A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, October 2, 2022 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 HOST (voiceover): Breaking news.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're just beginning to see the scale of that destruction, it's likely to rank among the worst in the nation's history.
KARL: At least 72 now confirmed killed, making Hurricane Ian Florida’s deadliest in more than 60 years.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS, (R-FL): We've never seen a flood event like this.
DANA SOUZA, CITY MANAGER, NAPLES, FLORIDA: The damage is catastrophic and it is biblical.
KARL: Search and rescue efforts continue this morning. We're live in the storm zone, one-on-one with FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell and Florida senator Marco Rubio.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: (Inaudible).
KARL: The Russian president declares large portions of Ukraine now belong to Russia, the biggest land grab in Europe since World War II.
BIDEN: America's fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory.
KARL: Growing concerns of a nuclear attack, Ian Pannell reports from Ukraine and former CIA director David Petraeus joins us here in the studio.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Did you speak with your husband about your beliefs of the election being stolen?
KARL: Ginni Thomas testifies before the January 6th Committee, as our campaign embed tracked down election deniers across the country, 37 days before the midterms.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Leader McCarthy, you have members in your conference that question the 2020 election, are you worried that that could limit your gains in November?
KARL: Our Roundtable and a first look at the latest episode of “Power Trip.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week." Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
KARL (on camera): Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
As we come on the air this morning we're tracking break news at home and abroad. On the home front, Floridians are digging out of what is now the deadliest storm to hit their state in more than 60 years.
And in Europe, a major escalation in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin declaring a vast stretch of Ukrainian territory is now and he said forever part of Russia. He announced this brazen land grab in a speech that suggested Russia is now engaged in a global war against the West, and that he may use nuclear weapons.
But we begin with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which has now killed at least 72 people across the State of Florida, including 35 in Lee County, the epicenter of the devastation, and where county leaders are now facing questions about whether they waited too long to issue an evacuation order.
Nearly a million people are still without power across the region and for a hurricane that has wreaked havoc across Florida, the Carolinas, and the mid-Atlantic region, the estimated economic damages could approach nearly $1 billion.
President Biden plans to visit Florida on Wednesday, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell and Florida senator Marco Rubio are standing by with the latest.
ABC News’ senior meteorologist Rob Marciano leads us off from Fort Myers Beach. And Rob, as Florida digs out, the death toll keeps rising.
ROB MARCIANO, ABC NEWS SENIOR METEOROLOGIST: It does, Jon. And it’s grim, sobering stuff. We’re at day four now, sun coming up. I mean, the only bright spot on this is that the weather’s been very cooperative, the most I've ever seen, post-hurricane for their rescue and recovery efforts. But now we’re seeing fatalities up and over 70 here in the State of Florida. And that makes it the deadliest hurricane since 1928.
And still, rescues are ongoing. As much damage as they've seen, yesterday we went out in inland areas where the rivers were still rising. There were still communities and people who were trapped by floodwaters. We met with citizens who have their private boats and they were helping rescue people there. There was some concerns over a levee nearby that -- whether that was going to break and they evacuated that area. The rivers finally this morning are starting to come down, but still, there's water surrounding even this neighborhood behind me.
I want to show you this drone shot, and we’ve got wind damage here in Fort Myers, this has pretty much become the defacto ground zero, even as big as this storm has been. But this community is damaged by wind and surrounded by water. And this -- so many communities look like this, so many communities look worse than this. The size of the scope of this thing just requires so much manpower and so much time.
They’ve done a good job of clearing the roads for essential vehicles. There is food and water coming in but the lines for that are huge. The lines for gasoline are massive as well. And it's just going take some time as we go through the next few weeks.
Power, we're finally under a million. But about a half a million of that is in Charlotte and Lee counties, that's where ground zero is, that’s where Florida Power & Light is.
And even if you got power up to damaged home like this, they don’t -- it does you no good. So this is obviously a disaster that will take months and years to recover from.
KARL: Absolutely brutal. Rob Marciano, thank you.
Let’s get the latest on the federal response from FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell.
Administrator Criswell, you were just in Florida yesterday, give us a sense from what you saw of the scope of this catastrophe.
DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Good morning, Jon.
You’re right. I was -- spent the last two days in Florida. Friday traveling with the governor and Saturday traveling around to see some other parts of the state. And what I can tell you is that there is a lot of devastation. Significant damage in the point of impact on the west coast of Florida. But still homes under water in the central part of Florida as they were still doing active rescues right before we got there on Saturday afternoon.
And so this is going to be a long road to recovery. And there are a lot of people that are impacted. But we also know that we’re still actively in the search and rescue phase trying to make sure that we are accounting for everybody that was in the storm’s path and that we go through every home to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind.
KARL: As you mentioned, you spent a lot of time with Governor DeSantis yesterday -- on Friday. What is your sense of the coordination between the Biden administration and the DeSantis administration on this?
