'This Week' Transcript 5-15-22: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia & Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, May 15.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 15, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: “THIS WEEK” with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST (voiceover): Breaking news.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: My God. I never thought in my lifetime that I would live to see something like this in my community.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ten dead after a gunman opens fire at a Buffalo supermarket.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): A white supremacist who has engaged in an act of terrorism and will be prosecuted as such.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A massacre fueled by racism. We're on the scene with the latest.
Midterm head winds.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know you got to be frustrated -- frustrated by high prices, by gridlock in Congress. By the time it takes to get anything done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats bogged down by soaring inflation.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: I used to fill up with, like, $45. But nowadays, that gives me maybe, like, a half a tank.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As thousands march ahead of the Supreme Court’s final decision on abortion.
RIOTERS: Hands off! Our bodies!
STEPHANOPOULOS: We take it all to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Show of support.
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Hello. Nice to meet you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Top Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell meet with President Zelenskyyy in Kyiv. Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna joins us live.
MEHMET OZ, (R) PA SENATE CANDIDATE: When President Trump endorsed me, he said, “First, you’re the guy who can win in November.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump's grip on the GOP faces a major test in key battleground primaries this week. Political director Rick Klein breaks down what’s at stake in our Midterm Monitor, plus our Powerhouse Roundtable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.” Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS (on camera): Good morning, and welcome to “This Week.”
We want to get right to the latest on that racist massacre in Buffalo. The attack Saturday afternoon at a neighborhood supermarket. The gunman clad in body armor, methodically targeted victims with an assault rifle, taping it all with a camera on his helmet after posting a 180-page racist document online. By the time he surrendered, 13 shot, 10 dead, almost all of the victims were black.
In a statement late Saturday night, President Biden condemned the attack calling it abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation.
Stephanie Ramos starts us off from Buffalo. Good morning, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE RAMOS, ABC NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, good morning.
This is a community in shock. As you can see, police are still surrounding the grocery store and the parking lot where they say the suspect arrived here, heavily armed wearing tactical gear and military-type of clothing and opened fire. Shoppers in and around the grocery store detailing those chaotic moments saying some were hiding behind cars, others were calling out for help as this chaotic gunman shot and killed 10 people and injured three others. Police believe this mass shooting was racially motivated.
Now George, I spoke with the mayor just a few moments ago, and he said that when he arrived here on the scene here yesterday, he found -- he met the former fire commissioner. He thought he was responding to the scene, but then learned that he was looking for his 86-year-old mother who stopped here to pick up a few items before visiting her husband down the street at a nursing home. These were people doing everyday things on a Saturday afternoon.
Now police have identified the suspect as 18-year-old Payton Gendron. He has been arraigned on one count of first-degree murder. He's being held without bail. Police were at his home overnight searching for any type of evidence, and as you mentioned, police did find a 100 and page (ph) document that he posted online before the shooting where he wrote about racist and anti-Semitic ideas. Now authorities are investigating this attack as a hate crime, all while this community reels from this shooting, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Stephanie.
We're joined now by the Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul. Governor, thank you for joining us this morning.
Our hearts are going out to the people of Buffalo this morning, the victims and their families. Have you had a chance to speak with those families, and what can you tell us about those who were injured?
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL, (D-NY): Oh, the stories are horrific. This is my hometown. I don't live far from this neighborhood. I know these streets. I know the people. As the names are emerging, it is so heartbreaking, because you realize, you know, that's a friend of yours mother, that's the aunt of another friend of yours wife, a man that was simply buying cupcakes for his son's birthday, slaughtered at the counter, the cash out counter.
So no. It is deeply disturbing to all of us. This is a tight-knit community. They care about each other. We care about everyone. And our hearts are broken. No doubt about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is so clear that so much planning went into this massacre. The shooter drove several hundred miles, published that 180-page document online, tried to livestream it as well. Had he been on the radar of law enforcement at all?
HOCHUL: Just as a high school student with respect to something he wrote in high school and was under surveillance at the time with medical authorities, but I’m going to be investigating that very question, George. I want to know what people knew, and when they knew it, and calling upon our law enforcement as well as our social media platforms.
The CEOs of those companies need to be held accountable and assure all of us that they're taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information. How these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media, it's spreading like a virus now. The white supremacy manifestos, the white supremacy concept of replacement theory where they're concerned and now taking to the streets in places like Charlottesville and others, motivated by this idea that immigrants and Jews and blacks are going to replace whites, and that is spreading through social media platforms that need to be monitored and shut down the second these words are espoused out there in these platforms.
