'This Week' Transcript 7-3-22: Rep. Liz Cheney & Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, July 3.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 3, 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 “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR (voiceover): The explosive allegations.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: The president said something to the effect of, I’m the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.
RADDATZ: A former White House aide reveals shocking new details about President Trump’s actions on January 6th. Will it be a turning point for Republicans?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So it’s possible there will be a criminal referral?
REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R-WY): Yes.
RADDATZ: Jonathan Karl’s exclusive interview with the vice chair of the January 6th Committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Removing roadblocks. The Supreme Court allows Biden to end Trump's Remain in Mexico border policy, just days after more than 50 migrants die in a smuggling tragedy in Texas.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R-TX): It's the deadliest migrant smuggling incident on U.S. soil and it's on President Biden’s watch.
RADDATZ: The latest on the border with the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
And history made.
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE U.S.: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
RADDATZ: Ketanji Brown Jackson joins the High Court after it wraps its most consequential term in decades as fallout from the Roe reversal continues.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The choice is clear. We either elect federal senators and representatives who will codify Roe, or Republicans will try to ban abortions nationwide.
RADDATZ: Our Powerhouse Roundtable on what it means for the midterms.
(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."
The Supreme Court has now ended its most consequential term in decades. With rulings on abortion, guns, religion, and climate change shaping the American landscape in the image of the conservative majority. Democrats did get a win on immigration with a decision allowing President Biden to end the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy.
The Court concluded the term with the swearing-in of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black female justice filling the seat of now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer.
While ripples from the shift in the Court spread across the country, the January 6th hearings sent shock waves through Washington on Tuesday as Former White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in vivid detail about former President Trump's actions that day. Testifying under oath she told the Committee that Trump planned to join his supporters at the Capitol that day and that even after learning some of them were armed he urged them to march to Capitol Hill.
Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump was adamant about heading to the Capitol, grabbing the steering wheel when the Secret Service refused to drive him there. Her account raises the stakes and potential legal jeopardy for Trump and his allies. We will talk to legal experts in a moment.
But first, a "This Week" exclusive. Chief Washington Correspondent and Co-Anchor Jonathan Karl sat down with Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney for her first interview since the hearings began. Jon pressed her about those extraordinary allegations and whether the Committee is making the case to prosecute former President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: You've been clear since really January 6th itself that he bears responsibility. Have these hearings demonstrated that Donald Trump needs to be prosecuted?
CHENEY: Ultimately, the Justice Department will decide that. I think we may well as a committee have a view on that and if you just think about it from the perspective of what kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat, when the Congress is under threat. It's just -- it’s very chilling and I think certainly we will, you know, continue to present to the American people what we found.
KARL: So, the Committee will or will not make a criminal referral?
CHENEY: We’ll make a decision as a committee about it.
KARL: So it’s possible there will be a criminal referral --
KARL: -- that would be effectively the Committee saying that he should be prosecuted and this is --
CHENEY: I mean --
KARL: -- the evidence that we’ve uncovered (ph) --
CHENEY: The Justice Department doesn't have to wait for the Committee to make a criminal referral. There could be more than one criminal referral.
KARL: Are you worried about what that means for the country, to see a former president prosecuted, a former president who is a likely candidate, who may in fact be running for president against Biden, it would be Biden’s Justice Department that would be prosecuting?
CHENEY: I have greater concern about what it would mean if people weren’t held accountable for what’s happened here. I think it’s a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities and, you know, the majority of the president's party looks away or we as a country decide, you know, we're not actually going to take our constitutional obligations seriously. I think that’s a much -- a much more serious threat.
KARL: Cassidy Hutchinson, I saw you went and gave her a hug after she testified.
HUTCHINSON: It was unpatriotic, it was un-American, we're watching the Capitol Building get defaced over a lie.
KARL: Why did she go where so few have gone before?
CHENEY: What Cassidy Hutchinson did was an unbelievable example of bravery and of courage and patriotism in the face of real pressure.
HUTCHINSON: The president said something to the effect of, I’m the effing the president, take me up to the Capitol now. To which Bobby responded, sir, we have to go back to the West Wing. The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel.
KARL: People have outright said that she's not telling the truth -- that Cassidy Hutchinson is not telling the truth about what happened in the presidential motorcade.
CHENEY: The Committee is not going to stand by and watch her character be assassinated by anonymous sources and by men who are claiming executive privilege. And so we look forward very much to additional testimony under oath on a whole range of issues.
KARL: Do you have any evidence other than Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to corroborate what she said happened in that presidential motorcade?
CHENEY: The Committee has significant evidence about a whole range of issues including the president's intense anger. And I think you --
KARL: Anger at not being allowed to go to the Capitol?
