'Fox News Sunday' on June 27, 2021


This is a rush transcript from “Fox News Sunday,” June 27, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Chris Wallace.

Violent crime on the rise and police departments in crisis across the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): Vicious attacks in broad daylight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired, shots fired. My partner is down.

WALLACE: As homicide rates spiked.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A central driver of violence is gun violence.

WALLACE: Cops leave the force in droves and Democrats back off calls to defund the police.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We’ve declared war on the police and that is backfiring on those who have done it.

WALLACE: While big cities like New York grapple with who can lead them out of the surge in violent crime.

ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I have to save my city, the city that I wore a bulletproof vest for for 22 years.

WALLACE: Now, President Biden is joining the debate.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue, it’s an American issue.

WALLACE: We’ll ask Biden senior advisor Cedric Richmond about the president’s plans to combat crime and get reaction from Republican Congressman Jim Banks, a critic of the White House policies. And we’ll get the view from the front lines with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Plus —

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want to deal with the problem, you can’t just deal with the symptom of the problem.

WALLACE: Vice President Kamala Harris finally makes it to the southern border. We’ll ask our Sunday panel about her visit and the rough road ahead for the bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

And our Power Player of the Week, a former CIA officer on the invisible attack that ended his career.

All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday”.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And hello again from FOX News in Washington.

President Biden released a plan this week to combat the sharp rise in violent crime. All three of the nation’s biggest cities have reported increases in murders and shootings in the last year. The largest homicide increase in Los Angeles, up 26 percent, the sharpest spike in shootings in New York, up 53 percent.

As with all most everything these days, there’s a sharp partisan divide over what’s behind the carnage in our streets. President Biden blames far too easy access to guns. Republicans say calls to cut police budgets and an easing off prosecutions have encouraged criminals and discouraged law enforcement.

This hour, we want to drill down on all this.

In a moment, we’ll start with senior advisor to the President Cedric Richmond, but, first, let’s turn to Mark Meredith at the White House for the look at the growing wave of violent crime — Mark.

MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Chris, the White House admits that crime is on the rise, but they say that this has been a problem that’s been developing for more than a year now. Still, there is no broad consensus on why crime is up or how to fix it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired, shots fired.

MEREDITH (voice-over): From gun battles in California to pure chaos on the streets of Detroit, America’s crime problem is growing and easy to spot.

JAMES WHITE, DETROIT POLICE CHIEF: This is unacceptable. People ought not live like this.

MEREDITH: The statistics are sobering. Mass shootings are up 30 percent this year over last. Federal criminal prosecutions dropped double digits during the pandemic and nationwide, police officers appeared to be leaving the forest in historic numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop killing us!

MEREDITH: In Minneapolis, where the George Floyd case still sparked outrage, there are growing concerns over public safety after 105 officers quit the city’s police department.

In New York, where shootings are caught on camera in broad daylight, the leading Democratic mayoral candidate says people are fed up.

ADAMS: New York just wants someone that’s going to make it safe.

MEREDITH: President Biden says he too wants action.

BIDEN: We can do this and save lives.

MEREDITH: He’s urging new measures to address crime including arresting rogue firearm deals, helping former prisoners reenter society and expanding employment opportunities for younger Americans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MEREDITH (on camera): While the White House says new gun control laws would be a major factor in saving lives, we’re hearing from Republicans that want the White House to back law enforcement, to expand law enforcement, and reject some Democrats’ calls to defund police departments — Chris.

WALLACE: Mark Meredith reporting from the White House — Mark, thank you.

And joining us now, senior advisor to the president, Cedric Richmond.

Mr. Richmond, welcome to “FOX News Sunday”.

CEDRIC RICHMOND, SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for having me, Chris.

WALLACE: Why does President Biden think the number of homicides and shootings is up so dramatically in the last 18 months?

RICHMOND: Well, part of it is the plethora of guns that are flooding the streets of this country and that’s something that the president wants to deal with. He knows the vio — he knows the toll that violence takes on families and especially gun violence and what it’s doing over the last 18 months in this country.

WALLACE: But let’s discuss some of the factors that President Biden didn’t mention in his speech this week. Take a look at Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Biden five-point plan will not address the rise in murder and vicious assaults in this country. We have a lack of prosecution and we’ve declared war on the police and that is backfiring on those who have done it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Does Senator Graham have a point there?

RICHMOND: Absolutely not. In fact, Senator Graham doesn’t have a clue.

And let’s talk about who defunded the police. When we were in Congress last year trying to pass a rescue plan — I’m sorry, not the rescue plan but an emergency relief plan for cities that were cash-strapped and laying off police and firefighters, it was the Republicans who objected to it. And in fact, they didn’t get funding until the American Rescue Plan, which our plan allowed state and local governments to replenish their police departments and do the other things that are needed.