It has to stop because otherwise there's no stopping it. This incident here, livestreamed, right behind me, the massacre of innocent people, military-style execution was viewed by other people. This could result in others replicating the same experience --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But how do you stop --
HOCHUL: -- the lives of others. There's not enough monitoring because clearly this information was out there. Don't they have a responsibility? I know it's a huge, vast undertaking, but these companies have a lot of money. They have resources. They have technology. Key words show up, they need to be identified, someone needs to watch this, and to shut it down the second it appears. And short of that, we will protect the right to free speech, but there is a limit. There is a limit to what you can do and hate crime is not -- hate speech is not protected.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you're going to be speaking at the True Bethel Church this morning. What's your message to the people of Buffalo?
HOCHUL: We're going to start the healing. We have no choice. We have to get back up. We have to pray for each other. We have to hug each other, support people, but let them know as governor of the State of New York, I will leave no stone unturned, whether it's working with our federal, state and local partners, or whether it’s dealing with this -- this spread of this virus on the Internet, the hate that's being spread through these platforms. I'm going to be vigilant about this as I have been, but we're going to continue to protect the people of the state. That's my number one responsibility.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Hochul, thank you for your time this morning. As I said, we are thinking of all the victims and their families. Thank you for joining us.
HOCHUL: Thank you very much.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're joined now by the Buffalo police commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia.
Commissioner Gramaglia, thank you for joining us this morning.
We just heard Governor Hochul say that the shooter had been under surveillance as a teenager in high school. What more have you learned about him, and how this massacre unfolded?
JOSEPH GRAMAGLIA, BUFFALO, NY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Good morning. Thank you for having me on.
So first, our condolences again to all the family members. The Tops community, the Buffalo community, the Buffalo police community, again for the loss of one of our retired officers. We have worked through with the FBI, the state police, all of our partner, the sheriff's department and found that this individual -- and we're not going to name him, but this individual was in the Buffalo area at least the day before. It seems that he had come here to scope out the area, to do a little reconnaissance work on the area before he carried out his just evil, sickening act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I read that he was laughing almost to himself after he surrendered. Did he say anything to your officers?
GRAMAGLIA: Our patrol officers responded within one minute of the call going out, and they immediately entered the store and encountered the individual. At that point, he put the gun, the assault rifles up to his neck, and the officers were able to de-escalate the situation and talk him down, and convince him to drop the weapon. He had dropped down to his knees and began taking off his tactical gear and they immediately took him into custody and got him out of the area and took him down to our police headquarters.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mention that retired police officer from the Buffalo Police Force. He was serving as a security guard, Aaron Salter, he put up a valiant fight.
GRAMAGLIA: He did. He's a true hero, and we don't know what he prevented. There could have been more victims if not for his actions. He's been retired for several years. He's been a beloved member and employee of Tops here, working security and he went down fighting. He came in, he went towards the gunfire, he went towards the fight, he shot the individual, but because of his armor plating vest, it had no effect on him, and, unfortunately, the suspect returned fire and he succumbed to his injuries and he -- like I said, he was a beloved (ph) member and we're sure he saved lives yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Commissioner Gramaglia, thank you for your time this morning. We are sorry for your loss.
GRAMAGLIA: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're joined now by our chief justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas, our national security analyst, John Cohen, former head of counterterrorism at the Department of Homeland Security.
Pierre, let me begin with you.
As we just heard the commissioner say, the FBI now looking into the background of the shooter.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, George. And my sources are saying the evidence points to this being a calculated, cold-blooded, racially motivated mass execution. This young man appears to have been hunting Black people. Most of those who died are dead simply because of the color of their skin.
Authorities are investigating a document posted online that they believe was written by Payton Gendron. In it, the attack is laid out in great specificity, including a discussion of the weapons used and even the discussion of the route taken to drive to the supermarket.
The 180-page screed is full of hate, and anti-Semitism, and the radical notion that white people are being replaced in this country. The young man allegedly wanted a race war and livestreamed this attack in an apparent effort to spur others to kill, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pierre, I can't count the number of times you and I discuss the dangers of these lone wolves.
THOMAS: Indeed. There’s been mounting concern about so-called lone wolves, and white supremacists have been chief among them. The FBI and Homeland Security have repeatedly warned that this trend is gathering intensity.
Look at recent history. The massacre at the Black church in South Carolina in 2015, nine killed. That murderous rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, 11 killed, six wounded. And that mass killing at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas in 2019, 23 killed, dozens injured.
Gendron allegedly referenced the Charleston massacre in that hate-filled document I just described, and, George, the FBI says the domestic extremist, many of them racially motivated, have killed more people in the U.S. than any other group since 9/11.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pierre, thanks.