CRISWELL: Yes, I spent the whole day with Governor DeSantis on Friday and wanted to really hear what his concerns were and what resources he might need to help support this. I committed to him that we would continue to bring in resources to meet the needs, not just for this response and the stabilization, but as we go into the recovery efforts.
And so it was good to be able to see some of the damages and talk to the people directly while we were together so then he could let me know what kind of resources and assistance he might need.
KARL: And the death toll -- I mean, we’ve been talking about this being the deadliest hurricane for Florida in more than 60 years. Why was it so high? Was it because the forecast was off? It was expected to hit Tampa and ended up hitting further north near Fort Myers. Or was it because local officials, particularly Lee County, delayed in issuing an evacuation order?
CRISWELL: Yes, we -- this was a catastrophic hurricane, Jon, which we knew was going to have devastating impacts and widespread impacts. The storm itself was fairly unpredictable in the days leading up to landfall. Just 72 hours before landfall, the Fort Myers and Lee County area were not even in the cone of the hurricane. And as it continued to move south, the local officials immediately -- as soon as they knew that they were in that threat zone, made the decisions to evacuate and get people to safety.
We knew that there was going to be a significant impact to life here. And so we pre-staged a large number of search and rescue resources from across the federal family to imbed right with the state resources to go in immediately following the storm and that’s exactly what they did. They were out before daybreak on Thursday going into these communities and making sure that they were finding people that needed immediate assistance.
They are still there today going house-by-house to make sure we account for everybody.
KARL: And you still have a major effort going on in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. What can you tell us about the situation there?
CRISWELL: Yes, so we have not stopped our response efforts and our recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Fiona left significant impacts across the island and we saw island-wide power outages that, as of my report yesterday morning, 90 percent of the customers in Puerto Rico have been restored with power.
We are committed to working with the commonwealth. We are bringing in our federal partners to make sure that we continue to move forward in supporting all of those people that have been impacted by that to include individuals that have had a lot of damage to their homes -- a lot of water damage this time as compared to previous hurricanes.
And so we’ve got people on the ground. They’ve been there since the storm made landfall. They’re going to stay with the people of Puerto Rico as we go through the recovery efforts there.
KARL: All right, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, thank you for taking time to talk to us on a very busy day.
CRISWELL: Thank you, Jon.
KARL: And joining us now from Miami is Florida senator Marco Rubio.
Senator Rubio, you’re no stranger to hurricanes. You’ve seen countless hurricanes, both as a public official and life-long resident from Florida. Based on what you’ve seen so far, how does this compare?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Well, I don’t think it has a comparison, not for Florida. There are entire communities -- Fort Myers Beach no longer exists. I mean, it’ll have to be rebuilt. It’ll be something different. It was a slice of old Florida that you can’t recapture. Sanibel’s basically flattened.
And even the structures that are standing -- I was with the Coast Guard two days ago as we went overhead on it -- even the structures that are standing have been damaged by water, probably uninhabitable and have to be razed.
So, this is a character-altering event. It will change the character and the nature of these communities. They’ll be rebuilt, but you can’t rebuild something that is slice of old Florida and bring it back.
It will be something new, but it won't be the same, and that’s the most heartbreaking part about it from an economic standpoint.
Obviously, the human toll is still being calculated, and that -- that has no price. It’s extraordinary and we fear that number will continue to rise.
KARL: What are you hearing out of Sanibel? We saw the bridge destroyed. Are people getting what day need on the island?
RUBIO: Well, I think unfortunately, there are still people left there who wanted to stay after the fact. The island is cut off. I mean, you can't get there. So, at some point, they're going to have to come off and restart their life somewhere else.
In the meantime, you see the bridge. It’s not just the parts that were washed away, that entire bridge is structurally compromised potentially. So, it will have to be rebuilt and that will take a while.
And in the interim, I think our priority now is to identify the people that remain on Sanibel who wanted to stay there, but eventually have to come off because there's no way to continue their life there. There’s no way to restore the power. There’s no economy there. At some point, they'll have to be moved.
And, you know, as I said, that bridge will be rebuilt. That will take a very long time, a couple of years at least. And, obviously, you know, life in Sanibel is going to change in the interim.
KARL: How is FEMA doing? Is Florida getting everything it needs right now from the Biden administration?
RUBIO: Yeah, FEMA, they’ve all been great. As I said, the federal response from day one has been very positive, as it’s always been in the past and we’re grateful for that.
You know, FEMA -- the primary responder, the incident command is in the state. The states step up and then the states tell FEMA we need this, this, or we need that. And that's the process we're working through right now. But it’s an extraordinary mobilization of the Army Corps, the Coast Guard.