CHENEY: Yes. Exactly. At that moment. And so let me just leave it there. I think you will continue to see in coming days and weeks additional detail about the president's activities and behavior on that day.
KARL: So you told me last year, this is direct quote, I will do everything I can --
CHENEY: To make sure he's not the nominee. And everything necessary to make sure that he doesn't get anywhere close to the Oval Office again.
KARL: Have these hearings gotten you closer to that goal, making him toxic and not a viable candidate?
CHENEY: That's not the goal of the hearings.
KARL: But you said it was your priority.
CHENEY: I think it's important but I don't want you to convey the impression that somehow the hearings are political. Because the goal of the hearings is to make sure that Americans understand what happened, to help inform legislation, legislative changes that we might need to make. But I think it's also the case that there's not a single thing that I have learned as we have been involved in this investigation that has made me less concerned and I think there's no question, I mean, a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.
KARL: You said recently the country is now in a battle we must win against a former president trying to unravel our constitutional republic. What will it mean for that battle if you lose the Republican primary in Wyoming?
CHENEY: Well, I don't intend to lose the Republican primary in Wyoming.
KARL: How important is it that you win for that larger battle?
CHENEY: Well, I think it's important because I will be the best representative that the people of Wyoming can have. The single most important thing is protecting the nation from Donald Trump. And I think that that matters to us as Americans more than anything else and that's why my work on the Committee is so important and why it's so important to not just brush this passed, I think it's very important that people know the truth and that there are consequences.
KARL: Can the Republican Party survive in the way you've known it if Donald Trump is again chosen?
CHENEY: It can't survive if he's our nominee.
CHENEY: No. I think that he can't be the Party nominee and I don't think the Party would survive that. I believe in the Party and I believe in what the Party can be and what the Party can stand for and I’m not ready to give that up. Those of us who believe in Republican principles and ideals have a responsibility to try to lead the Party back to what it can be and to reject so much of the toxin and the vitriol.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will stop the steal. We won this election and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.
CHENEY: That millions of people, millions of Republicans have been betrayed by Donald Trump. And that is a really painful thing for people to recognize and to admit, but it's absolutely the case. And they've been betrayed by him, by the big lie, and by -- by what he continues to do and say to tear apart our country and tear apart our party. And I think we have to reject that.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So, do you run for president if -- I mean, do you see yourself running for president as a way to prevent what you say would be a destruction of the party --
CHENEY: You know, I --
KARL: -- and ultimately damaging our country?
CHENEY: I haven't made a decision about that yet. And I’m obviously very focused on my re-election. I’m very focused on the January 6th committee. I’m very focused on my obligations to do the job that I have now.
And I’ll make a decision about ‘24 down the road. But I think about it less in terms of a decision about running for office and more in terms of, you know, as an American and as somebody who's in a position of public trust now, how do I make sure that I’m doing everything I can to do the right thing? To do what I know is right for the country and to protect our Constitution?
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: Our thanks to Jon for that.
Here to discuss the legal fallout from Tuesday's testimony are ABC's chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, and Sarah Isgur, a veteran of the Trump Justice Department, now an ABC News analyst.
Good morning to you both.
And, Dan, I want to start with you.
You heard Liz Cheney right there saying it's possible there will be a criminal referral from the committee, what did you hear in this week's testimony that could make it more likely that Donald Trump is prosecuted?
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the key is always knowledge and intent, in any kind of possible crime. And here, you did get a step closer when it came to knowledge and intent.
But, remember, it's not up to Congress to decide. Even if Congress makes a criminal referral, that doesn't mean the Department of Justice is going to take up the case. And I still haven't seen anything yet which indicates the Department of Justice is ready to go there. And when I say go there, I mean in terms of indicting Donald Trump.
You know, there's a lot of activity going on with the Department of Justice right now, particularly with regard to these fake electors. You're seeing the home of a former DOJ official in Jeffrey Clark raided. You’ve seen the phone confiscated of a Trump lawyer. You’ve seen subpoenas issued on some of these fake electors.
That's activity which suggests a real possibility of an indictment. I haven't seen that yet when it comes to the Department of Justice and Donald Trump. But, hey, things could change. No doubt about that.
RADDATZ: And, Sarah, what are you seeing? This was the first time that the committee presented evidence about Donald Trump's state of mind. What was the strongest evidence you saw against President Trump? And, of course, defense attorneys would push back if he ever was indicted if.
SARAH ISGUR, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, certainly, this bombshell evidence that we heard this week was about him wanting armed people from his rally to go to the Capitol.
The problem is, they have such a high hurdle to clear when it comes to incitement, because of the First Amendment, and because we protect political speech. So, when he says something like fight like hell, we don't want to criminalize that in our political conversations, candidates around the country.
