'This Week' Transcript 5-22-22: Adm. Mike Mullen & Dr. Ashish Jha
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, May 22.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 22, 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST (voiceover): Breaking news.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are prepared for anything North Korea does.
RADDATZ: President Biden lands in Japan, hours after reaffirming ties with South Korea. A whirlwind trip designed to strengthen alliances as Russia faces increasing blowback.
BIDEN: The fact is that deterring threats and underwriting stability is as vital today for not only the peninsula but for the world.
RADDATZ: Mounting concern over a new Cold War with Russia and an increasingly provocative North Korea.
RADDATZ (on camera): We are aboard the USS Maine, one of only 14 ballistic submarines in the U.S. arsenal.
RADDATZ (voiceover): This morning, we take you inside America’s nuclear defense, special coverage of the high stakes. Mary Bruce with the president in Tokyo, Ian Pannell in Ukraine and former Joint Chief’s Chairman, Mike Mullen, exclusive.
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOSUE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: The pandemic isn’t done, and we still have a lot of work to do.
RADDATZ: As hospitalizations soar, The White House warns of dire outcomes amid an impasse on COVID funding. Dr. Ashish Jha is here with the latest.
And too close to call. A recount near certain in the key Pennsylvania Senate Primary, another crucial test in Georgia this Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week." Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ (on camera): Good morning and welcome to “This Week.”
As we come on the air this morning, an unprecedented mission for the U.S. Military, bringing a critical supply of baby formula to the U.S. The situation so urgent, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up production.
The Operation Fly Formula flight landing in Indianapolis this morning after departing from Ramstein air base in Germany.
President Biden, meanwhile, is in Japan after spending the past two days in South Korea for Biden’s first trip to Asia as president. It comes at a crucial moment as the U.S. faces the most serious nuclear challenge since the Cold War.
North Korea appears to be on the cusp of a nuclear test, its first since 2017, and in Ukraine, where the Russian offensive continues to stall, Vladimir Putin has threatened the use of nuclear weapons, a threat made more acute by Finland and Sweden moving quickly to join NATO.
This morning, with the president in Asia, we will look carefully at the stakes in what is being dubbed a new Cold War with exclusive access to the most powerful nuclear deterrent in the U.S. arsenal.
But first, reports from our team on the ground overseas, Ian Pannell is near Dnipro. And we begin with Mary Bruce traveling with the president in Tokyo. Good morning, Mary.
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Martha. Well, the president just arrived here in Tokyo, the second stop of this trip, Biden’s first to Asia as president. It is a trip aimed at strengthening key relationships, curbing the rise of China and taking on the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Biden just spent three days in South Korea assuring the new president there that the U.S. will help him confront their nuclear-armed neighbor. Biden announcing they could expand joint military exercises and he says he is still willing to meet with Kim Jong-un. But the president says he will only do so if Kim is serious and if they can meet in good faith. But Kim, of course, has shown no willingness to talk.
In fact, quite the opposite. He has been ramping up his provocations. The White House in fact saying that he could launch yet another long-range missile or even conduct a nuclear test while Biden is still here in the region. But the president says that he is not concerned, that they are prepared for whatever North Korea may do.
And Biden was asked what his message would be to Kim, Martha, he responded simply, hello, period.
RADDATZ: Very abrupt but this trip is coming as the administration is still very focused on the war in Ukraine. Why go to Asia now?
BRUCE: This is a trip that Biden probably would have liked to have taken sooner, were it not for the pandemic. Biden, of course, came into the office promising that taking on China would be a top priority. That goal, of course, has been largely overshadowed recently by the war in Ukraine. So this trip is really a chance for the president to reestablish, reassert that commitment and that goal.
Now the president will now spend the next two days here in Tokyo meeting with leaders of Japan, Australia, and India. And announcing a new joint economic framework again aimed at trying to take on the rise of China.
RADDATZ: Thanks, Mary.
And Ian, we learned this morning that the administration is trying to get that $40 billion worth of aid into Ukraine as fast as possible.
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that’s right. Good morning, Martha.
That military support really from America and the others can’t come soon enough to the troops, now engaged in this brutal, bloody battle in the east of the country. I mean, this is all about the Donbas now. With the Russians effectively victorious in Mariupol, but having failed to take anywhere else of strategic importance, all focus is on this relatively small swath of land here in the east and what happens there, I think, will decide the outcome of this war.
Towns close to that area, of course, are being bombarded, we're seeing reports of that, some comparing it to Mariupol. Zelenskyy saying today, victory will be bloody but there will certainly be diplomacy to end this. But I don’t think we should expect any kind of cease fire or peace deal right now. America's multibillion-dollar aid package is vital here.
The Ukrainians, in particular, are desperate for these multiple-launch rocket systems. Zelenskyy saying he’s hopeful that he will get them.
The Ukrainians, interestingly, also saying this is now entering a final phase. This isn’t just about halting the Russian advance, we’ve seen that elsewhere. It’s now about trying to take back all territory that Russia has occupied since 2014. A key Putin ally now saying that the military aid coming from the United States and its allies was triggering a wider conflict between Russia and NATO. Dmitry Medvedev even going further, saying such a conflict has a risk of turning into a nuclear war.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to you, Ian.