And virtually, every federal asset that's available not just through FEMA but other agencies, and then the individual assistance piece, where there’ll be many people who are going to need that individual assistance in the counties that have been approved for it. And they'll need it because they'll need some place to live and now and for the foreseeable future. And small businesses that no longer exist, they’re going to need help from SBA.
KARL: You and Senator Rick Scott have already said that Congress is going to need to step up, allocate money for this relief effort. That’s, of course, not surprising.
Back in 2013, you voted against the relief bill for hurricane -- for Superstorm Sandy. You said that it included extraneous materials, extraneous items that have nothing to do with emergency relief. It included pork.
Will you make the same stand here? Will you insist that this emergency bill include only money to deal with this catastrophe?
RUBIO: Well, I said at the time, and, by the way, since Sandy, we've had multiple votes for emergency votes for emergency relief all over the country, including wildfires and I supported all of them. In fact, I supported them without pay-fors. Like other people say they want the money paid for.
What I won't support is things that are not emergency relief. What we're going to ask for Florida is what we supported for every other state in the country that’s been affected by -- by natural disasters, and that is emergency relief designed to be spent immediately to help the people affected now.
What happened with that bill back in 2013 is it wasn't just emergency relief. It included funding that should have gone through the funding process -- cars for DHS, you know, roof at the Smithsonian, fisheries in Alaska. Maybe very -- meritorious projects but that should go to the normal process. This is about emergency relief.
So, I think what we will fight for, the money as we supported for other states that is needed for emergency relief. Money that’s going to be spent now, not money that’s going to be spent five years from now on projects that may be very worthy, maybe very necessary, but that should go through the normal process, not the emergency process.
That's what we'll ask for Florida. That’s what we’ve always supported.
KARL: So, let me be clear on this. Will you take the same stand if Congress adds as they often do with emergency bills items that don't have anything to do with recovery from this hurricane? Will you vote against the emergency bill for Florida?
RUBIO: Well, it shouldn’t -- it won't come to that, because it's our state. So, if we're not asking for it and we’re saying we don't need it and it has nothing to do with emergency relief for Florida, then why would it be in there? I mean, why would somebody add something from another state that’s not impacted by the storm?
So, it shouldn’t come to that and I’m not -- you know, it shouldn’t come to that pork in the road because it’s unnecessary thing. It's our request. So, our request put that way and --
RUBIO: -- for my colleagues to support.
KARL: Will New Jersey -- New Jersey and the other states didn't request the extraneous items in that emergency bill in 2013, you voted against it. I’m just asking, would you vote go so far to vote against a bill that would also help --
RUBIO: Well, frankly -- yeah, that's not accurate. There was requests made from not just some of those states that were impacted, but some of those allied with the people in those states, and the people from those states weren't complaining about that spending at the time unfortunately. Maybe some of them were, but the majority of them were not.
They just wanted the emergency piece. They didn’t care if it came with another -- you know, one of six dollars was for immediate spending.
So, in our case, we’re not going to ask for the other $5, we’re just going to ask for that one that has to do with emergency relief. I imagine South Carolina and North Carolina, other states in the northeast will have the sawm. And there are other natural disasters that are occurring. We may need to include Puerto Rico in that request, that they need additional funding.
So, that’s what we’re going to focus on and that’s what we’re going to push for and that’s what we’re going to insist on and we’re going to be consistent on that.
KARL: And, Senator, before you go, you're obviously one of the top Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, ranking member on Intelligence, I want to ask you about Ukraine. You saw Volodymyr Zelenskyy is asking for expedited process for NATO membership for Ukraine. The administration is saying that is not – now is not the time to do that. What’s your sense? Should – should Ukraine have an expedited process?
RUBIO: Yes, I think it needs to – well, they’re – ultimately, I think that's going to have to go through the normal process for expansion, nor do I think that’s the answer to the problem here.
I think the bigger challenge we face right now is that between now and the time all that goes down, you know, Vladimir Putin, I think before he does some nuclear demonstration, could very well attack some NATO distribution point, because that's who he's blaming. He’s blaming NATO, the U.S., our allies for supplying Ukraine with weaponry that’s allowed Ukraine to be so effective.
So, I think we need to start thinking through, what’s the response going to be if he attacks an airport in Poland, or a train station on the border with Poland and – and NATO forces that are embedded there to help with the distribution, not in combat, are killed or injured or – and I think that's going to be a real fork in the road for the alliance that could come sooner rather than later. And it’s – it’s the one that I – that I focus most on right now. And I think that’s really going to be the more immediate challenge here.
KARL: Yes, and we’ve heard from President Biden that NATO will defend every inch of NATO territory.
Thank you very much, Senator Rubio. We appreciate your time this morning.
RUBIO: Thank you.
KARL: We turn now to Ukraine, where Russian forces have faced another critical setback, withdrawing yesterday from a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine. The move comes amid domestic upheaval in Russia over Putin's forced mobilization of Russian men to fight Ukraine – to fight in Ukraine.
