'This Week' Transcript 8-7-22: Sen. Chris Coons, Sen. Mike Rounds & Bill Richardson

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, August 7.

ByABC News
August 7, 2022, 9:12 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 7, 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): Breakthrough.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY): I'm pleased we have reached an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senate Democrats unite to advance their landmark climate and tax bill.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D-MA): We’re moving forward on climate and we’re moving forward on making billionaire corporations pay.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Republicans unite against it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): What will vote-a-rama be like? It will be like hell.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The latest from Democratic Senator Chris Coons, Republican Mike Rounds.

Rising tensions.


STEPHANOPOULOS: China activates its military. Sanctions Speaker Pelosi after her tripe to Taiwan.

QIN GANG, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: China’s sovereignty cannot be infringed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Russia opens the door to a prisoner swap after sentencing Brittney Griner to nine years in prison.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Ian Pannell on all the fallout. Plus top hostage negotiator Bill Richardson.

And red state shocker.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of Kansas spoke yesterday and they spoke loud and clear.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kansas votes to preserves abortion rights as Trump’s picks win big in the GOP primaries.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: The MAGA movement voted like their lives depended on it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Three months to Election Day. Political director Rick Klein with the Midterm Monitor, plus 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."

As we come on the air this morning, Senate Democrats on the cusp of passing their climate, health care and tax bill, it cleared a key test vote yesterday. Votes on amendments have continued all through the night.

The sweeping legislation funds the largest investment to fight climate change in U.S. history. It lowers prescription drug costs for Medicare; extends Obamacare subsidies; reduces the deficit a bit, and is financed with tax hikes on large corporations.

It's called the Inflation Reduction Act. That's something of an open question as is the impact the legislation will have on the looming midterms where Republicans are poised for a potential takeover of Congress.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, Republican Mike Rounds are here to discuss it all.

And Senator Coons, let’s start with you. Good morning. I know you’ve had a long, long night. Not much sleep. You’ve been voting all through the night. No surprises so far. Any doubt this is going to pass?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D-DE): I have no doubts at all, George. The Democrats in our Senate Caucus have stayed unified throughout the night, every single amendment vote of the dozens we've taken so far we've defeated Republican efforts to knock down this important, even landmark, piece of legislation that will reduce prescription drug prices, reduce healthcare costs, reduce the deficit and make a big down payment on combatting climate change.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You call the bill the Inflation Reduction Act but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill is going to have a negligible effect on inflation this year, barely any impact in 2023, between 0.1 percent lower and 0.1 higher. So is it really fair to call it the Inflation Reduction Act?

COONS: Yes, it is, George. This is going to reduce the costs that hit American families in their pocketbook. Prescription drug costs, healthcare costs, energy costs. It's going to make for a more secure and stable and cleaner and more affordable future for American families, and while we may not see huge impacts on inflation in the first or second year, Treasury secretaries who’ve served in both Democratic and Republican administrations support this bill and the AARP, who I trust as the voice of seniors in America, says this will make a big impact on prescription drug prices.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How long is going to take to reduce inflation?

COONS: It may take a year or more. But look, George, we’ve seen gas prices come down week after week after week for the last five weeks in a row. Gas in Delaware is now below $4. Yes, inflation is higher than it should be but we just got a robust jobs number, more than 500,000 jobs created in this past month, unemployment is the lowest it’s been in my lifetime and I think we've got a strong economy, a strong recovery under way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your argument to fellow Democrats like Bernie Sanders who call the bill a disappointment, say that it fails to meet the moment?

COONS: Well, Senator Sanders, my colleague from Vermont, has offered several amendments over last night and into this morning and every one of them has failed by very wide margins, either 97 or 98 to 1 or 2.

I understand that Senator Sanders has a different view than virtually everyone else in our caucus but I am confident in the end he will vote for it and this will be one of the biggest investments we've ever made in reducing the deficit, in combating the costs that matter to working families, and in tackling climate change.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, you’ve got Republicans attacking it as a big spending bill, and it appears their midterm strategy is to focus on inflation, tie your candidates to President Biden, who’s approval ratings, as you know, are stuck in the 30s. How worried are you that that's going to work? What should President Biden do about it?

COONS: I don't think it's going to work, because President Biden and the Democrats in Congress have gotten a whole string of significant accomplishments in recent weeks.

President Biden is soon going to sign into law the biggest veterans’ health care bill we’ve ever done, that deals with burn pit injuries for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's about to sign the chips package, a bipartisan bill that makes significant investments in onshoring and bringing back to the United States advanced manufacturing in things like semiconductor chips.

He also ordered the strike that killed the leader of al-Qaeda and recently presided over some great jobs news, as I just said. I'm confident this bill will get to his desk.

