A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, January 22, 2023 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR: Breaking news, a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, overnight leaves at least ten dead and ten injured.
Captain Andrew Meyer: The suspect fled the scene and remains outstanding.
RADDATZ: We're live on the scene this morning.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We does indeed take classified documents seriously. I'm just not going to go beyond that.
RADDATZ: Investigators seize more classified items at President Biden’s Wilmington home. Biden on the defensive.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there. I have no regrets.
RADDATZ: All the fallout with the Senator Chris Coons.
Plus, insights from our new ABC News/IPSOS poll.
And our powerhouse roundtable.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The world must not hesitate. Russia is exporting terror.
RADDATZ: The U.S. commits another $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine as western allies split over sending tanks.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): To the Germans, send tanks to the Ukraine. It is in your interest that Putin loses.
RADDATZ: The latest this morning with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR: What is, in your view, the number one issue facing your city?
Sylvester Turner: Public safety.
Eric Adams: People must be safe.
Karen Bass: Without a doubt, it’s homelessness.
RADDATZ: Jonathan Karl talks with the mayors of America's largest cities about making history and the challenging ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here, now, Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.
There's no there there. Those were the president's words this week when he was asked about the classified documents found over the last few months at his Delaware residence and a private office in Washington, D.C.
But this morning, it turns out there is even more there than first thought. Federal investigators from the Department of Justice seized more than half a dozen items from the president's Wilmington home on Friday, including some documents marks “classified” after an extensive but consensual 13-hour search of the property. The president’s personal lawyer disclosed the information last night, saying some of the records were from Biden’s time as senator and some from when he was vice president.
The search of a sitting president's home dramatically escalates the political fallout, if not the legal problems, after the White House consistently tried to downplay the significance all week.
We'll get to all of that in a moment.
But we begin with the breaking news overnight, just outside Los Angeles, where a mass shooting after a lunar new year festival in Monterey Park has left at least ten dead and an additional ten injured.
Our Matt Rivers is there.
Good morning, Matt.
MATT RIVERS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Martha.
Yes, still very much an ongoing situation here in Monterey Park. We're just outside the scene on this side of the police tape as the investigation continues there behind me.
As you mentioned, at least ten people killed and at least ten injured at this point. Many of them we’re told in area hospitals in critical condition.
This after what we hear so far from officials as one gunman entered in what was described as a ballroom, a dance hall, where a lunar new year celebration was ongoing. That is where he opened fire – the suspect, rather, opened fire. And that suspect remains at large at this point.
We know that the president has been briefed by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI also here assisting the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, as well as Monterey Park Police.
As for the motive, why all of this happened, officials still saying, Martha, it is too early in the investigation for them to comment on that at this point.
RADDATZ: Matt Rivers, thank you so much.
Let's bring in our chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.
Pierre, what's happening on a federal level? We know now that the president has been briefed.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, any time you have something of this scale, there will be a federal response. And there is one. The Homeland Security secretary has been briefed. The FBI director has been made aware. I'm told that the attorney general will be made aware as well.
So, they will provide resources to the local police to try to get a sense of what took place here. But the disturbing thing and the early alerts that were sent to Washington is that they had no idea who the suspect was.
RADDATZ: And – and this just keeps happening, Pierre. We’ve talked about this so many times, mass shooting after mass shooting.
THOMAS: There was a sense that there was some good news at the end of last year. Shootings across the board were down about 4 percent in this country in terms of gun violence, not including suicides. Mass shootings also declined a bit.
But the numbers are horrific. Martha, since 2014 we’ve seen a dramatic surge. In 2014, there were roughly 273 mass shootings. We’re now averaging more than 600. It's stunning. Law enforcement don't have the answers. But this is something the country will have to deal with because they’re becoming so frequent.
RADDATZ: And – and lunar new year, is this possibly a hate crime?
THOMAS: Well, law enforcement officials said this morning everything is on the table until you can get an identification of the suspect. Obviously, it's early. They will try to get to witnesses who might have seen something. They’ll look for surveillance footage, camera footage of any sort to try to get a sense of the who and then they’ll try to figure out the why. But because they don't have the suspect in custody, everything's on the table, including potential hate.
RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Pierre.
We turn now to the other breaking news overnight, with additional classified documents turning up at President Biden’s home.
Senior white House correspondent Mary Bruce is tracking the latest.
And, Mary, it’s a dramatic step for the Justice Department to search a sitting president's home. But the president's lawyers say this was consensual search.
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martha, they are describing this as planned and consensual. They say they offered the DOJ access to the president’s home. There was no warrant. There was not a surprise search.
But there is no question, this is a very big development in this investigation. The FBI fully searching the home of a sitting president for nearly 13 hours, coming through all of the living, working and storage areas, rifling through decades of President Biden’s old files, papers, documents, even handwritten notes, his old to-do list. And they did find even more classified material.
