we were saddled with that responsibility based on an agreement between the United States and the Taliban. And so... 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You agreed to the -- extend it and not to break the agreement with the Taliban. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We made the decision that, if we were to break the agreement, it would have been a whole other situation. 

And, right now, I strongly believe that, had we broken that agreement, we would be talking about the war in Afghanistan and American troops in Afghanistan. And we're not talking about that. I don't regret that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I know, as a candidate, you pledged to protect the gains that were made for Afghan women. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Yes. Yes. And I feel very strongly about that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Many of those Afghan women are not in school today because the Taliban is in control. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Which is why we are working through the U.N. and doing what we need to do through our friends to provide humanitarian assistance, bypassing the Taliban, to make sure that we are supporting women and girls there. 

One of our big issues in terms of any conversations with the Taliban is exactly this point, which is the condition, the status and the treatment of women and girls, including, for girls, access to education, not to mention our concern about counterterrorism and what we need to do in terms of that threat. 

So, these are real issues, there's no question. The United States has been and continues to be, since the end of August, the biggest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know a lot of that aid isn't able to make it into the people who need it because of the sanctions on the Taliban being in control. 

So it's just -- Afghan women, do you worry that they were abandoned by the United States, essentially? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I worry that the Taliban has not complied with what we know to be the appropriate treatment and the right treatment of girls and women. 

And that's why we are taking the posture that we are with the Taliban right now, because that is one of our greatest considerations and concerns. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think your biggest failure has been at this point? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: To not get out of D.C. more. 


VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I mean -- and I actually mean that sincerely, for a number of reasons. 

A large part of the relationship that he and I have built has been being in this -- together in the same office for hours on end, doing Zooms or whatever, because we couldn't get out of D.C. 

And on issues that are about fighting for anything from voting rights, to child care, to one of the issues that I care deeply about, maternal health. Being with the people who are directly impacted by this work, listening to them, so that they, not some pundit, tells us what their priorities are, I think, is critically important. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I have talked to some of your former Senate colleagues, and they say you have been given an impossible portfolio. 

Donna Brazile, the former Democratic strategist, said all the focus on turnover in your office is overblown, but you do need to renew and repurpose. 

Bakari Sellers said: "Her portfolio is trash. You give someone a portfolio that is not meant for them to succeed." 

Do you think any of this is fair? Do you think you're being set up to fail? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: No, I don't believe I'm being set up to fail. 

But -- but... 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because these are Democrats saying this. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: But, more important, I'm vice president of the United States. Anything that I handle is because it's a tough issue and it couldn't be handled at some other level. 

And there are a lot of big, tough issues that need to be addressed. And it has actually been part of my lifelong career to deal with tough issues. And this is no different. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think there is such scrutiny? 

I mean, women are always held to a different standard. That's just a fact. Is the fact that you're a woman and the fact that you are a minority in this office part of why there is such scrutiny? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I will leave that for others to deal with. 

I have a job to do. And I'm going to get that job done. 

Let me just tell you, if you talk about being the first or being – maybe it's because I am that, for the first time, maternal health is on the stage at the White House, where we're bringing people in from around the country to talk about maternal mortality, to talk about issues like postpartum care and why we should expand Medicaid coverage, so it's not just 60 days, but it's for a year, because that's how long she needs that assistance, and to do it because it's the right thing to do, regardless of your gender, regardless of your race. 

And it affects so many women around our country. 

(End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will have a lot more of our conversation with the vice president in one minute. 


Here's more of our conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris. 

(Begin VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you hear people start talking about 2024, do you feel that's disrespectful to you and to the president? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I think that there are so many issues that are present issues in 2021, that I just don't have the luxury of engaging in that. 

The pundits can sit back and do whatever they do. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you feel that what becomes possible is just going to dramatically change after 2022, since Republicans, many project, will be taking the majority? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We will see. We will see. I don't know. We will see. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't feel that calendar really pushing you to get things done in the year ahead, before the midterms? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I mean, I feel a great sense of urgency for a variety of reasons to do everything we do. 

