'This Week' Transcript 2-11-24: PM Netanyahu, Sen. Coons & Gov. Kemp
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, February 11.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, February 11, 2024 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK": Scathing report.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These assertions are not only misleading, they're just plain wrong.
KARL: A special counsel clears President Biden over his handling of classified documents, but raises concerns about his age and mental fitness. The White House fires back.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The comments that were made by that prosecutor, gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate.
KARL: As the Supreme Court casts doubt on efforts to keep Donald Trump off the ballot over his actions on January 6th.
DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a believer in our country, and I'm a believer in the Supreme Court.
KARL: This morning, all the fallout and what it means for the 2024 race. Our legal experts, Preet Bharara and Sarah Isgur weigh in. Biden ally, Senator Chis Coons, Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp joins us love. Plus, analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: One thing we're not going to do is we’re not going to let Hamas emerge victorious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: After President Biden's sharpest criticism of Israel yet, we're one-on-one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning. Welcome to THIS WEEK. Today we'll bring you my interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his first on American television in months coming on the heels of the strongest rebuke yet from President Biden of Israel’s conduct in Gaza.
But we begin with this week's extraordinary political developments. If you could distill the 2024 campaign to its essence, Thursday may have captured it in a matter of hours. With former President Trump's fate deliberated in a courtroom, and President Biden facing new questions about his age and whether he's up for another term.
For Trump, it was a good day as the Supreme Court, liberal and conservative justices, expressed skepticism of Colorado’s efforts to remove him from the ballot because of his actions on January 6th.
For Biden, there was some positive news as well, as the special counsel investigating his handling of classified documents declined to prosecute him, saying there wasn't evidence sufficient for a conviction, and making it clear that Trump's transgressions, when it comes to classified documents were significantly worse than Biden's.
But the special counsel's report was quite critical of the president. It included photos of classified documents stored in cardboard boxes in Biden's Delaware garage, alongside a treadmill and a rocking chair. And some of the language in the report was devastating, painting a portrait of the president as, quote, a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory. The most damaging details on page 208 saying, quote, “he did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended, and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began. He did not remember even within several years, when his son, Beau, died.”
That drew this sharp rebuke from President Biden Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it wasn't any of their damn business. I don't need anyone to remind me when he passed away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: The president also lashed out at the press for asking about the special counsel's assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How bad is your memory, and can you continue as president?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My memory is so bad I let you speak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many American people have been watching and they have expressed concerns about your age. They –
BIDEN: That is your judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They -- that – this is according to public polling. They express concerns --
BIDEN: That is your judgement. That is not the judgment of the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: But questions about Biden’s age are a real concern, repeatedly expressed by voters. Our new ABC News/IPSOS poll this morning shows that a total of 86 percent of Americans say that Joe Biden is too old for another term, compared to 62 percent who say the same about Donald Trump.
We'll have much more on the politics of it all in a moment, but we begin with our expert legal panel. Sarah Isgur is the former spokesperson for the Justice Department during the Trump administration and is now a senior editor at "The Dispatch." Preet Bharara is the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
So, Preet, let – let me start with you.
We – you heard that the special counsel found that President Biden willfully retained classified documents and was quite critical to say the least, but a decline – you know, they declined to prosecute. Was it the right call?
PREET BHARARA, FMR. U.S. ATTY. FOR SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes, the second part is the right call. It’s a lengthy report. He was appointed by Merrick Garland, by the president’s own attorney general. A thorough, exhaustive investigation. And the bottom line and the top line is there's no case here. Case closed. Case over.
What I don't think is correct, and I think the vast majority of legal experts agree with me on this, is the gratuitous, superfluous statements about his memory, not as it relates to the particular case or the facts relating to the handling of the classified documents, but as it relates to other things, including memory about the particular date and precise date of his son's death. That had no place in this document. It makes no sense for this to be in this document.
In a context to which you appoint a special counsel to be above and away from politics, he's provided political grist to the opponents of Joe Biden as a matter of politics. It’s a weird landscape were in where Donald Trump gets credibly charged in four charging documents, four indictments around the country, and that's a political boon for him. And Joe Biden, on the other hand, this week gets exonerated in a document, and it's a political nightmare for him. Something is upside down.
SARAH ISGUR, THE DISPATCH SENIOR EDITOR & FORMER TRUMP JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, as you said, they found evidence that he willfully retained national security information. And even probably beyond a reasonable doubt. But the justice manual says that that's not enough even if you can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. You have to believe, as the prosecutor, that you can get a conviction from a jury. So, why that information was included was because he's explaining to the attorney general in that report why he believes a jury would not convict Joe Biden even if they could probably prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
KARL: But how does him allegedly not knowing the year his son died, how is that relevant?
ISGUR: Because the mental state that's required -- it has to be willful, right? So, they found evidence that he knew there were classified documents in his basement for instance, but if he can tell a jury, like, yeah, I guess I knew that day but then I forgot the next day, then he didn't willfully retain the classified documents.