The incitement level that you need in order to charge anyone with inciting violence is just so high, I absolutely agree with Dan. The Department of Justice doesn't usually hide the ball on these things. They haven't taken any of the steps you'd expect to be in moving toward charging a sitting president.
On the other hand, maybe it was less exciting testimony, but when it comes to those fraudulent electors, we have seen a lot around that. And that violated several statutes, potentially conspiracy to defraud the United States when they sent electors to the National Archives that had not been certified by any state. And the question will become: did the president know about it? Did he sign off on that fraudulent slate?
RADDATZ: And, Dan, I want to go back to Donald Trump. There is a lot of talk and you talked about it and you don't think he will be prosecuted. But if they decide to do that, should he be?
ABRAMS: Well, look, the president is held to a different legal standard. It drives people crazy when you say that, right? This idea of, what do you mean? The president should be like everybody else, except the president has powers that other people don't have. And as a result, there is a different evaluation. When you’re talking about the Department of Justice of the next administration, prosecuting the former president of the previous administration, the standard is going to be very, very high. I know people don't -- certain people don't like to hear that, but that's the practical reality.
So, if you were to ask me the question, do I think they could make a case against Donald Trump, the answer is absolutely they could make a case against Donald Trump. The issue is, will they make a case against Donald Trump? And that's where I don't think we're seeing activity in the Department of Justice knowing how high that standard is, knowing the political ramifications and practical ramifications for the country. And so far they don't seem ready to go there.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: And, Sarah, Cheney, Liz Cheney also outlined what she said were troubling contacts with some of the witnesses. One caller to a witness saying, a person let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know he's thinking about you. He knows your loyal and you’re going to do the right thing.
Is that witness tampering?
SARAH ISGUR, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It might be. It’s going to depend on how that -- her memory. Do they actually have that as a voice mail? It’s also going to depend on who it came from. I mean this is sort of classic mob boss stuff. If you say, gee, it would be a real shame if something happened to that building, you actually do have a pretty high standard to prove that that was meant sarcastically. They’re going to be able to pull in other similar conversations potentially that that person or other people around the former president had with other witnesses. But, again, I think that’s a very high bar. And I think that Dan's right, the Department of Justice doesn't just consider whether they have enough evidence legally to move forward with a case. They consider whether they will win that case.
The Department of Justice does not like to lose. And when you're indicting a former president, you best not lose.
RADDATZ: And there are more hearing to come, more to talk about in the coming weeks. Thanks to both of you.
Up next, after the Supreme Court ruled the Biden administration could end a major Trump-era immigration policy, we'll talk with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the latest at the southern border.
We're back in just 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN PAXTON (R), TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: What the Supreme Court has given the Biden administration is a loophole to basically have no immigration policies, just open borders, the cartels have every incentive now to keep bringing more and more people.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), FORMER HUD SECRETARY AND FORMER SAN ANTONIO MAYOR: This is the right decision from the Supreme Court. It’s a humane decision. And I think it’s a decision in keeping with not only our Constitution, but also the better ideals of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: Mixed reaction to that Supreme Court ruling Thursday that the Biden administration could end the Trump-era remain in Mexico immigration policy, which forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while courts process their cases.
Joining me now to discuss is Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Thank you for joining us this morning, Mr. Secretary.
And your department says it will end to – it will work to end the remain in Mexico program as soon as legally permissible. So what does that actually mean and what is the plan as the border continues to be flooded with migrants?
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Good morning, Martha, and thank you so much for having me on the show.
We were very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision supporting our commitment to end the remain many Mexico program, which has endemic flaws and causes unjustifiable human tragedy.
We need to wait until the Supreme Court's decision is actually communicated to the lower court, to the federal district court in the northern district of Texas. And once that occurs, the district court should lift its injunction that is preventing us from ending the program. So we have to wait several weeks for that procedural step to be taken.
RADDATZ: And then what is the plan on the border? You really do have migrants flooding that area. The peak was during the Trump administration, May of 2019, at 144,000 crossings. In May of this year, you hit 240,000 crossings. You may be telling people to stay away, but they keep coming.
MAYORKAS: I think we saw the tragic result of people taking the dangerous journey in San Antonio just recently, when 53 people lost their lives in the most horrific of conditions in the back of a trailer truck.
We continue to warn people not to take the dangerous journey. We are enforcing our laws. And we are working with countries to the south, including our close partner, Mexico, but with Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, to really address the migration that is throughout the Western Hemisphere.
These are remarkably distinct times, and we have a multifaceted approach, not only to work with our partner countries but to bring law enforcement to bear, to attack the smuggling organizations in an unprecedented way. We are doing so very much. Ultimately, however -- ultimately, because the border has been a challenge for decades -- ultimately, Congress must pass legislation to once and for all fix our broken immigration system.
