'This Week' Transcript 10-9-22: White House NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby & Adm. Mike Mullen

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, October 9.

ByABC News
October 9, 2022, 9:13 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, October 9, 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.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST (voiceover): Nuclear threat.

LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This nuclear saber-rattling is reckless and irresponsible.

RADDATZ: President Biden warns of nuclear Armageddon as Vladimir Putin faces another major setback in Ukraine.

North Korea puts on a show of force, launching missiles over Japan.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States will not stand by as the DPRK directly threatens the United States.

RADDATZ: The latest this morning with National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

October surprise.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Your own son has said that you're not a family man. He has called you a liar. Why should Georgia voters believe your words over his?

RADDATZ: One month to the midterms. Herschel Walker's abortion scandal upends Georgia’s Senate race. What will it mean for the GOP chances in November?

Political Director Rick Klein is at the “Midterm Monitor.” We're on the ground in the Peach State for "Power Trip" and our Powerhouse Roundtable covers all the fallout.

Plus, guns in America.

UNKNOWN MALE: It’s the most complex policing landscape ever in this country’s history.

RADDATZ: Rare access inside the Chicago Police Department's fight to end the gun epidemic. Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas reports.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week." Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.


RADDATZ (on camera): Good morning. And welcome to "This Week."

A sobering week with President Biden warning of the possibility of nuclear Armageddon with Russia and North Korea possibly preparing to conduct a nuclear test while sending a ballistic missile over Japan. The White House says they have seen no sign of any imminent use of nuclear weapons by Vladimir Putin, but this morning, the only bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, the region which Putin annexed in 2014, is partially collapsed after a large explosion on the bridge that appeared to come from a truck bomb. A humiliation for Putin and the loss of a major Russian supply route for military reinforcements into Ukraine.

ABC’s Britt Clennett is in Ukraine this morning and, Britt, this is a significant setback for Putin after an already devastating week.

BRITT CLENNETT, ABC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Martha. As you say, it's Russia’s only bridge to Crimea, and it was hit in spectacular fashion. You know, this video circulating online shows the moment of the massive explosion. Part of it engulfed in flames.

Now, Russia says a truck bomb exploded causing seven railway cars to catch fire, tearing apart one section of the roadway, killing three people at least. Now, the bridge is a key supply line for Russian troops and a symbol of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014. Kyiv hasn't directly claimed responsibility but Ukrainian officials have hinted their approval. Zelenskyy on Saturday saying today was not a bad day and mostly sunny on our state's territory. He said, though, unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea.

Now, President Putin has now ordered the Federal Security Service to take control of the bridge but this attack, you know, a day after Putin’s birthday, it deals him another humiliating blow as his forces continue to dramatically lose territory in the south and in the east.

Now, Ukraine is smashing through Russian defense lines in Kherson liberating village after village, making grim discoveries along the way, it must be said. Mass burial site, hundreds of graves, police saying one site containing nearly 200 bodies including children.

Now, the question is, what does Putin do now that he's been backed into a corner? You know, it feels like a dangerous moment here. How does this impact the choices he makes in this war and the weapons he now uses?


RADDATZ: Indeed, a dangerous moment and, Britt, this comes, of course, after President Biden’s chilling warnings that the U.S. is now facing the prospect of a dangerous conflict not seen since the Cuban missile crisis, which brought this country to the brink of war almost exactly 60 years ago.


RADDATZ (voiceover): It was 1962, the U.S. Discovered the Soviet Union had secretly installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of the U.S.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

RADDATZ: The missiles were eventually removed but today Vladimir Putin has revived the nuclear threat.

UNKNOWN MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

RADDATZ: In a speech last month, saying, “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened… we will certainly use all the means at our disposal. This is not a bluff.”

President Biden agrees, saying this week that Putin “is not joking when he talks about the potential use of tactical and nuclear weapons… because his military is… significantly underperforming.” And that last part is an understatement.

With Vladimir Putin losing vital territory in Ukraine, the East and South and now the explosion on the bridge in Crimea, President Biden saying the biggest challenge is trying to figure out an off-ramp for Putin whose very future is at stake.

And if Russia’s nuclear threat was not enough, Kim Jong-un reared his head again this week in an alarming show of force. Sirens wailed and urgent messages warned Japanese citizens to take cover as North Korea launched a ballistic missile right over Japan. A missile that traveled farther than any other the North has tested.

The U.S., South Korea, and Japan responded with its own show of force conducting bombing drills from a phalanx of fighter jets and missile defense drills from the sea but North Korea was un undeterred and a nuclear test could happen any day. But none of these threats have caused the U.S. to change its own nuclear posture of strategic deterrence. The nation's nuclear triad, the ability to launch nuclear counterstrikes from the air, from the land and from the sea.


