'This Week' Transcript 2-26-23: Jake Sullivan & Rep. Michael McCaul
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, February 26
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, February 26, 2023 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)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR (voice over): Year two of the war in Ukraine begins. As President Zelenskyy rallies the Ukrainian people, President Biden shores up alliances.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.
RADDATZ: And Vladimir Putin vows to fight on.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: (INAUDIBLE).
RADDATZ: But with tens of thousands killed, how will this bloody war end? This morning, our exclusive reporting from the White House --
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: President Zelenskyy continues to say what he really needs are F-16s. Will you send F-16s?
RADDATZ: To the front lines --
IAN PANNELL: A growing number of Americans believe that the U.S. is giving too much support to Ukraine. What would your message be on the anniversary?
RADDATZ: And those caught in between.
RADDATZ (on camera): You walk these streets, you talk to people, and the pain is everywhere.
RADDATZ (voice over): Plus, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul.
EMILY KOHRS: I will be sad if nothing happens.
RADDATZ: Georgia's grand jury forewoman recommends multiple indictments in the election interference case against Donald Trump, and his allies.
EMILY KOHRS: It's not a short list. There definitely are some names that you expect.
RADDATZ: But with the 2024 race heating up, has she undermined the case? All the fallout with our powerhouse roundtable.
Plus, more of David Muir's exclusive interview with President Biden.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think things are a little out of whack. And I don't blame people for being down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Martha Raddatz.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared the first day of the war in Ukraine the longest and hardest day in Ukraine’s modern history. It's been an unbelievably trying year for his country ever since, but also one of resolve. Kyiv still stands, and Ukraine has taken back roughly half of the land it has lost since the start of the war.
As we begin year two, the U.S. announced new sanctions against Russia, and another round of military aid to Ukraine after President Biden's historic trip to Kyiv and Poland where he declared that Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. The leaders of G-7 nations met with Zelenskyy Friday, forcefully calling for Russia to stop its ongoing aggression.
And around the world, monuments were lit up in blue and yellow, solidarity, from New York to Paris, Berlin to Sydney.
But what comes next? This morning, we're going to assess the state of the conflict, where it's headed, growing concerns about China's role, and speak with Ukrainians on the ground about life under Russia's assault.
But we begin with more of David Muir's exclusive interview with President Biden at the White House Friday where they discussed the U.S. commitment to Ukraine heading into the next year of this conflict.
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, you know, as we sit here today, it was one year ago today the Russian invasion of Ukraine. You said in Warsaw that Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia.
So, how does this war end, and what does victory look like?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that depends on what the Ukrainians decide. But here's what we have to do in the meantime. We have to put the Ukrainians in a position where they can make advances this spring and summer and move to a place where a negotiated – she -- they can negotiate from a position of strength.
MUIR: You announced another $2.5 billion in aid to Ukraine today. $113 billion now. We know the vast majority of Americans support Ukraine, but there are now many who are asking, how long can we spend like this?
Biden: Well, first of all, I'm not sure how many are asking that. I know the MAGA crowd is. The right-wing Republicans are, you know, talking about, we can't do this.
We find ourselves in a situation where the cost of doing -- of walking away could be considerably higher than the cost of helping Ukraine maintain its independence.
MUIR: We know President Zelenskyy continues to say what he really needs are F-16s. Will you send F-16s?
BIDEN: Look, we're sending him what our seasoned military thinks he needs now. He needs tanks. He needs artillery. He needs air defense, including another HIMARS. There are things he needs now that we're sending him to put him in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall.
MUIR: You don’t think he needs F-16s now?
BIDEN: No, he doesn’t need F-16s now.
MUIR: Is that a never?
BIDEN: Look, first of all, the idea that we know exactly what’s going to be needed a year or two, three from now, but there is no basis upon which there is a rationale according to our military now to provide F-16s.
MUIR: But you're not ruling it out?
BIDEN: I am ruling it out for now.
MUIR: For now.
Vladimir Putin told the Russian people this week that China’s President Xi is coming to Russia, likely as early as this spring.
I know the State Department and the Pentagon now have both warned China not to offer lethal military assistance to Russia. Would that cross a line for you?
BIDEN: Look. It's not in China’s -- I had a very frank conversation with President Xi this past summer on this issue, and I pointed out to him, without any government prodding, 600 American corporations left Russia from McDonald’s to Exxon to across the board. And I said, and if you are engaged in the same kind of brutality by supporting the brutality that's going on, I said, you may face the same consequence. I don't anticipate -- we haven't seen it yet, but I don't anticipate a major initiative on the part of China providing weaponry to – to – to Russia.