Now, they aren’t saying exactly how many pages or documents were found. They’re describing this as six additional items with classified markings, including some going back to the president's time in the Senate, in addition to his time as vice president.
And, Martha, the Justice Department even took back some of those old handwritten notes for further review.
RADDATZ: And, Mary, the problem is the White House insisted all week the president takes classified documents seriously. They’ve downplayed the special counsel probe. But more classified documents keep showing up.
BRUCE: Exactly. The president has been adamant saying there is no there there. He has been exuding confidence, even some frustration, insisting they are doing this by the book. They are fully cooperating.
And for days now the White House press secretary here has really hammered home this argument that the president takes classified documents seriously, and yet they keep finding more of them.
And it is this drip, drip, drip of revelations and discoveries that is only deepening the president's political problem here. It’s giving more ammunition to his critics.
And there are still a lot of basic answers, basic questions here left unanswered, including, how did these documents get there, what's in them and did the president have any idea that any of them were in his home and in his former private office?
RADDATZ: Thanks so much, Mary.
And joining us now is Senator Chris Coons, a close ally of President Biden.
Thanks for joining us this morning, Senator.
President Biden said this week that there is no there there and he has no regrets in how this was handled. Twenty-four hours later, federal investigators searched his home and found six more classified documents.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Martha, it's great to be on with you again. Thanks for a chance to talk about this.
It is important that President Biden is someone who respects the rule of law, who respects the importance of classified documents, and that this was a consensual search that the Department of Justice was invited to come to his home and to search every nook and cranny, top to bottom, to find anything they possibly could. I think that’s in fairly sharp contrast to the other present, former President Trump, who has also had a real challenge with the Department of Justice because he refused a consensual search. And I think, as this plays out, the two special counsels who have been appointed appropriately by Attorney General Merrick Garland to get to the bottom of this will show us a fairly sharp difference in intent and in response. I'm confident that President Biden has said truthfully that there's no there there and, in the end, we will see this was just an inadvertently matter of filing in sharp contrast to his predecessor.
RADDATZ: But – but how can he say he takes classified material seriously when some of what was found may have been in his home for more than a decade and he seemingly had no idea?
COONS: Well, the important point there, Martha, is that he had no idea. As you know, if you're serving in the Senate or as vice president or president, you literally get millions of documents coming through your office week in and week out. And as you get more senior and as the matters that you’re handling are more important and occasional more classified, the volume gets higher.
So, I do think this was inadvertent. The whole point of having special counsel is to ensure that and to give the American people confidence.
But, frankly, Martha, I also don’t think that this is an issue that’s keeping Americans up at night. I think they’re worried about much more day to day things like inflation, prices at the pump, prescription drug prices. Our president is making real progress in our economy, in our place in the world, in reducing prescription drug prices and in helping the average American family.
And I have some confidence that because he is fully cooperating, we will get to the bottom of this.
And there is one important document that distinguishes former President Trump from President Biden, that’s a warrant. It required an FBI search, a non-consensual warrant-driven search to get the documents from Mar-a-Lago, and former President Trump continues to insist that he’s above the law, that he had the right to take whatever documents he chose to from the White House.
RADDATZ: Senator, I want to get that --
COONS: President Biden (INAUDIBLE) and fully cooperated, and I think that makes a real difference here.
RADDATZ: You said the American people aren’t (ph) probably paying attention to this. They have other things on their mind. Our most recent ABC News/Ipsos poll says 64 percent of those in the latest poll -- and that was before this latest discovery -- believe he acted inappropriately. I think more that Trump acted inappropriately, 77 percent. But 64 percent of Americans think this was inappropriate.
Do you believe that will hurt him going forward?
COONS: Well, look, I think, Martha, what’s going to matter going forward is how this is handled. And President Biden has fully and promptly cooperated. The reason there was a search of his house here in Delaware was he invited them in.
I do think in the end, whenever the special counsel concludes their investigation, they will agree with what President Biden just said. There was no there there.
All of us who are charged with handling classified documents know that we have a responsibility to handle them safely and properly. I suspect there’s a lot of senior or former elected officials now doing a fairly thorough search of the documents they have in their homes or in storage or at their institutes.
But I do not think, in the end, Martha, that when we get to the next election, this will be the deciding issue.
RADDATZ: And you don’t think there will be any political fallout from this? You don’t think Americans look at this and say, look, they both had classified documents?
COONS: Well, I think the fallout is right now, we’re talking about this, instead of President Biden’s leadership on confronting Russian aggression in Ukraine, or talking about something I do think is on people’s minds, the potential of a debt ceiling fight and a default. The political fallout is it’s going to take focus and attention, and at a time when our president has done such a strong job where we’ve got the wind at our back because of the big pieces of legislation that he just signed into law in the last few months, the fact that this will take up time and be a distraction -- yes, that has a political impact.