RADDATZ (on camera): And joining me now is White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby. Good morning, John.

Let's start with President Biden’s comments saying we are facing the potential of a nuclear Armageddon. I know The White House has said these are consistent with comments he has used in the past but he's never said anything quite as stark as this. So, is the president right? Are we facing a potential nuclear Armageddon?

JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: The president was reflecting the very high stakes that are in -- in play right now, Martha. When you have a modern nuclear power and the leader of that modern nuclear power willing to use irresponsible rhetoric the way that Mr. Putin has several times in just the last week or two, as well as the high tensions in Ukraine over just the course of the last few days. So the president, I think, was accurately reflecting the fact that the stakes are very high right now.

RADDATZ: And he gets a daily intelligence briefing, military updates from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs so are the statements the result of what he has heard or his own conclusions, because those were really frightening comments?

KIRBY: His comments were not based on new or fresh intelligence or new indications that Mr. Putin has made a decision to use nuclear weapons and, quite frankly, we don’t have indication that he has made that kind of decision, Martha. Nor have we seen anything that would give us pause to reconsider our own strategic nuclear posture in our efforts to defend our own national security interests or those of our allies and partners.

What the president was reflecting was that the stakes are high right now given what’s going on on the battlefield in Ukraine and given the very irresponsible and reckless comments made by Vladimir Putin in just the last few days.

Now, look, he's also said we're not going to be intimidated. Neither we nor our allies are going to be intimidated by this and we're going to continue to provide support and security assistance to Ukraine as is necessary.

RADDATZ: You say you haven't seen any evidence that he has made a decision about this, but have you seen anything beyond Putin’s rhetoric that leads you to believe he could do this, and if you did, what is it you would see?

KIRBY: We are monitoring this as best we can, and we have been monitoring his nuclear capabilities, frankly, since he invaded Ukraine again back in February, so we're monitoring this very, very closely. And what I can tell you is that through all that process, we just simply haven't seen an indication that Mr. Putin has either made a decision to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine or has done anything to get closer to that decision-making process.

So we're watching it as best we can, Martha, and, again, the best thing I can tell you is that we haven't done anything to change our own strategic nuclear posture and that's really about as far as we can go. We're watching this very, very closely.

RADDATZ: And we also heard the president say the problem he worries about now is that Putin doesn't have a way out of this, can't really save face. That just got more complicated with the explosion on the bridge.

Can you tell us what you know about that explosion and what is the way out for Vladimir Putin?

KIRBY: We don't really have anything more to add to the reports about the explosion on the bridge. I just don't have anything to contribute to that this morning.

What I can tell you is that Mr. Putin started this war and Mr. Putin could end it today -- simply by moving his troops out of the country. He's the one who chose to start this conflict, again, he can choose to end it, and the president was talking about finding a way to end this war, which we all want to do. We all want to see this war end. It's gone on way too long.

And what needs to happen is for the two sides to be able to sit down and negotiate and find a way out of this peacefully and diplomatically.

Now, Mr. Putin has shown no indications, zero, none, that he's willing to do that. In fact, quite the contrary, by calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists, by politically annexing or at least trying to annex four areas of Ukraine, he's showing every indication that he's doubling down, that he wants to continue to prosecute this war which is why, quite frankly, we're in touch almost daily with the Ukrainians and we’re going to continue to provide them security assistance.

You just saw the president approve another more than $600 million just a few days ago of additional HIMARS and howitzers and another ammunition and some vehicles, tactical vehicles. You’re going to see us continue to do that going forward.

RADDATZ: I want to turn to North Korea. That's someone you haven't been in touch with, Kim Jong-un. He’s not really answering calls. He's firing off ballistic missiles including one over Japan. He's done more than 40 missile launches.

Let me ask you a simple question here, what is the strategy? I’ve seen this for decades and decades, the same thing happens through many presidents, you respond, you do drills, he keeps firing ballistic missiles.

KIRBY: We want to see the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, verifiable and complete. We want to see that. And we have communicated that to the North Koreans. In fact, we've communicated, Martha, that we are willing to sit down with them without preconditions at the negotiating table to work towards that end without preconditions.

And Mister -- Kim Jong-un has decided not to take us up on that offer and quite the opposite now, he is trying to improve his ballistic missile program. He’s clearly not abandoned his nuclear weapons ambitions. And so, what we have to do as we have that offer on the table is make sure that we have also the capabilities in the region and ready to go in case we need them.

