'This Week' Transcript 6-20-21: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, June 20.

ByABC News
June 20, 2021, 10:19 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 20, 2021 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.




VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The talks were quite constructive.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tough questions at dueling press conferences.


CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You famously told him he didn't have a soul. Do you now have a deeper understanding of him?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Biden comes home to critical issues. The pandemic.

BIDEN: The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Infrastructure and voting rights.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): And I have been crystal clear about opposing it from the very beginning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our powerhouse roundtable takes on the president's first trip and his summer of challenge.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Can I ask who you voted for?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Iran elects a new president. Martha Raddatz is there. We will analyze what it means for the nuclear talks with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have come far, and we have far to go.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): Naming this day National Independence Day will create confusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As Juneteenth declared a national holiday, we examine critical race theory, the latest front in the culture award.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."

Here now, George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Welcome to "This Week." And happy Father's Day.

This last week of spring, President Biden closed out his first foreign trip, conducted a summit that echoed the Cold War, and proclaimed a national holiday hearkening back to the Civil War.

Now he kicks off the summer facing a series of challenges that will determine the fate of his domestic agenda and his hopes for healing our partisan divides.

Our roundtable is here to break it all down.

Chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl starts us off.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was President Biden's first big moment on the world stage.

BIDEN: It's always better to meet face to face.

KARL: Face to face, but not side by side in the battle Biden has portrayed as democracy vs. autocracy.

BIDEN: I also told him that no president United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values.

KARL: A positive spin on the summit, but also a flash of frustration, for which he later apologized.

QUESTION: Why are you so confident he'll change his behavior, Mr. President?

BIDEN: I'm not confident he'll change his behavior. Where the hell -- what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident? I said...

QUESTION: You said in the next six months you'll be able to determine...

BIDEN: I said -- what I said was -- let's get it straight. I said, what will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world.

KARL: Many presidents have talked of promoting democracy, but Biden is doing so after democracy came under attack here at home.

QUESTION: What do you say to those allies about how the next president of the United States can keep any promises you make?

BIDEN: What I'm saying is to them is, watch me. That's why it's so important that I succeed in my agenda.

KARL (on camera): Democracy is a great ideal. It's also messy. And the Biden agenda is running up against that reality here in Congress, where he faces near total opposition from Republicans and unrealistic demands for many in his own party.

(voice-over): Biden wants to make an historic investment in America's infrastructure, something bigger than Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System, something more like FDR's New Deal.

He faces two paths, both riddled with obstacles, a bipartisan deal small enough to get Republican support, but not big enough to keep Democrats united, or a go-it-alone and go-for-broke plan that progressives want, with a price tag as high as $6 trillion that's likely too big to pass.

Then there's the debate on voting rights, for Democrats, a top priority. They say it's about defending democracy at home.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Republican state legislatures are conducting the most sweeping attack on the right to vote since the beginning of Jim Crow.

KARL: Republican leaders say that's not true and there's no way they will let Washington tell the states how to run their elections.

MCCONNELL: It's a massive takeover of our election system. Nobody is fooled. And, next week, the Senate will reject it.

KARL: But here, too, Democrats have struggled to find unity, thanks to hold out Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I do not like the situation I am in. I do not recommend this to anybody.

KARL: Manchin outlined the changes he would need to support the bill. But even if they are made, and all 50 Democrats are on board, the bill would almost certainly die, thanks to the filibuster, the rule requiring 60 votes that many Democrats want to eliminate, but Manchin supports.

Biden did get a welcome surprise this week, when the Supreme Court, including two of the three Trump-nominated justices, upheld Obamacare.

But in a sign of bitter battles ahead, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell hinted that, if his party wins back the Senate, they might block any Biden Supreme Court nominees.

BIDEN: Mitch has been nothing but no for a long time. And I’m sure he means exactly what he says. But we’ll see.

KARL: One significant bill did pass this week.

UNKNOWN: The bill is passed.

KARL: Quickly and nearly unanimously, making Juneteenth a federal holiday, a sign just maybe that reports of the death of bipartisan cooperation may be exaggerated.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Jon Karl for that.

Let's talk about this all on our round table. Joined by Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, our congressional correspondent, Rachel Scott, just back from Geneva, and political White House correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez.

Chris, let's start out with the president's trip. What do you think?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think -- I said this earlier to Rachel. I think the bar was low because he didn't get in conflicts with anybody. There wasn't any kind of difficult moments except for the one with Kaitlan Collins.

In the end, I think not much was accomplished but no damage was done. And I think that's probably all they were looking for, George, was to come out unscathed, no big mistakes, come home and he can say America is back. That’s what his point was and I don't think he did anything that made us believe that we weren't.


RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it was actually a little better than that, actually more -- more significantly better.

