'This Week' Transcript 5-26-19: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Liz Cheney, Sen. Martha McSally

This is a rush transcript for "This Week" airing Sunday, May 26.

ByABC News
May 26, 2019, 9:00 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 26, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president of the United States has engaged in a cover up.


RADDATZ: President Trump and Speaker Pelosi trading bar (ph).

PELOSI: Another temper tantrum.

TRUMP: She’s a mess.

RADDATZ: Battling over investigations and impeachment.

TRUMP: They want to do a re-do of the Mueller report. It’s over, there is no re-do.

RADDATZ: Democratic leaders say impeachment isn’t the answer, but with Trump stonewalling Congress, is impeachment the only way to investigate Trump? And is that exactly what he wants heading into 2020?

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is here to respond, and we’re on the trail with Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It’s a continuing horror show in Washington.

RADDATZ: The Afghanistan veteran weighs in on foreign policy and why he’s ready for the White House.

How do you convince people you can actually do this at your age?

He’s been the surprise of the 2020 election so far, but does Buttigieg have staying power? And is the 37 year old mayor truly prepared for the Oval Office? That debate and more on our powerhouse Round Table.

Plus the very latest fro, President Trump’s visit to Japan and his new comments on North Korea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On ABC News, it’s "This Week" here now co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to "This Week" on this Memorial Day weekend. Another attempt at infrastructure week turned into a train wreck on Wednesday.

President Trump walking out from a planned meeting with congressional Democrats on a bipartisan deal after just three minutes. And then appearing before cameras hastily assembled in the Rose Garden to make his position clear, so long as Democrats continue their investigations of his administration, there would be no deal.

And with that, the prospect of any further cooperation between the two parties appears dim. Instead, the president opted to slam the speaker of the House in a manner he had previously resisted, questioning her mental fitness.

The speaker jabbed back saying she wished for an intervention by the president’s family and staff, adding that she was praying for the president and for the country. It’s a sobering preview of what the next year and a half may look like ahead of the 2020 elections, and in exactly one month, Democrats will assemble for their first debate, making the case for why they should lead their party and attempt to break the stalemate in Washington.

On Friday, we traveled to New Hampshire to talk to one of the most surprising contenders vying for the Democratic nomination, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been outpacing more established candidates in the polls and has raised enough money to appear on the debate stage.

He’s appeared on the cover of some of the biggest magazines in the country and he’s taking on President Trump directly. I began by asking him what he makes of the dysfunction in Washington.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: It's a continuing horror show right now in Washington. And you have a president who has turned the entire thing into a reality show. We've got to completely change the channel, and make sure that we respond to all of the -- the distractions and the nonsense coming out of the White House, not just by calling him to account, but by returning consistently to the question of how American lives are shaped by those decisions.

RADDATZ: You talk about changing the channel, how do you do -- do that with President Trump? It -- it works for him.

BUTTIGIEG: It does, but part of how it works for him is he provokes us in ways that make it very hard for us to do anything but respond in kind, the nicknames, the tweets, the insults. And what we've got to remember is that the more we're talking about him, the less we're talking about voters.

When the conversation is about voters, we're going to win. Voters want a raise. They want health care. On almost all of the issues, the American people are with us. It is precisely for that reason that the only way the Republican Party can retain power in the White House is if the conversation is about something completely different, like the shenanigans of the current president.

RADDATZ: You said this week that while the president deserves to be impeached, you leave the decision about launching those proceedings up to the House, but House Democrats aren't unanimous on this issue, so who should make that decision, leadership -- Nancy Pelosi, or the more vocal wing of the party?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, what's interesting is the case for impeachment is being made most emphatically by the president himself because it seems like every day or two, there is another affront to the rule of law.

I’m just trying to be respectful of the fact that the best thing I can do to get us a new president is to win the nomination and defeat the President who is there. I think Democrats are underestimating, despite his unpopularity, we're underestimating the chance that he could win.

RADDATZ: I want to move to foreign policy. The -- the Pentagon is sending 1,500 more military personnel over to the Middle East to deter Iran. Is that a good idea? Is that something you would have approved?