Last point, we just passed here in recent days a guns and mental health bill that's going to invest $13 billion in community mental health. This is a whole string of wins that impact issues that really matter to American families.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It is quite a winning streak, at the same time, as you know -- and you’re one of the president’s closest friends in the Senate, he is facing some grumbling, some talk in the Democratic Party that perhaps he should step aside, not run in 2024. Maureen Dowd has a column in “The New York Times” this morning, saying, “Hey, Joe, Don’t Give It a Go.” She says this winning streak is exactly the right time for the president to step aside, declare victory, and clear the way for a new generation of Democrats.

What's your response to that argument?

COONS: Well, George, all the Democrats who are coming to these bill signings, I hope, are also going to sign up to continue to support our president.

You're right, I was one of folks who was first in supporting now President Biden when he was candidate Biden and I think he's done good things for our country. I think he’s got a strong record of accomplishments to run on. All the different initiatives I just talked about here at home, but also real leadership on the world stage.

He pulled together our NATO allies, our European partners to stand up to Russian aggression in Ukraine and he strengthened our alliances in the Indo-Pacific, so frankly, I'm hopeful that President Biden will run again. If he does, I’ll certainly support him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no doubt, you -- are you encouraging him to run again?

COONS: I'm encouraging him to focus on what's right in front of us. What I know President Biden stays up at night worrying about, which is American families. The conversations they have at night around the kitchen table about the costs they’re facing, about opportunity, about their kids' futures.

This legislation that we're moving through today in the Senate is about those sort of things, combatting climate change for our kids and our grandkids, reducing prescription drug prices for our families and our parents, that's the sort of thing that President Biden is focused on and I know he’s going to keep making those sort of differences for America’s families.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Coons, thanks for your time this morning.

COONS: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now a Republican view. Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Senator, thank you for joining us this morning. I know you’ve had a long night as well. We just heard Senator Coons say that this bill is going to be a boon to consumers, a boon for the economy. Your response?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): I think he was partially right. Should have said boondoggle. In this particular case it’s not going to do much to help inflation. We’re still going to have a problem there. And yet at the same time, they’re going to be collecting about -- real close to $740 billion in new tax revenue over the next supposedly 5 to 10 years, but most certainly it’s not going to help get us through a tight time in which we’re worried about coming out of a recession.

We’ve got two quarters in a row with declining GDP. This is not the time to raise taxes and most certainly it’s not the time in which we start adding additional government employees. We’re talking 87,000 more IRS employees. I don’t think very many American citizens are going to want to see that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the Joint Tax Committee found that the bill will not raise taxes or increase spending over the long term and there is no tax increase for families under $400,000.

ROUNDS: Well, actually, we would disagree with that because it’s all passed down. And what you’re going to see are normal American families actually see the impact of what happens whenever you put new taxes on our economy.

Now they talk about it being on big corporations but as big corporation raise prices they do pass it all down. So from our perspective, we will see those tax increases coming down the line and Americans are going to feel it.

But the bottom line on this is that what they’re really trying to do is to take dollars and then redistribute it back out to the places that they think it should be done. And in this case, they’re looking at things that they want to do, primarily on climate change. This is not the time to be experimenting in that area.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there are going to be tax breaks for energy as well. And as you know, that this -- there will be a lowering of prescription drug prices for people on Medicare. Those on Medicare tend to vote.

ROUNDS: Well, in this particular case, well, they've done two things.

First, they took -- they're taking dollars out of Medicare that would otherwise go to normal prescription drug prices. They’re putting it into subsidized Obamacare. And we understand that’s a product that they want to continue to subsidize. They’re going to take money from Medicare, put it into Obamacare.

But at the same time, they're saying that they’re going to tell the drug companies that you have to sell it for less to the federal government. First of all, it doesn't start for four years. And second of all, once it does start, what do you think the drug companies are going to be doing when they start being dictated to?

And, by the way, this is not a negotiation. This is what the federal government really walks in and says, if you want to provide any prescriptions here, we will tell you how much we will pay, period, end of story. And if you don't like it, there's a huge, huge tax burden that we will inflict upon you.

This is not healthy. It’s not good, and it will cost problems in the marketplace.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked about the possibility of a recession. We just saw that jobs report on Friday -- 528,000 new jobs in July, 3.5 unemployment. That's 50-year low.

ROUNDS: There are two parts that we want to remember. First of all, we know that our GDP has gone down the last two quarters. So, let's all recognize that that's accepted by everybody. That is down.

The second part is, is that, while we're very happy to see the jobs growth, a positive thing, remember that back in the 1970s, and moving into the 1980s, we actually saw job growth because unless your wages are keeping up with inflation, payrolls actually go down in value.

And so, what you're actually seeing we believe might be a precursor to what’s to come. You’re going to find out, the larger companies such as Walmart are already talking about starting to reduce the number of people that they’re going to be employing.

But in the meantime, if your wages, if you can save on wages because as inflation goes up, the value of wages is not as great as it was, unless it’s also going up at the same or greater rate -- well, then you can afford to have people stay on the payroll and your payroll actually goes down compared to what the products are that you're producing or that you're buying and moving to the market.

