'This Week' Transcript 10-22-23: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Michael McCaul and Cindy McCain
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, October 22.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, October 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)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Worsening crisis.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The civilized world should unite behind Israel in fighting and eradicating Hamas.
KARL: Israel warns of an imminent ground defensive as Gaza receives its first delivery of emergency aid.
CINDY MCCAIN, U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: It's a catastrophe. It’s a human catastrophe.
KARL: Hamas releases two Americans. An estimated 200 more hostages still held captive.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Hostages should be released immediately and unconditionally.
KARL: U.S. forces repel multiple attacks in the region. And, overnight, the Pentagon moves to bolster U.S. forces in the Middle East amid growing fears of a wider conflict.
BRIG. GEN. PATRICK S. RYDER: We aim to send a strong message intended to deter a wider conflict.
KARL: President Biden rallies America behind two allies.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win.
KARL: Our exclusive guests this morning, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul, and U.N. World Food Programme Director Cindy McCain.
A House divided.
PATRICK McHENRY (R-NC): A speaker has not been elected.
KARL: Republican infighting leaves the House paralyzed with no speaker and no end to the chaos.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We need to come together and figure out who our speaker is going to be.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Join with Democrats in finding a bipartisan path forward.
KARL: All the week's politics with our powerhouse roundtable.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We’re up almost 50 points. These guys ought to get out.
KARL: Just over two weeks until the next debate, we’ll talk to Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.
It has been 15 days since Hamas militants launched their unspeakably cruel, early morning terror attack from the Gaza Strip, ruthlessly and indiscriminately striking from the air and the ground, murdering, torturing, and kidnapping civilians from the very young to the very old. Crimes against humanity that Israel says have now claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Israelis. As Israel strikes back against an enemy that hides behind the innocent and the vulnerable, the toll of horror and suffering on both sides of the Gaza border continues to rise as the region and the world faces troubling questions about what comes next.
What does Israel do after its clearly telegraphed ground invasion? What will become of the more than 200 hostages believed to be held by Hamas? What will happen to the more than two million Palestinians facing both war and starvation? The death toll now above 4,600 according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health.
And what can and should the United States do to protect Israel and to prevent a further humanitarian crisis in Gaza? With U.S. forces gathering in the region, what happens if this becomes a wider regional war?
We'll cover it all this morning. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is standing by.
We begin with ABC chief foreign correspondent Ian Pannell in Tel Aviv with the very latest.
Good morning, Ian.
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Jon.
You know this region was already at boiling point before the October 7th massacre by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israeli and American leaders touted this new Middle East order would normalize relations between Israel and Arab countries. But now it's all at risk of unraveling.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is center stage again, and America risks being drawn into a wider war.
PANNELL: This was the week Israel's war with Hamas began to spread amid fears of a wider war. On the ground, after days of difficult negotiations, the border into Gaza from Egypt finally opened for desperately needed medical and food supplies. But just a small fraction of what aid agencies say they need.
TAMARA ALRIFAI, UNRWA SPOKESPERSON: What is needed is a continuous flow of aid. This is not about a one-off, sending 20 trucks and then nothing.
PANNELL: The relief comes amid a worsening crisis in Gaza. People now in their 12th day without electricity. Israel imposing a complete siege, cutting off food, medicine, fuel, and only limited water.
OASIM AL, DISPLACED AMERICAN PALESTINIAN: Don't sell it to the people that this is the war against Hamas. Everybody is paying the price in Gaza.
PANNELL: This small strip of land has been bombarded every day and night for more than two straight weeks. Retaliation for the massacre of 1,400 people in Israel on October 7th. But it’s left over 4,000 Palestinians dead.
On Friday, Hamas freeing two American hostages, Judish Raanan and her daughter, 17-year-old Natalie, a gesture to America that Hamas might hope could pressure Israel to pause all modified plans for a ground invasion, because Israel seems determined to press ahead, even though more than 200 hostages, including Americans, are still being held inside Gaza.
Defense Minister Gallant telling troops they'll soon see the Gaza Strip, quote, "From the inside."
Tensions erupted around this region and elsewhere after a deadly hospital explosion in Gaza that left hundreds dead according to Palestinian health officials. Both sides blaming each other for the attack. Protests erupted near the Israeli embassy in Amman, the U.S. embassy in Beirut mobbed, and across the region, people took to the streets to denounce Israel and America amid worrying signs of escalation. U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria came under attack from Iranian-backed militias, while a U.S. Navy destroyer shot down three cruise missiles and several drones fired by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels. It was the first shots fired by America in this war.
BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They were launched from Yemen, heading north along the Red Sea, potentially towards targets in Israel.
PANNELL: With escalating attacks across the border from Lebanon to Israel’s north by Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group, and Iran's rhetoric increasingly threatening, the U.S. warning all Americans traveling abroad to be vigilant and beefing up its forces in the region.