BUTTIGIEG: This is not a good sign. Escalation is the last thing we need in the Middle East right now. And when you see what's been happening, it appears that the administration, driven by the way by John Bolton, one of the architects of the Iraq War, is continuing to try to prosecute a case to lead to higher tensions, escalation and perhaps conflict with Iran as though we learned nothing from the last 15 years of armed conflict -- conflict in the Middle East.

RADDATZ: But this is also based on intelligence and the military. Central Command -- you know Central Command very well -- they asked for these troops for force protection, based on intelligence about missiles in some Iranian boats, so this is not John Bolton asking for this. This is the military.

BUTTIGIEG: Look, there is clearly a pattern of misbehavior and provocation by the Iranians that goes back in different ways across my entire lifetime.

RADDATZ: But let me stick to this because it's based on intelligence. Do you believe the intelligence?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I can't weigh in on intelligence that I haven't seen, but what I do see is a pattern...

RADDATZ: But you've heard people in the military, commanders in the military today, saying, this was the intelligence they found.

BUTTIGIEG: And I think our national security policy has to be to avoid escalation in the Persian Gulf.

RADDATZ: But how do you do that if you're under threat? So if they think their forces need to be protected more and you don't send more…

BUTTIGIEG: I think that we have the means to protect our assets in the Middle East. And the way this is being talked about makes me wonder whether this -- this is driven as much by domestic politics as it is by national security imperatives.

RADDATZ: Another fight still going on, Afghanistan. You served in Afghanistan. We're approaching the 20-year mark. You've talked about your generation ending these endless wars. Would you end that war if you were president? Would you pull our troops out?

BUTTIGIEG: When I left Afghanistan five years ago, I thought I was one of the very last troops turning out the lights as I went. We need to leave. And the reality is, we are leaving. This is pretty much the only thing that the American left and right, and the Afghan government and the Taliban and the international community all agree on is that it's time for us to go.

RADDATZ: Do you have a plan for how we can get out?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, what we've got to do is isolate the threats that are specifically related to the homeland, establish whatever intelligence and special operations capability is needed to head off those threats, and remove any ground presence that goes beyond that. And I think that...

RADDATZ: That sounds like Joe Biden's plan from many years ago.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, many years ago would have been the time to make good on the idea of leaving.

RADDATZ: But that's the kind of plan you'd want to do, counterterrorism in other words?

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, but not just a blanket counterterrorism mission.

And look, I was part of the counterterrorism mission.

Our responsibility is not to establish peace, security, democracy and prosperity in Afghanistan. Our responsibility is to make sure that Americans cannot be attacked, and anything that is not directly related to that is not a good enough justification for us to have troops on the ground in what is amounting to a forever war.

RADDATZ: Bernie Sanders said North Korea is one of the areas where he doesn't fault the president for meeting personally with Kim Jong Un. Do you -- was that the way to go? I know you've talked about more diplomacy, but there hasn't been any significant progress since he met with him.

BUTTIGIEG: When the president met with Kim, he was essentially handling North Korea something they needed, which was legitimacy. And the way diplomacy works, the way deals work, is you give someone something in return for something.

RADDATZ: It hasn't worked.

BUTTIGIEG: It hasn't worked at all.

RADDATZ: And President Trump was -- was handed a pretty tough hand with nuclear weapons, with ICBMs operational.


RADDATZ: Operational...

BUTTIGIEG: Look, North Korea's a thorny issue and I will say one good thing has come out of the changes that have happened in the kind of regional security picture in the last couple of years and it's this. I think we used to believe that we had to completely resolve the nuclear issue in order for there to be any beginning when it comes to peace in the Korean peninsula. I think now the thinking has shifted a little bit to where it may be possible to pursue peace and denuclearization in a way that each might help the other.

RADDATZ: But there's an urgency now.

BUTTIGIEG: There's always been an urgency when you have a hostile nuclear power.

RADDATZ: There's not been an urgency quite like this one because he has an ICBM that he's trying to put a nuclear warhead on that could reach the United States.

