'This Week' Transcript 12-17-23: Nikki Haley, Gov. Chris Sununu & Sen. Chris Van Hollen

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, December 17.

ByABC News
December 17, 2023, 9:24 AM

Nikki Haley, Gov. Chris Sununu & Sen. Chris Van Hollen were on "This Week" Sunday, December 17. This is a rush transcript and may be updated.




GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): We are all in on Nikki Haley.

KARL: A major endorsement for Nikki Haley in New Hampshire.

NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's exciting. We can feel it on the ground. We're going to do this.

KARL: But trailing by double digits. How far will she go to take down Donald Trump?

He talks about annihilating his enemies and using the criminal justice system to do so. What do you think of that?

Haley and Sununu together, a Sunday exclusive.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): We can't just ignore what's happening in our country.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I wish they would just put their vote where their mouth is.

KARL: As border security talks press on, billions in aid to Ukraine and Israel remain on hold.

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NSC: They need our help and they need it right now, not after the eggnog.

KARL: House Republicans authorize a Biden impeachment inquiry as a jury orders Rudy Giuliani to pay $148 million in damages to two Georgia election workers whose lives were turned upside down by election lies.

RUBY FREEMAN: Money will never solve all of my problems.

SHAYE MOSS: We hope no one ever has to fight so hard just to get your name back.

KARL: The latest this morning with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. Plus, analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.

And --

RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is this a debate over abortion or is it a debate over health care?



KARL: Eighteen months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Diane Sawyer and Rachel Scott report on the realities of state abortion restrictions across America.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.

KARL: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.

Not a single voter has voted yet, but with just four weeks until the Iowa caucuses and five weeks until the first primary votes are cast in New Hampshire, it looks like Donald Trump has an insurmountable lead, at least if you believe the polls. In fact, our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight have looked at the historical data and found that no presidential candidate in history has ever been this far ahead in the national polls, as Trump is at this point in the cycle, and gone on to lose the nomination.

This week one candidate hoping to break that historical trend, Nikki Haley, secured the endorsement of New Hampshire's popular governor, Chris Sununu. It's just the latest sign of momentum for the former South Carolina governor, who also served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration.

Big dollars have also started flowing Haley's way as she seeks to become the leading alternative to Trump. I traveled to New Hampshire to sit down with Haley and Sununu as they team up to try to catch the frontrunner. As you'll hear, Haley is trying to walk a fine line, taking on Trump, but not alienating his supporters. At times attacking the former president, at other times praising him, sometimes in the same sentence.


KARL: Governor Haley, this was the endorsement that everybody not named Trump was trying to get. So, what does it mean?

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & (R) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR & (R) FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I mean, it's huge. You know, first to have the endorsement of the largest conservative, freedom-loving, grassroots organization in the country with Americans for Prosperity, and then go get the endorsement of the live free or die governor, I mean, it doesn't get any better than that. I mean it's rock solid. And, you know, we're focused on, OK, how do we make it a live free or die country. How do we put the people back in charge? And Chris is such a great partner. We’ve had a great time. We've won so many rooms and, you know, we're just getting started.

KARL: How are you going to help her win in New Hampshire? Because, I mean, obviously right now Trump still has a huge lead. He's had a lead for a long time.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, yes. Well, look, no one in – no one in New Hampshire is going to vote for Nikki Haley just because the governor says so, right? You earn it. I think we’ve been pretty successful in knowing how to earn it, how to engage with constituencies, what’s important to -- not just what the voters want to hear, but how they want to ask the questions. And, most importantly, how are they going to earn the trust with folks? We can all agree on a lot of policies. We want to know that as individuals we come first. And that's exactly what Nikki's bringing to the table.

KARL: What are the – are the stakes here? How important is this primary, not just New Hampshire, the Republican primary?

HALEY: I think this election is important for Republicans and Democrats. I mean you see Democrats are just as worried. You've got 75 percent of America that say they don't want a Trump/Biden rematch, and so there's a lot at stake for our country. And I think for Republicans, they're looking at the fact that, look, we've got to get this back on track. And they like the idea of a new generational leader.

You know, I agree with a lot of Trump's policies. I think he was the right president at the right time. But looking at the situation now, our country's in disarray, the world is on fire, and chaos follows him. And we can't have a country in chaos for four more years or we won’t survive it.

KARL: I hear you say that a lot, chaos follows him, but is it chaos follows him or does he create the chaos? I mean that sounds so passive, he – chaos follows him.

HALEY: I mean I – rightly or wrongly. You call it whatever you want to call it. But when you feel it, it’s chaos. When I tell these rooms that, they all nod their head. They get it. It's the chaos. And Americans are tired. They want government to work for them again. And they want to win. And you look at these general election polls and Biden and Trump are head to head. It's going to be another nail-biter.

I defeat Biden by 17 points. That's a total mandate.

KARL: As you said, Governor, nobody's going to vote for Nikki Haley because you said to vote for her.


KARL: Maybe some people, but not a lot. But I'm -- your track record on endorsements in the midterms, a number of candidates you've endorsed lost to much more Trump-centered candidates. I'm old enough to remember when your father endorsed George W. Bush in 2000 and McCain ended up winning by 18 points.


