'This Week' Transcript 6-5-22: Secretary Pete Buttigieg & Rep. Tom Rice
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, June 5.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 5, 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST (voiceover): Guns in America.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time we must actually do something. We can't fail the American people again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden calls for action.
MITCH MCCONNELL, MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: Hopefully with can find a way to come together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will Congress do anything? Rachel Scott is live with the latest on Capitol Hill.
JANET YELLEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Consumers and the president pay the price for rising inflation.
BIDEN: The idea we're going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline is not likely in the near term.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the U.S. headed for a recession? The latest on the economy with Chief Business Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC HOST: If you lose, is it going to be worth it?
REP. TOM RICE, (R-SC): Sure it’ll be worth it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can a Republican congressman who voted to impeach Trump survive his primary? Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl’s exclusive interview with Tom Rice.
Plus Political Director Rick Klein with our new Ipsos poll at the Midterm Monitor.
And closing in.
PETER NAVARRO, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: There's no excuse for what they did today and America needs to know this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump adviser Peter Navarro indicted for contempt of Congress ahead of the January 6th hearings. Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas looks ahead to this week's first hearing.
Plus all the week's politics on our Powerhouse Roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.” Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS (on camera): Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
The facts are both terrifying and mind-numbing. Three weeks ago, a gunman opened fire on Black shoppers at a Buffalo supermarket. Since then, there have been more than 35 mass shootings. The latest overnight in Philadelphia where several active shooters unleashed a barrage on a crowded South Street, killing at least three, injuring almost a dozen others. There has been a mass shooting every single week this year, more than 8,000 killed by guns in five months.
ABC News is going to cover this issue from every -- every single day, analyzing from all angles the rise in mass shootings, firearm murders, and suicide by young people, the role of social media on mental illness and what can be done to address this deadly epidemic.
Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott starts us off this morning on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Rachel.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, good morning.
After another string of mass shootings in the U.S., President Biden called on Congress to meet the moment. Asking if this time would finally be enough to change the political landscape here in Washington and break through decades of gridlock.
SCOTT (voiceover): Hours after yet another mass shooting, this time in Tulsa, President Biden made an urgent plea for sweeping gun reform, asking the nation how much more carnage are we willing to accept?
BIDEN: We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and if we can't ban assault weapons then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21.
SCOTT: The president delivered a rare primetime address as the U.S. surpasses more than 230 mass shootings this year.
BIDEN: I want to be very clear, this is not about taking away anyone's guns. It's about protecting whole communities. It’s about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store, to a church without being shot and killed.
SCOTT: But despite his impassioned pleas for change, the political reality is most of President Biden’s demands are a long shot on Capitol Hill.
Sources say what’s on the table in the Senate's bipartisan talks is much narrower than what the president is hoping for, including expanded background checks, incentives for states to implement red flag laws, which would allow guns to be temporarily taken away from people considered to be dangerous, and funding for mental health and strengthening school security.
Polls show the majority of Americans do support most of these measures. But on Capitol Hill, the partisan divide is sharp and bitter. The debate at a House hearing on gun reform getting heated.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): You know who didn’t have their constitutional right to life respected, the kids at Parkland and Sandy Hook and Uvalde and Buffalo. So spare me the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about constitutional rights.
SCOTT: Republicans pushing back.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (D-TX): We must be here for the gunmen is an outrage. How dare you? You think we don't have hearts?
SCOTT: The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that includes nearly everything the president asked for, it doesn't stand a chance in the Senate, where Democrats need the support of at least 10 Republicans to get it passed. And while calls for change are growing louder …
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Don’t shoot!
PROTESTORS: I want to grow up!
SCOTT: … so is the backlash for Republicans who break from their party.
GOP Congressman Chris Jacobs represents Buffalo. Days after the mass shooting there, he called for a ban on assault weapons, the blowback was swift. Faced with intense scrutiny from fellow Republicans, Jacobs announced he will no longer run for re-election.
REP. CHRIS JACOBS (R-NY): If you’re not going to take a stand on something like this, I don’t know what you’re going to take a stand on.
SCOTT: Across the country some states are not waiting for Congress to act. In New York, lawmakers passed legislation this week to revise its red flag laws and raise the age to buy a semiautomatic weapon from 18 to 21. As the nation continues to mourn the lives lost too soon, the funerals of 2 of the 21 Uvalde victims taking place today, 10-year-old Alithia Ramirez and Eliana Garcia, who would have turned 10 yesterday.
The president asking if this time will be any different.
BIDEN: For God’s sake, do something. After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done. This time that can't be true.
SCOTT (on camera): This is shaping up to be a critical week here on Capitol Hill. Families of the victims of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings will be testifying before Congress and so will a fourth grader who said that she covered herself in her classmate's blood and played dead when the suspect entered her classroom in Uvalde.
As for those bipartisan talks, senators are under pressure to reach a deal this week. George, I'm told that is a goal, not a guarantee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Rachel, thanks very much.
Let’s talk about this on our Roundtable. Joined by Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, Maggie Haberman, and the executive editor of the AP, Julie Pace.