Overnight, Defense Secretary Austin deploying another carrier strike group to the region, additional air defenses and putting more troops on standby. The decision made because of what he calls escalations by Iran and its proxy forces across the Middle East region.
President Biden made a high-risk and high-stakes wartime visit to Israel this week. He came here with a message of sympathy and solidarity.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel, you're not alone. The United States stands with you.
PANNELL: But the president’s also urging moderation, warning Israel not to be consumed by its anger. Arab leaders canceled an important summit with Biden, frustrating his plans to ameliorate the growing anger in the Middle East, not just at Israel, but of what's seen as American support for a military campaign that's left Gaza awash in blood. Biden now requesting a $100 billion foreign aid package, including $14 billion for Israel, warning Americans in an address to the nation a day later that the world is at an inflection point.
BIDEN: Yesterday has taught us that when terrorists don't pay a price for their terror, when dictators don't pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death.
PANNELL: This morning, Israel urging more residents to leave their homes in the north amid increased fighting on the border with Lebanon. And Nir Barkat, Israel’s minister of the economy, telling Britain’s “Mail on Sunday” newspaper today that, quote, “Iran's ayatollah will be wiped off the face of the earth should Hezbollah, their proxy terror group in Lebanon, attack Israel. "
Jon, the region’s never felt so dangerous and closer to a wider war in decades.
KARL: And, Ian, beyond the military action, we’re also seeing rising anger throughout the Arab world. How significant and dangerous is that?
PANNELL: Yes, we are. And, of course, a lot of this has been brought out into the open by the conflict that we're seeing here, in particular the Israeli bombing inside Gaza and the West Bank. But it's about much more. There is a lot of latent anger, you know, on the Arab streets in countries like Jordan and Egypt. You know, President Sisi of Egypt wanted people to come out and protest about the bombing. This taking place in Gaza. But interestingly, as well as people shouting slogans against Israel and America, they also revitalized some of those revolutionary slogans that we saw in Tahrir Square back in 2011 calling for dignity and bread, and, you know, and progress.
And this is very dangerous for Arab regimes around the region. For some of our closest allies. And they know it's not just about a wide -- potential for a wider war, it's potential for internal conflict that could unseat some of America's closest allies.
KARL: All right, thank you, Ian.
Joining us now is Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Secretary Austin, thank you for being here.
I want to start with those moves you announced late yesterday, last night. You've got the USS Eisenhower going to the Persian Gulf. You've got more missile defense systems headed to the region. Troops put on standby. What's behind these moves?
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, Jonathan, as you know, recently we’ve seen rocket and UAV attacks against bases housing our troops in Iraq and Syria. We're concerned about potential escalation. In fact, what we're seeing is a -- is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region. And because of that, we're going to do what's necessaryto make sure that our troops are in the right -- in a good position, and they're protected, and that we have the ability to respond.
Now, this additional deployment sends another message to those who would -- who would seek to widen this conflict. As President Biden said earlier and as you've heard me say, if any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation that we see, our advice is don't. We maintain the right to defend ourselves, and we won't hesitate to take the appropriate action.
KARL: Well, in fact, we saw the USS Carney take down those Houthi missiles. Houthis, again, that's an Iranian-backed group in Yemen and also several drones.
Were -- was that takedown defending our ships in the region or was it defending Israel?
AUSTIN: Jonathan, when you have cruise missiles heading towards one of our DDGs, one of our destroyers, that vessel is going to do what it needs to do to protect itself. The same applies for the UAVs.
And I applaud the work of the crew of the Carney. They demonstrated what the -- what our very capable United States Navy can do and will do if challenged.
KARL: And you've given the authority to do that. That was done in an instant.
AUSTIN: They have the inherent right for self-protection there, Jon. Yeah.
KARL: And could we see similar actions if we see Hezbollah or if we see Iran start lobbing missiles towards Israel? I mean, are we effectively ready for air cover for the Israelis?
AUSTIN: Jon, what we're focused on currently is making sure that we're providing the security assistance that Israel needs to defend itself. That's been our focus from the very beginning, and I will tell you that I am in contact with Minister Gallant nearly every day.
I spoke to him on October 7th, the same day that the attack occurred. He identified to me what his needs were at that point in time, and we immediately started flowing security assistance to them.
KARL: And they're about to launch this ground offensive in Gaza. You were at CentCom. You were the CentCom commander when ISIS had control of Mosul, and it took nine months, but you cleared ISIS out of Mosul with our Iraqi and Kurdish partners.
What was that -- what were the lessons you learned there that apply here?
AUSTIN: Well, the first thing that everyone should know and I think everybody does know that urban combat is extremely difficult. It's -- it goes at a slow pace.
KARL: That was nine months.