KARL: So, the – obviously, there's audiotape. There are two interviews – interviews -- an interview over two days, five hours with the special counsel that he's basing this faulty memory, saying he didn't know exactly when he was vice president, when his term ended, when it started. Sarah, what are the odds that we're actually going to hear the audiotapes? Not just see the transcript. See the transcript and hear the audiotape.
ISGUR: I think it's pretty high. Congress is, obviously, going to subpoena this. The Republican House certainly. The Department of Justice may try to refuse to comply with that subpoena. Generally, that will go to an accommodation process in the courts. It could drag on a long time. But the Biden White House is going to have to think carefully. Would you rather it drag on a long time and then turn over the tapes, or would you rather turn them over now?
KARL: Have the -- have the tapes come out in the middle of the fall campaign maybe or right before the conventions?
KARL: Preet, I want to play you what Vice President Harris had to say about all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts, and clearly politically motivated. Gratuitous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Is that a good look for the vice president of the United States to be attacking a prosecutor as being politically motivated?
BHARARA: You know, I don't know. What I do know is, he could have accomplished everything he needed to accomplish under his mandate, under his remit, upholding his oath by talking generally about the kinds of things that Joe Biden's memory was lacking on with respect to the investigation at hand, right? If he had removed a few of those sentences, changed the tone a little bit, he would have done exactly what Sarah says he needed to do, which is show the difficulty in proving willfulness and mental state, the problematic nature of trying to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury. He could have done all of that without some of this nonsense that was in this report.
KARL: But we’ve been hearing Trump over and over again, witch hunt, witch hunt. He always attacks prosecutors. I mean just –
BHARARA: Look –
KARL: Is that what you want to hear out of the Biden team?
BHARARA: I was attacked on many occasions.
KARL: Yes, as a former prosecutor.
BHARARA: When you investigate and prosecutor people –
BHARARA: And sometimes even when you exonerate them, you don't get sent flowers, right? So, it's part of the game.
She has -- she has a political role here. She's not a prosecutor anymore. She's the vice president and running mate of the sitting president of the United States who has suffered a great political fallout from some of these sentences in that report over the past weekend. So, I'm not going to judge her. I'm not going to judge the former president or the current president either.
KARL: So – so, and then, quickly, we had, obviously, the Supreme Court oral arguments.
Sarah, as our resident Supreme Court whisperer, I think "The New Yorker" says that they listen to your podcast. What was your sense listening to that? It seems clearly the Supreme Court is not going to allow Colorado to take Trump off the ballot.
ISGUR: Yes, Colorado is going to lose this case. Donald Trump will be on the ballot. The questions remaining are what the vote is going to be, and what the reasoning is going to be. It looks like we’re going to have seven, eight votes potentially. And they’re going to say that a state doesn't get to dothis.
KARL: And immunity is going to be the next thing up.
BHARARA: Yeah. I think the court will take it up. I think this is not going to go as well for the Trump folks.
KARL: So, could we see two lopsided opinions, one against Trump and one for Trump?
ISGUR: That's exactly what we’re going to see.
KARL: And maybe the country looking at the court and saying, ah, it’s not political after all?
BHARARA: Not political after all. I don’t know if they’ll -- I don't know if they'll say that, but I think your -- your prediction about what’s going to happen is correct.
ISGUR: No. Instead, both sides will just say they hate the court.
KARL: All right. Preet, Sarah, thank you very much for joining us.
BHARARA: Thanks, Jon.
KARL: When President Biden spoke on Thursday night, he defended his memory and his bid for re-election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you think your memory has gotten worse, Mr. President?
BIDEN: No, my memory has not gotten -- my memory is fine. My memory -- take a look at what I’ve done since I’ve been president. None of you thought I could pass any of the things I got passed. How did that happen?
I’m the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I’m joined now by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a co-chair of the Biden/Harris campaign's national advisory board.
Senator Coons, let's get right to the question raised in this report of age. You heard the special counsel with that line, which will reverberate through this campaign that the president is a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.
The president disputes this. Are we going to hear the audiotapes of these interviews that it's based on? I mean, should the White House disclose that?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Jonathan, I don't know what the White House will or won't disclose, but here's what I know --
COONS: -- of the president I work with and alongside whom I serve -- when I came back from the Middle East with a bipartisan group of 10 senators, we went to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, I thought the president might have us over to the White House for 15, 20 minutes.
He had us in at 7:00 at night. We sat down with his national security team and for 2-1/2 hours, he went around the table and asked for our insights and our input, and then he led a masterful conversation about the challenges to our security, the pathway to peace, the difficulties with Iran and with its proxies.
And as we walked out 2 1/2 hours later from the White House, I turned to one of my Republican colleagues who is not publicly a big fan of the president, and I said, what did you think? And he said, that's incredible.
This is a man who is sharp, who is on top of his game, who knows what's going on in the Middle East, and around the world. And as he said in his press conference, we should be focused on two things -- the outcome of this report he was cleared completely, while Donald Trump faces 40 federal felony charges for obstruction of justice and refusing to protect our national secrets, and President Biden is accomplishing remarkable things for our country.