And Julie, let me begin with you. Rachel just said it right there, the bipartisan talks are going to continue this week, not a lot of hope for those talks.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: There's really not. And you hear President Biden saying, we can't let this follow the patterns of the past; after Parkland, after Newtown, and it seems like we are going to follow that pattern, where we may see some movement around the edges but nothing significant.
I do think if you look state-by-state, you mentioned New York -- Rachel mentioned New York in her package, I think there’s some potential for action at the state level, but at the federal level we are just stuck right now, there is very little willingness from the Republican Party to take any significant action.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, if you were governor of New Jersey right now, what would you be doing?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, you know, our gun laws, George, are probably among the top two or three strictest in the country among the states. So my guess is in New Jersey we probably wouldn't be doing much. We haven't had a significant issue with that type of gun violence in our state.
And my guess is, if I were governor right now, I wouldn’t be doing much of anything, nor would the legislature because of all the stuff that had been done before. Other states are significantly different than New Jersey's are but New Jersey’s laws are pretty strict.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Brazile, we saw the president come out in primetime this week, he's been speaking out on issue after issue after issue, but even he acknowledges that his voice might not make much of a difference here.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Not when you need 60 votes to get anything done. Look, George, I think Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he remains optimistic that something will happen, we don't know what that something will looks like. But if Congress fails to seize the moment, it is incumbent upon governors and municipalities and others to try to raise the age to 21 before you can buy a semi-assault rifle, to ensure that we have stronger red flag laws across the country. And, potentially, you know, background checks and stopping this trafficking of guns from one border to the other.
If we do nothing it's a moral failure, a moral failure, and this week when we hear from that little child from Texas describe what it was like to be in a classroom hiding with blood on her face and we're going to stand back and say, “Oh, that's normal.” That's not normal. I hope that Congress will find the moral courage that (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Talking about moral courage, Maggie Haberman, Chris Jacobs, Republican Congressman from New York comes out for an assault weapon ban after the Buffalo shooting, he has to drop out of his race.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a really remarkable moment in the Republican Party. It’s essentially a purging of anybody who goes against a certain orthodoxy. And that is a district where there is a gun culture.
It is not entirely surprising that it has become this litmus test issue in this direction is really I think the course of the last decade and it speaks to why there is inaction in Washington.
On the point about the president, the current president is dealing with a very bad hand, there’s no question, in terms of how frozen things are in D.C. This is why there are some Democrats who are pushing him to take a different kind of action, to do something by executive order and let people challenge it in courts because it would be a recognition that we are in an extreme moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Likely (ph) to see something like that.
Chris Christie, you know it turns out, you see -- we talk about these polls that show 80 percent, 90 percent support for background checks. We see the backlash against a Republican who comes out for assault weapons ban. But I think one of the issues here is despite the fact there's broad public support for gun control, people don't really vote on it.
CHRISTIE: No, they don't. And I think, George, that politicians over the course of time in both parties have learned that fact.
And so, while you hear Democrats say a lot, Chris Murphy was saying this week, and I think he's genuinely trying to get something done. In the end, they -- everybody knows it’s not a make or break issue.
And you look at the polling that we'll be talking about in our show later today, you know it comes -- it pops a little bit after an event like this.
But, again, people are going to vote on inflation. People are going to vote on gas prices. They’re going to vote on crime, broadly speaking, but not necessarily on this one issue.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: And then the other -- the other thing that plays into some of thinking of the politicians is when you have something like Newtown or what we just saw in Texas, when you have children, right? Young children in school.
If that doesn't move the needle, then what becomes the incentive for a politician like Jacobs to stay in his race and really fight on this kind of issue? He really just doesn't see that that's viable for him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some people suggested, Donna Brazile, in the wake of this perhaps, we shouldn't be censoring the pictures of those young victims.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, George, that's tough. I mean, just to hear parents talk about bringing their DNA in order to identify their children, look, I -- I don't get to see these kids until they're at the college level. But the notion that you would have to go and identify a member of your family by submitting DNA, that's heartbreaking.
I want to say something. Look, I’m not for confiscating guns. Democrats don't want to take your guns. We want to make sure that you're able to have the right kind of rigorous training, background checks, commonsense stuff.
It's not about confiscating guns and I hope this is going to be an issue -- 111 people murdered each day, 200 wounded. Last night, I went to bed, there was a shooting in Phoenix. I get up this morning, there's one in Philadelphia.
You're not safe in your grocery store. You’re not safe at the mall, your house of worship. Where are you safe anymore? Guns are not making us safe. They're making us less safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, pick up on what Maggie was saying when we talked about guns as a voting issue, but it does appear that there's been a hardening in the Republican Party around this issue.
CHRISTIE: Well, I think there’s been hardening on both sides, George. And I think the president's speech this week reflected that as well on the Democratic side. And Maggie's comments about the potential of an executive order, which is a dubious thing to do from a legal perspective, shows the hardening on the left as well.