KARL: Nine months of intense combat.
This may be a bit more difficult because of the underground network of tunnels that the -- that Hamas has constructed over time, and the fact that they have had a long time to prepare for a fight. So I think you'll see a fight that's characterized by a lot of IEDs, a lot of booby traps, and just a really grinding activity going forward.
Now, one of the things we've learned is how to account for civilians in the battle space, and they are a part of the battle space, and we, in accordance of the law of war, we've got to do what's necessary to protect those civilians.
And as I’ve talked to Minister Gallant and others, I’ve encouraged them to conduct their operations in accordance with the law of war.
KARL: And I want -- I want to ask you on that. We heard some pretty stark words from King Abdullah of Jordan, again, an American ally, no friend of Hamas, obviously, but very critical of what the Israelis have done so far. Let me bring up what he said.
He said: The relentless bombing campaign underway in Gaza, as we speak, is cruel and unconscionable on every level. It is collective punishment on a besieged and helpless people. It is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime.
Is Israel doing enough to protect or to ensure that innocent civilians aren't getting -- getting killed in this?
AUSTIN: We encourage them at every opportunity, Jon, to make sure that, you know, we're accounting for those civilians that are in the battle space that were providing corridors for them to leave the battle space if necessary, and that -- and that they're allowing humanitarian assistance to get into that space as well.
KARL: I – I – Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, one of the Israeli military spokesmen, told ABC this week, “If Hamas places a rocket in the courtyards of schools, we’re going to strike that.”
What – I mean how – what’s your sense – and these are, obviously, incredibly difficult decisions. But is a school a legitimate target if Hamas is using it effectively for cover? How do you – how – how would you handle that? You – you dealt with things like this with -- in Mosul.
AUSTIN: Certainly you have to evaluate the target, the value of the target, who's on that -- who's on that – who’s at that location. And we always have -- we always get legal advice from our – our – our lawyers who are with us on the battlefield. But, to your point, each target, Jon, needs to be assessed, carefully assessed, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that civilians are not -- are not injured or threatened.
So, the right thing to do is to make sure that we account for civilians in our planning, that we provide corridors for – for their movement out of the battle space, that we are not -- not destroying protected properties in the -- where possible. And I think the Israelis have been doing this for some time. Again, they are a professional force, and we will encourage -- continue to encourage them to make sure that they're doing things in accordance with the law of war.
KARL: At the beginning of the ground invasion in Iraq in 2003, David Petraeus, of course, famously asked the question, tell me how this ends. So how does this end? Israel goes in. Ground offensive in Gaza. What -- what next?
AUSTIN: Well, it’s got – it’s -- it has to transition to something else, Jon. And I think – you know, Hamas is a terrorist organization. And this is not the Palestinian people. Hamas, at the end of the day, Israel wants Hamas to be gone from – from Gaza. What does it transition to? Left to be defined, but I think that's an issue for the region and for the world to – to work together on.
Hamas is not only just an organization. It's an ideology.
AUSTIN: And so it's a – it’s an idea. It's a bad idea. And the way you defeat a bad idea, Jon, is with a better idea. And I do think, going forward, the community needs to work together to address the underlying causes of instability here. And until we do that, then I think we're going to have -- continue to have challenges. But I think the Israelis understand that. They know that. And I think that's the direction that we all hope that we'll move in the future.
KARL: In other words, back toward the idea of a two-state solution.
AUSTIN: As you know, Jon, that's been – that’s been our position all along, a two-state solution is something that we think is – is very, very supportable.
KARL: All right, Secretary Austin, thank you very much for coming in this morning to talk to us.
AUSTIN: Thanks, Jon.
KARL: For more on the humanitarian crisis facing Gaza, let’s bring in the executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Cindy McCain, who joins us from Amman, Jordan.
Cindy, you have been conducting shuttle diplomacy to try to get aid convoys into Gaza. We’re starting to see some aid flow. But how dire is the humanitarian crisis right now in Gaza?
CINDY MCCAIN, U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, thank you for covering this.
The situation is catastrophic in Gaza right now. There has been no food, no water, no electricity. You’ve heard all the stories.
Yesterday we were able to get 20 trucks to cross. And by that 20 trucks total, three of which were WFP. And so we were able to feed about 200,000 people last night during dinner.
But that’s not enough. That’s a drop. We need – we need secure and sustainable access in there, in that region, so that we can feed.
This is a catastrophe happening and we just simply have to get these trucks in.
KARL: And you have – you have the material there on the ground in Egypt ready to go in. It’s a matter of getting the – getting the clearance.
KARL: And – and – and what’s holding it up?
MCCAIN: Well, I think a number of things are. We were able to get 17 more trucks in just now actually, just a little while ago, I understand. And there’s a proposed 40 more tomorrow. But this dribbling of the system is not going to work. At one – at -- prior to the war beginning there were about 400 trucks a day going through. So, you know what – what it could be.