So look, Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says defund the police, but the truth is, they defunded the police, we funded crime intervention, and a whole bunch of other things.

So I think that this is a very smart, comprehensive approach to dealing with violence in our communities.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Richmond, I mean, the gun problem has been a problem for decades. That didn’t get dramatically worse over the last 18 months, even as the number of homicides and shootings did.

Look, you talk about the police. Let’s look at some numbers on the police. The New York Police Department saw a 53 percent increase in resignations and retirements last year. The 50 biggest U.S. cities reduced their 2021 police budgets by 5 percent. New York City by 15 percent.

The president may not support defunding the police, but a lot of these cities are defunding the police.

RICHMOND: Well, Chris, I don’t think that you can just make that analysis or draw that conclusion. We were also in the midst of a pandemic where cities were cutting their budgets overall because their cash flow was down. And so, I think that you have to look at in a very apprehensive approach.

But look, crime was down in the ’90s when we banned assault weapons. And so, it’s time to ban assault weapons again. The president supports that, he’s asked Congress to do that.

And you have to look at access to guns when you talk about fighting violent crime. But we do it in a very comprehensive manner. We provide funding for crime intervention. We fund interrupters. We fund — we create funding for after-school programs, summer jobs programs, recreation programs.

So we’re trying to do this in a way that it has never been done before.

WALLACE: But I think the point that Senator Graham and some Republicans make, beyond just the question of funding, is that there has been an attack on the police, as if they are part of the problem, especially from some Democrats.

I also want to talk about the decline in prosecutions — and I’ve got some numbers here. According to one study, more than 90 percent of the charges against people protesting and rioting after George Floyd’s murder were dropped in most cities. In New York, the ban on cash bail has resulted in the majority of people who are arrested getting released.

Doesn’t that send exactly the wrong signals both to police and to the criminals who are being arrested?

RICHMOND: Chris, look, the prosecutions that state prosecutors make in their charging decisions has to be analyzed by the people who live in those communities. And so, I will hold my local D.A. accountable and I think that everybody should.

But we have to remember here that it is about being smart on crime, and those people who are peacefully protesting should not be prosecuted. Those that are rioting and looting, which the president has said from the beginning of the campaign, that they should be held accountable.

But that’s not causing a spike in murders, homicides, gun violence. That’s guns causing that increase.

So let’s try to keep it at least targeted in terms of what we’re talking about here and when you — when you look at cities like New York and over the last 18 months, you saw a decline in funding and other things that we seek to address right now.

WALLACE: Yeah, that — we should say, that was done unilaterally by the mayor of that city, de Blasio.

I want to ask you one other crime question. There are, according to the FBI, 33,000 violent street gangs in this country, which I think you would agree play a huge role in the violence and in the mass shootings that take place in America’s cities — look at a city like Chicago.

Why is it that in his big crime speech this week, the president did not make a single specific proposal about how to deal with these street gangs?

RICHMOND: Actually, he did, Chris. When he talked about the ATF task forces and partnering in collaboration with the cities, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. And so, when you look at the fact that we partnered with 15 cities to look at everything from gun trafficking to gangs.

And so, a lot of people want to go pick out pieces and look at it, but this is a comprehensive strategy that deals with those violent actors that use guns and those gun dealers that are selling guns out the front and the back door and to people who should not have them.

And so, that’s why the ATF will have a zero-tolerance policy on rogue gun dealers and the ATF and other law enforcement — federal law enforcement agencies are going to team up with local law-enforcement agencies to go after those criminals that are using guns.

WALLACE: I mean, respectfully, sir, I’ve got to tell you. We looked at the speech yesterday, the president said the word “gangs” exactly once in his speech and it’s only when he says we need to keep the weapons of war away from organized crime and fugitives and gangs, but he never has a specific initiative with how to deal with gangs.

I want to move, we got only a couple of minutes left. I want to deal with one other big issue if I can.

President Biden announced a bipartisan deal on infrastructure this week, but then he indicated that he would only sign it if there was also passed by Congress a straight party line vote, multitrillion dollar spending bill on social programs.

Here was the president making that point this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If only one comes to me, I’m not — this is the only one that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: But yesterday, the president issued this clarification. The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan and that’s what I intend to do. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.

Question, Mr. Richmond, what does the president say to those Republicans who felt double-crossed when in that original statement on Thursday, the president seemed to indicate he wouldn’t sign the one bill without the other? And what does the president say to Democrats on the left who still say, no bipartisan infrastructure bill if we don’t also get that big spending bill on social programs?

RICHMOND: Thanks for the question, Chris.