And I think it's just a constant symptom of where we are in the country right now. This is one issue that that's an example of but there are many others, where people in each party have decided there's no compromise here because there’s no one on the other side willing to compromise and they said about each other and point fingers both ways. And --
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is really a both sides issue.
CHRISTIE: No, George, I think both sides create the atmosphere, right? So, when the president is saying the stuff he said in his speech the other evening this week, and the emotion that he says it with, he's essentially trying to imply the people who disagree with him are immoral.
And I think when you start raising it to that level, you better win, because if you don't, the other side will never move towards you, ever. If you're going to say this is purely moral issue, if you don't agree with me, yeah, then you're immoral.
BRAZILE: What is moral if it's not life and death? When it’s taking the lives of innocent children, when its’ taking the lives of 80-year-old --
CHRISTIE: Donna --
BRAZILE: -- grandmothers who are in a grocery store trying to feed her family. It is moral. What’s life if it’s not that I cannot walk the streets.
Look, Chris, I live in urban city. I care about crime. I care about the violence in that city.
CHRISTIE: There are nuances to this issue, though, Donna. And you know that.
BRAZILE: There are nuances but it’s about guns. I know about guns because my father was in the military.
He kept his guns safe. He stored it. He understood what was needed to go out and shoot something that was a critter versus a human being.
And they don’t have this, Chris. It's moral.
CHRISTIE: Donna, you said this morning that Democrats don't want to confiscate guns. But on the other hand, you have Beto O’Rourke this week in Texas saying that’s exactly what he wants to do. So, there are nuances to this issue.
If people spoke about it the way you did, maybe there will be more opportunity for compromise. But you do have people both on the right --
BRAZILE: A semiautomatic weapons, do I need 20 rounds to get a deer?
CHRISTIE: Donna, Donna, I’m talking about confiscating -- to confiscating weapons that Beto O'Rourke was talking about this week. This hardens the debate. It hardens people’s position.
BRAZILE: Semiautomatic rifles.
CHRISTIE: Both extremes, too. I’m sorry, both extremes too.
BRAZILE: There’s no what-about-them on this one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have to take a break. We’ll be back. We’ll have more roundtable later in the show.
Up next, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Plus, Jon Karl’s exclusive interview, one of the few Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: If we get back to full employment, could we see inflation surge? How big a problem is that?
JANET YELLEN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Is there a risk of inflation? I – I think there's a small risk. And I think it's manageable.
Look, I – I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There you see Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledging this week that the administration misjudged the inflation threat last year. And as costs continue to rise on essentials like food and gas, recession fears are growing as well.
We’re going to discuss it all with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after this report from chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis.
REBECCA JARVIS, ABC NEWS CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It can feel like a tale of two economies. On the one hand, a booming labor market. The latest jobs report out this week showing employers added another 390,000 jobs in May and unemployment remained near historic lows at 3.6 percent.
But on the other hand, those surging prices stretching family budgets. Across the country, drivers paying an average of $4.85 a gallon. At least nine states averaging gas above $5. And analysts for GasBuddy warning we could see $5 a gallon nationally by June 17th.
The inflation picture leading to a major concession this week by the Biden administration.
JANET YELLEN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take.
JARVIS: As it stands, prices today, including food, rents and gas, are up 8.3 percent from a year ago, far more than wages, which are up 5.2 percent over the same period.
The president, hoping to reassure the country and calling on Congress to do more.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm doing everything I can on my own to help working families during this stretch of higher prices. I'm going to – I'm going to continue to do that. But Congress needs to act as well.
JARVIS: The question now, can the Federal Reserve and policymakers cool inflation without causing a recession? Something a number of CEOs also addressed this week, including Tesla's Elon Musk, who according to Reuters told senior executives he had a super-bad feeling about the economy.
And JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who warned of an economic hurricane ahead.
JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JP MORGAN CHASE: Right now it’s kind of sunny, things are doing fine. You know, everyone thinks they’re – the Fed can handle this. That hurricane is right out there down the road coming our way.
JARVIS: For THIS WEEK, Rebecca Jarvis, ABC News, New York.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Rebecca, for that.
bring in the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Secretary Buttigieg, thanks for joining us this morning.
Let's play off what Jamie Dimon was just saying there. He says he sees storm clouds coming. Elon Musk is worried about the future of the economy. Larry Summers, former Democratic Treasury secretary is worried about a recession later this year as well.
Is that what Americans should be braced for?
PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, right now, what we are doing is preparing for the road ahead where you're not going to see this kind of swift, red-hot, wildly fast economic growth that we had over the last year or so, but still expecting strong economic growth and working to keep it this way.
Now, look, whether we're talking about growth or whether we’re talking about inflation, one very important principle right now that this administration takes seriously and respects is to allow the Fed to do its job. But the administration and Congress have a job to do as well, and that is to support growth in this economy, including issues on the supply side of our economy, like making sure our supply chains are stronger, making sure that we invest in the capacity, both physical and human, of our economy to keep up with demand, and taking action where we can to lower costs for American families.
