This is a rush transcript and will be updated. It may contain errors.
ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on ABC's This Week. ISIS takeover? The terrorists fighters now expanding their grip. Is President Obama's plan to contain the jihadist surge failing? Plus, the startling new claim from ISIS this morning.
PATRIOT Act chaos. The dramatic (inaudible) in a scramble. Will the government's domestic phone surveillance program be disconnected?
Hillary email mayhem. Hundreds of Clinton emails revealing new information about Benghazi and more.
And on this Memorial Day weekend, the unforgettable words in a soldiers letter home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the last thing he wrote.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, This Week with George Stephanopoulos begins now.
JONATHAN KARL, HOST: Good morning. I'm Jonathan Karl. It is great to have you with us on this Memorial Day weekend. We are tracking several developing stories this morning, including a middle of the night scramble in the Senate, the PATRIOT Act's domestic surveillance program is now in doubt.
And the ISIS threat. The terrorist group has captured key territory and is now making a startling new claim about nuclear weapons. But we start with protests growing in Cleveland after a white police officer was acquitted in the deaths of an unarmed black couple. Ohio Governor John Kasich joins us momentarily. But first let's get the latest from ABC's Alex Perez. Good morning, Alex.
ALEX PEREZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Authorities here today bracing for possibly another day of protests. Now, demonstrators took to the streets immediately following the judge's decision Saturday to acquit Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams back in 2012, both were unarmed.
The couple led police on a nearly 25 minute car chase. Once cornered, several officers were firing when Brelo jumped on the hood and fired 15 shots into their windshield. The judge ruled Brelo's use of deadly force was reasonable.
While there have been some arrests, protests here have been for the most part peaceful.
The victims' family members outraged by Brelo's acquittal. the Justice Department has announced they will be reviewing the judge's decision -- John.
KARL: Thank you, Alex.
Joining us now, Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Governor Kasich, there's a lot of tension we're seeing in Cleveland over this verdict. We heard from Congresswoman Marcia Fudge saying it is a stunning setback, adding today we have been told yet again our lives have no value.
So let me ask you, do you believe justice was served with this verdict?
GOV. JOHN KASICH, (R) OHIO: Well, look, the verdict is the verdict the verdict, John. What I will say is that I think the people of Cleveland handled this, I mean, they should be so proud of themselves and we should look at Cleveland as a model. The mayor, former Senator Nina Turner, some of the minister -- Todd Davidson -- these are people who have said it is proper to protest and -- but at the same time, no violence, because violence in a community only destroys the community.
Months ago, John, I created a task force on police and community. And I think that's also helped to send a message, I hope, around the state that we need an integration of police in community. And there were two recommendations up front: a policy regarding the use of deadly force, statewide in Ohio, and secondly research into the recruiting and enrollment of police officers, minority police officers.
So I'm very, very sensitive to this issue.
When there are large numbers of people who do not think the system works for them and in some ways works against them we have to respond to it. And so in Cleveland across the state of Ohio we've been very aggressive in terms of saying we hear you, we understand it, there are going to be a series of additional recommendations that's going to respond to the fact that community understands police and police needs to understand community. There's going to be money for training, for data collection. We've been over this.
Fortunately, we started this months ago. We're the only task force on police in community that I'm aware of in the country. And it's serving us well. But the credit goes to the leadership in Cleveland who have spoken with one voice saying protest, but no violence is acceptable in Cleveland. And the people of Cleveland should be proud of what's been happening here in the last 24 hours.
KARL: And of course, this is the second major case -- we had the Tamir Rice case, the 12 year old boy, again unarmed, shot. This is going to take some time, isn't it. I mean, what is it going to take to heal the community.
KASICH: Well, the Tamir Rice case is something we of course are all watching. And we hope we'll get a resolution, a decision on that sooner rather than later. But what it's going to take is the ability to lift everyone, to make sure that people in these communities know that there's an opportunity for them that there is hope, that people and authority are listening, that there will be solid responses. And so we're just not talking about our task force. We're talking about solid recommendations that we intend to carry out.
And Senator Nina Turner, African American Democrat who I had as part of the leadership of this team, made up of pastors, made up of community activists, the FOP, they've come forward with unanimous recommendations to start to right this problem and be very responsive not just in Cleveland, but of course all across the state of Ohio. That doesn't mean this is the total solution, John, it doesn't. But it means we're on top of it as best we can. And again, the people of Cleveland protest, they ought to protest, that's their right, but violence has been kept to an absolute minimum in that city. And god bless the people of Cleveland.
KARL: All right, well let's hope it remains that way. Thank you, Governor Kasich. We'll have much more with the governor later.
Now to the growing ISIS threat. Brand new details this morning on the jihadist group's alarming moves taking key territory and now making a startling claim about buying nuclear weapons.
ABC's Alex Marquardt has the latest.