BUTTIGIEG: Look, one thing you learn in government executive roles is that they are the problems you believe you can solve right away, and there -- there are the problems you have to manage while you are pursuing a solution. Obviously, we're nowhere near a solution on this issue under this president. I don't think it will be easy for the next president. But I do think that there are strategies like what I've been describing, that could yield more results than what we've had today.

RADDATZ: And -- and you talk about your experience, which leads us to the question you're asked all the time. You're just 37 years old and the highest office you've held is mayor of your hometown. Even if you have that executive experience, which you do, you've never dealt with a Washington like we've seen today or foreign problems. How do you convince people you can actually do this at your age?

BUTTIGIEG: I feel like I wouldn't be getting these same questions if I were a member of Congress. Which is interesting because you can be a very senior member of Congress and have never in your life managed more than 100 people. When you are responsible for everything from economic development to public safety and emergency management, when your day oscillates between managing a -- a development deal and figuring out how to hold your community together during, for example, a racially sensitive officer-involved shooting, when you literally get the 3:00 am call to deal with a man-made or natural disaster, you have as good a preparation as an elected official can get for an office that frankly is in so many ways daunting and new for anybody who walks into it.

And I would put my experience up, aided I think by my military experience, against that of any competitor.

RADDATZ: It is Memorial Day weekend. The president and first lady on Thursday went to Arlington Cemetery. At about the same time you were saying that the president faked his disability to get out of serving in Vietnam. Pretty positive about that?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. There is no question, I think, to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving. You have somebody who thinks it's all right to let somebody go in his place into a deadly war and is willing to pretend to be disabled in order to do it. That is an assault on the honor of this country.

RADDATZ: I want to go to comments about -- that the president made about service members who have either been accused of war crimes or convicted of war crimes. He said we teach them to fight and they get treated unfairly and he is going to look at those cases to see if perhaps they can be pardoned.

BUTTIGIEG: The idea that being sent to war turns you into a murderer is exactly the kind of thing that those of us who have served have been trying to beat back for more than a generation. For a president, especially a president who never served, to say he's going to come in and overrule that system of military justice undermines the very foundations, legal and moral, of this country. Frankly, his idea that being sent to fight makes you automatically into some kind of war criminal is a slander against veterans that could only come from somebody who never served.

RADDATZ: We found this interview you did when you were only 18 years old in your local paper when you talked in detail about wanting to go into national politics -- I think I could pull it off, it's a tremendous challenge, a kind of sexy challenge but I want to give it a try. Seems like you knew you were going to do this your whole life.

BUTTIGIEG: I was always interested in public service. What I would not have guessed at the age of 18 was how much I would find purpose and meaning in local work. For a while I thought I was going to be a journalist and for a while thought I was going to be a scholar. I always felt drawn in some way to public service.

RADDATZ: A sexy challenge. Has it been a sexy challenge?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, in a way. If you're a curious person, there's nothing like it. That challenge is about an engaging thing I could think to do with my life. And while this may not be a -- a career for me, it's certainly something that has been extremely exciting for as long as I’ve been involved in it and where, most importantly, I think I can make myself useful. I mean, it's not like I thought that at the age of 37 as a mayor I would be seeking the American presidency. But what I found is that moments will sometimes find you a little bit.

What I see now, there's a new generation of leaders stepping up from France to New Zealand you see people who are the same age or younger than I would be on inauguration day. To me that's the kind of trend America should be leading, not catching up to.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much, mayor.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me.


RADDATZ: Our first but certainly not last trip to New Hampshire this campaign cycle. We'll have much more on the 2020 race with the roundtable later on. But up next, Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney takes on the debate over impeachment. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: As the battle between the White House and Congress intensifies, the courts are now beginning to weigh in. Last week three separate rulings came out against the president, two over the Democrats’ pursuit of Trump’s finances and a third late Friday blocking the construction of portions of the president’s border wall.

So how will Republicans respond? Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the top Republicans in the House is next.



TRUMP: I declassified everything, everything they want, I put it under the auspices of the attorney general, he’s going to be in charge of it. They’ll be able to see how this hoax, how the hoax or witch hunt started and why it started.


RADDATZ: President Trump on Friday just after he granted sweeping authority to Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. Let’s bring in Congresswoman Liz Cheney, chair of the House Republican Conference and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Good morning to you, Congresswoman, it’s great to have you here.