KARL: So how’s -- why is this going to be different?

SUNUNU: We have 40 days. We’re going to be out on the trail and we’re going to be helping make that grassroots support, helping build folks up. But right now there’s so many folks undecided. Everything's been delayed. A lot of the decisions won't be made really until the last couple weeks.

And in New Hampshire, it's all about results. So, if you’re results-driven, you want that efficiency in government, here's the path, not just to get the Republican Party unified again, but the entire country. Give them a strong, next generation of conservative leadership that everybody can get behind.

HALEY: And what I appreciate about Chris' endorsement, it's not a one and done. This, for the next 40 days, we're partners because we honestly believe we have a country to save and we're determined to do it.

KARL: So, let me ask you, speaking of Trump, he has claimed absolute immunity in his defense to the election interference case. Is that your view? Do you believe a president has absolute immunity for anything that happens while they're president?

HALEY: I'm going to let the courts figure that out. I mean the last thing you're going to see me do is weigh in or learn the details about any of his court cases because I can't follow 91 charges, and I'm not going to.

KARL: That makes – that makes total sense but let me just ask you on the principle. Forget his case. Do you think that a president of the United States, that if you would get elected president you would have absolute immunity for anything you did while you were president?

HALEY: Well, I think the court issues are, do you have immunity when you’re president, when you're not president? At what point does that line fall? I'm going to let judges decide that. I don't know where the line falls. President Trump's going to have to defend himself no matter what. If he's found guilty, he's found guilty. If he's found innocent, he's found innocent. It would be wasted energy for me to sit there and focus on court cases and not focus on how to win that room that we just left.

KARL: Because that sounds a lot like saying you’re above the law, that a president’s above the law, that you can do whatever you want.

HALEY: I mean he can answer for himself. I am not in a court case. I'm happy I don't have to answer for that.

KARL: Yes.

HALEY: So, let him answer it.

KARL: I want to ask you about something you said not long after January 6th. I'm going to read the quote. You said, “we need to acknowledge he let us down,” meaning Trump. “He went down a path he shouldn't have, and we shouldn't have followed him, and we shouldn't have listened to him, and we can't let that ever happen again.”

Do you still feel that way?

HALEY: Of course. I don't ever want that to happen again. I think January 6th was a terrible day, and I think that the tone at the top matters. On so many levels the tone at the top matters.

Look. anti-Trumpers think I don't hate Trump enough. Pro-Trumpers think I don't love him enough. I call it like I see it. If I agree with you on something, I'm going to say it. If I disagree with you on something, I'm going to say it.

At the end of the day, people want the truth. They want to know what I think. I tell them what it is, and we let the chips fall where they may. That's what I felt about that situation on January 6th. I hope we never have an event like that again.

KARL: And you said, “We shouldn't have followed him and we shouldn't have listened to him. We can't ever let that happen again.”

HALEY: Well, I think the part – the problem was and it -- what everybody -- so many of his friends and family and everybody saw is, you had good people who went there to support him. You had good people that were there at the rallies. And then you had people who broke the law, right?

KARL: Yes.

HALEY: There's a difference. Don't group everybody together. There's a difference. But when President Trump had the opportunity to stop it, when he had the opportunity to say it, the bully pulpit matters. People listen. He didn't. And I – and I hate that for the people that were there supporting him. I hate that for those of us that were watching it. But what I do know is, he was the right president at the right time. But the situation we're on -- in now, nobody wants that chaos again. That's what we're trying to get past. My approach is different. No drama, no vendettas, no whining.

KARL: At one of your town halls this week, there was a voter that stood up and said --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really need to turn it up on Donald Trump, that he attempted a coup on national TV. You need to call it what it is. You need to go after him hard.


KARL: It's interesting because I’ve heard you say that he was the right president for the right time. What -- what do you say to voters like that, that say that you really need to draw that line?

HALEY: Because I answered --

KARL: But you have drawn it at times, and at other times, you say he was the right time for the right time and he's fit for office.

HALEY: I mean, you're one of those, too. Y'all want me to either love him or hate him all the time.

KARL: Well, I’m just asking you to respond to a New Hampshire voter. I mean --

HALEY: So I did, and I responded to him in every way and what I said to them was, anti-Trumpers want me to hate him, pro-Trumpers want me to love him, but this is where I stand.

There are things I agreed with the president on. I had a good working relationship with him. There are things I don't agree.

I don't agree with the fact that -- yes, we had a good economy while he was there, but he put us $8 trillion in debt that our kids are never going to forgive us for.

I don't agree with how he handles national security. He focused on trade with China, but he did nothing about the fentanyl flow. He did nothing about the fact that fentanyl has killed so many of our Americans.

I don't think you should praise Hezbollah. I don't think you should criticize Netanyahu when Israel's down on their knees. I don't think you should congratulate the Chinese communist party on their 70th anniversary.

I think that when it comes to national security, we don't praise thugs. We let them know where we stand, and we let them know there will be hell to pay if they do anything against us. That's who I am.

KARL: I mean, he's running on retribution. He wants to go out, and he talks about annihilating his enemies and using the criminal justice system to do so.

What -- what do you -- what do you think of that?