MUIR: But if they did, would that be crossing a line for you, Mr. President?
BIDEN: It would be the same line everyone else would have crossed. In other words, we post severe sanctions on anyone who has done that.
MUIR: So, there would be serious consequences?
BIDEN: I'll let you characterize what they would be. We would respond.
MUIR: What do you make of this Chinese peace plan floated overnight that Putin is now applauding today?
BIDEN: I think you answered the question, Putin’s applauding it, so how could it be any good? I'm not being facetious. I'm being deadly earnest. I've seen nothing in the plan that would indicate that there is something that would be beneficial to anyone other than Russia if the Chinese plan were followed. It's the idea that China is going to be negotiating the outcome of a war that's a totally unjust war for Ukraine is just not rational.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to David for that.
And we'll have more of David's interview later.
The one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine brought promises and hope. President Zelenskyy saying it's been a year of bravery, pain, endurance, and unity.
We have seen that over the past year up close on numerous trips to Ukraine, but never was it as evident as it was this week when we returned again to Lviv, where I was the night the invasion began, as people looked ahead to another year of war, and looked back on how dramatically their lives have changed.
RADDATZ (voice over): One year ago, Vladimir Putin thought he was poised for victory in Ukraine. On the night of the invasion, 180,000 Russian troops began their brutal assault.
RADDATZ (on camera) (February 2022): A senior Pentagon official, who several hours ago texted me and said, you are likely in the last few hours of peace on the European continent for a long time to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've heard at least four what appear to be strikes lighting up the night sky.
RADDATZ (voice over): Intelligence at the time suggested Russian forces would sweep into Ukraine and topple the Zelenskyy government in a matter of days. That did not happen, but the slow grind of this war has been staggering. Civilians slaughtered.
From the mass graves of Bucha, to the withering assaults in the east, wounding or claiming the lives of more than 100,000 Ukrainian troops, many of them citizen volunteers.
In Lviv this week, we saw that loss up close. Services like this held almost every single day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today we will have a --
RADDATZ: Today we have two ceremonies for our soldiers, the priest told me, heroes of Ukraine. When a solider has a family, children, he said, it is not easy. You must be very strong.
RADDATZ (on camera): Very hard for you too?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very hard.
RADDATZ: You are a man of God. What is your message to Russia, to Vladimir Putin?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin had a rough heart and he forgot that God is in this world.
RADDATZ (voice over): And yet the priest, like all Ukrainians, endures.
RADDATZ (on camera): Air raid sirens and power outages are a part of life now here in Lviv, but structurally and physically, the city has been mostly spared. And yet you walk these streets, you talk to people, and the pain is everywhere.
Pain and loss like Katerina's. She told us her 23-year-old brother is still missing in Mariupol.
We do not know where he is, she said. We're trying to get help to find him.
And this family. They fled Kharkiv with their then-3-month-old baby to escape Russian troops. They do not know when they will ever be able to return.
In Ukraine, grief is everywhere. This mother knows it all too well. Her 26-year-old son Artem (ph), a special operations soldier who first fought to defend Crimea in 2014 was overseas when the Russians invaded this time. He returned immediately to defend his country yet again.
IVANKA: I see him in our house and I feel really terrible, and I only hugs him and I remember he's very hot. He's very --
And I don't say no words. So what can you say? Take care? Be -- be -- how you say? Be careful or --
RADDATZ: Three months later, Artem died fighting.
When you think about Artem's sacrifice for you, for your family, for this country --
IVANKA: I think he sacrificed not only for us. He sacrificed for free Europe. Because Putin don't want take only Ukraine. He want to take everything. He's crazy.
RADDATZ: For Lviv's mayor who we spoke to after this year of tragedy, there is still hope that Ukrainian determination, Ukrainian sacrifice will ultimately mean victory.
LVIV MAYOR: I am optimistic. I believe together with the United States and our partners, we very quickly de-occupate our territory.
RADDATZ: Tell me what this last year has been like for you.
LVIV MAYOR: Terrible year. Ukrainian people show brave, resilience, and we ready to fight. For me, for my citizens, every meter of our land, it is motherland.
RADDATZ: Incredibly courageous people.
And we are joined now by President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
Welcome, Mr. Sullivan, and welcome back.
We know you were on that train with President Biden going in and out of Kyiv. Can you give us a sense, first, of – of what that was like? And I was told there was a special operations team on that train to help out in case anything went wrong.
JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, first, thank you for having me, Martha.
Well, we left from Washington, D.C., from a hanger at a nearby Air Force base, in the middle of the night, and flew to Poland, where the president got into an unmarked SUV, not his normal limo that everybody is used to seeing, to take an hour-long drive to a train station in Poland, where he boarded this train, also in the dark of night. And the train had compartments to be able to work, small bunks to be able to sleep on.