President Biden has called recent nuclear threats from Russian officials irresponsible and this morning with North Korea poised to test a nuclear weapon for the first time in five years, the administration says it is prepared for any contingency. The U.S. still has thousands of strategic nuclear weapons in its arsenal, 70 percent of them on submarines.
We spent 24 hours in the Pacific with exclusive access inside one of America’s nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.
RADDATZ (voiceover): It is a mesmerizing sight, the USS Maine normally unseen and undetectable, briefly surfacing off the coast of Hawaii. Stretching the length of two football fields, it is the most destructive warship ever built, bristling with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: (Inaudible) Guardian (ph), if you can, can you guys come a mile northwest of rendezvous spot, please?
RADDATZ (on camera): And all along there, all those squares are missile hatches?
VICE ADM. BILL HOUSTON, COMMANDER U.S. SUBMARINE FORCES: Those are missile hatches and I will walk you on board of those. But there’s 12 on this side, on the starboard side, and 12 on the port side.
UNKNOWN MALE: Right this way.
RADDATZ (voiceover): Vice Admiral Bill Houston is the commander of U.S. Submarine Forces, granting us exclusive access to this warship as tensions around the world grow.
HOUSTON: We’re in unprecedented times. When you take a look at the Cold War, it was United States and the Soviet Union as two nuclear competitors, potential adversaries. What you have now is you have China and Russia are near nuclear peer competitors against the United States.
RADDATZ: But Houston’s mission has not changed; deterrents. There are 20 ballistic missiles in these orange launch tubes topped with nuclear warheads, lots of them -- 12 each, meaning, 240 nuclear weapons. Quite the deterrent.
HOUSTON: We're out here to prevent nuclear war. That’s what we’re doing day-to-day.
UNKNOWN MALE: Seven-zero. Seven-two.
RADDATZ: And preventing war means practicing for one.
UNKNOWN MALE: Dive, dive.
RADDATZ: Below deck, now hundreds of feet deep in the Pacific, the crew simulates a nuclear launch. An adversary has attacked with a strategic nuclear weapon and the president in this exercise has ordered this submarine crew to respond.
UNKNOWN MALE: Authorized entry into the training TIP (ph) key safe (ph) has been granted.
RADDATZ: Two junior officers open a safe containing the key for this simulation. The trigger is pulled. The exercise, a success. In February of 2020, an unarmed ballistic missile, aimed like all those on board at isolated ocean areas, was test launched off this very submarine, missiles capable of traveling up to 4,000 miles to pinpoint a target.
HOUSTON: We can put it inside a baseball stadium and with the destructive power that you can carry on one of those missiles, it's very, very capable.
RADDATZ: Commander Darren Gerhardt has been on board during a test launch.
CDR. DARREN GERHARDT, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS MAINE: It's pretty incredible when you're near it because just the amount of energy necessary to lift that missile causes the entire deck to lift up and vibrate, as a way for that missile leaving to suborbital. Just hearing and feeling that raw energy as it's pushing that missile out of the ship and its launch trajectory is just incredible.
RADDATZ: The destructive power not lost on this very young crew who literally hold the key to missile launches.
When you hold that key, even though you're simulating it, do you think how serious a job that is and what could happen?
LTJG ERIN CHANDLER, ASSISTANT OPERATIONS OFFICER, USS MAINE: It's pretty crazy, but the gravity of the situation is not ever lost. It is really sobering to think about the implications of what that key actually does. But -- I mean, that’s why -- that's why we're here. That's why we train.
RADDATZ: Twenty-five-year-old Joseph Loccisano is in the missile technician division. He says his family worries when tensions are high and pepper him with questions when his deployments are over.
MT3 JOSEPH LOCCISANO, MISSILE TECHNICIAN, USS MAINE: All the good stuff I unfortunately can't tell them. I just tell them, you know, what a normal day is like and stuff like that. I was telling them all the good stuff is unfortunately classified. So, I can't discuss the fun stuff on the job.
RADDATZ: Sorry, mom.
LOCCISANO: Sorry, mom.
RADDATZ: But what passes for a normal day on this submarine is far from it.
This is the birthing area where all of the sailors sleep nine to a bunk room, but in between, these are the tubes where the ballistic missiles are stored.
And that very small sleeping space, nine to a bunk room affords almost zero privacy, meals for enlisted sailors in this mess hall are communal and there are no phones, no televisions, only an occasional use of e-mail. And the submariners can remain submerged for months at a time.
Is there a type that have to be submariners?
GERHARDT: We do a lot of effort to screen out individual personalities that might not make it well underway before they even get through the training pipeline.
RADDATZ: But almost every one of this submarine volunteered for this kind of work, work that gets more challenging every day.
Vladimir Putin has made these veiled threats and rattled the nuclear saber in particular.