And there are a number of things that the president has proposed that we do that Congress could do, lowering the cost of insulin, lowering the cost of childcare, lowering the cost of housing, things that would make a difference no matter what's happening macro-economically, would make life easier for Americans who are facing these economic question marks right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just saw, in Rebecca's piece, President Biden saying he's doing everything he can, he believes he's doing everything he can, on his own, to combat inflation. But Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna disagrees. He's saying there's way more we can do -- he wrote that in the New York Times -- way more we can do right now to stop inflation, including having various departments, the Department of Energy, buy up petroleum, Department of Agriculture buy up more food, buy up surplus baby formula.
Should the president set up the kind of task force that -- that Congressman Khanna is talking about and start those -- make those purchases?
BUTTIGEIG: Well, look, the president's made clear that inflation is his top economic priority. And he's laid out a very clear strategy for doing that. I'm sure additional ideas will be welcomed, especially when they're ideas that come in good faith.
But right now the president has a very clear plan. Now, unfortunately, from the other side of the aisle, what we're seeing is not very much by way of concrete ideas, right? We've heard something from Senator Rick Scott about raising taxes on lower and middle-income Americans. There's a continued to push reduce -- or to remove the ACA. And you have, you know, continued culture wars. But, you know, what we have in the administration, and working with partners in Congress who are coming through with a number of good ideas, is to continue to take the steps that are needed both on the price side and on the growth side to keep our economy strong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Americans feel gas prices just about more than anything else. We're seeing $5 a gallon, approaching $5 a gallon across the country right now, as we head into the summer vacation season. Earlier this year the president tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which hasn't made any difference at all. Was that a failure?
BUTTIGEIG: Well, look, I don't think it's correct to say it hasn't made any difference at all. This is an action that helped to stabilize global oil prices. The action the president took around ethanol, introducing additional flexibility there, that's having an effect on prices in the Midwest.
But we also know that the price of gasoline is not set by a dial in the Oval Office. And when an oil company is deciding, hour by hour, how much to charge you for a gallon of gas, they're not calling the administration to ask what they should do; they're doing it based on their goal of maximizing their profits.
It's been very striking right now to see these oil companies, who have become almost ridiculously profitable, and you hear these oil executives on the record talking about how they're not going to increase production. Why would they? They're doing great right now.
It's why the president has called for a "Use it or lose it" policy, where, if you're sitting on these thousands of permits like these oil executives have been, and you're not doing anything with them, then you're going to be held accountable for that.
Now, so far congressional Republicans have blocked action to do something like that. But we think that's another step that would make a difference, among the many, many steps the president's already taken.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a veteran of the presidential campaign trail. What's your advice to Democrats who are facing the voters this year in the fact of those high prices?
BUTTIGEIG: Well, look, the first is to recognize that this is a real challenge that we're all facing, that families are feeling that pain, and that we're acting on it.
But, look the bottom line is that there are two very clear and very different approaches here. There is our approach, which is to find solutions, to invest in our supply chains, like we're doing with the infrastructure money, certainly in my department and in others, to do everything that we can to lower costs for American families, like the cost of insulin and prescription drugs. And then there's the other path that congressional conservatives have put forward, which doesn't really speak much to inflation. It's, you know, raising taxes on lower and middle-class families, making a lot of political hay out of the very real challenges that families are feeling and going to war with Mickey Mouse.
So there's a very clear difference in strategies here against some very challenging economic problems. And, by the way, you can also look at the track record of where we've gotten over the course of the last year. Of course we have challenges right now. But look at where this administration began, where there was a very real risk of recession, if not depression, and an American Rescue Plan that has made enormous differences in communities across the country. Pretty much any mayor I talk to talks about the different investments that they're making in their community thanks to that, and along with that, extraordinary job growth, exceptionally low unemployment, increases in income for American families. That didn't just happen on its own.
And the fact that unemployment is as low as it is right now would not have happened, I believe, if it were not for the actions that the president took and the actions that -- that Congress did move through and pass, like the Rescue Plan and what we're increasingly going to see the benefits of, this infrastructure law.
You know, a lot of people didn't think you could do anything on a bipartisan basis. But this president did it, and there are a lot of people in Congress who were part of that who have a lot to be proud of.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You are coming to us from South Bend. You’re the former mayor of that town. Let me ask you a version of the question I just asked Chris Christie on our Roundtable. In the wake of this epidemic of deadly gun violence, if you were still mayor of South Bend right now, what would you be doing?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, the worst part of the job of being mayor is talking to families of people who have lost their loved ones and knowing that nothing you can do will bring those loved ones back. We have a horrific scourge of gun violence in this country and you know, as mayor -- as every mayor is doing around the country, you take the steps that you can to reduce community violence, to invest in partnerships, to make sure that you’ve taken the steps you can locally.
But you're also looking at Washington to say will anything be different this time? Will we actually acknowledge the reasons why we are the only country, the only developed country where this happens on a routine basis? And the idea that us being the only developed country where this happens routinely, especially in terms of the mass shootings, is somehow a result of the design of the doorways on our school buildings, is the definition of insanity if not the definition of denial.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pete Buttigieg, thanks for your time this morning.
