A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 22, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
RADDATZ: The president plays defense despite his tough talk.
TRUMP: There's plenty of time to do some dastardly things. It's very easy to start.
TRUMP: I’ve had conversations with many leaders, they're always appropriate.
RADDATZ: The Wall Street Journal reporting Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden's side.
BIDEN: He's using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me.
GREGORY: She was unafraid of bishop (ph) or political figure. And she delighted in letting both know that fact.
RADDATZ: Trailblazer, a mother, a friend. Our roundtable celebrates her life and legacy. Sam Donaldson and George Will return to remember our colleague.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK, a place that was a professional home for our Cokie Roberts for more than 30 years. Throughout the morning we will be celebrating our colleague and friend who was honored here in Washington in St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Saturday. Hundreds gathering to remember her life, her legacy and her love of family. But since her very first show as an anchor on this program in 1996, Cokie promised to bring you the news each Sunday morning, so we will start with that. And we begin with the rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. The administration is pointing the finger at Iran, holding it responsible for that attack on Saudi Oil facilities last week, the Secretary of States calling it an act of war.
TRUMP: I think it shows far more strength to do it the way we’re doing it. Whether it’s now or in three weeks, doesn’t make any difference. But I think the strong person’s approach and the -- the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint.
RADDATZ: So far the only concrete steps Trump has taken are to impose yet more sanctions and deploy a modest number of troops and air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. So where do we go from here? Do Trump’s varied responses keep Iran guessing or invite further escalation from Iran? For more on this, let’s bring in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Welcome back to THIS WEEK.
POMPEO: Martha, it’s great to be with you. Thank you.
RADDATZ: And Mr. Secretary, the Pentagon did announce Friday that in response to the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities that the U.S. will be sending more air defenses to Saudi -- president also announcing more sanctions. What kind of message does that send to Iran, a nation that you say conducted an act of war?
POMPEO: Martha, we have 40 years of terror from this nation and they conducted an attack on oil fields, one of the largest attacks on the global energy supply in history. And so President Trump’s strategy that we laid out now two years ago is working. We are well on our way to forcing the Iranian regime to ultimately make the decision to become a normal nation. That’s all we’ve ever asked. And so the president made a couple decisions on Friday, we tightened sanctions on the regime, which put the revolutionary regime in a difficult position. The Iranian people applaud that. They understand that their leaders are taking them in the direction that is not good for their country. And we then announced that we’re going to move some additional forces. Secretary of Defense talked about that on Friday evening. Each of those is aimed at deterrence. We do want a peaceful resolution of this. That’s our objective. We hope that the added deterrence, the work that we’ve done in the Straight of Hormuz keep the straits open and now the additional air defense systems and capabilities that we’ll put in the region, we’ll achieve just that.
RADDATZ: Mr. Secretary, the Saudis reportedly already have over a dozen patriot missile batteries and yet a storm of explosive-laden drones and cruise missiles got through. What does sending a few more air defenses over there do that those other air defenses did not?
POMPEO: It’ll improve. It’s -- it’s about volume and density. Martha, you know this story well. It’ll improve the capabilities for them. We’re going to assist the Emirates as well. We’re going to strengthen all the capabilities there.
It will -- it will make it more difficult. And I’m glad you -- I’m glad you acknowledged this was an Iranian attack that land attack (ph) cruise missiles and UAVs that took place, an act of war by a state. I’m here at New York. We’ll be at the U.N. all week talking about it. We hope the United Nations will take a strong position. It was -- it was designed exactly for this kind of thing, where one country attacks another country. And we hope the United Nations will rally around what it is. I know the Iranian people want a peaceful -- a peaceful resolution and an Iranian regime that is not engaged in over five countries in terror and mayhem.
RADDATZ: Mr. Secretary, you say the plan is working but the stated purpose of the maximum pressure campaign is to reduce Iran’s malign activity and prevent them from getting nuclear weapons through tough economic sanctions. Let me just go through this, since you pulled out of the nuclear deal, there’ve been attacks on oil tankers, shooting down a sophisticated drone that cost more than $100 million, the attack on the Saudi oil fields, and posing such a threat in Iraq that we closed the consulate in Basra and reduced our diplomatic corps by about 50 percent and Iran is now breaking the JCPOA limits on enrichment and storage. So isn’t this campaign having the opposite effect you hoped for?
POMPEO: Well Martha, some of the facts you had there aren’t quite right. But you started the clock at the wrong point. Remember, we took over -- when the previous administration had handed this regime, this revolutionary, zany, zealous regime, $150 billion. They had -- they had fueled the very acts that you just described and created the wealth and resources for them to do that. And I think it’s important...
RADDATZ: But you said some of those facts were wrong, so what...