So, this is -- while it’s good and we want to see job growth, I don't think we can necessarily say that that is not a precursor yet to probably some serious economic issues coming very shortly.

We hope that we're building our way out of a recession but you don't do that by raising taxes. You do it by promoting and expanding businesses, getting the economy rolling again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the issue of abortion rights. We saw that vote in Kansas this week where voters rejecting an attempt to amend the Constitution in a way that would have undermined abortion rights. I know there's now a move to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in South Dakota to protect abortion rights.

When you look at what happened in Kansas, do you think a ballot measure like that could pass in South Dakota?

ROUNDS: I think this is one that it’s going back to where it should, which is back to the people and back to the states. I like the idea of having people actually debate and discuss the issue. In South Dakota, we had a trigger law which we actually signed when I was governor, and it said that, basically, abortion was going to be illegal unless it was to save a life of the mother.

Now, I think the legislature can come back in. It’s now been 17 years since that trigger law was put into effect, and they'll be able to discuss it, debate it, take public testimony and come back what they think is the best, if they want a different alternative.

At the same time, in South Dakota, like other states, if a legislature does not do something which finds consensus, then there’s always the possibility of a referendum, or a referred measure, or an initiated measure.

So, it is back where it should be, and that is, it’s back to the states, and then we'll let the people and the legislative bodies decide exactly what they think is, you know, the long-term approach.

Me personally, I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is wrong. But this is an issue that the legislative bodies should take on, they should debate it, and they should decide what will be the test of time in each state.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump signaled again last night at the CPAC conference that he's looking at a run for president in 2024. Your colleague, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, seems to be encouraging him to run.

Are you going to join in that effort?

ROUNDS: Well, on this particular case, I’m going to focus on the 2022 election. We've got to win that back. But I’ll hold my -- keep my powder dry for the 2024 run. Let’s see who else is coming up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want someone else?

ROUNDS: I most certainly think it's going to be a wide open field. You know, the one thing in the South -- in the Republican Party, we're going to be talking about the ideals, the principles moving forward.

Democrats right now would love to see President Trump announce before 2022. I think the reason why is because they’d like to have that draw attention away from the 2022 election and the candidates that they've got.

And the other thing here is, is that, right now, with President Biden as far under water as he is, their principles, their issues, the fact that inflation at over 9 percent, GDP is down, I think this is a good time for them to be trying to be looking at other things to talk about. And they’re not going to want to talk about the economy right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Am I – am I right to conclude from that, that whatever President Trump decides, you want him to wait until after the midterms to announce.

ROUNDS: Most certainly I think that would be good because I think the Democrats would like to have him draw attention away from the 2022. We have to have a good, strong showing in 2022. I feel very strongly about that because we’ve got to be able to take back the House and would love to take back the Senate as well, and then we’ll have divided government, but at least we’ll be able to slow down some of these rather radical ideas that they’re putting out right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Rounds, thanks for your time this morning.

ROUNDS: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, Russia’s signaling it's ready to discuss a prisoner swap after sentencing Brittney Griner to nine years in a penal colony. Negotiator Bill Richardson joins us live.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): In the Congress, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans are committed to the security of Taiwan.

We have to show the world -- and that's one of the purposes of our trip -- to show the world that success of the people of Taiwan, their courage -- their courage to change their own country to become more democratic.


STEPHANOPOULOS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defending her trip to Taiwan as diplomatic as military tensions rise between the United States and China. It was another consequential week for U.S. foreign policy with the assassination of al Qaeda’s leader and talk of a prisoner swap with Russia after Brittney Griner's sentencing.

Former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson has been engaged on that issue. We're going to speak with him live in a minute after this report from senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell.


IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This week, a new crisis over the Taiwan Strait. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has visited the island triggering outrage in Beijing. Pelosi, the most senior U.S. official to visit the self-governing democracy for 25 years, ignoring China's warning she was playing with fire.

Even before she landed, China suddenly announcing live military drills. Pelosi meeting with the Taiwanese president and other senior officials.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Today, world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America's determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.

PANNELL: Tensions in the region are now at their highest levels in decades. Dozens of Chinese naval vessels and aircraft have been doing drills in the Taiwan Strait. Precision missiles launched from the mainland. Some passing over Taiwan's capital, Taipei, for the first time ever.

On Friday, China announcing they’re not suspending talks with the U.S. on a number of key issues. With the White House summoning the Chinese ambassador and urging restraint.

The tensions in Taiwan partially overshadowing a CIA drone strike that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan.


PANNELL: Al-Zawahiri was a key figure in the rise of al Qaeda, pivotal in the group’s shift to target the U.S. He was the right-hand man of Osama bin Laden at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Images now emerging of the compound that was struck.

The Taliban confirming the death of the world's most wanted terrorist, who analysts say was crucial in holding this sprawling al Qaeda network together.

President Biden vowing that the country will never become a safe haven for extremists again.

BIDEN: No matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.

