'This Week' Transcript 8-21-22: Rep. Liz Cheney

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, August 21.

ByABC News
August 21, 2022, 11:31 AM

Editor's note: On Sunday, Jonathan Karl misspoke when he said that no first-term president has picked up Senate seats in the midterms since JFK. What he meant to say is that no first-term Democrat president picked up seats during the midterms of their first term. In fact, several former presidents have picked up Senate seats during the midterms of their first term. We apologize for the error.

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 21, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC CO-ANCHOR (voiceover): Defiant.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Freedom must not, cannot and will not die here.

KARL: Liz Cheney loses her primary, as Donald Trump takes down his number one Republican target. She charts a new course, targeting election deniers in her own party and vowing to block Trump's path back to The White House.

CHENEY: I'm going to work against those people, I’m going to work to support their opponents. I think it matters that much.

KARL: This morning, we go one-on-one.

KARL (on camera): What does your defeat say about Trump's hold on the Republican Party? What -- can you tell us what are you going to do?

If January 6th can't convince Republicans to reject Donald Trump, what can?

KARL (voiceover): Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a “This Week” exclusive.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We need the affidavit, show your cards.

KARL: New fallout from the search at Mar-a-Lago. A surprise ruling that could unseal the government affidavit. Our Powerhouse Roundtable on what it means for Trump and the Republican Party.

Record crossings.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Six or seven that are right now trying to cross the river. They are literally in the middle of the Rio Grande.

KARL: Border apprehensions approach 2 million, Texas responds by ng migrants to New York City.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Now the rest of America is understanding exactly what is going on.

KARL: The very latest from the southern border. As Texas Governor Greg Abbott and New York Mayor Eric Adams face off.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's “This Week.” Here, now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

KARL (on camera): Good morning and welcome to “This Week.”

If there were any lingering doubts about Donald Trump's hold on the Republican Party they were erased Tuesday night. Liz Cheney, Trump's loudest and most persistent critic in the party and the number one target of his vengeance campaign, went down in a landslide primary defeat.

Liz Cheney’s decisive loss means at least 8 of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him will be gone in the next Congress. And in state after state, candidates endorsed by Trump for governor, for Senate and for other offices have prevailed in Republican primaries, they owe their nominations to Trump and their allegiance, too.

But as Trump tightens his grip on the party, the legal walls around him seem to be closing in. This week a federal judge in Florida suggesting that he may release portions of the affidavit used to seek an FBI search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, a criminal investigation the Justice Department says is quote, “open and in its early stages.”

In New York, Trump Organization’s chief financial officer is going to Rikers prison, after pleading guilty to a tax fraud scheme. Trump once called Allen Weisselberg a loyal employee and one of the toughest people in the ness. Now he has pleaded guilty and has agreed to testify in a criminal trial likely to happen this fall against Trump's company.

And in Georgia, a flurry of activity surrounding the criminal investigation into the attempt to overturn that state's 2020 election results. Rudy Giuliani testifying before a special grand jury and Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham is next, after a federal judge rejected his effort to avoid testifying.

And in yet another legal case, Trump pleaded the fifth, something he had never done before. Unlike the former president, Cheney acknowledged she lost. While conceding to Trump's chosen candidate in Wyoming, Cheney launched a new national political organization, a new effort to vanquish Trumpism and to try to block any attempt by Trump to return to power.


CHENEY: We must be very clear eyed about the threat we face and about what is required to defeat it. I have said since January 6th, that I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office and I mean it.


KARL: Three days after her defeat, I sat down with Liz Cheney in the January 6th Committee hearing room for a wide-ranging discussion on her election loss, the Committee's remaining work, and her future in the Republican Party. I began by asking her about the magnitude of her loss.


KARL: I mean, this wasn’t just losing a House seat. You were in leadership. You were considered a future speaker of the House, a potential future -- maybe even the next speaker of the House. It's a lot to give up on. Any regrets?

CHENEY: No regrets. You know, I feel -- I feel sad about where my party is. I feel sad about the way that too many of my colleagues have responded to what I think is a great moral test and challenge of our time, a great -- a great moment to determine whether or not people are going to stand up on behalf of the democracy and on behalf of our republic.

KARL: And I understand you heard from President Biden. .

CHENEY: I did hear from President Biden. We had a very -- a very good talk, a talk about the importance of putting the country ahead of partisanship. And I've heard from a number of other people, as you can imagine, over the course of the last several days.

KARL: That’s some of your Republican colleagues here --


KARL: -- in Congress?


KARL: There were 10 of you that chose to vote to impeach. Did you hear from them after you lost?


KARL: All of them?


KARL: And describe that bond, because I imagine that's going to last long after you leave Congress.

CHENEY: You know, we have difference of opinion -- differences of opinion, among the 10 of us, about a whole range of issues -- of other issues. But the fact that we all made the decision we did and have faced the consequences for that decision will be a bond, I would imagine, forever.

KARL: What does your defeat say about Trump's hold on the Republican Party?