POMPEO: ...I actually -- Martha, I think it’s important -- Martha, I think it’s important that all of your viewers understand that during the JCPOA, not -- not after President Trump made the correct decision to withdraw, but during the JCPOA, there were dozens of missile attacks into Saudi Arabia by Iranians. There were assassinations campaigns conducted in Europe. This -- this regime...
RADDATZ: I’m aware of that, Mr. Secretary, but since you pulled out of the JCPOA -- you -- you’re disputing the fact that they -- they bombed an oil field or that the Basra consulate was closed?
POMPEO: No -- no -- no ma’am, I’ve said clearly they bombed that oil field and we -- we are working to extinguish their capability. And we’ve seen it. We’ve seen Hezbollah struggle with resources. We've been watching internal decision-making about whether they should arm their army or their air force, they’re having to -- remember, Martha, we’ve only had these tough sanctions on since May. We’re talking about less than five months. We’re at the start of the sanctions campaign, not the middle or the end. The Iranian economy will shrink by somewhere on the order of 10 to 15 percent this year. And the regime knows their people won’t stand for this. They -- they know that the Iranian people understand that their adventurism and bringing back the dead Iranians from Syria and from Iraq is not going to sit well with the Iranian people. And that’s who we support, and that’s our mission set.
RADDATZ: Secretary Pompeo, President Trump has had some very strong words, some very strong tweets about Iran. Let’s go to one of them. "To Iranian President Rouhani, never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer the consequences the likes of which few throughout history have suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious." That was a year before Iran shot down that $130 million drone and the consequences of that were that the U.S. reportedly launched a cyber attack and placed sanctions on the Ayatollah. Senator Lindsey Graham said he believes Iran saw this as a sign of weakness by the U.S. Why do you believe the U.S. response now, economic sanctions, is sufficient to deter Iran in the future?
POMPEO: President Trump and I both want to give diplomacy every opportunity to succeed. But I think the whole world knows that when -- when that fails, when it’s the case that we no longer believe that we can convince the Iranian regime to behave in the way that we’ve asked them to behave -- just -- just to behave like a normal nation, I think the whole world knows, including the Iranian regime, of American military might.
RADDATZ: Are you confident we can avoid war? Iran doesn’t seem confident.
POMPEO: We’re working towards that. I’ve -- I’ve watched -- I’ve watched their leadership talk about all out war, I’ve talked -- talk about the destruction, death of Israel, wiping the state -- remember, Iran became and anti-Semitic, anti-western, anti-moderate. That’s the history of this regime, Martha. You -- you know it well for 40 years. Our administration’s taking this on in a serious way and we are working diligently to see that this has a diplomatic outcome. But make no mistake about it, if we’re unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn to this whistleblower complaint, Mr. Secretary. The complaint involving the president and a phone call with a foreign leader to the director of national intelligence inspector general. That's where the complaint was launched by the whistle-blower. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that President Trump pressed the president of Ukraine eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden's son. What do you know about those conversations?
POMPEO: So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistle-blower complaint, none of which I've seen. I can tell you about this administration's policies with Ukraine. I remember the previous administration was begged -- begged by the Ukrainian people to deliver defensive arms, so that they could protect themselves from Vladimir Putin and Russia. And they gave them blankets. This administration took seriously the responsibility of the Ukrainian people. We've provided now on multiple occasions resources, so that the -- the Ukrainians can defend themselves. We've worked on that. We -- we're working -- we'll see President Zelensky this week. We want a good relationship with the Ukrainian people.
RADDATZ: Let me read something that the...
POMPEO: We want them to have freedom and independence, but -- but Martha, if it's the case that...
RADDATZ: You say you know nothing about this, but let me -- let me -- let me ask you this question. The Ukrainian presidential readout of the conversation said they discussed -- quote -- "investigation of corruption cases which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA." The president tweeted Saturday: "It was a perfectly fine and respectful conversation." Do you think it's -- quote -- "perfectly fine" to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent?
POMPEO: I think I saw a statement from the Ukrainian foreign minister yesterday, said there was no pressure applied in the course of the conversation. I do think -- I do think, if Vice President Biden behaved inappropriately, if he was protecting his son and intervened with the Ukrainian leadership in a way that was corrupt, I do think we need to get to the bottom of that, Martha. And I -- I hope that we will. I hope that, if Vice President Biden engaged in behavior that was inappropriate, I hope the American people will come to learn that. America can't have...
RADDATZ: We've seen no evidence of that yet. But I want to go back to the question.
POMPEO: America cannot have our elections interfered with. America cannot have our elections interfered with. And if -- if that's what took place there, if there was that kind of activity engaged in by Vice President Biden, we need to know.
RADDATZ: There's no evidence of that yet. But if the conversation was perfectly fine, as President Trump said, why not release the transcript or a portion to the public?