And, of course, we had the president, a very small number of his team, including myself, and then a strong component of security. And I can’t get into the specifics of who composed that security contingent, but he was well-protected the whole way.
RADDATZ: And on the F-16s, back to those F-16s, you heard what President Biden said to David Muir. He basically said he is ruling that out for now.
Is it possible you’d approve them in the future?
SULLIVAN: Well, Martha, every phase of this war, the president has tried to make sure that the Ukrainian military gets what they need. In the first phases, they were defending Kyiv. That was Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-air systems. And that worked. It helped Ukraine defend Kyiv.
In the second phase, it was heavy artillery to help them hold against the Russians pushing in eastern Ukraine.
In this phase, the critical element is ground maneuver capability. And that means tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles.
And so what the president is saying is, he’s focused on those capabilities. And the F-16 question is a question for later.
RADDATZ: But it’s possible you could approve them later?
SULLIVAN: I mean I can’t go beyond what the president said today, which is for now what we’re focused on are the things Ukraine needs to be able to retake territory on the ground, in the south and the east. And we will cross the bridge of future phases of this war when they come.
RADDATZ: Well, just last week Secretary Blinken told me one of the reasons you’re not supplying those is because you have to teach them to fly those jets, you have to maintain those jets. So why not teach them now so if they need them, if you – if – if you want to approve it in the future, they’ll have them ready to go?
SULLIVAN: From our perspective, the most important thing that we can do is make sure that we maintain focus on what is the highest priority. And, honestly, Martha, the highest priority right now is to move as rapidly as possible, to build up their capacity, to de-occupy those portions of Ukraine that are still being occupied brutally and bloodily by Russian forces.
And, again, that’s where the energy and the emphasis of the U.S. military is in helping the Ukrainian military get the tools it needs to be able to carry out that mission. And we expect that that will be the central focus of the Ukrainians, as well as of our support for the Ukrainians in the weeks and months ahead.
RADDATZ: I've heard President Zelenskyy say speed is so important. You talk about tanks. The administration balked, sending tanks over there. And just this week, the secretary of the Army said they may not even get those tanks this year. So, how is that helpful if you don’t approve them in time and get the speed to get things like that over there?
SULLIVAN: I'm glad you asked this question because I think this has been the subject of some confusion.
The president originally decided against sending U.S. tanks, they’re called –
RADDATZ: Abrams tanks.
SULLIVAN: Abrams tanks. M1A1 Abrams tanks. He originally decided against sending them because his military told them that they would not be useful on the battlefield in this fight.
What would be useful would be German tanks. A tank called the Leopard. Which many different European countries have. But the German’s told the president that they would not be prepared to send those Leopards into the fight -- and those Leopards are arriving now, Martha – until the president also agreed to send Abrams. So, in the interest of alliance unity and to insure that Ukraine got what it wanted, despite the fact that the Abrams aren’t the tool they need, the president said, OK, I'm going to be the leader of the free world. I will send Abrams down the road if you send Leopards now. Those Leopards are getting sent now.
And this is actually an example of Joe Biden rallying the global coalition to get Ukraine what it needs.
RADDATZ: OK, just, again, those tanks, the Abrams tanks, which you said will go in now, will not be there this year according to the secretary of the Army.
Let’s move on.
The administration has also warned China not to offer lethal military assistance to Russia. What can you share about what China could do?
SULLIVAN: Well, all I can say is what you’ve heard from the secretary of state, you’ve heard from other officials in the administration, and you just heard from President Biden, which is, we have, at this point, not seen them take the step of providing weapons to Russia for purposes of the war in Ukraine. We are watching closely. We know they haven’t taken it off the table. And we are sending a clear message, as are our European allies, that this would be a real mistake because those weapons would be used to bombard cities and kill civilians, and China should want no part of that.
RADDATZ: So, despite that warning, you’ve seen no indication at this point that China is backing off? It could still happen.
SULLIVAN: Well, it’s hard for me to say backing on, backing off. What I can say is, so far we have not seen them do it.
RADDATZ: And I want to ask you one final question about China.
The Chinese spy balloon, I want to go back to that. Clearly that was for surveillance. You’ve said that. But there were also those three weather balloons shot down very quickly. You said they were a threat to civil aviation. Since then, no weather balloons have been shot down. Is that because you recalculated the radar once again, or you just no longer consider weather balloons a threat, even though there are hundreds of them right now across the U.S.?
SULLIVAN: My understanding is that the NORAD commander, the general in charge of the defense of North American air space, has not recalibrated our radar, that we continue to be vigilant for unidentified objects coming into U.S. territory.