I think he says exactly what he’s been saying in terms of this is a once- in-a-lifetime investment, the largest investment infrastructure ever in this country — removing lead pipes from over 10 million homes, largest investment in public transit in our history, largest investment in the rail since the creation of Amtrak.

I think what he’s doing is making sure that we’re talking about the issue and not the process. The issue is we have to invest in our country with crumbling bridges and roads, and we’re going to deal with it, and so we brought together Republicans and Democrats and we got it done.

And so, to your larger question, I think he did exactly what the American people want him to do, and that is Republicans and Democrats come together where you agree, fight about what you don’t agree on afterwards.

So we are going to fight about the American Families Plan. Republicans are going to try to kill it. We’re going to try to pass it. We’re going to pass it, and we’ll sign both bills.

WALLACE: Just to be clear, 30 seconds left, if he gets the infrastructure bill, he is going to sign the infrastructure bill, no if, ands or buts, no conditions?

RICHMOND: This president has had a strategy since the beginning — a rescue plan, a jobs plan, family plan. And we expect to do exactly with the jobs plan what we did with the rescue plan, and we’ll do the same with the families plan. We’re going to sign all three because the country needs them.

WALLACE: But no conditions, one on the other?

RICHMOND: Well, we don’t have to talk about conditions. We can talk about how important the families plan and the jobs plan are and we plan to pass them, just like we did the rescue plan. People keep underestimating us, we keep delivering.

WALLACE: Mr. Richmond, thank you. Thanks for your time this week, and please come back, sir.

RICHMOND: Thank you for having me.

WALLACE: Up next, Republicans slammed President Biden’s plan to stop the surge in violent crime. We’ll discuss the GOP response with Republican congressional leader Jim Banks and we’ll get the view on the front lines from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas who says his city faces an epidemic of gun violence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: President Biden blames the rise in homicides and shootings across the country on the easy availability of guns and the reaction to a year of COVID.

Joining us now, Congressman Jim Banks, out of the Republican Study Committee in the House, who has a different view of the problem and the solution.

Congressman, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday.” I want to start the same way I started with Cedric Richmond. Why do you think there has been such a sharp increase in the number of shootings and homicides in this country over the last 18 months?

REP. JIM BANKS (R-IN), CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN STUDY COMMITTEE: Well, Chris, first of all, I agree with Joe Biden. Senator Biden in 2002 wrote an op-ed and he said more cops clearly means less crime. You will not hear Joe Biden say that today, because today Joe Biden is being held hostage in the White House by the Squad and the radicals in the Democrat Party who control their party, who have spent the last year stigmatizing one of the most honorable professions in America, in our law enforcement.

It’s not just about defunding the police, which they fully support, but over the last year they’ve talked about stripping qualified immunity, protections for police officers who do their job. They talk about cashless — cashless warrants and decreasing —

WALLACE: Bail.

BANKS: — sentences as well. Cashless bail, excuse me, and decreasing sentences. It’s a recipe that criminals in every city in America are liking what Democrats are selling. And that’s why you’re seeing unprecedented crime waves across America, murder rates this year alone that are higher than anything that we’ve seen before because we’ve taken police officers off the streets. And now Joe Biden wants to take guns away from law-abiding gun owners who have guns to protect themselves.

WALLACE: But, Congressman Banks, let me push back on that a little bit because in the program that he announced this week, the president said that the central part of his anti-crime package is the $350 billion in the American Rescue Plan, the COVID relief plan that was passed.

Take a look at what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It means more police officers, more nurses, more counselors, more social workers, more community violence interrupters to help resolve issues before they escalate into crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congressman Banks, you voted against that package, against that $350 billion, just like every other Republican in the House and Senate, so can’t you make the argument that it’s you and the Republicans who are defunding the police?

BANKS: Not at all, Chris. I mean, let’s go back again and look at the last year and the record of comments that Democrats have made from Rashida Tlaib, who said that —

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: No, No, wait, sir, respectfully —

BANKS: — policing is inherently evil.

WALLACE: Wait, wait, sir, respectfully, I heard you make that point but I’m asking you, there’s $350 billion in this package the president says can be used for policing. And let me put up some of the specific things he said.

BANKS: Chris, the point that I’m making is important.

WALLACE: Congressman Banks, let me finish and then I promise I’ll give you a chance to answer. The president is saying cities and states can use this money to hire more police officers, invest in new technologies and develop summer job training and recreation programs for young people. Respectfully, I’ve heard your point about the last year, but you and every other Republican voted against this $350 billion.