POMPEO: I will have -- the White House will have to explain. They -- they -- you know, Martha, they -- we don't release transcripts very often. It's the -- it's the rare case. Those are private conversations between world leaders. And it wouldn't be appropriate to do so, except in -- in the most extreme circumstances. There's -- there's -- there's no -- there's no evidence that that would be appropriate here at this point.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks so much for joining us this morning...
POMPEO: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: ... Secretary Pompeo. Appreciate it. When we come back, former Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis weighs in. Plus, we remember our colleague and friend Cokie Roberts with our powerhouse roundtable. Plus, the return of Sam Donaldson and George Will. We'll be right back.
MATTIS: We will work with our allies and try to bring Iran back into more responsible behavior. At the same time, addressing all five of the threats that Iran constitutes -- the nuclear issue, which is foremost, certainly the terrorism issue, the ballistic missile efforts they have, cyber attacks they've been conducting, and then the threats to -- to international commerce.
RADDATZ: That was former defense secretary General James Mattis testifying before Congress on the threat posed by Iran. General Mattis is the author of a new book called "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead”. And General Mattis joins us now. Secretary Mattis, I know you're hesitant to talk about the Trump administration and current events because of sensitivities, but you have dealt with Iran for decades. We know they want sanctions lifted. But what do you think Iran is thinking at this point?
MATTIS: Well, Iran, Martha, is continuing to do what they've done for nearly four decades now, and that is be a destabilizing influence as they promote their -- their brand of how they want the Middle East to go, their brand of how they want to lead the Middle East into this revolutionary fervor that gives the revolutionary regime its bona fides. You know, they want to -- they want to look like the leader and they’re trying to craft a foreign policy that pushes others around. And this is the same thing they’ve been doing for many, many years. Not the Iranian people, but the Iranian regime.
RADDATZ: But these attacks, as I said to Secretary Pompeo, have increased significantly in the past few months. Why?
MATTIS: Well, the Iranians, in terms of leading right now, feel they're under pressure. They are under pressure. And they're going to react the way they've always reacted. Just a few years ago they put together a plan to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington, D.C. less than two miles from the White House. This is the way this regime conducts its policy and has been for years, since they attacked our embassies, they’ve attacked other people’s diplomats, they’ve murdered the former prime minister of Lebanon. This is their modus operandi. There's nothing new here.
RADDATZ: As you mentioned -- in your book, you mentioned two instances where you felt the United States didn't respond forcefully enough Iranian aggression, that in 2011, the U.S. foiled the Iranian plot to bomb that restaurant in Washington, and there was another 2012 after an Iranian fighter jet tried to attack an American drone. Here's what you wrote about responding to that drone attack, "I wanted calculated actions to restrain the regime so it couldn't thrust us into war, yet once again the Iranians had not been held to account. And I anticipated they would feel emboldened to challenge us more in the future." Looking at it today, are you concerned that Iran once again feels emboldened to challenge us more?
MATTIS: I think anyone looking at this situation judges that, Martha. This is not something that should be simply an American administration policy. You see other nations, as Secretary Pompeo just mentioned, come in to help on the freedom of navigation patrols. This is one of those situations where you need our allies, our partners, and when you need them you have build trust that you have a coherent strategy and we are going to need to promote that and convince them, persuade our allies, to be with us, because this is a situation whose best possible outcome will come from a coalition of nations that want a stable Middle East, and that has to be our goal to stabilize this situation as soon as possible.
RADDATZ: Well, are you concerned the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, which the Europeans did not want, could now complicate those efforts to work with them to counter Iran's aggression?
MATTIS: Well, I think what we have to do is we have to play the ball where it lies right now, and we need to work with our allies, come up with a very clear political end state that we're trying to achieve, which I think is pretty easy to articulate, that we want an Iran that doesn't destabilize the Middle East, doesn't attack its neighbors, doesn't try to kill diplomats. I mean, these are pretty fundamental, pretty basic principals, and then we work together economically, diplomatically, and in all other areas, in the defense area as well, to neuter what Iran is trying to do, the mischief they're trying to create.
RADDATZ: Do you believe there should be a military response to what just happened?
MATTIS: Well, now that I'm outside the -- outside the area of responsibility, a position of responsibility, I'm always reluctant not knowing the full story to give advice like that, Martha. I think what we want to do is absolutely use every diplomatic and economic means -- and Secretary Pompeo made clear that he's in New York City to help orchestrate that as we try to stop the destabilizing behavior, but at the same time to get a longer term degree of stability there in the region. The world needs this, the economy, the world's economy needs it, and certainly the people in that region don't need Iran to be continuing this kind of behavior.
RADDATZ: Secretary Mattis, I just want to turn to something else that's in the news, and that's the whistleblower investigation. President Trump just said "I hope they can put out that conversation." Should a president be asking foreign leaders to investigate political opponents?
