A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 19, 2019 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: The race is on.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 23 Democrats now in.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: Start giving education in this country the attention that it needs.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: They are shutting down our ability to protect your right to vote.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, FORMER MAYOR SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: Let's talk about climate like the security issue that it truly is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who can catch the front-runner and compete with the president?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're going to win it big.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Candidate Seth Moulton, Tulsi Gabbard and John Hickenlooper all here live this morning.
And abortion battle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do we do?
CROWD: Stand up. Fight back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alabama's new ban breaks new ground, sparks calls for boycotts. Red states moving to restrict abortion rights. Blue states racing to protect them. Will the Supreme Court step in, overturn Roe v. Wade? Our powerhouse roundtable analyzes the fallout and all the week's politics.
TRUMP: We'll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything it will be a very bad mistake.
STEPHANOPOULOS: With Middle East tensions high, Iran pulls back from the nuclear agreement. The administration draws up plans for new troops. Martha Raddatz sits down with the general who led the last war in the region.
MARTHA RADDATZ, THIS WEEK CO-ANCHOR: Do you parallels with Iraq?
STEPHANOPOULOS: David Petraeus speaks out.
We'll break out the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.
As we come on the air this Sunday, the Democratic field for 2020 appears to be set. 23 candidates now in, with Montana Governor Steve Bullock and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio the latest to jump in.
The first debate is just over a month away now, and here at This Week, we are committed to having you hear from all the candidates. Ten Democrats have joined us to date, three more this morning.
The big question now, can any of them break out and catch the clear front-runner?
Since his soft launch about a month ago, Joe Biden has dominated the early polls. Now we all know how quickly that can change. Front-runners always face challenges. But in something of a surprise, the former vice president has actually increased his lead since getting in.
At his official kickoff in Philadelphia yesterday, he ignored his Democratic rivals and kept his focus on Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's hear from some of those Democratic rivals now. First up, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Governor, thank you for joining us this morning.
JOHN HICKENLOOPER, FORMER COLORADO GOVERNOR (D) AND 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You bet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard from Vice President Biden there. His pitch -- the core of his pitch so far is bringing the country together, calming things down. He say he can build bridges with Republicans to get things done. Now that's exactly what you've been focusing on as well. Why can you do it better than Joe Biden?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, I'm running for president because Donald Trump has been fueling this national crisis of division and it's taking our country backwards. And the answer is not socialism. In Colorado, we were able to bring business and nonprofits together, Democrats and Republicans, to get you almost universal health care coverage, to become the number one economy in America, and to beat the NRA with tough gun laws.
I've been an entrepreneur and a governor. And most of my adult life I've been able to bring adult people together again and again and get tough, progressive things done that people said we couldn't do. And I think it's time to replace the nonsense in Washington with some common sense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say the answer is not socialism. Obviously, that appears to be a reference to Bernie Sanders. But are you confident that this consensus building is exactly what Democrats are looking for? A lot of the most energized voices in the party are saying it's time for big, bold, even radical solutions?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, but you know, I spent my whole life, as I said, bringing people together and getting big, progressive things done. We're the -- Colorado is almost the number one -- well, it is the number one economy in the country. We achieved almost universal health care coverage, and we beat the NRA with tough, tough gun laws.
I think the real challenge here is how do we get that nonsense that's taken over Washington and replace it with common sense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the slogan you've hit on. and I know tomorrow, you're be laying out your foreign policy, laying out your foreign policy vision as well in your first speech at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
And part of that speech that we've seen, you call out fellow Democrats. I want to show that up on the screen right now. "Some Democrats are recoiling from past American foreign mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role. I refuse to join their retreat.” Who are you referring to there?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, I mean let’s frame it that Donald Trump’s isolationist and reckless foreign policy has actually made our country less safe, his tariff wars have hurt our economy and Trump and some in my own party believe there’s a –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who are those in your party?
HICKENLOOPER: Well I don’t want to name names, but they’re – but they have withdrawn from – you know, they would have the United States withdraw from global engagement and that makes us less safe.
The only way to full security is through constant engagement, and by reviving U.S. leadership, we actually make our country safer, but we also make it more prosperous.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you don’t want to name names but you’re running for president against 22 other Democrats right now. Are any of those 22 – do any of those call for the retreat you’re calling out right there?
HICKENLOOPER: Almost all the other Democrats – not all, but many of the other Democrats feel that we should back away from fair and open trade. And I believe that, you know, only through, you know, constant engagement and building up that trade are we going to get to full security. And I think as we revive U.S. leadership, we’re able to not only make our country safer, but as I said, we’re going to be able to be more prosperous at the same time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When it comes to foreign policy, Vice President Biden touts his years of experience in the Senate and as vice president. Our next two guests both served in the military. What qualifies you to be commander in chief?
HICKENLOOPER: Well in Colorado I set up a national cyber security center in Colorado Springs, worked on the in-state deployment of the National Guard, worked closely with our military leadership around the operations of our sixth military basis including NORAD.