CHENEY: Thank you, Martha.

RADDATZ: I -- I want to start with what happened overnight.

President Trump of course is in Japan, and he tweeted this -- "North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me, I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse, perhaps that’s sending me a signal?"

He corrected in this tweet the spelling of Biden, which he misspelled in a previous tweet. What do you think about what the president said there about a murderous dictator?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING: You know, I think that what we have seen so far with this president with respect to North Korea is that he’s doing the right thing in terms of the policy. North Korea has for years, through presidencies of Republicans and Democrats, gone through the exact same steps where they try to make false promises and they get concessions from the United States and they continue their program. What this president has done is say we’re not going to do that, we’re going to require complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization --

RADDATZ: Let’s go to that tweet.

CHENEY: -- and he’s walked away --

RADDATZ: Can we go back to that tweet?

CHENEY: -- and he’s walked away from the table when the North Koreans wouldn’t comply. So I would say you’ve got to judge based on actions, you’ve got to look where we are today and where we are today is the president walked away. He was not willing to accept a phony deal, which too many of his predecessors have been.

RADDATZ: And -- and yet there’s been zero significant progress in denuclearization and we are almost at the one year mark. Could -- could you respond to the tweet? Is that the right way to do things?

CHENEY: My -- my view, Martha, is that we are doing the right thing in terms of the policy towards North Korea. And when you look at the situation President Trump inherited, whether you're talking about North Korea, whether you're talking about Iran, whether you're talking about the tremendous hole that the Obama administration dug with respect to our armed forces around the world, the president is doing the right thing. He's providing the resources our military needs to begin to make sure that we can defeat our enemies and adversaries. He withdrew from the devastating Iranian nuclear accord. And with respect to the North Koreans, he has said I will not accept a deal that is not a deal that helps advance this situation.

RADDATZ: Let's talk about Iran announcing this week that they're sending 1,500 more U.S. military to the region. Is that the right move, or could that increase the possibility of miscalculation?

CHENEY: It is the right move. And when you look at what we've seen in terms of the threat level, what we've seen in terms of what the Iranians are now doing, and I want to be careful not to talk about classified material and information. But there's no question but that this threat as Chairman Thornberry said is not business as usual, and it's very important for the Iranians to understand that we'll do what's necessary to deter them from attacking us through our interests and that we'll do what's necessary to make sure that they understand we aren't going to simply to sit back and allow them to take action that will put our people in harm's way.

So, I think the president is doing exactly the right thing. And I support the actions.

RADDATZ: Pete Buttigieg is calling what he witnessed in Washington this week between President Trump and Nancy Pelosi a horror show. What's your reaction to this back and forth?

CHENEY: You know, what I see every day -- I'm obviously in the House of Representatives, and what I see every day is a speaker of the House who is increasingly losing her grip on the leadership of her conference. And I think you've seen her being increasingly strident. You're seeing her lashing out. And you're looking at the Democrats who had put all their eggs in the basket of the Mueller report hoping that it would provide them evidence they needed to move to impeachment. It didn't.

But so now what they're doing is basically taking all the oxygen out of the room, refusing to do any of the things we were elected to do and instead continuing these attacks and partisan investigations, partisan issuance of subpoenas.

RADDATZ: And the president attacks back. Is that the right thing to do?

CHENEY: Look, I think that, you know, what we have seen...

RADDATZ: Retweeting these videos.

CHENEY: I think what is crucially important to remember here is that you had Strzok and Page, who were in charge of launching this investigation, and they were saying things like we must stop this president. We need an insurance policy against this president. That, in my view, when you have people that are in the highest echelons of the law enforcement of this nation saying things like that, that sounds an awful lot like a coup. And it could well be treason. And I think that we need to know more. We need to know what was Jim Comey's role in all this? These people reported to him. Andy McCabe, reported to him. What was Comey's role in that? And that is what the attorney general is going to be focused on and should be.

RADDATZ: Let me talk about this, because you saw what the president did with Attorney General Barr. He said he could declassify all this intelligence. Do you worry that sources and methods might be revealed? Do you have any problems with him saying declassify this intelligence even though he won't give the Mueller report -- an unredacted Mueller report to Congress?