First of all, Americans love that their president is admired and he -- when you put the whole trip together, Geneva, England, also in Brussels, the whole package was America was in the driver's seat and Americans like that. Is it going to change the dynamics in Congress? No. But for the American people that was a welcomed reprieve from what they had normally saw.

Second, I do think he finally -- specifically to the Putin meeting, which I think is the biggest piece. One, he got our allies organized in supporting America. Two, to the Putin meeting, I think it stopped the descent of that relationship. We won't really know until eight months -- eight months from now if Russia breaks one of the red lines I think on the cyber protocols of the 16 because a little surprise, nobody has that list. He said I have the list. Exactly what are all the pieces of the economy but if in fact they do something to St. Louis, that means St. Petersburg. And to me, that will be the test and we’re going to see where this goes in the next eight months.

And I think one of the bigger surprises and the last point is I think Putin was really happy to not have something level and stable versus all the unpredictability of the last four years. He was happy to be done with that too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that your sense, Rachel? Props to you for standing up to Vladimir Putin at that -- at that press conference right there. He seemed to relish taking on the idea of that January 6th siege at the Capitol.

RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He did. He really made this about whataboutism, right? Pushing back and saying, well, what about Black Lives Matter, what about January 6th, those that stormed the United States Capitol? We heard from President Biden. He was asked to respond to some of those comments.

He quoted a ridiculous comparison. I think you have critics who will say that Putin got exactly what he wanted before the two leaders even came face-to-face. He is on the world stage with President Biden and he was the talk of the town in all of the previous meetings with allies leading up to that very moment and he didn't really have to admit to anything. He didn't own up to any of the human rights allegations or abuses against him. And he didn't even own up to any of the cyberattacks as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, Laura, it seemed we had something like turnaboutism (ph) on Capitol Hill. Republicans who gave President Trump a pass for his meeting with the (inaudible) were very tough on President Biden. And on the other hand, you had Democrats who had been very tough on Trump failing to criticize Joe Biden for things that if Trump had done them, they might have had some words.

LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There was definitely a reversal of the roles. That being said, Trump himself also tried to say that Biden didn't stand up to Putin, even though we all know the history that Trump when he was in similar situations actually went against U.S. Intelligence officials and said that he trusted Putin.

So there was a difference there in that Biden did try to confront Putin on ransomware, on cyber criminals. But again, there was no deliverables out of this meeting. There was no real agreements other than we’re going to continue talking about these issues.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And maybe that was --

CHRISTIE: George, let me just add one thing which is why I think the biggest problem of the trip was the meeting itself and having it.

I don't think Vladimir Putin’s earned a meeting with the American president. That was my objection with President Trump. It’s still my objection with President Biden. When he continues to do the things he does, interfere in our elections, letting Russian groups out there hacking into American private business, it's time to tell him no. When you clean up your behavior then you get to meet with the American president. And I think that’s one of the problems. I think it was a mistake by Biden in the same way that President Trump made that mistake.

EMANUEL: Well, the one thing that I think that we're all missing I think that would elevate the president's argument of this democracy versus autocracy, in the streets of Belarus, in the country of Minsk, in Hong Kong, in Burma, people are protesting for democracy. These countries are right next to Russia and China.

So in fact, democracy does still have a pull on people's hearts and their souls and their admiration. Nobody is on the streets begging to follow the Russian and Chinese model. And that, in democracy versus autocracy, I think Biden did a good job this week in making sure that people see the frame and also a good job of organizing the allies and making sure that they understand that they have a lot of stake here and supporting, and they supported the president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Laura, let’s talk about the domestic agenda. You broke the news this week that Joe Manchin was going to endorse some kind of a compromise on voting rights, immediately endorsed by Stacey Abrams, which seems to have been the death knell for it.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: I’m not sure that that’s the biggest -- the bigger picture, right? Which is that Republicans were going to oppose this to begin with, even though Manchin did meet with a group of -- a handful of Republicans as well as civil rights leaders. He convened them on Monday of last week to try to find some kind of consensus.

But there’s no -- no Republican so far said they support any of these before Stacey Abrams weighed in, after Stacey Abrams weighed in.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, she gave them an excuse?

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: She did give them an excuse to say, oh, well, now, this very progressive leader in Georgia supports it, but now we don't have to. McConnell was always going to rally his Republican conference against Manchin's proposal. So, barring a change of heart from 10 Republicans, barring Manchin changing his heart about the filibuster, this bill is going to fail and it really has no future right now in the Senate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: These voting rights bill is existential for the GOP.

CHRISTIE: Look, you know, this is -- for someone, a Republican like me, this is a state's rights issue. As having been a governor, I want to make the decision about how the elections are run in my state. And the way they need to be run in New Jersey are very different than the way they need to be run in Wyoming, for a whole bunch of reasons, both historical, cultural and because of the population density and others.