VICE ADM. BILL HOUSTON, COMMANDER, U.S. SUBMARINE FORCES: First of all, we just characterize his comments as dangerous, irresponsible. And as a career submarine officer whose profession is deterrence, I’d say it's unprofessional. And so, what I talk about it, it doesn't matter what type of nuclear weapon you're talking about, but crossing of any nuclear threshold is significant.
RADDATZ: A threshold Houston and this crew are determined will never be crossed.
RADDATZ (on camera): Our thanks to the crew of the USS Maine. We should note the Navy did screen our video before we left the submarine to ensure no images contain classified material.
And now, joining me is Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
You know what happens on those submarines. You know about our nuclear arsenal. Clearly, the U.S. wants Russia and North Korea to remember what the U.S. has in its arsenal.
But do you think there is a possibility that Vladimir Putin would actually use a nuclear weapon, even a small tactical nuclear weapon?
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's very difficult to know what Putin is thinking at any particular time. He's obviously spoken to this. I think we need to make sure that we consider it as a possibility, both a tactical, and God forbid, you know, the strategic force. That we have it there to deter both he and China, and others that might get nuclear weapons, and I certainly hope that deterrence works.
They're the most devastating weapons ever created on Earth. We should remind that as the country that’s actually used them in the 1940s, how devastating they are, and do everything we possibly can to make sure that they don't get used.
But they are a part of Putin's arsenal. He's pretty well-cornered and boxed in. So, we certainly have to consider it's a possible -- it's a possible action he can take.
RADDATZ: And you’ve heard the threats again, but you've also heard warnings that if Finland and Sweden join NATO, Russia would deploy nuclear weapons to the region. Those countries have now officially applied. Does this raise the level of concern?
MULLEN: Actually, I was a little -- I was encouraged a little bit when Putin said the other day that as long as they weren't a threat per se, that he would -- he would not object.
What strikes me about Finland and Sweden is how deeply neutral they had been for decades and decades and how concerned they obviously are with this threat, that now has been generated by Putin.
And so, I’m encouraged by that. I’m encouraged by the unity of NATO. Almost every European I’ve spoken to considers the threat in Europe now existential to them and I think that speaks to the -- the move on the part of both Sweden and -- and Finland. And I'm -- I'm encouraged by that. I don't think that it will cause, you know, a nuclear action on the part of Putin at this particular point.
RADDATZ: And the Russians -- let's move to Ukraine -- the Russians did have some successes this week.
RADDATZ: Mariupol finally fell to them after months of fighting. How significant a victory do you think that is and is this just going to be incremental for months to come?
MULLEN: Now I've said from the beginning, I think this is going to be a long slog with Putin. He's clearly focused out east now after what has been a disaster in other parts of the country. I think initially he really did want to take Kyiv, overturn the government, put a puppet in as a leader, and he's not going to be able to do that right now. But I think he is going to do everything he possibly can to lose as little in the east as possible.
President Zelenskyy has been pretty clear he wants that territory as well.
So, I think we're in for a long one. It's going to be bloody. It's going to be visible. It's going to be what war is. I think we'll see Putin continue to devastate the infrastructure with respect to how -- how he approaches it, the long range weapons. I think what we've done to supply them has been extraordinary, quite frankly, and we need to continue to do that.
RADDATZ: Mark Milley, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to his Russian counterpart Thursday for the first time since February -- since February 11th. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his counterpart.
How encouraging is that? And were you surprised by that? The Russians, at first, had no contact.
MULLEN: No, I wasn't -- actually, I wasn't surprised by it. I -- I -- I had worried that we've had no communications with Russia at any level, from the presidency on down to the military. So, I am encouraged that those communication channels are back open.
I think those are critical to make sure that we don't miscalculate and that we have a way to communicate.
RADDATZ: And -- and what does it mean that they're talking?
MULLEN: I think -- well it's -- it's hard to know. It's a big step in terms of being able to talk about how we get to -- how we continue, if you will, in this fight. And, hopefully, it's a start of a path to get to some diplomatic outcome here. All wars have to end. We need to be thinking more and more about what does that mean, what's on -- both sides, what is -- what's OK so that this is contained as opposed to exploding into a massive Holocaust for not just for the region but for the world.
RADDATZ: And -- and let's turn to North Korea. President Biden is overseas on his first trip to Asia, of course, with threats that North Korea is going to test another nuclear weapon, launch a ballistic missile in a test.
RADDATZ: Where are we now with North Korea? It has gone on for decades and decades. No one gets anywhere.
MULLEN: Well, I -- I think about it. You know, it's deja vu all over again, from his father, and his grandfather, as well as Kim Jong-un himself. So, there's no easy answer here.
I believe for a long time this -- a solution here must go through Beijing. And our relationship with China is -- is worsening, so that makes it -- solving this more difficult. I'm encouraged by the president's trip. I'm encouraged by the time he spent in North Korea and I know he just arrived in Japan and --
RADDATZ: In South Korea.
MULLEN: In South Korea, sorry. And I'm encouraged by the fact that they're working together and that trilateral peace, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. working together is really critical.