Sean Cohen, you just left the Department of Homeland Security as head of counterterrorism. I know this was on your radar every single day of your tenure.
JOHN COHEN, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, George. I mean, we should all be sad by what happened in Buffalo, but we shouldn’t be surprised. This is exactly what as Pierre said, the FBI and DHS have been warning the American people about for the last several years. This was a lone offender who used violence as a way to express his anger and whose anger was fueled by the extremist content that he found online.
This is the threat -- individuals who are spending a lot of time online. They're viewing content that's being placed there by foreign intelligence services, foreign terrorist organizations, domestic violent extremist thought leaders, they used that content as a way to validate their use of violence and they're going out and they’re committing mass murder.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This white replacement theory is broadcast on our air waves. Is there anything could be done to stop this? We've heard Governor Hochul say social media companies have to be held accountable.
COHEN: There's a lot more we can be doing. There's a lot more we are doing. We have to do a better job in understanding how foreign and domestic threat actors are using the Internet to spread content that’s intended to inspire acts of violence. We have to do a better job of incorporating that knowledge into our security planning.
And quite frankly, we have to do a lot more at the community level to make sure those people who are exhibiting behaviors, who are exhibiting the warning signs are addressed, whether it's through arrest and prosecution or through mental health support or other -- some other type of violence prevention strategy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: John Cohen, Pierre Thomas, thanks very much.
We're joined now by the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us this morning.
This is not what we expected to be discussing this morning but your reaction to the shooting? Is there anything Congress can do?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, of course, we are trying to do something about gun violence, but let me just say, our hearts are so sad for the families affected by this. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
That certainly is inadequate. We can never replace their loss, but they should know -- I hope it's a comfort to them -- that so many people in our country --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are grieving.
PELOSI: -- are sad for them, are grieving for them.
One thing -- and I think the governor was right about the social media companies being -- having some responsibility. But there has to be vigilance. Did no one know, any of his friends, school, work, where he purchased any of this? People have to alert other authorities if they think that someone is on a path to terror -- domestic terrorism, to violence of any kind, especially when you combine this severe gun violence with the racism that is clearly apart of it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How can we hold these social media companies accountable? You do have this free speech issue.
PELOSI: Well, obviously, we have to balance the free speech issues, but you also have to be able to -- when you see a prospect for violence, and it doesn't just -- it's not just one thing. It's communities of similar thinking who gravitate toward each other.
That's what produced some other violence in our country as well, and America is a great country. Our freedom is so important to us, but that freedom also carries public safety with it, and we have to balance those.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you ever imagine you would be speaker of the house when our greatest national security threat, according to so many analysts, is domestic terror?
PELOSI: Well, as the statistics have been showing us, there's more of a threat of domestic terrorism and violence than international global terrorism affecting our homeland.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about inflation right now. This is something on the minds of all Americans. It's certainly going to be working against Democrats heading into the midterms. Is there anything you can do between now and November to bring prices down?
PELOSI: Well, first, if I just may, on this weekend we were sadly observing the 1 millionth -- the death of 1 million people from COVID. The sadness in our country, a million people dying, and we have to do something more about that. And we're hoping that our Republican colleagues...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Legislation is stalled in the House right now.
PELOSI: Well, it's not stalled in the House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Senate, excuse me.
PELOSI: It's stalled in the Senate. Let's put it that way. So we value all of us, and this, what happened last night was an assault on community, community safety and the rest as well as COVID undermining communities in such a way.
OK. Let's talk about inflation. First of all, a few things. Inflation, what -- what causes inflation? One is when unemployment goes down, inflation goes up. That's not anything to accept. When wages go up, inflation goes up. That's one. When supply goes down, cost goes up. So supply is affected by COVID and supply chain problems that we have because of COVID, and also because of the war in Ukraine. Now I don't -- there is a Putin price hike at the pump. Not all of it to him, but a large part of it.
So what can we do? Well, we -- this past week we've introduced within our conference a bipartisan actually friendly conference, our U.S. Competition Act of 2022. I don't know if that will be the title. That's always a debate, but it will address supply chain. It's very important to make America independent and self-sufficient so that we're not as dependent on product coming from overseas, whether it's because of COVID or whatever else. But also because of not having shared values. So holding up our supply for reasons -- using that leverage on us.