So, the idea that any governor is going to look at this and go, hey, I have a great idea, let's let Washington run our elections. What the hell could go wrong? It's -- to me, it’s a state's rights issue and Republicans will stand firm on that side of it and be okay.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rachel, Democrats say it’s existential as well. Chuck Schumer is going to bring it up for a vote this week, but it appears to have hit a brick wall.

SCOTT: Yeah, and you have Senator Joe Manchin who every time we talk to him about one of these issues, right, he’s holding out for Republican support. I remember pressing him on the January 6 commission. He said, I believe there's 10 solid Republicans out there. And then we saw what happen, they blocked that bill. So, we are likely to see that happen again.

I think to the point of Stacey Abrams, I do think that she hardened a lot of the opposition towards this. You have Republicans now essentially calling this the Stacey Abrams compromise in a lot of ways. And to Manchin's point here, what progressive Democrats are pushing back on him about bipartisanship, you have in states, 14 states that have already passed bills, and now laws now that are restricting access to voting. And so, they're doing that without any Democratic support.

These are all Republicans in these states pushing this forward. And so, progressive Democrats are going to throw that back at Manchin and say, what are we waiting for? Why don’t we just act?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, at one level, it’s hard to blame Manchin. He comes from one of the reddest states in the country right now, West Virginia. On the other hand, you do have a lot of Democrats who say, when are you going to use some of your leverage against Republicans?

EMANUEL: Yeah. I would -- I’d back up. I think the big story here is McConnell. McConnell stiffed him on the January 6th commission. Then he tells all Republicans to throw love bombs towards Joe Manchin. And Manchin barely finishes his sentence about what his proposal, his compromise proposal, and McConnell swats it away.

I think he keeps pushing Manchin into the Democratic fold. So, I think the big story --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he push him far enough?

EMANUEL: Yeah. McConnell’s actually not listening to McConnell’s advice and he has flipped on it and I think, I have a bet this prediction over the next three weeks, you're going to see Manchin do something and offer an idea, a compromise on filibuster and keep pressing that --

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: A workaround?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree with that?

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: A workaround for civil rights bill?

EMANUEL: Some -- no, I don’t know about a workaround, but I’m not going to predict what it will be. My guess is the threshold will go down to 40, et cetera, and stuff like that where he will talk around different parties --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Forty to continue the debate.

EMANUEL: To continue. I actually think, to tell you the truth, what this will do is probably push him as the Democrats try to figure out, because I think this deals with infrastructure. There's like three negotiations going on simultaneously.

There's an executive legislative branch, a Democrat with Republican negation, and a Democrat-Democrat negotiation, and he's going to be part of the reconciliation because McConnell keeps stiffing him.


STEPHANOPOULOS: What Rahm was just talking about, that bipartisan bill which is about a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, the Democrat -- progressive Democrats want $7 trillion. One of the big questions now is which directions President Biden going to go?

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: Yeah, that’s a big decision for him right now. If he chooses the bipartisan route which again -- he doesn't want a tax gas and that’s what they’re talking about right now, so we don’t even know if he’s going to choose the bipartisan route. If he chooses that, he has to be sure and the Democratic leaders have to be sure that they’re going to have a reconciliation bill teed up right alongside it because if they don't, those progressive lawmakers are not going to be on board and vote for that bipartisan bill.

Sanders -- Senator Bernie Sanders is not a hard no on the bipartisan bill. He's a no if that reconciliation bill isn't teed up right alongside it, moving simultaneous with a lot of what they want, whether it’s climate provision. Some are talking about immigration reform proposals now inside reconciliation. That's all getting crafted. So if it isn't together, then you're going to have problems with progressives.

CHRISTIE: And, look, going back to the Manchin thing, Rahm's misunderstanding of this is --

EMANUEL: Yes, Chris.

CHRISTIE: Is this. Joe Manchin is not a creature of Washington. And -- and Rahm's talking about him as if he's a creature of Washington. He's a creature of West Virginia. And he understands that he is literally the only living, breathing Democrat left in a prominent position in West Virginia. And when you talk to Joe Manchin about these issues, and really get into it with him, he always goes back to, I represent West Virginia. And I represent the people of West Virginia.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think there's no way he comes out for filibuster reform, no way he supports --

CHRISTIE: No -- no chance.


CHRISTIE: No chance.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: I -- but Democratic leaders are -- have a strategy where Nancy Pelosi is going to bring potentially the changes Manchin has made to the House floor.


BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: Get that passed. They're going to pass it in the Senate. Well, not pass it in the Senate. They're going to have all the Democrats support it in the Senate and then they're hoping that that will start showing Manchin and Sinema, looking at all these things that you support that are not passing and by that --

CHRISTIE: Except they're from West Virginia and Arizona. Come on.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: But they're going to apply the pressure.

EMANUEL: This is -- this -- no, no, this is a long term play and I -- well, first of all, look, I grew up in a time where by this point Manchin would have switched parties. Manchin is a Democrat.