In addition to Australia, he's going to meet this week with the leaders of the quad, which include India. And so I -- I think the president's visit in that regard is really critical to try to contain what continues to be a real challenge in North Korea with his development of nuclear weapons.
RADDATZ: And -- and if you will, just very quickly, on this baby formula, baby formula being flown over by the U.S. military. I can't imagine you ever expected something like that to happen.
MULLEN: Well, I'm -- I'm in -- so encouraged by what our troops have been able to do. So, C-17 that could fly howitzers, you know, into Germany to support Ukraine, turns around and -- and flies 71,000 pounds of baby formula back to the U.S.
RADDATZ: And get it out quickly once they get here, do you think?
MULLEN: In two days. In two days land in Indiana. I think test briefly. I hope the testing by the FDA doesn't last too long and we distribute it as rapidly as possible.
RADDATZ: We all hope the same. It's so great to see you.
Admiral Mullen, thanks for joining us.
MULLEN: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: Coming up, despite vaccinations for more than two-thirds of Americans, Covid cases and hospitalizations are soaring, and it comes as Congress can't agree on funding for vaccines and boosters. White House Covid response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D), NEW YORK CITY: We're not at the point of mandated masks. We're not at that point yet. We're not at the point of doing anything other than urging New Yorkers, while you're in indoors, in large settings, social settings, wear your masks. We have more tools so we don't have to fight the war we had before. This is a new war. And we're going to use all those tools to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: New York City Mayor Eric Adams opting against reimposing an indoor mask mandate, even as the city transitioned to a new "high" alert level, despite the vaccine. The U.S. is again seeing not only a rise in cases but hospitalizations. Here to discuss is White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha.
Good morning, Dr. Jha. It's great to see you. We now have the daily case number more than 100,000. I know you think the number is actually higher because of home testing. So what is your advice in these high transmission areas?
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Good morning, Martha. Thanks for having me back.
First and foremost, my advice is, if you have not gotten vaccinated in the last five months, if you have not gotten boosted, you need to go out and do that now. Now is a good time to do it.
What we know is vaccines continue to provide a high level of protection against people getting seriously ill. So that's advice number one.
Advice number two is I agree with Mayor Adams that, when you're in an indoor space, you should be wearing a mask. I feel that very strongly, that in crowded indoor spaces, in places with high transmission, people should be doing that.
And our job, certainly, in the administration, is to make sure that people have access to masks, people have access to vaccines, access to therapeutics, and testing. All of that, we're working on as well.
RADDATZ: And -- and, of these infected people, how many are quite sick? Is -- is this part of what people see and they think, "Oh, it's not so bad; maybe people aren't as sick; this is just part of life now?"
JHA: Yeah, well, I wouldn't say it's quite part of life in the sense that I wouldn't say it's quite back to, sort of, normal. Because, look, we have a lot of infections out there. It's still quite disruptive. And 300 people a day are still dying of this disease. That's way too much.
What I would say is we've certainly started really breaking that link between infections and deaths, through two mechanisms, right? One is by getting people vaccinated and boosted, and, second, through making therapies widely available. Those things really do help a lot. And that's why, despite how many infections there are, death numbers are still relatively low. We've got to keep working on it. We're just not done yet.
RADDATZ: And -- and I know you have to keep working on it. But given that a lot of people aren't following your advice -- I've been flying around the country lately. People don't have masks on. Give us a sense of what discussions are going on in terms of approaching this in a different way?
You've said, month after month after month, "Put your masks on; get a vaccine; get a booster," but the numbers aren't really moving. So what kind of discussions do you have about another plan?
JHA: Yeah, so, look, there are a set of things that we know about how to fight this pandemic, right? They are many of the things you've mentioned. So we don't have a new set of tools that we're going to roll out. The ones that are -- the ones that work, vaccinations, therapies, testing, masking, and improving indoor air quality. Those are the major tools.
The discussions going on that we have is, we're looking at the numbers and asking which of those tools are most important at this moment? Which ones do we want to emphasize?
Certainly I think we want to help people understand that we are in a different moment than we were two years ago, right? We are at a point where lots of people are vaccinated and boosted, where we do have widespread therapies available. We're not in the same battle -- as Mayor Adams said, we're not in the same battle as we were two years ago.
And so the key discussion now is how do we help Americans through this moment and, this is really important, Martha, how do we prepare for future variants, how do we prepare for the evolution of this virus, and how do we make sure we have the resources to do it so we can protect Americans as this virus continues to evolve?
RADDATZ: And let’s look ahead to the fall, I know you are expecting a surge. "The New York Times" reported that experts say that the administration should be doing a better job of preparing the public for a reinvigorated virus in the fall and winter. What more could you do?
JHA: Well, there are two sets of things we can do. I mean, first is we should be communicating, as we are, and we do this every day, communicating what’s happening with the virus and where our expectations are, and what we’re planning for.
What we know is that this virus is evolving very quickly and every iteration of it is -- has more and more immune escape, makes it harder for people -- harder for this virus to be contained unless we continue vaccinating people and keeping people up-to-date. So that’s what we know.