Chief foreign correspondent Ian Pannell is on the ground in Ukraine tracking the very latest.
Good morning, Ian.
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Jon, this was the week when the war in Ukraine took a dramatic and dangerous turn. This is Izyum, occupied by the Russians for months, liberated just weeks ago. In some senses, it was the huge Ukrainian counteroffensive that swept through here that put Putin on the back foot. Faced with the real prospect of major defeat, he didn’t sue for peace, he doubled down.
PANNELL (voice over): This was the week Vladimir Putin crossed a point of no return. Formally annexing four regions of Ukraine, Russia illegal subsuming 15 percent of Ukraine's territory, the biggest land grab in Europe since World War II. In a ceremony at the Kremlin, Putin effectively double-downed on a war he's proven incapable of winning so far.
We'll protect our land with all the forces and means at our disposal, he said.
Putin using the speech to make a call to arms to Russians, telling his people they’re in a global conflict with the west and America. Later, on Red Square, an emphatic Putin. Leading in cheers, a crowd that had mostly been bussed in, to try to rally a nation now in a war that Russians no longer ignore.
But in Ukraine, the event was marked by a Russia missile strike onto a convoy of civilians in Zaporizhzhia. One of the deadliest in months, killing over 30 and injuring dozens.
The cynical strike underlining the reality Putin's rushed annexations are signs not of victory but of mounting desperation, an attempt to reverse the fact that in Ukraine right now Russia is losing.
Moscow doesn't fully control any of its new regions where this week sham referendums were held. People often voting in the looming shadow of Russian troops.
And this weekend, the strategic city of Lyman in Ukraine’s northeast falling to the Ukrainians just one day after it was annexed and declared part of Russia.
Ukraine’s spectacular counteroffensive in the region this month that routed Russian forces was a disaster for the Kremlin. Russia’s forces suddenly on the defensive. It’s ability even to hold what it now occupies in doubt.
Putin's military draft orders creating a backlash, triggering an exodus. Hundreds of thousands of Russians voting with their feet, flooding out of the county.
UNKNOWN: I don’t want to kill people and I don’t want to be killed.
PANNELL: Enlistment offices have been set on fire. In Siberia, a man shooting a recruitment officer. In many regions, protest briefly breaking out, forcing Putin to publicly concede mistakes were made.
The mobilization itself is unfolding chaotically, the new conscripts complaining of no equipment, saying they're being thrown into battle without training, all signs of deepening trouble for the Kremlin.
There are growing fears that Putin may take more desperate steps, this week issuing a thinly veiled threat that Russia may use nuclear weapons to defend the newly annexed regions. And this is not a bluff, he said. The White House now more worried than at any point in this war that Putin, backed into a corner, could indeed use a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine.
COLONEL STEVE GANYARD, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): Maybe a week ago we would have said there's 10 percent chance. I think we're probably closer to a 25 percent chance.
PANNELL: The two Russian Nord Stream undersea gas pipelines to Europe hit, according to American and European officials, sabotaged. The fear among Western officials is it could be a message from Russia that more attacks on infrastructure could come. As winter approaches, the world asking, how far might a desperate Vladimir Putin now go?
When the Ukrainians attack the annexed territories, which is almost a given, Putin will regard this as an attack on Russia. The question this morning is how does he respond. Will he really follow through on the nuclear threat? Jon?
KARL: Thank you, Ian.
Let's bring in former CIA director and retired four-star David Petraeus.
So, General Petraeus, how significant, how big was Putin's move here? I mean, on one hand, he's announcing this annexation, but he's doing it literally as Russian forces were retreating?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR & U.S. ARMY (RET.): It is significant, but it's also desperate. He is losing. And the battlefield reality he faces is, I think, irreversible. In other words, over the last seven months, President Zelenskyy and Ukraine have mobilized vastly better than has Russia. In other words, Ukraine has recruited, trained, equipped, organized and employed forces incomparably better than Russia has. And the reality facing Russia now is that Ukraine, a country a third the size of Russia, has a bigger, much more effective army on the ground, and other assets as well, all of this of course supported by the arsenal of democracy, the United States, now up to $17 billion, over another $1 billion announced this week in military arms, ammunition and materiel, and also supported by the other NATO countries and other western countries around the world.
So he faces a situation that I think, again, is irreversible. No amount of shambolic mobilization, which is the only way to describe it; no amount of annexation; no amount of even veiled nuclear threats can actually get him out of this particular situation. He announced the annexation and he's already lost a really critical element in that, a critical city, that would have been a very key supply hub had they been able to go father. And that's just going to continue. He's going to continue to lose on the battlefield. And at some point there's going to have to be recognition of that. At some point there's going to have to be some kind of beginning of negotiations, as President Zelenskyy has said, will be the ultimate end.