What we did do with the president – at President Biden’s direction, Martha, is put in place a set of policy parameters for when we would take lethal action against an object to shoot it down, as opposed to deal with it in other ways.
In the case of those three, the president received a recommendation from his senior military advisors, including the NORAD commander, to take action out of an abundance of caution. And he acted. And since then, he has asked the entire national security enterprise to put together a plan, an operational plan, to ensure that we can protect our airspace against other potential threats either to civil aviation or to intelligence or, in the extreme case, to people on ground.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for joining us this morning, Mr. Sullivan. We always appreciate it.
Up next, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, just back from a visit to Kyiv himself. And later, more of David Muir's exclusive interview with President Biden, his message to Americans worried about the economy. You'll see it here first. We're back in 60 seconds.
RADDATZ (voice over): There you see the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul, who led his own delegation to Kyiv just one day after President Biden's visit this week.
RADDATZ (on camera): Congressman McCaul joins us now. Good to see you.
We've all been in Ukraine this week. You met with President Zelenskyy. You said, in Ukraine, while you were there, that you're seeing increasing momentum towards getting long-range missiles and F-16. You heard what President Biden said. You heard what Jake Sullivan said. It doesn't look like it.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R) TEXAS: Yeah, that's unfortunate. I was at the Munich Security Conference, met with a lot of the high-ranking military officials, including our supreme allied commander. They're all in favor of us putting not only F-16s in but longer-range artillery, to take out the Iranian drones in Crimea.
In fact, the word I kept hearing was "We need to put everything we have into there." I know the administration says, "as long as it takes." I think, with the right weapons, it shouldn't take so long. And, quite frankly, Martha, this whole thing is taking too long, and it really didn't have to happen this way.
RADDATZ: But -- but you heard Jake Sullivan say, "Look, our military is looking at the ground. What they need right now is tanks. What they need is infantry." Why do you think F-16s would make a difference?
MCCAUL: Because it can travel the entire country with great speed. It can knock out targets. It can protect the country.
RADDATZ: Also can get shot down. There are a lot of air defenses, especially over on the border.
MCCAUL: It -- it could. And, you know, but the fact is, if we don't give them -- if they don't get the momentum right now, with the Russian offensive coming into country right now, they have a window of time with the counteroffensive.
That's why it's important -- when I talked to these top military officers, give them everything they -- that you can now so they can win this thing. When we give them what they -- what they can really use and ask for, they win. When we slow-walk and slow-pace this thing, it drags it out, and that's precisely what Putin wants.
RADDATZ: What could you do, at this point, as chair -- at this point, legislatively? Is there really anything you could do?
MCCAUL: Yeah, well, we can certainly write into our appropriations bills prioritizing weapon systems. And we intend to do that. But in addition, Martha, this was a bipartisan delegation to Munich. My delegation in -- in Ukraine all agreed with Zelenskyy that the ATACMS and the F-16s were appropriate right now.
I talked to General Milley last night. I don't think it's off the table. I think, with enough pressure from Congress on both sides of the aisle, we can get into Ukraine what they really need to win this fight. Otherwise, what are we doing in Ukraine?
RADDATZ: And -- and even if they don't want them now, do you think they should start training?
MCCAUL: For god’s sakes. I mean, it takes three to six months to train. We need to do this now.
And I know the argument is, well, we need to look at the budget. The fact is, you heard with the Abrams tanks, they won’t go in for another year.
I’ve met with the Ukrainians being trained by the Poles on the Leopard tanks, which will go in in two weeks as this offensive takes place. Two weeks. That’s going to be a bit of a game changer as well.
And I hope we can change the course and directions the administration has with respect to the military strategy.
RADDATZ: I want to talk about China. What do you know about China possibly providing lethal aid to Russia? And how do you think the U.S. should respond to it?
MCCAUL: Well, Chairman Xi and Putin are they have this unholy alliance since the Beijing Olympics. He called Putin -- Xi called Putin as his best friend several years ago.
We do know their -- we have intelligence that’s been reported that they are contemplating sending 100 drones into Russia. We also know they’re buying all their energy from them, economically supporting them.
RADDATZ: You say it’s been reported. Do you know that’s what they’re looking at, is sending in drones?
MCCAUL: And other lethal weapons.
RADDATZ: Like what?
MCCAUL: I can’t get into that.
The fact is -- the fact that they’re going to meet next week, Chairman Xi and Putin, to discuss this unholy alliance that they have, to put weapons into Ukraine, to me is very disturbing because while maybe Ukraine today, it’s going to be Taiwan tomorrow. That’s why this is so important.