HALEY: You guys are exhausting. You're exhausting, in your obsession with him.

The thing is the normal people aren't obsessed with Trump like you guys are. The normal people care about the fact that they can't afford things. They feel like their freedoms are being taken away. They think government is too big.

I know y'all want to talk about every single word he says and every single tweet he does. That's exactly why we need a new generational leader, because people don't want to hear about every word a person says or every tweet. They want to know how you fought for them that day, and they want to know how their life is going to be different.

And life will be a whole lot different if the media would stop this obsession with Trump.

KARL: I mean, I was just asking about his central campaign theme which is, I want -- you know, I am your retribution, and he's winning in the polls. That's why I’m asking.

SUNUNU: Well, it’s like --

KARL: It's not an obsession. I’m asking about the leading candidate that you’ve been running against.


SUNUNU: He does everything he can to not talk about issues.

KARL: Yeah.

SUNUNU: He almost acts like he wasn't there, right?

KARL: Yeah.

SUNUNU: He doesn't want to talk about building the wall and securing the southern border because he didn't do it. He doesn’t want to talk about fiscal responsibility because he made a hard promise that he would do it in that debate. I’m going to be the most fiscally responsible president this country's ever seen, he said.

KARL: Balance the budget.

SUNUNU: Yeah, didn't even try to balance the budget.

And, you know, the thing that -- for someone in New Hampshire where, you know, it's not about big government, we love the idea that he was going to drain the swamp. That was an amazing opportunity. Didn't even try. I mean, literally didn't even try.

So if he talks about those issues, he has to kind of own those failures. So he's always going to talk about retribution and just kind of to spur something up.

HALEY: And if you want to talk about Trump -- if you really want to talk about Trump, why don't you go ask him if he's going to get on a debate stage in Iowa where Iowa’s voting? Why don't you go ask him if he's going to get on a debate stage in New Hampshire --

KARL: Yeah, no, that’s a good --

HALEY: -- where Granite Staters are voting? That's what you should be asking as the media. Not asking about what he happened to say today.

KARL: That's a good question which we have asked.

But let me move on. We had the Texas Supreme Court abortion occasion, really kind of a tragic case. Kate Cox, the Supreme Court ruled that she could not have an abortion, even though her doctor said that her health was in danger, it might jeopardize her ability to have children in the future. That the baby -- the fetus was almost certainly not going to survive.

Did you -- you disagreed with that decision by the Texas Supreme Court?

HALEY: Well, I think it is the right thing that unelected justices no longer decide this, and it's in the hands of the people. I appreciate that Texas went more on the pro-life side, but as we go through this -- listen, my heart broke for her because I had trouble having my children.

These -- the states are now going to have to look at these because what we don't want to see is a woman with a rare condition having to carry a baby until term, no (ph).

KARL: Well, let me ask you just really directly, do you think the Supreme Court in Texas made the wrong decision?

Chris Christie has come out and said it was the wrong decision and he's criticized you for not giving a direct answer.

Can you give a direct answer now? Is that a wrong decision?

HALEY: I mean, the Supreme Court said what -- that the law that the state put was -- was the one they had to follow, right?

KARL: The Supreme Court said that she could not have the abortion. That was the rule.

HALEY: Right, so that's when a state corrects itself and says, how do we make sure that doesn't happen again? We tweak things all the time as governors.

KARL: So, it was the right decision by the court?

HALEY: Well, the court had to follow the law. The law said that she couldn't have the abortion. Now, it's up to the legislature in Texas to say, how do we make sure there are no more Kates that go through that? That’s what you look at.

As a governor, you don't just say, this is golden. As a governor, when something happens that churns your stomach, that says that’s what this was intended to be, you go back and say, okay, what do we do to make sure that -- that we are saving as many babies as possible, but also supporting as many moms as possible. It’s not as cut and dry as everybody wants, but states will self-correct to this. That’s what they do.

SUNUNU: But it – I think to Nikki’s point, it’s in the law, right? The court – the court --

KARL: The problem was the law. The problem was not the court’s decision. Is that (INAUDIBLE)?

SUNUNU: The courts – the court’s only – only decision is, is the law – are they following the law.

HALEY: To interpret the law.

SUNUNU: So, I think what Nikki’s saying exactly right is –

KARL: Well, a lower court ruled one way. The Supreme Court ruled another way.

SUNUNU: And what Nikki’s saying is, if -- if there's a problem there, it's in the law. And that’s up to the citizens and the lawmakers and the legislature. That's how states do it.

KARL: Thank you very much. I've got one more question for you. I heard the governor say, when you win New Hampshire.


KARL: Are you going to win New Hampshire?

HALEY: My goal is to be strong in Iowa, strong in New Hampshire, strong in South Carolina.

KARL: But you need to win somewhere, right? I mean what --

HALEY: I mean you're saying that. What I'm saying is, why don't we try and do the best we can in every state and let the people decide which way this goes? I think I'm going to be strong in Iowa. I think I'm going to be strong in New Hampshire. I think we're going to be strong in South Carolina. And I think we're going to take it. And we're not settling for anything else.

KARL: And you can be more direct about New Hampshire?