CHENEY: Look, first of all, the Mueller report has been delivered to Congress, every single piece of it that could be within the law. The amount that's been redacted that's available for key officials in Congress to see, the amount that's been redacted, is something like less than 2 percent. So, it has been turned over.

Secondly, I have complete confidence in Attorney General Barr in terms of this decision that he's going to make.

And thirdly, as I said before, he has to have the ability to look at what happened. Think about what happened. Think about the fact that we had people that are at the highest levels of our law enforcement in this nation saying that they were going to stop a duly elected president of the United States, saying they needed an insurance policy against him. That is something that simply cannot happen.

We have to have confidence in our law enforcement. And the attorney general has got to get to the bottom of what happened, how it was that those people were allowed to misuse and abuse their power that way.

RADDATZ: And I just want to very quickly ask you -- we have about 10 seconds here -- on the proposed pardons of service members who have been convicted or charged with war crimes.

CHENEY: Yeah, the president will have to make a decision on that. That is the president's decision to make completely and we'll see what happens. Those cases are at different places in terms of the procedures that they need to go through with respect to the military justice system. But the president has absolute power to pardon. And I will watch and see how he exercises that.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much for joining us, congresswoman.

CHENEY: Thanks, Martha.

RADDATZ: Appreciate it.

Stay with us. The Powerhouse Roundtable is up next.


RADDATZ: The speaker versus the president, investigating the investigations, the latest from FiveThirtyEight, the roundtable is here and ready to tackle it all. And a reminder that all week long you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News App. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: President Trump enjoying a sumo wrestling match overseas in Japan, presenting a giant trophy to the winner, a break from the wrestling matches here in Washington. So let’s bring in this Sunday’s Round Table.

ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, Republican strategist and ABC News contributor Alex Castellanos, Julie Pace, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, and we welcome ABC News deputy political director MayAlice Parks.

Great to have you all here this Sunday morning and Matt, I want to start with you. We’ve been talking about these extraordinary moments between Speaker Pelosi and Donald Trump. How did the president fair in this, how do you think Pelosi faired?

MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Well I don’t think anybody’s – has a diminished view of the president no matter what he does, it seems to be in the course of this he says he’s stuck at – as you showed in the numbers, he’s stuck at about 40 or 41 percent of approval rating.

I actually think what he did helped Nancy Pelosi, and we’ll talk about this I’m sure, is that –

RADDATZ: Go ahead and talk about that.

DOWD: In the – in the conflict that exists within her caucus, I think Donald Trump using her and attacking her actually helps unite her – unite her within that caucus even more. And I actually think because of how independent voters in the country view the president, which is unfavorably, it helps the view of Nancy Pelosi.

So I think in a battle like this, it actually adheres to the benefit of Nancy Pelosi as opposed to Donald Trump. It definitely doesn’t change the perceptions of Donald Trump.

RADDATZ: Alex doesn’t seem to agree with you, shockingly.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I might – I might have a different view, and that is that when Donald Trump drags anyone into his playing field, the mud, he wins. He’s very good at that. He is what he is, if he can get everybody else playing on his level, he’s successful at following his work.

RADDATZ: She’s a pretty tough foe for the president though.

CASTELLANOS: She’s a – I’ll tell you what, she’s proven herself a tough adversary, but she’s the adversary Republicans want. She’s more unpopular than Trump is in a lot of these places.

RADDATZ: And Julie, what do you think the speaker’s strategy is here?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think the speaker is operating on two tracks right now, on the one hand she is trying to hold off voices in her caucus who want to move toward impeachment quickly.

On the other hand, she is trying to give them some tough red meat rhetoric so that she can show them that even though she’s not ready to go toward impeachment, even though she strongly believes that that actually is a political mistake for Democrats, that she takes what is happening with Trump and the administration seriously, that she – she agrees with them that this strategy to just say no to every congressional inquiry, every request for documents or interviews is a real challenge to our system of government.

But she really strongly believes that unless you have some massive change in public opinion on Trump and on impeachment that that is going to be pretty disastrous for Democrats.