PANNELL: But already there are renewed warnings that al Qaeda may seek retribution and target American citizens abroad.

And this week WNBA star Brittney Griner joining the list of U.S. citizens detained in Russia after she was sentenced to nine years in a prison camp by a Moscow court, found guilty of drug possession and smuggling. Griner was arrested entering the country back in February, just at the start of the war in Ukraine. Caught at the airport with a vape cartridge containing hashish oil, her arrest sparking a wave of condemnation from the United States. Griner saying she didn't intend to break Russian law, pleading with a judge for leniency.

BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn't end my life here.

PANNELL: But in a highly charged trial, her pleas fell on deaf ears. The judge handing out a sentence only just short of the 10-year maximum. She had one last message before she was led from court.

GRINER: I love my family.

PANNELL: Griner's lawyers saying she will appeal but that could take months. The Kremlin using her case to play hardball in negotiations about potential prisoner swaps. And she's not alone, ex-marine Paul Whelan and teacher Marc Fogel also serving lengthy jail sentences. Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying he's ready for private diplomacy with Secretary of State Blinken.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Ian Pannell for that. We're joined now by former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson.

Ambassador Richardson, thanks for joining us this morning. I know you've been involved in these discussions around the Brittney Griner detention right now. What exactly have you been doing? What have you learned?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, I don't want to go into everything that I've been doing. I've been talking to the Russians. I talked to the White House. I'm a catalyst. This is going to be government-to-government negotiation. I think the president and his team, they're very focused on this. They've done a good job so far with Trevor Reed, an American marine a couple of months ago coming back on a prisoner exchange.

So I'm a catalyst. I'm not directly doing the talking. But when I can be helpful through my contacts, through my experience, for instance, Foreign Minister Lavrov, he and I were U.N. ambassadors together at the same time.

And I'm pleased that he's pragmatic, that he's sort of in charge and sent a good signal. I think the negotiations are going to be undertaken. And my view is that I'm optimistic. I think she's going to be freed. I think she has the right strategy of contrition, a good legal team.

There's going to be a prisoner swap, though. And I think it will be two for two involving Paul Whelan. We can't forget him. He's an American marine wrongfully detained too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you say two for two, but -- you say two for two, but what about the third American Marc Fogel? He's an educator. He's facing a prison sentence right now. His infraction was similar to Brittney Griner's. Shouldn't he be included in this?

RICHARDSON: Well, there's -- my foundation, which doesn't take orders from the government, we're not funded by the government, I don't take any funds from it, we're involved with three other American detainees in Russia, including a POW in Ukraine. So, George, I don't want to get too much into these. But, yes, all of these that are wrongfully detained need to come home. And our objective should be, despite prisoner exchanges that are not popular, to bring American hostages home. Some of these prisoner exchanges are not good. They don't -- the optics are not good. But we have to do it sometimes. And I commend the president for having done this with -- with Trevor Reed.

I wouldn't have gone public as much as they did on the Bout for Griner and Whelan. But it was done. Sometimes when negotiations are not working, you want to throw a little bit of a bomb and I think that's what they did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Viktor Bout, of course, is that notorious international arms dealer. How do you respond to the argument that prisoner exchanges will encourage America's adversaries to actually detain more Americans on trumped up charges?

RICHARDSON: Well, there's no data that supports that. Look, I just got back from Burma. And I got out an American journalist, Danny Fenster. All they wanted was a photo-op. So data doesn't support that prisoner exchanges are always the case. Yes, they're increasing, especially with countries like Iran, Venezuela, Russia. But as unpleasant as they are, we have to bring American hostages home, especially those wrongfully detained, especially those that have served in our military.

So, look, they're not perfect, but I commend the president for considering it. I commend the president for putting Viktor Bout, notorious arms dealer, a terrible guy, out there, public. I would have done it quietly and I’ve been helping and I’m ready to continue helping. I don't want to get too much into what I’ve been doing, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we all hope -- we all hope this is a success. Ambassador Richardson, thanks very much for your time this morning.

RICHARDSON: And, George, I think the president should run and I'll support him -- President Biden should run. He’s got a good record. I know you didn’t ask --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn’t ask the --


STEPHANOPOULOS: That's good to hear you say that. Okay, thanks very much. Take care.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Political director Rick Klein is ready to go. We’ll be right back.



DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: There has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election, using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him.

He's a coward. Liz is fearless. She never backs down from a fight. There's nothing more important than she'll ever do to lead the effort to make sure Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office. And she will succeed.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Dick Cheney blasting Donald Trump in a campaign ad for his daughter ahead of her primary next week. Cheney is Trump’s biggest target now, and he’s coming from key wins in this week’s primaries.

Political director Rick Klein back with his midterm monitor.

And, Rick, let's start with our new poll with Ipsos. Strong job numbers this week, but President Biden and the Democrats still facing voters who are quite sour on the economy.

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, George, no meaningful approval rating increase for Joe Biden across the board, on a range of issues. He's still stuck in some low numbers.