We have five of seven treaty commitments, five of seven -- five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Indo-Pacific region. One is with Japan. Obviously, one is with South Korea.

We take those treaty commitments very, very seriously and impact (ph) our own national security. So --


RADDATZ: But, John, let me just say -- it doesn't work. It has not worked for decades. So what are you doing differently that you think will work this time?

KIRBY: We have improved our intelligence capability there, in and around the peninsula. We have worked hard to improve our military readiness. We did exercises this past week with the Japanese and with the South Koreans.

We're working on better trilateral cooperation between all three of our countries. We’re going to make sure that we have the capabilities in place to defend our national security interests if it comes to that.

But there's no reason for it to come to that. That's the point, Martha. We could sit down, again, without preconditions with Kim Jong-un and try to find a diplomatic path forward. That's what we're committed to.

RADDATZ: We'll all hope for the best. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

And let’s bring in Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Thanks for joining us this morning, Admiral. Always good to see you.

You just heard what John Kirby said, do you see any strategy differences? Do you see anything that’s going to work?

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIR OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Well, you just don’t know. I mean, North Korea’s been a real problem for decades, as you pointed out. I don’t see Kim Jong-un changing his path at this point.

I believe for some time that the path to any resolution of this has got to go through Beijing, brought on -- pressure brought on by Xi Jinping, with respect to dealing with Kim Jong-un. I'm fine with us negotiating directly, if that’s what Kim Jong-un wants to do but he --

RADDATZ: Is denuclearization really realistic at this point?

MULLEN: I think -- I think we have to keep it out there. I think, sometimes we lose perspective on how devastating these weapons are. And I think we need to do everything we possibly can to the extreme to make sure that that still is a possibility. And I'm just not willing to admit that it isn’t yet, I know it’s difficult.

Kim Jong-un is following his father, his grandfather, this cycle of provocation, et cetera. It's well-known. Whether we're able to break it or not, I don't know. I do think the United States leadership here in this region and actually globally is really critical. And that we need to continue to lead with our allies in that region and throughout the world.

RADDATZ: And back in December 2017, after Kim Jong-un conducted a test, a nuclear test, and it appears he's about to do another one, you said to me, "we're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been." How about now?

MULLEN: I think it's still moving closer, from the standpoint of he's testing. I think it's a record number of tests this year, 27 I think is the number. So his research and development is moving along. And so it's more likely that he has this capability. I think in the end it comes down to, will he ever use it? And I just don't know the answer to that. So in that regard, we're in a more dangerous position than we were five years ago.

RADDATZ: That he would actually launch a missile with a nuclear weapon, not just for leverage.

MULLEN: Correct. Correct.

RADDATZ: You think that's a real possibility.

MULLEN: I think it's more possible than it was five years ago.

RADDATZ: OK. Let's turn to Ukraine. You heard President Biden's comments. You heard what John Kirby just said. How do you assess the nuclear threat from Russia right now?

MULLEN: Well, I have to take Putin seriously. He has got lots of options with tactical nuclear weapons, from very low yield nuclear weapons. He's a cornered -- I believe, a cornered animal and I think he's more and more dangerous just what has happened in the last 24 hours, that bridge was struck, which was logistically critical as well as very symbolic. So I think we have to take him seriously and think through what -- what the requirements would be for us to respond to that. It also speaks to the need, I think, to get to the table. I'm a little concerned about the language which we're about at the top, if you will.

RADDATZ: President Biden's language.

MULLEN: President Biden's language, we're about at the top of the language scale, if you will. So -- and I think we need to back off that a little bit and do everything we possibly can to try to get to the table to resolve this thing.

RADDATZ: So how do you see him saving face? If he doesn't come to the table, if Ukraine can't figure anything out, and you've heard Zelenskyy as well, how does he possibly save face? Especially after what you said about the bridge.

MULLEN: Well, it's very difficult to see -- to see it. We've been talking about it since before the crisis started an off-ramp for him. I suspect it's in the east, if you will, with those four provinces or some combination of them with respect to how it all ends. And that really is up to, I think, Tony Blinken and other diplomats to figure out a way to get both Zelenskyy and Putin to the table. And as is typical in any war, it has got to end and usually there are negotiations associated with that. The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.

RADDATZ: And we talk about these tactical nuclear weapons. Where would he use those? What kind of damage can they do?

MULLEN: Well, depending on the -- the size of them, he has got some very small ones, which theoretically while devastating would localize the damage. The winds all blow back onto Russia, so he would have to in a way contaminate his own country. He could pick a symbolic target. He could pick Zelenskyy's hometown, for instance, as a target as opposed to having a big impact on the battlefield that would badly hurt the Ukrainian Army, which has fought so well.