MATTIS: Yeah, Martha, this is not something I have background on. I don't know anything more than what I read in the news. And apparently no one has seen the complaint, so I really prefer to talk about things I know more about.
RADDATZ: OK, then let me turn to leadership, that's what your book is about, leadership and your life and your position in the Marine Corp. What do you think it takes to be a good leader?
MATTIS: Well, I think the most important thing that you have to have to be a good leader, is you have to have the ability to build trust, and that starts with listening. I'll put it in George Washington's words: listening, learning, helping and then leading. In other words, you start by understanding what others face and then you figure out a way to help them. And as you do that, by helping them you actually create the position from which your leadership will be listened to and be acted on. So I think it's a rather old formula, it's a rather dry formula, but it worked for George Washington when he was leading the Revolutionary Army, and I think it works today.
RADDATZ: And one of the ways you end your book, you are saying what concerns you most is not external adversaries, but internal divisiveness. What do you do about that?
MATTIS: Well, I think we have to look at it as a problem in our society. A democracy cannot work without compromise. And we're going to have to learn to listen to one another, really understand, learn from one another, accept the fact that, once in a while, the people we disagree with might actually be right. And when an election is over, when we're done dividing ourselves and going into the voting booths, and having good, strong arguments with one another, once the election is decided, let's -- let's get back together, start governing. We owe our children, we owe the next generation a lot better than what we're doing today in terms of solving our nation's problems.
RADDATZ: Secretary Mattis, it's always great to see you. I feel like we're a long way from Fallujah this time.
Have a good weekend.
MATTIS: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: Up next, the roundtable takes on the fallout for the 2020 race over President Trump and what he discussed with Ukraine's new president. Plus, Sam Donaldson and George Will remember Cokie Roberts. We will be right back.
RADDATZ: The roundtable is all here, ready to go.
And all week long you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We’ll be right back.
ROBERTS: In the 1960s, the ladder of opportunity in journalism was closed to her and other women. Here is a person who eventually wrote six -- six nationally best selling books. And yet, after we were married and moved to New York, she was told repeatedly by various editors, we do not hire women to be writers.
RADDATZ: Steve Roberts there delivering the eulogy for his wife Cokie Roberts here in Washington yesterday, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues of Cokie. And I'm happy to be joined by some of those friends and colleagues here at our roundtable, which says a lot about that ladder today. Donna Brazile, a FOX News contributor and former DNC chair and like Cokie, a proud Louisiana native.
BRAZILE: True that.
RADDATZ: Karen Tumulty, political columnist for the Washington Post and a long time friend of Cokie. Mara Liasson, she worked side by side with Cokie for years at NPR, where she serves as national political correspondent, and our Karen Travers. Cokie mentored her here at ABC from her time as a college intern at THIS WEEK to her current role as an ABC News correspondent. We’re going to get to our thoughts on Cokie in a little bit, but we’re going to start with the news, just as Cokie would have wanted us to do. And Karen Tumulty, I want to start with you and pick up on Iran. You heard what Secretary Pompeo said, because the president's maximum pressure campaign seems to be having the opposite effect of what they wanted it to do, despite what Secretary Pompeo says. So the question is, can the president let Iran get away with this attack?
TUMULTY: Well I think that that is one of the things that a lot of other countries are going to be wondering about this week at the U.N. General Assembly. The president's messaging has been so inconsistent. Truculent one moment, you know, talking about peaceful solutions the next. I think that -- that he is confusing a lot of people in this country, but also a lot of other countries around the world.
RADDATZ: And -- and Mara, the president doesn't really appear to know how he wants to respond, but he has two things in mind. He doesn't want to disrupt the economy, certainly, and he doesn't want to go to war for -- for someone who said they would get us out of wars. And I would add to that he doesn't want to look weak. All of that is pretty hard to juggle.
LIASSON: You can't do all those things at once. His critics say he talks loudly and carries a small twig. The president wants the benefits of looking tough, but now this is real life. And he created a maximum pressure campaign to really put the screws to Iran. And what did he think would happen after Iran pushed back? He says he's locked and loaded. He also says he doesn't want war. He sends a couple hundred troops to Saudi Arabia. The message to Iran is, hey, you got away with this.
RADDATZ: Karen Trevors, what are you hearing? You do a lot of radio two ways, as we call them, which radio hosts around the country get such a great sense of what people are thinking. What are people asking you about this? Are they tuned in?