I’ve, you know, gone out on over a dozen economic development trips, built relationships with leaders around the world. In places like Israel we’ve had a partnership that addresses terrorism, water conservation, cyber security.
I mean there’s a long portfolio there of places where I’ve been engaged in active foreign affairs.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re way back in the pack right now at about one percent in the polls.
HICKENLOOPER: Two percent, George. Two percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Depending on the poll, you’re right, depending on some of the polls, some two, some one. That’s true. But in order to get any traction you’re going to have to start taking on these other candidates, aren’t you?
HICKENLOOPER: I think little by little, but again the focus – I’m running because this country is in a national crisis of division and I – look my whole life I’ve been able to bring people together and get stuff done.
I think I’m the one candidate when you look at the long record of what they’ve gotten done I can bring – I really believe I can bring some common sense where right now in Washington you’ve seen nothing but nonsense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of Democrats concerned not only about the White House but also trying to get the Senate back, and I know that Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader has talked to you in the past about maybe forgoing the presidential race and taking on Cory Gardner for the Senate.
Any chance you’re going to do that if your presidential campaign doesn’t take off?
HICKENLOOPER: Well I think I’d be a difficult candidate as a Senator. I’ve spent my whole life putting teams together, both as an entrepreneur in the private sector but also as a mayor and as a governor.
And by building those teams, we’ve been able to bring people together and do the big progressive things that people said couldn’t be done. And that’s the only way we’re going to find – you know, only way we’re going to be able to bring some common sense to Washington.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Hickenlooper, thanks for joining us this morning.
HICKENLOOPER: You bet, thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, she joins us from Washington D.C. this morning. Congresswoman thank you for joining us right now.
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII AND 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Aloha, George, good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to begin, you know, you -- you’ve taken on the idea – you said you’re running for president to end regime change wars. I wonder what you thought about that line from Governor Hickenlooper’s speech, that he said some Democrats are recoiling from past American foreign policy mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role.
Does that apply to you?
GABBARD: No, it doesn’t. You know, my focus has been coming from my experience, you know, I enlisted in the Army National Guard after the terrorist attack on 9/11, served as a soldier for over 16 years and deployed twice in the Middle East, in Congress have served for over six years on both the Foreign Affairs and the Armed Services Committee and bring that experience to the forefront whereas president I will end these counter productive and wasteful regime change wars, work to end this new Cold War and nuclear arms race, recognizing how wasteful and costly these are.
And take the trillions of dollars that we’ve been spending, would continue to spend and invest those resources on serving the needs of the American people, things like healthcare, education, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, protecting our environment. There are many urgent needs here that we need to address and we’ve got to get our priorities straight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You resigned your DNC post back in 2016 because you thought Hillary Clinton had a hawkish interventionist foreign policy. Does that apply to her colleague in the Obama administration, former Vice President Biden?
GABBARD: We’ll see what Vice President Biden’s foreign policy vision is for this country. We may agree on some issues, disagree on others. The problem that I have seen is that across both Democrat and Republican administrations, and especially in this Trump administration where, right now, he is leading us down this dangerous path towards a war with Iran …
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says he doesn’t want it.
GABBARD: He says he doesn’t want it but the actions of him and his administration, people like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, tell us a very different story. They are setting the stage for a war with Iran that would prove to be far more costly, far more devastating and dangerous than anything that we saw in the Iraq war, a war that I served in a medical unit where every single day I saw firsthand the high human cost of war.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, one of the actions they took this week was evacuating, as you know, our diplomatic posts in Iraq because they were concerned, based on the intelligence, that Iran may be looking to strike U.S. interests. You don’t buy it?
GABBARD: I don’t. You know, we heard conflicting stories coming from the British commander who is the co-commander of the fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda there in Iraq and Syria saying, hey, he hadn’t seen an escalation of tensions or threats coming from these Iraqi – or these Shia militias serving in Iraq. I think what we’re seeing, unfortunately, is what looks a lot like people in the Trump administration trying to create a pretext or an excuse for us to go to war against Iran, a war that would actually undermine our national security, cost us countless American lives, cost civilian lives across the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis in Europe, and it would actually make us less safe by strengthening terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said we have to end the new Cold War and you have taken a notably softer line on Vladimir Putin and Russia than some other Democrats and Republicans, want to put up a headline from the Daily Beast this week that said "Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign is being boosted by Putin apologists."
Do you believe that Vladimir Putin is a threat to U.S. national security?
GABBARD: You know, it’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news. What I am focused on is what is in the best interest of the American people, what is in the best interest of our national security, keeping the American people safe.
And what I’m pointing out consistently, time and time again, is that our continued wasteful regime change wars have been counterproductive to the interests of the American people and the approach that this administration has taken in essentially choosing conflict rather than seeing how we can cooperate and work out our differences with other countries in the world has been counterproductive to our national security.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, many Democrats have been tougher on Vladimir Putin than President Trump. Do you think Democrats are taking too hard a line?
GABBARD: I think that the escalation of tensions that we’ve seen between the United States and nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China, and you’re right, it has come from this administration, it’s also come from some Democrats and Republicans in Congress. It has brought us to this very dangerous point where nuclear strategists point out that we are at a greater risk of nuclear war now than ever before in history and we’ve got to understand what the consequences of that are.