RADDATZ: All very frightening stuff and always good to talk to you and hear your perspective. Thanks so much, Admiral.

Coming up, has Herschel Walker's abortion scandal in Georgia hurt Republicans' odds of winning the Senate in November? Political director Rick Klein is back at the "Midterm Monitor" and our "Roundtable" breaks down the fallout, next.



CHRISTIAN WALKER, SON OF GEORGIA SENATE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE HERSCHEL WALKER: You don't get to pretend you're some moral family guy. You don't get to pretend all those things. Do not lie.

RACHEL SCOTT, JOURNALIST: Your own son has said that you're not a family man. He has called you a liar. Why should Georgia voters believe your words over his?

HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Because I love my son so much. He's a great little man. I love him to death. And you know what? I'll always love him, no matter what (inaudible) he said.

RADDATZ: Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who says he is staunchly anti-abortion, responding to our Rachel Scott and his conservative social media influencer son, Christian Walker, about allegations in the Daily Beast he paid for an abortion more than a decade ago, an accusation he denies but that has Republicans nervous.

With just a month until Election Day control of the 50/50 Senate is very much in question. Our political director Rick Klein is back at the Midterm Monitor.

And, Rick, we'll ask you about Georgia in a moment. But first, the two parties see different paths to the potential majority, right?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Martha, the realities of the math and the map now settling in for both parties. Remember, Democrats just need to hold the seats that they have right now to keep control of the Senate. And these are the 10 races that are almost certainly going to determine who controls the Senate. The ones in gray are the ones in question.

Right now, our partners at FiveThirtyEight -- look at that number -- they say that the Democrats have about a two in three chance, 65 in 100 chance, of holding the Senate. And the reason is that Democrats just have to hold on to what they've got right now.

Here's one potential path, though, that gets a little bit more than that. They can win in New Hampshire. They feel very good about their opportunities there. And then, if they're able to flip the Senate race in Pennsylvania, probably their best opportunity to take over a race that is currently held by the Republicans, that 65 in 100 chance jumps all the way to 85 in 100, just if they're able to hold on to their own and then win a state that Joe Biden won two years ago.

On the other hand, Republicans, they look at the same map, but they almost are looking at it now, Martha, from the opposite direction. They like their opportunities out West. They think they've got a great chance in Nevada, probably their best opportunity to take down an incumbent senator. They also like the chances in Arizona against Senator Mark Kelly, former President Trump spending time in both of those states with rallies over the weekend. And this is one reason why the Republican chances of taking the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight, nine in ten, just if they win those two seats out West.

RADDATZ: And, Rick, we all remember how important Georgia was in the last election. How are these allegations about Walker shaping the race this year?

KLEIN: Oh, this is a huge unknown quantity. It has both parties quite nervous about their prospects. This could be the majority maker or the majority breaker state. And here's why. This is another way of looking at the map, our battleground states here in the middle. Let's make an assumption. Let's say that Georgia goes red. Herschel Walker is able to pull it off against Senator Warnock despite all of these allegations, despite all of the noise. Republicans are now a six in 10 chance of taking the United States Senate, just if they take back a state that used to be pretty red.

On the other hand, let's say that Senator Warnock keeps Georgia blue; he's able to take advantage of these Democratic -- or the Republican Party divisions. He looks at the Democratic Party that's ascendant there. Georgia now goes to the Democrats, and you're talking about almost a nine in ten chance that Democrats take the whole Senate.

And, Martha, there's a good chance we're not even going to know the results on election night. As we remember from last time, if no one clears 50 percent in Georgia, we get a runoff. And that means we may not know who controls the United States Senate until a month after Election Day. The Georgia runoffs are on December 6th.

RADDATZ: Okay. Maybe a runoff. Rick Klein, thanks very much.

Let’s bring in our Roundtable now, “Washington Post” White House reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb; ABC News senior White House correspondent, Mary Bruce; Jane Coaston, host of "The New York Times" "The Argument" podcast; and ABC News senior national correspondent, Terry Moran. Good morning to all of you.

And, Terry, I'm going to go straight to you and let’s start with The Daily Beast reporting and there's been reporting since then, definitely an October surprise for Herschel Walker's campaign. What kind of impact do you think this will have?

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not as great an impact, obviously, as it would have had 10 years ago. There is a sense now that as long as the guy is on your team, that the most important issue in American politics isn't what you believe in, it's who do you hate? And while Walker is not a hater, parties are now that antagonistic that it's clear millions of Republican voters will overlook something that would have destroyed a candidacy just a few years ago.