We also are planning for a variety of scenarios including a wave of infection this fall and winter and making that sure we have a new generation of vaccines that are being worked on right now, that we have availability of treatments and testing, and we have the resources.
By the way, one of the reasons I’ve been talking a lot about the need for Congress to step up and fund this effort, is if they don't, Martha, we will go into the fall and winter without that next generation of vaccines, without treatments and diagnostics. That’s going to make it much, much harder for us to take care of and protect Americans.
RADDATZ: And CDC advisers recommended boosters for kids aged 5 to 11 this week. But what about 5 and under? How soon might we see that?
JHA: Yes, I have a lot of friends who have kids under 5, they're feeling frustrated and I’m very sympathetic.
What I know is that Moderna has completed its application, those data are being looked at very closely right now by FDA experts. And my expectation is that as soon as that analysis is done, probably within the next few weeks, we're going to get that expert outside committee, the VRBPAC, and then after that, FDA’s going to make a decision. So my hope is that it's going to be kind of coming in the next few weeks.
RADDATZ: And let's talk about this monkeypox, we've heard about that. President Biden says we should all be concerned and if it spreads it could be consequential. Give us a little update on that and how concerned should we be?
JHA: Yes. So let’s -- let's talk about what we know right now, this is not a new virus to us. We’ve known about this virus for decades. We have a case in Massachusetts, at Mass General, we have at least one confirmed case in New York, tracking others.
I would not be surprised, Martha, if we see a few more cases in the upcoming days. And I think the president’s right, anytime we have an infectious disease outbreak like this we should all be paying attention.
But I feel like this is a virus we understand. We have vaccines against it, we have treatments against it, and it spreads very differently than SARS-CoV-2. It’s not -- it’s not as contagious as COVID. So I am confident we’re going to be able to keep our arms around it but we're going to track it very closely and use the tools we have to make sure that we continue to prevent further spread and take care of the people who get infected.
RADDATZ: Okay, thanks very much. That's good to hear. Thanks, Dr. Jha.
Still ahead, what does the outcome in Pennsylvania’s primaries mean for a Trump re-election bid in 2024? And what to look out for this Tuesday as Georgians head to the polls in that key contest.
Political Director Rick Klein is at the Midterm Monitor, plus the Powerhouse Roundtable, that’s next.
RADDATZ: Political director Rick Klein has the very latest on the stalemate in the key Pennsylvania Senate race.
Plus, a look at the stakes in the Georgia’s primaries this Tuesday.
Our Midterm Monitor is next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: They like to call people who stand on the Constitution far right and extreme. I repudiate that, that that is crap.
Our view for Pennsylvania is one of hope and freedom, that people come here and walk as they see fit, not as some governor or some media hack sees fit. There’s this movement here that’s going to shock the state here on November 8th. It's going to be beautiful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano there giving his victory night speech after easily winning the Republican nomination for governor. Mastriano attended the January 6th rally and played a key in efforts to try to overturn the election.
ABC News political director Rick Klein is back at our Midterm Monitor ahead of another huge day of primary voting this Tuesday.
And, Rick, the process of democracy itself is among the big issues on the ballot.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, Martha, if you take a look at the states that are voting on Tuesday, it includes some really important states -- Texas, Georgia.
All four of these states that are voting, at least one candidate and in most cases far more than one candidate deny the legitimacy of the last election. You're talking about candidates for governor, secretaries of state, attorneys general, Congress -- all of them have a major role in overseeing an election or certifying results. And in many cases, we have election deniers running in those races.
And if you zoom out to the full country, we've been working with our partners at FiveThirtyEight to identify as many candidates as possible who hold these views. And we have found at least 18 states where candidates are running that deny the legitimacy of the last election. Fifty plus candidates endorse some version of the big lie. All of those candidates, Republicans.
RADDATZ: And, of course, some of those candidates have already won in some key states.
KLEIN: Yes, look, this is just the battleground states, Martha. These are the states that are likely to determine control of the Senate and the presidency. These are the states where we also have election denying candidates.
Now, we just saw the results a couple weeks ago in Ohio. J.D. Vance is going to be the Republican nominee for Senate. He has said that Joe Biden's win was not legitimate. We don't know who the Senate nominee is going to be in Pennsylvania yet. We know that Trump is already spreading unfounded allegations about that election. We do know, though, that the candidate for governor is Doug Mastriano.
And what's interesting about Pennsylvania is that, in Pennsylvania, the governor gets to appoint the secretary of state. So that means that Mastriano, who worked so hard to try to overturn that election, would be in a position to name the top election official in the state. He, of course, got the Trump endorsement in that election.
And what's interesting about that is it's almost a prerequisite to get that endorsement to have endorsed some version of the big lie. More than 70 percent of the candidates who have the Trump endorsement this year deny the legitimacy of the last election.
RADDATZ: And that primary in Georgia on Tuesday might be the highest profile test of that big lie.