CHRISTIE: Yes, agreed.

EMANUEL: So he's a Democrat first representing West Virginia and he's done artfully his politics there and his politics in D.C. And he's managing both. It's not one or the other.

Listen, my point is that the kind of slap down on January 6th and the slap down immediately -- even prior to Stacey Abrams, McConnell was not take McConnell's advice. And that keeps Manchin viable as an alternative. And he said I, remember the most important thing he said, I will not allow President Biden to be a failure. And I think Biden's been clear about the bipartisanship, sat at the table, fulfilling what he said to Manchin, and Manchin's saying to the president, I'm going to work with you. And I think both of these are going to move simultaneously.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rachel, do you agree with Rahm's read on Manchin?

RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this was always the strategy. It was always the strategy to have a smaller package that they try to get bipartisan support on and then work behind the scenes. Right now senators are meeting -- Democratic senators, on this -- what could be a $6 trillion economic package that they're going to try and push alone. That was always the strategy. I was talking to one Democratic source yesterday after I landed who said, every single dollar that Schumer gets in this bipartisan package is one dollar less than he has to get in this reconciliation package. That's always been the push.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the Supreme Court, Obamacare and Justice Breyer.

And, Chris, let me begin with you.

We saw the Supreme Court uphold Obamacare now for the third time. Will Republicans finally accept that it's here to stay?

CHRISTIE: Well, here's what I took from the -- from the decision is that Chuck Schumer and all the Democrats who said a vote for Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to kill Obamacare. And she's in the seven person majority.

I was a governor. I appointed supreme court justices. Here's what you learn. No matter what you think when they appoint them, when they get on the court, they vote the way they believe they should vote.

And the other thing that Democrats have never understood about conservatives on the court, is that conservatives on the court don't want the court to be a legislative body. And you saw it this week, they rejected this on the basis that legally there was no standing here. And so they're saying, we may have an opinion. Amy Coney Barrett certainly has an opinion on Obamacare. But she didn't let it infect her vote on this case.

So they were wrong about that. They used these scare tactics about Republicans on the court. But, in the end, Kavanaugh and Barrett both voted to sustain it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Laura, it is true that the conservative wing has not been as monolithic as Democrats on Capitol Hill feared.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: Yes, that is true, especially in these recent cases and it's clearly upset a number of Republicans who had hoped that this would have -- that this recent decision would have been -- gone differently. But there are other bigger cases -- not bigger -- there are other big cases coming up, potentially in the next term, and that is what Democrats are worried about, whether it's abortion or big gun cases where they think that they can see those other conservative justices ruling in a different direction.

EMANUEL: You know --

CHRISTIE: Except -- except, George, that the whole key, remember, on Amy Coney Barrett, the thing they pounded again and again and again was Obamacare.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Obamacare. That was the message.

CHRISTIE: And they were wrong about it.

EMANUEL: Look, what the court did was say, please, save us from ourselves. That's the decision they made. This is a --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's been Chief Justice Roberts all the way along. He's found every single way he can to save Obamacare.

EMANUEL: (INAUDIBLE). Yes. SO the other thing, though, in my view is, look, right now this is a settled decision. Three pieces -- three court -- three decisions by the Supreme Court about Obamacare. First and foremost, I would move -- this is a dramatically different movement from both -- when Clinton tried it and President Obama. They did it in the middle of a recession. You have a boom economy. And if I were the Democrats, I would press health care. It's your biggest advantage against Republicans. First and foremost, 17 million -- there's 21 people covered by ACA, 17 million people who are eligible live in the states that both did an exchange and did Medicaid expansion, go after that 17 million, you would double the size of ACA very strongly.

Second, in the Biden relief package was a real big subsidy for the people that were on the exchanges. It was the single most popular issue among independent swing voters, was that subsidy for the gold plan in the exchanges.

EMANUEL: Go make that permanent. And if you do that, A, the Republicans will oppose it. But, B, you've pressed your health care advantage in a time where the economy is growing, which is what happened when kids' health care was done in '98, versus doing it when it was in a recession, which makes getting health care reform all that much harder.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As Laura said, more big cases are coming, which is putting more pressure on Justice Stephen Breyer. We saw Mitch McConnell come out and say that, if a retirement happened in 2024, he would be unlikely to support any kind of confirmation hearings.


HUGH HEWITT, HOST, "THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW": If you were back as the Senate Republican leader -- and I hope you are -- and a Democrat retires at the end of 2023 and there are 18 months, that would be the Anthony Kennedy precedent. Would they get a fair shot at a hearing?

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY: Well, we'd have to wait and see what -- what happens.



STEPHANOPOULOS: We know -- we know what the rest of that sentence is. Rachel, has caused a lot of consternation among Democrats on Capitol Hill, a not-so-subtle pressure campaign against Justice Breyer.