So this is very important. First part of the bill we'll have $52 billion for chips. Chips are essential to our manufacturing here. Chips and semiconductors. The next part of it, $40-some billion are for supply chain concerns specifically, and the rest is about education and research, et cetera. So, again, this will help bring it down. We also this week -- no, that was last week, and we're working on that now, and this week we will have on the floor of the House, legislation for market manipulation and how companies are -- we need to have a bright light of transparency on how companies are making big profits at the expense -- and this is in the energy sector, at the expense of the consumer. And we also are having same kind of hearings in appropriate -- in the Agriculture Committee on how we can increase competition, again, so that we can lower food prices.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So many families are also facing this baby formula shortage right now, dire shortage across the country. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Republican from here in New York, is laying this on President Biden and his shipping of pallets of baby formula to the southern border. She has a tweet right there where says "as American families face empty shelves, this is unacceptable." Is that why we're facing this shortage?
PELOSI: As usual, her statement is totally irresponsible. Babies are crying. We need to get them food. And the president has -- now what we're doing this week in the Congress is, again, Bobby Scott, chair of the Education and Labor Committee, that's the jurisdiction that will lower some of the regulations, et cetera, so that it's easier to buy it. Fifty percent of the -- of WIC -- 50 percent of the...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Women, Infants, and Children program.
PELOSI: ... WIC. And so loosening that. But in addition to that, Rosa DeLauro, who has been on this case for a while, she was the chair of the Agriculture Subcommittee of Appropriations when she -- now she's chair of the whole committee.
But she has been working on this to have some funding so that we can immediately purchase, overseas -- there are four countries, Chile, Mexico, Ireland and the Netherlands, that have supply that might be available to us.
The president is quite correct. We must do something as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible, and use caution, for these babies. But we have to move quickly to do that. And part of this is, again, the supply chain issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Madam Speaker, the January 6 Committee, as you know, has voted to subpoena Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and several other Republican members of Congress.
I know you give the committee wide berth right now, but if the -- Leader McCarthy and the other Republicans continue to hold out, will the House vote to hold them in contempt?
PELOSI: Well, the committee will take this one step at a time. But I'm very proud of the committee. They're working in a very strong bipartisan way to seek the truth, to find the truth of what happened with an assault. People say to me, "Well, this is unprecedented."
Yeah, well it's unprecedented for the president of the United States to incite an insurrection on the Capitol, on the Congress, on the Constitution, in that manner. And we must seek the truth. And I'm proud of the work of the committee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Madam Speaker, thanks for your time this morning.
PELOSI: Thank you. My pleasure, sadly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, we're going to have the latest from Ukraine. And we'll be right back.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Welcome.
STEPHANOPOULOS (voice over): There you see Senator Mitch McConnell, other Republican leaders, meeting with President Zelenskyy in Ukraine yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS (on camera): And we're joined now by the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna.
Deputy Prime Minister, thank you for joining us this morning.
We saw the Ukraine defense minister warn on Friday that we're entering a new long phase of this war. What's your sense of what's happening on the battlefield right now?
OLGA STEFANISHYNA, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we see is a certain, like, cautious amount of great news. We see the -- the Russian troops have been moving away from the major parts of the western Ukraine, in Kharkiv and the (inaudible) regions, which are just near the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. But we are not, like, over-optimistic in that regard. We see that Putin has readjusted his strategy. And he goes on the only possible winning scenario for him is the long-lasting war, which is not the case for us and for the democratic world.
So we're getting back a significant amount of our territories around Ukraine, but the unconditional victory still remains of the way forward, although we can confirm that the Russian Navy and warships are in full preparedness to continue shelling and basically the bombarding of the western part of -- of the eastern part of Ukraine which are the major supply chains for the humanitarian and defensive assistance, has been attacked over these nights, and we see that the casualties happening throughout all of the territories of Ukraine is repeating.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you make of the moves by Finland and Sweden this week to join NATO? It looks like that is something that is likely to happen, yet Ukraine will still -- it will not be in NATO for the foreseeable future.
STEFANISHYNA: Well, our application for membership which has been issued back in 2008 remains valid and Ukraine has been extremely precise in its expectations. We will see with the now position of Sweden and Finland who has decided to apply for NATO membership, and the response from the allies that this application will be considered and fulfilled immediately.
It only serves one very obvious argument that NATO has learned on the mistakes and the political mistakes which has been done back in 2008 by making promises without delivering on decisions in terms of membership which has basically led to three wars, two of which are now happening on Ukrainian territory.
So promises is not the way to put a security architecture as a more -- more strength. So the decision to make this applications concentrations first is also the lesson learned historical, and we hope that now when it comes to the concentration of Ukrainian application to EU, it would happen also much faster.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there anything happening on the diplomatic front right now?
STEFANISHYNA: Well, still a very tough negotiations on passing the next round of sanctions related to gas -- gas and oil products. There's been a very complicated dialect and coordination with the allies. We hope that this decision will still be taken soon.