TRAVERS: There was a big difference from Monday to Friday. On Monday, after the president's locked and loaded tweet over the weekend, there were a lot of concerns that a military strike was imminent, and a lot of questions about what the U.S. interest was here, what is the national security interest that's at stake. As the president dialed back from that, talking about wanting a peaceful solution, the question I heard most this week was a credibility question. Why should we believe the Trump administration when they say that Iran absolutely did this, and why should we believe the Trump administration that the strategy they're going to pursue is correct? The president himself has questioned his own intelligence agencies. The president has misled on issues big and small, including most recently the Hurricane Dorian map. So that was referenced a lot this week.
RADDATZ: And they haven't presented any evidence.
TRAVERS: They have not. So, without the evidence, the question was why should we trust them on such a big national security issue.
RADDATZ: And Karen, I want to turn to the whistleblower complaint and how that's playing out, and what the president could do. He said just a short time ago, I hope they put this conversation out. How big a problem do you see this for the president?
TRAVERS: The president has been talking about this for three days. He's been tweeting about it. And his strategy here seems to be deflect and distract. So, on the one hand, he said he had a beautiful, perfectly fine conversation. He didn't say anything wrong, but if he did, it doesn't matter anyway. And we've heard this strategy from the president before. He's calling it a witch hunt. He's trying to muddy the waters in such a way that if you're a supporter of the president, you just think this is not a big deal, and it's the latest thing that the Democrats and the media are going to make a big deal out of. If you don't support the president, you think this is...
RADDATZ: And Donna, this has got to be personal for you. You had your emails hacked in 2016 by the Russians. When you look at this, what do you say?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all I say never again. We should not allow the president of the United States to put his personal and political interests above the interests of our national security. Once again, the president is diverting attention, now saying the investigation should be on Joe Biden when we've known for months the president directed his personal attorney, Mr. Giuliani, to figure out if there was some there there. And now the president is attacking the whistleblower, attacking the intelligence agencies. He's doing all this when he can simply say Congress should do their job. Congress should allow the whistleblower to come forward and we should see the entire transcript.
RADDATZ: Karen, does -- if he puts this call out, do you think that ends it -- depending on what it says.
TUMULTY: Well, it depends on what it says. But this is qualitatively different from everything we talked about in the 2016 election, because this is a sitting president using the powers of his office and, if what has been reported is true about this conversation, I mean, he is not...
RADDATZ: The kind of credible and urgent...
TUMULTY: And he's not benefiting from collusion, he's inviting a foreign power to collude. This is all very, very different from any of -- qualitatively -- any of these controversies that we've seen before.
RADDATZ: But is it a way for the Trump administration to talk about Joe Biden? You saw Secretary Pompeo immediately turn it to Joe Biden.
LIASSON: Sure, this could end up being like the 2020 version of birtherism. Oh, Joe Biden did something bad in the Ukraine. The Ukrainians have investigated this formally and said there's no evidence of any wrongdoing. What I am -- my questions about today, he says he wants the transcript released. Does he really want that, or is that yes I'm going to release my tax returns,. and sure I'll talk to Bob Mueller? We don't know. But if it is released, this is also different from 2016 in that it's simpler for people to understand. This is one conversation, there is a formal whistleblower complaint through the system. It's not a leaker.
RADDATZ: We don't know for sure that whistleblower complaint was about Ukraine.
LIASSON: Right, or about this conversation only. We don't know. But at least these are small numbers or pieces of evidence that Congress is trying to get their hands on. And it involves the president directly talking to a foreign country, not just benefiting from some vague, vast scheme of Vladimir Putin's.
RADDATZ: And Karen, I want to turn to you for the 2020 race, which we're going right into full-speed, and this new "Des Moines Register" Iowa poll out yesterday, which shows Elizabeth Warren overtaking Joe Biden, a seven-point jump for Warren from June. She seems to have all the momentum now.
TRAVERS: She does. She's the only one that really seems to have the momentum. And I think it's striking to see all of the candidates' events over the past couple of months. The race is steady, except for Warren with that jump, and Joe Biden dropping several points.
But there was a number in there that I thought was also interesting, that two-thirds of likely Democratic caucus-goers say they haven't made up their minds yet. So this is all very early. There's a lot of time for that to change. But, certainly, that boost is fitting the narrative of the past couple of weeks for Elizabeth Warren, that she's on the rise right now.
RADDATZ: And, Donna, what do you see?
BRAZILE: The race is coming into sharper focus. And anything can change over the next two months. But the other story this weekend is that Cory Booker has signaled to his supporters that, if he's unable to raise $1.7 million over the next, what, five days, six days...
RADDATZ: He's out, right?
BRAZILE: He's out. Doesn't have the fuel.
RADDATZ: And, Karen, Warren and Bernie Sanders have also been trying to turn the tables on Joe Biden, arguing he's the one with electability concerns. Take a listen to Warren this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot at stake in this election. And I know people are scared. But we can't choose a candidate we don't believe in just because we're too scared to do anything else.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: So, can Warren and Sanders make that case against Biden effectively?