BANKS: When Representative Omar says that policing is rooted in evil and Nancy Pelosi compares police officers to Nazi stormtroopers, it makes it very difficult for police departments around the country to recruit people to become police officers. And that’s the crisis that we find a in police departments all over America. You can give them more funding, and that’s good, but if they can’t recruit people to become a police officer because we’ve stigmatized one of the most honorable professions in America, than we are at a dangerous point.

And that is directly related to the rise in violent crime across America. If we turn a blind eye to law and order and a blind eye to riots that occurred in cities last summer, and we take police officers off the street, we are inevitably going to see crime rise.

WALLACE: You say that more gun controls are not the answer. You heard former Congressman Richmond say that guns and the easy availability of guns is one of the biggest issues. You say that more gun control is not the issue and that most of the crimes are committed with handguns, not with assault weapons, but I think you’d agree that assault weapons create an enormous amount of damage, especially in these mass shootings, and, you know, perhaps if we had stricter background checks that some of the people who shouldn’t have handguns wouldn’t have handguns. Is there any gun control that you can support?

BANKS: Well, remember, Chris, that in 1994 when Joe Biden ushered through the so-called assault weapons ban, later the Department of Justice came out and said it did nothing to decrease violent crime. We know that 75 percent of gun crimes are committed with guns that are illegally obtained to begin with, so what I’m saying is that if we are serious about reducing violent crime in America, then Joe Biden will go on a national public relations campaign, admonish the radical voices in the Democrat (ph) Party that have stigmatized police officers and law enforcement.

That’s the first step toward reducing violent crime is to support police officers, back the blue. That’s what Republicans are doing. I have the only bill in Congress, by the way, to codify —

WALLACE: Right.

BANKS: — qualified immunity protections for our law enforcement agencies, and for our law enforcement agents. And I invite Republicans and Democrats, sign on as a cosponsor, show your support for our police officers and our law enforcement. If we do that we can reduce violent crime.

WALLACE: We are running out of time, I have one other question on a different subject I want to ask you, you just called for bipartisan cooperation. You saw the clarification on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Joe Biden issued yesterday. I just discussed it with Cedric Richmond. How do you feel about the fact that if Democrats were still to put — now the president said there’s no conditioning, no linkage between the two bills, will Republicans sign on to the bipartisan infrastructure bill if Democrats are then going to go ahead and push a multi-trillion dollar social spending bill?

BANKS: Well, you saw — as you mentioned earlier in the segment, Chris, you saw Joe Biden already flip-flop from Friday to Saturday. We don’t know what he supports at this point. We don’t know what a bipartisan deal will look like. He has already gone back and forth and back and forth again on the reconciliation package, coming with a bipartisan deal. Republicans want to support a bipartisan deal, but not a $4 trillion socialist Green New Deal-type info structure deal.

And right now it looks like — it doesn’t look like Joe Biden is negotiating with Republicans. He’s negotiating between the Joe Manchin wing of the Democrat (ph) Party and the AOC-Bernie Sanders socialist wing of the Democrat (ph) Party, not with Republicans.

WALLACE: Congressman Banks, thank you. Thanks for talking with us, always good to talk with you, sir.

BANKS: Thank you.

WALLACE: Joining us now, someone who has to deal with the violence in our streets every day, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Mayor, we’ve just heard the view from Washington, both from the White House and from Capitol Hill. You’re on the front lines, so let me ask you the same question I asked our prior two guests, why do you think there has been this alarming spike in homicides and shootings in big cities across the country over the last 18 months?

QUINTON LUCAS (D), KANSAS CITY MAYOR: You know, I think there are a few different sources. But one of them very clearly was a lot of the efforts we had on prevention and intervention. We were unable to do during the year of COVID. We had so many youth programs, we had opportunities for people to actually — who are coming back from prison to get involved in jobs, all types of other things. And those really went downhill during the pandemic because we could not be together.

I also have to agree with Cedric Richmond, the preponderance of firearms on our streets creates a significant problem. Each and every day we have young people getting guns in Kansas City, young people getting killed. Those are very significant issues for us.

WALLACE: You also heard Congressman Banks talking about the attacks on police, the demoralization of police. He said attacks by a lot of people in the left wing of the Democratic Party.

In Kansas City, you have supported a $42 million budget cut to the budget – – to the Kansas City Police Department budget. Isn’t that a form of police defunding?

LUCAS: You know, I don’t think it is. I think that the defund the police kind of idea, particularly when articulated by Republicans, is a bit of a bogeyman. There is no major American city mayor who has made budget reallocation choices without actually first thinking about, how do we continue to deliver core services, but then how can we do better in addressing mental health, violence prevention, all types of other things.