ALEX MARQUARDT, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This morning, ISIS on a roll scoring major land grabs in the past week. The group now estimated to control half of Syria and taking the key Iraqi city of Ramadi. There, the Iraqi army once again appeared to crumble, these soldiers pinned down by ISIS, evacuated by rescue helicopters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe anybody felt that Ramadi would fall. And I think it's of great concern to everyone.
MARQUARDT: ISIS used 30 car bombs to take Ramadi, including 10 the size of the Oklahoma City blast. Just days later across the border in Syria, ISIS routed government troops in the ancient city of Palmyra, home to majestic ruins more than 2,000 years old. The fear, ISIS could destroy treasures there and loot other artifacts to fund their campaign.
Despite the ISIS gains, in an interview with The Atlantic this week, the president insisted we're not losing, instead calling it a tactical setback.
That's what degrading ISIS's capabilities looks like? 10 Oklahoma City bombings?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what a military conflict looks like. And this is what a very tenacious adversary looks like.
MARQUARDT: Republican critics pounced.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Where is our decency? Where is our concern about these thousands of people that are being slaughtered and displaced?
MARQUARDT: And in a new claim online, the jihadist group now says it has so much money it may soon be able to buy a nuclear weapon, a horrifying prospect that last year the president said would trigger the need for U.S. ground troops.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we discovered that ISIL had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, yes, you can anticipate that not only would Chairman Dempsey recommend me sending U.S. ground troops to get that weapon out of their hands, but I would order it.
MARQUARDT: Syrian and Iraqi forces on their heels, the U.S. grappling with its strategy as the ISIS momentum grows.
For this week, Alex Marquardt, ABC News, Beirut.
KARL: Thanks to, Alex.
Joining us now Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House armed services committee.
Chairman Thornberry, we heard an alarming claim there. This is ISIS online saying that by next year they believe that they will have the means to purchase a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. Any evidence that that could happen?
REP. MAC THORNBERRY, (R) TEXAS: Well, no evidence that it has happened. Would they do it if they had the opportunity? Of course. Would they use it if they had it? I don't think there's any doubt.
So, what do we do about it? Number one, we don't wait until they get it before we take action that seriously degrades and destroys ISIS. Secondly, we keep pushing at their finances to lower the amount of money they have. But the other thing we've got to do is improve our intelligence capability. We, I think, know less today than we knew five or six years ago about what terrorists around the world are doing for a variety of reasons, but the key way to know what they're doing, to prevent them from getting a nuclear, chemical, biological weapon is to augment our intelligence capability and then you've got to act. You can't draw red lines that you don't follow up on.
KARL: I want to ask you one key aspect of that, being the PATRIOT Act before we get to that talk about what we saw this week. They took a major city in Syria and we saw them take Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. And we saw them conduct a suicide attack in Saudi Arabia.
Is ISIS winning this war now?
THORNBERRY: They're -- they have a lot of momentum on their side. And I don't know about – the president resists saying, ‘We're losing it.’ Well, we're not winning. We know that.
KARL: Well, they say, in fact, that we're degrading ISIS. Is this --
THORNBERRY: I don't see evidence of that. You see not only ISIS gaining territory in Iraq and in Syria and I think the map, like you showed, gives it very graphically about their territory expanding.
But what a map like that doesn't show is the ideology continues to grow. So you've got these sorts of jihadists from Mali, Somalia, Libya, all the way to Afghan, Pakistan, who are pledging allegiance to ISIS.
So as their caliphate area grows in Iraq and Syria, their ideology, their approach, their brand, if you will, is growing and --
KARL: Faster than the territory --
THORNBERRY: -- faster than the territory.
KARL: But let me ask you, we learned a really alarming briefing from the State Department about what they did to get Ramadi, 30 vehicle bombs, 10, they said, had force of the Oklahoma City bomb.
You called for sending more American troops, not the kind of ground invasion that the White House has talked about, but are you really prepared to see American forces go into confront an enemy like that, fighting like they are?
THORNBERRY: Well, I'd prefer not to have American ground troops. What for -- some of our military folks believe, however, if we'd had some advisers on the ground we could have called in effective airstrikes that it would have at least made the battle for Ramadi more competitive.
But we didn't have that. So we have tied our own hands in a variety of ways and we have considerable doubts about our reliability. Meanwhile the Iraqi government is not being inclusive, not sending arms to the Sunnis or the Kurds, which we're trying to correct in our Defense bill that we passed about 10 --
KARL: OK. So we're --
THORNBERRY: -- got a mixture of things that are happening that handicap this effort against ISIS.
KARL: -- yes, we're almost out of time; very quickly, the PATRIOT Act's surveillance program expires next Sunday at midnight.
How worried are you about that?
THORNBERRY: I'm worried about it. We passed what I think is an imperfect bill out of the House, but it's better than letting it expire. Among the other provisions that expired are the lone wolf provisions, which are exactly the sort of threat we're going to see more of here at home.
So we need to have that crucial intelligence capability continue.
KARL: All right, Chairman Thornberry, thank you very much for joining us, sir.