It’s something that we in Hawaii know all too well with the wakeup call that we had a year – a little over a year ago when we got a text alert over a million cell phones across our state saying that a ballistic missile is incoming, seek shelter immediately, this is not a drill. This was terrifying for people all across our state because there was no shelter. And even though that turned out to be a false alarm, it points to the very real threat we face if we continue to go down this path of this new Cold War, ever-escalating tensions, and a nuclear arms race.
And this is what I seek to change; to build relationships that are built on cooperation rather than conflict, deescalate these tensions, work out the differences that we have, the problems that we have with other countries and also recognize that in examples like denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. We’ve got to be able to work with countries like Russia and China to be able to accomplish that objective to keep the American people safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congresswoman, thanks for your time this morning.
GABBARD: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Joined now by another Democratic congressman, Seth Moulton from Massachusetts. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning. Let’s begin right there where …
REP. SETH MOULTON, D-MASS, AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … Congresswoman Gabbard laid out – she says the real danger now is a new Cold War.
MOULTON: Well, the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of dangers we face around the globe because we have a weak commander-in-chief in Donald Trump. And that’s why in this race I’m taking him on, not just as president, but as commander-in-chief We’ve got to start talking about how we can make America safe and strong, from our communities to our borders to across the globe, to restoring American leadership. And you do that through strength, you do that by showing how America will make the world stronger and safer together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you the only Democrat doing that?
MOULTON: Well, you know, I’m the only one who's really been talking about -- about national security and taking on Trump in his job as commander in chief. And I do that with the experience of having served on the ground in combat, doing four tours in the Iraq war, leading troops in infantry. And it's given me a firsthand perspective on what it takes to make America safe and strong, but also how careful we have to be in getting into wars across the globe. And that’s why I’m so concerned about the escalation with Iran right now. We have to acknowledge that Iran is a threat to American interests.
In fact, I fought Iranians on the ground in Iraq in 2004. It was bloody. We won. And if necessary, I will fight Iran again. But right now, war is not necessary.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Washington Post reported this week that you -- in a classified briefing you accused the Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of exaggerating the intelligence about the threat from Iran. Does that apply to the administration as well?
MOULTON: Well, it does. And I’m not going to discuss the contents of the classified briefing, but suffice it to say, Liz Cheney seems to think that this is a slam dunk. And I disagree. I spoke with General Mattis recently, former secretary of defense, who when the Baghdad Embassy was attacked in -- in September decided the right course of action was not to send a new carrier group to the Gulf, not to send 120,000 troops like the administration is contemplating, because we need to avoid and -- and -- an incident like the Gulf of Tonkin incident that set off the Vietnam war that would drag us into war.
But make no mistake, this is exactly what John Bolton wants to have happen. He pushed America into Iraq under a weak commander in chief in George W. Bush and he's pushing America into Iran today. And we have the same situation with a commander in chief who dodged his own generation's war, you know, got a -- got a medical -- got his -- his father to use his connections to lie about his feet, lie about his bone spurs and get out of serving his own generation's war. So he doesn't have the credibility to keep us out of this one. And that's why this situation is so dangerous.
It’s why the world is so dangerous when you have a weak commander in chief in the president of the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve described Joe Biden as a political mentor of yours, one of the most authentic leaders you know, so why should Democrats choose you over your mentor?
MOULTON: Well, George, I think it's time for the generation that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan to take over for the generation that sent us there, to show how we're going to take America forward into the new world, into a new economy, into the challenges of climate change that our generation has to deal with and live with.
I think it's time for that change in American politics and I’ve been fighting for it ever since I was elected, ever since I took on an 18 year incumbent as a -- as a freshman congressman, ever since I fought the last two years to help get veterans across this country elected to help take back the House of Representatives.
It's time for a new generation of leadership in American politics and I'm ready to deliver it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not a very -- very subtle message right there. Time for the generation that went to Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the generation that sent us there. So Joe Biden's vote for the Iraq War back in 2003, defining issue. His age a defining issue?
MOULTON: No, but ideas are. And that's why I’m calling today for the biggest call to national service since World War II, a way to take us forward, meet the challenges of this new economy and a changing world. You know, America has always risen to the challenges that face our country with a call to service. That's how we surmounted the Great Depression, it’s how we won World War II and it’s how we put a man on moon, by calling everyone to get behind a common mission and having everyone do their part.
And so I'm asking all 33 million young Americans to -- to consider serving their country as well, not to make it a requirement but an expectation that Americans will -- will take a part in our future, take a part in serving our country.
And if -- if America -- if you invest in America then America will invest in you. And so coupled with this call to service is a new national education guarantee modeled on the G.I. Bill to say that if you serve your country you will get to go to college or to vocational school, we will make that investment in you.
That's the kind of forward-looking policy that I think we need to meet the challenges of a changing world, to address climate change, to bring broadband to rural communities and to say to America we need a common mission, we need to be united going forward as a country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You still haven't qualified for the debate stage. Is that make or break for you? Don’t you have to be on that stage to have a chance?