And get this -- 69 percent of Americans still think the economy is getting worse despite the drop in gas prices, despite those positive economic numbers and we’re seeing that spill over into voter enthusiasm. Republicans more likely to say that they are ready and eager to go vote than Democrats, and those numbers have not changed, George, for months.

But one sign that might -- something that might change going forward in the wake of that big vote in Kansas on Tuesday to preserve abortion rights, we asked people -- are you more likely to support a candidate who wants to keep abortion legal or who supports policies that would limit abortion access? And that is a striking number, 49 percent, that’s almost half of Americans who say that they would consider the issue and they are more likely to vote for a candidate who would keep abortion legal in their state.

That suggests that, look, while the economy is a drag on Democrats, there are other issues that come into view. And if abortion is one of them, Democrats could see a big motivating effort around that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kansas aside, Donald Trump had a big night on Tuesday. How does his record look across the primaries?

KLEIN: This was another week with a MAGA sweep. We saw it in Arizona. We saw it in Michigan. He’s got big tests coming up in Wisconsin, as well as with Liz Cheney's race in Wyoming,

And Donald Trump's success really matters the most when it comes to the Senate map. This is what we're looking at. There are ten seats that are likely to determine control of the Senate. Of those 10, eight of them are open on the Republican side, where you have a competitive Republican primary.

And when you look at those eight states, you see that Donald Trump has won, his candidate, in almost every one of them. Blake Masters in Arizona, the latest to join a list that already included Nevada, as well as North Carolina. We had J.D. Vance in Ohio, Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia.

Most of those candidates like Trump deny the legitimacy of the last election. Many of those candidates have never run for office before.

So, the concern among some Republicans right now, George, is while Trump knows what a Republican primary voter wants, that’s not the same as the general election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, they're behind right now, his candidates.

KLEIN: That's right, and that's exactly the concern, is that when you see that polling gap begin to open up, how do you overcome that when you got Trump’s people on the ballot?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, you also saw those who support the idea that Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election basically support Donald Trump's big lie did well in some of these down ballot races as well, including those who are going to administer elections.

KLEIN: Yes. Six states and counting where the Republican nominee for a statewide office that oversees an election denies the legitimacy of the last election. That includes people like a secretary of state candidate in Arizona and in Michigan. Also candidates for governor in Texas and Pennsylvania. Those are two states where the governor appoints the next secretary of state.

And, look, this is some -- this is a big deal, because this could easily be the biggest takeaway from midterm elections, George. You’ve got people who falsely claim that the last election was stolen who could be in a position to oversee the next election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, that is ominous.

OK. Rick Klein, thanks very much.

Roundtable is up next. We'll be right back.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s up next.

We’ll be right back.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With a record turnout, voters in Kansas defeated a ballot initiative to remove the right to choose an abortion from the Kansas constitution. Voters made it clear that politicians should not interfere with the fundamental rights of women.

SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): I'm deeply, emotional sorrowful about the loss yesterday. My whole life’s been about protecting the life of moms and babies and – and I think that this was a step away from that.


STEPHANOPOULOS: A stunning result out of Kansas this week, rejecting that attempt to amend the constitution, which does protects abortion rights. One of the things we’re going to talk about on our roundtable.

I'm joined by Chris Christie, Democracy for America's CEO Yvette Simpson, our chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl, and executive editor of the AP, Julie Pace.

And, Chris, let me begin with you. What was your takeaway from Kansas?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think this is what’s going to happen across the country, George, people, like me, have been saying for decades that the states should make these calls, and the states are now going to make these calls. And I think that's why everybody who says that, well, this means that abortion’s going to banned all over the country, when the Dobbs decision came down, you know, is going to change and vary from state to state to state. And sometimes you’re going to get results that don’t seem consistent with the state’s color, where in this case, Kansas, a very red state, went in that direction.

So, you know, that's why I think a lot of the manufactured hysteria that some aspects of the Democratic Party went in to is undercut by this result in Kansas. People are going to make their own decisions. Legislatures are going to decide. Indiana did something very, very different. This is the way it's going to work across the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Manufactured hysteria?

YVETTE SIMPSON, CEO, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: No, no. I don't think so. I mean, I think Kansas is the exact opposite, right? It shows that this was an issue that people agree with and when we get on the ground and we organize voters in a red state across the state, in cities and rural areas and suburbs, people show up. And so unfortunately for Republicans and fortunately for us, if we continue this same momentum, if we make abortion access the issue, we might actually have enough energy to pull it off. I think that's something...


STEPHANOPOULOS: I think one of the other things you saw, Julie Pace, is that when you talk about amending a constitution, voters tend to reject radical solutions.