The problem for Walker is, what else is he running on except that he was a football player and a Christian. And while his football record can't be questioned at all, I think this does damage him and he doesn't really have a lot of other things to say.

RADDATZ: Jane Coaston, do you agree with that? And look specifically, if you will, at independent voters. This is a man who says he is staunchly anti-abortion. He's got a conservative son who is also speaking out against him.

JANE COASTON, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that the choice will not be that Independents and Republican leaning voters will then vote for Raphael Warnock. I think that some of them might just stay home.

I look back at the special election in Alabama involving Roy Moore where you saw a host of Republicans saying, I just can't do this. They leave that name off their ticket or they just stay home. And so I think that this could depress some votes. I don't know if it's going to activate a ton of Democratic voters or get a bunch to switch to Raphael Warnock. I do think it’s going to cause a bunch of people to say, hey, this is a person who said that they opposed abortion in almost every circumstance but when it came to it, he demanded allegedly a woman having an abortion twice, a woman who already had a child with him who he has allegedly basically ignored his entire life.

And, you know, I keep saying that this -- this is a conversation about abortion on demand, well, Herschel Walker demanded the woman have an abortion twice. And I think that for a lot of voters, particularly pro-life voters, they're stuck between a rock and a hard place and I think they might decide, okay, I’m going to vote for Brian Kemp and then I’m going to not vote in this particular race.

RADDATZ: And, Mary, you have seen as terry alluded to national republicans quickly come to Herschel Walker's defense, got rick Scott going down there from Florida, you've got Tom Cotton from Arkansas going down there as well. Do they believe him, or is it just those midterms creeping up?

MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think this has a lot less to do with Herschel Walker and everything to do with Georgia. I think if this were a different state, this would probably very likely be playing out differently but because you do have the midterms hanging in the balance, control of the Senate very much could come down to this state and that is why you are seeing once again Republicans at all levels, you know, coalescing around him.

You mentioned you have Rick Scott, the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee going down on Tuesday to lend his support and we have seen this time and time again where Republicans are willing to look past allegations because the prize is just so big. They're willing to say that their national policy priorities, their ambitions outweigh any concerns about personal behavior but it is a risky gamble. It always is and I think it’s one of those reasons you heard Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, say just a few weeks ago that he has questions about and concerns about the quality of their candidate.

RADDATZ: Exactly what I was going to come to you on, Yasmeen. So pick it up from there. There are issues with other senatorial candidates in particular, but people are just coalescing around them.

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think that's right. It’s also too late to replace Herschel Walker on the ballot with someone else so they really, I think republicans feel like they don't have a choice but to stick with him. The Senate is 50/50 right now and so if they want any hope of controlling the Senate they can't just cut loose on this race.

But like Mary said, Mitch McConnell has said he is concerned about the quality of candidates particularly in the Senate. I think because these races are statewide and he even said the quality just matters more than in the House and, of course, it's a tighter margin. But you’ve seen, you know, Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona, you've seen a number of these candidates who just -- you know, Republicans feel like they could run away with these states and instead the states are really going to come down to the wire.

RADDATZ: And, Terry, 30 days to the midterms, less than a month to go. The Democrats were feeling pretty hopeful about their chances. Do you still get that sense?

MORAN: No, I think the air went out of that balloon. In part because, look, the economy is so tough for so many people, food prices, rent spiking, if they've got retirement funds, those are evaporating.

And even the issue of abortion, which did drive several special elections in that remarkable referendum result in Kansas, while there are millions for whom that will be the number one issue, I just think the economic headwinds are tough and Biden is -- he just doesn't have the oomph as a candidate anymore. People don't really want him around and he can't really make his case that I don't think the Democrats are in any better place.

And I would also say, in this country and in other countries, polls are broken, right? It is clear that lots of people on the right just don't answer anymore. They were worse in 2020 than they were in 2016. And so you look at those polls, it's close. If it's close, it's a Republican win.

RADDATZ: And, Jane, pick up on that too and the economy. And we've got the OPEC cutting oil -- we've got OPEC cutting oil production, which could lead to higher gas prices.

COASTON: Right, and I think that for a lot of people, that is going to, you know, have a big impact on how they decide to vote. But what I keep thinking is, what are they voting for then?

I know that it's midterm election and in general midterm elections are “we don't like this guy” elections but with the Republican Party, what are they offering in comparison? What's their fix on inflation? Their fix on election is: let's scream some more about books in schools?