TUMULTY: I think, at this point, again, if you look at these Iowa poll numbers, the percentage of voters who say they are open to Warren's message is absolutely enormous.
So, she does have -- I think she has something I'd rather have at this point than the lead in the polls, which is the steady, steady gains. And, again, we're still over 120 days until those caucuses. It tends to break -- break late. But what she's finding is that voters in the Democratic caucuses are very open to her message.
LIASSON: Yes. And I think what we are seeing is, if it ends up being a Warren-Biden race, we're going to see a clear ideological contrast. Not only do you see Warren pushing back against Biden's claims of electability. You see Biden pushing back on her policies, how she's going to pay for it. Do people really want their private health insurance taken away?
I think you're going to see a clearer and clearer contrast.
RADDATZ: And, Karen, I want to take a look at how the president is doing.
The New York Times this week out with the story, "For Trump, A Time of Indecision."
They write: "Mr. Trump has made clear he wants to accomplish something big, but seems stymied as to what it might be. He has remained on the sidelines as divisive issues are debated and is treading water even on possible staff changes he wants to make, for fear of how things play."
Does he need to accomplish something else with his reelection pitch?
TRAVERS: He either needs to accomplish it or at least be able to talk about it in a way that convinces his supporters. So the economy is the centerpiece of his reelection message. But there are troubling signs there. And polls are showing that voters are starting to give him more criticism than credit for it. So those are worrying spots for the president and his team.
But on doing something big, it's why you see the administration trying to rush money to build something of a border wall, just anything, so he can say, I built that. It's why you see these conversations over the past couple of weeks about gun measures, despite the fact that there's no indication that the president is on board with what his administration is shopping. He told supporters at a fund-raiser this week in California behind closed doors that he's a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and that's what he's going to stick to.
And I'm going to put 2020 aside for a minute, so we can reflect on our wonderful colleague Cokie Roberts. And, Donna, I want to start with you. Louisiana woman.
BRAZILE: Louisiana. You know, I first met Cokie, I was 21. I got up here to -- I got up here to Washington, D.C., and Cokie Roberts found out that I was working for Gillis Long as an intern. And she said: "You're from New Orleans." I was born in New Orleans, raised in Kenner. And I say: "Yes, but the line was too long to work for your mom."
BRAZILE: And she said: "I will shorten it." And the next month, I was in Lindy Boggs' office. She was an amazing woman. Not only did she pull that ladder down for young women like myself, but she kept it down. And she kept pushing me. She had a drive like no one else. And this is the crawfish cornbread dressing.
RADDATZ: She did it there.
BRAZILE: And on the back is Cokie's handwriting, with Women's Leadership Forum, National Archives. Cokie constantly pushed us to be our better selves. And she's on my wall, along with Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm, and so many other women who dared to make a difference in my life. A great mentor and a wonderful friend.
RADDATZ: And, Karen, you texted me right away after Cokie's passing, and said that, when you struggled through cancer, she planted herself at the end of your bed.
TUMULTY: Oh, it was -- it was what people, what her listeners, what her viewers could sense about Cokie was very genuine with her. And I -- you know, I was not one of her closest friends, but I can tell you -- I mean, to look up in my hospital room after cancer surgery and there is Cokie holding a big arm-load of reading material and a big fresh load of gossip for me, which is -- I needed just as badly at that time --
RADDATZ: As did she.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She loved good gossip.
BRAZILE: She loved good gossip.
TUMULTY: But the thing about Cokie was -- and again, she was so generous in sharing her insights, she had such a deep understanding and respect for the institutions of Washington -- which isn't very fashionable these days -- and also she -- she knew the backstory of everything.
RADDATZ: And -- and Karen, I want to turn to you, because you have known Cokie since you were an intern here. My. Look at you now.
KAREN TRAVERS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
RADDATZ: And she's always been so proud. But when I read your remembrances of her, those were so touching and I thought how did Cokie ever find the time to do all -- so much for all of us.
TRAVERS: We’ve all been saying that this week. She must have had more hours in the day to spend time with you at the hospital, and to do her work, to write all these books. Our twins were born very premature in 2015 and they spent --
RADDATZ: Matt and Callie (ph)
TRAVERS: Matt and Callie (ph). There they are. They spent three months in the NICU at Georgetown. And our friends and family were signing up to delivery us food and Cokie signed up to give us food. And she made it homemade -- Louisiana, of course -- and she dropped it off on our front porch with a text that just said, Travers, the food is on the porch, you don’t have to come out, I know you’re busy, plus there’s wine, because I know that’s what you need right now. And our friends saw the signup sheet where everybody had picked their nights, and we had friends say to us, that -- is that the Cokie Roberts that’s bringing you food on Thursday? And I said it is the Cokie Roberts. She was that amazing. She was so kind and gracious and looked out for me.