MOULTON: You know, this is only week four of the campaign. I have a 7-month-old daughter at home. And it was a hard decision to get into this race. But ultimately I decided to go get in, because I believe it's the best way I can serve this country.
But this race is a marathon, not a sprint. And so we are on track to make that first debate. But it's true we haven't qualified yet, so that's why I'm asking people across this country to just donate a $1 to my campaign if you want to hear these issues debated. If you want to hear these issues be a part of the Democratic debate and you want to take on Donald Trump in his role as commander-in-chief.
I think we have to do that if we're going to win, because I think Donald Trump is actually going to be a lot harder to beat than many Americans think. But that's why I'm in this race. And I'm proud to be here, and I'm looking forward to earning more support.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you need 65,000 of those donors to qualify. Good luck with that.
Congressman, thanks for joining us this morning.
The roundtable is up next. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I couldn't be more proud to be part of an administration that has stood strong and stood without apology for the sanctity of human life.
PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: I think Alabama has gone too far. There’s no exception for rape or incest. It's an extreme law.
RONNA MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: I would have the exceptions. That’s my personal belief. But we are a party that is a broad tent.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us all agree that women's healthcare is under attack and we will not stand for it.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this is the fight that President Trump wants, if this is a fight he wants with America’s women, it is a fight he will have and it is a fight he will lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alabama making waves this week, near-total ban on abortion passed, signed into law by their governor.
Let's talk about that on our roundtable with our chief White House Correspondent, Jonathan Karl, the CEO of Democracy for America, Democratic Strategist Yvette Simpson, Chris Christie, the former GOP governor of New Jersey, now an ABC News contributor and Heidi Heitkamp, served as Democratic senator from North Dakota, now leading one -- the One Country Project, focused on rural voters.
And Jon, let’s begin with this abortion battle. The president up and tweeting on it as well. And he -- he says he’s also strongly pro-life. He took tweeted this out late last night but also for those three exceptions, rape, incest and protecting life of the mother.
Real concern there, we saw it from Ronna Romney as well about Alabama going too far for Republicans.
JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well, absolutely. Look, the polling for years has shown that the majority of Americans support abortion rights but also support restrictions on abortions, particularly late-term abortions. So the Republicans have been working very hard to portray Democrats as extremists on this who want abortion under all circumstances, right until the baby is born or even beyond. This has been the message. And then suddenly Alabama comes around and actually puts forward a law that, as you saw, went so far that Pat Robertson is opposed to it.
So -- so off message, the president didn't directly criticize the Alabama law but that’s obviously what he was doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Chris, it’s -- it is kind of an axiom of abortion politics. Whichever party is -- is painted as more extreme in a given circumstance loses on this and that’s the concern now.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, and I think it’s -- it’s clear the president, if he were the governor of Alabama, wouldn’t have signed that bill. He’s been, you know, really consistent --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But would he stand up and fight it I guess is the question.
CHRISTIE: Well, I mean, the way you fight it as a governor if it comes to your desk is you veto it. And I think he would have vetoed this bill because it didn’t contain those three exceptions and I think that’s what the tweet makes really clear. And I -- listen, people are going to want to have the fight on this issue, there always is going to be a big fight on this issue and I think you’re right, how each party and each side is characterized is going to -- is going to determine it here.
The Democrats are going to try to pin the president with the Alabama bill even though the president’s saying, you know, as of last night he’s not supportive of that. So -- and -- and --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well he didn’t say that directly.
CHRISTIE: He didn’t, but George, it's -- it’s -- it’s absolutely inherent in what he said. If you say you’re for exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother, that bill doesn’t contain it. And if that’s your litmus test on abortion -- and by the way, that’s mine as well -- you wouldn’t -- if that bill came to my desk as governor of New Jersey, I would have vetoed it because it didn’t contain it, the president would have done the same thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do Democrats handle this?
HEIDI HEITKAMP, FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR (D): There's a huge problem that -- that the Republicans have with this. Their base, which is largely Evangelical, believes that life begins at conception. If life begins at conception, the conditions of conception shouldn't determine whether that life can continue. And so when you look at that hardcore group of people who say, we're voting on the Supreme Court, that’s shorthand for saying we’re voting on abortion, and we believe life believes at conception, we want an administration that supports that, and I think the president is on thin ice in -- in -- in not following the moral imperative.
And so the person who is least happy with what happened was Mitch McConnell. He has been working very hard to paint the Democrats as the extremists and now the extreme position is on the Republican side.
CHRISTIE: But -- but George, that’s simply -- it's simply not true that if you believe life begins in exception, you -- in -- at conception that you can't be for those exceptions. In our laws, we allow for self-defense. We allow for self-defense as a justification for the taking of another life. And that's what those acts are, they're self-defense from rape, they’re self-defense from incest --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but after the fact.
CHRISTIE: No, no, George, the result of those acts are -- you can’t be required to do that. That’s what Ronald Reagan’s position was, my position, that’s what Donald Trump’s position is.