CHENEY: So I think, one, it says that people continue to believe the lie. They continue to believe what he's saying, which is very dangerous. I think it also tells you that large portions of our party, including the leadership of our party, both at a state level in Wyoming as well as on a national level with the RNC, is very sick.

And that, you know, we really have got to decide whether or not we're going to be a party based on substance and policy or whether we're going to remain, as so many of our party are today, in the grips of a dangerous former president.

KARL: In addition to Trump's gloating about your loss, his spokesperson said, she may have been fighting for principles, but they are not the principles of the Republican Party.

I mean, arguably, he's right. Isn't he?

CHENEY: Well, doesn't that tell you something? You know, what I'm fighting for is the Constitution. What I'm fighting for is a perpetuation of the republic.

What I'm fighting for is the fact that elections have to matter and that, when the election is over, and the courts have ruled and the Electoral College has met, that the President of the United States has to respect the results of the election.

And if Donald Trump's spokesman says that those are principles that are inconsistent with Donald Trump's views and inconsistent with the Republican Party's views, I think that ought to give every American pause about who Donald Trump is and about what the Republican Party stands for today.

KARL: So this is obviously not the end, this is a new beginning for you. You're starting this political organization. What can you tell us? What are you going to do?

CHENEY: I'm going to be very focused on working to ensure that we do everything we can not to elect election deniers. And I'm going to work against those people, I'm going to work to support their opponents; I think it matters that much.

KARL: Will you be getting involved in campaigns against those Republican candidates that are challenging or denying of the results of the election?


KARL: Including your Republican colleagues here in Congress?


KARL: Is the country better or worse off if Kevin McCarthy is the next speaker of the House?

CHENEY: Well, my views about Kevin McCarthy are very clear. The speaker of the House is the second in line for the presidency. It requires somebody who understands and recognizes their duty, their oath, their obligation.

And he's been completely unfaithful to the Constitution and demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the significance and the importance of the role of speaker. So I don't believe he should be speaker of the House. And, you know, I think that’s been very clear.

KARL: So it sounds like that's a yes. You think the country would be worse off if he were speaker of the House.

CHENEY: I don't believe he should be speaker of the House.

KARL: You told me a little over a year ago that you didn't think Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination again. You said there are millions and millions of Republicans that wouldn't let that happen.

Do you still believe that?

CHENEY: Yes. I think -- I think we have to make sure that he is not our nominee. I do believe that there are millions of Republicans out there, Independents and Democrats as well.

And I think that -- you know, I believe in Republican policies. I believe, if you think about where the country needs to go, what's best for our nation, I believe in a strong national defense; certainly, today more than ever, we need that to confront the threats we face.

I believe in low taxes. I believe in a limited government. I believe that families should be the center of our lives in our communities. Those are traditional Republican values, and I believe that's what we need going into the future.

We have no chance at winning elections if we are in a position where our party has abandoned principle and abandoned value and abandoned fundamental fidelity of the Constitution, in order to embrace a cult of personality. And I think that's really dangerous for a whole bunch of reasons.

KARL: But is the threat Trump or is it bigger than Trump? I mean, you could argue that Trumpism, in terms of the election denying and all of that, is -- has taken over the party.

CHENEY: Donald Trump is certainly the center of the threat. But election denial, denying a fundamental function and principle, you know, the -- what is at the center of our constitutional republic -- is dangerous, broadly speaking. And he is certainly leading that effort and leading that movement.

And he also, because -- we know precisely what he will do, because he has done it. You know, sending an armed mob here to the Capitol to try to overturn the results of an election. There's just simply no way that the nation can, in my view, sustain itself if we excuse that and put him in a position of power again.

KARL: If January 6th can't convince Republicans to reject Donald Trump, what can?

CHENEY: Well, I think as a nation, whether we're Republicans or Democrats or independents, we all have to reject that. We can agree that there are certain issues we're never going to agree on politically, but we have to come together, you know, across the party lines in order to protect ourselves against that kind of threat.

KARL: So you said you're going to work against election deniers.

If it's not Trump and if it's -- if it's somebody like Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, these are all people that have tied themselves very closely to Trump, will you oppose them? Could you see yourself supporting any of them?

CHENEY: It would be very difficult. When you look at somebody like Josh Hawley or somebody like Ted Cruz, both of whom know better -- both of whom know exactly what the role of Congress is in terms of our constitutional obligations with respect to presidential elections -- and yet, both of whom took steps that fundamentally threatened the constitutional order and structure in the aftermath of the last election.

So, in my view, they both have made themselves unfit for future office.

KARL: What about DeSantis?

CHENEY: DeSantis is somebody who is, right now, campaigning for election deniers. And I think that, you know, that is something that I think people have got to have real pause about. You know, either you fundamentally believe in and will support our constitutional structure, or you don't.

KARL: So you've said that you're going to think about running for president. Would you be running to send a message or would you be running to win?