We're also following closely the recent -- the ongoing informal meeting of the foreign affairs ministers of NATO countries with the Secretary Blinken and our minister of foreign affairs participating. We expect for more strong and coordinated efforts, agreed and discussed in terms of the lethal (ph) support in light of the upcoming enforcement of (inaudible) decision signed by President Biden. So the hope that when the decision is entering can force this venue in Berlin for NATO allies will be a venue for coordinating the efforts and targeting specific level of assistance to those areas of Ukraine which are -- need to be gained back from the Russian occupation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, we saw that vote for Ukraine in the Eurovision contest. What has that meant to your nation?
STEFANISHYNA: Well, that's another symbol of unity and -- where people and nations are standing for my country and for us, it was very important also to have this sense of support and the feeling that we all are a big European family, and we hope that this would be the repetition (ph) of a big victory, which give us the sense of empowerment and a new hope for a new development.
So, hopefully as president said, next Eurovision top (ph) contest will take place in Mariupol in Ukraine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I see you're broadcasting from your car this morning. Safe travels and thank you for joining us.
STEFANISHYNA: Thank you so much.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, a look ahead to this week's primaries and the midterms with political director Rick Klein and our Powerhouse Roundtable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A moment now to honor our friend and colleague Richard Wald. He passed away this week at the age of 92.
He was a senior vice president here at ABC News, and before that, held top post at NBC News, "The Washington Post" and “The New York Herald Tribune”. He made his mark over decades in journalism, the model for news president Max Schumacher in the movie "Network."
Here at ABC, he recruited David Brinkley to create "This Week."
I had the pleasure of working with him, watching him gave give back to a generation of students at Colombia Journalism School. He was a wise and warm man, and he will be missed.
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KATHY BARNETTE (R-PA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I honestly believe that if the people of Pennsylvania knew they had a better option, they would take it.
MEMHET OZ (R-PA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: President Trump's endorsement opened people's minds.
DAVID MCCORMICK (R-PA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Pennsylvanians are so focused on this. They're angry. They feel like their country is slipping away.
REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: This is the most important general election our state is going to have in a really long time.
LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm just a Democrat that has always run on what I believe and know to be true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tuesday brings the biggest day of primary voting so far this year with contests across five states, including the critical senate battlegrounds of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, as you just saw. So this week we're launching our "Midterm Monitor" with political director Rick Klein.
And, Rick, we know that history is stacked against the Democrats.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, George, you know that they're in a tough spot when it comes to holding the House and Senate, but when you look at the Senate, it's a 50/50 Senate, and it means Republicans only need to take one seat. But what's interesting is that not all the seats are up. Of course, only 35 Senate seats on the ballot, and in that group that's 21 that are now held by Republicans, 14 by Democrats. That means that Republicans have to play a lot more defense than they do the opportunities for offense.
And when you zoom in a bit on the states that are likely to determine control of the Senate, these are the nine states that are probably going to tell us who is going to be the majority and who is going to be in the minority, and five of them are controlled by Republicans, only four by Democrats. That means if you are the Republicans, you have got to not only hold your seats, but then go on offense somewhere. That means picking up maybe in Arizona or in Georgia, both states, of course, that went to the Democrats in 2020, or you have to move into deeper blue territory, Nevada, or in New Hampshire.
That all assumes that the Democrats don't find any places of their own to pick up. And there's a couple of states that were carried by President Biden or were very close last time they're targeting, including Pennsylvania, the primary on Tuesday. A spirited Democratic fight, and an opportunity that Democrats see to win even in a very tough election cycle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, we've never seen a former president play in primaries like Donald Trump is doing right now.
KLEIN: Yes, and I'll tell you, George, this could easily be the biggest story of the primary season. We've seen President Trump get his choice in Ohio, also a House race in West Virginia, but he lost in the Kentucky gubernatorial race. Those are all pretty red states though. Now we're talking about battleground states where President Trump is playing. Just in the next 10 days or so, he has got choices in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia, where he's behind Herschel Walker. And right there in Pennsylvania, his decision to endorse Dr. Oz in a very crowded race has roiled the party. It has a lot of Democrats thinking they could win, a lot of Republicans concerned that could open a lane for another candidate that even many of them are saying could be unelectable.
Now why does that matter? Well, to zoom in a little bit on Pennsylvania, the state is filled with swing voters. They don't exist that much in the country anymore, but they do in Pennsylvania. Take a look at these counties. They're sometimes referred to as the pivot counties. And, man, have they moved in some wild directions the last couple of election cycles. Those counties voted for Barack Obama in 2012. They went to Donald Trump in 2016. Two out of three of them went back to Joe Biden. That tells you that there are persuadable voters, people that are actually looking at the candidates on the ballot, not just red versus blue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You focused a lot on the Senate, control of the House almost certain to go to the GOP. They only need to pick up four seats.