We simply have to have this because – because, as I said, people are starving but also this is a – this is a national security issue for everyone in this region. Starvation and lack of food is -- is a security issue. So we just want to make sure that people can feed themselves and that -- and that we have the opportunity and the ability to give them a sustainable life, as best we can.
But remember, this is a war zone, and things are very fluid. And so that's why these trucks have got to be able to get -- we have to be able to get these trucks in safely and sustainably.
KARL: And how do you ensure it gets to the people who need it and doesn’t get into the hands of Hamas?
MCCAIN: Well, we have a WFP team already on the ground. They’ve been there for a long time. And so we have the -- we have the implements in place. We are able to track and trace our bags. We’re able to -- to -- to make sure, from --from an electronics standpoint, that our -- that our folks who are supposed to get the aid are actually the people that are getting the aid. So we do the very best we can to make sure that it does go to the right people.
But, again, as I said, this is a war zone, and things happen. And I'm -- and that -- that is tragic, in -- in the end. But, believe me, we do the very best we can.
KARL: All right, Cindy McCain, and thank you for the work you’re doing on the ground.
Up next, there’s still no speaker of the House. We’ll talk to Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
We’ll be back in two minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA: Unfortunately, Jim is no longer going to be the nominee. We'll have to go back to the drawing board. What history will look at, the Crazy Eights led by Gaetz, the amount of damage they have done to this party and to this country is unsurmountable. We are in a very bad position as a party, one that has won the majority, one that America has entrusted us with, that a simple eight people have put us in this place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: It's been almost three weeks since Kevin McCarthy was ousted as speaker of the House, and there is no sign of the end of the chaos. We're joined now by House Foreign Affairs Committee chair and Republican Congressman Michael McCaul.
We'll get to the House in a moment, but first, you heard what Secretary Austin had to say. How concerned are you about this war expanding, about a real escalation in the Middle East?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIR & (R) TEXAS: Yeah, I think escalation is the -- the biggest fear. You could hear it in the secretary's voice, saying the biggest risk is this factor. That's why he's deploying, you know, the -- you know, the two aircraft carriers, the destroyer ships, 2,000 marines. We've had our military bases shot at by proxies of Iran now, without a response.
And I -- I actually talked to him backstage and applauded him for putting force protection in, because Hamas and Hezbollah only see one thing, and that's power. If we project power and deterrence, they willback down. If we -- if they see weakness, they will fire.
And what I worry about Hezbollah, Jon, is that they have 100,000 rockets and precision-guided weapons that can overload the Iron Dome. So --
KARL: I mean, much more than Hamas has ever had.
MCCAUL: They’re the A-team. It’s like Hamas is, like, Little League Baseball.
MCCAUL: I mean -- so, what we're worried about is, as the -- as the IDF, the Israelis go on the ground, which is a very dangerous thing to do house by house like we did in Iraq, that that could trigger an escalation by Hezbollah.
KARL: And you are working on an authorization for the use of military force. I mean, what were the prospects of America really becoming involved? I mean, we're already -- the shots -- first shots have been fired by the USS Carney.
MCCAUL: Yeah, we don't want to see that, and that's why, you know, if we provide deterrence, now, we hopefully can avoid war. Any time you see -- you demonstrate weakness, you invite aggression.
So, the AUMF, I’ve been working on to repeal 2001 and 2002, modernize it to the current threat, and I’ve been working on this even before this event even happened.
MCCAUL: The discussion with the White House that I’ve had -- that I have was that the -- the proxies of Iran should be included. What has changed since 9/11, right? 2001's 9/11, AUMF.
What has changed? It's these terror proxies of Iran, and I believe they need to be added to the authorized use of military force.
KARL: And we also have the administration has got a supplemental funding request that includes Israel and Ukraine.
Let's take a look at what's in the package -- $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $9 billion for humanitarian aid, $7 billion for the -- for bolstering the defense of Taiwan, $14 billion for the U.S. border.
You're in favor of this package?
MCCAUL: I’m in favor of the concept of linking the biggest threats to the free world, and that is, you know, since the fall of Afghanistan, Putin invaded, you know, Ukraine. That's a threat to Europe. Chairman Xi is threatening Taiwan, the Pacific, and now, we have a war in the Middle East.
So it links all that, including the southwest border that I think is also a threat --
MCCAUL: -- right here (ph) in the homeland, and all these radical elements could get into the United States.
So, I’m in favor of linking all of this.
We’re going to -- we're looking at the numbers. The House, you know, we have the power of the purse, and we appropriate the money.
The Ukraine piece is a little deceptive because only half of that really goes to Ukraine. The other half, the $30 billion of the $60 billion really goes to replenishing and modernizing our stockpiles, our military stockpiles.