KARL: And I hear similar things from people who spent a lot of time with Biden recently, just like what you said. And, by the way, we’re going to hear from Bibi Netanyahu later on the show.
COONS: Yeah, ask Bibi. He knows.
KARL: And he’s had interactions, and we'll see what he says. But let's look at what happened when he came out. And public perception is what's important here in a campaign.
Let's take a look at what happened when he came out Thursday night to defend himself on this, and to insist that his memory is just fine and he's fit. But look at what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: As you know, initially, the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I mean, he's holding a press conference to push back against this notion that his memory's gone, and he's confusing the president of Egypt with the president of Mexico.
COONS: Right. Jonathan, you’ve been at this a long time. As you well know, small gaffes are a part of what all of us in public life do. Speaker Johnson of the House just confused Iran and Israel. He said we are beginning to send aid to Iran. Donald Trump confused Nancy Pelosi and Nikki Haley.
Here's what matters, not the occasional small gaffe. He had a 12-minute press conference where he was focused, engaged, purposeful, and all you're focused on is that one minute at the end.
KARL: Well, that’s -- that’s not --
COONS: That's not what distinguishes him from his opponent.
KARL: That’s not exactly -- that's not exactly fair, and I will concede there are many moments, and we have, Lord knows, talked about them where Donald Trump seems wildly confused about a lot of things. But --
COONS: Confused, untruthful, and alarming in the things he says.
KARL: And we've focused on all of that, but this was not just one moment in the 12-minute press conference. I mean, take a look at what we saw just recently, a handful of other events.
Take a look at a few more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: There's been a response from a -- there's been a response from the opposition, but -- yes, I’m sorry, from Hamas.
I said, America's back, and Mitterrand from Germany -- I mean, from France, looked at me --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I mean, you know, Mitterrand, whether it's Germany or France, obviously, he's from France, but he’s been dead for 25 years.
I mean there are a number of these incidents. And – and they may be gaffs. We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes. But this is what the American public is seeing and it's raised concerns. Our poll shows over 80 percent responding say that they think that Biden is too old to serve as president again.
COONS: And, Jonathan, if press coverage focuses relentlessly on things that don't represent Joe Biden's real body of work, you can push toward that kind of result. That poll should have been about, who's actually working to secure our border? Joe Biden, who's worked across the aisle for months with a bipartisan group in the Senate, or Donald Trump, who is willfully killing the bipartisan border deal in the Senate, not because he wants to secure America, but to secure his own re-election.
What that poll could have been about is, who understands that our alliances keep us safer? Joe Biden, who's led 50 countries to come to the defense of Ukraine, or Donald Trump, who alarmingly last night bragged about a story where he claims he threatened a NATO ally to throw them to the Russian wolves if they didn't pay up? NATO isn't a protection racket. It's a security alliance.
KARL: But despite –
COONS: So, the substance, the difference. Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and most elected officials, make small gaffes, just like the ones you just showed. That's not what matters.
We are in a fight for the soul of our nation. And the idea that somehow Joe Biden forgot the date of his son's death is offensive and appalling. And what you should be focused on, in my view, what that poll should have focused on, what our nation should focus on –
KARL: But – but – but can I – can I stop you for a second though because –
COONS: – is the way that Donald Trump is undermining rule of law, democracy, and our safety as a nation.
KARL: But – but – we had – we do have polling on – on the issues you're discussing.
KARL: And the polling shows widespread disapproval of how President Biden has handled the border, and also the foreign policy. I mean, despite what you are saying --
COONS: But let’s -- let's take that border issue, OK? After months of coverage about, you know, disaster at the border, JOE Biden and a bipartisan group in the Senate did what the Senate is supposed to do, negotiate and negotiate and negotiate, came to a tough deal. James Lankford, the most conservative adult human I'm friends with, worked his heart out with Senators Murphy and Sinema. We finally had a deal.
KARL: And Trump tanked it.
COONS: And why is it dead? Trump tanked it. He picked up the phone and killed the bill for his own re-election.
KARL: So before you go, I want to play you something that President Biden said back in March of 2020 right going into the Michigan primary, about what his term as president would be and what the future would be.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else. There's an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, I've spoken to some of the leaders that were behind him who have privately said that they took that as basically a promise. He was going to serve one term and he was going to be a bridge to the next leadership of Democrats. Why hasn't that happened, and should that happen?
COONS: Joe Biden ran to restore the soul of our nation and, frankly, to make sure that Donald Trump was not re-elected. Donald Trump is again going to be the candidate of the Republican Party. Joe Biden is the one Democrat who has beaten him, who can beat him, and who will beat him. And if you look hard at his record of protecting our veterans, of making our country safer, of passing big, bipartisan bills, 15 million jobs created, restoring manufacturing, the stock market at an all-time high, unemployment at a record low, his record is strong and deserves re-election.
KARL: All right, Senator Coons, thank you for joining us this morning.
COONS: Thank you, sir.