RADDATZ: And MaryAlice, behind all this is the White House’s continuing stone walling on many of these investigations, so that’s agitated a lot of Democrats. So how long can Pelosi stake off this idea of impeachment do you think?

MARYALICE PARKS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well I think the question of impeachment is largely going to be determined by how this administration responds to the courts.

You know, back to back in the last week two different judges sided with Democrats in their request for documents, and my Democratic source on Capital Hill say that they really did feel like those big wins helped temper some of this restlessness in the caucus.

But there’s also a lot of buzz on Capital Hill that when it comes to the courts, there could be a new red line for Democrats. If this administration were to defy a court order and not give up documents, that I think could be a total breaking point even for Speaker Pelosi and some of these Democrats that have been cautious.

RADDATZ: Julie, are they going to get anything done on the Hill? Before –

PACE: Not a lot. They’re not – I don’t think they’re going to get anything done that’s proactive, there are some things that they will have to get done, raising the debt limit, funding the government are things – basic functions.

It says a lot though I think about where we are that those are probably the only things. Infrastructure, we saw again last week that this is basically a pipe dream even though it’s something that both parties profess to want to do.

But there’s little appetite from Democrats to try to give Trump any – any victories on policy heading into the election and Trump frankly doesn’t think it’s good for his base to be seen working with someone like Nancy Pelosi.

CASTELLANOS: Thank god they’re not going to get anything done, but you know, that strengthens Trump. The Washington elite who – two fat guys fighting over a ham sandwich, these battles that mean nothing to people, more people see dysfunctional Washington, the more they want someone to disrupt it and that’s Trump.

DOWD: Well the – but the problem that Donald Trump has in that scenario is he’s Washington, he’s the president –

CASTELLANOS: No he’s not.

DOWD: No, he is. He has become the leader of the biggest alligator in the swamp.

PACE: But that’s one of the questions – I think that’s one of the fundamental questions of the 2020 election –

CASTELLANOS: His voters wouldn’t see it that way.

PACE: -- is Trump going to be seen as a politician because he’s been here for four years, or has he convinced his supporters and others who really look at Washington elites and think that -- that it’s a disaster --


RADDATZ: MaryAlice, you’ve been out there actually. Do you -- do you think --

PARKS: I mean, remember --


RADDATZ: -- his base?

PARKS: Nancy Pelosi has 40 members of her caucus that just flipped seats red to blue. And if you're one of those 40, you're not excited about this idea of just throwing up your hands and not getting anything done. It is not fun to go home empty-handed, so she's getting it from both sides.

DOWD: The problem that -- I mean, if you look at the reality of the situation in Washington today, is the Democrats have actually passed over 200 bills in the House of Representatives since they -- the new Congress has come in. They can both legislate and investigate. They have done both at the same time. All of those bills are languishing in the Senate because Mitch McConnell has decided passing anything the Democrats do isn't a good idea. I want to go back to impeachment just for one second, though. This is an argument I think is both a -- you can argue the politics of it, but then there's the principle of it.

And at some point Democrats, even if the -- even if the politics of this is problematic for Democrats and you can't change Republicans' minds on this, which is right now you can't, there is a principle argument to be made. Civil rights, the American public did not support -- the leaders and the -- and the American public were off base on civil rights, on gay rights the leaders were off base where -- where the American public was. I think at some point in time you have to decide the principle aside and what is the principle argument that you want to do regarding the president's impeachment.

RADDATZ: And Alex, I wand to turn to Bill Barr, to the attorney general. He’s now -- President Trump has now put the focus on investigating the investigators. Is he just playing to his base here?

CASTELLANOS: You know, on occasion even politicians do the right thing and I think Donald Trump is doing the right thing here. Democrats have been calling for transparency for two years now, right? The American people have a right to see everything. Old Cuban saying, never spit straight up. Even Adam Schiff called for these documents to be released by the Obama administration because he was afraid Donald Trump would hide them --

RADDATZ: And yet not the --

CASTELLANOS: -- right?

RADDATZ: -- the unredacted Mueller report.