KLEIN: Yes, and that map right there, you're looking at the narrowest House majority by Democrats in the modern history of the House of Representatives. We know how first midterms go for presidents. None of that has really changed. But what has changed is redistricting, and this is fascinating. Our friends over at Fivethirtyeight, they looked at every state that has finished redistricting so far, they're not all done. So far they've found a net total of seven fewer competitive seats than just two years ago, down to just about 33. That means in the whole House of Representatives, you're just looking at this kind of narrow window of truly competitive races, places where the Democrats and the Republicans are relatively evenly split. Now, of course, George, in a wave election all bets are off, you see a lot more races come into view. But at least for now, you are looking at the narrowest playing field for the House in decades.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Klein with our midterm monitor. Thanks very much.
The "Roundtable" is up next. We'll be right back.
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UNKNOWN: Abortion should be a human right in this country! Hands off!
UNKNOWN: Our bodies!
UNKNOWN: Hands off!
UNKNOWN: Our bodies!
UNKNOWN: Keep your rosaries off my ovaries! Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thousands marching across the country in support of abortion rights yesterday. Will it make a difference in the midterms? One of the topics on our roundtable. We're joined by Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, the executive editor with the Associated Press, Julie Pace, and Time Magazine national political correspondent Molly Ball.
And I do want to get to the midterms and abortion rights impact. But, Donna, I have to begin with that horrific massacre in Buffalo overnight, a sick sign of the times.
I want to pose the question that I posed to the speaker and to Governor Hochul. Is there anything that can be done about it?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: We better do something about it, George. I mean, look, the -- Director Christopher Wray, the FBI director, warned us almost two years ago that this was a big concern, a threat to our -- our domestic tranquility.
And yet, what are we doing about it? This is basically a situation where we have to talk about it. We've got to raise it. We've got to talk about white supremacy. We've got to talk about the radicalization of -- of kids in this country. We cannot do a "both-side" argument on this one here because, if we don't begin to address what is happening, it's going to continue to happen, El Paso, what we saw in Charlottesville, what we saw down in Charleston. We have to address it. We have to be vigilant. And we have to root out this type of extremism in our society.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, you served as a governor and a prosecutor. Was this ever on your radar then?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Not during my time as U.S. Attorney, George. It did start to get on it, a little bit, during the -- near the end of my second term as governor, where our law enforcement folks in New Jersey started to see more people willing to act out violently, seemingly without any type of heads-up, because they're acting alone. And that's what makes it so difficult for law enforcement. Because, even with good intelligence work, it's really hard if someone is a crazy person who is not doing things overtly, publicly. It becomes harder.
Now, I think, with this guy, it will be interesting to find out why we didn't see some of the stuff he was writing and some of the stuff he was posting, and why he wasn't flagged for that.
But this is why Chris Wray has been saying the stuff he's been saying. He's been trying to alert state and local law enforcement, "Hey, we have to work together on this." The FBI can't do it by themselves. But state and local, with the FBI, can do this in a way that flags some of the stuff that's happening on social media and keeps a watch on some of these folks who are going to act out violently like they did yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie, the amount of planning that went into this is just chilling.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: It really is. And I should say Buffalo is my hometown, really tragic to see what's happening there, but it's an incredibly resilient city that I know will come back from this, but the amount of planning that seemed to happen in spaces where other people were, you know, these online communities right now are really robust, and it does feel like law enforcement is often behind the curve.
I think it's going to be really interesting to see where the debate goes in terms of what the responsibility of the tech companies will be here but also other people that just exist online in these communities, what is their responsibility? We all get so used to flagging things when we see them in person, but this is sort of the next space, I think, where people need to be more alert.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not just online, Molly Ball, the great replacement theory is a fixture on Fox News.
MOLLY BALL, TIME MAGAZINE NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really something you see in the discourse in a way that is very disturbing, right? And I think -- you know, I spend a lot of time just trying to talk to everyday voters and keep my finger on the pulse of the nation, and the number one thing people bring up is how mad we are at each other, how divided we are. And this is something that, I think, politicians see it as sort of just cheap, political rhetoric, everybody says, oh, well let’s come together. But people are really taking this seriously, this sense of division and hatred and just all of the strife that we feel.
And I think particularly, you know, coming out of COVID, reemerging, trying to come back together as a society, there's so much we need to be doing just to try to knit people together and feel like a country again, feel like a community together --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That seems like that’s going to be pretty difficult, Chris Christie, heading into midterm elections.