KARL: To replenish what we've already sent over to Ukraine.
MCCAUL: And modernizing our weapons.
MCCAUL: And our defense industrial base --
KARL: So, what do you say to your fellow Republicans who say they don't want these -- these combined, and they think this is too much for Ukraine, that they shouldn't be linked? What -- what’s your answer to that?
MCCAUL: I think it would be very dangerous to abandon our allies at this critical time. I haven't seen it more dangerous since my dad's war, World War II. When I was in Poland, they said this is, like, 1939, you know?
MCCAUL: And Hitler invading Poland. I saw the refugees from Ukraine coming over.
You know, my guys, they just -- and gals, they want more oversight, you know? They want accountability.
They also want to plan a path to victory and a strategic objective, and I think that's fair, and the administration has not laid that out yet. And I think that's what they want to see with Ukraine.
KARL: Of course, I guess you would need a speaker of the House before you can get any of this done. What --
MCCAUL: You know, a little on detail.
KARL: What the hell's going on?
MCCAUL: It’s -- I have to say, it’s my tenth term in Congress.
MCCAUL: This is probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen because if we don't have a speaker of the House, we can't govern. And every day that goes by, we're essentially shut down as a government.
We have very important issues right now, war and peace, and we cannot deal with an aid package, or my resolution condemning Hamas and supporting Israel. We can’t do that.
KARL: You can't even pass a resolution condemning Hamas.
MCCAUL: Because --
KARL: So, are you supporting -- I mean, I’ve lost count now. I think we're pushing a dozen candidates and potential candidates for speaker. Who are you supporting?
MCCAUL: Look, I -- I haven't decided, but I want a speaker in the chair so we can move forward and cover my issues, my committee of war and peace.
It's too dangerous right now. The world's on fire. This is so dangerous what we're doing.
And most importantly, it's embarrassing because it empowers and emboldens our adversaries like Chairman Xi who says, you know, democracy doesn't work.
KARL: Is there any possibility of -- I don't want to say coalition government, but is there any possibility that you're just going to need some kind of an arrangement that has Democratic support as well?
MCCAUL: This is, you know, discussed. I mean, if you can't get to 217 within our conference --
KARL: Which is really not a strange hypothetical, it seems that way. Yeah.
MCCAUL: -- on the floor, you know, how do you get there? But I think for some, they see that as very dangerous as well.
KARL: But you wouldn't rule it out if --
MCCAUL: You know, I'd rather it be the Republicans nominating and voting on the floor for a Republican Speaker. But this can't go on forever. I don't know if we're going to have a speaker next week. I don't know how this plays out.
KARL: All right, Chairman McCaul, thank you for joining us.
KARL: And coming up next, Tim Scott joins us live.
We'll be right back.
KARL: Sen. Tim Scott, standing by.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I am sick and tired of people saying to Israel, settle down. Whether it's Joe Biden or one of my opponents. I am hoping that Israel will wipe Hamas off the face of the map.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: South Carolina senator and Republican presidential candidate, Tim Scott, speaking about the war between Israel and Hamas, joins us now.
Senator Scott, thank you for being here.
SCOTT: Good morning, Jon.
KARL: So, we've seen overnight the Pentagon is -- has boosted U.S. forces in the region. We have a second aircraft carrier headed to the region, headed to the Persian Gulf. What is your sense of what the United States military should be prepared to do to protect Israel if this war expands?
SCOTT: Well, there's no doubt that the escalation in the Middle East seems to be happening before our very eyes. The two carriers are – some -- one of them's already shooting down rockets. What we need to be prepared for is one of the reasons why we saw the fad missile system -- anti-defense system go into the Middle East is because we've seen conflict coming and we’ve seen rockets fired not only at Israel, but we’ve seen our own troops under pressure and, frankly, under attack as well.
So, what we need to do is make sure that we put the blame where it belongs, and that's on Iran. We need to send the clearest message that if we see the death of more Americans, that that is on the shoulders, frankly, and in the hands of Iran. We need to deal with Hamas and Hezbollah by giving Israel the resources, the equipment. They already have the manpower. They've called up 360,000 troops. But fighting a war on two different borders is going to be something we should keep our eyes on. And we should send the message to Hezbollah, stand down or there will be consequences.
KARL: The president is asking for an emergency funding request, which includes $14 billion for Israel, $60 billion for Ukraine, also money for the border, money to protect our -- Taiwan. Are you in favor of that package?
SCOTT: I am not, as the package is currently constructed. I believe that leveraging the challenges in the war with Israel to get more assistance for Ukraine at that level of $60 billion is too much, and we need to have a single focus on bringing Congress together behind the support for Israel. That package would pass overnight. Having a package that's splintered makes it more difficult to get through the houses of Congress and give the aid where we need it and sending a unified support to Israel.