CASTELLANOS: So guess what? And -- and by the way, there is a case to be made that there was overreach in our investigative agencies, that out of good motives they feared this authoritarian was going to become president, oh, my god, it has to be stopped. Did they go too far? There are legitimate questions that should be investigated about that. Barr is protecting the presidency as well as the president.

RADDATZ: And -- and Bill Barr, Julie, really does seem to have quickly emerged as one of the president's strongest allies. Do you think Barr is doing the president's bidding or someone who’s just protecting the presidency?

PACE: He says he's protecting the presidency. In this case he is protecting the president. He is giving Trump what he wanted, which is somebody at the Justice Department who appears to be on his side. What’s really interesting about what Bill Barr is doing is, you know, yes, you have everything that he's doing with relation to the Mueller report, to investigating the investigators, but he's taken this -- this Trump agenda on fully. He was just in El Salvador talking about MS-13 and immigration and gang members. He's embracing the Trump agenda in a really robust way.

PARKS: Yes. Well it’s unlikely, then, that Democrats are going to trust whatever answer he comes up with. So I imagine a scenario where you have House Democrats issuing more subpoenas and they're starting to investigate the investigation of the investigation. And at the end of the day, bottom line, they want more oversight of this Justice Department and the Justice Department doesn't want to give that.

RADDATZ: And -- and Alex, I want to turn to 2020, which is the shadow over everything we do. The president seems most concerned about Joe Biden, tweeting about him -- and we'll talk about that in a minute, from North Korea. But should someone like Pete Buttigieg, who we just saw, be a threat? He's on Fox News, he's a military veteran. Is that the kind of person they should be looking at?

CASTELLANOS: I think the president's been very clear that the last guy he wants to see on his turf on Fox News is Pete Buttigieg and there's a real reason for that. Joe Biden has middle class, working class potential. He's not playing just to the 40 percent of the Democratic party but says it's liberal or ultra liberal. There’s another 52 percent of the Democratic party says it's moderate to conservative. That's Biden's lane. He's about the only guy in there, except for crossover Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor who talks about working people and their pain and how the elites have let them down.

So yes, right now Iowa, the latest survey there, what the starting line survey, has Biden and -- and Bernie at 24, Buttigieg in third place at 14. I could easily see old Biden shrinking and the guy who fills that -- when Democrats start looking for an alternative to crazy Bernie, it may well be Buttigieg. I think he's the one to watch.

DOWD: I think Pete Buttigieg -- I mean, you watch him, he's probably one of the most impressive communicators of the entire field -- and this is of experienced politicians that have run a lot -- run for and won a lot of offices in this. I think what the mayor -- and I think he's impressive and I think he -- he -- he's a very difficult opponent for the president to run against, but the problem I think that Pete Buttigieg has, probably more opportunity is that he's going to have to demonstrate that he's never gone through in a political way a gauntlet of three, four, five, six bad days in a row. And he is -- this campaign will set up that way. We'll watch him in his debates.

But I am very interested to see if this young man can go through that gauntlet and how he emerges from that gauntlet, because that's the test of these politicians.

RADDATZ: And MaryAlice, you've been out there covering Pete Buttigieg. What do you see as his challenge?

PARKS: He might have been the perfect candidate for 2016, an outsider in what ended up being an outsider's race. The Democratic Party after Hillary Clinton loss was just craving a new generation of leadership, but his biggest challenge might be that that was yesterday's fight. With this administration and this president in the White House for two-and-a-half years, we could have a Democratic electorate that actually is craving an elder statesman. And Joe Biden feels safe and secure to a lot of them.

RADDATZ: And Julie, Nate Silver with our partners at FiveThirtyEight wrote a piece about the fundamental question facing Democratic primary voters: are moderate Democrats more electable? Here is the answer, he says he doesn't know. But they seem to be polling better with general election voters. What's your take.

PACE: I think -- I agree with Nate that we don't know.

RADDATZ: We don't know. That's such an easy thing to agree on.

PACE: The two theories of the case right now for Democrats are you nominate a moderate, you nominate somebody like a Joe Biden and you win back some of those working class voters who switched from Obama to Trump in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan.