RADDATZ: And I want to ask you this. His lawyers discovered the first batch of classified documents before the midterm election. It wasn’t made public until January 9th, and only after reporters broke that story.
Was that a mistake?
COONS: Well, my understanding and I don’t know the intimate details of exactly who contacted whom, when. My understanding, Martha, is that they prompted contacted the National Archives and Records Administration, which is the appropriate first step, and it took sometime for the documents to get from the Biden Center to NARA to the Department of Justice, and that accounts for that delay.
RADDATZ: It wasn’t disclosed to the public until reporters broke the story. Was that a mistake?
COONS: I think we’ll let the public decide that, and I think once we get to the end of the special counsel’s investigation, the American people will have a chance to make a judgment on that question.
RADDATZ: And, Senator Coons, I want to ask you one very quick question on Ukraine. You were with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Europe this week, where he reportedly said Germany would allow Leopard 2 tanks into Ukraine but only if the U.S. send its Abrams tanks as well.
Is that accurate? And what do you think of that?
COONS: Look, I think it’s urgent that we provide Ukraine with advanced main battle tanks. President Biden just announced another $2.5 billion, including sophisticated armored vehicles, American Bradleys and Strykers.
I am concerned that Russia is re-arming and preparing for a spring offensive. If it requires our sending some Abrams tanks in order to unlock getting the Leopard tanks from Germany, from Poland, from other allies, I would support that.
I respect that our military leaders think the Abrams is too sophisticated, too expensive a platform to be as useful as the Leopards. But we need to continue to work with our close allies and to move forward in lock step.
President Biden’s leadership on confronting Russian aggression in Ukraine is one of the best chapters of his very strong first two years. I do think we need to move forward quickly to provide the Ukrainians with the weapons they deserve so they can continue their brave and successful fight against the Russians.
RADDATZ: Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Senator. Appreciate it.
Thank you so much for joining us this morning, senator. Appreciate it.
COONS: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: Now let's bring in new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul.
Good to see you this morning, Mr. Chairman.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: You – you heard what Senator Coons said about the Abrams. You have urged Germany allow those Leopard II tanks to be released into Ukraine. But what about Abrams tanks, the U.S. tanks, do you believe those should be sent, as President Zelenskyy said he so desperately needs?
MCCAUL: Well, you know, I do. “The Wall Street Journal” had an editorial that said we're giving them just enough to bleed through months without a chance of victory. That's the problem here. They need the tanks and they need the tactical long-range artillery known as attackems (ph). If – if we announce we were going to give Abram tanks, just one, that would unleash -- they would give Germany the -- what I hear is that Germany is waiting for us to take the lead, then they would put Leopard tanks in and also release -- remember, there are about ten countries that have Leopard tanks but they need Germany to sign off on releasing them.
RADDATZ: So just one Abrams tank, you think, would release all the Leopard II?
MCCAUL: Or even saying that we’re going to put Abrams tanks in I think would be enough for Germany to unleash tanks.
RADDATZ: The Pentagon says they’re too cumbersome, complicated, expensive. They only get three miles per gallon. Are they the right tanks to be there?
MCCAUL: Every military expert I've said, including General Keane (ph) and others, these tanks – I mean, remember, you have a new general in – in – in town now, right? He took the butcher of Syria out. He’s got the more offensive general. There’s going to be a winter offensive by the Russians. They need these tanks on the – on the eastern flank in the Donbas. They also need the attackems (ph), the longer range artillery, to hit Crimea, where the Iranian drones are. And that’s where likely a southern invasion --
RADDATZ: And – and you believe they should hit Crimea. Has the U.S. softened its position on that, because that always seemed like a red line, that that would provoke Vladimir Putin.
MCCAUL: That's the assumption that Crimea is pro-Russian. I was illegally invaded upon in violation of international law. I don’t consider Crimea to be part of Russia.
RADDATZ: I don't think they're assuming it's part of Russia, but they just, in the past, have not wanted to go that far.
MCCAUL: I -- if – if – if – if the king's x (ph) is placed in Crimea, you can’t hit the Iranian drones, that's what's causing all the power outages, the innocent civilians being killed are these Iranian drones in Crimea, in addition to other missiles. But the – the -- this is what the Ukrainians say. It’s what our top advisers I talked to say is what they need.
When we give them what they need, Martha, stingers, you know, when we give them javelins, when we give them HIMARS, then the longer range artillery, they win. There’s what’s going to be a slow bleed without a chance of victory, that violates the Colin Powell doctrine.
RADDATZ: How -- how do you think Putin would react if our weapons hit Crimea?
MCCAUL: How is he reacting when we put the HIMARS in? How is he reacting –
RADDATZ: So you don’t think this would make any difference?
MCCAUL: I don’t think so at all.
MCCAUL: And who's being provocative here? I'd say Mr. Putin is.