CHRISTIE: Well, look, it is. And I think midterms are particularly divisive because you have lower turnout, and the people who come to vote in midterms typically are true believers on both sides of the aisle and that a lot of the folks in the middle typically are less likely to vote in midterms.
So as a result, what communications do politicians do? They want to communicate to the people who are actually going to show up and vote. And so you’re, I think, going to see in these midterms a lot more communication by the Democrats on what they consider to be hardcore progressive issues, and for the Republicans, to hardcore conservative base as well.
So I think you're right that you won't see a lot of that, but I do agree with Molly that I -- I definitely sense from being out there and talking to voters, that as we turn the clock from '22 to '24, I think there's going to be a new desire among voters to say, I want to hear from people who have the ability and the record to be able to bring people together rather than divide us. I think there is a desire for that in the country.
BRAZILE: But George, the problem with relying on politicians to talk about these issues is that they speak in sound bites. They don't speak in the everyday ordinary language that a child might hear and understand. They speak in sound bites. They're speaking to win. They're not speaking to open the hearts and minds of a young man, 18 years old -- what drove this child to write a 110-page manifesto where he talks about his hatred of Jews, he talks about starting a war, Jews against non-Jews, and then he starts talking about black people? I'm, like, have you met one? Have you talked to anybody unlike anything you’ve ever seen?
No, I don't want politicians to control this conversation. Chris, you and I can have a conversation, but politicians, this has to go to everyday, our teaching (ph), our business leaders. Yes, and the media has to understand that they cannot be complicit in this conversation. We need to have a conversation that doesn't go about the next election.
It's just like on abortion. People call me, what do you think about Democrats and abortion? I said, before I was a Democrat, I was a human being, and why not talk about that and not just the next election? No, we need more than politicians to have this conversation.
CHRISTIE: But Donna, I think part of the argument I’m trying to make here though is that I think that you know because you've worked for plenty of us, that politicians are geared towards winning as you said, but I really believe, George, that there's going to be a different desire come '24 in terms of hearing something different from people who want to pursue high office because of the violence that we're seeing, because of the division that you are talking about.
People are feeling it. They're feeling it at their dinner table. They're feeling it with their own children. They're feeling it at cocktail parties, at sporting events. They don't want to see it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't disagree with that, but Julia, it almost seems as if we're living in parallel universes. There's this top line of people who are concerned about this, who want to bring people together, and then there's this other whole layer of communication going online, as the governor of New York said, it's spreading like a virus.
PACE: I think that's completely right. I think that for everybody who wants to have a conversation about bring this country together, we have a lot of people who want to have conversations that are fueling those divisions. And they're happening, yes, online. They also are happening in public, and I -- it's great to think about the prospect of a 2024 campaign that is focused around unity in this country, but, I think, the reality is that we will have some very powerful forces, potentially the former president who doesn't really speak that language and has enormous support from within the Republican Party. So, I think there's a long way to go before we get to that place where we might really have that national conversation that is more focused on unity.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR: We do have these elections coming up this week. Molly Ball, as I talked about with Rick Klein, Donald Trump playing a big role in these races, especially there in Pennsylvania, which has really turned into a dogfight on the Republican side.
MOLLY BALL, TIME MAGAZINE NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is amazing, and it is -- it has been amazing to watch -- I mean, the sheer amount of money in this race. Last I checked, I think $50 million just between those top two candidates, both of whom, of course, are very wealthy.
And what we’ve seen from voters is they’ve been turned off to both of them, and so now you have Kathy Barnette running up the middle. Not running up the middle --
BALL: Not in the centrist sense, but in the sense that, you know, the two men beating each other up, has created this opening for her to come in, and no one has attacked her until very, very recently.
So, you see the Republican establishment getting very nervous about whether there is time to communicate to the electorate that they don’t believe that she’s electable. And then, are the other two after they have been so damaged, so beat up?
And so when we get to the general election, whoever is in that seat is going to have been, you know, the subject of a ton of negative ads from their own party. And so then how is that going to play with the broader electorate?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Brazile, it does seem like Pennsylvania, one of the few bright spots the Democrats are pinning their hopes on.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we’ve got -- we’ve got a couple of others. I hope Ohio after the Republicans spent over $60 million, $75 million. I think the tide in Pennsylvania has gone up to $70 million, just beating each other up. So, that’s opening for Democrats.
We have an opening I think in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, these are seats where there are Republican retirements. But we also have to protect the home front, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire.
Democrats got to stop sleeping at the wheel, OK? I’m serious. Stop sleeping at the wheel, stop waiting for the last six weeks of the election. I know we're about to spend a ton of money on television, that's like throwing water in the wind.