In Kansas City, we’re in a unique situation because we do not have control of our police department but that actually is a $45 million that we’re putting back into the police budget. We just want to make sure it goes to prevention. We’ve asked the police department to make sure it’s working with intervention. The police department has social workers itself. Officers who are crisis trained. Community policing., the very thing President Biden’s discussed, are what we’re trying to invest in, in policing.

And if you actually talk to rank and file police officers, they appreciate having neighborhood policing support, they appreciate having crisis intervention teams. It’s the work we’re doing in Kansas City and what most responsible American cities are doing right now.

WALLACE: But the budget cut that you supported, $42 million, that’s almost a 20 percent reduction in funding for the police department itself. And there is the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, you’re, in fact, a member of it, they are suing the city because of this increase. And while you have just defended it, the head of the board, Bishop Tolbert, says that he views it as a form of police funding — defunding, rather.

LUCAS: Well, yes. And I — and I fundamentally disagree. I think they’re more concerned about who has power over the budget. In Kansas City, what we’re trying to do is say, as we give our police department more money, more money than it had in its original budget allocation, we want to make sure you’re doing the things our citizens want. And I think a lot of people are misreading even Eric Adams’ success thus far in New York. It isn’t a repudiation of reform, it isn’t a repudiation of community policing. Instead, what it’s saying is that we all recognize we can do better but the police will be a fundamental part of it.

It is not that we’re saying abolish the police or anything of the sort. And while I heard the previous congressman talk about all those types of things, I think the way you actually back the blue and support our communities is actually supporting them in helping to prevent crimes, helping to intervene in the cycle of violent crimes that sees teenagers and kids get killed on the streets of Kansas City every day. That’s what we are invested in.

And I disagree with those who are trying to politicize it. I think my friends on the right are really trying to say back the blue but not offering any solutions for how our cities can be safer. And in a city like mine that’s had about 5,000 people murdered in my lifetime, mainly with firearms, I think we need to do better.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on — on this last point you made when you talked about the kids, the teenagers in the street who get killed. And the answer is, they mostly get killed by other kids and other teenagers. And I want to ask you about — about those young people.

Is there a change in attitude — what’s going on where — and, you know, we’ve shown videos, horrific videos earlier in this program, where you see young kids with handguns, with assault weapons just going out in the street and spraying the street and killing people. What’s going on?

QUINTON LUCAS (D), KANSAS CITY MAYOR : Well, you know, there are a few different things. One, there is always a challenge of community. It takes a village to raise a child and I do think we need to make sure we invest in our young people.

I grew up without a father in my home, but I had a whole lot of other people, including a police officer who helped, in essence, kind of raise me along the way. We need to do more of that with our young people.

But I will have to go back to firearms. How is it that a 13-year-old, a 14- year-old is getting access to firearms so easily? That’s why I support the president’s plans with the ATF, to make sure that we’re cracking down on illegal gun traffickers, making sure where cracking down on ghost guns. These things are getting into the hands of kids and they’re having fatal results each and every day in places like Kansas City, Chicago, and throughout the country.

WALLACE: So if you were suddenly appointed the nation’s anti-crime czar for 24 hours, and forget the politics, even forget kind of a realistic, practical solutions. And, as we know, there’s not going to be some big, strong gun-control legislation passed by this Congress, what’s the one, single biggest thing you would do to try to cut down on the violence in our streets?

LUCAS: I think the one big single thing I would do is invest it in our young people, making sure that when they’re 11 and 12 you’re showing them opportunities that gets them out of the life of crime.

Yes, we need enforcement. We will continue to need police departments and prisons. But if we’re not getting to young people early so that they don’t get involved in that gang activity and that shooting activity, that we’re going to continue to fail, as I think we have been doing for generations.

I come from a city that’s been confronting violence for years. This is not just a 2021 or 2020 problem. We have got to break the cycle of violent crime in our communities and I think that’s what the president’s committed to, that’s certainly what we are committed to as mayors around the country.

WALLACE: Mayor Lucas, thank you. Thanks for coming in today. Always good to talk with you, sir.

Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group to discuss that shaky bipartisan deal on infrastructure. Can the president keep everyone on board?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Coming up, Vice President Harris on defense during a visit to the border with Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said back in March I was going to come to the border. So this is not a new plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: We’ll ask our Sunday panel whether the White House has an answer to the migrant surge across the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We actually work with people. We have a bipartisan deal. And bipartisan deals means compromise.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Endorse the agreement in one breath, and threaten to video it in the next. Less than two hours. It almost makes your head spin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell going after the president when Mr. Biden conditioned a bipartisan deal on infrastructure on passage of a big Democratic spending bill.

Well, yesterday, the president tried to undo the damage, saying he will sign the bipartisan bill, period.

And it’s time now for our Sunday group.