SCOTT: Yeah, and also this idea to, like, pack the court, right, which Pelosi has...

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's pretty dead now?

SCOTT: ... has -- has shot down, saying that she's not willing to bring that.

Of course it is. I mean, Democrats want to capitalize on this moment. And they're still frustrated by what happened. They're still frustrated that Amy Coney Barrett was able to get onto the bench. And so this is only going to fuel the fire even more.

EMANUEL: I think that -- I don't know what he's going to decide. But I know that, while the Supreme Court is open, or the decisions about Breyer, the fact is the Biden administration is moving very aggressively at the other court levels, making sure they have a bullpen and capable people in case a -- an opening occurs on the Supreme Court.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think there's anyone that Justice Breyer will listen to on this?

EMANUEL: No. No. I think he's going to listen to himself and I think he's going to make his own calculation. From my own experiences of when you try to talk to Supreme Courts, usually they -- members -- it usually goes the other way.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: There's no -- there's no indication he is listening to anyone, either. I mean, you've seen...

EMANUEL: Unless he's -- watching the show right now.




... proving me wrong. But, no, he -- there's no indications he would step down by 2022, before there's the risk that Republicans gain control of the other -- of the House and the Senate.

But, also, you are seeing this shift among Democrats, whether it's progressives that are far more vocal than they were with RBG, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And -- and now they're vocally asking him, "You should step aside," for the good of their -- you know, their priorities, where they weren't doing that as much for Ginsburg.

CHRISTIE: When you have control of the Senate, you should get a Supreme Court vacancy and try to get it passed.


CHRISTIE: Because, at any other time, there's no longer a guarantee. This is up to Steven Breyer. He's got lifetime tenure. He gets to decide. And when you're up there and you're one of those nine, I suspect that you figure "It's all about me. I'm not worried about the rest of it."

And he doesn't know who is going to replace him, and all the rest. So if the White House really wants to, you know, kind of, encourage Breyer to go, someone should be whispering in his ear about who they're going to nominate, because that may be something that would be persuasive to him.

EMANUEL: Remember, there's two models. There's the Sandra Day O'Connor, who thought it was a bad decision to have left the court, and I think that, from what I understand and read, influenced Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And then there's the Kennedy model, you leave when your time's up and you want another chapter of life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it also seemed like the Trump administration followed the advice you're giving now to the Biden administration?

CHRISTIE: Absolutely, they did. I mean, they -- they gave them every assurance about who was coming next, and it made Kennedy comfortable.


It's a Kennedy clerk.

EMANUEL: Chris, happy Father's Day.


CHRISTIE: Love you baby.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Last word. Thank you all very much, great discussion.

President Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan is up next, plus Martha Raddatz live on the scene of the election in Iran.



BIDEN: I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by. I also said there are areas where there's a mutual interest for us to cooperate for our people, Russian and American people, but also for the benefit of the world and the security of the world.

But it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran, Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. We agreed to work together.


STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions at his summit with Vladimir Putin.

And after the election of hard-line presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi this weekend, big questions now about what it means for relations with the United States and a possible deal to rein in Iran's nuclear program.

We're going to take those questions to President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

First, let's check in with Martha Raddatz on the scene in Tehran.

Good morning, Martha.

RADDATZ: Good morning, George.

Nuclear talks are resuming today, before they take a pause, as Iran prepares for a more conservative president.


RADDATZ (voice-over): Overnight, celebration in Iran, as a new president is officially announced, the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi, the favorite of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

There had been a vigorous get-out-the-vote campaign, with posters depicting the severed hand of military leader Qasem Soleimani killed in a U.S. drone strike last year, urging voters to do it for him.

But fewer than 50 percent cast ballots, the lowest turnout in the history of presidential elections after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many staying home, believing the election was rigged.

(on camera): You did not vote.


RADDATZ: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because, if I had voted, they wouldn't have counted my vote.

RADDATZ (voice-over): But Raisi's supporters believe he could help rebuild Iran's devastated economy.

(on camera): You voted for Raisi because you think he can help the economy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes. I believe, because he has the experience in the judiciary, I'm sure he knows the ways to make things better.

RADDATZ (voice-over): The economy crippled in part by heavy sanctions imposed by the U.S. when former President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal.

Raisi has voiced support for reviving that deal, but it could be more difficult for President Biden to get a tougher or lengthier deal from the hard-line cleric. The Trump administration also personally sanctioned Raisi for human rights abuses, sanctions that have not yet been lifted.


RADDATZ: Iran's current foreign minister said in an interview this weekend that he believes a deal will be reached before the new president takes over, giving Raisi the economic benefits, but no blame for whatever deal might be reached -- George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha Raddatz in Tehran, thanks very much.

Let's bring in President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Jake, thanks for joining us this morning.