KARL: I really appreciate it.
Up next, President Biden calls Israel's response in Gaza, quote, over the top. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel joins us for his first interview with an American news network in nearly three months.
We're back in two minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I'm of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been over the top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That was President Biden on Thursday night with his sharpest criticism yet of Israel's military response in Gaza.
I am joined now by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr. Prime Minister, let me ask you right away, what -- what's your response to President Biden saying that your response in Gaza has been "over the top?"
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I appreciate President Biden's support for Israel since the beginning of the war. I don't know exactly what he meant by that, but put yourself in Israel's shoes.
We were attacked. unprovoked attack, murderous attack, on October 7th, the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust. And let me tell you, I think we've responded in a way that goes after the terrorists and tries to minimize the civilian population in which the terrorists embed themselves and use them as human shields.
We drop thousands of fliers. We phone Palestinians in their homes. We ask them to leave. We give them safe corridors and safe zones. So I think we're -- we're doing the right thing, and let me tell you one other thing. We're going to win this thing. Victory is within reach.
KARL: But you've had more than 28,000 people killed, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. You have had hundreds of thousands that have been forced from their homes. You have a lack of water, a lack of food. Don't you feel a moral obligation to do more, to do something to protect what is seen as -- to stop what is seen as a catastrophe?
NETANYAHU: I think that any civilian loss, any civilian casualty is a tragedy, and it's a tragedy that is forced upon us by Hamas. But let me tell you something. I'd be cautious with the Hamas statistics. And I can tell you that, according to these urban warfare experts and other commentators, we've brought down the civilian-to-terrorist casualties, the ratio, down below 1-1, which is considerably less than in any other theater of similar warfare. And we're going to do more. We're going to provide...
KARL: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You're saying it's only been one civilian that's been killed for one Hamas terrorist, in Gaza?
NETANYAHU: Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. Yes. We have killed -- we've killed and wounded over 20,000 Hamas terrorists, out of that about 12,000 -- 12,000 fighters. And we're doing everything we can to minimize civilian casualties and continue to do so. But one thing we're not going to do is we're not going to let Hamas emerge victorious.
And if we leave, it will be a tremendous victory for the Iran terror axis. It's bad for everyone.
KARL: Yeah, you've directed the Israeli Defense Forces to evacuate Rafah in advance of this ground invasion. Where are those people supposed to go? This is 1.4 million people, many of whom have fled northern Gaza. I mean, they're living in tents. Where are these people supposed to go?
NETANYAHU: Well, Rafah is a -- is a very small percentage of Gaza, and I think it's about 10 percent, or 15 percent.
KARL: I mean, the estimates from there...
NETANYAHU: ... the area north of Gaza, that has already been cleared...
KARL: Well, there's an estimate of 1.4 million people in that area right now. And as the -- as the German foreign minister said, they can't...
KARL: ... they can't just disappear. Where are they supposed to go?
NETANYAHU: No, well, the areas that we've cleared, north of Rafah, plenty of areas there, but we are working out a detailed plan to do so. And that's what we've done up to now. We're not -- we're not cavalier about this. This is part of our war effort, to get civilians out of harm's way.
It's part of Hamas's effort to keep them in harm's way. But we've so far succeeded, and we're going to succeed again. Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying, lose the war. Keep Hamas there. And Hamas has promised to do the October 7th massacre over and over and over again.
KARL: But the Biden administration says it will be a disaster if you go into Rafah in this way. And it's not just the Biden administration. It's your -- it's your allies in the region. I mean, we've heard from the Egyptian foreign minister that it would be a disaster -- disastrous consequences. The UAE is warning of exasperating the catastrophe, the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. I mean, aren't you -- is any of this giving you second thought about going in and doing this?
NETANYAHU: The answer is, Jon, they don't have to give me second thoughts about taking care of the civilian population, along with the provision of the necessary humanitarian aid. We’ve been doing it and I’ve been directing it systematically.
Victory is within reach. And that has to be understood, and victory will be the best thing that will happen, not only for Israel, but for the Palestinians themselves. I can't see a future for the Palestinians or for peace in the Middle East if Hamas is victorious.
KARL: You've defined victory, and you said the war will not end until Hamas is completely eliminated.
How are you going to know when that is? How do you know when Hamas is completely eliminated?
NETANYAHU: When you eliminate their organized fighting formations, and as I’ve said, we've taken 18 out of their 24 terrorist battalions out of commission. You're mopping up the remaining individual terrorists, and when they release the hostages, of course, and ensure that Hamas -- that Gaza is no longer a threat to Israel.
You don't have to kill every last terrorist. You don't have to kill every last ISIS terrorist, but you make sure that ISIS was finished as a military force. You have to dismantle.
Hamas is a military -- a military force that controls territory. We're well within reach, and we shouldn't stop.
KARL: Well, you can kill them as a military force, but how do you kill the idea of a resistance as long as there is occupation? At the end of this process, after this is done, after you've eliminated the military threat, doesn't there need to be a Palestinian state?