RADDATZ: You know a big deal this week has been that President Biden was in Ukraine. He wasn’t in East Palestine where that train derailed with those toxic chemicals. Republican Josh Hawley said this week that the Republican Party can be the party of Ukraine and globalists or the party of East Palestine and working Americans, not both.
Do you agree with that?
MCCAUL: I think that’s the false choice. I think the president should have gone to Palestine, where we had this major chemical spill. But it doesn’t mean we disregard what’s happening, this struggle for the global balance of power that we’re facing right now. We haven’t seen anything like this since my father’s generation, World War II -- largest invasion in Europe, the biggest threat to the Pacific since World War II.
We can’t throw our head in the sand and ignore this. Otherwise, the Russians will be on the Polish border and Chairman Xi will invade Taiwan.
I think we can do both. We’re a great nation.
RADDATZ: An ABC/Washington Post poll earlier this month found that 50 percent of Republicans believe the U.S. is doing too much to support Ukraine. We know you care very much about that. That’s up from 18 percent last April.
So, why is this support slipping? And how will you approach that and what can you do about that?
MCCAUL: I think because it’s taken too long. We’re not giving them the weapons systems they need that, when we talk to President Zelenskyy, when I talk to our top military commander, say that they need artillery (ph) right now. Let’s put that in.
RADDATZ: The president, by the way, says that military advisers tell him they don’t need those.
MCCAUL: When supreme allied commander speaks, I listen.
And just when they unlock the Leopard tanks with Germany, putting in some Abrams tanks, we can do the same thing with all these other aircraft, the F-16s, ATACMS --
RADDATZ: But are you worried about the aid? Are you worried about the aid in this coming year? You can see there’s some Ukraine fatigue. Clearly, one of the reasons President Biden went over there was to get support.
MCCAUL: Of course. I mean, I am. I still think the majority in the Congress support this. They also want to know -- they want accountability to the taxpayer. I did a firsthand, you know, look at this in theater in Ukraine and in Poland, about the humanitarian assistance.
We have three IG (ph) audits right now. We have an audit by Deloitte. We also have in-use monitoring on the weapons and barcoding systems. They want to know that their money is being spent wisely.
And I think once they know that, they will stand -- what would Reagan do, I would ask my fellow colleagues, right? What would he do? He brought down the Soviet Union. I think he would stand for freedom and democracy.
RADDATZ: I want to ask you one final question here and back to Congress, about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. This week, she repeatedly called for a national divorce, to separate the country by red and blue states.
This is what she tweeted: We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issue shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America last policies, we are done.
When I asked you last month about -- about her serving on the Homeland Security Committee, you said you think she has matured and is trying to become a team player.
Do you still think that when you hear something like that?
MCCAUL: No, I don’t speak for her. The great thing about this country is we can have political dialogue, discourse. We are democracy. We have differences of opinions.
I will say a divisive rhetoric I think polarizes this nation and I think it hurts this nation. I think what we need today is a voice that can unify the nation, on things that really matter, like the economy, like the border, like, you know, the largest invasion in Europe since World War II, and a threat to the Pacific.
We should all be standing as Americans. I think when I go out across the country, that’s what people want to hear.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for joining us, Congressman. Appreciate it.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is coming up.
Plus, what President Biden told David Muir about running for reelection in 2024, and questions about his age. That exclusive interview, next.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any reason for any of us to think that he is not running again?
JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: Well, he’s -- he says he's not done. He's not finished what he started. And that's what's important. And I think, look at all that Joe has -- has done, has accomplished.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, is all that's left at this point is just to figure out a time and place for the announcement?
BIDEN: Pretty much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: First Lady Jill Biden speaking to "The Associated Press" in Kenya, certainly making it sound like her husband is all in to run again.
David Muir pressed the president on 2024 at the White House on Friday, and got his reaction to Americans saying they feel worse off now than when he came into office.
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you the question everyone is asking. Are you running?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, apparently someone interviewed my wife today I heard.
MUIR: I heard that too, just before I came in.
BIDEN: I’ve got to call her and find out.
No, all kidding aside, my intention has from – has been from the beginning to run, but there's too many other things I have to finish in the near term before I start a campaign.
MUIR: Let me ask you about a conversation that people are having at home. Both your supporters and your critics. They know that if you’re re-elected you would be 82 when you’re sworn in, you’d be 86 at the end of your term. Is your age part of your own calculation into whether to run again?
BIDEN: No, but it's legitimate for people to raise issues about my age. It's totally legitimate to do that. And the only thing I can say is, watch me.