Coming up, Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas looks ahead to this week's January 6th hearings, plus, more of our Powerhouse Roundtable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Klein is at the Midterm Monitor with our new poll, that’s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MCCORMICK (R), FORMER PA SENATE CANDIDATE: It's now clear to me with the recount largely complete that we have a nominee. And today I called Mehmet Oz to congratulate him on his victory and I told him what I -- what I always said to you, that I will do my part to try to unite Republicans and Pennsylvanians behind his candidacy, behind his nomination, for the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So the Senate race in Pennsylvania is now set, Mehmet Oz versus John Fetterman. Tuesday is going to make the biggest day of voting this year’s primaries. Voters across seven states from California to New Jersey will choose candidates in key midterms races.
Our political director Rick Klein is back in our Midterm Monitor.
And, Rick, our new polling with Ipsos gives us new insights into headwinds Democrats are facing.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, George, what you’re seeing is President Biden, it’s a serious drag on Democratic candidates nationwide. And it’s driven by his approval rating on a range of issues. He's badly under water on all of the top issues, including the big ones, inflation, gas prices.
He's less than 30 percent approval rating on the issues that we're told by voters are dominating their state of mind, even on issues like gun violence, abortion rights, issues that he is elevating into conversations in recent weeks, he's still significantly under water.
The only issue that was see him above water, 56 percent his handling on COVID-19. The problem for Democrats and Biden is that that happens to be the issue that voters are telling us is the least likely to be animating their vote this fall.
And that’s also spelling over into an enthusiasm gap that’s developing. You see this in our poll with Ipsos, 13-point edge for Republicans in terms of people that say that they are very enthusiastic, very eager to vote this fall. You’re seeing independent voters largely sitting out the midterms so far.
Now, that enthusiasm gap is a little narrower than it was the last time we polled on it two months ago. But, still, those are the kind of numbers that have Democrats worried about a potential wave election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to learn a lot about the shape of the House in this week's primaries.
KLEIN: Yeah. It’s interesting to watch these states that are voting on Tuesday, because you’ve almost a perfect microcosm Democrats are running into nationwide. We think of California as a big blue monster of a state but actually there's at least four Democratic-held House seats could be in play. There’s a few places that Democrats think they can go on offense as well.
Montana's actually adding a house seat for the first time in three decades. Democrats at first thought they could be competitive there, but those hopes have really faded. And I want to zoom in on a couple of states in particular to tell the story that the Democrats are facing in so many places.
This is the district of Congressman Cindy Axne. That district was carried by Donald Trump both times. Now, her -- she's got all these new voters down here in the southern part of the state. That’s because of the redistricting process, those are new voters, many of them Republican voters.
Cindy Axne carried her district only by about 6,000 votes last time around. Now, she has this double whammy of a new district and a much tougher national environment.
And over in New Jersey, it’s actually even more stark. Congressman Tom Malinowski from the seventh district in north New Jersey, Democrats carved his district up and gave him a more Republican district by -- according to our friends at FiveThirtyEight -- about 7 points more Republicans than it was before. And that has to do with efforts to try to shore-up other Democrats.
The net result is, Malinowski has a much tougher district in a much tougher year. The last time around, he won by only about 5,000 votes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You show the president under water, even on issues he’s been highlighting like guns and abortion. What else the polls say about that?
KLEIN: Yeah, this is -- this is -- this is when we ask people the top voting issue, what voters are thinking about. Number one, number one when they go to the polls, no surprise, inflation and the economy. They are number one and number two.
This becomes kind of interesting, and this might give some glimmers of hope to Democrats about the potential to change the issues that – the fact that gun violence, abortion rights now cited by 17 percent, 12 percent of voters as their first issue, their number one issue, that’s the kind – those are the kind of issues that, typically speaking, more voters are aligned with Democrats’ views than Republican views. The question then becomes, and to the point that Chris Christie and others are making earlier, how do you take these polling issues and make them voting issues. That’s going to be the big challenge for Democrats this year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Klein at the midterm monitor, thanks very much.
This week's primaries will also reveal more about Donald Trump's hold on the Republican Party. And voters in South Carolina will soon decide if they're going to re-elect one of few Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump after the January 6th insurrection.
Five-term Congressman Tom Rice is in a heated race for the GOP nomination. And our chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl traveled to South Carolina for an exclusive interview ahead of the vote.
REP. TOM RICE (R-SC): I'm Tom Rice. I'm your congressman.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Tom Rice is one of few Republicans who stood up to Donald Trump after January 6th. Now he is fighting for his political life in the heart of Trump country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is you the guy who voted to impeach Donald Trump?
RICE: I am. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've done wrong with that, buddy.
RICE: I'm not sorry for my vote. I think I did the right thing.
KARL: He faces the wrath of Donald Trump. The former president even coming to his South Carolina district to campaign against him.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Tom Rice, a disaster.