NETANYAHU: Everybody who talks about a two-state solution -- well, I ask, what do you mean by that?
Should the Palestinians have an army? Should they have -- can they sign a military pact with Iran? Can they import rockets from North Korea and other deadly weapons? Should they continue to educate their children for terrorism and annihilation?
Of course, I say, of course, not. And the substance of all we said in a future peace agreement, which everybody agrees is far off, I think the Palestinians should have the powers to govern themselves, but none of the power should threaten Israel.
And the most important power that has to remain in Israel's hands is overriding security control in the area west of the Jordan. That includes Gaza. Otherwise, history has shown terrorism comes back, and we don't want terrorism to come back.
KARL: I want to ask you about the hostages. Relatives of the hostages have written a letter to your cabinet saying, quote, "The families request to immediately meet with the members of the cabinet and hear if it is still committed to the release of the abductees or whether the power to run negotiations should be transferred to a party that sees itself as committed to saving their lives."
So, let me understand your priorities. What is the higher priority at this moment? Totally eliminating Hamas or saving the lives of those hostages and getting them freed?
NETANYAHU: They're not mutually exclusive. The reason we succeeded in getting 110 hostages out, that's half the hostages, is because we applied military pressure. Not because we stopped applying it, but because we applied it.
Look, I think the families of the hostages are in a terrible bind. I mean, it's -- it’s just -- it tears your heart out to listen to them and to think about what their relatives are going through.
I'm committed to getting them out. We'll make every effort. It requires pressure, and pressure has worked, and pressure will work again.
KARL: How many of the 132 hostages do you think are still alive?
NETANYAHU: I think enough to warrant the kind of efforts that we're doing, and we're going to try to do our best to get all of those who are alive back, and frankly, also the bodies of the dead, but I won't go into that right now.
I'm not sure that anybody can put themselves in the position of the families, but neither can the families put themselves in the position of the decision-makers.
These are two separate things. They reach our heart. They reach my heart, but I’m also responsible for the safety and the security of the people of Israel and to make sure that these terrorist outrages, and these kidnappings do not happen again.
KARL: Finally, before you go, I’m sure you saw this week the special counsel here in the United States described President Biden as an elderly man with a poor memory. You've known Joe Biden for decades, and you've dealt with him a lot over the course of this conflict.
What's your -- what’s your assessment of him?
NETANYAHU: Well, Jon, I have had more than a dozen phone conversations, extended phone conversations with President Biden. He also came on a visit to Israel during wartime which is an historic first, and I found him very clear and very focused. We managed to agree on the war aims and many things. Sometimes we have disagreements, but they weren't borne of a lack of understanding on his part or on my part.
So that's what I can tell you. So, I haven't seen that.
KARL: All right, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you for joining us here on "This Week."
NETANYAHU: Thank you. Thank you, Jon.
KARL: Coming up Republican Governor Brian Kemp with a new warning about the direction of his party.
We'll be right back.
KARL: Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia says 2024 can't be a race to the bottom. He joins us in two minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP, (R) GEORGIA: Now, it should be about the future of our country, not a race to the bottom. Voters know they don’t like Joe Biden and his complete lack of leadership. But it’s also pretty clear they aren’t sold on what Republicans will do if they win this November. To win, Republicans have to give voters a reason to vote for us. Not just oppose the other side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That was Georgia Governor Brian Kemp weighing in on the 2024 race on Saturday. He joins us now.
Governor Kemp, welcome to this week.
So, I want to start right there. You – you said that it’s pretty clear that voters aren’t sold on what Republicans will do if they win in November. Can you elaborate on that? What – what are you referring to?
GOV. BRIAN KEMP, (R) GEORGIA: Well, I just think at any level, whether it’s the presidential race, people are that are running for the United States Senate, Congress, local races, I think there’s been a lot of frustration out there amongst the American people of politicians trying to destroy the other side versus telling people why you should vote for us. And this is a message that I've had since I spoke to the RNC donor retreat in Nashville many months ago, warning our party and our leaders and people running for president. We’ve got to tell people what we’re for. We’ve got to stay focused on the future. Quit looking in the rearview mirror. I believe that the voters that are going to decide this presidential election are tired of hearing about the 2020 election and want to focus on what candidates are going to do for them in the months and years ahead.
KARL: Well, there’s – there’s one individual who has been relentlessly obsessed with the 2020 election and insisting falsely that it was stolen, and that’s Donald Trump. I mean, do you see that change? I mean is Trump the problem there?
KEMP: Well, look, I'm – I'm just giving my advice for somebody that’s in a, you know, a slightly red state now. Some people say it’s purple. But we showed in the 2022 election if you run on issues and your record and tell people what you’re going to do for them in the future, you can be very successful. But like past elections in Georgia, if you’re focused in the rearview mirror, that’s not going to turn out very well for you.
So, you know, candidates can take my advice or not. That’s just the way I feel. I think that’s the way Georgia voters feel. They want somebody to do something about 40 year high inflation. They want somebody to do something about the border. They’re tried of people trying to pass the buck and blaming somebody else. They want leadership. They want leadership if you look at crises around the world. And I think that’s what the people are looking for.