KARL: But you -- you support aid to Ukraine. You support aid to Israel. If these come together, if that’s the way this bill comes up, you're not going to vote against it, are you?
SCOTT: I will in the current construct. There's no doubt that we spent about -- over the last two years $100 billion to Ukraine in this one package. It’s $61 billion for Ukraine. Only $14 billion for Israel. Israel is at the beginning of a long, protracted war. I think we are much better off, better served as a nation, focusing our resources and our attention immediately on Israel and continuing to provide the kind of level of accountability and responsibility the American people want to see as it relates to the resources for Ukraine.
If we do those separately, I believe we get the Israel package done almost overnight, and then we have the longer process of providing more resources depending on the level to Ukraine.
But, most importantly, I’d say, there is the southern border that must be addressed in the middle of this. One of the challenges that we've seen on our southern border are people coming from actually Iran, from Yemen, from Syria. Thousands of people have crossed our southern border, and on both sides of the aisle. The one thing we can agree upon is that the national security threat, represented by an unsafe, insecure, and wide open border, has never been higher than it is today.
KARL: I want to ask you about something that you said just a few days after October 7th, when Hamas attacked. You said that Joe Biden had blood on his hands. That didn't really sound like the Tim Scottthat I know, the hopeful, optimistic campaign you talked about running.
But sometimes, in the heat of the campaign, you say things that -- that maybe you regret. Do you regret saying that, of saying that the president of the United States has blood on his hands?
SCOTT: I don't, actually. I'm a happy warrior, without any question. But we are now in the midst of a conflict, and so the warrior in me requires responsibility to start at the top. When you think about the fact that the weakness of Joe Biden attracts conflict around this world, and frankly, the negotiations with Iran is -- was specifically I was talking about. Six billion dollars for hostages only creates a bigger market for Americans abroad.
KARL: But -- but, Senator, if -- if...
SCOTT: And that money...
KARL: If I can just...
SCOTT: Jon, let me finish.
SCOTT: Let me finish, Jon. That money, we know Hamas's first thank you was to Iran. Ninety percent of their money comes from -- from Iran. Put those pieces of the puzzle together. That's why this administration froze those dollars just last week.
KARL: But -- but, I mean, I'm glad you mention they froze the money, because none of that money has gone to Iran, none of it. And you said that he has blood on his hands. I mean, with all due respect...
KARL: ... the blood is on the hands of Hamas. And to say that Joe Biden is complicit, which you also said, in the greatest, deadliest attack...
KARL: ... on the Jewish people since the Holocaust, I mean, that -- that's beyond the pale, isn't it?
SCOTT: Well, Jon, let's just...
KARL: You don't -- you don't really think he has...
SCOTT: ... go right back to where we find ourselves. Jon, let -- let me finish my thought here, because I think it's important for your viewers to hear the actual truth, as I see it. There's no doubt that, when you have President Biden negotiating with the Iranians for the release of hostages -- I said this under President Obama as well. When the -- when we paid $400 million for hostages, you are creating a market for -- for American lives to be lost. When you pay $6 billion, do not be surprised when the result of that $6 billion leads to more conflict in the Middle East. And we've seen more than 30 Americans lose their lives.
I'm saying with great clarity that weakness from the American president, plus the negotiations, leading to terrorist attacks by negotiating with the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Yes, it creates complicity.
KARL: OK. But I -- I think we can agree that the blood is on the hands of Hamas. That's who is to blame for what happened.
SCOTT: We can agree that -- no doubt, the...
SCOTT: The person who pulls the trigger is primarily responsible, but that does not release the president of our country as being complicit and responsible in what we're seeing...
KARL: Those are...
SCOTT: ... unfold in part.
KARL: OK. Senator Scott, thank you for joining us. Appreciate your time.
The roundtable weighs in, next. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plead to the Sixth Council conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties?
SIDNEY POWELL: Guilty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plead to count 15 conspiracy to commit filing false documents in indictment number 23SC1 88947?
KENNETH CHESEBRO: Guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Back to back guilty pleas there from two allies of Donald Trump for interfering in the 2024 presidential election in Georgia. The round table is here. Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, ABC's Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran, Politico Playbook Co-Author Rachael Bade, and National Review Editor Ramesh Ponnuru.
So Terry, let's start with that. Guilty pleas from the president's lawyer, at least she was, Sidney Powell. How significant is that? And what does it mean?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's big. It means it shows the power of the racketeering laws, right? People who are caught on a racketeering indictment, they want to get out, and there could be many reasons. They actually did it; they're getting a good deal from prosecutors. They don't have the money to fight, OK? And so this shows the power of it and it's a great win for the prosecution.