JULIE PACE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS: They do. I think that feels so much more permanent for voters. And I think what was notable in Kansas was not just the outcome but it was the turnout numbers, seeing general election turnout numbers in a primary. And I think that's what has Democrats most emboldened right now is that it's that enthusiasm and that energy to come out for these constitutional amendment votes. I think the challenge over the next couple of months for Democrats will be trying to keep up the focus on something like abortion access at the same time that Americans are very much dealing with inflation, very much dealing with a lot of economic realities. And as you saw in some of the numbers that Rick was showing us earlier, that still remains a really powerful an influence...


STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that is going to be one of the big issues. Traditionally abortion has not been a massive voting issue, especially in midterms. I guess the big question, is this year different?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: And, look, this was an extraordinary event. I mean, this winning in Kansas with a 20-point margin voters rejecting the idea of a complete abortion ban. The question, though, George is, does that enthusiasm extend to the candidate races for the midterms? Because in this case, there was one issue they were voting on, should abortion be outlawed? That one issue, huge turnout. The pro-abortion rights group wins, dominates. But when you're voting for a candidate, you're also voting on other issues. And the issue in poll after poll after poll that we see that is still the number one issue is inflation, gas prices, the economy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Yvette, we just saw in our poll this morning, 69 percent sour on the economy. Joe Biden stuck in the 30s right now.

SIMPSON: Yes. I think the reality is we continue to debate about whether there's inflation, whether we're in a recession, and if you just ask people, they're struggling. And I don't know if the IRA is going to get there. I mean, we know that child...

STEPHANOPOULOS: The bill they're working on.

SIMPSON: The bill that just passed the Senate yesterday. People are still suffering. Child care was not in there. Paid leave was not in there. We still have issues with wages. People are still feeling the pain. And if the issue at the ballot box is, do feel like we're in a recession? We're going to lose on that. Do you feel like there's inflation? We're going to lose on that. We need to make sure we're showing the American people that we're doing everything we can to make them secure. And a small win on gas prices and a bill on climate right now is not going to get us all the way there.


CHRISTIE: Yes, George, you know, when you're arguing with people in a 9 percent inflation world that they shouldn't be feeling pain, that the economy is actually good, that's just a losing argument and they know it. The American people feel it. They know it. And in the end what we see...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it is a tale of two economies. You're right, the inflation rate is incredibly high, but look at those jobs numbers on Friday.

CHRISTIE: Well, but people can't keep up with the costs of living their lives. So they say OK, great, I've got a job, that's a good thing. But to get to that job, I've got to fill my car with gas, and it costs that much more. Then when I'm on my way home from work, I've got to go to the supermarket and I get absolutely tanked there from a dollar perspective. And then I look at what's going on with my kids, if I'm sending them to school, are they going to college? All those expenses are going way, way up. And people say, yes, I have a job, but my life is worse now than it was two years ago. And we know from Ronald Reagan that that's an incredibly powerful question. Am I better off now than I was two years ago? And the American people don't feel it. And that's why Joe Biden is in the 30s.

STEPHANOPOULOS: All that despite the fact, Julie Pace that, as Chris Coons sort of outlined, the president has had a pretty remarkable both legislative and executive action winning streak over the last several weeks.

PACE: It has been a total shift in momentum for this White House, which has had a pretty rough year on a lot of fronts. And now suddenly you see this breakthrough on Capitol Hill in the Senate with Joe Manchin and Sinema jumping in here. You see the White House taking out -- or the U.S. taking out a terror leader in Afghanistan. And suddenly it feels like Joe Biden has got a bit of momentum.

But I do think to Chris's point, you know, it is really hard to convince people to feel something different than what they are experiencing. It is really hard to put out jobs statistics. It is really hard to point to even a big win on terrorism and make people feel differently than what they experience when they do go to the grocery store. And the White House knows that. They're going to try to do everything they can to harness this momentum, but they know they are fighting against some pretty strong headwinds still.

KARL: Which is why, if you look at our new poll, I mean, he's getting credit for almost nothing. He's on a roll, I mean, there's no question that Joe Biden is on a roll legislatively, on the national security front, but he's getting no credit for it.

And look, inflation is still a factor. Gas prices are actually coming down, and have been coming down for almost two months. The unemployment numbers are remarkable. Not only the unemployment numbers, but wage growth continues to rise. It’s just not keeping pace --


CHRISTIE: It's an inside Washington role, George.


CHRISTIE: It’s an inside Washington role. Like, they won on the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a ridiculous name, as you pointed out in the interview, but they won on that. They got Democrats to actually vote for a Democrat bill. What are we going to do? Drop the confetti at the White House? I mean, this is ridiculous. It’s an inside Washington role.

The people in the rest of the country are saying, wait a second, I’m still paying much more for gas than I should, I'm still paying much more to cool my house, I can’t keep groceries on the table, and I'm worried about the future.


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- get to the midterms.

Yvette, one of the things the Democrats are counting on, if you just look to Joe Biden's approval rating and views on the economy looking like a bloodbath for Democrats but right now, Dr. Oz is behind in Pennsylvania. Mark Kelly, a Democrat, is ahead in Arizona. J.D. Vance is fighting in Ohio. It does look like the Democrats are still in the game, at least in the Senate.