Up next, what Hillary Clinton's hundreds of newly released emails reveal about her leadership and the big battle over the PATRIOT Act pitting Republican against Republican. Back in just two minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Now the 2016 campaign trail and the political story that keeps growing, there you see Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire this week as the State Department released hundreds of emails about Benghazi and more from her private account. Clinton told voters in New Hampshire she's happy the emails are out. But ABC's Cecilia Vega reports, it set off another political firestorm.
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Iowa to New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton on the trail this week, finally taking questions, so many about those emails. The State Department releasing the first 300 written on then-Secretary Clinton's personal account stored on her home server, what they show while Clinton never sent classified information, one email was considered so sensitive the FBI has now classified it.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: That doesn't change the fact that all of the information in the emails was handled appropriately.
VEGA (voice-over): Clinton also received numerous back channel briefings from long-time confidant Sidney Blumenthal in an exchange less than three weeks before the deadly attack in Benghazi, Blumenthal writes about deteriorating security. Clinton forward the email to senior staff saying, "Very interesting." That response, yes, some warning signs.
Another exchange about former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who told the world an Internet video mocking Islam sparked the spontaneous attack, while it was later revealed to be a planned terrorist attack. Staffers reassuring Clinton, "You never said spontaneous or characterized the motive. In fact, you were careful in your first statement."
The release had Clinton on the defensive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a perception problem? Many Americans don't believe that you told the truth on Benghazi.
CLINTON: I'm going to let the Americans decide that. Thank you all very much.
VEGA (voice-over): Republicans have yet to point to a smoking gun. They are still blasting Clinton for hand-selecting those emails, 55,000 pages in all, the rest to be released in batches in the coming months.
PAUL: So now we're to trust her that the ones she turned over are all of the emails? I personally won't be satisfied until we look at the server.
VEGA: And Clinton announced her first big campaign rally will take place in June. Many of these emails will come out just as this race is heating up. And she is clearly trying to move on from this, Clinton telling voters this week that she is not running for her husband's third term or, Jon, for President Obama's third term.
KARL: Thank you, Cecilia.
And meanwhile we just saw that scramble on the Republican-led Senate over the government's domestic surveillance program, a group of senators early Saturday trying to take down the PATRIOT Act, blocking a vote to extend it. One of the key players, presidential candidate Rand Paul, his actions may have big implications for the war on terror and for his own prospects in 2016.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: Made phone calls and all...
KARL (voice-over): There's Senator Rand Paul, once again having a filibuster moment, leading a 10-hour talkathon against renewal of key provisions of the PATRIOT Act.
PAUL: And I will not let the PATRIOT Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged. To the American say enough's enough, we want our privacy protected, the bulk collection must end. And I think we have the votes to do it now.
KARL (voice-over): By attempting to dismantle a key part of George W. Bush's war on terror, he's once again showing he's not your average Republican. He's done it on drones.
PAUL: When I asked the president, can you kill an Americans on American soil, it should have been an easy answer.
KARL (voice-over): He's done it on criminal justice reform.
PAUL: I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally.
KARL (voice-over): While Paul was making his Senate floor stand, his campaign was hawking merchandise, a filibuster starter pack with this T-shirt and a bumper sticker for $30. Paul's stance puts him on a collision course with his 2016 Republican rivals. From Chris Christie --
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: The first job of a President of the United States is to protect the homeland and that's what we need to do.
KARL (voice-over): -- to Jeb Bush.
JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: There is ample evidence that the PATRIOT Act has been a tool to keep us safe. There is no evidence of anyone's civil liberties being violated because of it.
KARL (voice-over): Former Florida governor meanwhile was out on the trail, trying to move on from his stumble over the Iraq War, finding a new way to put distance between himself and his brother.
BUSH: I think that in Washington, during my brother's time Republicans spent too much money. He could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C.
KARL: Coming up Candidate Kasich? The popular Ohio governor may be the next Republican to jump into the 2016 race. He'll be back to talk about Hillary, Jeb and being an underdog.
KARL (voice-over): Governor John Kasich is next and coming up later a stunning turn in the debate over the death penalty.
KASICH: Being out in your homes again. But you get to know me and see me. That's what it's really all about. It's why I love New Hampshire.
KARL: That was Governor John Kasich in New Hampshire last month. He is back with us now.
Governor Kasich, you sure love New Hampshire. That was kind of interesting.
KASICH: You know, two congressional districts, the people are great. Last time I was there, Jon, 16 years ago, I was trying to run for president. I was talking to a lady in the kitchen and we were having a nice chat and finally she looked at her watch and said, hey, when do you think the candidate's going to get here?
KASICH: It hasn't happened this time, though.
KARL: Yes, hopefully you'll be a little more known this time. I want to get to that in a second. But first, we had this dramatic showdown in the Senate over the PATRIOT Act and the domestic surveillance program.
So my question to you is, do you stand with Rand Paul, who says the PATRIOT Act is unconstitutional violation of our civil liberties or are you with those like Jeb Bush, who say this is a important tool in the war on terror?
