'This Week' Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry

And I just wondered, did you have an inkling when you gave that forceful speech Friday afternoon that the president was about to hit the pause button on a military strike?

KERRY: Well, the president hadn't made any decision on the military strike, George. I was asked to make the case for why we needed to take action, but the president always maintained the prerogative as to when or what he decided to do. And I think the president has made a very courageous and right, correct decision with respect to asking the congress to weigh in, because the United States is much stronger when we act in unity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And are you comfortable with Congress waiting until next week for a vote and confident the war resolution will pass?

KERRY: Well, George, in a sense, we're not really waiting. We have been briefing as of yesterday, the day before, there's a briefing today. There'll be classified briefings Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. As you know, the Jewish holidays begin on Wednesday evening. And we think that that helps us build the case, answer the questions of a lot of people who have to vote on a very serious issue.

It also gives us time to reach out to allies, friends around the world, build support on an international basis. And I think ultimately we can proceed, the president can proceed, and our nation can proceed, from a much stronger position.

I think we never lose, ever, in America, when the congress of the United States has a chance to weigh in and join the president in this kind of an endeavor.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you would lose if you lost the vote, wouldn't you?

KERRY: I don't contemplate that, George.

I think the stakes are too high here. I mean, let me just tell you what is happening each day as we go by. I can tell you today, Sunday, that we now have evidence from hair and blood samples and from first responders in east Damascus, the people who came to help, we have -- we have signatures of sarin in their hair and blood samples. So the case is growing stronger by the day.

And I believe that as we go forward in the next days, the congress will recognize that we can not allow Assad to be able to gas people with impunity. If the United States is unwilling to lead a coalition of people who are prepared to stand up for the international norm with respect to chemical weapons that's been in place since 1925, if we are unwilling to do that, we will be granting a blanket license to Assad to continue to gas and we will send a terrible message to the North Koreans, Iranians and others who might be trying to read how serious is America about enforcing its nonproliferation, counternuclear weapons initiatives.

This goes to the core of American credibility in foreign policy, and I believe the congress of the United States will understand that and do he right thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you don't contemplate a loss, but what if the votes aren't there, will the president act anyway?

KERRY: The president has the right, as you know George, the president of the United States has the right to take this action, doesn't have to go to congress. But he does so with the belief -- and this is why I think it's courageous, the president knows that America is stronger when we act in unity.

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