RADDATZ: But -- but, Mr. Secretary, that does not look likely. And you have Congressmen Henry Cuellar saying that only about 30 percent of the Border Patrol are doing missions at checkpoints and the border because the other 70 percent are tied up at detention centers. How do you fix that? Again, the message is not getting out.
MAYORKAS: Well, we are continuing to deliver that message, and we will continue to do so. And for the first time since 2011, the president's fiscal year 2023 budget calls for 300 more Border Patrol agents. And we are hiring case processers. We are addressing this issue vigorously and aggressively, to address the amount of -- the number of encounters that we are experiencing at the southern border.
RADDATZ: Just a simple question: Do you think it's working?
MAYORKAS: I think that we are doing a good job. We need to do better. We are focused on doing more, and we are doing it with our partners to the south. This is a -- this is a phenomena that not only the United States is experiencing. Colombia now has more than 2 million Venezuelans within its borders. Costa Rica has indicated that 2 percent of its population is Nicaraguan, and that might rise to 5 percent.
The migration that is occurring throughout the hemisphere is reflective of the economic downturn, increase in violence throughout the region, the -- the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the results of climate change. We're really in a -- in a regional challenge, and we are addressing it with our regional partners.
RADDATZ: And, Mr. Secretary...
MAYORKAS: And we'll continue to do so, Martha.
RADDATZ: Mr. Secretary, I want to go back to the tragedy in that tractor-trailer truck with more than 50 migrants dying. Congressman Cuellar, who I mentioned before, told the San Antonio Express News that the vehicle was waved through at a checkpoint because traffic was backed up. Is that correct?
MAYORKAS: Martha, about 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles a day cross through the Laredo checkpoint. The smuggling organizations are extraordinarily sophisticated. They are transnational criminal organizations. When I was prosecuting human smuggling cases back in the '90s, in Los Angeles, California, we were addressing much more rudimentary operations. They're very sophisticated...
RADDATZ: But is that what happened? Was it waved through?
Was it just waved through?
MAYORKAS: I think the -- the facts are still under investigation. It's a criminal case. Four individuals have been charged. I won't speak about the particulars. Those facts will be elicited in a court of law as the prosecution proceeds.
RADDATZ: And -- and, just quickly...
MAYORKAS: But, you know, our -- our...
RADDATZ: ... what good are these checkpoints if a truck like that gets through -- full of migrants?
MAYORKAS: Oh, because, Martha, in fiscal year 2022 alone. We’ve stopped more than 400 vehicles and saved and rescued more than 10,000 migrants.
MAYORKAS: Those checkpoints are part of a multilayered approach. We've rescued so many migrants. But this is why we continue to communicate that the journey, the dangerous journey should not be taken. We are enforcing our laws and people lose their lives at the hands of exploitative smugglers.
RADDATZ: OK, thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Secretary, and have a good July 4th weekend.
Coming up, as Russia steps up attacks on civilians in Ukraine, our James Longman reports from inside the war zone.
Plus, Nate Silver with FiveThirtyEight's midterm election forecast. That's next.
RADDATZ: James Longman, Nate Silver, and the Powerhouse Roundtable are all ready to go. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At this summit, we rallied our alliances to meet the both direct threats that Russia poses to Europe, and the systemic challenges that China poses to a rules-based world order.
And we invited two new members to join NATO. It was a historic act. Finland and Sweden, two countries with a long tradition of neutrality, and choosing to join NATO.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Biden at the NATO Summit in Spain this past week as Russia's brutal assault on civilian targets in Ukraine continues.
ABC's James Longman is live in Odesa with the very latest.
Good morning, James.
JAMES LONGMAN, ABC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning, Martha.
There have been a series of explosions in southern Russia this morning, right on the border with Ukraine.
Now, Kyiv has never taken responsibility for targeting anywhere inside Russia before, but this is after a week of pretty serious missile attacks on Ukraine.
And this as Russia is now claiming to have taken the entire Luhansk region of the Donbas.
LONGMAN (voice-over): Vladimir Putin rained down fury on Ukraine this week, with the G7 and NATO meetings putting the war back in focus, Russia stepped up its missile attacks across the country, against mostly civilian targets. This apartment building outside Odesa hit Friday, killing 16 people in the middle of night.
This community is trying to come to terms with what happened. I mean, take a look at, hit right in the heart of this neighborhood. And up here, you can see every single level of this building have been impacted by the force of the blast.
A similar story in Kremenchuk where a mall and factory were targeted. This security footage captures the moment of the strike, massive anti-ship Soviet missiles used on civilian targets.