YVETTE SIMPSON, CEO, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: The reality is is that women have full control in making a decision about if and when they have children and they should be making that decision in the privacy of their doctor's office and their homes. All of these heartbeat bills are complicating legislation that has already been settled, right? I mean, most women have been respecting the rules, as they have been, and are fine with it. And I don't know why we're having this conversation again.
What it's doing is -- look, it's not about life, it's not about birth, it's about control: Controlling women, their freedom, and their bodies. And everyone can see it.
And what I hope will happen with the Democrats...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean no restrictions on abortion?
SIMPSON: No, I mean, what's happening right now, most states don't allow late-term abortions, and most people agree to that, right?
But other than that, the idea that a woman, before she even knows she's pregnant, has to make this very important, personal decision, is ludicrous. And so what the Republicans are giving us is a gift. The idea that all the women who marched after Trump won, let's march again. And we're going to march all the way to 2020 thanks to all of these states bringing forward this legislation.
70 percent of Americans support the right of women to make this choice.
CHRISTIE: I -- I -- I see all those polls. And I can tell you that the polls are the same way in my state, and I got elected twice as pro-life governor.
So, I know what you're saying, but the politics are not nearly that simple.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Here’s what could change --
CHRISTIE: You're trying to make it simple. And know what's making this complicated, science is making this complicated, because the more we learn about the development, the more people see about how this works, the more complicated it becomes.
KARL: You were a pro-life governor, but ran as pro-life candidate, but you weren't actively pushing to -- to restrict abortion, you weren't actively running to ban abortion in New Jersey.
CHRISTIE: No, but my position was the same as the president's position.
HEITKAMP: So, if I can -- so, Chris, when you look at your position you're saying that the innocent child who is the result of this heinous act is somehow -- somebody who should be terminated because of self-defense. That makes absolutely no moral sense at all, and that's why this is so problematic.
CHRISTIE: And, listen, and senator, that's your opinion, and my opinion is different. And I believe that if -- if your daughter or my daughter were the victims of a rape or incest or their life was threatened, then you'd want them to have that option.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What could simply this is the Supreme Court. I mean, clearly the Alabama law is designed to challenge Roe v. Wade.
It's not clear to me, though, Yvette, that this is something that Chief Justice Roberts is eager to take up.
SIMPSON: I would think not, right? I mean, 70 percent of Americans feel like women should have the right to choose, right, and the idea that -- I mean, and unfortunately we're setting that up, right? All these states are bringing forward these -- this legislation, there's going to be lots of lawsuits, and I don't think this Supreme Court, specifically Justice Roberts, wants to tackle this, because this is devisive
I mean, when you say 70 percent, that's a super majority of Americans agree with the law as it is, right? Overturning Roe at this time is problematic. And frankly, I don't know why we need to have this conversation today.
CHRISTIE: Well, and Alabama law, I don't think, is not a good test case because I think it's much too...
SIMPSON: Well, the heartbeat bills are problematic, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's why -- you're saying that would be an easy one for him to turn down.
CHRISTIE: I think it would be an easy one for him to turn down, because I think it's -- it’s too extreme. And so I think that one will be easy. It'll be some of the more subtle ones, the heartbeat laws, some of the other ones that are not nearly as extreme as the Alabama law that I think will be more difficult for the Supreme Court just to completely dismiss without considering it.
My guess is, they wouldn't even grant cert on an Alabama law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's talk about 2020 more generally right now right now. Jon Karl, we saw those three other Democrats. Still in this phase with 23 candidates where they're shy about drawing direct distinctions.
KARL: Yeah, and they're going to have to. Look, Joe Biden is at the top. He's had -- he’s had an incredible start playing it very safe, but the lead he has built up means that you are going to have to take on Joe Biden if you're going to be -- if you’re going to break through.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Moulton almost went there with the generational argument and (INAUDIBLE) Iraq.
KARL: Generational -- you've heard that from several of them, this idea of a new generation of leadership.
But, you know, Biden's strategy is clearly to already jump ahead to the general election, which Means that if you're going to break through you're going to have to make the case that you are a candidate that can do a better -- that can go up against Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you surprised that he's continued to rise since joining the race?
HEITKAMP: No. I think that one of the things that I know from talking to the most liberal of Democrats is they want someone who can win. And when they see the polling numbers out of Michigan and Pennsylvania, and they see that this president already has got double-digit lead over -- this candidate, Biden has a double-digit lead over the president, they're like OK, let's get on board, let's make sure we do the one thing we all want to do, which is defeat Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.
SIMPSON: It is early. I mean, if you go back to '08 at this time, Hillary Clinton was the fore gone conclusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 50 point lead, I think.
SIMPSON: Yeah. And so I mean, we have to stop jumping to conclusions.
I actually think a bigger field is good. We get the chance to test all of these people eager to take down Trump, right, which I think any of them will be better than Trump. I think we can agree. My neighbor would frankly be better than Trump as president. And we get to test, right? Are they ready to be big and bold on the policies that matter to most Americans. Healthcare, you’ve heard people talk about it, climate change, education, immigration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn’t that the debate? I mean this is a debate – and I’ll bring this to Chris as well – between big and bold on the one hand and kind of Joe Biden out there saying no, we have to build consensus, we have to build bridges to Republicans.