KARL: Rice, one of the architects of Trump's tax cuts, had been one of his most reliable supporters in Congress. But after January 6th, he was just one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach him.
KARL (on camera): You surprised almost everybody when you came out and voted in favor of impeachment.
RICE: It wasn't that hard. I mean, when I thought about what had happened and the president's activity or inactivity that day, when he sat there and he put his own vice president's life, and the vice president’s wife and his daughter's life at risk of people shouting “hang Mike Pence.”
CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.
RICE: When he watched the Capitol, the people’s house, being (INAUDIBLE), when he watched the Capitol Police officers being beaten for three or four hours and lifted not one finger to stop it. The more I read about that, the more I learned about -- it was clear to me what I had to do. I was livid. I'm livid today about it. Now, I took an oath to protect the Constitution and I did it then and I would do it again tomorrow.
KARL: How many of your House Republican colleagues believe exactly what you just said, privately?
RICE: I think more than you might imagine.
KARL: There’s no way you could support him for president again?
RICE: No. There's one way.
RICE: If he apologized.
KARL: So if he came out and said I'm sorry, I mean, all that goes --
RICE: If he came out and said I'm sorry, that I made a huge mistake on January 6th, then I might consider it.
KARL: What would it mean for the Republican Party if he runs again?
RICE: I think it – I think it will hurt us.
KARL (voice over): He has kept a low profile since that vote. Rice says he has turned down some 200 interviews, but he knows his impeachment vote may cost him his seat in Congress.
KARL (on camera): Trump came to your district not long ago.
RICE: Yes, he did.
KARL: And said some terrible things about you. He said you were a disaster.
TRUMP: And now Tom Rice looks like a total fool.
KARL: What’s that like when – when the most prominent Republican in the land comes to your district, I mean he's not out there campaigning in a bunch of districts, he came to your backyard.
RICE: You know, I said –
KARL: And said you’re a disaster.
RICE: I said it at the time. But, you know, if I am a disaster –
RICE: And a total fool –
RICE: And I voted with him 169 out of 190 times, what does that make him, right?
RICE: I mean I'm taking his lead.
RICE: So – but, you know, I said at the time, he's a narcissist and he's driven by attention and he’s driven by revenge.
KARL: Why are you such an outlier then on your willingness to stand up to Donald Trump? I mean why – why are there are so few Republicans like you?
RICE: It's really interesting to hear people call me a rhino when they’re –
KARL: A Republican in name only when – when you have a voting record that is more conservative than –
RICE: When they’re – yes. Right. And -- absolutely. Defending the Constitution is a bedrock of the Republican platform, right? Defend the Constitution. And that's what I did. That was the conservative vote. But if that --
KARL: Impeachment was the conservative vote.
RICE: Absolutely, it was the conservative vote. There’s no question in my mind.
KARL (voice over): Rice says he is disappointed Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy embraced Trump after January 6th.
KARL (on camera): If the Republicans win back the House, do you think McCarthy should be speaker?
RICE: I'm not going answer that one right now. Yes, we'll see. We’ll see what happens.
KARL: And – and what about Liz Cheney? Do you think she –
RICE: I think she’d be a great speaker.
RICE: Yes, I do. I think she’s a real Republican. I think she is very conservative. And I think she’s a fearless leader.
KARL (voice over): He hopes voters will focus on one than one vote to impeach.
KARL (on camera): But you may now lose your seat.
RICE: Well, I hope that I don't. I'm so -- I'm so proud of what I've gotten done for my district.
KARL: If you lose, is it going to be worth it?
RICE: Sure, it will be worth it. Absolutely.
KARL: Your obituary, the first sentence, is going to "Tom Rice, who was a Republican member of Congress, voted to impeach Donald Trump."
RICE: So be it. I'll wear it like a badge. So be it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Primaries are coming up next week. Thanks to Jon Karl for that. Pierre Thomas and the roundtable are next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: What the Justice Department is doing is wrong on all manner of counts. These are ultra vires, unenforcible, unlawful subpoenas, and that committee should never have been formed.
I'm trying to do my duty to this country. I'm in an untenable position. The Constitution is on my side on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump adviser Peter Navarro lashing out after his arrest Friday. The Department of Justice charged him with contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the January 6 Committee.
As public hearings get under way this week, chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has a closer look at the criminal investigation.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As Congress presents televised hearings and the story of the January 6th attack on the Capitol unfolds, the Justice Department has been increasingly drawn into the political fallout of the House investigation.
NAVARRO: I have represented myself pro se.
THOMAS: On Friday, in a dramatic escalation, the Justice Department reached into the Trump White House, indicting former aide Peter Navarro, for contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House Select Committee, the same charges filed against Trump ally, Steve Bannon, back in January.
Bannon has pleaded not guilty. But DOJ notified House investigators it would not charge former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his deputy who both offered some level of cooperation with the committees.
Leaders of the committee called the decision puzzling, but the Justice Department appeared to be establishing its independence. DOJ’s focus, what prosecutors believe to be clear-cut crimes, with a heavy emphasis on who planned and conducted the worst attack on the Capitol in modern history.