And at some point, by the way, as well, I strongly agree with the idea of Ukraine becoming part of NATO, although, as Senator Rubio noted, let's make sure that the battlefield goes well first.
KARL: But by irreversible, you mean that Russia cannot win this war.
PETRAEUS: They cannot -- there's nothing he can do at this point. Again, to even -- and the losses have been staggering. They have been...
KARL: ... casualties.
PETRAEUS: They have been many multiples, in seven months, what Russia lost in nearly a decade in Afghanistan -- many, many multiples. And again, they're losing on the battlefield. And it's going to continue. The only question really is when do you start to see not just individual soldiers or small units surrender but when do you start to see larger units crumble, crack and perhaps actually collapse?
And I think that will be coming. And then the question for President Zelenskyy will be, do we retake that little part of the Donbas that was controlled by the separatists since 2014. And what about Crimea? And when do we have some kind of negotiation with Russia?
And of course, by the way, in response to this annexation, Russia got hit by 1,000 more individual personal and other sanctions, showing that the West still has more that can be done to Russia. It can still get worse for Putin and for Russia. And even the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield won't change this at all.
KARL: And -- and do you take the threat -- I mean, you have to take the threat seriously.
PETRAEUS: You have to take the threat seriously.
KARL: And, I mean, you talked about a precedent set by the United States.
PETRAEUS: Yes. You have to take that seriously. And Jake Sullivan has publicly stated that the U.S. has communicated to Russia what would happen in response to that.
KARL: And what would happen?
PETRAEUS: Well, again, I have deliberately not talked to Jake about this. I mean, just to give you a hypothetical, we would respond by leading a NATO, a collective effort, that would take out every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea --
KARL: So it would bring America and NATO into the war? I mean --
PETRAEUS: It --
KARL: -- it would be an Article 5 situation basically.
PETRAEUS: Not an Article 5 because they're not part of NATO --
PETRAEUS: -- it would be -- it would be a U.S. and NATO response to something that is absolutely --
KARL: -- the radiation would extend into NATO countries, it effectively would be an attack on NATO.
PETRAEUS: Yes. And perhaps you can make that case. The other case is that this is so horrific that there has to be a response, it cannot go unanswered. But it doesn't expand, it doesn’t -- it’s not nuclear for nuclear. You don't want to, again, get into a nuclear escalation here. But you have to show that this cannot be accepted in any way.
KARL: When Putin announced this annexation on Friday, his speech -- what stood out to me is that he was talking about not so much NATO but about a larger war he was describing with Russia versus the West.
PETRAEUS: Well, he's trying to cast this in any way that he can in a way to appear threatening, to be threatening, to try to get Europe to crack. He thinks he can out suffer Europe, if you will. And, you know, the Russians have out suffered Napoleon and the Nazis and so forth. But I don’t think he’s going to out suffer Europe. Europe’s going to have a tough winter, there’s going to be very reduced flow of natural gas, but they'll get through it and I don't think they'll crack on the issue of support for Ukraine.
KARL: And is there significant opposition in Russia when we see the protests, we see what’s happening at some of these mobilization offices, I mean, does Putin have to worry about opposition in --
PETRAEUS: He does.
KARL: -- Russia?
PETRAEUS: This is why he didn't declare even the partial mobilization until just now, he was hesitant. And of course, now it's too late, because he can't generate enough capable replacements and forces and units to plug the gaps. They’re just going to continue to try to re-establish new defensive lines in the East. They're going to lose Kherson (ph) in the South. And eventually you’re going to see some puncture in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia in the center South as well.
So, again, they're in a very, very difficult situation, reportedly more Russian men have left the country than have actually been conscripted or brought back in this --
KARL: -- we've seen those long lines --
PETRAEUS: Yes --
KARL: -- waiting to leave. General Petraeus, thank you very much for coming in to talk to --
PETRAEUS: Great to be with you, Jon.
KARL: -- talk to us about this (ph) and I'm sure we’ll talk to you again soon.
PETRAEUS: Thank you.
KARL: Up next, as the Supreme Court begins a new term, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas made an appearance before the January 6th Committee. Did Ginni Thomas’ false claims about the 2020 election influence her husband? We’ll have more on the Committee’s investigation and this week’s politics after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JOHNSON, SUPREME COURT: People from all walks of life approach me with what I can only describe as a profound sense of pride. They are seeing themselves portrayed in me, in my experience, and they are finally believing that anything is possible in this great country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson officially becoming the first African-American woman to serve in the Supreme Court. She begins hearing cases with her fellow justices tomorrow.
Let's bring in roundtable. ‘The National Review” editor Ramesh Ponnuru, former DNC chair Donna Brazile, “New York Times” chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, and “New Yorker” staff writer Susan Glasser. Susan and Peter are co-authors of the definitive new book on the Trump presidency, "The Divider: Trump and the White House 2017-2021".