KARL: So, let me ask you, I know you were on the border. You were with Governor Abbott and several other Republican governors. You’ve been very critical of – of President Biden’s handling of the border. I mean a lot of voters are as well.
But what did you make of the way the Republicans imploded in – in Congress that – on this question of the – of the bill that – that Senator Lankford had negotiated, endorsed by the – the – the union – the border patrol union? I mean was that a mistake for Republicans to – to tank something that at least – at least according to the people that are on the border, guarding the border, though would have been a good step?
KEMP: Well, it was not a very productive week in Washington, D.C., whether it was for the Congress or for the president. And I think that’s what frustrates people when you look around the country and it’s why – you know I talked yesterday about what Republican governors are doing and showing leadership on issues and getting things done.
You know, I think people in D.C. ought to be voting on policy, not what somebody’s telling them what to do. That’s just my personal opinion. I'll let, you know, each of the senators and the representatives speak to that. But I also think, for President Biden, trying to pass the buck and blame Republicans now about the issue at the border, it’s just a simple lack of leadership.
You know, over a year ago I was at the World Economic Forum with Senator Coons, Manchin and Sinema, and I told them – they were talking about passing a bipartisan immigration reform bill. And I said, look, while you’re working on this – and, by the way, people have been working on this for the last 10 or 20 years. Just secure the dang border. That’s what the people want. The governors are willing to help in those efforts. You can see how successful it has been with what Greg Abbott’s done in Texas.
But look, we can’t just secure one state’s border. We’ve got to secure the whole southern border. And it takes the president to do that. He could do that or start doing that today and quit passing the buck on, you know, some legislation that pass – you know, that didn’t pass this week, when we’ve been dealing with his issue for years now.
And I would remind people across the country, Joe Biden and the Democrats controlled every branch of the – you know, the legislative and the executive branch from 2020 to 2022 and did nothing on this issue when Republican governors were begging them to – to act.
KARL: So -- so let me ask you, on the 2024 race, you’re seeing a lot of Republicans all kind of stampeding towards Trump now endorsing him and telling Nikki Haley to get out of the race. What’s your sense? Do you think she still has a chance? I mean not many people have voted yet. Two – two small states, three, I guess, Nevada, but not many people have voted yet.
KEMP: Well, look, I'm glad that the – the RNC and whoever was leading the coup up there to, you know, just to point somebody to be our nominee didn’t go through with that. I think you need to let the process play out. I think voters want to have their say. At the end of the day, that’s the way the process started, and it’s the way it should end. And so, you know, if I was the Trump campaign, you know, I would be pushing to get Nikki Haley out. If – if I was Governor Haley, I’d be – you know, she feels strongly about what she’s doing and the message that she’s bringing to the American people.
Then I would encourage her to keep fighting. I mean that’s the way the process is. I think to circumvent that will only make people mad and made it harder for people to come together at the end of the day and find somebody that can beat Joe Biden, because that is something that most Americans agree on, that he is asleep at the wheel and we need a change in the White House.
KARL: Just last night Donald Trump suggested that Nikki Haley’s husband is not on the campaign trail because she wants to be way – ridiculous. He’s on a military deployment overseas. I mean what do you make of that? He’s basically mocking somebody’s military service.
KEMP: Well, I'll let him answer that question. I can tell you, in the state of Georgia, and from my perspective, we are so proud of our men and women in the military. We’re going to welcome one of your fallen today, Sgt. William Rivers, back to the state and we’ll honor his life and his service. He was killed in the drone attack just a few days ago. Just – just tragic.
But we appreciate our heroes in Georgia. And, you know, I think it’s unfortunate for anybody to be criticizing our men and women serving overseas, regardless of whether they’re at the – you know, overseas fighting a battle or – or on the border doing the same.
KARL: We should all honor that sacrifice.
Quickly, before you go, I want to also ask you about this question of absolute immunity Donald Trump is saying that a president should have absolute immunity for actions taken while in office. Do you agree with that? Most Americans don’t.
KEMP: Well, my – my personal opinion is, no one is above the law. You know, I've continued to talk about following the law and the Constitution and that’s what I'm going to continue to do in the great state of Georgia.
KARL: OK, Brian Kemp, thank you very much for joining us on this week.
The roundtable’s up next. Nikki Haley fights back after Donald Trump mocks her husband’s absence from the campaign trail while he’s serving on a military deployment overseas. The latest on the 2024 race. We’re back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at what happened a few days ago, Donald Trump lost immunity. Republicans lost a vote on the border. Republicans lost a vote on Israel. Republicans fired their party chair. And basically, you look at that. Donald Trump had his fingers on all of that. And everything that he has done, from the rants, to talking about revenge after New Hampshire, to everything in between, it is total chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That's Nikki Haley on the campaign trail in South Carolina.
Let’s bring in the powerhouse roundtable.
Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, former RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, ABC News political director Rick Klein, and “Politico Playbook” co-author Rachael Bade.
So, Rick, despite that litany from Nikki Haley about all the Republican defeats this week, and there were a lot of – there were a lot of problems for Republicans this week, this is also a week where Donald Trump showed yet again total dominance over the Republican Party. This is his party.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is, and this would seem like a perfect moment for Nikki Haley to make the case, except she's got two weeks to make that case in South Carolina. It doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Super Tuesday right after that. He is in control of his party in a way that Joe Biden, frankly, has struggled to be at times.
And I think all of this is a reminder to something fundamental to the race that -- I've heard from one Democratic strategist just in the last couple of days. He said, look, we’ve always known this to be the case. If this election’s about Joe Biden, this Democrat said, we lose. If it’s about Donald Trump, that’s how we win.
So, they need that kind of refocus of the campaign. And their hope, among some Democrats at least, is that the Bob Hur report was a wakeup call. The problem is, a lot of people heard this as a 10 alarm fire instead. And then you – what do you do about it?
So, the Democrats are in a very tough spot here, but they want this campaign to continue to focus, Trump, Trump, Trump.
KARL: Well, we'll get to Hur and Biden in a moment, but, Rachael, you also – you heard from Brian Kemp and that was an interesting interview to me app. A prominent, very conservative Republican governor, popular Republican governor. Re-elected in 2022, a year where a lot of Republicans lost. And he doesn't shy away from criticizing Donald Trump. He seems to be pointing to a different direction, but why is he such an outlier?
RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTING POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, clearly Donald Trump, what he says goes these days. I mean we saw that on Capitol Hill. And I think, you know, beyond Brian Kemp, we look at Mitch McConnell and sort of Mitch McConnell really wanting this border deal to go through in recent days, encouraging his conference to support it and not even his own leadership team lined up behind him to do that. Donald Trump wanted to kill it because he didn't want to give Joe Biden a win. That's ultimately what ended up happening. I mean so clearly, you know, as Rick was just saying, what the president -- former president says what he wants is ended – is going right now.
KARL: I had -- Steve Bannon said to me this week, look what we've done in a few months. We got rid of McCarthy, got rid of McDaniel. We're getting rid of McConnell. I mean, in reality, McConnell can't be removed as leader, but he's effectively not the leader anymore.
BADE: Right. Yes, I think the past few days have really shown that his influence has very much waned. I mean he used to be a leader sort of known for being able to control – not control his conference, but he had a lot of influence on them. He could sort of shepherd them to go in a direction of his choosing. And clearly, we're seeing that – that fate. And not only that but his critics, people like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, who are calling for him to step aside, they're becoming even more vocal.
And then you see, again, the difference between McConnell and Trump, who have totally different visions for the party, haven't spoken since before January 6th, and increasingly is becoming clear that if Trump is elected to the White House, there's no place for McConnell in terms of leadership. A lot of people are saying this behind the scenes.
KARL: So, Reince, this former president who left with a second impeachment and insurrection on Capitol Hill just last night, is talking about how he would encourage Russia to do whatever the hell they want, with a NATO country wouldn't defend a NATO country in the (INAUDIBLE) hadn't -- hadn't paid dues. Don't know exactly what he means there. But are you comfortable with this total takeover of Trump?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think the reality is, Trump is completely the biggest voice, the most powerful voice in the Republican Party. Putting the party aside, it was probably the best week for Donald Trump and in the 2024 cycle --
KARL: Is not an amazing statement, putting the party aside --
PRIEBUS: Well --
PRIEBUS: -- because Trump is -- is such a dominant figure. And if you compare that with -- with Joe Biden in your poll, but what's stunning about that is that three-quarters of actual Democrats said that he was too old. You know it -- what why that speaks to me is that the stronghold that Trump has on the Republican Party is nothing near where -- where Joe Biden is. So, the court said, you know, Trump is probably not going to be kicked off the ballot, he wins all the delegates in Nevada, Nikki Haley loses to none of the above.
And then the catastrophic report by the DOJ that codified the fact that even though Biden committed a felony and willful retention of documents, he's mentally incapable of surviving a trial, therefore, we're not going to actually move forward --
KARL: I mean, it wasn't --
KARL: -- right totally incapable surviving a trial, it was that (INAUDIBLE) would find (INAUDIBLE) --
PRIEBUS: -- he's mentally -- he doesn't have the mental capacity.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: And that is why many Democrats basically called -- called it political and judicial and legal malpractice because he was -- the special counsel was more interested in score -- what appears to be scoring political points in making legal arguments. Donald Trump has been indicted on 40 felony counts of obstruction of justice, and willful retention on National Defense Information.
KARL: That's 40 counts just on one of the first 40 indictments, by the way, I guess. OK.
BRAZILE: Just on one -- one in 40 indictments. But you know, I want to -- I want to address this age issue because Mark Twain said the best age is, is mind over matter. And if you don't mind, it doesn't matter. It matters to the American people. I'm not going to sit here and try to challenge the polls, because if you poll people in my house, even on Mardi Gras weekend, I had to wear my colors. They would also say age is an issue. But you know, what else is an issue, the wisdom they experience. Well, Joe Biden gets it right, every day, every time, every interview, he's going to make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes.