CHENEY: No. Look, you run for president because you believe you'd be the best -- the best candidate, because you believe you'd be the best president of the United States. And so, any decision that I make about doing something that significant and that serious would be with the intention of winning and because I think I would be the best candidate.

KARL: Would your path be inside the Republican Party or outside the Republican Party?

CHENEY: I haven't made any specific decisions or plans about that at this point.

KARL: So running as an independent is a possibility? Is it (ph) --


KARL: -- one of the things you're thinking about?

CHENEY: I'm not going to go -- to go down that path anymore in terms of speculating.

KARL: It sounds like the RNC is already trying to figure out ways to keep you out. You know, there's this idea that to get into any debate, you have to promise that you would support the eventual nominee.

I mean, that's obviously not going to happen. You're not going to do that.

CHENEY: I can understand why they would not want me on a debate stage with Donald Trump, and I would imagine Donald Trump isn't too interested in that either.

KARL: So let's talk about the committee. One of the key figures here is obviously Mike Pence. He said this week he's willing -- or willing to consider testifying if he is asked. Are you going to ask him?

CHENEY: So we've been in discussions with his counsel. When the country has been through something as grave as this was, everyone who has information has an obligation to step forward. So I would hope that he will do that.

KARL: So you think we'll see him here in September in this room --

CHENEY: I would hope that --

KARL: -- before the committee?

CHENEY: Well, I would hope that he will understand how important it is for the American people to know every aspect of the truth about what happened that day.

KARL: What about Trump? Before you wrap up, will you ask him to testify?

CHENEY: I don't want to make any announcements about that this morning. So let me just -- let me just leave it there.

KARL: But it's possible you would ask him, before wrapping up, to testify?

CHENEY: Yeah. I mean, I don't -- again, I don't want to get in front of committee deliberations about that. I do think it's very important, as I said in the first hearing or the second hearing, you know, his interactions with our committee will be under oath.

KARL: The Republicans have said that they're going to use their subpoena power to subpoena all the records of the January 6th Committee. Are you concerned about that? And do you expect that all the material -- you got so much material -- is the committee going to make all that public anyway?

CHENEY: Yes, it's all public record. It will be -- it will be available publicly as our investigation is wrapped up and concludes.

And if Kevin McCarthy, or Jim Jordan, or any of the other individuals who are threatening to investigate the committee carry through on that threat and issue a subpoena for me to appear, I will abide by that subpoena. And I will welcome the opportunity to come and explain to them exactly what we found and the threat that Donald Trump poses to the country. And I would say, you know, they ought to do the same.


KARL: We'll have more of my exclusive with Liz Cheney later in the programming, including what she told me about the FBI raid on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

But first, let's bring in the "Roundtable": Jane Coaston, host of The New York Times's "The Argument" podcast; USA Today bureau chief -- Washington bureau chief Susan Page; National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru; and Atlantic staff writer Mark Leibovich, author of the new book, a number one New York Times bestseller, "Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump's Washington and the Price of Submission."

Susan, there's a lot of ways you can say that Liz Cheney has no path to a Republican nomination, the idea of a presidential campaign. Democrats will be reminded of why they don't like her. But, I mean, take a step back, she is the face right now of opposition to Donald Trump in this country, what can she do with this new political organization?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, in the short term she told you she would campaign against election deniers. She confirmed that mean she'll be campaigning for some Democrats who are running against election deniers. She has the stature and the ability to raise money to have an influence on some of those races. And over the long term, who knows? Politics is not a straight line. Liz Cheney is 56 years old. She could run for president in 2024 or 2028 or 2032. Sometimes there are political figures who seem to be making symbolic stances. And you look back with the benefit of some hindsight and you see the influence they had on their party and on the country. I'm thinking Bernie Sanders who not everyone took very seriously at the beginning and who had a great effect on his party. We'll see if Liz Cheney has a similar course.

KARL: I mean, you could say Teddy Roosevelt, who left the Republican Party, ran as the Bull Moose candidate, and then the party actually tried to recruit him eight years later to run as a Republican again.

Mark, what is your sense on the role that she has taken on?

MARK LEIBOVICH, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I think she has been -- look, I would say that she's unleashed, but she was pretty unleashed before the election. But I think she will be an extremely relevant figure in her party, I think across the board. I think she seems like she is, one, committed not only to sort of take down Donald Trump but to take down the sickness of her party. I mean, she seems to be going more broadly beyond January 6th at this point. She's talking about denial. She's talking about election denial, January 6th denial. You know, the question is, will she go into like COVID denial or climate denial, things like that going forward? But ultimately, I think she's going to raise a ton of money. I think she'll get a ton of media attention. And I think that she -- her place in our politics is solidified for the time being and probably beyond, you know, next year.

KARL: So, Ramesh, I think I know what you're going to say about her future in the Republican Party. But it was interesting in that interview to hear her sound for a moment like very much a conservative Republican. She talked about strong national defense, low taxes, limited government, family values.