Let's start out with that election of Raisi. The new Israeli prime minister this morning, Naftali Bennett, called him the hangman of Tehran, called his election a wake-up call for the West.

Do you agree with that reaction?

JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think what we need to do in the United States is keep our eye on the ball. And that is our paramount priority right now is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve that, rather than military conflict. And so, we're going to negotiate in a clear-eyed, firm way with the Iranians to see if we can arrive at an outcome that puts their nuclear program in the box.

And in that regard, whether the president is person A or person B is less relevant than whether their entire system is prepared to make verifiable commitments to constrain their nuclear program.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s one of the big questions. And you heard the current Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, he’s optimistic now about reaching a deal before the new president takes office later this summer. Do you share that optimism?

SULLIVAN: What I would say is that there is still a fair distance to travel on some of the key issues, including on sanctions and on the nuclear commitments that Iran has to make. But the arrow has been pointed in the right direction in terms of the work that’s getting done in Vienna. So, we will see if the Iranian negotiators come to the next round of talks, prepared to make the hard choices that they have to make in order for the joint comprehensive plan of action the Iran nuclear deal to be reinstated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think Raisi's election actually increases the chances of reaching a deal?

SULLIVAN: It's hard to speculate about the internal dynamics in Iran on a question like that. What I would say is that the ultimate decision for whether or not to go back into the deal lies with Iran's supreme leader. And he was the same person before this election as he is after the election.

So, ultimately, it lies with him and his decision as to whether he wants to go down the path of diplomacy here or face mounting pressure not just from the United States, but the rest of the international community.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally on this, we heard Martha report that Raisi himself is facing personal sanctions from the U.S. for his complicity with human rights abuses. Is the U.S. willing to lift those personal sanctions if that’s what it takes to get a deal?

SULLIVAN: The whole question of which sanctions will be lifted is currently being negotiated in Vienna, and I’m not going to conduct those negotiations in public. What I will say is that the United States retains the right even under the JCPOA, even under the Iran nuclear deal, to impose sanctions for reasons other than the nuclear file, for terrorism, for human rights, for missile development.

And so, we will see how the negotiations precede in Vienna. And I will not get ahead of or supersede our negotiators as they work out through those details in the negotiating room in Austria.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said that these negotiations are the best way to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. Does the same thing hold true for North Korea?

For the first time this week since President Biden’s inauguration, Kim Jong Un seemed to open the door to nuclear talks with the United States saying he was ready for both confrontation and diplomacy.

Did you hear anything new there? Is re-engagement on the horizon?

SULLIVAN: Well, time will tell. What President Biden has communicated is that the United States is prepared to engage in principled negotiations with North Korea to deal with the challenge of North Korea's nuclear program towards the ultimate objective of the complete denuclearization of the North Korean peninsula.

We are awaiting a clear signal from Pyongyang as to whether they are prepared to sit down at the table to begin working in that direction. His comments this week we regard as an interesting signal. And we will wait to see whether they are followed up with any kind of more direct communication to us about a potential path forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What precisely are you looking for?

SULLIVAN: Well, the clear signal they could send is to say, yes, let's do it. Let’s sit down and begin negotiations.

We think that just in the case of the Iranian nuclear issue, with the North Korean nuclear issue, there's no substitute for diplomacy to begin to make progress towards that ultimate objective -- the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the president’s summit with Vladimir Putin. They said -- the president said he did what he came to do. But what specifically did he achieve?

Even sympathetic experiments like Colonel Alexander Vindman, of course, was a dissident on the Trump National Security Council, argued that Putin scored the PR benefit of a summit, but the U.S. didn't get tangible national security benefits in return.

What's your response?

SULLIVAN: Well, as the president said, he did do what he came to do. And it was three things. The first was to identify areas where the U.S. and Russia could work together in our mutual interests. And we launched strategic stability talks out of this to help lower the chance of either intended or unintended nuclear massive conventional conflict. That is progress.

Second, he indicated to President Putin that the United States will respond if certain harmful activities continue. And in this regard, the summit offered the opportunity to place some guardrails. Now, time will tell whether those guardrails hold.

And then, third, he stood up for human rights and universal values. He spoke directly to President Putin about Alexey Navalny, about radio free Europe, about the fact that the idea that all people are created equal is stamped in the American DNA. And that alone, George, is reason enough to sit face-to-face with Vladimir Putin.

But, on top of that, we had these meaningful engagements on the security and diplomatic side that we believe will put this relationship on a more stable footing. But we don't know. We can't predict what the next year will bring. At this point, as President Biden said, the proof in the pudding will be in the eating.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say the president stood up to Vladimir Putin. What do you say to Republicans like House Leader Kevin McCarthy who argue the president didn't effectively counter these recent Russian cyberattacks?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, I would point out that the previous president, who Leader McCarthy strongly supported, supported unquestioningly laid down in front of Vladimir Putin, you know, sided with Vladimir Putin against our own intelligence community at a summit in Helsinki.