And, really, it really does boil down to the fact that I have done a lot of work as it relates to children. A day in the life of a child is a very long time. Sense of urgency, right? What we need to do to get public transit, to improve public transit, because people are going to work on buses every day, and the buses are breaking down, sense of urgency, right? 

I can go down the list, and it really -- for me, the focus is on what wakes people up in the middle of the night. I call it the 3:00-in-the-morning issue. When you wake up at 3:00 in the morning, for most people, what's on their mind is, how are they going to pay their bills? How are they going to take care of the children? Are they going to have a roof over their head, right? 

These are real issues that affect people every day. They don't have the luxury of waiting about -- talk -- some chatter about what's going to happen in an election that's three years out. They don't. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, for people -- they're going into their third year of this pandemic. 

You're talking about cost of living. Was it wrong to consider inflation transitory? I mean, these price spikes seem like they're going to be with us for a while. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: We have to address the fact that we have got to deal with the fact that folks are paying for gas, paying for groceries, and are -- need solutions to it. So let's talk about that. 

Short-term solution includes what we need to do around the supply chain, right? So, we went to the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Savannah, Georgia, and said, hey, guys, no more five days a week, eight hours a day; 24/7, let's move the products because people need their product – they need what they need. 

We're dealing with it in terms of the long term. And that's about what we need to do to pass Build Back Better. It strengthens our economy. What do we need to do in terms of bringing down the cost of living, right? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that your top priority for the new year? 


I don't have the luxury of having just one. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: A fair point. A fair point. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: People saw you, a flash of anger the other day, when you did that interview with Charlamagne. 

(Begin VT) 

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD (Radio Talk Show Host): So, who's the real president of this country? Is it Joe Manchin or Joe Biden, Madam Vice President? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Come on, Charlamagne. Come on. 

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I really -- I can't tell sometimes. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: No, no, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no. It's Joe Biden. 

And I'm vice president. And my name is Kamala Harris. And the reality is, because we are in office, we do the things like the child tax credit, which is going to reduce black child poverty by 50 percent. 

(End VT) 






MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that frustration, we saw that in the Kavanaugh hearings. 

What gets you fired up? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Injustice. Injustice is just generally what will get me kind of -- it's -- I don't like unfairness. 

And that is one of the things that will kind of cause me to say, OK some things are fairly innocuous, but unfairness in a way that can be hurtful to someone, I -- that's why I became a prosecutor, you know? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think you are judged fairly? 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I will leave others to make that decision. 



(End VT) 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full interview with the vice president is available on our Web site at 

We will be right back. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: If you're not able to watch the full Face the Nation, you can set your DVR, or we're available on demand. 

Plus, you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount+ app. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with our annual CBS correspondents panel right here on Face the Nation. 

Stay with us. 



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 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 has done necessarily as much publicly to try to get the warring factions of his party together to say, let's just get a deal. 

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. 


ED O'KEEFE: 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. 


WEIJIA JIANG: And remember who is at the center of this, right, and that's Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has a lot less to lose political than the others. 

ED O'KEEFE: Sure. 

WEIJIA JIANG: Because he comes from 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 this state. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what he has also argued is 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? 

WEIJIA 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. 

Does the White House believe that the price spikes are actually a short- term issue? 

ED 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. 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 mid- term when the party in power usually loses seats any way -- 


ED O'KEEFE: 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 his going-in position, or is that his pretext for an invasion once his demands 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 build-up? 

DAVID MARTIN: Well, there's a -- much more substantial military force waiting for him. Ukraine has been getting military equipment from the U.S. So it requires a bigger operation. Whether they launch that operation, 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. 

Whether or not it happens, Vladimir Putin pay not know yet. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And the 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. 

DAVID MARTIN: Yes. It is. I think one of the biggest dangers for 2022 is that countries like China, Russia, Iran are going to look at what happened in Afghanistan and decide the U.S. is a spent force and we can roll. And that's not a good mindset to be in. 



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


JAN CRAWFORD: Yes. We're all kind of running around chasing shiny objects, and David just says, listen, I mean it's -- every year. Every year. 


DAVID MARTIN: Every year. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you know what's scarry is he's usually right. 