So, Peter, let me start with you, both of you spent time in Moscow before you came in to cover the White House, during the beginning of Putin's reign over there. What is your sense? Listening to his speech, announcing the annexation, he seemed to be talking not about Ukraine but about something much bigger and would be more ominous.
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, this is the ultimate manifestation of his sense of grievance and resentment toward the West that's been harboring now for decades. Since the end of the Cold War, he blames the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he’s called the great geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century on the CIA, on the West, for rubbing Russia's nose -- and this is now his way of trying to galvanize his own people to say it's not about our aggression against Ukraine. It’s about the West's aggression against us, but it’s a sign of weakness.
And I talked to a friend in Moscow just a couple of days before his call-up order, he said Moscow didn't even know there was a war going on practically because that was Putin's strategy to keep the country from even knowing. Now, he's reversed entirely to the point where he’s trying to get the country behind him because, as a sign of weakness and how badly they’re doing.
KARL: Susan, let me ask you what I asked General Petraeus, how real is the opposition within Russia? And does it matter?
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I think to Peter's point he has destabilize his own country, he resisted for months since this invasion in February even a partial mobilization of Russian men for exactly the reason we're now seeing, potentially up to 200,000 Russians have left the country, rather than serve in this war in Ukraine, and of course, they have families who are still in Russia, there are protests.
So, he -- Putin is taking a very serious risk in destabilizing in his own country in order to pursue this war. Remember that there was no actual reason for this war. There was not even a pretext frankly, so the Russian people weren't clamoring and rising up to go to war with their Slavic brothers in Ukraine.
So I think it's a serious risk. But remember, it’s a very -- two decades in, this is a very authoritarian system. An earlier wave of Russians who have might protested Putin left the country in February rather than participate and to me, it recalls the early days of, frankly, of the Bolshevik Revolution when, you know, hundreds of thousands of Russians left the country rather than live in the early days of the Soviet Union.
KARL: And, Peter, one of the many, many remarkable things in your book, is you really show how close Donald Trump came to pulling the United States out of NATO or simply destroying -- which would have destroyed NATO.
BAKER: Yeah, right. Imagine if Trump had pulled the United States out of NATO and we were now facing this kind of war in Ukraine. The one thing that stood against Putin has been a reunified NATO, a much more consolidated NATO, a NATO that now has a purpose again for the first time in decades. Trump was more at war with his own allies, with the Germans and the French and so forth than he was with the Russians, and it was remarkable to see. In fact, after the Helsinki summit, I think you and Susan were there, you know, it was -- it was not just the reporters in the room shocked by Trump's you know --
KARL: Embrace of Putin, yeah.
BAKER: Embrace of Putin. It was his own national intelligence director back here, Dan Coats, former Republican senator, who told people at the time that he was so shocked by what Trump said. He thought maybe Russia really does have something on him.
KARL: Ramesh, obviously, there’s unified support, I mean, almost entirely support in Congress for Ukraine, but the opposition, it's interesting. It’s kind of far left and it's the right, and Tucker Carlson this past week actually once again directly repeated Russian propaganda suggesting it was somehow the United States behind the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline.
How real is that movement? Is it growing? It seems to be.
RAMESH PONNURU, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR & BLOOMBERG OPINION COLUMNIST: You know, it’s interesting. And – and I think you see this pattern again and again in U.S. foreign policy, when you could maybe ask some reasonable questions about our current policy, the risks that we’re recording (ph) and so forth. But the – but so many of the people who want to be on that side have to go further and sympathize with the people who are on the other side. And, in this case, as you’re saying, repeating Russian propaganda points. CPAC, the conservative organization, was also repeating Russian propaganda for 10 hours before it took it down from Twitter.
KARL: A tweet. This was a tweet that –
PONNURU: And it’s one of the – and that’s one of the reasons why this kind of left/right coalition typically doesn't get its way, partly because so many people in the country just are not willing to go as far as they are.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, we know that the Ukrainians are on the front lines of democracy. And what is taking place today with the desperation of Mr. Putin and the annexation, I was telling General Petraeus in – in the green room, watching those Ukrainians on the roof of the city hall in Lyman take down the Russian flags and reinstall the Ukrainian flags. I mean you have to, once again, just admire the resiliency of the Ukrainian people and what they're fighting against and – and trying to combat the kind of disinformation we saw early on in this war where Putin would not even tell the truth to his own people, and now he's paying the price.
KARL: And dis – I mean he's made the whole case for this has been, you know, that he made on Friday was, the west is the aggressor. The west has done all these terrible things.
BRAZILE: He called (INAUDIBLE) –
KARL: The United States, the CIA.
BRAZILE: Yes. Yes.
KARL: All right, I want to make a turn to the – to one of the big stories here this week, which was Ginni Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas, testifying before the January 6th committee.