And this summit in Geneva was a study in contrast. You had a strong, confident, assertive American president, both in the room and in the press conference afterward, standing up for American interests and values and doing so in a way we believe that will ultimately enhance the security of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he hear anything new from Vladimir Putin?

SULLIVAN: I would say that President Biden did hear from President Putin some important statements about how he looks at both the U.S./Russia relationship and particular issues in it, on strategic stability, on cyber and in other areas.

But President Biden's been pretty clear from the outset that he wants to be able to have a space, to be able to engage directly, privately, candidly with President Putin and then to determine whether the actions that Russia takes in the months ahead match up with the discussions that took place in Geneva.

That is where we will turn our focus at this point. And our goal, at the end of the day, is a stable, predictable relationship where we're not going to be friends by any stretch of the imagination, but where we can reduce the risk of escalation that would ultimately harm America's interests.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, let's talk about Afghanistan. The president said we're slated to withdraw completely by September 11th. One of the looming concerns is the fate of 18,000 Afghan interpreters and other workers who served the U.S. government during the war. There's -- they're facing almost certain death sentences if left behind. And members of Congress are saying they must be evacuated.

I want to read from a letter from Seth Moulton and Jason Crow. Our bipartisan working group has concluded that we must evacuate our Afghan friends and allies immediately. No U.S. entity to include the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID, et al, has the ability or authority to protect them in Afghanistan after our withdraw. It would be a moral failure to transfer the responsibility to protect our Afghan partners onto the shoulders of the Afghan government.

What steps is the administration taking to protect those workers? Will they be evacuated?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, George, this is a paramount priority for President Biden and for the entire team. We are processing these applications and getting people out at a record pace. We are working with Congress right now, including the two representatives you just mentioned, to actually streamline some of the requirements that slow this process down. And we are doing the kind of extensive planning for potential evacuation should that become necessary. We will take all these steps to insure that we do right by the people who did right by us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Taliban attacks have increased since the president announced in April and there's some talk that the U.S. departure from Bagram Airforce Base, which is scheduled for July, is going to have to be delayed. Is it going to be delayed?

SULLIVAN: What we're doing is looking every week to check as the drawdown unfolds whether or not it lines up with our effort to insure that there is a sufficient security presence at the embassy, that the airport will be secure, and we'll do another one of those check-ins this coming week. But there have been no plans to change the basic proposition that the president laid down, which is that all American forces will be out, and they will be out well before the deadline that he set forth in his April 16th speech.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jake Sullivan, thanks for your time this morning.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, we've been hearing more and more lately about critical race theory. It's become a hot button issue in states across the country. We're going to take a closer look at the latest cultural war debate when we come back.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Our critical race theory panel is next. We'll be right back.



PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: Millions of white Americans belonged to the Klan. And they weren't even embarrassed by it. They were proud of it. And that hate became embedded systematically and systemically in our laws and our culture. We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Critical race theory says every white person is a racist. Critical race theory says America is fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist. And let me tell you, right now, critical race theory is bigoted. It is a lie. And it is every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.


STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden and Senator Ted Cruz weighing in on the latest clash in the culture war, critical race theory.

It's an approach to teaching of American history and civics that argues systemic racism is woven into American law and institutions. It's become a flash point for conservatives, who argue the approach itself is racist, with several states and localities moving to ban critical race theory from curriculums.

Here to discuss the issues fueling this heated debate, two top academics, Leah Wright Rigueur, professor of history at Brandeis University, and Glenn Loury, professor of social sciences at Brown University, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Welcome to you both.

And, Leah, let me begin with you.

Lay out the terms of the debate from your perspective first. How would you define critical race theory?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think we have to be clear about the definitions. It's really important.

And what you're hearing now is a debate supposedly over critical race theory, but that's not actually what we're debating. Critical race theory is, in a lot of ways, just a niche section of academia that deals with kind of using laws, institutions, policies to understand how racism, how inequality, how discrimination has been perpetuated.

It's been taught in upper-level seminars, usually third-year electives in law schools. But, certainly, my children are not learning Kimberle Crenshaw, Derrick Bell, Imani Perry, and the like in their public school educations.

The debate that we're having right now is over the study of race, racism and inequality in history and in public policy, and certainly how those things have been taught throughout history, how they have been understood throughout history, and then how they are part of the larger American story that we tell each other and one another, including our students.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Glenn, what do conservatives mean by critical race theory? What's their concern? And do you agree with the definition?

GLENN LOURY, BROWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: I think the definition is fine, as far as it goes.

I think the concern is about the narrative. It's about, what is the story of the American project, and where does race fit into that?