Russia denying they hit the mall, spreading misinformation instead, claiming it was closed and being used to store ammunitions.
You see the recovery operation under way now. They're trying to get as much of this rubble out as possible to find survivors hopefully. But just look at it, just hell.
Footage from inside shows people in the shops and survivors told us they were inside working.
And a symbol of Ukrainian resistance was regained this week. Snake Island is this strategic outpost in the Black Sea occupied by Russia since February 24. Defenders of the island at the time became national heroes for responding to Russian calls to surrender with an expletive.
Ukraine bombed them off the island Thursday. Satellite imagery confirming Putin's forces retreated.
Ukrainian General Hromov announcing that, quote: After failing to withstand Ukraine's artillery fire, missile and airstrikes, the enemy, Russian occupiers, left Snake Island.
Russia's battleships and submarines still dominate the Black Sea, but the retreat makes an amphibious attack on Odesa more difficult for Putin.
Russia calling the move a gesture of goodwill to enable grain exports. But there is no sign of that happening.
And now, Russia claims to control the whole of Luhansk. That’s one of the two breakaway regions of the Donbas, prolonging this conflict.
And the NATO meeting in Madrid this week, President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to stick with Ukraine and all of the alliances are going to stick with Ukraine as long as it takes.
LONGMAN: And new U.S. help announced this week includes more offensive weapons and all-important missile defense systems.
If Putin’s intention was to limit NATO's scope, the opposite is happening. Turkey dropped its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, and the U.S. is ramping up its presence in the region, establishing a permanent U.S. military headquarters in Poland, sending two more F-35 squadrons to the U.K., adding two U.S. Navy destroyers to Spain, and deploying personnel and equipment to Italy and Germany.
With many analysts predicting the war has months to run, invariably, there will be questions about how long the West will be willing to cover the cost of their support and is the military aid enough to turn the tide or simply push Russia into negotiations?
LONGMAN: Now, there’s been some debate over what exactly it is that Russia is trying to hit, civilian or military. But, for Ukraine, this is an unjust war. This is an unprovoked invasion. So it makes no difference, militarily or civilian, there are no legitimate targets in this country as far as Ukraine is concerned.
RADDATZ: Thanks, James. We know you will continue to watch this.
Coming up, Nate Silver brings us FiveThirtyEight's brand-new midterm forecast.
Plus, analysis from the powerhouse roundtable.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT: I, Ketanji Brown Jackson, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: So help me God.
JACKSON: So help me God.
ROBERTS: I am pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: The swearing-in for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, making history as the first black woman to join the Supreme Court. She joins the bench at the end of a controversial term of landmark rulings led by the conservative majority. How will the changes to American life shape the midterms and control of Congress?
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver analyzes the fallout.
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: We just launched our midterms forecast. You can find that at fivethirtyeight.com, which is the perfect way to answer where the Republicans are favored to win control of Congress.
There are certainly a lot of factors working against Democrats. Joe Biden's approval rating is now below 40 percent, according to the 538 average. And inflation is still above 8 percent. Then there's historical precedent. The president's party has lost seats in the House in 19 of the past 21 midterms.
We estimate that there are about three dozen highly competitive House races. And while we might see progressive voters energized after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Democrats are probably in pretty deep trouble. In fact, our model puts their chances of keeping the House at only 10 to 15 percent.
But when we look at the Senate, that's a very different story. For one thing, it's a pretty good map for Democrats. Republicans are defending 21 seats, to 14 for Democrats. And all the Democrats are in states that Joe Biden won. But Republicans have taken some good risks with their candidates, electing several nominees in key races who are either politically inexperienced, like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, or have personal scandals, like Herschel Walker in Georgia, or have made controversial statements on abortion, like J.D. Vance in Ohio.
So even though Republicans only need to gain a net of one seat in the Senate, our model thinks the chance of that is only about 50 percent. In other words, it's a toss-up.
So, no, I can't really buy this one. In the House, yeah, the GOP is a clear favorite. But the Senate is anybody's guess.
RADDATZ: And we'll see. Thanks to Nate for that.
Let's bring in the roundtable now, senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce; ABC News political reporter Brittany Shepherd; Time Magazine national political correspondent Molly Ball; and New York Times national political correspondent Alex Burns. Welcome to all of you.
And, Alex, I want to start with you. And I want to start with the midterms, kind of, the New York Times reporting that some Republicans are worried that there will be a huge distraction from the midterms because Donald Trump is eyeing an early 2024 announcement, writing that, "Aides are scrambling to build out basic campaign infrastructure in time for an announcement as early as this month."