But at the same time, the American people will have a choice, a choice between a candidate who is putting the national interests ahead of his special interests a candidate who is getting us out of this, this terrible economy that we had fallen for years of Donald Trump, a candidate who's putting the American people in middle class front and center. And I'm not -- I'm not going to be a Democrat that runs away from Joe Biden simply because he's older than me. I want to embrace what he's trying to do to help the American people, and I think that's where we're going to take this election.
PRIEBUS: Well, I'll give you a quote. My mom -- I got a quote from my mom, the older you get, the more important it is not to act your age. And the problem Joe Biden's got is that he is acting his age, if not older. There, you know, if he wasn't running for president would be uncomfortable actually talking about his mental capability because it would be bordering on being rude and insensitive.
KARL: Can we talk?
PRIEBUS: He's running for --
BRAZILE: Can we talk about Donald Trump --
PRIEBUS: -- President of the United States?
BRAZILE: -- (INAUDIBLE) at his age.
PRIEBUS: He's President of the United States.
BRAZILE: He's running for president.
PRIEBUS: And he's losing everywhere.
BRAZILE: He's -- no he's not.
PRIEBUS: OK. He's not losing in California and New York. OK fine.
BRAZILE: Oh, come on. Come on. Are you judging by what the polls say today?
PRIEBUS: What I saw, like you do.
BRAZILE: Or what the polls, the people who actually get out and vote, Joe Biden has won every contest as far, he has 91 delegates, Trump has 60 --
PRIEBUS: He's not running (INAUDIBLE).
KARL: Trump -- Trump hasn't really won anything since 2016. And the polls --
BRAZILE: Thank you.
KARL: -- but speaking of Donald Trump and his mental state, let's just take a little look at something else he said last night about Nikki Haley's husband who is on a military deployment right now overseas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Where is her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone. He knew. He knew.
HALEY: Donald, if you have something to say, don't say it behind my back. Get on a debate stage and say it to my face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I mean, it's pretty extraordinary.
KARL: The guy's on a military deployment. I mean -- I mean, he's -- he's essentially mocking his military service.
PRIEBUS: ... certainly, I wouldn't go there myself. I mean, clearly...
KARL: But would you want your...
PRIEBUS: ... that's not something I would ever do.
KARL: ... nominee to...
KARL: ... that?
PRIEBUS: But I do think, if you rewind the tape a little bit, what you'll see is he was talking about a visit at Mar-a-Lago that Nikki Haley had with him when she told him that there was no way that she would run against him.
Look. It doesn't help, but it's not what's moving these polls. What's moving these polls is where we are in the economy, where we are in crime, where we are on immigration, where we are in the world, whether Joe Biden is mentally capable of being president or not.
And -- and this is an electorate that looks more like 2016 than it does 2020. Those are the facts. That's why the -- President Trump's winning in the battleground states. Where it's going to go, I don't know. Nobody knows. I can only look at the data that's in front of me and call it as I see it.
BADE: No, just to bring it back again to this special counsel's report, I think one interesting thing to point out here is that a lot of Democrats privately feel this is self-inflicted. I mean, the president has really -- his aides, at least, have really kept him away from reporters. He's done a fraction of the press conferences, a fraction of the interviews that previous presidents have done. And there's a belief, you know, that, because of that, people are seizing on these moments where he does flub up, and it's making a huge deal out of -- out of something.
And so there is a behind-the-scenes effort right now to try to get him to go on the defense, to be more communicative...
KARL: To go on the -- go on the...
BADE: I'm sorry. Go on the offense.
BADE: We talked about how I don't know sports.
KARL: We've got a football game coming up.
BADE: I'm a ballerina here.
KLEIN: And, look, like I said, there's the 10-alarm fire camp among Democrats, who say we have to do something dramatic. There's nothing to be done. Right? He's going to be the nominee. Even if someone were to jump in right now, they couldn't get the delegates to defeat him. It would have to be on Biden to get out. That would spark a whole lot of other things.
On the wake-up call camp, people are saying, OK, get -- to Rachael's point, let's get a message -- what Donna said, what Senator Coons said today, talk about age and experience in that way. Use that -- use that as an advantage when you can, but don't try to convince people that he's not old, because he is. And people think it, in our poll and everywhere else.
BRAZILE: Look, he's no spring chicken, all right? Drop the -- drop it. I mean, Donald Trump is not a spring chicken. Some days he thinks he's running against Barack Obama. Some days he thinks he's running against Hillary Clinton. And guess what? Nancy Pelosi is not Nikki Haley, OK? So let's...
KARL: All right.
BRAZILE: We -- we know the difference.
KARL: All right, Donna, on that note, thank you all. We'll be right back.
KARL: That's all for today. Thank you for sharing part of your Super Bowl Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight," and have a great day.
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