She called me almost every week then, so it wasn’t just the work. It was the life, the amazing mentor and role model she was outside of this building.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what, she slept very few hours.
TRAVERS: I don’t know how she did it.
LIASSON: She slept very few hours. She was one of those people who slept very few hours and didn't need it. But look, I became an -- a reporter at National Public Radio because of Cokie -- Cokie Roberts. I was a newscaster, I wanted to be a reporter and she, by some miracle, kind of decided that I should be her number two in Congress, when she was the Congressional correspondent. And I got to work under her, learn how to do it, which is -- she gave me an amazing education. We would go into the majority leader’s office in the morning for the pen and pad gaggle and she would grill him, because I’m sure she knew him since they were both in diapers.
And then I trailed behind her in the bowels of the Capitol because she knew every single tunnel and had a special way (ph) -- and then she’d go and talk to one of the workers in the cafeteria, who she’d also known since she was a girl and she treated them with the exact same respect and dignity.
RADDATZ: And she had such a moral -- moral clarity --
RADDATZ: -- about everything and I wouldn't be here without her. None of us would. Up next, Sam Donaldson and George Will return with their reflections on Cokie. We're back in just 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your definition of womanizing, Sam?
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: Well it’s not mine, the accusations are made against you and they have --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But womanize is a broad term. What is your definition of the term?
DONALDSON: I don’t know. I simply say to you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, all right.
DONALDSON: -- that if you take --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cokie, do you have a definition of the term?
COKIE ROBERTS, FORMER ABC NEWS REPORTER: Well I think most women have a -- know it when they see it, Senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: A classic moment from one of Cokie’s earliest appearances on THIS WEEK back in 1989. She was a fixture on THIS WEEK WITH DAVID BRINKLEY, joining Sam Donaldson and George Will, questioning the powerful and debating all the week’s news. And in 1996, she became co-anchor of this program. Sam and George are standing by to reflect on Cokie. But first, a look back at her time here on THIS WEEK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC News, THIS WEEK with Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson --
RADDATZ: It was 1996. Cokie Roberts, the new co-anchor of THIS WEEK.
ROBERTS: New set, new program, but a lot of familiar faces.
RADDATZ: The featured guest that morning, then Senate Majority Leader, Republican Trent Lott.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, (R) MISSISSIPPI: I've talked with him. I'm going to meet with him.
ROBERTS: Are you going to sit back and wait and see what comes in your direction?
LOTT: Look, we haven't even been sworn in yet.
RADDATZ: Just one of hundreds of interviews on this program, challenging presidential candidates.
ROBERTS: On the tax pledge, would you take it again?
RADDATZ: Prominent public figures.
ROBERTS: Mr. Trump, the only people we've ever elected president who have not been elected to another office, won wars -- George Washington, Ulysses Grant, Dwight Eisenhower. Why would we take your seriously running for president?
RADDATZ: And first ladies.
ROBERTS: As the mother of a son, who I am extremely fond of, it must be an odd notion to see your little boy running for president.
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Well, it is an odd notion, except I really -- you know, you're interviewing the wrong person. I think he's close to perfect.
ROBERTS: Through it all, bringing her signature wit to Sunday morning.
SAM DONALDSON, CO-ANCHOR: All the surveys say December is the most stressful month, and I agree.
ROBERTS: I don't know why it should be stressful for men. This is a month where women do all the cooking and all the shopping, but hey, go ahead and be stressed if you want to.
RADDATZ: A steady force leading, and sometimes corralling a feisty round table.
ROBERTS: Now that we have done politics, religion and sex, we will end this roundtable.
RADDATZ: Our compass all these years later.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Can the president learn from his mistakes?
ROBERTS: Well, we haven't seen that in the past. And the question is whether he can do it in the future.
RADDATZ: Still contributing to this program whenever possible. Her last appearance, just a month ago, health issues not stopping her from telling it like she saw it.
ROBERTS: It's not mental illness that causes nine people to die in 30 seconds, it's a high-gauge weapon.
RADDATZ: Above all, putting family first. Her husband Steve by her side for more than 50 years, mother to her two children, Lee and Rebecca, and her six grandchildren, all celebrating marriage, friendship, life and love together, an inspiration to her viewers and to those of us lucky enough to call her a colleague and a friend.
RADDATZ: And Sam Donaldson and George Will join me now.
Gentlemen, it's great to see you and have you back here.
Sam, I want to start with you, just you watched that. What are your reflections there?
DONALDSON: Well, Martha, I've just watched four bright women on the roundtable to discuss the news of the day. When Cokie joined us, she said I came up to the seventh floor conference room, it was like going into the lion's den -- David Brinkley, the icon, George Will, Sam Donaldson, the District Attorney. Well, she tamed us. And she changed the business. She helped bring women, as you know, and I've just heard your panelists say that, into full power. Not just full power, but we're now the endangered gender, George.