And so I think that for a lot of American voters, you can see why there's increased interest in libertarian party candidates and third-party candidates because you see the two sides who offer very few actual solutions and you have Republicans seemingly rooting for a recession, and then you see --

RADDATZ: What does it boil down to?

COASTON: I think it boils down to, this is a tough time for a lot of people and politics isn't offering a lot of answers. And I think that for a lot of people, they're seeing --

RADDATZ: Not exactly getting them to the poll.

COASTON: No, it's not getting to the polls and I think that's something you're going to see in the midterms, is that if we see in December and after these midterms that, you know, voting was not as high as people expected it to be, I think it would be because people look at a lot of the people running and say, what are -- what can you do for me? I don't know.

RADDATZ: And, Mary, you've been out in the country, but you are also -- to talk to voters, but you were also on that trip with Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia. So let's go back to OPEC for a minute. That was a huge disappointment for the White House.

I know they're saying it wasn't about oil. If it wasn't about oil at all, I -- they missed out on something.

MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was about oil and, you know, the president took a huge risk in going on that trip, but they thought it was worth it to try to bring down oil prices, and now, the Saudis are really thumbing their nose at the president on this. Biden says he has options here. He's deciding what to pursue, but the options aren't great, right?

I mean, he can try and take some kind of action to limit OPEC's control over the energy market. There's legislative options. We've seen him not roll out the possibility of rolling back sanctions on Venezuela, but none of that immediate. You have the midterms 30 days away. This is a huge risk for Democrats.

I think the big question now, is how do they play this? How do they message this? You know, are you going to hear them getting out there and touting more steps that the administration is taking to try to lessen dependency on oil, tout the other areas of the economy that are growing, but it's a real challenge for them.

To Jane's point, you know, the Republicans have a lack of alternatives. I think you'll hear them do that, but how much are they going to lean into that because this is, as you noted, the October surprise they were not hoping --

RADDATZ: Yasmeen, you've seen some influential Democrats. You've seen Chris Murphy, Dick Durbin call for the U.S. to end its alliance with the Saudis. Is that going to happen?

ABUTALEB: I don't think so because these were the same Democrats who when President Biden was getting ready to go to Saudi Arabia put out statements saying the U.S. needed to overhaul or just end its relationship with Saudi Arabia. But it was mostly Democrats who were critical of Biden's meeting with MBS but, you know, this is -- this is always a sticking point for the U.S., that especially for President Biden who says he wants to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy agenda, I think there are just certain political realities that every U.S. president has contended with with Saudi Arabia.

I think most if given the choice would not want to have the relationship because it is so problematic, but no one has actually been able to cut off that relationship because of the oil relationship, because of the security relationship and the need for a partner like that in the Middle East even with all the problems and headaches that that relationship comes with.

RADDATZ: And, Terry, there was some -- some little side good news, I suppose, or a distraction for the Biden administration with the marijuana laws or the marijuana imprisonment those guys can --

MORAN: It's a gesture but it’s one that would be popular with essentially the Democratic base. It doesn't affect a lot of people but it crystallizes in our oldest president the desires of the youngest Americans, which is that it doesn't make sense anymore to young Americans and lots of Americans -- I mean, let's face it, weed is now kind of a national pastime in lots and lots of places.

And this is, as I say, only a few thousand people will be affected but it also gets at a deeper problem, that the drug laws, you know, were vicious in some ways. These are people who had no violence. They weren't dealing. They weren’t doing anything. They were holding a drug that is widely popular, has been for 50 years. And the president sending a message, I'm on your side, hopes that that will resonate a little bit.

RADDATZ: Jane, I -- I want to go back to what Republicans, in particular, are campaigning on. They're kind of going dark here, taking about crime, but there was quite the sound bite last night from Tommy Tuberville. Let's listen to this.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R), ALABAMA: The Democratic Party, they have a majority, they could stop this crime today. They're not soft on crime. They're pro-crime. They want crime. They want reparation because they think that people that do the crime are owed that. Bull (expletive deleted)! They are not owed that!



COASTON: Wow, he really -- he has not improved since...


RADDATZ: That was at a Trump rally.

COASTON: Yes, that was very much at a Trump rally. He really hasn't improved since he was coach at Cincinnati, has he?

But I think that what you're seeing from this, one, is, it's a Trump rally. He's talking to a very specific audience. But I think also it's this idea specifically with regard to marijuana that the people who use marijuana are this -- you know, are Black men when actually marijuana use is incredibly popular across a wild spectrum, including older people. If you go down to The Villages in Florida, you see a lot of Trump voters who are eating a lot of edibles. And so I think that changing the scheduling of -- I mean, I think that's the more important part of Biden's effort, is to look at changing the scheduling of marijuana, which is currently listed as being the same as LSD or heroin, which, you know, I think we're all pretty clear it isn't.