KARL: And she made a pretty remarkable opening statement, because the big question is, did she have any influence on her husband? Obviously, as she doing all that she was doing, Trump was vowing to take it to the Supreme Court. I mean what – what – what – what was your sense of the significance here? I mean --
BAKER: Well, I mean it’s – it’s amazing. We’ve never had anything, I think, quite like it, the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, you know, being called up to testify like this. And, you know, on such a remarkable set of facts where basically you see somebody still to this day embracing a completely false version of events. And – and she says she didn't talk about it with her husband, which seems hard to believe. She calls him her best friend. I don’t know about her – her household. In my household we talk about pretty much everything. And the idea that she wouldn't talk about it is quite remarkable.
KARL: But she also said the idea that she could influence Justice Thomas is laughable she said.
GLASSER Yes, well, that is a claim that is going to be hard to sustain. But I would point out that the Supreme Court ultimately did not intervene in the 2020 election on Donald Trump's behalf. But what's remarkable, because of the investigations, we have these texts between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows, the Trump White House chief of staff. She had access in real time to promote lies and conspiracy theories at the highest levels of the administration. And I think it has raised the broader question of the potential conflicts of interest between Supreme Court spouses and the Supreme Court at a time when the institution of the court is suffering more than ever before in terms of its credibility.
You know, Justice Roberts, the chief justice, has worried about this. But the bottom line is that the court is now seen as politicized, another politicized institution. And I think Trump's transformation of it, Ginni Thomas, has arguably dealt a big blow to the credibility of the court by this massive appearance of a conflict of interest, if nothing else.
KARL: But, again, it’s important to point out, the Supreme Court did not bail out Donald Trump.
KARL: And that includes Clarence Thomas.
BRAZILE: Yes, we dodged one bullet, but we don't know –
KARL: He was – he was upset about it too, trust me.
BRAZILE: That’s right. That’s right. But we don’t know what – and this -- this current term is going to put a lot of us on pins and needles. I mean they're going to hit the ground running this week with cases involving everything from the – the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to -- to keep us safe and clean with -- in terms of pollution, and then they're going right into voting rights, again, to knock another pillar off the Voting Rights Act.
This – this – this going to be such a consequential term of the Supreme Court dealing with race, same-sex marriages, affirmative action, voting rights, environmental protection. The Supreme Court legitimacy is on the line. We all know that. With a 6-3 conservative majority, we don't know what – what damage they will do to our democracy.
PONNURU: The Supreme Court, of course, is not there to win public opinion polls. And when people worry about the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, I think that their – the – the legitimate worry about legitimacy, if you will, would be something that actually compromises the Supreme Court's ability to do its job, to see that its legal verdicts are actually honored. And I don't see anything like the kind of blowback that you would need to actually see that called into question. Right now, we're hearing so much about the Supreme Court as an issue in this election. You know what -- what percentage of Americans say Supreme Court and legal issues are their top issue right now, the most important problem facing America? Five percent.
KARL: Although certainly the Dobbs decision and abortion looms much larger than -- than -- than the general issue of the Supreme Court. But that was obviously an issue...
PONNURU: But abortion is not getting above 5 percent, 6 percent in that poll, either. The thing is, is this a factor? Yes. Is this a net negative for Republicans? I think, partly because of the way they've mishandled it, absolutely. Are Republicans still on track to win the House, notwithstanding this? Yes.
KARL: All right, we've got to take a quick break. The roundtable will be back with more. But first, a sneak preview of the latest episode of George Stephanopoulos' new Hulu series, "Power Trip." We'll be right back.
KARL: Tragedy struck Indonesia overnight. At least 125 people are dead as panicked soccer fans raced to the exits after police fired tear gas at a march, to disperse spectators rioting over their team's loss. Indonesia's president has ordered an immediate investigation. We'll be right back.
KARL: Our groundbreaking political series featuring George Stephanopoulos and our 2022 embeds premiers its second episode today. "Power Trip" takes you behind the scenes of the midterm election campaigns. And this week our reporters are chasing election deniers on the ballot across country.
UNKNOWN: I was interviewed by the DOJ and the J6 Commission as a witness.
UNKNOWN: We didn't know he meant with the DOJ. Was that...
UNKNOWN: Yeah, I was going to say, right, did I miss that?
UNKNOWN: Or the January 6th Committee. We just knew he'd been asked to.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the DOJ asked you, sir?
UNKNOWN: When did you meet with them, (inaudible), a couple months ago?
UNKNOWN: He's on another interview right now, OK? Can you guys give it a minute?
UNKNOWN: So that was interesting. He, kind of, let that slip, and so now all these reporters are asking, well, what did -- what did they ask you about?
The full episode of "Power Trip" runs later today, only on Hulu.