RADDATZ: I think you’ve got nothing to worry about there, Sam. I think Cokie would say that as well. George, what are your thoughts?
GEORGE WILL, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST, FORMER ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It's been well said that the past is another country. And Cokie was from another Washington, Washington before tribalism swallowed civility, Washington before constant hysteria was taken as a sign of sophistication.
She had lived here long enough, and known enough people on both sides of the aisle, to see many fighting face come crop on the rocks of reality, so she had a kind of emotional equilibrium that gave her a special credibility in a town of, as I say, constant hysteria.
RADDATZ: And she was constant with that emotional equilibrium, and as I said, that moral clarity. Sam, I want you to think back on some of the great anecdotes, because I know you have so many and some moments you shared with Cokie that we didn't see there on that tape.
DONALDSON: Well, everyone has been playing a clip of Cokie's great ability to puncture a pomposity, but with so gentleness.
RADDATZ: That's a lovely way -- puncture pomposity.
DONALDSON: So in 1989 John Tower from Texas, a senator, was nominated to be Secretary of Defense. But he had a lot of enemies in the senate. And they were saying, well, he was drinking too much. And he came to the show and started out by saying I won't touch a drop of alcohol as long as I'm -- but there were other things that they said. And I said, well, senator, they say you're a womanizer. No Sam, what's a womanizer?"
DONALDSON: I started stumbling around, because every woman I ever knew is watching the program, and I'm going to what the -- Cokie Roberts spoke up very gently and said: "Senator, I know one when I see one."
And John Tower went like this.
DONALDSON: Just one of the moments where she used a stiletto, not a hammer, and did it.
WILL: When the Clinton administration was having trouble finding an ambassador to the Vatican suitable for the Vatican and acceptable by the Vatican, they finally came to Lindy Boggs and said, would you do it? And she said, I'm -- she was in retirement. She was in her 80s. She was happy. And she was reluctant to do it.
Her daughter, Cokie, said: "Mom, do it. Being an ambassador to the Vatican is two things you love to do, go to mass and go to parties."
RADDATZ: That is the perfect Cokie...
DONALDSON: Could I just say one more, one more?
RADDATZ: Please. Please.
DONALDSON: Cokie was a very moral person. You said, well, yes. Yes, but not all Washington is that way.
DONALDSON: She had very high standards. And she applied those standards to both the Democratic and the Republican Party and their members. And there was a time during the Monica Lewinsky affair with President Clinton. The president had confessed to the grand jury that there had been nine occasions in which there was a sex act. At least, that's what most people thought. But now their problem was, he had said earlier under oath to a federal judge that he had no sexual relationships with Monica Lewinsky. Well, OK, how do we square this? And the campaign was, oral sex is not sex. And a very distinguished lawyer, a fine lawyer, came and tried to make the case on our program that that was not sex, in the meaning of sexual intercourse, all that. I stumbled around, and maybe you stumbled around, if you recall it. It came to Cokie. She simply looked at this -- again, a very fine lawyer and a man doing his job, and said, "Do you think your wife would buy that?" And...
RADDATZ: Right to the point.
DONALDSON: ... that poor man's face blanked.
RADDATZ: Dropped. George, we have about 15 seconds here. And just -- just what do we take from Cokie going forward?
WILL: It was possible before, and it shall come again, this kind of person who will typify Washington, not the Washington with a snarl on its face, but Washington with her incandescent smile. And we all loved her.
DONALDSON: She lives on. She lives on.
RADDATZ: She certainly does live on in all of us here today. Thanks, both of you.
DONALDSON: Martha, thank you.
RADDATZ: As we leave you today, we wanted to let Cokie do the honors with her farewell message here on her last co-anchoring of "This Week" with Sam back in 2002.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Sam 15 years ago, when I first sat down in the studio with you and George and David Brinkley, you were looking for a skirt, as you recall.
ROBERTS: I never expected that I would still be here today. And it's been 15 fascinating years. We have been interesting places, interviewed fascinating people, seen a lot of history. But the most rewarding part has been the people we've worked with, the staff at the program, the crew here in the studio around us, the control room, the makeup room, but most of all working with you, Sam. I'm not going to miss the 5:00 a.m. alarm.
ROBERTS: And you and I will work together on other things. But I will miss being with you on Sunday morning.
DONALDSON: Oh, Louis, this is the continuation of a beautiful friendship.
ROBERTS: George Stephanopoulos will be on this spot next week, and we wish him all the best.
DONALDSON: You bet.
ROBERTS: And, until next week, that's "This Week."
(END VIDEO CLIP)