JAN CRAWFORD: Oh, no, I know, believe me. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, Jan, in terms of predictions, the big one that I remember you making just a few weeks back about the future of Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court was that we won't really know the answer to the question on the court's direction until maybe June. 

JAN CRAWFORD: Right. I mean and history is a guide for that as well if 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. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So those who are saying it will be overturned are perhaps making too early of a call? 

JAN CRAWFORD: It's -- it may well be overturned. I would not be surprised. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And what does that scenario look like then? We just have a patchwork of different states with different laws? 

JAN CRAWFORD: Right. You know, the court would take the 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. 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 legislators, 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 to, you know, take the court out of the issue of abortion, basically, and let the state legislatures decide. 

ED O'KEEFE: To Jan's point, keep an eye on the states. We're going into a year when you're going to have dozens of competitive governor's 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 remains a concern and there are ways in the states to 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 were 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. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you go to those state capitals, Nikole, I mean, 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 January 6th siege at 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? 

NIKOLE KILLION: I mean, again, I think it comes down to the numbers. It is going to be a difficult thread 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? 

WEIJIA JIANG: Oh, absolutely. We were just talking to some White House folks who said, you know, they were realistic about this as well. And they know that it is going to be a struggle. The problem is the president knows, also, 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, all of this gets intertwined into January 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? 

DAVID MARTIN: Internal. No question. 


DAVID MARTIN: Military people will say that to you. The biggest threat to the United States of America is the reincarnation of January 6th. And if we lose our democracy, what the heck does all that other stuff matter. Who cares about hypersonic weapons if you don't have a democracy? So, yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jen, when you look to the courts and this question of faith in our institutions, when we look around the Capitol, there's a lack of faith in a lot of institutions. 

JAN CRAWFORD: True, although -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that still there in the court? 

JAN CRAWFORD: No, I mean I think that -- yes, I think there is still faith in the United States Supreme Court historically and even recently. It's been the institution that polls the best, way better than Congress and certainly the press. And, you know -- 

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

JAN CRAWFORD: I did. Yes. Used car salesmen are also there, and lawyers. But the court has -- and, you know, 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. The 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 gets to the question as, 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 could 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 have suggested if they overturn Roe, that would further weaken its legitimacy. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Justice Sotomayor certainly indicated that. 

JAN CRAWFORD: But on the right, they have just the 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 v. 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: Do we assume that this is a Republican-controlled Senate, Republican-controlled House in 2022? 

NIKOLE KILLION: 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, you know, Mitch McConnell is there to stay. And I think whether this -- he is 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 -- 


NIKOLE KILLION: And many of them have acknowledged, you know, that they do face some difficult head winds going forward. 

WEIJIA JIANG: And 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 saw it. 

NIKOLE KILLION: I don't (ph) think (ph) many Democrat 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. 


WEIJIA JIANG: Because the party has evolved so much. So I think that – you know, we'll see. 

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


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? 

JAN 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 am - - 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, a specific state by state issue. The vote could well be 6-3, with the chief justice joining them, five more conservative justices, after failing to put forward a more incremental approach. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That would have huge implications? 

JAN CRAWFORD: Yes. No, I mean it would radically shift the debate, which -- in the confirmation process for the Supreme Court justices, it would shift all of that back to the states. It would also mean that states 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 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. 


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 phenomenon we call UFOs, these drone-like 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. 


WEIJIA 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 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, you know, 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 of the political cost at this point. 

WEIJIA JIANG: Correct. Yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Ed, it's up to you to protect yourself. All of us who protect ourselves. 

What is your prediction of 2022? 

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

MARGARET BRENNAN: You didn't put Ireland on there? 

ED O'KEEFE: I did not put Ireland on there because that one's going to happen no matter what. By 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 in 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, with 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 form that region. But those are two trips they would probably like to make and I predict he will make. 


NIKOLE KILLION: I think in terms of the mid-terms, 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'll 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 mid-terms in 2022. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, we will be watching. 

Thanks to all of you for joining us. Have great holidays. 

ED O'KEEFE: You too. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you for watching. And we want to wish you a very happy and healthy new year. We'll see you in 2022. 

For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.  

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