KASICH: Well, Jon, you know, there's a balance here. I'm very suspicious of anything that's big, whether it's government, business; it doesn't matter. And so I think there's a middle ground. I do think we have to gather intelligence. As a governor here, from time to time, I'll get a briefing on threats. So I know that intelligence is important. But I also think civil liberties are important.
So I do think they ought to continue the program. But all that data probably ought to put -- be put in some sort of an organization, maybe some sort of quasi-government organization. And we ought to extend the power of the FISA court. That's the court that says if you're going to go and use this kind of surveillance, it has to be approved by somebody.
And you know, when you talk about domestic surveillance, I think we've got to extend the power of that court.
So to me, there has to be a review.
Secondly, I don't like the government holding onto this data. This could be a case for Congress to actually shine and strike the proper balance between surveillance and the need for civil liberties. And I think that's the direction they ought to go.
KARL: But was it irresponsible of Republicans in Congress? I mean, Rand Paul leading the charge on this, not to allow this program as it is to be extended for even one day?
KASICH: Well, look, I'm not going to get into, you know, criticizing Rand. He feels strongly about this. And I appreciate what he's doing on that. But --
KASICH: -- Jon, at the end of the day, you have to have a little bit of compromise. And striking a balance here is critical because we've got to know where the enemy is, particularly the lone wolf and at the same time we've got to make sure that people's rights are not going to be violence in the United States of America. So there's a way to get this done. And it should be done.
KARL: All right. So I want to ask you about the other major story this week, which is the advances we saw, ISIS make in Syria and Iraq, what does president -- what would President Kasich do?
KARL: -- the advance of ISIS?
KASICH: Well, Jon, I said months ago that we ought to have a coalition of our Western partners and our -- any of our allies in the Middle East to form a coalition to knock ISIS out. And if that includes American boots on the ground, so be it. But at the end of the day, you just can't let them continue to make all this progress.
Look, three big problems. One we disbanded the Iraqi army and we have nothing but chaos since we started.
Two, we failed to arm the opposition in Syria to push Assad out, which would have been strategic because of the support for Iran and Russia in regard to Assad.
Then we had a red line and we ignored that. And now we find out that over in Syria, they're dropping barrel chlorine bombs on people.
So you know, it's been a feckless foreign policy. We were undermining our ally, the Israelis; couldn't even meet with Netanyahu when he came to the United States. There is confusion.
Can it be fixed? Absolutely. But I think the administration has missed it on many, many fronts.
KARL: OK. So I want to get to 2016. We saw you in New Hampshire; as I understand it now, your wife and even your daughters are on board with the idea of a presidential run --
KASICH: I didn't know you could talk to them.
KARL: This is what I've heard.
So what, at this point, aside --
KASICH: We're getting closer, Jon.
KARL: Yes? Are you going to do it?
KASICH: -- closer. Well, look, I mean, we are -- we have metrics set internally. I am very pleased with what we have seen over the course of the last month. I've been very pleased with what I found out on the ground in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan. I'm in the process of accumulating resources. I hope people will help me, if they like my -- sort of my unique voice in this whole thing.
And we look at organization. And so within a period of time, I will make a decision and if we meet our metrics, I'm going to move forward. I have to tell you that I'm increasingly optimistic about all of this.
And you know, Jon, I'm the most experienced in the field with being an executive, running a big state like Ohio, dealing with problems like Cleveland; at the same time being in Congress, balance the budget. I was the chairman and also serving on the Defense Committee for 18 years.
So I'm pretty qualified for this kind of a job.
KARL: But there's no question (INAUDIBLE) if you got into this right now, you would be an underdog. I mean, right now, if you got in this race, you wouldn't even qualify to be on the debate stage in your own state, that first FOX debate.
KASICH: Well, Jon, you know the way this system works. You know, you go to New Hampshire and you do well and you're on a rocket ship. I don't worry about process. What I'm concerned is about is can I win. And will I have the resources. And the organization. And we're in the process of determining that. And let me tell you again that I'm very optimistic about where we're headed.
And I don't worry about whether they know me in Oklahoma or somewhere right now. I love Oklahoma but I love all the states. But at the end of the day, you know how the process works. It's the early primaries that matter and that's why I'll be in people's homes in New Hampshire, i hope.
KARL: -- let me ask you, over the weekend, we saw this article in the New York Times saying that the Hillary Clinton folks fear that Marco Rubio would be their toughest competition, because it will represent a generational clash: the past and the future.
You battled the -- you were there in the 90s. If that's the case, don't you kind of represent the past here?
KASICH: Well, Jon, you know what we need as a -- for a president is somebody that has deep experience, both knowledge of foreign affairs and the ability to be an executive, you know, to have made decisions and to have a bottom line.
I don't -- look, I love Rubio, terrific guy. You know, they're all out there plugging away and they're all doing a good job. But at the end of the day we need somebody who has deep experience, executive experience who has made decisions where there is a bottom line who has a deep knowledge of foreign affairs, because it's pretty clear that America's position in the world is being questioned and it leaves us less secure at home. And I think that's what we need.