MUIR: I want to ask about the economy. You talk often about how the inflation – the rate of inflation has begun to slow. Unemployment now at its lowest level in 50 years. But you've also seen the polls. Our latest ABC News poll shows four in 10 Americans say they're worse off than when you were elected. Only 16 percent said they were better off.
So, why is that? Why aren't Americans feeling this?
BIDEN: Well, look, I think it goes well beyond the economy. Think about it. You make the – I mean you interview for the news. Can you think of anything you (ph) turn on the television and go, God, that makes me feel good? Almost anything? Everything is in the negative.
We’re also finding out now that one of the outlets has decided that they even put things on they know to be false in order to increase their ratings. So, I think things are a little out of whack. And I don’t blame people for being down. You know, when you had a year, two years of the pandemic, kids out of school, the mental health problems in the country are seriously increased, especially among young people. Some things are, for example, even feeling down about unemployment. They've got better jobs, are making more money. Inflation is still higher than it should be, and, you know, everything from gasoline prices, to a war going on in Ukraine.
I mean, so I can't think of a time when there's been a greater uncertainty, notwithstanding the fact we're created 800,000 manufacturing jobs.
BIDEN: We're better off than virtually any other major nation in the world, economically. But it's understandable why people are just down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: OK, let's bring in our roundtable to talk about all of this, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; former DNC Chair Donna Brazile; ABC News senior national correspondent Terry Moran; and NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid.
Welcome to all of you.
And, Donna, I'm going to start and pick up with you on what Jill Biden said and what Joe Biden said.
He said he's running, basically, but he "has things to finish." What kind of things does he have to finish?
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, he has to get a budget back through Congress. He has a debt ceiling that is coming due. We -- he's still litigating the -- the war on Ukraine.
But, you know, the president said it very well, that he wants to finish the job. He has every right to finish the job. He acknowledged that he -- he recognized that his age is -- is an issue with some voters. But I think this president has done enough, and he's committed to serve the American people. And at some point this -- hopefully this summer or fall -- I don't think he should announce this spring. Chris, we should give you some time off. Spring break is good for everyone.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: It is.
BRAZILE: But do it some time this summer or this fall.
RADDATZ: And -- and Asma, NPR's poll this week showed him with the highest approval rating since March -- not super-high...
ASMA KHALID, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Still underwater.
RADDATZ: Still underwater. But is that something he's waiting for as well, to see that his numbers go up after some of these things are complete?
KHALID: I mean, I think it's notable that it has inched up, particularly after the midterms. I mean, Democrats did very well in the midterm elections. And I think that that reflects in terms of how President Biden is now being perceived.
I think one of the other, sort of, caveats, though, for the president is this ongoing Justice Department investigation of classified documents. Certainly for the White House, it would be smoother sailing if that could be wrapped up.
RADDATZ: And, Chris, the president also told David it is "totally legitimate for people to raise concerns" about his age but said it's not a factor in his decision. He just says, "Watch me."
CHRISTIE: Yeah, we have been. That's his problem. His problem is that he doesn't look up to it, and you can see him in all different types of physical manifestations that he doesn't look up to it.
You look at his schedule, and -- and typically, this is not a guy who has, you know, spent a ton of time at the White House, more time in Delaware than he's spent in other places.
RADDATZ: OK, but he was in Ukraine this week, Chris.
CHRISTIE: Well, look, that's good. I mean, look, everybody has a moment, Martha, but we're talking about -- he wants us to watch him. We've watched him for two years. And I don't think it's going to get any better. I mean, let's face it. Aging is inevitable for all of us. It doesn't just apply to Joe Biden.
RADDATZ: Hear, hear, yeah.
CHRISTIE: Right, to every one of us. And you slow down, a little bit, the older you get. We're talking about unprecedented territory here, 82 years old when he ends this term. Are we really going to see an 86-year-old president? I think Americans are going to be very concerned about it.
And I think -- and I said this a couple weeks ago and it got Donna all hot. But, you know, fact is, it's going to be a lot of focus on Kamala Harris, if they run. Because a lot of Americans are going to be saying a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for President Kamala Harris, and are they going to be comfortable with that or not?
RADDATZ: Terry, age. I want to go back to the age thing again.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's hard to think of a world leader who was 86 years old, ever, except for Popes sometimes, and they're generally -- they got to die in office, or at least did before Benedict.
And so you're -- you're looking at an unprecedented situation that I -- that I don't think the country is -- is ready for. But one of the things that Joe Biden believes is that he has been affirmed twice in his understanding of this American moment, and that's what makes presidents. Is the candidate connecting with the country in the way that the country responds to? And 2020, and 2022, which was essentially a referendum, he believes, I'm sure, "I've got it right. I get them. They know that."
