'Power Trip' premieres: Getting answers from DeSantis, Texas sheriff on migrant flights -- and more

Airing on Hulu, the series follows "embeds" as they break news on the trail.

September 25, 2022, 10:34 PM

Days after announcing he was opening a criminal investigation into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flying migrants to Massachusetts, Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff Javier Salazar sat down with ABC News' Abby Cruz to answer questions about that decision.

"I'm doing my job in my county," Salazar told Cruz. "I can't even imagine, you know, realistically, why does a governor from another state care what's happening in Bexar County?"

More than 1,000 miles away, ABC News' Miles Cohen was seeking answers from DeSantis as well, pressing him during a campaign event in Palm Beach, Florida, about Salazar's probe.


Power Trip

"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.

"How would you respond to the sheriff in Texas who's saying that these migrants were lured under false pretenses to boarding those planes?" Cohen asked DeSantis.

"That's false," the governor replied while greeting supporters -- and declining to answer Cohen's follow-up questions.

All of this plays out on "Power Trip," a new docuseries that premiered Sunday on Hulu.

"Power Trip" follows ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and the network's political team along with seven "embed" campaign reporters who have fanned out across the country this election cycle, trailing after candidates, lawmakers and politicians, hearing from local voters and getting the latest updates and answers on the news shaping each day.

Cohen and Cruz are two of ABC News' seven embeds, along with Libby Cathey, Hannah Demissie, Lalee Ibssa, Will McDuffie and Paulina Tam.

Together they are reporting from every key battleground -- from Arizona to Wisconsin, Georgia to Ohio -- in the final weeks before the November midterms that will determine control of Congress and help define the two years before the next presidential election.

’Power Trip: Those Seeking Power and Those Who Chase Them’is now streaming on Hulu.

In "Power Trip," the embeds work under Stephanopoulos' tutelage as the "This Week" anchor and "Good Morning America" co-anchor -- and former Bill Clinton adviser -- offers advice and encouragement."You're going to have to cover policy, politics, people in a very polarized environment," Stephanopoulos tells the embeds in the premiere episode. "We're going to run you ragged."

The premiere also sees Stephanopoulos talking with Cohen after Cohen followed up with DeSantis on the latest migrant headlines.

"It's a great learning experience," Stephanopoulos tells Cohen, adding, "Your question was on the news, totally fair and something that deserved a response."

Meet the embeds

In the premiere, Cathey, Cohen, Cruz and McDuffie take viewers behind the scenes of tracking the latest on immigration -- specifically DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to send people by bus and by plane to Democratic-led cities and states, in protest of federal border policies.

Cohen begins in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at an event with DeSantis where conservative voters repeatedly celebrate his decision to transport migrants -- and repeatedly mention the possibility of DeSantis running for president.

"Why should it be their burden [in border states] when it should be Biden's burden?" one woman at the event tells Cohen. Says another man: "I've got friends down there that live there, they can't take care of these people anymore."

A former booker for "Good Morning America" and a Berkeley, California, native, Cohen says in "Power Trip" that he could have followed his family and become a doctor or lawyer. But he felt pulled in another direction.

"I wanted to really report, I wanted to go places, I wanted to meet people across America and figure out why they think what they think," he says.

While Cohen is with DeSantis, Cruz is in San Antonio, Texas, speaking with migrants at a local resource center and helping arrange an interview with Sheriff Salazar.

"We need answers," she says in the wake of DeSantis sending migrants to the island of Martha's Vineyard -- and suggesting more flights are coming -- as Salazar opened his investigation.

At the same time, speaking with migrants at the resource center -- like one man who says he is seeking work to help his kids and another with a tattoo about God to remind him to shrug off discrimination -- Cruz says she recognizes the human element to this story.

PHOTO: A screen grab from the first episode of Power Trip
ABC News

"I remember going to Union Station [in Washington] and seeing the migrants get off the bus and I was like, Man they're here to get their American dream. They don't even know what's going on," she says.

A race and culture reporter with ABC News before becoming an embed, Cruz, who grew up in Philadelphia, well knows how immigration can intersect with elections.

"I'm mixing the stories that I know what to do, the stories that I feel like don't get covered. I'm mixing it with the politics because they intersect with each other," she says.

Sitting down with Salazar, she asks him to respond to the criticism that his investigation of DeSantis is -- as others say of transporting the migrants -- also a politically minded "stunt" and she notes that DeSantis told Cohen that Salazar was wrong about how the migrants were treated.

"I think the governor's got his opinions on it. I've got my opinions on it," Salazar says. "It occurred in my county, so I'm going to act appropriately according to the law. We have to determine what exactly happened -- what was said, what was done, how were these people treated while they were here in my county? And if we can prove criminal intent, then we may be charging somebody with a crime."

Embeds Cathey and McDuffie see in the "Power Trip" premiere how the latest immigration debate is touching many states. In Arizona, GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake tells Cathey that she is "not a fan" of what Abbott and DeSantis are doing.

Despite agreeing with them that these tactics bring attention to the issue, Lake says she doesn't like that it is "making them [migrants] go further inland where we then can't track them down."

Afterward, Cathey, a Little Rock, Arkansas, native and ABC News digital reporter before becoming an embed, notes the value of getting Lake's feelings on the record.

"She said, 'I've been asked this before' -- I know she's been asked it before, but I haven't gotten the chance to ask it to her," Cathey says.

And in Delaware, McDuffie awaits the arrival of a plane that was rumored to be carrying more migrants, this time to President Joe Biden's home state.

But with all the focus on Abbott and DeSantis' moves, the plane never arrives.

"It's a part of what this job is, sometimes, that I'm learning is that you go and do a lot of stuff and you don't even end up getting anything or the story changes," says McDuffie, a New York native and former digital news associate at ABC News. "But that's why you've got to be everywhere -- just in case it turns out to be unexpected."

PHOTO: A scene from the first episode of Power Trip.
ABC News

McCarthy and Pelosi diverge on midterms

While acting as a mentor to the embeds in "Power Trip," Stephanopoulos also makes news of his own. In Sunday's premiere, he interviews House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He asks her about voter feelings on the historically high inflation and on the migrants at the southern border -- and whether the GOP's focus on that, including by transporting them, will sway people.

"Our message is what this means to you and your home, at your kitchen table. Those are our frames," Pelosi says, contending that "inflation is a global issue" and touting Democrats' recent legislative wins.

"We're here to contrast between the Democrats and the Republicans," Pelosi tells Stephanopoulos.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a reaction to that, telling ABC News' Brittany Shepherd at the end of the "Power Trip" premiere -- at an event previewing the House GOP's campaign-season "Commitment to America" -- that Democrats "can't run on their record."

"The 'Commitment to America' is a plan for a new direction, one that will make our economy strong, will make our nation safe. It'd be a future built on freedom and give us check and balance inside Washington," McCarthy says.

As to Pelosi's criticism of Republicans as a threat to democracy, given how many embrace false claims about the 2020 election, McCarthy was not fazed. "It's idiotic," he said.

Pelosi told Stephanopoulos that voters will soon decide, with "six weeks and five days" to go.

"And we count every day."

"Power Trip" releases new episodes each Sunday on Hulu.

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