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: That's right. And she in fact as a member of the House when Donald Trump was in office voted with him more often than, say, Elise Stefanik who replaced her in the House leadership. She just wasn't willing to be loyal to him to the point of overlooking his attempt to undo an election. I think that that conservatism has gotten overshadowed. It got overshadowed during this campaign. It will be interesting to see whether it continues to be part of her message going forward, because the more she concentrates on the election denial issue, the less those other parts of her agenda are going to come to fore.

KARL: Because, Jane, when I was out in Wyoming before the primary, I mean, it was an explicit strategy that Liz Cheney had to get Democrats to register, which you could the day of the primary, to vote for her. And you saw that, a lot of that. I mean, the people you talked to that were voting for Liz Cheney were often Democrats. Are they still going to support her?

JANE COASTON, HOST, "THE ARGUMENT": No, because she's not a Democrat. It's interesting, because I think that it's important -- I want to separate two things. Liz Cheney is standing up against Donald Trump. Liz Cheney is a conservative Republican. Those two things exist. But I think that we too often combine the two. Liz Cheney is still the same person who refused to attend her own sister's wedding. Liz Cheney's father is still Dick Cheney. And if you were alive in 2004, you perhaps recall that Dick Cheney was vice president to George W. Bush. I think her conservatism is getting overshadowed. There have been lots of people have stood up against Donald Trump, a lot of them have been Democrats, a lot of them have been liberals, a lot of them have been libertarians, a lot of them have been conservatives. She's perhaps the best well-known conservative Republican who has stood athwart Donald Trump. Sorry, Ramesh.


But I think that it's really important to remember that, like, Democrats were not voting for her because they supported her conservatism; they were voting for her because they wanted to send a message to Donald Trump.

KARL: Well, there's another guy out there that's been trying to, maybe, be a more middle ground, Mike Pence. I want to play something that he said this week.


FORMER PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: January 6th was a tragic day in the history of our country. The American people have a right to know what happened that day. And in the months and years ahead I'll be telling my story even more frequently than I have.


KARL: Well, I mean, to be fair, he hasn't really been telling it very frequently.


I mean, for a while Pence seemed to be downplaying the significance -- he was downplaying the significance of January 6th. He's been a little bit more out there. What did you make of that? What's...

LEIBOVICH: I mean...

KARL: ... going on with Pence?

LEIBOVICH: ... it sounds like he's rolling this out gently. I mean, I think, at some point -- I mean, look, go before the committee. I mean, you know, he said he was waiting for an invitation.

KARL: And Cheney made it clear that an invitation has been extended.

LEIBOVICH: Yeah, I'm sure -- I was going to say, that's not a surprise.

KARL: Yeah.

LEIBOVICH: I mean, it's not as if, like, we're just waiting -- he's sitting by the mailbox. I mean, this is a -- I mean, he can do this. I mean, I just don't know how compelling it's going to be at this point because he's waited a long time. But, I mean, sure, I'd love to hear -- I think we all would love to hear what Mike Pence has to say about that day.

PAGE: I think you're not giving him enough credit. And I say that acknowledging that Mike Pence was the extremely loyal vice president to Donald Trump for four years. But Mike Pence stood up on January 6th. And if he testifies before the committee, which I think now seems likely, that is another case where he is standing up at some potential cost to his longtime goal of becoming president of the United States.

LEIBOVICH: I agree he stood up on January 6th. But January 6th, I mean, is (inaudible) forever. And, I mean, beyond that I think it would be nice to, sort of, get the retrospective from him that Liz Cheney has provided, and many others.

COASTON: I mean, it's also worth remembering that, on January 6th, people were attempting to kill him. It was like -- it's not just his short-term political interests but his short-term interests in staying alive...


... like, I think that it's -- what Mike Pence is doing, I...

KARL: They were literally saying, "Hang Mike Pence."

COASTON: "Hang Mike Pence." This literally did take place. And so it's -- I mean, I will never understand why he is slow-rolling this, because if people were chanting "Hang Jane Coaston," I would not be this nice.


But I think that it's -- I think he should go before the committee, but I also think that it's -- it's worth -- if I could send a message to him, it would be worth remembering that his loyalty to Donald Trump and his loyalty to the Republicans closest to Donald Trump has not been reciprocated at all.

KARL: But I have to say, Ramesh, though, if -- if he comes before the committee, first of all, it can't be in one of those videotaped depositions where he's, like, sitting by his lawyer whispering in his ear, right? He has to be there at the committee, at the table, live testimony. If that happens, that will be a very big moment.

PONNURU: Yeah, that will be -- that will be electric. I think it's interesting, Pence came out in defense of the FBI and its agents...

KARL: Yes, that's the other thing.

PONNURU: ... this week. And that, I think -- that was a choice, that he could have fallen in line with the prevailing tone of the Republican Party, which is the FBI going after Donald Trump was a real -- was an excess banana republic sort of...

KARL: Yeah, yeah.