The Justice Department’s criminal investigation quietly has continued to gather momentum, with the FBI uncovering disturbing allegations. Agents have recently identified two alleged major conspiracies, specific plots to use force to block Joe Biden from becoming president. And authorities say both conspiracies were hashed well in advance of January 6th.
Two anti-government groups with far-right leanings, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are being portrayed as the primary soldiers in these conspiracies and an ABC News' extensive review of charges and recent guilty pleas paint a stark and dark picture.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you …
THOMAS: It was just after 10:00 a.m. as the Save America Rally for President Trump began to build steam, that the FBI says 100 members of the Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument and decided to make their way to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
They were soon surrounded by an ever-increasing and voicetrous (ph) crowd, furious at the prospect that Congress was about to certify Joe Biden as president.
PROTESTORS: Treason! Treason!
THOMAS: By 12:53, the Proud Boys' number had swollen to roughly 300, then a critical moment. Suddenly the FBI says an apparent member of the Proud Boys becomes the first person to breach Capitol barriers …
THOMAS: … all hell breaks loose.
MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER DC POLICE OFFICER: It was like a medieval battle scene and it’s some of the most brutal combat I've ever encountered.
THOMAS: By 2:14 p.m., prosecutors say this alleged Proud Boy, Dominic Pezzola, who has pleaded not guilty, used a riot shield he stole from a Capitol police officer to break a window of the Capitol, clearing the way for the mob.
STEPHEN SALTZBURG, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It’s shocking. We’ve never seen anything like this. And what is the most shocking part of it is, if you think about how were they going to stop the certification, there’s only one way that you could stop it and that is to violently interfere with the counting of the votes.
THOMAS: New allegations claim that the Proud Boys had formed a so-called ministry of self-defense, that on January 4th, two days before the attempted insurrection, the group actively discussed a plan to attack the Capitol. The FBI says the group had even developed a written plan that laid out an effort to occupy federal buildings here in Washington.
The Oath Keepers, meanwhile, had been amassing an arsenal, it had deployed members just outside the city, even stashing arms at local hotels, according to the FBI, which claims they were prepared to use lethal force if necessary.
One senior member of the Proud Boys has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electors and three senior leaders of the Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to a seditious conspiracy to prevent Biden from taking power.
All are cooperating with the Justice Department's investigation.
SALTZBURG: What they did was, one word, they conspired. They conspired together and what we don't know is, who else did they conspire with? That's what DOJ needs to continue to seek to find out.
THOMAS: A number of critical questions remain, among them, who provided the money for the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and others to travel, stay in hotels, and to buy weapons? And who else, if anyone, knew of specific plans by these two groups to block Biden’s certification by force?
Prosecutors also say the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were involved with or discussed providing security to a number of VIPs associated with former President Trump that day, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn among them.
The Justice Department appears to be trying to see if there was a convergence involving money or coordination between those who organized the political rally and those who organized violence. The investigation expanding. Clearly far from over.
STEPHAANOPOULOS: Thanks to Pierre Thomas for that.
The Roundtable is back. Primetime hearing is this Thursday by the January 6th Committee.
Maggie Haberman and the New York Times, you had some remarkable reporting ahead of this hearing on Thursday, involving the vice president, his staff knew the day before, they were so concerned about threats to his life they called in the Secret Service.
HABERMAN: So his top aide, Marc Short, who was his chief of staff at the time -- and this is research that I uncovered while I was reporting both (ph) “Confidence Man” on Donald Trump.
He warned the lead Secret Service agent for Pence, that the president was going to publicly turn on Pence, and -- the VP -- and they needed to be prepared for this. There could be a possible security risk.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you mean by the president is going to turn on Pence?
HABERMAN: Publicly, he was going to likely attack him, and that, you know, they needed to be prepared for what that could mean.
Does -- did Marc Short envision the mob that we saw of 2,000 people? I don’t have any reason to believe that he thought that.
But certainly, the president's words could incite people that he had a group of supporters who were reactive to him. Could there be one person reacting, two people, three people, four people? I believe that’s what he had in my mind based on my reporting.
That's not a specific threat. That’s not something the Secret Service can really do something with, but it does speak to mindset of people around Pence, who knew that they was escalating danger in what Trump was doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Julie Pace, one of the biggest revelations that is already being reported of the committee is that the president was more or less approving when he heard these "hang Mike Pence" chants on the day of the riots. But we’re likely to learn a lot more once the hearings get underway, including from the testimony of someone very close to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, Cassidy Hutchinson.
PACE: Cassidy Hutchinson, not a name that I think many people were familiar with during the Trump administration, but certainly someone who had access to a lot of information and was literally physically around Meadows and others in the White House in those hours after the 6th.
And I think what her testimony, so far, behind closed doors to the committee has shown is that there's new information that this committee has found. There's narrative of events that they're hoping to put out publicly, potentially with Hutchinson actually appearing in some of these hearings in public.