SUNUNU: Oh, it's an absolute win. No, it's a win and a reset button. If everyone that could vote in the primary comes out and votes, not only -- she's going to win in a landslide. And that's not an exaggeration. So, you're going to see a record --

KARL: He’s setting a bar for you there, an expectation.

SUNUNU: No, it’s not an expectation.

HALEY: He knows his state better than I do.

SUNUNU: It’s not an expectation. It's people getting excited.

HALEY: It's exciting. We can feel it on the ground. We're going to do this.


KARL: Our thanks to Nikki Haley and Chris Sununu for that interview.

When we come back, the IDF mistakenly kills three Israeli hostages as they face pressure over the handling of the assault on Gaza. We'll talk to Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen about the war and the battle over funding for Israel and Ukraine.

We are back in two minutes.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want Israel to scale back its assault on Gaza in – by the end of the year? Do you want them to tone it down, move to a lower intensity phase?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives, not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful.


KARL: That was President Biden this week responding to how Israel is carrying out the war in Gaza.

For the latest, let’s bring in Democratic Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So, Senator Van Hollen, you heard President Biden’s message quite clear there. Jake Sullivan was obviously in Israel delivering a similar message. Now we’ve learned overnight that Defense Secretary Austin is on his way to the region. Is the message getting through?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE & (D) MARYLAND: Well, I don’t think it’s getting through clearly enough because we continue to see unacceptably high levels of civilian casualties. And when it comes to the humanitarian crisis, we still have a near total siege.

Now, as of today, there may be some progress, Israel finally opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which is a very important crossing. It shouldn’t take this long.

Look, President Biden’s been absolutely right to stand with Israel in the objective of ending the military threat from Hamas, no more October 7ths. But he’s also right that how Israel conducts this operation, how the Netanyahu government conducts this operation is important. And that is why it’s really essential that these issue be addressed. And they’re not being addressed sufficiently enough to my mind.

KARL: We also heard him this week, in a -- in a closed event -- but -- but say that Israel was doing "indiscriminate bombing," "indiscriminate bombing," and this was risking them losing support.

That’s not a phrase that I've heard others in the administration repeat, or him repeat. Is that what Israel has been doing?

Because that -- I mean, indiscriminate bombing, depending on how you define it, is potentially a war crime.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jon, look, here’s the bottom line. We do have unacceptably high levels of civilian casualties. We see very loose rules of engagement, way looser than anything the United States would exercise. We would not drop a 2,000-pound bomb on a refugee camp to target a Hamas commander.

Just yesterday snipers fired into a church compound, killing a mom and her daughter, without warning. So it is very important, because the United States is not a bystander to this. We are a big supplier, of course.

KARL: We are, yes.

VAN HOLLEN: We supply military assistance to Israel.

So we are with them entirely in the objective of ending the military threat. But again, we need to make sure that our values are reflected in this, so long as we are providing all of this equipment.

KARL: Of course, we are facing an enemy that works within the civilian population, hides, has bases beneath hospitals. It’s very difficult.

But I want to ask you about something Netanyahu said overnight in a press conference. He said, "I am proud to have prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state because today everybody knows that that Palestinian state could have" -- and "what that Palestinian state could have been after we saw the little Palestinian state in Gaza."

So there you have the prime minister of Israel saying, "I am proud to have prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state."

He also, by the way, continues to say he is opposed to the idea of the Palestinian Authority taking control of Gaza once this military operation is over.

What -- what do you make of that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is a direct, you know, response to -- to President Biden calling for a two-state solution, ultimately as the only political settlement that’s viable.

And here’s the thing about Prime Minster Netanyahu. He has continued to weaken the Palestinian Authority. This is the organization that recognized Israel’s right to exist decades and decades ago. Instead of trying to find peace, or at least preventing the conditions on the ground from changing, with additional settlements to allow a two-state solution, he – he has shut the door on that effort.

Meanwhile, as you’ve seen, there have been lots of reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu actually, you know, supported Qatar’s efforts to finance Hamas in – in (inaudible).

KARL: But this is a fundamental disagreement about something that isn’t trivial. It’s what happens after this is over...

VAN HOLLEN: This is...

KARL: ... the United States saying the path has to be towards a Palestinian state and the Palestinians have to run Gaza when this is over. And Netanyahu is saying the opposite.

VAN HOLLEN: Right. And this is where it’s really important that President Biden assert leadership in this moment. In this very dark hour, if there’s going to be any light at the end of the tunnel, you’re going to have to have a political settlement, not with Hamas. Obviously, they’re not any partner for peace. We need to end the military threat from Hamas. But you need to have Palestinians who have long accepted Israel’s right to exist to be able to govern and represent the people within – within the Palestinian area.

KARL: And let me ask you another thing. As, again, Defense Secretary Austin is on his way to Israel, we see that overnight U.S. and British forces shot down more than a dozen drones over the Red Sea, drones that were, you know, sent by the Houthis, which are supported by the Iranians.

How worried are you that this is about to escalate? And, actually, I mean, should it escalate in terms of the United States actually attacking these Houthi positions in Yemen?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I worry a lot about escalation, both in the Red Sea area with – with the Houthis, and, as you say, we shot down their drones. We also have to keep an eye on the northern front with Hezbollah.