SIMPSON: The Republicans are giving us gifts in the form of election deniers and people with rap sheets a mile long. I mean, you know, you’ve got Dr. Oz, you’ve got Herschel Walker. You’ve got J.D. Vance. These folks who do not relate to the people in their states, cannot connect with anybody and people don't have faith in them.

And I think we’ve been very fortunate on the other side. We’ve got some strong candidates who are going to take them on in Raphael Warnock and John Fetterman and others. So I think we have to make that that is the story. Not necessarily about what people are feeling but the alternative is a Republican Party that doesn't believe in elections, that stormed the Capitol on January 6th, these folks who were abusers and this issue with Marjorie Taylor Greene praying with a guy in a cell. I mean, the Republican Party is a wacko party. The alternative is that. You got to go with the Democrats in November.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon Karl, we just heard Mike Rounds say he sure doesn't want Donald Trump on the ballot in 2022.

KARL: I mean, look, almost nobody in a Republican leadership wants Donald Trump to announce he’s running before the midterms. Because Donald Trump is on a roll, speaking of rolls, he is dominating these parties. You have candidates winning in state after state who would have had no chance without a Donald Trump endorsement and they're winning the Republican primaries.

But here’s the thing, the more Trump wins the more Republicans are poised to lose because he is helping nominate candidates who are likely to lose -- coming into these races as underdogs, likely to lose races that Republicans should win. So if Republicans don't win the Senate, there’s going to be one reason and one reason only, and it's Donald Trump. He has chased candidates out of races that would have won or had a very good chance of winning in the fall and he has nominated -- helped nominate candidates who are likely to lose.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie Pace, little sign that Donald Trump cares about that.

PACE: Well, I was just going to say, after Jon’s point there, I think that is all likely true, I just don't think Trump cares, right? And I don't think he's going to look at these midterms as an indication of whether he should move forward or not with running for the presidency or whether his -- whether he could win or not.

I think having him on the ballot still remains. I think this is a very unique situation. I think there are a lot of points of evidence that he would go into this presidential race in 2024 weaker than certainly he did I think in his other races. But again, I just don’t think he is bringing that (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, as you know, it’s perilous to predict what Donald Trump will do and --

CHRISTIE: You think?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can anyone convince him not to announce before 2022 and are you really convinced he's going to run?

CHRISTIE: Well, let’s say a few things first. I've been sitting here for four-and-a-half years now saying that the most important thing in the election is a candidate. More than atmosphere, more than money, candidates matter. And we’re going to find that out in the fall.

I think Yvette laid that out very clearly. You’re going to find out how these candidates are going to perform. Right now, they're losing in these states. It’s up to them. They've got wind at their back as Republicans, they should win, so they have to perform.

Am I convinced Donald Trump’s going to run for president? I am not convinced. I believe it's 50/50 shot right now whether he runs or he doesn’t. And I think, Julie, when you say he doesn't care about whether or not they can win in November, he doesn't care about that right now because right now all he cares about is winning the primaries to show that he's still strong inside the party.

But let me tell you something, if they’re showing -- if Dr. Oz is losing by whatever it is now, 11 points I think it said, if Dr. Oz is losing by 11 in October, Donald Trump is going to act like he never met him, let alone endorse him.


KARL: -- going to react if they fail to win the Senate in a year where it was all set up --

CHRISTIE: But, Jon, you know --

KARL: -- how huge Republicans -- how are Republicans --

CHRISTIE: You know how they're going to react --

PACE: But the question is whether Trump --

CHRISTIE: They’re -- how they’re going to get --

PACE: takes that as a referendum on him.

CHRISTIE: Of course he won’t.

PACE: And whether he acts off that.


CHRISTIE: Julie, of course he won't. But he won't outwardly take it as a referendum on him, but he will know internally that what people are going to be able to say about him and Republicans are going to be able to say about him, and Republicans are going to be able to say about him is -- loser. You led us down this path and we lost.

And you can count on the fact that Mitch McConnell is going to be saying that and a whole bunch of other people who are going to be saying it.

Here’s the difference, real quickly, between now and 2015 -- in 2015, no one took Donald Trump seriously.


CHRISTIE: In 2015, they thought it was kind of entertaining, and they thought, well, we don’t know if he’s really serious about running or not. So, we had a certain atmosphere around him both from other Republican officeholders and the media.

None of that will exist eight years later in 2023 for him and he's going to factor that into whatever he decides to do, because he's not dumb.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, Yvette, Joe Biden has to factor the grumblings of a lot of Democrats right now. Bill Richardson aside --


SIMPSON: Thanks, Bill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- lot of Democrats, whether he should be running again, lot of Democrats dodging the question right now.

What should he do?

SIMPSON: I think that he should not run. I mean, I -- you know, his numbers are really low, overwhelmingly, the poll came out that Democrats don't want him to run. I mean, when folks rallied around him to be the president, there was the expectation that he would not run again, that he would actually empower someone to run. Who that person is going to be, I don't know.