Coming up, just over five weeks to the midterm elections, has momentum shifted back to the Republicans? The roundtable weighs in, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINSEY DAVIS, ABC ANCHOR: In listening to your priorities, your platform if you will, you seem very moderate, but there are many people who kind of labeled you as a MAGA Republican. Would you agree with that?
DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think I’m a moderate leader, but not passive, I feel very strongly about the positions I have. I want to be able to bridge a gap that has become a chasm in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz speaking with ABC’s Linsey Davis about his tight race against Democrat John Fetterman, one of the races that will determine which party controls the Senate next year.
The roundtable is back.
Donna, that race has gotten a lot closer.
BRAZILE: Yes. And let me just say this, I think Pennsylvania is going to be one of those states that we turn to on election night and we'll see Fetterman who's running a really good aggressive campaign as well, I think that race will go toward the Democrats.
Most people in New Jersey -- I mean, in Pennsylvania still believe --
KARL: New Jersey. That’s really good.
BRAZILE: Still believe that Mr. Oz is from New Jersey.
But, you know what, I just want to address something. You say 5 percent, you know what? It doesn't matter if it's 2 percent of the American people in these close races. The fact that you have people motivated on the Democratic side and independents to stand up for choice -- I’ve been seeing these T-shirts, Roe, R-O-E, Roe, Roe, Roe to vote.
I mean, the mobilization is there, the enthusiasm is finally there on the Democratic side, they know everything is on the line, everything is on the table. We have some close races that I think the part should still be concerned about, especially in North Carolina where I think the Senate race is one that we can win. Ohio Democrats can win.
But overall, we know that Democrats have to defy history and we also have to deal with the fact that the Republicans have not just enormous resources but a movement, a movement that we have to combat.
KARL: And, Ramesh, the dominant figure in the party has been doing everything he can, Donald Trump came out over the weekend with another attack on Mitch McConnell. I think we have -- this is on Truth Social. I think we have an image of this.
This was -- I’m not -- I promise you, I’m not going to read all that. But was amazing about this is he talked about McConnell having a death wish, there you see it in all caps, a death wish, kind of ominous and referred Elaine Chao who spent all four years except for the last 14 days in the Trump cabinet calling her "Coco Chow."
KARL: I mean, this -- even by Trump standards, this was over the top.
PONNURU: It was 200-proof Trump. It was, you know, you take the various pathologies that he has and put them all into one paragraph. And that's what you get.
You know, speaking of a political death wish, this guy who in four years cost the Republicans the presidency, the House and the Senate, and he is -- if he has his way, and makes himself the center of attention again, he's going to cost Republicans more votes both in 2022 and in 2024. He has -- he's done everything he can to advertise that fact.
KARL: Because, I mean, as I’ve -- and I’ve made this point on this show many times, but if Republicans don't win the House -- it's because of him.
BAKER: Yeah, that's the only reason. I mean, abortion, obviously, is going to be a big motivator for Democrats. But it will be -- it will be down against him.
And I think Republicans at that point will say, OK, what have we bought here? Why are we hitching our star at his wagon or our wagon to his star, sorry, if he’s going to cost us an opportunity to take back at least one of the two houses. Historically, they should have the House. That is a Republican year, it should be, and if not it’s because he’s out there doing things like this and – and – and front and center with these investigation and – and reminding people that it's a choice between Biden Democrats and Trump Republicans, not a referendum on Biden, which would be better for the Republicans.
KARL: OK, so, Susan, you guys took – just took the deep dive. You had, what, two interviews with Trump for – for – for this book. Do you come out? Do you think he is going to run? How do you read it?
GLASSER: Well, one thing we know pretty clearly, and certainly Peter and I saw this in our interviews with him at Mar-a-Lago, is that this is not a man who is eager or even willing to relinquish the stage. And he seemed desperate to reinsert himself into American politics. We first met with him in the spring of 2021, right after he lost, and, you know, he was in search of a crowd, any crowd, even his own paying customers at Mar-a-Lago who would stand up and applaud him as he came into dinner on his own terrace.
Donald Trump, you look at the jealousy that he has at some of the emerging potential candidates for 2024, like Ron DeSantis. He’s already said, well, I made him. And, you know, you – it’s -- it's hard to see.
The other thing is, with these metastasizing investigations of Donald Trump, and as he faces potential legal jeopardy, he seems to believe that running for president again might provide him a certain kind of armor, you know, that it would be protection and maybe would stop the Justice Department from indicting him.
But to the point about the midterm elections, you know, Donald Trump continue to be wanting to make it a story about Trump, Trump, Trump. Mitch McConnell, even with vile attacks like this, the bottom line is that Mitch McConnell has said that he would support Donald Trump in 2024.
KARL: We’re – we’re – we’re -- we're out of time. I guess the question is, if they lose the Senate, would he actually win the Republican nomination?
We'll be right back.
KARL: That’s all for us today. Watch ABC News Live for continuing coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, and have a good Sunday.