I think the real question is, is there any significant segment of the American public that is open to having their minds changed from this?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the big question, Donna.
BRAZILE: Well, George, first of all, I want to commend the committee for really doing an excellent job -- of Mr. Thompson, Ms. Cheney. This is a thorough investigation. The American people need to understand what happened before, during and after January 6th. So, I’m interested in learning these new developments and new facts.
I also want to know, and maybe this is my pet peeve, who planted the bombs at the DNC and the RNC? Nobody talks about it. As someone who spent so much time -- to get to the DNC, you got to go past the RNC. So, there are so many unanswered questions and I hope starting this week, we’ll find some answers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, I know that conventional wisdom is the public opinion is baked in on all of this. But I find it hard to imagine at the end of these hearings that President Trump is -- former President Trump is not going to be in a worse position than he is today.
CHRISTIE: Look, the truth on this will hurt him. I mean, look, the battle right now, George, is between the truth and lies. And what the former president's been doing has been lying about this, lying both affirmatively in terms of whether the election was stolen or not, and then lying by his silence in terms of what he was doing that day.
Donald Trump talks about everything. He's willing to talk almost anything. Not -- you've never heard him talk about what he’s doing -- what he was doing on January 6th while this was going on. Lots of other people are talking about it.
And, look, can anybody be surprised that Marc Short was concerned, knowing Marc as well as I do about his boss' safety? Because in the Trump administration, throughout four years, but especially at that time --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say, can anybody be surprised? That's nuts. Here's the vice president of the United States concerned about his safety the day before he's going to certify the election?
CHRISTIE: It's not nuts, George, for him to have been concerned if you lived in that environment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It shows the environment is not --
CHRISTIE: That’s my point. My point is that that environment is something that only people who have been inside of it understands, which is loyalty is a one-way street. It runs only towards Donald Trump. It doesn't run back.
And if it does run back, it runs back only if you're doing something which he 100 percent favors. Now, here's Mike Pence, who I think anybody could say 99 percent of Mike Pence's four years as vice president, he stood behind the president, nodded and did what the president wanted. The 1 percent times that he didn't, he paid the price.
HABERMAN: The thing is, we're not talking about loyalty, and everything in my reporting, you know, over time comports with what the governor just said.
But we're not talking about Donald Trump the businessman, we're talking about a president and a vice president, and that I think is something that Donald Trump had real difficulty understanding over the four years he was in office that he was serving as president, he wasn't a private citizen anymore and he reportedly acted as if he was in both roles.
And so, in that moment, you were talking about, one was talking about the words and impact -- the impact of the words of the president on his number two. It is -- it's a breathtaking thing. When I heard it, I was absolutely blown away.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie, we saw this decision by the Justice Department to indict Peter Navarro. They decided not to indict (ph) Peter Navarro. They decided not to indict (ph) Dan Scavino and another close aide to President Trump, not to indict Mark Meadows.
And you wonder what that tells you about whether or not they're actually looking at the former president?
PACE: It's a – it’s a really fascinating question. And I think everyone's trying to read these tea leaves because they do seem to be kind of cutting both ways on this. A lot of Democrats were quite frustrated with the decision to not indict Savino or Meadows, saying, you know, what they had done was just every bit as bad as Navarro.
You see Garland trying to assert his independence, trying to make clear that there is a penalty for not complying with requests from Congress. You know, whether they go after Trump or not, that is a much bigger decision than going after someone like a Peter Navarro.
CHRISTIE: George, let me give you a little potential insight here as to maybe why.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As a former prosecutor, I should add.
CHRISTIE: Right. So -- so it does tell you that Meadows has done some cooperating with them by turning over a lot of text messages which has given a lot of information. And we don’t know what Scavino’s given over or not.
And – and I will tell you, as somebody who used to make those decisions –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he – but you have to conclude that he’s given over something.
CHRISTIE: Exactly right.
My point on this is, it tells you that Meadows and Scavino have given a quantum of cooperation. We don't know how much. We probably won’t know until other indictments are brought. But – and Navarro probably stone walled them. And so when you're a prosecutor, if you’ve got somebody who’s not giving you everything you want but an important matter has given you some of what you want, you don’t want to indict, because if you indict, then it shuts it down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That might be the biggest revelation of the – of the committee hearings, Donna Brazile, what was actually happening inside the White House.
BRAZILE: Everyone wants to know, George. I want to know. I want to know when someone walked into the White House and said to the president, the former president, whatever, the D.C. mayor is calling to get the National Guard. I mean, what did he do? He put 700,000 residents at risk. We were curfewed. We couldn't leave our homes. So, I – I want to – I want to know minute by minute all of the details.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hearings to come up Thursday.
Thank you all.
We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today.
Before we go, a big welcome to our newest viewer, Zehra June Alva. She’s the daughter of our coordinating producer Mitch Alva and his wife Lusra (ph). We are wishing them all the best. She is such a cute little girl.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT” and I’ll see you tomorrow on “GMA.”
NY AG says she may seize Trump's buildings if he can't pay his $354M civil fraud fine
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