Jonathan Swan from “Axios,” Dana Perino, co-anchor of “AMERICA’S NEWSROOM,” And Mo Elleithee of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Jonathan, help me sort this out here because first the president announces this bipartisan deal on infrastructure, but then he seemed to condition it. He wouldn’t sign that unless he also got, on a straight party line vote through the Senate, a huge, multitrillion dollar social program spending bill.

Then when Republicans started to back out, he issues this clarification that we’ve talked about saying no, no, the two are separate, there’s no in tandem deal here. He’ll sign the infrastructure bill and, yes, he’s going to fight for the other one, but there’s no conditionality.

One, how much scrambling was going on at the White House tween the first statement by the president and this clarifying statement, and do they feel that the clarification has fixed the problem?

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “AXIOS”: Scrambling was about 11 out of 10 and actually gas-lighting was initially at least 11 or 12 out of 10.

I spoke to Republicans and Democrats who were involved in those negotiations. They couldn’t believe it when — when Joe Biden said this. I made it is — you know, we should acknowledge, astonishing to basically present this deal as nirvana, you know, the greatest deal that’s ever been struck, you know, essential for the American people, and then, you know, in a sort of very short period of time say, but I’m not going to sign it unless it simultaneously arrives on my desk with — with this other separate bill for social spending.

Initially, the White House was basically — their position was, nothing’s changed. You didn’t hear what you think you heard kind of thing. And — and then he put out this statement. Obviously, you know, that wasn’t good enough. He — he basically walked it back completely with this statement that he put out.

So, look, it’s a — I think there’s going to be a lot more twists and turns before anything gets signed into law, but this was a pretty big one.

WALLACE: Dana, let me pick up on that because, yes, the president is now saying there’s no linkage between the bipartisan deal on infrastructure and the other all-Democratic deal on social spending. But I still wonder — I mean the basic problem, isn’t it still there for Republicans? If you support the trillion dollar infrastructure bill and give the president this bipartisan win, you know that in the next step, whether there’s formal linkage or not, he’s going to go around behind you and try and pass a two or $3 trillion social spending bill.

DANA PERINO, CO-ANCHOR OF “AMERICA’S NEWSROOM”: Well, I actually think that the problems are still very much on the administration’s and on the Democrats side of things rather than the Republicans because a couple of things. First of all, the administration took what was a terrible, no good, very bad week, and then made it so much worse by this statement of a veto threat, but then a walk-back of the veto threat that is pretty mealy- mouthed. And I have a feeling that because they showed their cards the way they did, that Senator McConnell is not going to let his numbers get rolled. There’s no way that they’re going to trust them on this. And so it’s actually the Democrats who are in a bit of a fix because they don’t have enough votes to play with.

You know, if they had a 55 seat majority, maybe they’d be fine. But they don’t. They have 50 and they still have senators like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. I think the problems are very much on their end and I’m a little bit surprised that the walk-back was just so strange. I have to wonder, what was the chief of staff, Ron Klain’s strategy here? What was the intent? They’ve made everybody mad and have nothing to show for it.

WALLACE: All right, Mo, let’s now put it in the Democrats camp. I mean we saw — all would agree it’s never good when the president has to clarify a statement at such length as this one, a formal written statement.

How much damage did he do by saying at first — right after, within two hours of the, we have a deal in the White House driveway, saying, look, I’m not signing one without the other. Now he’s walked it back. So how much damage did he do originally.

And let’s talk about it from the Democratic side because by saying I’m going to sign this, now he’s ticked off some of the Democrats on the left who have made it clear they aren’t going to go for the bipartisan bill unless there is this big social spending bill.

MO ELLEITHEE, GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, look. The fact that they had to walk it back tells you that — that the initial statement wasn’t a good thing for them. But I do think what — where they are right now is — I would disagree with Dana, but I don’t think it’s a bad place for them. People — you know, they can celebrate this bipartisan legislation, this deal, and they can tout it and the president’s going to get out there and he’s going to try to sell it. And Republicans now have a choice to either back it or not.

I think you’re going to — I think Senate Democrats will rally behind this. I don’t think you’re going to see them go against a bipartisan deal that’s got the president’s stamp of approval and reject it. So I think, you know, the — the ball’s in the Republicans’ court on this.

House Democrats are going to be annoyed if this thing is not presented in tandem, which is what I think the president was trying to signal, was like, it’s OK, I’m going to fight for that too.

WALLACE: Right.

ELLEITHEE: He may have done that a little in artfully, but he’s now walked it back and said, we’re still going to have this fight. Let’s separate these. Let’s do the infrastructure bill in a bipartisan way and then, Republicans, you have the right to fight me on the other thing. I’m going to fight for it and let’s see where the — where the chips fall.

WALLACE: Right.