ALEX BURNS, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT & CO-AUTHOR, 'THIS WILL NOT PASS': Right, this is not exactly what the doctor ordered for Republicans in the midterm elections. And, Martha, I think it's not a coincidence that Donald Trump is talking about doing this, looking at doing this quite seriously at a moment when his legal jeopardy appears to be increasing as a result of the January 6th Committee hearings, is that he -- there's been this pattern over the last few years that, when he appears more vulnerable to investigations of one kind or another, he works harder to put himself out there as a potential candidate.
And for Republican candidates running in House races, Senate races, gubernatorial races, that means Donald Trump putting himself out there as a potential distraction. The GOP wants this midterm election to be an up or down vote on Joe Biden's handling of the economy, not a choice between how Joe Biden has performed as president and what voters think of the last guy.
RADDATZ: And, Mary, there are many reasons that Donald Trump would want to announce early. He -- 80% approval rating with Republicans, but there really are some hurdles if he does that.
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are serious hurdles. Look, I think Donald Trump may be very eager for a rematch. He is eager to re-litigate the last election, to reassert himself, especially in light of these hearings. But it is not a given. And it certainly isn't going to be smooth sailing. I think there are, first of all, just practical fund-raising implications to declaring this early. It can limit how much he can raise. But more than that, I think there are Republicans, Republican officials, some Republican lawmakers, and likely some Republican voters, who think that, while they may support Donald Trump, that he is too divisive to run again.
And of course there are other Republicans who are interested, we know, in jumping in. And I think that only is strengthened by what you are hearing in these hearings. But, look, Donald Trump seems intent on getting out there early and saying to Republican officials, to the Republican Party and Republican voters, "You're either with me or against me."
And to Alex's point, I mean, there are real challenges to doing this before the midterms. It certainly is not something that Republicans want. And I can tell you, based on conversations I've had in the last 24 hours, Democrats in the White House would certainly welcome Donald Trump getting in early.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Britney, he really could just suck up all the energy around the midterms. And -- and as Alex said, the economy, that's what the Republicans want to talk about.
BRITTANY SHEPHERD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Exactly. I was talking to a House GOP leadership aide just a couple days ago, what's the state of play. And they're wringing their hands. They're stressed, because the question is, Republicans are probably going to take back a couple of seats coming in the fall. And so it's not that Republicans still win if Trump's in game, but what kind of Republican's going to win their primary?
Because of redistricting, there's fewer and fewer competitive races. It's a little bit wonky, but that means that folks who are going to be winning their primaries are going to be a lot more partisan. And it eliminates the kind of Republicans who were able to skirt through the primaries just this week. I think five of the 35 Republicans who voted for the bipartisan commission on January 6th that ultimately failed in the Senate, of course, four out of the five were able to survive their primaries just this Tuesday, with one falling.
You think those kind of Republicans are going to survive if Trump is the narrative? It becomes a question, like Mary says, of loyalty and a question, well, can fringe Republicans, kind of, usurp fund-raising? Can they usurp campaigning? And it's worrisome, worrisome to folks on the hill who would think.
We’re trying to reclassify what Republicanism means. Is it MAGA or is it something more? And I think they’re really stressed about that.
RADDATZ: Molly, let's talk about the Democrats. The Democrats have a rather jaw-dropping strategy in the primaries, they have spent millions to help these very extreme right-wing candidates, giving them millions and millions of dollars thinking in the general election that will help them, obviously.
Let me read you an opinion piece by David Brooks in "The New York Times” -- part of it. “What the Democrats are doing is sleazy in the best of circumstances. If you love your country more than your party, you should want the best candidates to advance in either party. And in these circumstances, what they are doing is insane.” What do you think of the strategy?
MOLLY BALL, TIME MAGAZINE NATIONAL POLITICAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, this is not the first time it's been tried but it's certainly the most aggressive that any party has been about trying to boost the challengers they would prefer not to face and of course they're sort of haunted by the biggest example of this, Donald Trump in 2016, when the Clinton campaign famously wanted to face him and that didn't work out so well but it's also been done at the Senate, at gubernatorial level.
Interestingly, in Colorado this past week, it didn't work, and they ended up elevating the moderate candidate. It’ll be very ironic if what Democrats get for their effort to try to elevate extreme Republicans is actually a kinder, gentler Republican Party where the moderates make it through and then increase their credibility with Independent voters because they have seen this barrage of attacks on the more conservative -- or boosting for the more conservative candidate.
But in many places it is working as a political strategy. We'll see how it goes in November. But this is the Democrats sort best hope is that the Republican candidates are just too extreme for the electorate in a year when every other political condition favors the Republicans. And most Democrats are still pretty fatalistic about the midterms in general. But you do see with the January 6th Commission changing the conversation a little bit, with Trump threatening to be more part of the narrative and with all the Supreme Court decisions.