RADDATZ: And, Donna, I want to ask you about the economy. He didn't exactly make a strong argument with that, saying "It's understandable why people are just down." That doesn't seem like a winning slogan there.
BRAZILE: No, and that's not going to be a slogan if he decides to run for re-election. And, yes, America is ready for a woman president at some point. And Kamala Harris is prepared if that moment comes in her life to run for president, but...
CHRISTIE: ... to watch.
BRAZILE: ... this is not about Kamala. This is about continuing to invest in the American people, invest in the future of America, which is what the Biden-Harris administration has been doing and what they will continue to do.
RADDATZ: I notice how you deftly dodged that question about the economy.
BRAZILE: No, no. The economy is always central to the conversation when you're running for president. The American people want to feel better about their personal circumstances as well as the country. But, again, this is a president who's invested in the long-term. He's spending money on infrastructure, spending money on making sure that we're connected, making sure that we have the workforce for the future.
BRAZILE: I think, when it comes to the president re-election, he will have an incredible case to make to the American people.
RADDATZ: And, Asma, you're at the White House every day. You watch President Biden. You've seen him on the road. To Terry's point, does he connect with people? Is the enthusiasm there?
KHALID: I mean, I think that depends on, sort of, where he goes in the country.
I want to go back, though, for a second, to the economics question. Because, probably, for the last year leading up to the midterms, I really dug deep on inflation, and I will say I was the first person to raise my hand and say I thought that that was really going to derail Democrats in the midterms. It ultimately did not.
And I think, if we look at the inflation picture today, the economy is, by most metrics, healthier than it was six months ago. And so I think that, if we're going to look at the X factor of the economy for President Biden heading into 2024, I think he's potentially in a better position than Democrats were in the midterms, and ultimately the economy did not factor into the midterms as much as we thought it was going to.
RADDATZ: And, Terry, speaking of connecting, I want to go back to the train derailment in East Palestine. Mistake for him not to go? Should he go now? Is it too late?
MORAN: He should go. This is an extraordinary event, not just for the people of East Palestine, but it has come to stand for something bigger in the country. And Democrats do have something to say to the large forces, large corporate forces exploiting people in rural America.
They -- they're losing on the cultural issues, but as Bernie Sanders and some others have demonstrated, they can connect on that. And it -- he left that trick on the table for Donald Trump to come in and say, "I'm your guy," even though it was the Trump administration which changed the regulations which helped perhaps to contribute to this event. It came to stand for something big in the country. And we look to presidents for leadership on that.
RADDATZ: Chris, mistake for him not to go? And is it too late?
CHRISTIE: Always a mistake not to go. Look, if you are an executive leader and there is a disaster, people expect you to be there. And they're comforted by you being there. Whether they support you or not philosophically, you're the president; you're the governor. Look, I saw this during Sandy and a number of other things. The most important thing was to be there, to be able to show people you were in charge; you were in touch.
I remember a woman saying to me the first day after Sandy, "You haven't forgotten us." People are worried that they're being forgotten. And it's never too late to go. He'll get some criticism, but he should go.
RADDATZ: OK. We've got to take a quick break. When we come back, the four women of the Georgia grand jury investigating possible election interference by Donald Trump and his allies, revealing indictments could be coming. We'll discuss it all, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILY KOHRS, GEORGIA SPECIAL GRAND JURY FOREPERSON: I will tell you it's not a short list. I mean, we saw 75 people, and there are six pages of the report cut out.
REPORTER: So, we're talking about more than a dozen people?
KOHRS: I would say that, yes.
REPORTER: Are these recognizable names? Names that people would know?
KOHRS: There are certainly names that you would recognize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Emily Kohrs, the forewoman of the Georgia special grand jury investigation of whether Donald Trump or others were interfering with the 2020 election, she's now under fire after her media blitz this week.
We are back with the roundtable.
And, Terry, you cover the courts for us. This interview may have been toe-curling, but did she really break any rules?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no formal rules because the judge said you can talk to reporters and that is a grand juror's right. Please, the judge said, don't -- don't damage the investigation. That's when she just did, she beclowned herself for one thing.
I mean, she’s -- she looked like a fool, like, somebody looking for their 15 minutes, and damaged the investigation because it’s -- this is no way to run a popsicle stand, much less a grand jury investigation of the former president of the United States, in one of the biggest cases, you know, in Georgia history.
She's created a nightmare for the prosecutor who may bring charges, for the judge who's going to preside over any trials, and just given a gift to all the defendants, Donald Trump, if he is indicted, and others as well.
RADDATZ: Chris, the former prosecutor, did she -- did she damage it?