RADDATZ: Since the war began, NATO has really stayed together. But we’ve seen a little bit of – of distraction in the last few weeks, especially with Germany. Do you worry about that?
MCCAUL: I do. But I -- I do think, you know, the – the -- the Ramstein conference was successful in the sense that all the NATO allies realizes they have a burden of sharing and contributions. And they all did contribute to the effort.
But the two main things that Zelenskyy is talking about, and that every -- everybody I've talked to, is that the -- they need the tanks for the winter offensive that the Russians are going to perpetrate and they need the longer range artillery.
RADDATZ: And – and I want to ask you about these newly discovered classified documents in President Biden's home. You heard what Senator Coons said. He think still there is no there there. They'll just find out it was insignificant.
Do you think this changes anything legally and what do you think they should do next?
MCCAUL: Well, what's significant, as a former federal prosecutor, you have a search warrant now conducted by the FBI, not the president's lawyers, right? So that’s – that’s a departure from the prior.
RADDATZ: They – they -- it was consensual.
MCCAUL: It was consensual.
RADDATZ: It was consensual, yes.
MCCAUL: It was consensual.
I -- I think there are a lot of questions. I don't know. And the DNI, Director of National Intelligence, won't answer our questions. So I don’t know what these documents pertain to. All I know is the documents were there.
I do know that China gave a $30 million contribution to the University of Pennsylvania at the time the Biden Center is standing up. And just a lot of unanswered questions.
This -- this broke a week before the midterm elections, and they swept it under the rug. Now we're just finding out.
RADDATZ: And -- and you think there will be tremendous political fallout?
MCCAUL: I don't know. You know, Watergate started as a very small burglary, and it led to the president of the United States resigning. So I don't know what's there until we see the documents. If there are national security documents relating to foreign nations adversaries. particularly China, and China's in that Biden Center...
RADDATZ: But -- but what about President Trump?
That - that is very different, when you look at it. That was not a consensual search. They tried to keep some of those documents away from investigators. How do you compare them?
MCCAUL: Yeah, the way I look at it, my wife is a Naval intelligence analyst. If she took one document home, classified, she would be prosecuted; me, I would be prosecuted. There shouldn't be a different standard even if you're -- you know, I know he says he declassified them. You know, Biden called it "totally irresponsible," but yet he's guilty of the same sin, if you will, by taking these documents home. Why are they taking these documents home? I don't understand that. I've lived in the classified world for a long time.
RADDATZ: And I want to ask you a very quick question about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was removed from all congressional committees in 2021. Now she will sit on Homeland Security and the Oversight, in the new Congress. She doubted 9/11. She doubted a plane hit the Pentagon. She later apologized for that, but she said that in 2018. Should she be on that committee? You were on that committee.
MCCAUL: I chaired the committee. There were a -- you know, these conspiracy theories that people go down, I disagree with those. I'm having to debunk this. This one was the worst violation; 9/11 was not a hoax. It was a carried out by Al Qaida. there's no question in my mind.
RADDATZ: Should she be on the committee?
MCCAUL: Well, and anybody that says that, I -- you know, look, this was 2018. I will tell you, she has matured. I think she is -- she realizes she doesn't know everything, and she wants to learn and become, I think, more of a team player. I think it's incumbent upon more senior members to try -- look, she's a member of Congress -- to try to bring her in and try to educate her that these theories that she has are not accurate.
RADDATZ: Would you rather have seen a different choice?
MCCAUL: I'm not the chair of that committee and I'm not the speaker, either.
RADDATZ: Fine, nice try there, OK.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good to see you.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is coming up, plus more on how voters compare Joe Biden and Donald Trump's handling of classified documents. Rick Klein breaks down the surprising results from our new poll. We're back in 60 seconds.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" is sponsored by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. What we do here changes lives everywhere.
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no "there" there. Thank you.
IAM SAMS, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE SPOKESPERSON: You know, I think that he was asked specifically, "Do you regret not disclosing this information to the public earlier?"
And I think that the answer -- and, of course, he said he had no regrets. And the answer is because he's been promptly -- his team, his legal team, has been promptly disclosing information to the proper authorities as a part of an ongoing investigation.
RADDATZ: The White House playing defense after additional documents were found at Biden's Delaware home just one day after he broke his silence on the investigation. It all comes as Biden is preparing for a re-election campaign that could be announced in the coming weeks.
Our political director, Rick Klein, is here to walk us through our latest ABC News poll with Ipsos.
And, Rick, it's an extraordinary situation. And our new poll shows that the story line around these classified documents appears to be registering with the American people.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, Martha, as you mentioned in your interview with Senator Coons, a majority of Americans feel like President Biden acted inappropriately in this matter, 64 percent feel like his actions were not appropriate. And this poll was conducted before the latest revelations yesterday about these additional items with classified markings being found at his home.