You see the Democratic base getting more fired up so there are glimmers of optimism in the Democratic establishment that we haven’t seen for a while.
RADDATZ: And let's talk about the Supreme Court decisions, Alex, on the climate ruling, a blow to the Biden administration in trying to combat climate change. Tell us what this ruling means and what the effect will be.
ALEX BURNS, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, broadly, Martha, what it means is that the specific set of power plant regulations that the Obama administration drafted and released seven years, ago never going to go into effect and the EPA has not been entirely defanged but constrained in terms of whether it can impose system-wide grid scale requirements to transition away from dirty power and towards --
RADDATZ: -- can’t say you have to put in solar panels?
BURNS: You can’t say -- you can’t say you got to get rid of your coal plants in five years, right? They can still do a whole lot, and the burden and challenge for the Biden administration now is to show that they saw this coming, which they certainly should have given the composition of the Supreme Court and to show that they can get Congress to do something to advance their climate agenda.
You know, so much -- excuse me -- so much of what we’ve heard from the Supreme Court in this term, is pushing the ball back to Congress, to say, no, the administrative agencies can't do policy on this scale. No, the courts are not going to defend basic rights by judicial (inaudible) -- you got to do this through legislation. And the Biden administration -- and by the way, a whole lot of other administrations have had a devil of a hard time showing they can get Congress to do any of that.
So if the burden was already high on Biden to get something more out of this Congress, perhaps on climate, perhaps on prescription drug regulation, abortion now obviously a big part of the conversation, the burden is that much higher and the midterm clock and the pressure from the midterms, it makes it all the more intense.
That if they can't get something significant on climate policy, on clean energy policy, and on, I think, the betting odds with the prescription drug regulation would be the one other thing that you get in a reconciliation bill, then, gosh, that's a hell of a message to send to the Democratic base and to Independent voters who elected you to get stuff done.
RADDATZ: And as you mentioned abortion, Mary, it has been a little over a week since Roe was overturned. Since then 12 states have ceased nearly all abortion services. I know President Biden met with governors this week, but what is he really doing?
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a really good question. I mean, look, you have one week since this decision came down, you have women across the country in limbo, not knowing their status, you have it playing out chaotically across the states. And a lot of people looking to Washington and the administration. The president promised that he would be ready when this ruling came down. And that he would take action.
And you have a lot of advocates and a lot of -- I mean, even Democrats saying, what's the holdup? Where is the big response from the president? And his response so far has been largely rhetorical.
He has taken some steps. He's promising to defend women who travel to different states to get an abortion, promising to make sure the abortion pill is still readily available. The White House feels they aren’t getting enough credit for that.
But those are largely steps that simply restate, you know, existing policy. And I think, you know, the president now is saying what we all know to be true, which is that this really does come down to Congress. And right now, he doesn't have the support to codify Roe into law. They don’t even have enough support to change the Senate rules to try and do that.
So it does really come down to the midterms, and that's the message from the president.
But still, where's the sweeping executive action that he promised that he’s looking into? I’m told we can expect some announcements this week, but whether that's enough to satisfy people that are really looking to this White House to lead more on this, whether or not it can really have an impact remains to be seen.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: And, Brittany, Roe and climate were, of course, just two of the consequential decisions this week. There was religious liberty, guns, all decided by a super majority conservative court.
But according to a recent Gallup poll, only 1 in 4 Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in the court.
How significant is that when you look to the Supreme Court, some of those decisions were before this week, I said this week?
BRITTANY SHEPHERD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, I think there's tremendous significance. I think there’s a national big picture one.
There’s recent polling and recent studies that came out that says that the current makeup of the Supreme Court is 75 percent more conservative than the average American, which means these Americans are going to be feeling disenfranchised and apathetic about the state of the Supreme Court.
And the Supreme Court doesn't have legislative powers that Congress has, doesn't have a budget, doesn’t have an army like the president. So, they over-index on public confidence so that states can follow out their jurisprudence. So, they need public support really in order to bolster the things that they have and to get it done.
But on a micro level, I think this really impacts voters. You know, I was in cycle last for 2020, and now with 2024. I think the real swing voter and I’m curious what you guys think about this, too, it's not the Democrat who flips to Republican, even though there’s some anecdotal evidence that says that such. But it's a voter from -- it’s from the nonvoter to the voter.
And with apathy in the Supreme Court, we already see Biden’s, you know, tectonic ratings, you know, and with a possible Donald Trump presidency, I think it's vexing a lot of people who are on the fringe of, well, may I just won't come out in November. What’s it going to do for me?