These are two witnesses who can certainly bring relevant, powerful evidence to convict the rest who go to trial, including Donald Trump. That said, I still think this sprawling indictment, even with the testimony of these two associates of Donald Trump, under the racketeering laws, you know, could be difficult -- more difficult for prosecutors than people expect.
KARL: Ramesh, what's your sense within the Republican primary that's playing out? I mean, it feels like the noose is tightening legally against Donald Trump. I mean, there's that. There was what happened in New York this past week with the gag order. I mean what -- does it eventually matter? It hasn't mattered yet.
RAMESH PONNURU, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR & WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST: Well, the noose seems to have been tightening for a very, very long time now without having any impact on Republican primary voters. I don't think this is even, you know, some of these events -- adverse legal events have helped Trump in the primary. This one I think is not even registering, but what I think the significance of it could be is actually the future plea deals that might come about because now people know that deals are on the table.
RACHAEL BADE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: Yeah, that was my (inaudible) too. I mean it's this beginning of a domino effect where we can see someone like Mark Meadows actually flip on Donald Trump. And if you have a Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff, somebody really well respected in the MAGA world, Republican politics out there testifying against Trump, could that move voters? I mean, let's also remember this case in particular is going to be televised. So people are going to see clips of Trump's inner circle testifying against him.
KARL: And Donna, we had the judge in New York slap a $5,000 fine, which was just a minor fine because he violated the gag order, you know, but the warning there is that he could actually be imprisoned, Donald Trump, for continuing to threaten court personnel, potential witnesses, prosecutors.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER DNC CHAIR: Now look, this judge managed to get Donald Trump to take down one of the "threatening emails" and lies that he put out there. So yes, there's no question that I think Mr. Trump is in major trouble. Sidney Powell is not just some random lawyer that represented Donald Trump; she was in the Oval Office. She was -- she was there when they were concocting this wild-eyed strategy.
KARL: Talking about martial law, and seizing voting…
BRAZILE: Yeah. She wanted to be special prosecutor to do all this stuff. This I think will have a domino effect, and I also think it's going to impact his messaging. When people around him -- people who knew what the thinking was, can now be unleashed to testify against him and against others, I think the wheels are going to turn.
KARL: Terry, he's already been spending more time in a courtroom in New York than he has in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, at least over the last week or two.
MORAN: But as Ramesh pointed out, it hasn't been bad for him at all. These are prosecutions, many of them which are seen by millions of Americans as, as political vengeance, that if Donald Trump had been convicted in the impeachment trial and removed from office and banned from -- would -- how many of these would have been brought? Mar-a-Lago case, right? He took those documents, lied about them, all that stuff.
But are these other efforts to shoehorn this attempted coup into criminal statutes not written for that kind of thing? Is that really fair play? And I think that's the sense of a lot of America.
KARL: All right, Rachael, enough with that. Are we going to have a speaker of the House? And what are we up to seven, eight, nine candidates? Where do -- you have the count, I've lost.
BADE: Jon, for my social life and my work-life balance, I pray to God this week is the week.
No, I don't know. We'll see. I mean, the reality is that the two top candidates for replacing Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, the majority leader and Jim Jordan, they fell short. And because of that, now, there's this sort of free for all happening in the House where everyone in their mother thinks they can be speaker and is running right now. And that just further divides the conference behind rallying behind one person. A lot of these people running, they have no leadership experience. They've never run a leadership race. They don't have a lot of fundraising experience except for of course, their own campaigns. There is one exception to that, and that is Tom Emmer. He is the House Majority Whip. He has experience getting conservatives and moderates in a room to haggle out, you know, negotiations on legislation, et cetera.
So, he knows a lot of people, he's well liked among the conference. And he's raised money for people, helped flip the House as chair of the NRCC last election cycle. But he has a Trump problem. And Donald Trump's inner circle does not like him, and is already actively working against him trying to tell people to vote against him.
PONNURU: Because he voted to certify the election.
BADE: That -- yes.
KARL: He voted to certify --
MORAN: That's right.
KARL: -- the elections that were the -- the electoral ballots that were sent in by states and been certified by the states.
PONNURU: That's correct. That's right.
KARL: And that was a minority position in the House.
PONNURU: And a disqualification, according to Trump is, you know, just Trump's most hardcore followers. Look, they've got a (ph) speaker, they've got a Speaker Pro Tempore. And I think that they're going to find out that Patrick McHenry is their best option, just not, not even pass passing resolution to empower him. Just leave him there until you've got 218 or more people --
KARL: But that ideal was --
KARL: -- I mean Jordan came and supported that. And then --
PONNURU: But to pass the rest -- that idea was you pass a resolution, they don't need to pass the resolution. What they need to do is just leave them there, haven't put up something for vote. If it's got 218 votes, let it pass.
BADE: Patrick McHenry has said he will resign as temporary speaker if they --
PONNURU: Which is another recommendation for him.