Those are pretty distinct paths.
SIMPSON: Well and that’s where I disagree. I mean clearly I represent the progressive wing of the party which says energy wins, and that was how Barack Obama broke through. He was hope and change. He was we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it now, and frankly I think when you see 70 percent of Americans saying they want their healthcare, they want it now, they want it, you know, complete, they want to make sure they’re not making these tough choices every day about, you know, paying medical bills and living in their homes.
I mean, I think we really need bold because that – guess what, you get the part of the base that typically does not show up and you get the regular base who is always going to show up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You want Yvette’s wing of the party to win?
CHRISTIE: Oh well sure I do, and I think – and -- and I’ll break news, Yvette and I agree on something. I think a bigger field for the Democrats is a great thing. Let’s keep them all talking, let’s keep like all the people you had on this morning, let’s keep them all talking and in fact let’s get that really progressive wing of the party talking about Medicare for all.
I absolutely believe that if this becomes a choice between the current system and a Medicare for all system that Donald Trump’s going to be re-elected.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think Republicans can win a healthcare debate?
CHRISTIE: If they make it Medicare for all, if they make it a government run healthcare system they are going to be able to call – Trump will call it socialism, he will continue to hammer away at that and he will make it the very easy choice.
Donald Trump wins when he makes these binary choices very simple. Socialism or capitalism, and they’re going to want to talk about all the specifics of the little plan and American people are going to fog over and go you know what? I’m not for socialism. Not yet, not me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who is that going to work against except for Bernie Sanders, socialism?
CHRISTIE: Well I think it works against Elizabeth Warren, you could start to go through the list. Cory Booker, Cory Booker, my senator has now said he’s for Medicare for all. That’s news to me. I’ve never heard Cory say that for the decade he – or more that he’s been in public life.
So everyone’s kind of moving to the left and that’s where Biden’s I think is being very smart here. Biden’s saying to himself there’s only one issue in this race, beating Donald Trump, and just look at the polls everybody, I’m the guy who could beat Donald Trump next.
HEITKAMP: Well, on healthcare, let’s -- let’s admit when President Trump was campaigning he was campaigning against an idea. Now he has a record and that record is going to court, saying I’m going to take away your preexisting conditions, I’m going to take away Medicaid expansion, I’m going to take away your kids getting on your health insurance and so while you’re talking about extreme, the Republican Party has been extreme signing on a piece of litigation that will take away huge protections.
And so let’s have that debate and I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’ve never been a fan of Medicare for all, but how about Medicare for more, how about a public option, how about all the other ideas that you’re going to see and when his position is -- his position articulated in that litigation, he’s going to have a hard time defending it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon Karl, the president was up and tweeting again this morning directly at everyone on the Sunday shows and talking about basically laying out his record particularly on the economy.
And I guess one of the big questions, I want to put up a Fox News poll from this week that showed how the president was matching up against Democrats, Biden doing the best for all the Democrats right there, up about 11 points against Donald Trump.
I know the president’s team has been concerned particularly in the Midwest about Joe Biden because despite an incredibly strong economy right now, he is still trailing at least to Biden in some of those key states.
KARL: There’s no question that Biden is the candidate that they fear worst, you hear Governor Christie’s point, it’s hard to make that argument about socialism. And, you know, the president is -- is running on the best economy, he’s right about this. Lowest unemployment rate in 50 – in 50 years. Real wages are finally going up more significantly than they did while the economy was growing under Obama.
And that’s the argument that they want to take and take directly to the Midwest, directly to those states that got Trump elected president in the first place.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is a tough argument for Democrats, isn’t it, Heidi?
HEITKAMP: Absolutely, I think that when you – when you look at what Democrats want, they want someone who can beat this president and they’re willing to look at any range of issues as long as they’re in change from what we have whether it’s on healthcare, whether it’s on climate, we don’t need to be, you know, arguing the extremes.
We just need to say what we’re seeing right now, ignoring climate, ignoring the immigration problem, ignoring wealth in -- disparity in this country. Those are not a path forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you run against the lowest unemployment in generations?
SIMPSON: Seventy percent of Americans though, support Medicare for all, a super majority of Americans support Green New Deal, bold action on this.
HEITKAMP: Tell them what it is and then –
CHRISTIE: I love watching this fight.
SIMPSON: Well, no I don’t agree. I think -- I think people know exactly what it is because they are literally dying under the weight of our healthcare system. I mean it’s very real, and that’s what Democrats have to do. Stop talking about the policies, let’s talk about how it affects real people and if you talk to people who literally are dying because they can’t get insurance for preexisting conditions for cancer and they’re like going bankrupt, I mean you ask those people and they will say give me my healthcare and I think that’s what we need to do.
KARL: George, Trump’s numbers on healthcare are low, Trump’s approval rating is well below 50 percent. The one area that he has high numbers is his handling of the economy. And that is a fundamental bedrock issue.