KLEIN: Martha, Donald Trump has made it his mission to try to defeat the Republican governor and secretary of state in Georgia after both of them stood by the certified results that showed Joe Biden to be the winner. And what happened there was really interesting because Biden wins in 2020. And just a few weeks later, the Republicans do even worse than they did then in the runoff elections.
This is the map that Senator Rafael Warnock used to ride to victory. And what happened was, you saw voter turnout up here in some of the bluer parts of the Atlanta suburbs, Gwinnett, Rockdale, Henry County. And, meanwhile, you had a lot of Republicans staying home there and through the central part of the state. They had been talked about and fed these lies for so many weeks that many Republicans seemed that they just were not engaged.
This year it could be the Democrats take advantage of a very similar dynamic when they've got Rafael Warnock running again, as well as Stacey Abrams for governor.
And what's interesting about that night, that was January 5th of last year when both of Georgia's Senate seats went from the Republicans to the Democrats. Just one day later, the violent attack at the Capitol.
RADDATZ: Absolutely fascinating, Rick. Thank you, as always.
The roundtable's up next, ready to discuss it all.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ROSA DELURO, D-CT.: We are dealing with a serious infant formula shortage in this country, where parents, many whom are struggling, are now scrambling to find the formula to feed their babies. This should not happen in the wealthiest nation in the world.
UNKNOWN: This has become a dangerous and unacceptable situation. This administration appears interested in alleviating the issue but has taken too long to get to this point. We must ensure the shortage is fixed immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle grilling the FDA commissioner in a hearing last week over the nationwide baby formula shortage. Here to discuss that and much more, ABC's senior national correspondent Terry Moran; Caitlin Dickerson from The Atlantic; ABC News contributor and Dispatch staff writer Sarah Isgur; and Democratic strategist and former Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.
Welcome to all of you this morning.
And, Sarah, I want to start with you, where Rick Klein, kind of, left off. Some of the GOP candidates who won Tuesday, election deniers like Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, Republican donors and lobbyists are quietly saying this could be a disaster in the general.
SARAH ISGUR, DISPATCH STAFF WRITER & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it reminds me a little of Todd Akin in 2012. But it reminds me of that for a few reasons. Remember that Claire McCaskill bragged about spending $1.7 million to ensure that Todd Akin would be her opponent on the Republican side. She went on to win that election. But it was a heck of a gamble to take with our democracy.
Similarly here, Democrats spent twice as much on TV to help Doug Mastriano win that primary than Doug Mastriano raised or spent on TV. They sent out flyers. So for Democrats to say that he's a threat to democracy, either they don't believe it or they're willing to play with our democracy just to win elections.
I found it deeply troubling. Of course Republicans are the ones who voted for him in the end. But Democrats are playing fast and loose if they think that Doug Mastriano can't win in an election year like this, with Biden's approval numbers where they are.
RADDATZ: And that's pretty much exactly what Joe Biden said. He said those candidates, no matter who comes out of this, the Republicans are just extreme. She got a point?
STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & FMR. OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: So we're going to blame Democrats for Republican extremism?
No. I think that, in any election, you want to run against the person that you think you can beat. Most analysts in Pennsylvania don't believe that any money spent on the Democratic side had anything to do with Mastriano's victory. Now that there is a victory on the Republican side, then now the race is clear. And we're seeing similar things in races across the country. And we may very well see it on Tuesday in Georgia.
RADDATZ: And how about in the Senate race, in Pennsylvania? We don't know the outcome there yet.
CUTTER: We don't know the outcome. You know, both are -- you know, both Republicans think of themselves as MAGA Republicans. One got the Trump endorsement; the other didn't.
RADDATZ: Dr. Mehmet Oz.
CUTTER: And I think that the fact that this race is so tight is a testament to what does Trump's endorsement really mean in Pennsylvania, which is a good sign for mainstream Republicans, to the extent there are any, but also independents, in terms of Democrats winning in that state.
You know, Fetterman, who won the Democratic nomination, really racked up votes in rural areas and all across that state. And it's a testament to someone who is well known for being a man of the people, a working-class elected official who, you know, takes care of, you know, the people who get up and put on their boots every day and...
RADDATZ: Despite suffering a stroke himself, too.
CUTTER: Right, right.
RADDATZ: Terry, I want to go back to the Pennsylvania's governor race, though, as we said, an election denier, but if he wins in November, he would appoint the secretary of state. Does his win, in your eyes, strengthen the likelihood of a Donald Trump run in 2024, since that is a key battleground state?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the determinant of Donald Trump running for president again is where Joe Biden is. So I think he's -- he's obviously pointing in that direction. But, yes, if he's got his own lieutenants, people who are not just believers in his 2020 lie but who want to reshape our electoral process so that it's controlled by them, so that the other side really can't win -- he wants to...
RADDATZ: Explain how that works.
MORAN: Well, Pennsylvania's one of three states where the governor gets to appoint the secretary of state, who is the -- the lead election official. But he also wants to take and make sure that legislatures can. He wants to de-certify the voting machines in all kinds of Democratic counties because he believes the lie, which was checked by court after court after court in Pennsylvania, that the voting machines -- there are gremlins in the voting machine that stole 80,000 votes from Donald Trump. It’s garbage. But that is part of his platform.