And all this business about young or old -- remember Ronald Reagan, he was an older dude, you remember at the time? And I think he did pretty well, because he had the experience. And that's what really matters when you're talking about president of the United States.
KARL: Let me ask you, we're really out of time, but very quickly, you know, you're from Ohio. You won big there. If you're not the nominee, you're going to be looked at as a possible vice presidential...
KASICH: Forget it.
KARL: Would you do it?
KASICH: Forget it.
KARL: No way?
KASICH: Forget it, Jon. I don't play for second. If I'm in this...
KARL: I'm going to save this tape, Governor Kasich. And we'll be back when it all happens.
Thank you very much.
KASICH: Don't count me out, Jon.
KARL: All right. All right.
KARL: Up next, the GOP is piling on Rand Paul.
Plus, those surprising revelations from Hillary Clinton's emails. The roundtable weighs in.
KARL: The roundtable is here. Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard; Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison; CNN commentator SE Cupp; and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.
So, Bill, you just heard from John Kasich. It sure sounds like he's in.
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think he's in. And I think...
KARL: Major candidate or not? I mean, he's not...
KRISTOL: Yes. Yes. I mean, he will -- he's been a very -- he's won in a tough congressional district, was reelected about eight, nine times and then twice now governor of Ohio. He'll be on the moderate side of the field.
But as Jeb Bush gets no traction, why exactly isn't John Kasich a more plausible -- if you want a centrist Republican who is for Common Core, is accepted the Medicaid expansion...
KRISTOL: Immigration, he's moderately liberal, I think.
But he has been a pretty effective governor of Ohio both in terms of policy and politics.
Not quite my kind of Republican or conservative. But I think in that lane, Kasich will be strong. And it shows how insane the debate rules are incidentally that right now he would not make the debate in August.
KARL: He wouldn't even come close, but Donald Trump would.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Donald Trump would, Ben Carson would and many others.
Look, I think he has a lot of great credentials, a lot to talk about on the Republican campaign trail, issues that I think Republicans have a difficult time discussing like of course Medicaid expansion.
But can he get out of that asterisk lane and get into what I call the speed zone in order to get into the first top tier for Iowa and New Hampshire? I don't think so.
KARL: All right. Well, let me move on to Rand Paul, SE. We saw him lead this battle. He -- again, he wouldn't allow the PATRIOT Act to be extended for a single day. He held the line.
SE CUPP, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Well, look this is a -- this is I think a necessary debate to have. And I remember a time when Democrats were having this debate, when Democrats had problems with the PATRIOT Act.
KARL: Well, they still do. Right now the Democrats are standing with Rand Paul on this.
CUPP: No -- they are, but the argument really is on the right between moderates on the right and people like Rand Paul. And I remember when this used to be a liberal issue over civil liberties and drone strikes and privacy. And now really it's Rand Paul and Republicans having this debate. And it should not be just ushered through and reauthorized. We should be talking about it. It's serious stuff that matters to a lot of Americans.
KARL: Congressman, you stand with Rand on this, don't you?
REP. KEITH ELLISON, (D) MINNESOTA: I have to respectfully disagree with SE on this, because I think there's a lot of folks on the liberal left end of the party who definitely think that section 215, this bulk collection, probably should expire, that it hasn't had much value, and it is incredibly intrusive for Americans collecting everybody's phone information.
I think that it is absolutely the case that there is a bipartisan agreement that the PATRIOT Act went too far and certain provisions of it should be -- should expire.
KARL: Did you find yourself kind of quietly cheering Rand Paul as he went on for 10 hours?
ELLISON: Let me tell you, I'm working with Rand Paul on civil forfeiture reform, on the reset act to look at drug sentencing laws. He agrees that we should get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing. I think he's right about that. And I've been proud to stand with him on press conferences talking about these very issues.
Why? Because at the end of the day for me it's about trying to do the best we can by our constitution and the American people. We might cut the cake differently on taxes policy, but on these basic, core issues of freedom we agree.
KRISTOL: But Keith doesn't stand with Rand, that's not fair to Keith, Rand stands with Keith.
I mean that seriously. They had these positions first. Rand Paul has now decided he wants to be a liberal Democrat undercut necessary intelligence collection, weaken the police officers and our intelligence services. And Rand Paul thinks that's going to sell in a Republican primary. I think he's deeply misguided about that. But I guess he sincerely believes it. And he's welcome to make the case. But I...
KARL: It certainly stands out. I mean...
BRAZILE: We keep looking at these issues as right versus left and it's really right versus wrong. And I think on this issue, Rand Paul understands that it is right to ensure that our constitutional rights are protected, our privacy rights are protected, and I don't think, Bill, it is an issue that is going to drive him out of the so-called conservative wing of the Republican Party.
KRISTOL: How about protecting us from terrorists?
There is no claim that the metadata collection violates our constitutional rights. Zero claim of that.
KARL: Well, Rand Paul says...