But I think that this is an effort to go back to kind of that 1980s tough on crime attitude, particularly coming from a -- you know, a political party that isn't offering much of an alternative. When Joe Biden talks about how we need to fund the police, Republicans are responding with, no, no, no, no, no -- yes? And so I think that it just -- it's a -- I don't know. I was going to say that it was kind of like a retro take on a tough on crime attitude, but if you're just screaming about how Black people want reparations because they're the people who commit crimes, that's a -- that's throwback we don't need.

RADDATZ: And, Yasmeen, I just -- I also want to talk about immigration. You had Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly criticizing the president's handling of immigration. We have about 40 seconds here. Where does this go? Is there really a strategy?

ABUTALEB: Well, I think Mark Kelly has actually been critical of Biden's immigration strategy for some time now. It's not actually new to the election. He was critical last year, sort of preparing for these attacks. I don't know that it goes anywhere because Democrats, this has always been an issue for them, and they know if the race is about immigration, they're losing. So I think it's a challenge. I think Mark Kelly is -- is trying to distance himself from Biden here. But immigration is just generally not a winning issue for Democrats.

RADDATZ: And we've got a long way to go on that. Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning.

Coming up, after a two-year surge in gun violence nationwide, new data shows it may be trending downward from the pandemic peak. And Pierre Thomas has rare access inside the Chicago Police Department's latest efforts to combat the spike. That's next.


RADDATZ: Pierre Thomas's report on Chicago gun violence is next. We'll be right back.



MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) CHICAGO: Chicago, unfortunately, has been plagued by violence for decades. But we can't just arrest our way out of this problem. We know that doesn't work. What that leads to is "stop and frisk." Legally, what that leads to is mass incarceration. The long-term play to make sure that you bring lasting peace to these neighborhoods is invest our way out of this problem.

RADDATZ: That was Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot discussing the city's struggle with gun violence. But there are glimmers of hope. An ABC News gun violence archive analysis of crime data does show that, after two years of dramatic increases in shootings, homicides are down nearly 5 percent in our nation's 50 biggest cities, New York and Chicago seeing double-digit decreases.

Our Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas traveled to Chicago for an exclusive and candid conversation with Police Superintendent David Brown, as part of ABC’s continuing coverage of guns in America.


PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Chicago is no stranger to the sound of gunfire. The last few weekends particularly bloody. Not even children spared from being shot or killed.

One case likely gang related, nine people shot, two killed. In another, a 10-year-old boy wounded while walking with his dad.

DAVID BROWN, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: We have had our challenges these past several days. THOMAS: For Chicago police it's a fight of life and death. But there are green chutes of hope. Shootings in the city are down 20 percent through the end of summer. Homicides falling 16 percent. That's 101 fewer people killed this year compared to last year. Yet, there have still been more than 2,100 shootings this year and 513 homicides.

BROWN: It's the most complex policing landscape ever in this country's history. We are making progress but the complexities make it such that it's so fragile.

THOMAS: At the core of the city's violence is gang activity and drug dealing and an increasing willingness to pull the trigger among all Chicagoans.

BROWN: More road rage, more domestic based gender violence, social media driven violence. But the bottom line is the inability to resolve personal conflicts. It escalates to “Now I want to kill you.”

THOMAS: It's now a routine to find 40 bullet casings at a single shooting.

Is there any particular incident in the last couple of years or recently that sort of sticks in your mind?

BROWN: It's children. It is the impact that gun violence is having on children.

THOMAS (voiceover): With such wrenching violence, the city has been deploying new tactics, seeing declines after more surgically deploying officers.

BROWN: We started discussing a more precision deployment into a small -- the smallest geographic area possible which is a block.

THOMAS: And police have taken on average 12,000 guns a year off the street, historic numbers.

BROWN: I don't think we're even chipping away at a large percentage of the illegal guns in this community.

THOMAS: The superintendent said what is working to bring down shootings is officers aggressively responding to shots fired.

BROWN: You’ll see case after case after case of officers running toward danger, running toward gunfire, risking their lives. One hundred and fifty, the last two-and-a-half years, officers shot at and shot.

THOMAS: Collaboration is also working. More cooperative programs with social services and housing and police are using more technology. Watch closely, this man dressed in black riding a bicycle randomly shoots this woman in the back. The special team of investigators goes out with the homicide detectives, hunting for camera footage from homes and businesses.