Now, it’s also noticeable that the case around former President Trump is viewed more serious by Americans, 77 percent view his actions as inappropriate. That is, of course, a much different case. It involved far more documents over a longer period of time, less cooperation from the Trump team, according to the Department of Justice.
Accordingly, you see a difference in public perceptions. We asked people, which case do you think is more serious. Trump is viewed as the more serious offender in this case potentially by 43 percent versus 20 percent for Biden.
Things get really interesting, though, Martha, when you get inside the party identification on this. This is where you see the potential political toll. As you might expect, far more Democrats, 84 percent say that Trump's actions were more serious than Biden's. And for Republicans, more of them think that Biden's actions are more serious.
But that is a big, big difference. You see a lot of Republicans less willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt in this case. As for independents, a 30-point gap, 43 percent to 14 percent independents say that Trump's actions were more serious.
And, again, we need to know, this poll was taken before yesterday's revelations. At the very least though, it tells you that people are tuning into these story lines and that opinions could be changed.
RADDATZ: A really important point, Rick. And an unprecedented situation with both Biden and Trump under investigation by special counsel heading into 2024, and more broadly, it looks there are challenges to leaders in both parties in this era of divided government, now that we’re in the second half of Biden's first term.
KLEIN: Yeah, and President Biden faces enormous challenges to governing but so do Republicans. Speaker McCarthy has been charged in the House for only about two weeks, and we see only 25 percent approval of Republicans' handling of their leadership responsibilities in Congress, compare to 38 percent for Democrats when we have things like the debt ceiling coming up. This could be significant.
And as for President Biden, it's a portrait of instability. Not necessarily a good one. We're seeing his leadership under water on a range of issues around the economy inflation, crime, for more than that even.
On the -- but it's basically where it's been for months and months, since well before the midterms. His approval of his handling of the economy, only 38 percent. It was 37 percent back in August. So that hasn’t changed. Perceptions of President Biden seemed pretty locked in.
The one thing, though, that has changed, Republicans, of course, control the House now. So, they’re going to have to work together to get things done.
RADDATZ: Tough road ahead for the president and Republicans this year.
Rick Klein, thanks very much.
The roundtable weighs in all of this, plus, the growing standoff between the White House and congressional Republicans over the nation's debt ceiling, as President Biden and Speaker McCarthy prepare for direct talks.
Stay with us.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is here, ready to go.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Here we are, we had Democrats in one power -- one party power, increased spending from $4 trillion to $7 trillion. They added $10 trillion of debt in the next 10 years. The path that the Democrats are going, they're going to go bankrupt.
JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: It can't be negotiated over whether or not we're going to pay our bills. And not to do so will have devastating economic consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: The United States hit its debt limit on Thursday, setting the stage for intense negotiations over how to raise the borrowing cap and raise the fears of a looming financial crisis.
Let's bring in the roundtable. Sarah Isgur, former Trump Justice Department spokesperson; now an ABC News analyst, former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp; our senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott; and Alex Burns, columnist and associate editor for global politics at “Politico”.
We’re going to get to the debt ceiling in a minute, but I've got to start with you, Rachel. Let’s pick up where Rick Klein let off.
More Americans think what Trump did was inappropriate, 77 percent, but, still, a majority think what Biden did was inappropriate too. And this latest discovery makes it worse.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sixty-four percent of Americans believe that President Biden handled these classified documents inappropriately, and that was before we got the news last night of these latest batch of documents that were found. We had no idea just how many.
The reality is, this is a political liability for two presidents, one current, one former, one that has already launched a 2024 campaign, one that's expected to launch a 2024 campaign. And for Republicans, I think they’re looking at one key part of what was in that statement last night, the word Senate. How far back do these documents go?
RADDATZ: That’s a long, long time ago.
SCOTT: A long time. He spent 36 years in the Senate. He left in 20019. That’s almost 15 years ago. So, there’s some big questions that President Biden needs to answer.
RADDATZ: Not only that, but has he ever gone through those documents at all? That’s another question. The Democrats, of course, Alex, are -- are scrambling to say, you heard Senator Coons, this is all going to be OK. There – there is, backing up what – what President Biden said, no there there.
ALEX BURNS, POLITICO ASSOCIATE EDITOR FOR GLOBAL POLITICS & COLUMNIST: Well, look, I think the Democrats who are saying that are speaking from a place of a hope rather than sort of deep knowledge, right? It’s pretty obvious at this point that people in leadership roles in the party don't know what the next turn of the screw is in this investigation, including people who work in the White House, who are pretty upfront about the fact that they don’t really know where this is headed next.