BADE: Who says that the House overruling, the House parliamentarian his argument is, is a slippery slope. There's a reason why it hasn't been done. And, you know, 60, 70 years because once you overrule one, you know, rule of the House that all these other, they'll try to do the same thing. And then you know, It's total chaos.
So, but McHenry has said, he's open to this resolution. If you -- if there are 217 votes actually empower him to move legislation. He's open to it. And I thought your interview with Michael McCaul was interesting, because the chairman, he didn't push back on that. He said, you know, I'd rather have a Republican Speaker, but we got to start moving. And I think increasingly, you're going to see Republicans saying that even though a lot of conservatives rejected right now.
KARL: I mean, that was interesting, wasn't it? McCaul not ruling out doing something with Democrats? I mean, if you can't get 270 Republicans, what do you do?
BRAZILE: It is time to form a governing coalition and the United States Congress, the Republicans have effectively shut down Article I of the Constitution, the Legislative Branch of Government. So, it is important. You say pray, I'm willing to do a novena. That's how difficult this is.
Look, we're facing so many crises. And it's not just here at home domestically, but it's international. President Biden showed leadership. I disagree strongly with what Senator Scott said about the president, his leadership, not just in the Middle East, but what he's trying to do in Ukraine and other places around the world. So, we need a functioning Congress.
KARL: Yes, Terry?
MORAN: You take a step back. And what it looks like is we actually have three political parties right now in the United States, two of them are called Republicans. And that means you have coalition politics. Can the two parties called Republicans build a coalition to elect a speaker? Or will they have to turn to the third party?
KARL: I think that's a great frame you have, but Donna, a question to you, will Democrats support a Republican Speaker of the House?
BRAZILE: Well, they got to change the rules, because that motion to vacate is just poison. And, and once they changed the rule, and also --
KARL: That's not the only rule.
BRAZILE: That's one -- no, (INAUDIBLE). We're not going -- we should never coalesce with a party that does not believe in the functions of the United States government, that a willingness shut the government down. So yes, will the Democrats work and form a coalition with the Republicans come to the table? And --
KARL: That means voting for a Republican Speaker to be clear.
BRAZILE: It's voting for someone who will not only support the functions of government, but work with Democrats -- work with Democrats, and some of the rules changes that they have to input (ph).
PONNURU: You know one group that this empowers, if there is that kind of bipartisan governing coalition with a majority of Republicans or half of the Republicans and a lot of the Democrats, is the crazy eight, the people that McCarthy identified as the sort of nihilist faction.
KARL: It empowers them.
PONNURU: It empowers them because what they want is not to govern. What they want is to say that other Republican Party has betrayed us, they're serious, they're working with the Democrats. Step one, force them to work with the Democrats. Step two, complain about it.
KARL: (Inaudible) what they do.
BADE: I do think it will be -- the blood bath will only continue in the House Republican Conference if they do decide to work with Democrats.
They will -- I mean Matt Gaetz is going to use that to fund-raise. He's going to use that to go after other people, and the question is, I mean, what are Democrats going to want for working with Republicans, backing a Republican speaker? Because they're not going to do it for free. You know they're not going to do it for free, and one of the big things, you know, folks have been talking about on the Hill right now is that Democrats are going to hold Republicans to the deal Kevin McCarthy struck with the White House on spending numbers before he went back on that later (ph).
KARL: By the way, the deal was written by Patrick McHenry.
BADE: Exactly. Yes. Another reason why conservatives don't really like Patrick McHenry, but yeah. And that means that whoever -- Republicans that turn to Democrats to sort of, you know, do this sort of coalition idea or whatever, they're going to be attacked by primary voters, by maybe even some of their own donors. I mean, folks who are angry at them for sticking to higher spending levels, because that's effectively what they're going to be fighting for (ph).
BRAZILE: (Inaudible) Trump will turn against them. Let's be honest. This is Donald Trump's fault because he injected himself in the leader's race when Steve Scalise clearly had the votes or was putting together the coalition.
KARL: He made it clear Scalise wasn't acceptable.
BRAZILE: And that's enough. He's a (inaudible) graduate.
KARL: And yet, Trump couldn't get Jordan over the line.
BRAZILE: That's right.
MORAN: He couldn't get Jordan over the line and he has kind of created this movement that he isn't entirely in control of right now. I mean, he is -- he takes a lot of "Ls" when he tells people to vote for people he wants, but there is still this nihilist, this kind of almost vandal caucus in the Republican Party that wants to tear everything down, and they're backed by the loudest conservative media machine imaginable.
And so, that's what they have to deal with as well, that echo every night on those channels, you know, telling them what to do.
KARL: Yeah. All right. We will be right back.
KARL: Thank you to the round table. That is all for today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." Have a great day.