PONNURU: He chose the other path, which I think is a signal, I think, about what he might do with respect to the committee. But when you think about his overall political future, you've got to remember Donald Trump put him on the ticket in 2016 to shore up evangelical conservative support. Evangelical conservatives support Trump more than they support Pence now. And you have to wonder what his constituency is.

KARL: It's an incredible fact.

We will be back. We have to take a quick break. The roundtable will be back for more.

And up next, as border crossings reach a new record, Texas has begun ng migrants to New York City and to Washington, setting up a showdown between Governor Greg Abbott and New York City Mayor Eric Adams. They face off in our report from the border, next.



GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R-TX): I will take charge of ng these migrants up to other locations, including Washington D.C. and New York. The country is seeing something that we've been dealing with every single day and that is the fact that we have a crisis on our border.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-WASHINGTON D.C.): In my cases they're boarding buses having been lied to about what's going to be on the other end.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D-NYC): Every asylum seeker that comes to New York, we are going to get them shelter and the support that they need.


KARL: The mayors of Washington and New York responding to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to bus thousands of migrants crossing the southern border to the Northeast, as the U.S. is now on track to arrest over 2 million migrants illegally crossing the border this year.

ABC’s Mireya Villarreal is in Texas reporting on the latest surge.

Good morning, Mireya.


As you probably know, immigration is a very polarizing issue, with big opinions on both sides. But we spend a lot of time in these border towns, talking with people who live there and work there. For them this is not a red or blue issue or Democrat versus Republican, this is an American issue and they're asking for it to be addressed.


VILLARREAL (voiceover): Along the South Texas border, local, state and federal agents are working around the clock to try and slow the flow of migrants. We got a bird's-eye view of the situation with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

VILLARREAL (on camera): I can see a group of about four or five that have already made it across into the U.S. and a second group is now just crossing the Rio Grande. And it looks like they're going to be intercepted by the crews on the ground.

VILLARREAL (voiceover): The U.S. is on pace to hit a record-breaking 2 million encounters this year. On the ground, we watch as dozens of migrants cross into the U.S., almost immediately turning themselves into agents standing by.

The majority of the migrants crossing into Eagle Pass don't have any intention of staying here. This family is from Venezuela, they're planning to ride the free buses Texas Governor Greg Abbott is sending north to sanctuary cities like New York and Washington, D.C. Their young children already making plans to work, go to school, and learn English.

VILLARREAL (on camera): (Speaking in Foreign Language).

UNKNOWN FEMALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language).


VILLARREAL (voiceover): So far, immigration officials say New York City has taken in some 6,000 migrants, all have been processed by immigration officials, many seeking asylum through Title 8 an immigration policy which allows migrants to lawfully live in the U.S. while their cases are pending.

Critics questioning whether Governor Abbott’s ng strategy is leading to even more border crossings, New York Mayor Eric Adams calling out Abbott during a conversation with "Nightline's" Byron Pitts.

ADAMS: You have a person who is using those who are seeking refuge in this country as almost political showmanship. He thinks that this is a theatrical performance and it’s not.

VILLARREAL: Abbott responding, calling it a crisis for the nation, not just border states.

ABBOTT: Before we begin ng illegal immigrants up to New York, it was just Texas and Arizona that bore the brunt of all of the chaos and all of the problems that come with it. We need our fellow Americans to understand how significant, how prolific the challenge is that we're dealing with.

VILLARREAL: While millions of migrants have been expelled using Title 42, the pandemic rule that let’s agents kick out migrants without processing their asylum claims. Many of those expelled, simply turn around and come right back in.

VILLARREAL (on camera): So this group was picked up here, instantly they ran their information, Border Patrol says they cannot, for whatever reason, request asylum. So they’ve pulled them onto the bridge. This is the international bridge right outside Eagle Pass and they are -- they got out, right on top of the bridge and now they are walking straight over back into Mexico. So that is basically Title 42 in a nutshell.

VILLARREAL (voiceover): The Biden administration has remained fairly quiet about issues unfolding along the border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged they have work to do, but that's not good enough for Abbott.

ABBOTT: This is a crisis caused by the Biden administration. Remember, two years ago we had the lowest number of border crossings in decades, today we have the highest number of illegal crossings into the United States ever.


VILLARREAL (on camera): New York City officials are now working with nonprofit organizations to open up temporary shelters, 13 of them within hotels, and they're also working with school officials to make sure they make room for these children that are coming in from the Texas area.

KARL: So, Mireya, where do things go from here? How long are Texas taxpayers going to be paying to bus migrants to New York and Washington D.C.?

VILLARREAL: Jon, I think that’s the question on everybody's mind right now. As of what we know, we’re talking to law enforcement on the border. They're saying right now there's no end in sight for this busing strategy that was created by Abbott.

But what could slow things down is the cost that you just mentioned. The rides are free for migrants but this whole strategy is being funded by Texas taxpayer dollars -- Jon.

KARL: Mireya, thank you for your excellent and important reporting from the border. I appreciate it.