Martha, I thought that the poll that Rick outlined is such a useful and important reality check for some of the sort of post-midterm election confidence that you heard from Democrats about President Biden. You see in that poll all kinds of signs that the public is deeply distrustful of the Republican Party, deeply uncomfortable with the Republican Congress, but by no means is Joe Biden this 10 foot tall political figure who is sort of hugely popular and resilient against all odds, that he has done a very good job -- Democrats have done a very good job of disqualifying the Republican Party for a big stretch of the American middle. But it’s pretty clear that the American people have real questions about Joe Biden's handling of some of the most important issues of the day, including these classified documents.
RADDATZ: Exactly. And Senator Coons aside from saying all these different things that Americans are thinking about, they are indeed thinking about that.
Sarah, political fallout there will be, but you worked in the Justice Department. When you look at this from a legal angle, what do – what do you see?
SARAH ISGUR, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Clearly the Biden team working overtime to make sure that they don't trip over that obstruction line. You know, really emphasizing that this was a consensual search by the Department of Justice and FBI at his residence.
You know, I've worked with Rob Hur very closely, who’s now the special counsel in charge of investigating the president and these classified documents. He’s an incredibly experienced, competent federal prosecutor who was doing the day-to-day oversight of the Mueller investigation for about a year. But I've got to tell you something about federal prosecutors, they are like hunting dogs and they don't like trapsing through the marsh without coming back with something in their mouth. And so if I were the Biden team, I would be nervous.
RADDATZ: And – and, Heidi, this will, obviously, as Alex said, as we will all say, make its way into the 2024 election.
HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well –
RADDATZ: How – how does he handle this going forward? Can he really keep saying, no there there? I mean, how long will this take, Sarah, do you think?
ISGUR: A lightning-fast investigation at the Department of Justice takes a long time.
RADDATZ: Exactly. Exactly.
HEITKAMP: You know, the reality is, it's not been handled well up to this point. And they need a course correction. The worst thing the president could have said was, there’s no there there. I – I've done, you know --
RADDATZ: No regrets.
HEITKAMP: I have no regrets. The easy answer was, look, this obviously is something that should not have happened. I should not have had classified documents in my possession at – at various levels. We're going to get to the bottom of this. But I, in no way, did this intentionally. I think that we have to look at a process on how we handle classified documenting going forward. That would take the air out of the balloon.
When you make this about a comparison to Trump, when you make this about I – you know, defensive posture, you're going to lose this debate. And so they need a course correction on how they handle this.
RADDATZ: And – and the drip, drip, drip.
ISGUR: And Donald Trump shouldn't be the bar.
ISGUR: Donald Trump is not, oh, well, I did better than Donald Trump. So, legally and politically I'm fine? Both of them could have committed crimes even if Donald Trump's was worse.
RADDATZ: And speaking of Donald Trump, Rachel, he's getting ready to hold one of his first official events of 2024 as a presidential candidate. He's the only announced candidate so far for the Republicans. But are -- are there any potential Republican candidates backing away now because of Donald Trump is in there?
SCOTT: I think that that’s the most interesting part about all of this. You have a former president, a leader of the Republican Party, that comes out, says that he's running again, and it has not cleared the field at all. You have people that were so close to him, I mean, his own advisers, people that worked in his administration, that are closely considering running against him, even Nikki Haley this week. We've seen her words hinting at that possible run in 2024. And even amongst some Republicans, as we look ahead to this event tjhat he's supposed to be holding in South Carolina, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, a Republican, she says that she's keeping her powder dry, essentially. She's waiting to see who else comes out and announces a bid for 2024.
RADDATZ: And, Sarah, over in the House, Republicans announced those committee assignments that we talked about. There was Kevin McCarthy in a hug with Marjorie Taylor Greene.
What do these appointments say about the GOP's strategy going forward?
ISGUR: Well, certainly, Marjorie Taylor Greene coming out early and hard for Kevin McCarthy's speakership has cemented that relationship.
But, look, the idea was that Democrats stripped Marjorie Taylor Greene, for instance, of her committeeship. We were supposed to believe that was a punishment, when in fact it raised her name ID within the party; she raised $3 million; and Democrats loved that because they could make her the face of the Republican Party.
It reminds me, a little bit, of, you know, Chuck Schumer spending $50 million to help the "extreme MAGA Republicans" in those Republican primaries. Both sides have done this. AOC is one of the least effective members of Congress, and yet the Republicans focus on her as well. So I think that these committeeships don't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. And if anything, it's each side trying to lower the temperature from their more extreme members.
RADDATZ: So, Alex, are Democrats basically giddy behind the scenes, although publicly, as Sarah said, they're saying, "Oh, they're the MAGA extremists?"
BURNS: Oh, for sure. And some of them are not even confining it to behind the scenes.
It's not just Marjorie Taylor Greene. Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz -- look, Democrats feel, and I think with pretty good reason, that the sooner they can move on from the special counsel phase of all this and into the, sort of, over-the-top, theatrical House investigations phase of this, the better it will be for them politically.