BRENDAN DEENIHAN, CHICAGO POLICE CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: And they actually try to follow these individuals prior to the incident and post the incident.

THOMAS: Cameras giving a clear-cut vision of the suspect at a bicycle shop he visited earlier that day.

DEENIHAN: And then we go there and you get that money shot.

THOMAS: They track him through the city.

DEENIHAN: Almost six hours after the incident, boom, he just ran past the officer.

THOMAS: Then a shootout with police, wounding an officer. The sound caught on sensors planted throughout the city so police can monitor for gunfire. But as they push shooting down overall, robberies and motor vehicle theft have spiked dramatically. And Superintendent Brown is willing to have the uncomfortable conversation, many of the victims and suspects often men of color.

THOMAS: How as a black man and as a law enforcement executive do you balance how you feel about that?

BROWN: I think the first step for me personally is to never forget where I’ve come from.

THOMAS (voiceover): Brown says he spends a lot of time in community outreach, trying to build trust after George Floyd.

THOMAS: How difficult has it been?

BROWN: Made it more difficult to even be heard. George Floyd being murdered on videotape revealed the people we should have never hired.

THOMAS (voiceover): Brown believes in aggressively arresting and prosecuting the small core of shooters and killers who terrorize poor communities. He does not believe in mass incarceration and stop and frisk. BROWN: If I wore some blue jeans and t-shirt and walk outside this building, I will get stopped more than once.

THOMAS: But Brown says having sustained success against crime will also require a broad economic plan.

BROWN: Our impoverished communities in Chicago here, we just did not have the commitment.

THOMAS: He's hoping the city's more than billion dollar investment will lead to long-term crime reduction.

BROWN: You can’t police yourself out of poverty.

THOMAS: Police transformed this one-time drug corner into a basketball court and green space for sports and arts.

BROWN: So, we're trying to create as many interactions with young people outside of the criminal justice system. We want to engage them before crisis happens and know them and them know us.

People who have hope can have dreams of a better life. People who have dreams of a better life are not -- are not attracted to violence.


RADDATZ: An incredible piece, and Pierre Thomas joins us now.

And, Pierre, Superintendent Brown was very honest with you, but he suffered some tragedies himself.

THOMAS: He's a police veteran with a lot of experience but this is a man who lost a brother to drug dealers who killed his brother. His son was involved in a violent confrontation where police killed a police officer before he was killed.

So I believe that informs how he looks at crime and violence, but clearly, this is a person who has an epic battle he's engaged in and he’s trying to use everything at his disposal to figure out what to do.

RADDATZ: And we hope it's a battle he wins. Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Pierre.

Coming up, the sneak preview of the latest episode of "Power Trip". We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: Our new political series on Hulu featuring George Stephanopoulos and our 2022 embeds premieres its newest episode today. "Power Trip" takes you behind the scenes of the midterm election campaigns. And this week, our reporters were in Georgia covering the high-stakes races across the Peach State.

George has a sneak preview.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey Martha, we had some great timing for our latest episode of "Power Trip" on Hulu this week. We had already planned to be in Georgia. We were there, our embeds were there, Rachel Scott was down there and what happens? The Herschel Walker story blows up. You're going to see our embeds chasing him this week, trying to get some answers from him on the campaign trail. We're going to examine what kind of impact it's going to have on one of the key Senate races in the country. And, of course, as you know, there's also a big governor's race down in Georgia this week. You have that grand jury investigation of Donald Trump. So Georgia is in many ways ground zero for the midterm elections this year. We are on the ground there for "Power Trip" on Hulu. It drops this afternoon.


ABBY CRUZ, ABC CORRESPONDENT: We are at the Georgia State Fair, about two hours away from Atlanta. The main event is a Governor Brian Kemp presser. He's going to be here and hopefully we can get a question in.

Abby Cruz, ABC. Governor Kemp, you know, you said you worry about the vote and the people, but does Herschel Walker have your vote? And would you tell your supporters to vote for him?

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Well, look, I'm going to vote like everybody else. But I'm supporting the ticket. We're working hard to help the whole ticket in this state. We've got a great team. I'm going to continue to do that.

CRUZ: Yes, just a follow-up, just a follow-up. He allegedly paid for a girlfriend's abortion...

KEMP: Look, I'm not getting into any allegations. I'm not a, you know, police officer. I'm not an investigative reporter. I'm running to be governor of Georgia.

CRUZ: Yes, but as a Georgian, do you think he's a hypocrite?


RADDATZ: Looking forward to it. Thanks to George and the "Power Trip" team. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: And that's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." And have a great day.