Up next, as the war in Ukraine approaches the six-month mark, new fears the conflict may be escalating. Europe’s largest nuclear power plant may now be in danger. We are live from that war zone.

And later, more of my exclusive interview with Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Why she's warning of a very dangerous moment for our country.


KARL: Six months of war in Ukraine, our look at the stalemate amid concerns of a nuclear catastrophe.

Plus, more of my exclusive interview with Liz Cheney, up next.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification, without necessity. This is a premeditated attack. When the history of this era is written, Putin's choice to make a totally unjustifiable war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.


KARL: President Biden six months ago this week responding to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And this week brought a dire warning about the safety of Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

ABC's Britt Clennett is on the ground in Ukraine tracking the very latest.

Good morning, Britt.

BRITT CLENNETT, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jon. Yes, the daughter of a close Putin ally, Alexander Dugin, reportedly killed in a suspicious blast today. Her family saying she borrowed her father's car suggesting he was the target. Now Dugin is a staunch supporter of the war here in Ukraine. Russia says it's now investigating it as a murder. And, look, if it turns out Ukraine is behind the attack, it would add to signs that Ukraine is willing and able to take its fight beyond Ukrainian territory.


CLENNETT (voice-over): This week, six months into Putin's invasion of Ukraine, there are serious fears the fighting could turn into a nuclear catastrophe. Russia and Ukraine repeatedly pinning the blame on each other for the attacks that are threatening the safety of Europe's largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia. The tense situation there sparking an exodus. We visited an evacuation center in Zaporizhzhia as hundreds arrive from occupied Russian territory.

(on camera): We've been told to expect a huge convoy of cars coming in from the Russian-occupied areas. And here they are, taking everything they have to find a safe passage and get out of here.

(voice-over): This woman from Enerhodar, the site of the plant, traumatized, saying it's bad there. We spoke one of the plant's engineers asking us not to show his face for fear of retaliation.

"It might well be like another Chernobyl," he says. "If the storage is hit badly, there will be radioactive clouds and pollution."

Global calls for independent inspectors to visit the plant growing this week, culminating in a visit with President Zelenskyy by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety, or security of the nuclear plant. And the facility must not be used as part of any military operation.

CLENNETT: Zelenskyy also meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, touted as a potential power broker. But a call between French President Macron and Putin appears to have made headway. Putin finally agreeing to an independent visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the plant as soon as possible.

And this week, the U.S. also stepping up its commitment to Ukraine, announcing plans to send a $775 million military aid package that takes the total of U.S. spending in Ukraine to $10 billion since the war began six months ago, with no signs of slowing down.

Firepower to help Ukraine's fight in this war, including 16 new howitzers and sending 15 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones used in identifying key Russian targets. The U.S. enabling Ukraine forces to attack Russian military in Crimea for the first time and focus the battle on occupied territories in the south.

The toll on civilians continues. A firefighter at the scene sends us this body cam footage showing the destruction left when shells slammed into a residential building and a dormitory, killing six people and injuring more than 20. And six months on, the humanitarian crisis worsening by the day. People of all ages fleeing Russian-held territory to reach freedom.

DYMTRO ZALATA, UKRAINIAN INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSON: When we first saw like Ukrainian flag we were like, yes, we're in our country...

UNIDENTIFIED: You guys cheered when you saw Ukrainian flag?

ZALATA: Yes, and we are, like, feeling that we are really free people.


CLENNETT: And that there is a snapshot of what we saw in Zaporizhia, desperation, relief, a reflection of what it's like to be free of those occupied territories, especially with that power plant, the largest in Europe, under threat, now, six months on, potentially taking the destruction outside the borders of Ukraine. Jon?

KARL: Thank you, Britt.

Coming up, more of my exclusive interview with Liz Cheney, of what she had to say about Merrick Garland and the FBI and how they handled the search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Her revealing answers, next.



FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We can hold the attorney general accountable for the decision that he made without attacking rank-and-file law enforcement personnel. These attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.


KARL: Former Vice President Mike Pence calling on Republicans to stop attacking the FBI after the agency's search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home for highly classified documents Trump took from the White House. At the conclusion of my interview, I asked Liz Cheney about the fallout from that raid and the pushback from her fellow Republicans.


KARL: The execution of the search warrant by the FBI in Mar-a-Lago, what was your reaction when you first heard about that?

CHENEY: That it's a very serious thing. I think that when you think about the fact that we were in a position where the FBI, the Department of Justice, felt the need to execute a search warrant at the home of a former president, that's a really serious thing for the nation.

I was ashamed to hear Republicans immediately and reflexively attack the FBI agents who executed the search warrant. I, you know, was disgusted when I learned that President Trump had released the names of those agents when he released the unredacted search warrant.

And that has now caused violence, we've seen threats of violence. The judge, himself, the synagogue had to cancel services because of threats of violence. This is a really dangerous moment.