BRAZILE: You act as if this is the only tool in our diplomatic and our military and other, you know, intelligence tool box. It's not.
There are more ways to keep us safe and secure than by collecting all of this data.
ELLISON: And by the way, we can make everybody safer if we took away everybody's rights, but that's not America. In America, we fight crime, we fight terrorism with the Constitution in mind. And I think that -- I like the idea that somebody on the right and people on the left are both saying what about the Constitution? What about the right to privacy? And what about the government being presumptively to leave us along rather than be in the middle of our business.
KARL: OK. So I want to get to the other big (inaudible) Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton. Bill, you had a tweet that caught my eye. You said it's increasingly -- I'm increasingly getting the sense that Clinton-Bush 2016 will be like the much anticipated Clinton-Giuliani 2008 race, neither will be the nominee.
OK, maybe I can buy Jeb having some problems, but Hillary?
KRISTOL: Well, in January no one could find Jeb having problems and I think I was one of those who said -- no, and I said he's much less inevitable than think. He could still be the nominee, obviously. He's an able guy. But he's not by any means a prohibitive front runner.
Hillary now seems to be the prohibitive front runner, but does anyone think incidentally that if Elizabeth Warren actually got in the race in October or November that it wouldn't be highly competitive? Does anyone think the right -- that Bernie Sanders is not going to gain on Hillary Clinton over the next three or four months? And this thing that looks like a lopsided race now won't close off? I think it will.
KARL: But what about the emails? We saw 300 emails come out. I see they were -- Clinton people eager to point out no smoking gun.
KARL: Anything in there?
CUPP: Well, when you decide which emails you release, I'm sure you're going to eliminate the one that has a smoking gun.
KARL: You're not going to put the smoking gun in there?
CUPP: Probably not. But look, I don't think the American people -- I don't think voters care about the emails per se or this Sid Blumenthal thing per se. I think they care about integrity. And I think it's clear that Hillary Clinton on numerous occasions have decided she's not going to follow the rules. The rules do not apply, even rules that President Obama set. Rules that she agreed to herself. And that, I think, does resonate.
CUPP: I don't think Hillary is that inevitable. The last time she ran, among the people, the half of the country that was predisposed to like her politics and who knew who she was, they voted for the other guy. A Democrat. So I don't think she's inevitable. And I think Republicans and Democrats are way too scared of her than they need to be.
BRAZILE: I don't think anybody's scared of Hillary Clinton. And --
BRAZILE: So you can rest assured that that's not the issue. And also you can rest assured that she is the only person ever to compete in a primary to receive more votes than anyone else, 18 million Americans. That's something to respect. While the Republicans spend most of their time and energy in debates and, you know, they hold more meetings and conventions than the Shriners, which is a little nerve-wracking. But while they spend most of their time trying to demean her character and question her level of trust and transparency, what most Americans are saying is, you know what, we know who she is. She's the only candidate right now that's talking about big issues, criminal justice reform. She's talking about immigration.
KRISTOL: She's not talking about anything because no one can hear her.
I like the way Donna's (INAUDIBLE) terrible, is that the Republicans are actually giving speeches, having press conferences, giving interviews --
KRISTOL: What's her position on the NSA? What's her position on free trade?
BRAZILE: You act as if you're not --
KARL: She endorsed the USA Freedom Act.
BRAZILE: -- talked about what she would rule out. She's talked about currency manipulation. She's talking about environmental and here's what I know. There's a lot of substance coming out of her camp. But unless the sound bites that the Republicans can put out there and their little need to raise money, you don't listen.
ELLISON: Hillary Clinton has done a lot of good things for this country including set the stage for these Iran nuclear negotiations. (INAUDIBLE) --
KRISTOL: I agree, she did set the stage for that.
KARL: We've got to take a short break. We'll be back with a surprising turn in the debate over the death penalty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now a big death penalty surprise in the wake of so much news about crime and punishment in America, the Nebraska legislature has just voted to ban capital punishment, the first solidly red state to do so in four decades. Here's ABC's Pierre Thomas.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS SR. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This week's vote in Nebraska capped off a dramatic debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For some crimes, death is the only appropriate punishment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No individual has the right to take the life of another nor should the state.
THOMAS (voice-over): Now Nebraska could become the first conservative leaning state to ban the death penalty, a move backed by many Republicans who say it's a moral issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My main objections come from my pro-life values.
THOMAS (voice-over): But Republican Governor Pete Ricketts, a death penalty supporter, has promised to veto the measure. Still the state legislature may have the votes to override him. It's just the latest in a series of significant challenges to capital punishment.
Illinois enacted a decade-long moratorium after concerns about condemning potentially innocent men to death, the state abolished the death penalty in 2011. In Oklahoma, the botched execution of 38-year-old Clayton Lockett last year drew new scrutiny over the deadly multi-drug cocktails used for lethal injections.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few minutes later, he began convulsing, lifting his head and his chest off of the gurney, even mumbling a few times.