KARL: Hezbollah...

VAN HOLLEN: This is why -- why President Biden sent two aircraft carrier groups to the region to prevent that kind of escalation, to send a message to Iran, to Hezbollah and others.

So, look, I think that the administration has been smart in terms of how it’s responded to those attacks. But, clearly, the risk of an American being killed in the process is high. And that would, obviously, create a big response from the United States.

KARL: There have been reports, and certainly, there have also been calls for the United States to take that proactive action and not just shoot the drones as they’re on their way towards potentially our war ships but to go after the Houthis in Yemen. Again, this is an Iranian-backed group. It is consistently sending -- you know, attacking U.S. positions in the region.

I mean, should -- should the United States take them out?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, there are also reports that that’s exactly what Iran would like to see happen. There are also reports that that’s what Putin would like to see happen. Have the United --

KARL: Because it creates a bigger.


VAN HOLLEN: Have the United States get bogged down in the Red Sea. And that means that we get -- we get distracted.

But to answer you question, I clearly -- I mean, if -- if U.S. forces are killed, you’re going to get a big, big response from the United States.

KARL: All right, before you go, I want to also ask about these negotiations that are going on over the weekend on a deal to fund, you know, fund for -- funds for Israel, funds for Ukraine, including changes in border policy.

Do you have a sense of where these negotiations are?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, they’ve been very tight-lipped, understandably, about where they are, but they say they’re making progress. I hope that’s the case.

KARL: And what do you think of this idea of having significant changes to the border tied to funding for Ukraine in Israel. I mean, among the changes that Republicans have been demanding are changes to our asylum laws, making it harder for people to declare asylum, restricting that. And even, you know, Republican want a return to Remain in Mexico that the policy of the Trump administration, which is ask for asylum before you come to the United States and come after or if it's been granted.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, I think it’s essential that we provide military assistance to Ukraine.

KARL: Yes.

VAN HOLLEN: This is a pivotal moment in American leadership, and history. And we need to make sure that we help our Ukrainian friends against Putin's aggression, not just to protect their freedom, but because it would send a terrible signal around the world, to our allies who would no longer trust us, and to our adversaries who would be emboldened if we’re not doing that.

In terms of the border security, I have to look at the details. And the big question, Jon, is, who’s at the table on the Republican side? I don’t mean the individual. But are they really working with the president to try to get border security, because the president has proposed historical increases and resources for border security and that’s --

KARL: Yes. All right. And they’re asking for policy changes now more than resources.

Senator --

VAN HOLLEN: So, we have to look at it, you know?

KARL: Senator Van Hollen, thank you very much for joining us.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be here.KARL: Coming up, new reporting by ABC’s Diane Sawyer and Rachel Scott on the challenges facing many women navigating state abortion restrictions.

We will be right back.


KARL: Rachel Scott is here to discuss her extraordinary reporting on the human costs for many women navigating state abortion restrictions.

We'll be right back.



KATE COX, ASK TEXAS COURTS FOR ABORTION EXCEPTION: We're grieving the loss of a child. There's no outcome here, you know, that results in us taking home a healthy baby girl. So, it's, it's hard. It's overwhelming.

And I can see in this case, surely, I would qualify for that exemption. So, my doctor told me that I did not have that option in the state of Texas. I was, I was shocked.


KARL: That was Kate Cox, the woman at the center of the Texas abortion access case, speaking with senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott last week, the Texas Supreme Court blocked her from terminating our high-risk pregnancy, leading her to leave the state to get an abortion.

I'll speak with Rachel in a moment about her reporting with our Diane Sawyer on the impact of abortion restrictions on women across the country. It's part of a new special Impact By Nightline On The Brink. Now streaming on Hulu.

Take a look.


RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're looking at a family making a desperate race against time leaving their home for another state to get care for a dire pregnancy complication. Just like so many families in 21 states caught in a web of confusing state laws and medical restrictions. They are searching the internet and calling, hoping to find medical care in states where doctors can make decisions with their patients, not under the threat of government intervention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, and instead of being able to grieve the news that we've just received, we have to plan travel to a foreign place we don't want to be in, in the first place, spending money we don't want to spend –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That we don’t necessarily have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: or may not have to go do something to take care of ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We’re like medical refugees in the United States.



SAWYER (voice over): And some lawmakers are narrowing the possibilities. Some counties in Texas and Idaho make it illegal to use their highways to cross the border to end a pregnancy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt hunted. The entire time I felt like I was going to get pulled out of TSA and asked, you know, what was I doing? Why had I gone to Colorado? I –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It’s so terrifying.


SCOTT: Is this one country with two different health care systems playing out?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than multiples.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's one where our lives and our health are debatable. Where they're up for committee review/


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in others where you can actually get access to care.

SAWYER (voice over): In the states bordering Texas alone, look at the increase in patients coming to them for treatment. A lot of clinics now have long wait lists.

SCOTT (voice over): The woman in the front row is Blair Nelson (ph) from Austin, Texas. And she paid a huge price for the delay it took her to find care. She discovered her son had a deadly condition very early on at just 12 weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every single one of my son's organs were growing outside of his body, including his heart, everything, but the heart was still beating outside of his body, and I couldn't even get the care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the heartbeat, it's such nonsense. Like, we would know right here that if one of us had no brain but a heartbeat, you're not living.