But his energy, the fact that he’s not been able to --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't say Kamala Harris is the heir apparent?

SIMPSON: She should be. I don’t know that he’s positioned to do that. She should have been positioned powerfully and able to actually be a person that could be lead, and she’s been in the back.

And I think that she should be empowered to be the leader. She’s powerful. She’s young. She’s able to get the energy, but we have not seen her strong and I don't know why the Biden administration didn't position her that way. It has to be her, because there would be an outrage to skip over the vice president, especially the first African-American and Asian female vice president.

But they've got to do a lot of work to get her in the seat so that we can see her powerful, and that should be the work that we should be doing right now. Not holding together with patches of Biden who is definitely bad or has not kept the promises that he made in bipartisanship and getting the kind of work that he said he was going to do --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don’t know if you can say he hasn’t kept the promises. He's had a 50/50 Senate. He’s had a long winning streak.

But there’s no question, Jon Karl, that this talk -- this entire discussion drives the White House crazy.

KARL: Oh, absolutely. And the message from the White House is Joe Biden is running for re-election, period. Barring some, you know, health scare, he is running.

But you talk to Democrats privately, key Democrats on Capitol Hill, leaders in the party and there is just trepidation about this. There is a sense that among many of them, that he shouldn't run. And also, a sense that if he doesn't run, that the primary is wide open and it's not just Kamala Harris' to take, and it could be a very messy Democratic primary.

SIMPSON: Which we don't need.

CHRISTIE: George, when she -- when she ran for president, it was a roundly unimpressive campaign, at least with the voters. So candidates matter. I go back to theme, candidates matter. She's got to earn it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will be watching. Thank you all very much. Terrific discussion.

Coming up, as NASA prepares for two major space launches, Gio Benitez takes a closer look at the future of international cooperation in space.



NICOLE MANN, NASA CREW-5 COMMANDER: We have an incredible crew to go up to the International Space Station. From an operational perspective, to be honest, it really doesn't matter if you're, you know, a woman or a man or what country you're from or your gender or your race, we're coming together as a human race and our mission onboard the international space station of developing this technology and research to benefit all of humankind is really what brings us together.


STEPHANOPOULOS: NASA is preparing to launch a crew to the International Space Station next month, including a Russian cosmonaut. But as tensions escalate between the U.S. and Russia, the space agency is now caught in crosshairs after the Russians announced they would quit the space station.

Transportation correspondent Gio Benitez reports on the fallout.


GIO BENITEZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hundreds of miles above earth orbits the International Space Station, born from a quarter century partnership between the U.S. and Russian space programs. And as early as next month, NASA, in collaboration with the Japanese and Russian space agencies, will launch Crew-5 to the ISS, a mission that may show the enduring importance of U.S. and Russia space relation.

NICOLE MANN, NASA CREW-5 COMMANDER: The crew of the International Space Station has a unique responsibility to really come together, collaborate and work as a team no matter where you come from or what’s going on in the world.

BENITEZ: Amid crippling sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia announcing it was now exiting the International Space Station in 2024. NASA administrator Bill Nelson hopeful that the U.S. can get Russia to stay on.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We intend to fly the Space Station until we have a commercial space station in 2030. And we think the Russians will continue to operate it with us.

BENITEZ: Despite decades of teamwork, U.S. and Russian space relations have a complicated history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, a new moon is in the sky, a 23 inch metal sphere placed in orbit by a Russian rocket.

BENITEZ: The then Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik sparking the space race in 1957. But the U.S. quickly soared to new heights, making it to the moon first.

NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

BENITEZ: Then 1975 ushered in a new frontier for the nations, establishing the partnership that built the International Space Station.

NELSON: Despite our difficulties, our relationship is very steady, very professional, very friendly when it comes to the civilians space program.

BENITEZ: The ISS becoming a beacon of peace and cooperation.

NELSON: We built the Space Station together and it takes both Russia and America to operate that station.

BENITEZ: That cooperation now being tested. In March, then head of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, posted this video threatening to abandon American astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who was set to return home on a Russian ship. But Russia is also one of only two countries, the other, China, that haven't signed on to the Artemis Accords, a U.S.-led agreement on space exploration and returning humans to the moon. The first unproved test flight for the Artemis program is scheduled for later this month.

NELSON: NASA is one of the greatest tools of soft power for the United States government.

BENITEZ: Despite tensions, next month's NASA Crew-5 mission could show that cooperation is still possible. One crew member is a Russian cosmonaut.

JOSH CASSADA, NASA CREW-5 PILOT: I honestly believe that every day human space flight proves that if we all work together, there's literally – and literally within the bounds of physics, there’s nothing we can't accomplish.

BENITEZ: For THIS WEEK, I'm Gio Benitez, ABC News.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Gio for that.

That is all for us today. Thanks to you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT." And I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."