I mean, there are people -- plenty of people in the Biden White House, people serving on Capitol Hill, some of them elected officials themselves, who remember the 1990s and how the, sort of, story turned on Bill Clinton's investigations once you saw the House of Representatives, the Republican House of Representatives, run really hog wild. And I think they have every expectation, and with good reason, that that's likely to happen here.
RADDATZ: But, Rachel, is there any possibility that this could backfire on Kevin McCarthy?
SCOTT: I think, when you look at these committee assignments -- and as you were talking, Sarah, I was thinking about what Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has said, and I think it's sobering for the American people to look at someone who has questioned whether or not a plane hit the Pentagon on September 11th, who has made anti-Semitic claims that I will not repeat here -- it was even suggested that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should -- should face death because she believes that she committed treason.
That is now someone who is a top Republican on key committees. That's very sobering. And I think Kevin McCarthy -- I think what we're seeing is these back-door negotiations, these deals that were made, in order for him to secure the speaker's gavel, we're going to see those come to light now. And this is just one example.
RADDATZ: And, Heidi, there -- I've got to move to the debt ceiling. We've been talking about the debt ceiling, but in a way that's, kind of, put off for a couple of months, although they say they're taking extraordinary measures now.
How do they come to terms on that? You've got Kevin McCarthy wanting spending cuts and the Biden administration saying, "No, no, no, no -- no negotiations."
HEITKAMP: The bottom line is, Kevin McCarthy has now carved himself out in some degree bringing Trump back into the fold, saying, "I wouldn't be speaker without Trump." They -- he has put himself as the leader of the Republican Party.
So my argument that I would give to Kevin McCarthy is, "Look, you don't want a clean debt ceiling, even though you voted for it three times during the Trump administration. You don't want a clean debt ceiling, you give us a bill. Why do you need a negotiation?"
And so I think that, when somebody says -- it becomes a tit for tat, you know, "The Democrats won't come to the table; therefore we're going to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States," I think that's a loser for Republicans. Show us what the ideas are. That's what America wants. They want to get to the bottom of debt and deficit, but not in a political context. They want to see real leadership. This is Kevin McCarthy's opportunity.
And I want to say something about Marjorie Taylor Greene being on committees. You don't know how much damage she's going to do until that first question that she gets. If she becomes a lightning rod with her questioning on witnesses, this was not a good idea to put her on a committee.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Sarah, today is the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling establishing the right to abortion, Roe v. Wade. Of course it's now been overturned. We saw anti-abortion protesters up on the Hill, this March For Life. What do they focus on now?
ISGUR: That is a big question. You know, the -- the pro-life movement can really be divided into a few sides. There was the "overturn Roe v. Wade" side of it. But there's also a side that wants to reduce the number of abortions in the country. And I think that's where you're going to move to the states now. You're already seeing lots of states pursue different laws.
And politically, it's put someone like Ron DeSantis in an interesting position as he is looking to announce. Because Florida actually does not have a particularly stringent anti-abortion law at this point. But, you know, as a bigger picture, I think it's worth noting that Roe v. Wade became a feminist slogan, if you will, but so many of the biggest feminist changes that we've seen in our country didn't have to do with that. And so many of the strides that we made, I think it's worth reflecting on that 50 years later. Because we're in, sort of, a Third Wave feminism now where women are outpacing men by almost every metric. And it's something to be really proud of.
RADDATZ: And do you see the GOP making this a winning issue?
BURNS: Abortion? Well, there's certainly no evidence so far.
RADDATZ: So far, none at all.
BURNS: And -- and I think it's one of the things that's really remarkable, that, you know, you had 50 years to prepare for what you were going to propose after Roe v. Wade got overturned.
And the whole party got really caught flat-footed in the last election. And, look, I think you see Republicans in Washington and in some of the states trying to be really deliberate about the fights they choose and don't choose on this. But the anti-abortion movement wants to go pretty far.
And a Republican presidential primary is a really tough environment to make a nuanced case for, sort of, how to reduce the number of abortions without a total ban, when you're campaigning in a place like Iowa or South Carolina.
If I could, just real quickly, on the debt ceiling issue, I was talking to a senior Republican strategist on Friday and asking who's the person in the Republican Party right now who can go out and make an articulate case for reducing the size of government, making tough trade-offs on spending, the way Paul Ryan used to do when he was speaker or budget chair, the way John Kasich did in the 1990s.
And the person said, "You know, honestly, I don't know. It's just not a, sort of, part of the keyboard that you have seen folks on the Hill play in quite a long time. And it's a real messaging challenge. Because, if you're going to convince the American people to be with you on this issue, you really need to, sort of, communicate with them in a different way about making tough choices.
RADDATZ: Debt ceiling's a tough one. Thank you very much. Thanks for all -- to all of you for joining us this morning.