And let’s stress out the parties too, because the Republicans are hinging on, you know, I hate to say it, it all comes out the turnout in the midterms. But it's really true. Republicans are hoping that they're going to get a little bit more turnout to get this red wave, to get their candidates not just in Congress but in the governors mansions, secretaries of state offices, where abortion is going to be a huge issue. And Democrats are hoping that voter turnout has a little bit of a blue firewall, for lack of better term, against that red wave. And with less turnout, what’s going to happen next?
RADDATZ: What do you think, Molly?
MOLLY BALL, TIME MAGAZINE NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think -- I think that's all right and I think it's even bigger than that, because for a lot of people this contributes to the crisis of trust in all of our institutions, right? And we see voters losing confidence in the courts. For a long time, people have not had a lot of confidence in Congress or the media.
And then, you know, coming out of COVID, coming out of the 2020 election, the sense of chaos, the sense that Joe Biden was elected to restore sort of normalcy that didn’t happen, inflation, you know, skyrocketing, people just feel very unsettled and like there aren't any grownups in charge.
And so, I think on a very big picture level, Americans are feeling like there's nothing that they can trust. And there's a sense almost that there's a societal breakdown in the works. People don't trust elections and so on.
And so, you know, we could be heading for a sort of larger reckoning in terms of just how this country functions, I think.
ALEX BURNS, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Martha, if I could.
RADDATZ: Yes, please?
BURNS: I do think, if you talk to Democratic officials and strategists and there is this sense that the Supreme Court, for the reasons you just described, is a phenomenal political villain for the party today and in this campaign and going forward.
Most people don’t know who the Supreme Court justices are. If you know any of them, it’s usually the most controversial. They’re a set of sort of largely obscure characters guarded by this priesthood of elite lawyers, right? And so, for your average voter they're not a sympathetic force in American life, they're declining in terms of the institutional trust they have.
So, when you talk to Democrats who are younger, you talk to Democrats who are more progressive, there is a sense that the party should get out there and run against these sort of priest in black robes and there’s a lot of questions about whether Joe Biden is going to be up for doing that.
You know, Molly mentioned declining trust in institutions generally. There’s one word that you hear over and over again to describe Joe Biden. It is institutionalist. Is he going to be comfortable going to these swing states in the fall and campaigning against the Supreme Court institutionally as a malignant force in the country?
RADDATZ: And, Molly, just quickly, the next term, with the Supreme Court, too. We’ve got interesting cases coming up.
BALL: A lot of interesting cases potentially coming up. And the Supreme Court laying down a marker at the very end of this term, saying that they will hear this case on the independent state legislative doctrine, how that relates to elections and whether – whether state legislatures will have the greater power over federal elections than they ever have. And that is another potentially destabilizing decision depending on which they go and another decision that I think Democrats are looking at as something that potentially puts the court further out of sync with public opinion and potentially looking more like an institutional outlier that people don't trust.
RADDATZ: And, Brittany, just quickly, if you will, politically, does anything change because of January 6th?
BRITTANY SHEPHERD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, for Republicans, probably not. You know, Donald Trump is still the strongest endorsement sought out for in the midterms. We haven’t seen a brand-new swath of Republican come out. The folks who have been critical of Trump before are critical of him again. We don’t have a lot of narrative changes there.
I think potentially it could shift folks in the suburbs. I was just down in South Carolina for Nancy Mace's race in Mt. Pleasant. That’s a suburb of Charleston. And there those Republicans, I call it country club Republicans, folks who came down from Long Island, and Connecticut, who believe that January 6th is their final straw, at the end of the day they're still Republicans. They still really care about inflation. They really care about gas prices. So, they’re going to be playing in the primaries hoping that they can kick off the Trump-endorsed folks. But when it comes to November, if they see an “r,” they’re probably going to check the box next to it.
RADDATZ: And, Mary, we really just have about 20 seconds, but I want to go back to Uvalde.
What is President Biden doing about that? Those families want answer. We had the resignation of Pete Arredondo , who was in charge that day, from the city council.
: Yes, he did resign. We saw that yesterday. You know, and he faced so much criticism and so much heat for the response to that. He says he wasn't, you know, the commander on that day – or he wasn’t, you know, in charge of that response, but yet over an hour for them to get in there. And I think the big picture is that these families are just being failed at every level over and other again. And the lack of a response only makes that pain even more painful. How much can the federal government do to step in and get them some answers? It's pretty unclear. But this White House continues to point to that gun legislation they’re passing. Would that have solved this? We just don’t know.
RADDATZ: Thanks very much to all of you. Happy Fourth.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: And that is all for us today.
But before we go, a big welcome to the newest member of our "THIS WEEK" family, Ella Rose Tejera, daughter of our executive produce Dax Tejera and his wife Veronica. She joins big sister Sofia. We are wishing them all the best.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Have a happy and safe Independence Day.