KARL: At the heart of the -- of those attacks from your fellow Republicans on the FBI and on DOJ is the idea that this was politically motivated. Are you entirely confident that there was no political motivation behind this by the Biden administration or by the attorney general?

CHENEY: I've seen no evidence that there was any political motivation. You've now got, you know, the judge reviewing whether or not the affidavit or portions of it will be released. I think that will provide us additional information. It also seems to be the case that there were clearly ongoing efforts to get back whatever this information was and that it was not presented -- you know, that the former president was unwilling to give back these materials.

Now, we will see. We'll learn more. But you know, it's a really serious thing. And I just think that for us as a party to be in a position where we're reflexively attacking career law enforcement professionals in order to defend a former president who conducted himself the way this one did is -- it's a really sad day for the party.

KARL: Could it be that his handling of government records, classified information, that that could be what brings Donald Trump down after all of this?

CHENEY: I mean, look, we'll see -- everyone has an obligation and a responsibility. And you know, clearly, the handling of classified information is something that's really serious.


KARL: Our thanks to Liz Cheney for taking time to speak with us.

Coming up, Senator Mitch McConnell is warning Republicans they may not win back control of the Senate this year. Nate Silver plus our Roundtable weigh in, next.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. The Senate races are just different, they're statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcomes, but I think when all is said and done and it’s all over, I (ph) could have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.


KARL: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell sounding a rather pessimistic note about his party’s chances of retaking Senate control in the midterm elections, blaming candidate quality as polls show Democrats leading in a number of hotly contested races.

So what are that chances that Democrats win in states where they had been expected to lose? Here's FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver.


NATE SILVER, FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Everywhere you look these days, there’s a poll showing the Democrat tied or even leading in states they were expected to lose, that includes Tim Ryan in Ohio who leads by about one point over Republican JD Vance in our polling average.

Meanwhile, Mandela Barnes leads Republican incumbent Ron Johnson by four points in a Fox News poll this week in Wisconsin.

And the FiveThirtyEight average in North Carolina shows a dead heat between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd.

But there are a couple things to keep in mind before you get too carried away. First, some of these states are places where the polls have erred in the past. Joe Biden trailed by only one point in the polling average in Ohio against Donald Trump in 2020, for instance, but he actually lost by eight.

And the polling problems in Wisconsin are notorious, including incorrectly putting Hillary Clinton to win in 2016, and also expecting Democrat Russ Feingold to win a Senate seat when Johnson held on instead.

And, second, the election isn't being held today. Ryan has a big fund-raising advantage in Ohio so far for instance. But the cavalry is coming with Republicans announcing a $28 million commitment to Vance this week.

The political environment may also tilt back to Republicans after a recent winning streak for Democrats given voter anger over the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade and some of recent legislative successes for Biden.

Still, the FiveThirtyEight forecast now does have Democrats' chances of keeping the Senate up above 60 percent.

Ultimately, I think you have to take this on a case by case basis. In Ohio and North Carolina, I buy that Democrats have a chance, but I think the GOP is favored. In Wisconsin, though, the state that Biden actually won in 2020, I think the race is more of a toss-up.


KARL: Thanks to Nate and to our graphic teams for that.

The roundtable is back now. So, Susan if you look at the polling right now, it looks like Democrats could pick up. I mean, maybe even a couple of seats in the Senate. No first-term president has picked up Senate seats in the midterms since JFK.

Is it going to happen this time?

PAGE: So, history says it won't happen, but we have a situation where with some weak Republican candidates in swing states. We have a new poll coming out tomorrow in Nevada, some thought that Senator Catherine Cortez Masto was the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the Senate, this poll shows her up seven points.

KARL: Seven points.

PAGE: More than she has been before. Maybe it's a summer surge. Sometimes the party in power has a little better time in August than they have in November. We'll see.

KARL: What do you think, Jane?

COASTON: Yeah, I think that history tells us that in general, the party in power has a rough time in the midterms. But history has never witness witnessed Dr. Oz's senatorial campaign and what a crudites he is.

So, I think that this is -- I mean, I think Mitch McConnell is right about candidate quality. I also think that a lot of issues -- look, none of us know what's going to happen. A lot of people are going to say they know what is going to happen, they are wrong. I have been wrong so many times before and I’m likely going to be wrong right now.

But I think that looking at each of these races, they're a lot closer than people would have thought, you know, in 2021 when I think a lot of Republicans thought that they’d be running on school closings and critical race theory, both of which seem like I’m referencing movies that came 30 years ago.

And so I think -- we're just not sure what's going to happen, especially when row have so many people who are going to tether themselves to Trump in the -- to help them win. You have Ron DeSantis campaigning for Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, but you’re also going to have Donald Trump campaigning for Doug Mastriano.

You have Kari -- you have a host of candidates who are endorsing other candidates who have voiced, you know, in Oklahoma hard-core anti-Semitism. You have a host of candidates who seemed to be doubling down on why people like Mitch McConnell are concerned about them.