ELLEITHEE: It’s not a bad place to be in because he’s — he’s indicating what his priorities are on both.

WALLACE: Jonathan, I know you’re in the reporting business, not the production business. We’ve got about a minute left here.

What is your best guess, how much of all of this, the Biden domestic agenda, will get past, and how?

SWAN: It’s — it’s a nightmare in terms of legislation. I mean in terms of the scale of it. We are talking about two transformational, vast pieces of legislation that touch almost every area of the American economy, including basically an overhaul of the tax code on the social spending side. They have to get that written. It’s not written yet. This is just proposals that people are talking about. They’ve got to write them into law. They’ve got to get it through committees.

Oh, by the way, they’ve got to raise the debt ceiling. Oh, by the way, they’ve got to fund the government. It’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare. And if they get this done, they are, you know, LBJ times 50.

So I can’t predict the composition, the final composition of this. There is so much road to go on this and there are going to be so many times when this is declared dead and maybe we’ll see it resurrected from the grave several times as well.

WALLACE: On that happy note, all right, we have to take a break here, panel.

When we come back, Vice President Harris finally, finally take that trip to the southern border, but is it enough to satisfy her critics?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This issue cannot be reduced to a political issue. We’re talking about children. It is here in El Paso that the previous administration’s child separation policy was unveiled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Vice President Harris saying the crisis at the border is too serious for politics, but then engaging in some politics herself.

And we’re back now with the panel.

Dana, two questions. One, what did Kamala Harris accomplish on her trip to the border this week? And, second, there are reports now that the Biden administration is considering lifting Title 42, the public health rules set by President Trump during the pandemic, to keep migrants from coming across. If they lift Title 42, isn’t the flood of illegal immigration going to get even worse?

PERINO: Well, a couple of things. I think, you know, if they had a chance to do a do-over, I believe that having given — been given the assignment by President Biden on the border, that they would have gone within the first 48 hours, do a fact-finding mission, maybe you get a bad story then instead of 90 bad stories in a row over the last three months.

But if you’re going to do a check the box exercise, you have to fully check the box. And going to El Paso rather than to the place like down in McAllen where the real problems were, I don’t know if this will end the critics. But forget that. So she’s gone. Now she can say she went.

What does she do next? And if one of the things that they’re going to do is remove yet another tool that allows them to prevent people from being able to come into the country, when she went to Guatemala and she said, do not come, again, they’re saying that, but all of their actions say actually just come on across because we’re not going to turn you away. They’re adding to the backlog here of 1.2 million cases that need to be heard by immigration judges.

I feel that she is underwhelming at this point and they might be a little frustrated with the West Wing. They might feel that they need a little bit more support there in terms of a policy change. Until they have a policy change, they are not going to be able to fix the communications on this.

WALLACE: Mo, I want to pick up on that because it sure seems to me that if they were purposely trying to do it, the Biden White House, including Vice President Harris, couldn’t be doing a better job of creating a big, bad political issue for themselves in the 2022 midterms.

ELLEITHEE : Well, look, immigration is not a good issue for anybody, frankly. Both sides have struggled with this issue over the years. And Republicans have tried to demonize Democrats on immigration over the past couple of years. And what we’ve seen is that in poll after poll after poll, Democrats actually maintain a narrow edge when it comes to which party people trust to dealing with immigration more. A Republican base certainly doesn’t believe that but the rest of the country does. So I don’t know how the politics of this is going to play out at the end of the day.

The vice president, her task was to deal with the root causes. So she went first down to visit the northern triangle and figure out what the root causes were and try to stop people from coming across in the first place before then going to the border to see if the ramifications. So, you know, was it a communications mess? I don’t think so. But I do think that they are approaching it from a policy perspective very differently than the previous administration. And we know that that’s what voters wanted in the last election.

WALLACE: Right.

Well, let me just say that in the latest Fox News poll, the area in which the president polls the worst and is underwater, more unfavorable than favorable, is on immigration and handling of the border.

Jonathan, I want to move to another subject, voting rights. The Democrats suffered a big defeat this week. Their — their S-1, which gives you a sense of the emphasis they were putting on that, the For the People Act, went down to defeat. They didn’t get any Republican support to break a filibuster.

But then, late in the week, you had the attorney general, Merrick Garland, announcing that the Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia.

So take a look at Garland here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Jonathan, given the fact that it looks like Democrats are not going to be able to get any big voting reform bill through Congress, is this the way through the Department of Justice lawsuits that they’re going to try to deal with the new voting laws with — with different restrictions, new restrictions on voting that are being passed in red states?