SCOTT (voice over): It would take Blair a full month to find a clinic in another state that would fit her in. And it was during those days that were ticking by, doctors suspect she was unknowingly developing a potentially life-threatening complication called placenta acreda (ph). At the clinic having the procedure, she started bleeding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just remember laying there and feeling a ton of liquid leave my body, and I was hemorrhaging. I was taken out of the back door and my husband had to rush me to the hospital because I was at risk of needing a blood transfusion.

SCOTT (voice over): This is Blair's OB/GYN Dr. John Thoeple (ph). He says, if she had been able to get care back home in Texas, this would not have happened.

DR. JOHN THOEPLE, OB/GYN: That month delay allowed for this abnormal sort of process where you have this placenta invading, you know, into her – into her uterus. She went through something that I don't think she would have had to if she didn't have this one-month delay in care.

SCOTT: Doctors performed an emergency procedure to save her uterus, but now future pregnancies are extremely risky. Thoeple asks, is this really what Texas lawmakers want?

SCOTT: Listening to this nightmare that she had to experience, what did you think?

THOEPLE: The policies of Texas may have kept her from ever having a kid again. The irony of all these laws that have been put in place, you know, to supposedly protect the sanctity of life, we might have stopped the ability to create life.


KARL: And Rachel joins me now.

Rachel, incredible, heartbreaking reporting.

You’ve been working on this story with Diane Sawyer for months.


Long before the Kate Cox story came to light. But what comes across here is that is not an unusual situation.

SCOTT: Yes, Kate Cox is not an anomaly in this situation. We had 18 women across ten different states, all in one room. They were mostly complete strangers. They had never met anybody that went through something similar. And for every woman that was there, there was another woman who wrote to us who told us that they went through something similar, but they either couldn't come, the trauma was too much for them to want to speak out about their experience. But these doctors were sounding their alarm. They told us, this was happening to women all across the country in states with complete abortion bans.

KARL: And the story we just heard there of Blair is also in Texas, like Kate Cox.


KARL: Why is it that Texas seems to be where so much of this has happened?

SCOTT: Yes, and you may remember long before Roe v. Wade was overturned you had Texas impose the strictest abortion ban in the county. It’s one of two states where doctors can face up to life in prison, they could lose their medical license. They could face extraordinary fines. And so what it has created is this chilling effect. And I asked Dr. John Thoeple if he felt like he could have a direct and honest conversation with his patient. He told me, no. He told me that many doctors fear even discussing terminations, even if it means that it could possibly save their patient's fertility or protect their own life.

KARL: So let me move to the political context...

SCOTT: Yeah.

KARL: ... because obviously, as deeply personal each one of these cases are, there's also a larger political context.

SCOTT: Um-hmm.

KARL: What is your sense of how front and center the abortion issue is going to be in 2024?

SCOTT: It is going to be critical. And we are already seeing it play out there on the campaign in presidential politics, but also, this now growing push to get abortion on the ballot in critical states. I'm going to have my eye on Florida, as well as Arizona, to see if it ends up on the ballot there.

You have many advocates that are looking at what happened in Kansas. They're looking at what happened in Ohio. And they're saying that, even in some of these conservative states, you have voters that want to at least protect the right to an abortion, or at least give women like the ones that you just heard a choice.

KARL: All right. Rachel Scott, again, really powerful, excellent reporting. Thank you for sharing it with us here on "This Week."

SCOTT: Thanks, Jon.

KARL: The powerhouse roundtable is up next. We will be right back.



SHAYE MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: The flame that Giuliani lit with those lies and passed to so many others to keep that flame blazing changed every aspect of our lives.

RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I miss home. I miss my neighbors. And I miss my name.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: The absurdity of the number merely underscores the absurdity of the entire proceeding, where I've not been allowed to offer one single piece of evidence in defense, of which I have a lot.

KARL: That was former Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, reacting to the $148 million verdict against Rudy Giuliani for defamation, and Giuliani attacking the ruling, insisting that he has evidence which simply does not exist.

Let's bring in the roundtable, former DNC chair Donna Brazile, former RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, ABC News deputy political director Averi Harper, and Politico national investigative correspondent Heidi Przybyla.

So Reince, let's start. We'll get to Rudy and all that, but let's start with Nikki Haley…



KARL: I promise you, we'll get there. So Nikki Haley, big endorsement. She's getting the money. You heard here there. Is there a chance?

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean there's always a chance, but the reality is that, at this point, you could see in the interview, she's trying to walk a fine line…

KARL: Oh, yeah.

PRIEBUS: …between not being too much anti-Trump because the reality is Trump is sitting nationally at, you know, plus 50. In New Hampshire, he's about plus 30. So, she has to figure out a way to prosecute her case in New Hampshire without alienating the rest of the country coming her way on Super Tuesday, a few weeks after. The reality is that the Trump operation right now is making it very clear. If they win by plus-10 in Iowa, they're going to say, we're the presumptive nominee. They're going to -- they're going to lay that groundwork.