RADDATZ: And specifically why?
CHRISTIE: Because she's now going to be a witness. If you're the defense, you're going to call her in and you’re going to ask her to explain all the stuff she was talking about, and it's a distraction for the prosecution.
It's also evidence of the fact that prosecutors don't get to pick your grand jurors, right? They're randomly selected. A grand jury comes in and you get the grand jury you get, and so, you know, this is going to be embarrassing for the prosecution.
As Terry said, no rules or laws were broken. The only people who can’t speak about what happens in the grand jury are prosecutors. Witnesses and grand jurors can speak, but they usually don't because the prosecutors say, you're going to damage all the work you've done here if you do.
This woman obviously doesn't care, and wants, as Terry said, her 15 minutes.
BRAZILE: We don't really know her motivation. We don't know her motivation was.
CHRISTIE: What could it possibly be?
BRAZILE: Yeah, but I mean, who knows? I mean, is this to create a GoFundMe because she's going to have to lawyer up? We don’t know her motivation.
She seemed quite animated to talk about what was occurring behind closed door. But we -- but here’s what I --
RADDATZ: And clearly inexperienced with the media.
KHALID: Yeah, you could get a sense that this was an opportunity for her. I think to your point it's interesting about the prosecution because -- I mean, the Georgia case, there are so many multiple different legal challenges that the former president is facing.
And all legal experts have said the Georgia case was really among some of the strongest and most prominent case, and when you look at Donald Trump running again in 2024, I’ve always thought more than his potential Republican opponents, it's the threat of legal challenges that actually might pose a bigger --
RADDATZ: But Donald Trump also gets huge talking points out of these, out of these interviews, right? He's going to take advantage of that.
KHALID: Oh, sure, right? I mean, it does I think -- it just raises I think the entire case and the entire investigation into question, and that's advantageous for the former president.
RADDATZ: And, Terry, this isn't the only investigation?
MORAN: No. There are several investigations, but in this one, with the district attorney in Atlanta, and certainly the attorney general in New York, you have prosecutors who made it a political issue to get Donald Trump, and that has been the hope of liberals and of Democrats for a long time that someone somewhere is going to find a charge that sticks.
And that’s not the way politics should be run. That’s not the way prosecutions should be run. And Letitia James, the – the attorney general in – in New York literally ran on a campaign promise that he should be scared of her and she will find out where he’s laundering all his money. And that reminds me of that great speech by Justice Jackson, former Supreme Court justice,
MORAN: Who said the danger comes when prosecutors don't choose their cases, when they choose their defendants.
MORAN: And the shoe is going to be on the other foot. We cannot have that kind of (INAUDIBLE).
RADDATZ: And – and on – just on the special counsel, you’ve got – you’ve got Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump now subpoenaed.
RADDATZ: Do you – do you imagine that he'll try executive – he’ll try executive privilege on that?
KHALID: I – I mean imagine that – yes, I mean that’s -- that's what I imagine would happen. I mean you all probably know better than me but it seems like the president, former president, I'm sorry, has tried to exert executive privilege when anybody close to him is potentially going to be --
CHRISTIE: These folks are going to be in the grand jury and they're going to testify. So is Mike Pence. This idea that the Speech and Debate Clause, he's a member of the legislative branch, when he was presiding over that.
RADDATZ: Says he's not going to, yes.
CHRISTIE: Well, look, everybody can say they don't, but grand jury subpoenas, having issued many of them in my life, are pretty compulsory documents. And I think there’s not going to be a judge who’s going to let Mike Pence or Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump avoid having to testify before that grand jury. They can always take five if they want. They can plead five. And -- but that means that you have evidence that may incriminate you. There's stuff that's implied about taking five. In fact, the former president used to say all the time, the only reason someone takes five is if they're guilty. He used to say that all the time. BRAZILE: Yes.
RADDATZ: Donna, we have just a – a short time here, but I – I want to end where we began, and that's Ukraine. And -- and your thoughts politically on President Biden's trip to Ukraine?
BRAZILE: Martha, when I – I got up early that morning for whatever reason and I saw the president in Ukraine and I was like, yes, yes.
We need to be there because the Ukrainian people have suffered so much, and they're standing up for all of us, for democracy, for a country that invaded them. So I was proud to see the president take that ten-hour trip on the train to show not just the Ukrainians but show the world that we will stand by our allies.
RADDATZ: Ten hours in, and ten hours back. Believe me, those are -- those are rough trips to get over there.
Thanks, all of you. We'll see you soon.
And we'll be right back.
RADDATZ: And that's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," and have a great day.
Airman dies lighting himself on fire, saying 'free Palestine' outside Israeli Embassy
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