SWAN: Not really because — well, firstly, it’s — it’s the eighth lawsuit against the Georgia laws. There’s already a bunch of lawsuits. And it’s actually less ambitious than some of them that this says that the purpose of the law was discriminatory. Some of the other suits say that the purpose and effect of the law. But you’ve got a very conservative Supreme Court that’s probably going to remain a conservative Supreme Court, maybe for the next couple of decades.

So basically what’s happening is Democrats are watching Republicans at the state level pass these voting laws, you know, in state after state and certainly move and introduce them in the wake of the 2020 election and they’re trying to figure out how to combat that. They’re trying to pass sweeping federal legislation, which you mentioned earlier, they just don’t have the votes to overturn a filibuster, which is what they’d need to do to get that past. So, obviously, they’re also pursuing a legal strategy. But it’s going to take a long time and it’s probably not going to get the result they want with the current composition of the Supreme Court.

WALLACE: I got about 30 seconds, Dana.

Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who pushed back hard on Donald Trump’s claims of vote fraud in Georgia, he says he’s looking forward to meeting the feds in court on this lawsuit and beating the feds in court on this lawsuit.

PERINO: Yes, Democrats might actually end up codifying some of the things that are actually in the law. You know, voter ID would be one of those things. But there are some things I think that state legislatures all across the country will be paying attention to. Make sure that those bills, if you’re going to pass them, will pass constitutional muster or you’ll have a challenge like this in the courts.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.

Up next, our “Power Player of the Week,” a former CIA secret ops leader hit with a mysterious illness and pushing for justice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: He spent more than two decades in the shadows on dangerous covert ops for the CIA, but now he’s been forced into the public eye to fight for American officials hit by a mysterious illness.

Here’s our “Power Player of the Week.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, RETIRED CIA OFFICER: It is an act of war. This is a pretty insidious weapon that’s being used and we should treat it as such.

WALLACE (voice over): Former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos on the invisible attack that ended his 26 year career.

POLYMEROPOULOS: My life was in danger numerous times. This, to me, was the most terrifying experience of my life.

WALLACE: Polymeropoulos was chief of clandestine operations in Europe and Eurasia. In December of 2017, he was on a trip to Moscow.

POLYMEROPOULOS: Even the darkest days of the Cold War, the CIA and the — and the KGB would meet.

WALLACE (on camera): Did you think it was dangerous for you to go to Moscow?

POLYMEROPOULOS: No, not in the least.

WALLACE (voice over): But one night, in his hotel room, he awoke with a start.

POLYMEROPOULOS: The room was spinning and I lost control. I had tinnitus, which is ringing in my ears, and a splitting headache. And so it was a really, really traumatic experience.

WALLACE: Back at the CIA, his condition kept getting worse.

POLYMEROPOULOS: By early 2018, I also developed brain fog and I also lost my long distance vision. So I was going to see multiple doctors and — and really I — I was — I was almost unable to go to work whatsoever.

WALLACE: Polymeropoulos thought he had Havana syndrome, a mysterious illness first seen in U.S. diplomats living in Cuba who were suddenly struck with similar symptoms.

WALLACE (on camera): What kind of help did you get from the CIA medical office?

POLYMEROPOULOS: I call it a moral injury because ultimately the — the senior CIA medical staff, throughout 2018 and 2019, really didn’t believe me that anything had happened to me.

WALLACE (voice over): At the peak of his career, Polymeropoulos retired.

POLYMEROPOULOS: I think I was involved in every covert action program in the Middle East for — for two decades. But I always did so knowing that, you know, the CIA would have my back if I was jammed up, if something happened to me, you know, medically, and they didn’t do it.

WALLACE: Last year he went public with his story. And after years of asking, he finally got treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

POLYMEROPOULOS: The doctors there diagnosed me with a traumatic brain injury, a TBI. I have a path forward and I have some tools that can really help me. And it changed my life.

WALLACE: Part of that path, art therapy, painting masks.

POLYMEROPOULOS: It’s superman and there’s an ice pick that’s going through it, which signifies the headache. I carved in the CIA’s seal but cracked in half. My son and daughter, you know, sent me separate texts saying, you know, dad, you’re still our superman.

WALLACE (on camera): How do you think you were attacked?

POLYMEROPOULOS: I think it’s a mobile directed energy weapon. You know, we know the Russians have had this for years.

WALLACE: How should this country respond to these attacks?

POLYMEROPOULOS: We have to, you know, detect, deter, and disrupt this and then hold those accountable. Look, I will keep speaking out because, you know, I owe this to my colleagues who are on the tip of the spear and — and who rely are being affected by this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Polymeropoulos is out with a new book on leadership called “Clarity in Crisis.” He says writing it has been part of his healing process.

And that’s it for today. Have a great week and we’ll see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
 

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