And the outrage about it doesn’t count on what Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party, which is there’s a significant number of Republicans, I believe, who don’t want the other side to win ever again.
RADDATZ: But aren’t speaking out too loudly. And Caitlin, Trump’s endorsements were kind of a mixed bag this week. How do you view his influence on what happened this week and next week?
CAITLIN DICKERSON, THE ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: I think what we're seeing is that a Trump endorsement is just that, it's a boost, but it's not a clincher. I mean look at the gubernatorial race in Georgia, for example, where the incumbent, Kemp, has succeeded, you know, despite the fact that Trump is backing his challenger, Perdue. And that's because, one might think, this is a -- sort of a personal battle between Kemp and Trump that's playing out.
Trump is still mad at Kemp for not having overturned the 2020 election result there. But Kemp is saying, look at my record, and he has this strong record that speaks to important issues, to Republican voters. He signed into law legislation that makes it easier to carry a gun if you don’t have a permit. Bans on abortion pills that can be put in the mail. He was one of the first governors in the country to roll back COVID-19 protocols there.
And so I think voters there -- and another key, I think, important factor, right, is Stacey Abrams. Kemp has already run successfully for governor against Stacey Abrams. And she is this very popular Democratic candidate. She has a very strategic ground game, she has national support and so I think that's voters saying, we don't want to take a flyer on a new candidate just because president -- former president Trump supports him.
RADDATZ: Sarah, your take on all of this and when you look at Trump and when you look at the Brian Kemp and the governors race down in Georgia.
SARAH ISGUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, from a political science perspective, you’d want all these primaries to be on the same day so that you could actually compare and contrast.
But here’s what we have, in Ohio, Trump’s endorsed candidate was in second, maybe third place. Trump’s endorsement rockets him to first and he wins by quite a bit. It was clearly a win for Donald Trump.
I think you could see other things in the race happening, the non-Trump candidate also moved up 10 points after Trump's endorsement of J.D. Vance, obviously lost, but still dynamics happening in Ohio that moved around Trump's endorsement as that race consolidated.
In Pennsylvania, the two candidates have tied, we're going into a recount there and Donald Trump's endorsement for someone with that high of a name ID (ph), where you had other Republican officials endorsing someone else, seemed to cancel itself out a little bit.
And then in Georgia, of course, two state-wide elected officials running against each other, Donald Trump's endorsement seeming to make no difference.
And so I think, again, when you look at what that will mean overall for Donald Trump, Donald Trump is going to have a good year in 2022 but his endorsement alone, not enough. And no candidate has been able to prove they can capture the Donald Trump energy themselves either, by being more Donald Trump. That has still, since 2016, never happened.
RADDATZ: And Stephanie, President Biden. Okay, those approval ratings way down in the toilet, 39 percent in the latest AP-NORC poll. Does his endorsement help or hurt? He’s got a candidate in Oregon who he's endorsed, probably going to lose.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, when you're the President of the United States whatever is going great in the country, maybe you get credit, but whatever is going badly in the country, you absolutely get the blame.
And inflation is high, people are just generally exhausted by crisis after crisis after crisis and there's very little -- the president has put forward an agenda to deal with inflation. We saw how quickly he worked on the infant formula crisis. He's handling Ukraine, pulling the world together, and rebuilding alliances against authoritarian governments like Putin. By any metric, with the exception of inflation, this country has moved forward under his leadership.
RADDATZ: But gas prices and inflation --
RADDATZ: -- that’s a big metric.
CUTTER: It is a big metric --
CUTTER: Absolutely. And, I think the key now for Democrats, over the last six months or so of this election, we have to see whether or not the candidates and campaigns matter. I think that they do and you see House Democrats who are probably more vulnerable to the president's approval rating really trying to put an agenda forward, get things done, and highlight the differences with Republicans who are really not just standing in the way, but banning books and they want to ban abortion and they want to roll back constitutional rights, they want to raise taxes on the middle class, all of these things drive a very sharp contrast in terms of which direction the country is going to in.
And if Democrats can make that contrast stick over the next six months, it will matter. I’m not sugarcoating where Democrat are. This is -- you know, there are historical headwinds against them, and there are also inflation metrics that, you know, unfortunately governments can do very little about. But if there's anything to do, this president is focused on it.
RADDATZ: And, Terry, I want to move on to the infant formula. The military to the rescue once again.
The White House said they had been working on this for months and months but it didn't appear that way since we got to such a crisis point.
MORAN: It sure doesn't. And the baby formula issue is shocking to Americans, it's shocking. The political ramifications of it are profound.
This can't be our country, where babies are at risk of dying. I mean, if this goes on for a few more weeks, it's possible we're going to lose someone in this country because of this.
The Biden administration knew about it in February. Whatever came afterwards, whatever the investigations determined, the buck stops in the Oval Office. I don't know why someone at the FDA didn't call the chief of staff and say, you know, we had to shut down this baby formula plant.