Democrats got to go back and create communities and remind people what the Democratic Party is doing to help them. Help them at the gas station. Help them in the grocery store. Help them where it matters in their wallets, in their homes.
But if Democrats are not able to do that, and they continue to sleep at the wheel and just rely on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, forget it.
But I believe because I trust the woman who was sitting here just a few moments ago, and that's my leader. She's going to fight like hell, and she may not be able to turn the tide of history which is always what we worry about, and you worry about if you had the White House, but you know what? You can still put up a doggone fight. And if Democrats don't put up a fight, they’re going to sleep at the wheel and Republicans and Donald Trump and everything else is going to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump facing some blowback, Chris Christie, for his endorsement of Mehmet Oz there in Pennsylvania.
Has the season, as you liken it so far, been a net positive or net negative for Trump?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think at this point, it's been a net neutral, you know, he did well in the Ohio race for Senate, lost the Ohio race for governor. He lost the Nebraska governor's race, and won a West Virginia House primary. So I think it's been a net neutral.
Look, the Oz endorsement was a risky one for him, and if it turns out that Barnette gets the nomination as a result of that, I think you're going to see a lot of recrimination against Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s a lot of Republicans say she’s simply unelectable.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, I think a lot of Republicans and I happen to agree. I don't think she's electable.
And then he just weighed into the governor's race of Pennsylvania on Friday. He looked at the polls and saw that Mastriano is ahead, and decided to endorse him against Lou Barletta, who is probably one of the most loyal Trump advocates in the House of Representatives.
CHRISTIE: I mean, why didn't he just endorse after the votes were counted? I mean, you know, this is one where he's looking at the field and trying to say, how am I going to balance off. But the thing they didn't think about strategically I don't think in Trump world was this, Mastriano has been spending most of his time in Pennsylvania campaigning as a partner with Barnette.
CHRISTIE: So, when you endorse Mastriano, you're undercutting your endorsement to Oz.
BRAZILE: That’s right.
CHRISTIE: And that’s one of the reasons I think you see Barnette do even better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think he taught about that at all?
CHRISTIE: I -- you know, I tend to think, George, that there's not a lot of strategic thinking going on down there in Mar-a-Lago, and a lot of emotional thinking. I said this a few weeks ago, every one of these endorsements by the president is emotional until this past Friday. I bet you he couldn't pick Mastriano out of a lineup, but he saw that Mastriano is ahead in the polls and he decided, you know what, I might lose this Oz thing and so, I need to have something to balance it off.
But what’s not going to balance it off is the week after that in Georgia, because Brian Kemp I believe is going to smoke David Perdue against all predictions from a year ago, and that is going to be the biggest loss he can have in this primary season.
PACE: Well, and a fascinating split between Pence who's going to be campaigning with the governor down there. Pence starting to find ways to distinguish himself from Trump as he's also looking ahead to 2024.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Molly Ball, Democrats are hoping that some -- that this reactions to the draft -- the leaked Supreme Court opinion reversing the decision likely coming in June or July is going to make a difference in these midterms.
BALL: Yes, and, you know, we're seeing the activation already. The marches across the country that we saw this weekend, there has clearly been an activation. And -- and the Democrats have to hope that that continues because, you know, with all due respect, people do not feel like the Democrats are helping them. People do not feel like the government is doing anything to solve their problems right now. They feel like there's a weak administration in the White House, and politicians in Washington are too busy arguing to get anything done. So -- so the Democrats needed something to remind, especially their base, that what they believe is at stake here. And so, you know, you have a lot of voters saying, all right, you know, I wasn't really checked in until now. And I think women especially you see literally coming off their couches and going down to these protests because they have been reminded of the stakes.
And so if that continues, it -- but, you know, the other thing I think is really important about this Roe conversation is that it is unprecedented. Right? I think there's a lot of people who think that, you know, well, the politics of abortion are this sort of static thing, but we've never had this situation before. It has never been the case, and it has been 50 years since this was on the ballot this way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Molly stole the question I was going to say -- give to you. It has not made a difference in races in the past.
BRAZILE: No, it hasn't because we've always figured the courts were over here and our lives depended on having people who were elected right here. So I think we now can put the dots together. Yes, it's the same Supreme Court that has weakened voting rights, and the Supreme Court, if that draft is true and they -- and it's a decision that will go down the way it is, 22 states will automatically -- 23 states will revert to pre-Roe, and you're going to see a massive number of women and men and young people, what I have been amazed at is the number of young people who have been mobilized by this issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will be watching it all year long. Thank you all for a thoughtful conversation. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." And I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.