And it's interesting, because, you see in the primaries, those are base elections, you want to get the most out of the people who already like you. In the general, what you are supposed to do is come across like a normal person, and yet, it just seems with Republican, they’re saying, what if we just didn't do that?

KARL: But if you look at McConnell and when he says candidate quality matters, that’s -- I mean, that's basically a slur. I mean, he’s -- but who's to blame for candidate quality?

PONNURU: Although, of course, the idea that candidate quality matters more in Senate almost a political science 101. It is impossible to argue against what McConnell was saying on that point. Whereas the House races, a lot of it is going to be national trends, the makeup of the district, you got your results. The Senate, if you've got a candidate who's just a bad candidate, it's matters more.

As for who's responsible, I think the answer has to be Republican primary voters, first and foremost, for those places.

KARL: So, you just say the actual voters. The people that nominated these people.


KARL: That’s --


PONNURU: But former President Trump did exert some influence in these races and did he often for candidates who are weaker. Oz in Pennsylvania being I think the preeminent example of that.

KARL: I would add a few more if I may.

LEIBOVICH: I would add Mitch McConnell. I mean, look, he can’t just wash his hands of this by saying candidate quality matters like it’s like some objective thing that he had nothing to do with.

I mean, look, he could have washed his hands of Donald Trump, or certainly led a more vigorous fight to move on from Donald Trump after January 6th than he ultimately did. And when you basically empower Donald Trump to be the leader of the party, which he and many of his allies in Congress and the Senate did, you allow Donald Trump to have outsize sway on picking the Dr. Ozs and the J.D. Vances and the Herschel Walkers of the world, which is what you're stuck with now if you're Mitch McConnell. So Mitch McConnell, I think, deserves a lot of blame (ph).

KARL: And it's not just how the primaries have gone, it's the people that haven't gotten into the primaries knowing what those primary voters who are listening to Donald Trump would do. So, you know, there was no way Larry Hogan was going to win a Republican primary in Maryland. There was probably no way Sununu was going to win or he would have had a tough time winning a Republican primary in New Hampshire, and Ducey was going to face the full wrath of Donald Trump if he tried to run in Arizona.

PONNURU: Although we did see Brian Kemp...


KARL: That's the one example, right, is Georgia. Georgia.

PONNURU: Georgia, that's right. But, you know, there are obviously specific factors in Georgia such as the state's Republicans having seen Donald Trump tank the entire ticket up and down in January of 2021, that may have been a wake-up call to a lot of Republican voters that they don't want him selecting the candidates.

KARL: Now -- now Democrats still have to deal with something, which is the unpopularity of Joe Biden. Now I want you to take a look at a couple of ads that we have seen in two House races.


REP. JARED GOLDEN (D), MAINE: I was the only Democrat to vote against trillions of dollars of President Biden's agenda because I knew it would make inflation worse.

UNIDENTIFIED: Joe Biden is letting Ohio's solar manufacturers be undercut by China, but Marcy Kaptur is fighting back. She doesn't work for Joe Biden, she works for you.


KARL: "She doesn't work for Joe Biden." So, I mean, there you have two -- those are two Democratic candidates that are making it clear in their advertising, we aren't with that guy in the White House, he may be a Democrat, but.

PAGE: Biden's popularity is lower than Donald Trump's was at this point in his presidency. On an -- traditionally in midterms elections...


KARL: In some cases, lower than Donald Trump's popularity now.

PAGE: And traditionally in midterm elections the president's popularity rating means a lot. The reason I think it means less this time, it's the popularity rating of two presidents, because you have a referendum on Joe Biden, you have a referendum on Donald Trump as well. And you tell me, who wants -- will Republicans want Trump to be out there campaigning in competitive races in October or will Democrats?

KARL: Yes, you may not see either. But it's interesting, Mark, when you talk to the White House about this, they talk about why they think the environment has improved. Gas prices are down. Inflation is -- seems to be going in the right direction. He has had some legislative wins. They don't mention the January 6th Committee, Trump's legal problems. They seem to genuinely think that that is irrelevant.

LEIBOVICH: I think...

KARL: Are they right? I mean, all this stuff...

LEIBOVICH: Well, first of all, just the fact they aren't saying it publicly doesn't mean they're not like secretly happy that Liz Cheney has like...


KARL: No, but even privately when you talk to them, they say that they don't think that the January 6th Committee has had an impact.

LEIBOVICH: That is true on January 6th. But I think they are happy to have Donald Trump's legal problems front and center for them. I mean, if nothing else, it is two weeks since that, you know, search has happened that no one has talked about inflation. No one has talked about, you know, gas prices and so forth. So if nothing else, it's a, I think, welcome distraction from things that, yes, I mean, look, people aren't talking about maybe their legislative victories as much as they'd like to. But ultimately I think Donald Trump remains an asset for Democrats and the White House.

COASTON: I also think like...

KARL: All right. We are -- we are out of time. Save that for next week.

That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." And have a great day.