And then, if they win New Hampshire by plus 10, they're going to demand to be declared the presumptive nominee, and the pressure on the party if that was to happen, I think would be just enormous, and I don't think they would be able to withstand that.

KARL: I mean, if he wins both those states, and he goes to South Carolina, she's the former governor, but he's got maybe his biggest lead there.

PRIEBUS: It's over.

KARL: …(Inaudible).

PRIEBUS: It's over if that happens.

KARL: What was your reaction hearing her navigate criticizing Trump, praising Trump? What did you make of it?

DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, I think, look, I've watched all of the Republican debates. I'm probably one of maybe two Americans that have found these debates to be very interesting because, on one hand…

KARL: I found them kind of interesting.

BRAZILE: Well, no, they know (ph) they are interesting.

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: Because Donald Trump has remained the frontrunner.

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: …and the reason why is because none of them have the guts or the gall to say what they are privately saying to each other and to their friends and maybe their family, that he is unfit for office. Only Chris Christie has shown some courage in saying that. What the governor tried to do today was just, like, try to go down the middle and say, well, I like this, but I don't like that.

Well, her biggest argument during that interview was that, I'm electable, but how? I mean, if you cannot point out your differences with the front-runner, then I don't think you have a strategy to win. After all, he controls the Republican Party. He controls the MAGA movement. He's in charge, and if you are not willing to say that I disagree with him that immigrants poison the blood of the country, or I disagree with him on the election results.

If you are not willing to disagree and point out your own vision, then I don't think you are electable.

KARL: Because I asked her about that extraordinary thing that she said after January 6th to Tim Alberta, Politico -- then with Politico, saying that we never should have followed him. We must never follow him again and she said she stands by that, but didn't -- at the next breath said he was the right president for the right time.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: She's being very cautious, and in the meantime, 2016 is calling and it wants its narrative back, which is that this field, this non-Trump field is not consolidating. And the thing that's perplexing about it is it seems like, Jonathan, that's what some of these voters want. That voter who stood up and confronted her at the Town Hall, he wanted her to tell the American people, like Donna says, how they talk in private which is that Trump has exhibited authoritarian ideations, that he has talked openly or mused about being president for life, that many people, even Republicans will privately tell you that this was a failed coup. And there's also this math problem which is, this field is not consolidating in a number of states, but in New Hampshire, if she does not pull this out in New Hampshire, it's really hard to see how…

BRAZILE: It's over.

PRZYBYLA: …and the way to do that is for Chris Christie and DeSantis voters to move over to her. It's not to play to those hard-core Trump voters.

KARL: And Averi, Trump was in New Hampshire and he was quoting Vladimir Putin last night.


KARL: As an authoritative source on analyzing his legal cases.

HARPER: Right. He has really had this real intense flirtation with authoritarian leaders. He has spoken to and echoed back to lines that have to do with Hitler, right? And I want to pay attention to what he said. He spoke about migrants from South America. He spoke about migrants from Africa. He spoke about migrants from Asia. He did not speak about migrants or immigrants from Europe…

KARL: From Europe, right.

HARPER: Right?

KARL: Poisoning the blood was what he used.

HARPER: Right.

KARL: Which is obviously an incredibly loaded phrase, like the vermin phrase, the word that he used.

HARPER: And this is rhetoric he continues to use on the trail. He has said it before. He is probably going to say it again. It is something that is reminiscent of white nationalist language, and he is calling to dark parts of Republican Party when he does this, and that's not something that folks are going to forget come general election time.

KARL: I mean Reince, I remember you as RNC chair kind of fighting so hard to get him to condemn David Duke when David Duke endorsed them. And I remember you in the White House trying to, you know, keep him within the guardrails. Do you worry that, you know, as he -- does he rushes towards this nomination, that he's going off those into those places that you tried to keep them from going?

PRIEBUS: Not particularly because I think that -- I think you're all misreading the electorate. I think that the electorate is not looking for less blood. I think they're looking for more blood. I think that people are more angry about crime than they've ever been before. I think they're more angry about the border, the fentanyl, the sanctuary cities, the boys competing against girls, and sports, schools out of control. I think, as I've said before, people are looking for a bigger middle finger this time than they were in 2016.

And I think --

KARL: So, no matter how --


PRIEBUS: -- was reading this, the people are angry. And they -- and on the other side, you know, you got President Biden, who's losing young voters, who's losing black voters. The polling couldn't be worse. And unlike Barack Obama in 2011, Democrats would have walked over glass for Barack Obama Democrats today, they say 75 percent, we wish we had a different candidate.

So that it matters who you're running against to. And it also matters with the state of the countries in and this is a perfect storm.

BRAZILE: Mr. Chairman, let me just say this, you're talking about taking millions of people off their health care, which is Donald Trump, he is pledged to do that. That's blood. That is blood.


BRAZILE: You're talking about suspending the United States Constitution, something that Donald Trump has said.

Yes, look, I get the anger part. I get the, I get the, I get the people who are frustrated with crime. I get the fact that the border need more agents, need more technology.

PRIEBUS: Democrats are suing the White House.