Coming up, for the first time, America's largest cities are led by black mayors. Jon Karl spoke with three of them about breaking barriers and the challenges ahead. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR KAREN BASS (D), LOS ANGELES: No matter who you voted for, no matter who you are or where you live, I will be a mayor for you. The crises we face affects us all and all of us must be a part of the solution. If we focus on the best of who we are and what we can achieve, we will create better neighborhoods today and a better future for our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass at her victory speech in November. She is the city’s first woman and a Black woman to become mayor. And now, for the first time, America's foremost populous cities are being led by Black mayors.
Chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl sat down with Mayor Bass, New York’s Mayor Eric Adams, and Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner to discuss the challenges their cities face.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS SCHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time in American history that we have the top four cities in America, the biggest four cities, represented by Black mayors. How significant is that?
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: It's moment for us. It’s a moment that we are now really going after those tough challenges and historical problems that we fought for many years to be in the driver's seat.
KARL: And you made history by being elected mayor of Los Angeles.
BASS: Right. First time there's a woman mayor. And I think -- thank you. I think one issue is, is that all of our cities are extremely diverse.
BASS: So, it's not as though we are representing Black cities, we're representing cities that reflect the population of America that have many problems but whose population had the confidence in us to elect us.
MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: And there was a time when, let’s say, the top 50 cities didn't have a single mayor that looked like any one of us. And I think it does signal that progress is being made. And hopefully, it gets to the point where it doesn’t stand out.
KARL: What is the -- in your view, the number one issue facing your city?
TURNER: Public safety.
KARL: Public safety.
ADAMS: Prerequisite to prosperity, the economy, inflation, all of that ties to people must be safe.
BASS: Yeah, right.
In Los Angeles, without a doubt, it's homelessness, but it’s the intersection of income inequality and also public safety.
TURNER: And I would agree with that. I mean, public safety is a top priority, but at the same time, what impacts public safety? So, you have to -- the economy, revitalizing our communities that have been underserved for a long, long time, dealing with the issues of homelessness and those things that put people on the streets.
TURNER: Or to keep people at the margins to all that (ph).
ADAMS: So important. So important.
And that's what we're doing, when people hear public safety, they think police.
ADAMS: And we are saying public safety is intervention and prevention.
ADAMS: We must stop feeding criminal behavior and what we're doing upstream. If you change upstream, we won't be pulling out of crime downstream.
KARL: I think you called defunding the police probably one of the worst slogans ever, Mayor Bass.
Why did you say that?
BASS: What I believe is, is that over time, especially, the federal government, state and cities have divested, defunded social services. And so I think when a person goes into an academy, they don't go into address homelessness, addiction, mental illness. And so, we need to refund our communities, build out the social safety net so that people don't fall into crime.
ADAMS: You go into the average community of color or any community, they'll tell you, no, we want our police, but we want them to do fair policing.
TURNER: So, it's not defunding police, it's about investing in communities.
KARL: So, I want to ask you about the migrant crisis.
Mayor Adams, you were just in El Paso. You were on the – on the border.
KARL: Did it change your perspective of this issue at all? What are the big takeaways?
ADAMS: This should not happen to any city in America. This is a national problem. And our national government, Congress and the White House, must do a long-term, comprehensive immigration policy. But the White House must deal with the immediate emergency we have now.
TURNER: I think, number one, you need comprehensive immigration reform. Number two, if you’re going to send people anywhere, there needs to be dialogue and collaboration –
TURNER: Between, for example, the governor of New York or Denver or Chicago, wherever that’s taking place. And if you want to score political points, that's one way to do it, but that doesn't solve the problem and, quite frankly, migrants shouldn't be used as political pawns in this chess board.
BASS: Well, exactly. I mean I think it's very cynical on the part of the governor of Texas and it’s a way of attempting to deliberately undermined –
BASS: New York City and Democratic-run cities that welcome immigrants. And we do need comprehensive immigration reform. But look at why we can’t get comprehensive immigration reform. It's the Republicans who stop it.
KARL: Does something need to be done, though, to slow the flow of migrants over the border, stop that crisis?
BASS: Well, I – I think that you need to look at the population because the people that are coming are coming for different reasons. And anything that we can do to help those countries –
BASS: To help the economic conditions, to help the crime issues, you know, in the central America countries, we need to do more.
TURNER: Well, the recent policy that the Biden administration has put in place I think will help. Allowing people to apply from where they are –
TURNER: Instead of coming over I think is a significant step forward. So, I think we have to wait and see whether or not the new policies that they’ve put in place –
BASS: That’s good. That’s right.
TURNER: Will have a – will have a positive impact.
KARL: But you think that's a good policy?
ADAMS: If we're going to allow those that are coming in who have relationships here in the country, sponsors, if this is coordinated in the proper way, we could absorb it throughout the entire country. You cannot absorb it just in a few cities that we’re witnessing right now, with each one of those cities acting independently to address a national crisis. That's not how to do it.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to Jon for that.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT." and have a great day.