SIMPSON: No, I mean …
KARL: Fifty-six percent …
SIMPSON: We literally just came out of a – I talked about this last time. We just came out of a federal shutdown where federal workers were in the lines getting free food after missing two paychecks. So, you can talk about the economy all you want but people are still struggling. And that’s important. Wages have been stagnant; inflation has caused everything to be more expensive.
HEITKAMP: I think one of …
SIMPSON: Let’s talk about tax returns.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Count me out here, (INAUDIBLE) is pulling away from the table …
CHRISTIE: George – George, let me tell you …
HEITKAMP: He’s physically moving back
CHRISTIE: … This is what Donald Trump – I’m telling you, if he’s watching this, what he’s doing, leaning back like I am and laughing. Let me tell you, let’s have the next 12 months be Heidi and Yvette arguing with each other. Because this is what they want for the Democratic Party …
SIMPSON: But we’re not arguing. We’re not arguing.
HEITKAMP: We’re not.
CHRISTIE: Oh, yes you – oh, no – let me tell you something …
SIMPSON: Because they’re both – both positions are better than Trump’s …
CHRISTIE: Let me say something. Let me say something …
CHRISTIE: I’m married, that’s an argument. OK? We can act like it’s not but that’s an argument. The bottom line is this. Donald Trump is going to have a very clear message about economic growth, the development of the economy over – during his time. And no matter what, I saw Joe Biden say today – or yesterday, rather, that he inherited the Obama-Biden economy. They never saw 3 percent growth in a quarter.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me press you on that. If – if this economy is doing so well and the numbers show out that it’s doing quite well, why is the president behind?
CHRISTIE: Because the president is a difficult figure for some people to support.
SIMPSON: Most people.
CHRISTIE: This is not – well, not most because guess what, he won the election the last time.
SIMPSON: Well, now we know.
CHRISTIE: So the fact is – the fact is that for some people, his style, his bombastic nature is difficult for them. But that’s right now in a vacuum. That’s Donald Trump versus no one. Let’s have it be – whether it’s Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or, heaven please help me, Bernie Sanders, have them be a binary choice next September to November and you’ll see those numbers change significantly.
SIMPSON: He’s the least popular president in a generation. And I think the folks who are behind him …
CHRISTIE: That’s just not true.
SIMPSON: … Are behind him because he does take bold action …
CHRISTIE: It’s just not true.
SIMPSON: We don’t agree with that action but they like the fact that he actually does something …
CHRISTIE: By the way, Barack Obama’s numbers …
SIMPSON: And that’s why Democrats have Biden.
CHRISTIE: … Barack Obama’s numbers were exactly the same as Donald Trump’s right now at this exact same time as his presidency. So do you want to say, Yvette, that Barack Obama was the most unpopular president in a generation? I mean, you guys just say this stuff…
SIMPSON: Barack Obama was not under investigation for obstruction …
CHRISTIE: … 70 percent of people are for Medicare for All – 70 – no, no. No …
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know what, guys?
CHRISTIE: No, but – but his attorney general was held in contempt for fast – for Fast and Fury …
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll have you all back in a couple weeks. We’re out of time.
HEITKAMP: I wanted to talk about the world economy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, as tensions rise with Iran, questions about the quality of our intelligence and the prospect of war in the Middle East carry echoes of the war in Iraq. David Petraeus was a commanding general during that conflict. His interview with Martha Raddatz is next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Martha Raddatz and her exclusive interview with former CIA Director David Petraeus.
And all week long you can get teh latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app.
We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We’ll see what happens with Iran, if they do anything, it will be a very bad mistake if they do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you planning to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East in response to Iran?
TRUMP: I think it’s fake news, OK? Now would I do that, absolutely, but we have not planned for that and if we did that we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) are you going to war with Iran?
TRUMP: I hope not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There is President Trump trying to tamp down talk of war with Iran after a series of provocative actions this week which heighten tension across the region and raised questions about American intelligence on Iran’s intentions.
Late Friday Martha Raddatz sat down with former CIA Director David Patraeus, a commanding general in both Afghanistan and Iraq and she began by asking him about the sabotage of Gulf oil tankers that set off alarms this week.
RADDATZ: One of the senior officials I spoke to said that what he thought happened there was that the Iranians were sending a message, either through proxies or whoever else, and that it was -- it was calculated -- no injuries, no oil spilled -- just to send the message that we're resisting.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's entirely possible actually to try to stay below the threshold, which would -- if exceeded, we would have to do something. And we would do something, presumably, more than they did to us, if you will. So, that is entirely possible, but I'm not sure to what end. That's not going to provoke us, I don't think, to do something very significant --
RADDATZ: Even though there's rhetoric saying, you know, I'm not -- the Iranians wouldn't be happy if they do something?
PETRAEUS: I think there probably has been in this city, not far from here, some kind of debate in Washington, about what should the policy objective be. Are there grounds for negotiation? And you know, at the end of the day, the question that I was asking very early on in Iraq when it was clear that our assumptions weren't completely well founded on the fight to Baghdad, tell me how this ends.