And because of the nature of the American economy and American corporations, where there's just no wiggle room at all because efficiency, maximizing profits -- you take one piece out and the system collapses.
RADDATZ: That’s the extraordinary thing about all this.
Caitlin, this does survive as a political issue for sure. It was dangerous, as Terry said. Parents are not going to forget that. How serious in terms of political fallout.
CAITLIN DICKERSON, THE ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: I think, right now, it comes down to time, right? As you know, for parents of new born babies, every second of every minute of every hour counts. It's such a vulnerable time, particularly for parents who have children with potentially allergies, which means they can only consume certain formula, parents who have to rely on public benefits in order to feed their children.
And so, right, as Terry said, I mean, their feeling right now is if this is too late certainly and it really is going to come down to how much of a concrete impact does this ultimately have, because there are two questions here. It's, you know, the concrete danger to babies who need formula and then it’s the emotional toll on the parents who aren't going to forget about this.
And I think one of the biggest sort of complaints about the Trump administration was that it was chaotic, it wasn't organized, and so, things weren’t taken care of, things were forgotten, because there was so much focus in one direction or another. Well, this looks like disorganization. It looks like something's incredibly important that was missed.
RADDATZ: But, Sarah, I think in months to come, not only are they going to think about that, but to Stephanie’s point, the economy. The economy, inflation -- that seems like what Republicans will be pounding, pounding, pounding on.
ISGUR: Yeah, you look at focus groups being held right now with for instance Republican primary voters when you ask them about the economy, about anything, really, what it comes back to things were better under Donald Trump. We don't really know why. We don't really why remember this early to have him on Twitter, but this, this is clearly worst.
And look, to have one moment on the baby formula issue, not only has the Biden administration I think clearly dropped the ball since they knew about this even before, right? The FDA had a whistleblower long before shut down the plant in February, but -- and I want to broaden this out, so that it’s not just Joe Biden’s fault, we have 17.5 percent tariffs on outside baby formula coming in from outside the United States. We have government-given monopolies where two two-thirds of the state have granted monopoly to Abbott. And so, when they shut down, two-thirds of the states then weren’t going to be able to get their baby formula.
This was a problem that had been simmering for a long time that nobody did anything about. And so, for the Biden administration claiming they're doing everything in the last two weeks, that's not going to be enough. There’s far more than can be enough.
And just as a new mom myself who had a baby on specialty formula, I mean, it's outrageous to me that this is happening in this country right now. And so, politically, I think it will have a huge impact.
I think Inflation, you're right, will always be a bigger impact because it’s every time you go to gas station, it’s every time you go to the grocery store. And baby formula not on the shelves is just one more thing to incompetence, to chaos that makes it not seem that different from the Trump administration.
RADDATZ: And one more thing, Terry Moran, Title 42. Not just one more thing, Louisiana judge extended a temporary block in the administration's plan to lift restrictions on asylum seekers due to COVID, something Donald Trump put in place.
What happens now and are Democrats actually kind of happy this happened?
MORAN: They are, because both the courts and the Biden administration are trying to keep their finger in the dike, because we are going to see a gigantic surge of migrants across the border which has been become disorderly and so insanely managed through a hodgepodge of policies and stopgap operations and anger in some time -- in some ways that it doesn't work.
And the one thing Americans of both parties want, I think, almost all of them, is an orderly, sensible border. Just -- just not this humanitarian catastrophe, not this, we -- we don't know who's coming into the country. And -- and the use of it by -- by migrants who know the holes in it and are going to surge to that border.
So, yes, the Biden administration and Democrats are happy that that border will remain sealed using a law that probably wasn't meant to do that because they don't know what to do when it goes.
RADDATZ: And -- and it doesn't end the controversy and the problem. We've already seen record numbers. People keep flooding that border, Stephanie.
CUTTER: Right. Right. It is -- it is a -- it's not just a political problem, it's a national problem that has existed for a very long time. And the only way to really deal with it is immigration reform. But, unfortunately, we're so stuck in our positions it's hard to have a real conversation on immigration reform in this Congress.
And, you know, you -- you see Republicans running adds. Even this week, after the Buffalo shooting, Elise Stefanik running adds basically with replacement theory messaging about immigrants. That does not help bring us together for comprehensive immigration reform. And that's the only way we're going to be able to deal with this.
Like, nobody is for open borders. Nobody is for, you know, tens of thousands of immigrants risking their lives to get to this country. We need immigration reform so that we can work here and in those countries to do this in a -- in an orderly way, but also a humanitarian way.
DICKERSON: And can I just add to --
RADDATZ: We have ten seconds. Go head.
DICKERSON: OK, to Stephanie's point that it -- it is -- what's happening at the border, we're using a pandemic rule as a border policy. The reason that you have backups at the borders is because there is one pathway for people coming from Mexico and Central America, and it's through the asylum system, which is incredibly backlogged. That's on Congress. And we tend to forget it.
RADDATZ: Incredibly backlogged is right.
And we're going to have to stop it right there.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and have a great day.
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