THOMAS (voice-over): The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide if that drug cocktail is cruel and unusual punishment.
Nationwide, 18 states and the District of Columbia banned capital punishment and now a majority of Americans, 52 percent according to the latest ABC News "Washington Post" poll, would favor life in prison over the death penalty.
But for some victims and their families, the most heinous crimes deserve the ultimate punishment. This month, a federal jury sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want justice for my family and I felt that the ultimate justice was the death penalty.
THOMAS (voice-over): Yet some in Boston had lobbied for life in prison, capital punishment, a polarizing issue with passionate feelings on both sides, exactly what they're seeing in Nebraska's difficult debate. For THIS WEEK, Pierre Thomas, ABC News, Washington.
KARL: And that Nebraska Republican state senator Colby Coash joins me now. He voted in favor of abolishing the death penalty.
Senator Coash, you are a conservative Republican.
Why did you vote to get rid of the death penalty?
STATE SEN. COLBY COASH (R), NEB.: Well, for me, Jon, this was a practical thing. In Nebraska, we haven't actually executed anybody in 20 years. And it's been a cost to our state with lengthy appeals. And at the end of the day, we decided that a penalty that we can't impose as a penalty we shouldn't have on the books.
I've frequently said if there was any other program that was as costly and as inefficient as this has been we as conservatives would have gotten rid of it a long time ago.
KARL: So wasn't so much the moral component of the state taking somebody's life? This was a practical --
COASH: Well, certainly some of my colleagues have come to this from a moral standpoint. I'm pro-life. I campaign as a pro-life and for some of us, in addition to the extreme costs and the inefficiency, supporting the death penalty just didn't seem to go with our pro-life values. And so that -- some of my colleagues came to it from that perspective as well.
KARL: So what's going to happen now? They -- the governor has said that he would veto this bill. He says the death penalty is an essential tool in the war against crime, battle against crime.
You going to be able to override his veto?
COASH: Well, we'll see this week. But I believe if there are the votes, they'll override the veto, I do.
KARL: OK. And let me ask you, we saw a dramatic case of course in Boston, with the Boston Marathon bomber sentenced to death in liberal Massachusetts. What do you say to victims' families who say that some crimes are so heinous there simply must be the ultimate punishment?
COASH: Well, I've talked to a lot of victims right here in our state. And certainly there are victims on both sides of this issue. But in Nebraska, the victims' families that I've talked to have said when a judge puts a sentence on somebody and says to that victim's family we're going to execute the perpetrator of the crime against your family, and then 20 years go by and the state doesn't make good on that promise, the victims look at me and say, Senator, how is that fair? How is that justice?
When you can't do what you said you're going to do, we'd just as soon you'd put them in prison for -- with life, without the possibility of parole and forget about them.
So I mean that -- there's two sides to the victims' story; certainly I don't speak for all the victims. And -- but there are two sides to that.
KARL: All right, Senator Coash, really appreciate you coming on this Sunday. Have a good Memorial Day.
Now back to the roundtable.
S.E., what's you sense? Has the tide shifted on the death penalty? It's always been a cause celebre for conservatives.
CUPP: It has. And you know, my position as a conservative has long been against the death penalty. I don't find it to be moral. I don't find it to be just. There are wrongful convictions that we hear about all the time. It is costly. It has bankrupted entire counties.
And so for me, I've been trying to convince fellow conservatives to have a change of heart on this issue. The polling has long been in favor of death penalty. But I think you're starting to see it shift now.
And you brought up the Boston bombing. Victims of that horrific event, many of them came out --
KARL: On both sides, yes, against --
CUPP: -- publicly to say that they wanted life.
CUPP: And some people just don't find the death penalty to be that putative.
BRAZILE: And I totally agree with all the angst that S.E. just said.
Look, Ernie Chambers, the Democrat, he's been an iconic leader in the state of Nebraska, being one of the first lawmakers in the country to put out a ban on South Africa -- South Africa years and years ago. This has been his cause for years and years. He said it was morally wrong and finally he's gotten his conservative colleagues to join with him. I applaud Nebraska for doing this.
KRISTOL: The defender of the death penalty? I'm convinced by the arguments that it's both just and an important symbol for really heinous crimes and how seriously we take the states' obligation to reserve life, actually, but I respect pro-life conservatives whose pro-life principles lead them to even draw the line further, so to speak, and rule out the death penalty.
I'm curious about Hillary Clinton, if we can get back earlier to what Hillary Clinton's position is actually. Her husband executed people as governor of Arkansas. She --
KRISTOL: -- ever appears before the press, every Republican candidate, of course, will (INAUDIBLE) around this. I'm curious to see what you --
KARL: We are out of time.
Thank you, everybody.
KARL: -- take a break. But first, it's time -- it's that time of year; graduates are getting a lot of advice; here are some of our favorite words of wisdom from this year's commencement speeches, including some from those sitting around this table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: Those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And as I like to tell the C students, you, too, can be president.
DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: Don't be afraid to fail big, to dream big. But remember, dreams without goals are just dreams.
ELLISON: I also want to congratulations all of our graduates and congratulate you on your fine achievements. And I want to thank your families who have suffered for you.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Of course we mustn't forget the parents who to get you students to this day have sacrificed so many things, primarily money.
BRAZILE: This is your time. Believe it. And why you? Because there's no one better.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: The greatest moments of your journey are the ones (INAUDIBLE). It's your world. Thank you, graduates. God bless you.
Congratulations to the class of 2015.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Back now with the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indy 500. It's happening right here on ABC. ESPN's Allen Bestwick will bring you every thrilling moment. And he joins me now from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Allen Bestwick, how's it looking for the race today?
ALLEN BESTWICK, ESPN: I think it's going to shape up to be a very dramatic day, Jonathan. Some changes that they've made to the specifications on the cars this year have created some intriguing incidents during practice. And that has a little bit of an edge to today's race and it's also changed the actual competition. The drivers are going to be heading into the corners, more side-by-side than they ever have before. And in an open wheel race car with a 90-degree corner at 230 mph, that should make for a very dramatic day.
KARL: Yes. So we've seen some of these crashes over the past week, where Indy cars seem to be turning into kites. What -- this race has been going on for 99 years.
Why are we now seeing crashes like that?
BESTWICK: Well, I think if you go back over the history of not just Indy car racing and this race but automobile racing in general, anytime you change the formula anytime you change the specifications of the cars, you always have to deal with the law of unintended consequences. And especially at these kind of speeds. And that's what's going on here. There may be some things that weren't intended to happen that are happening now at these kinds of speeds.
It certainly is an area of concern but it's not anything that's unknown in the history of the race.
KARL: All right. Well, let's hope we have a great, exciting race and a safe one. Thanks a lot, Allen.
The Indy 500 airs today on ABC. From the high-powered thrills of racing to the emotional power of Memorial Day weekend in our "Sunday Spotlight," the striking words in a soldier's letter. ABC's Martha Raddatz with the remarkable messages they sent home from the battlefield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This service member put this letter in his backpack and he was shot right through the back. He survived.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The letter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the bullet hole right through the letter.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Piled high on this table in a cramped Washington, D.C., apartment, hundreds of these war letters, harrowing, intimate, revealing the pain of war, the price of courage.
Loving and awaiting for you and the world beyond your -- can you imagine getting this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a 20-something-year-old kid. And it's the last thing he wrote.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Collecting these letters from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan, is historian and author Andrew Carroll's decades-long passion and commitment. It began with a phone call from a distant cousin.
ANDREW CARROLL, HISTORIAN: I was just going through my old World War II memorabilia. And I came across a letter I wrote April 1945 about Buchenwald. He was a young American soldier; he'd just gone to the camp. And he's writing back to his wife about what he saw. And he sent me the original letter. And I'll never forget holding it my hands.
I called him back. I said, "Jim, thank you so much for sharing this. Of course I'll return it to you."
He said, you know what, keep it. I was probably going to throw it out anyway.
And that was just so striking to me that he would even consider discarding something that was so historically significant. We prefer the originals just because --
RADDATZ (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) sent first letter, Carroll has collected over 100,000 more.
CARROLL: Whether you're fighting in Lexington and Concord or going, you know, door to door in Fallujah in Iraq, the intensity of going into combat and all the feelings that they go through are really universal.
I think one of the great misconceptions about letter writing today is that the troops aren't creating these incredible correspondences the way they did back in the Civil War. It's not true. You have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who have composed the most eloquent and poignant and powerful messages that I've ever read. And so that's why we're encouraging families who've had troops serving in these other countries, save those emails.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's a good idea.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Many of the most powerful letters are now on display at Washington's National Cathedral, alongside the work of a now-93-year-old portrait artist, who painted recovering World War II veterans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But here you are. You're in the Cleveland, Ohio, hospital, yes. So you've got a little bit to the West.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I went as far as Iowa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Iowa? OK.
Lila Oliver Asher (ph) is a brilliant artist. She went to these different military hospitals and interacted with the troops. It just -- it meant a lot to them. There are so many people who are helping the war effort and are still do so in many different ways.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Messages, words, now with a voice on stage in a play Carroll (ph) wrote in all the sky were paper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the pressure just builds up in me and I have to tell somebody.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Starring some of our country's most notable actors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read these letters a thousand times. But when I hear a famous actor, you know, like Laura Dern or Annette Bening bring them to life, it really resonates with audiences.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wondered if I would really be able to use my weapons against somebody else. I have no question now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's so meaningful afterwards to have veterans come up and say, for the first time I really felt someone had captured my experience.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Andrew Carroll (ph) knows those powerful memories will live on, a permanent collection will soon be open to the public at Chatman University in Orange, California. There the wartime experiences we honor this Memorial Day will be preserved forever. For THIS WEEK, Martha Raddatz, ABC News, Washington.
KARL: Our thanks to Martha. That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and we leave you on this Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.