And I think it's a bit like arguments about, how do you teach evolution vs. creationism, or what do you do about sex education in the schools, where people are concerned that a certain narrative, a certain view, which is very uncharitable to the American project, and which is buttressed by references to historical mistreatment of African-Americans, that that is being put forward as the major framework for understanding contemporary issues of racial disparity.

So, the conservatives who are objecting are saying, no, it's not systemically, white supremacist, inherent American failure; there are complex dynamics at work here that account for these disparities.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is banning critical race theory from curriculums the way to go?

Glenn, why don't you start?

LOURY: Oh, no, I wouldn't do that, no more than I would ban the teaching of Marxism. I mean, I wouldn't ban it. I would argue against it.

In other words, I would argue, the glass of the American saga with respect to race is half-full and more. I would say that, if you looked at mid-20th century, the typical occupation for an African-American woman was a domestic servant. This has changed dramatically within my lifetime.

I would say that slavery was a fact of human culture everywhere. Emancipation, which happens here in the United States of America en masse, is a uniquely American achievement, not that slaves were not emancipated elsewhere, but that the implicit promise of the American project culminates for blacks in emancipation and in the civil rights movement.

So I would say let's fight over the narrative. Let's not fight over words.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Leah, one of the concerns you hear from conservatives is that progressives don't recognize the kind of progress that Glenn was just talking about.

And we have most -- most recently, just this week, Juneteenth, finally, perhaps a national holiday.


And I think this is a wonderful example of the way in which kind of the idea of teaching race, racism and the study of inequality in the classroom can actually produce substantive, in this case, legislation, so we do see something emerge out of this, like Juneteenth, right?

And we know that Opal Lee, 94-year-old Opal Lee, has been fighting for this for years. And, certainly, the way that it has been taught is both as one that's complex, that understands the way in which the federal government failed, the way in which the state of Texas and individuals in Texas failed, but also one that is celebratory about the way in which a group of people have persevered, have been deeply resilient.

And so part of, I think, what we have to understand here is that the celebratory moment that we have for Juneteenth right now is the kind of thing that people are trying to legislate against, right, the study of that actual Juneteenth, the study of a moment like Tulsa, which we recently kind of commemorated the 100th anniversary of Tulsa.

You don't want to legislate against that. You don't want to ban against that, because it'd be legislating against the truth and it would be legislating against history as it happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Glenn, how do we bridge this divide?

LOURY: Well, I think we should get beyond race. I know I’m spitting in the wind when I say that. I know no one wants to hear.

I think the right story here is that it's the American story. We're all in this thing together. I know that’s very easy to say.

I think Martin Luther King got it right in 1963. I think that the racialization of this discussion of crime and violence, in policing, of poverty and wealth and whatnot, is bad for America.

I think talk about reparations, whatever the moral argument might be, is disastrous for the future of this country.

Black people should not be trying to cut a separate deal with America. Let's make the country a good country for everybody and we'll be on the right path.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Take on that, Leah?

RIGUEUR: Well, I think Glenn is right in citing Martin Luther King Jr.

But I’m going to say to him, in 1967, where he said, where do we go from here, chaos or community?

And I think one of the things that he pointed out is that we are going to have to get to the root of understanding inequality and we’re going to have to get to the root of understanding racism by actually studying the past and doing an honest and objective job of studying the past.

And that means understanding both the national sins, but also understanding the great parts of America, and how those things come together, how they haven't benefited everyone in our society and in our country. And in fact, by studying race -- racism, inequality, understanding institutions' systems, all those things. We're not just making America a better place for African-Americans, although, right, that is the narrative I think people want us to understand or want us to think that is the compelling narrative.

But instead, we're making America a better place for everyone, makes America a freer, and more democratic and more inclusive place for all of us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Glenn, I saw a nod of your head to some of what Leah was saying there.

LOURY: Yeah, I mean, I agree you don't ban the teaching about the history of the country. I agree with that. As I say, the question here is about the narrative, about how we're going to tell the story.

There’s a lot to agree. But I’m so happy to hear the endorsement of Martin Luther King. ’67 is fine with me too, poor people’s campaign, Riverside Church speaking against the Vietnam War, that’s also fine with me. But basically, we are 13 percent African-Americans of a country which is dynamic and is moving in the 21st century, with all kinds of forces going on.

We need to join hands with our fellow Americans on behalf of improving our circumstances for all our people. And I -- you know, I don't think that we're getting there with some of the racial rhetoric that I hear coming out of various quarters.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you both for an illuminating discussion. Thanks very much.

We'll be right back.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Before Juneteenth, what was the last federal holiday Congress created?


ON SCREEN TEXT: Before Juneteenth, what was the last federal holiday Congress created?

Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (November 1983): All right thinking Americans are joined in spirit with us this day as the highest recognition which this nation gives is bestowed upon Martin Luther King Jr.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Have a great Father's Day and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."