BRAZILE: More technology. But you know what I don't get, I don't get the fact that you're willing to stand up for someone who's praising dictator --

PRIEBUS: Listen, I'm not willing to stand up this --


PRIEBUS: What I'm doing here, Donna --


PRIEBUS: Because I am telling you what the reality on the ground is. There's 100,000 people in five states, and they're going to decide this election. And if you can convince me that those 100,000 people are worried about Donald Trump suspending the Constitution, you know --

KARL: Even though he said that on (INAUDIBLE).

PRIEBUS: But you have to be able to convince people that are voting.

KARL: That he means what he says?

PRIEBUS: But -- well then if that's what your -- if that's what your case is, sure. But if you really think that --


BRAZILE: That this President, the President, you say that Democrats will not walk on glass and well, they'll go through far --

PRIEBUS: We'll see.

BRAZILE: -- to protect the constitution.

PRIEBUS: All right.

BRAZILE: They will go through far.

PRIEBUS: We'll see.


PRIEBUS: Right, farther on --


BRAZILE: And let me tell you something, (INAUDIBLE) of black voters with Donald Trump, it is just that.

PRIEBUS: Well then look at your own polls.

KARL: All right, let's go to Heidi. I like the chairman versus chairs. This is good. OK, go ahead Heidi.

PRZYBYLA: Reince is right that Trump is playing here. He's playing on emotions. He's convincing people that we are living in a state of American carnage, as he said, when he first took office, that there is this risk of a dystopia in United States of America where Judeo-Christian values.

KARL: Right.

PRZYBYLA: And Christians are huddled, cold and hungry in a corner and persecuted. But it's an alternative America, that Democrats say is based on misconceptions, is based on lies in some regards. There's absolutely a case here on a numbers, on crime. You can have a debate about that, and how you define crime versus homicide versus gun shootings. It's all how you slice it. They're also not being given information about why costs are higher, inflation and the fact that putting this in perspective overseas, the inflation here is relatively more modest. There's no context in this debate.

And so, I think that --

BRAZILE: All emotion.

PRZYBYLA: -- so I'm agreeing with both of you, right.


KARL: And I think there's something else that Reince that hits on that is clearly out there. And that is deep, deep, Democratic discontent with Biden, and fears about whether or not he is up to it.

HARPER: Right.

KARL: And nothing isn't up to doing the job, but he's up to campaign against Donald Trump and then he can beat him.

HARPER: Right. There are concerns about whether Biden is going to be out on the trail. There are concerns about certain issues, whether he is going to be able to meet the moment, there are concerns about whether he's going to be able to turn out young voters, black voters, right.

When we talk about immigration in the, the ongoing negotiations for supplemental funding. There are concerns that he could be perceived as siding with Republicans on this issue, something that would be an affront to what he promised on the campaign trail back in 2020. That he was going to do transformed the immigration system with humanity and a focus on American values. If he is seen as siding with notonly Republicans before, right Republicans on this issue, that could be damaging to his credibility as he goes out on the trail as well.

KARL: So, we don't have a lot of time left. I have to get back to, as I promised, back to Rudy Giuliani. We heard from -- we heard from Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman…


KARL: Donna, that verdict -- I mean, to me, you know, watching that whole episode and the way they were -- the way they were, you know, accused of these terrible things that were not true, and what was your sense hearing that verdict?

BRAZILE: Now, you want to hear emotion?

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: That's emotion.

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: It's not the money. The money will never give them their name back. The fact that they will spend the rest of their lives, no matter how much money, worried about who might be coming after them. What Rudy did was so damaging, damaging to not just to democracy, the institution, but he damaged two innocent people doing their job. They used to love to go and be poll watchers and poll workers because that's what many Americans do, and now, he has put a stain on that process.

KARL: And are they going to see anything out of this? I mean -- by the way, we saw something else, I think it was this morning. Four Seasons Total Landscaping, remember?


KARL: …posted the Rudy Giuliani press conference after the election. They said that they have not been paid for renting the lectern and the various things.


KARL: So I don't know. It's…

PRZYBYLA: It's not just about Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.

KARL: Yeah.

PRZYBYLA: Look at the numbers. Since 2016, since 2020 especially, we're seeing a historic drop off in individuals who want to perform this historic public service.

KARL: Yeah.

PRZYBYLA: Overseeing elections and volunteering. There was violence. I stood outside the Detroit TCF Center, people were scared to go in there. It was -- there was actual violence taking place.

KARL: Reince?

PRIEBUS: Well, I agree with Donna. I mean it's a punitive decision. It's a statement case. I'm not defending anything that Rudy did or said, I certainly wouldn't, but I think that this issue with poll workers and poll watchers is serious. I agree with you. We need people to feel good about volunteering.

I remember back in Wisconsin, there was a Milwaukee Police Department report, about 70 pages describing all the challenges in regard to conducting these elections. So they deserve our respect and certainly we can't move forward without it.

HARPER: And I'll say there was hope on the part of election workers that this is a deterrent to folks interfering with the job that they do. That is essential to the job of a functioning democracy.


HARPER: We have seen 12 states since 2020, they have passed…

KARL: All right. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Thank you all for being here this morning.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

PRZYBYLA: Thank you.

KARL: We'll be back in just a moment.


KARL: That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." Have a great day.