I think that has been answered by the president frankly -- it’s pretty clear that he doesn't want to go to war with Iran. He’s not after regime change. He's after what Secretary Pompeo has announced as the objective, which is regime behavior change.
RADDATZ: And John Bolton, obviously, before he was National Security Adviser, talked about regime change, and that that was something he wanted. Do you think that's still being whispered in the president's ear?
PETRAEUS: Not after what the president said to the press the other day, certainly, if it was ever said. Again keep in mind the setting in which John gave that speech was a bunch of Iranian dissidents essentially. It doesn't mean that he didn't -- doesn't desire that. It doesn't mean that perhaps many folks would like to see that. Of course, we should have learned by now, I think, especially after the the Arab Spring, that the regime change aftermath is not always what we have hoped it would be.
RADDATZ: You've seen the reports about war planning, and certainly you go on both ends when you do war planning. I would say that 120,000 is possible. The president said, if we did anything like that, we’d use a hell of a lot more than that if we were attacked. Were those prudent measure -- measures to plan, like that?
PETRAEUS: I think it's absolutely right that they should be examining a variety of different options. It’d be actually derelict if they did not actually prepare for whatever could come.
But the truth is, let's remember that Iran is a country that has a population that is three times the size of Iraq when we invaded it, and a landmass that is three to four times the size of Iraq as well. And I think any thoughts about invading Iran, again rightly the president has shelved those I think, that would be an enormous undertaking. And he's right in his assessment, we would need a heck of a lot more troops than that, were we ever do something like that.
Now that doesn't mean we can't carry out very substantial, and very damaging, attacks from the air, that we can't do a lot to their maritime. Again, we can do in tremendous amount of damage.
I have some pretty good knowledge of that as the commander of the US Central Command, who actually did do a lot of contingency planning and even some rehearsals at various times when we thought we might have to execute some of those contingencies.
RADDATZ: Into Iran?
PETRAEUS: But the idea of an invasion...
Contingencies against Iran. This is publicly known.
RADDATZ: Yes. Right. Right.
PETRAEUS: Obviously, we were -- had to have plans. It was -- again, it was announced that we had plans if worse came to worse and we had to do something with the nuclear program. So -- but again, the idea of invading, I think, is -- is something that is certainly not seriously on the table.
RADDATZ: A lot of people will say that the danger now is miscalculation one either side, or some sort of accident or some sort of rogue actor in this, and that brings us to conflict.
PETRAEUS: Well you're exactly right. I think that is the concern that some incident escalates, gets out of hand, gets out of control. But this is where again you've got to have commanders on the ground who understand the rules of engagement.
RADDATZ: Do you think Iran will come to the negotiating table or cave in because of this maximum pressure campaign? Do you see any indication of that?
PETRAEUS: Well they are going to have to make a decision. Either they are going to have to really tighten their belt and keep tightening, because it’s going to get worse and try to grit their teeth, and get to November 2020 in hopes that their desired outcome emerges and then they survive till January 2021.
I'm not sure they can go that far without having to at least pursue some back channel that could then lead into some kind of negotiation. President Trump has been quite clear about this. He would welcome communication, and apparently would be willing to sit down, himself. So, I think...
RADDATZ: Do you think that’s wise?
PETRAEUS: Well, again, it might want to require a bit of diplomatic preparation. You know the old saying, you know, you can only pull a rabbit out of a hat if the diplomats put it into the hat first because -- because they prepared it so well.
RADDATZ: I just want to go back to the intelligence for a moment. There are a lot of people who have been skeptical about the, the intelligence that sent the carriers that evacuated the embassy, the non-essential personnel. You were director of the CIA. Did you have absolute confidence in your intelligence, or do Americans and members of Congress have a right to be skeptical?
PETRAEUS: I don’t know, in this case, obviously, what they have said about their certainty. Without that knowledge it's hard to say. And I think one of the challenges --
RADDATZ: But do you see parallels with Iraq? I mean, that’s clearly the concern.
PETRAEUS: I -- I -- I do not. No. In Iraq there was a real momentum to go to war with Iraq and there was a real momentum to go to war with Iraq and there was intelligence, however flawed it turned out to be, that was generally assumed to be credible by the policymakers. There was an -- almost an article of faith that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction of some kind and the means to deliver them. I just don't see this at all similar to that. And beyond which, you -- the president –
RADDATZ: John Bolton is a real hardliner.
PETRAEUS: John Bolton is a hardliner but his chief client, if you will, for his advice, the president the United States clearly is not on this issue. And I think it was very clear what he said to the press, he hopes not.
RADDATZ: How does this end?
PETRAEUS: Well, I hope the way the situation with Iran ends is that there can be some back channel communications, there can be some kind of meetings that address not just a resumption of the nuclear agreement but an extension of it, so we deal with what were the legitimate concerns about it, and then come to grips with the activity that they're carrying out that is so damaging to the region. But they’re in for a very, very tough period if they don't do that.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much, General Petraeus. Great to see you
PETRAEUS: Pleasure to be with you again Martha, thanks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Martha for that. 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.