The other theory of the case is that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump because she wasn't able to motivate and energize core parts of the Democratic electorate -- younger voters, African-American voters, some of the liberals voted for a Bernie Sanders. So we don't know the answer to that but those are two I think reasonable theories right now.

CASTELLANOS: Martha, Democrats have something we haven't paid a lot of attention to, a 15 percent floor. If you don't get above 15 percent in a lot of these primaries and caucuses, you get zero delegates.

What that means is Biden doesn't really have as many people in the fieldto divide to those lesser candidates. He's got a tougher race. He's not protected by that big field we think he has.

So I think he's only running against four or five people. I think he's in trouble.

DOWD: I think the biggest -- I mean, when you look at the 2020 race, and the Democrats are going to go through this whole process, series of debates, a lot of candidates, and I don't think we should ignore the fact that Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are in the top five of these candidates.

So they have a place to emerge in this.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, they do.

DOWD: I think Donald Trump in the end, right -- presidential reelection reelects are all about where the president stands. I mean, it will be a fascinating thing who emerges in all that. Unless the president figures out a way to expand his support beyond 41 percent, it's very, very difficult for him to win a general election when his job approval is at 41 or 42 percent.

RADDATZ: Let's talk a little bit about what the president is doing overseas besides looking at sumo wrestling. We all saw that tweet about North Korea and basically supporting Kim Jong-un. And John Bolton, you know, he's worried about these missiles.

I will say right away that those short little weapons that the president described can travel about 300 miles as we've said. What's behind a tweet like that, Julie?

PACE: I think one thing is the president was probably trying to send a message to John Bolton. I mean, he is not afraid to contradict his own advisers publicly.

RADDATZ: Does it mean John Bolton's in trouble or he just likes that confusion?

PACE: Yeah, he generally likes either the confusion or to assert that he's in charge. And ultimately he is.

RADDATZ: But maybe also get the message out there that John Bolton is...

PACE: Doesn't always speak for -- doesn't always speak for me.

It is very clear that Trump, when it comes to the situation with North Korea, believes that his ability as a one-on-one negotiator is the right path. He believes he has made progress. He believes that the only way that we will avert this situation is for him to keep talking. He hears a lot of voices behind the scenes who tell him he is naive in that regard, but he, at this moment, believes that he is going to be able to strike some type of deal if he pushes personal diplomacy.

RADDATZ: But let me just say again, I believe it was June 12, the Singapore summit, so we are approaching the one-year anniversary and there has been zero significant progress in denuclearization.

This is the administration that said that the era of strategic patience is over.

CASTELLANOS: But it's not about North Korea, is it? This has been a signal a couple of weeks in American history, because this is when the Cold War with china began.

My generation grew up with nightmares about nuclear mushroom clouds, because we had to stand up to the Soviet Union since the '40s. Well, we won that. And by the way, Republicans did pretty well at the poll because we were the party of strength during that period. Now there's a new Cold War. Military, economic, it's against a more powerful and ruthless adversary. Trump is the first president to take that seriously. China has been using North Korea as leverage as a club to beat us with. All Trump is trying to do is take North Korea out -- that bat out of their hands. But Trump I think ---

RADDATZ: Well -- well, he's trying but it hasn't happened yet.

CASTELLANOS: -- has done something important. Well -- well, he’s -- as long as he says he can convince China, hey, I’ve got a good relationship with the little guy, that helps.

DOWD: Well it’s -- it’s if -- if president -- switch places for a second. If President Obama had been saying and doing the same things related to North Korea, Fox News and the Republican establishment would be up in arms about how he placated a dictator in -- in North Korea. It's Memorial weekend. Right? It’s Memorial weekend, tomorrow’s Memorial Day, and I’m struck by the president in this. There's a great song by -- country song by Justin Moore called "The Ones That Didn't Make it Home." And if you really want to honor the ones that didn't make it home, and this president and watching this president this past week, do you honor the ones that didn't make it home by considering pardoning people that are convicted -- that might be convicted of war crimes?

Do you really honor the ones that didn't make it home by the troop assignment in Iran after we watched the folly in Iraq, the folly in Afghanistan and we didn't learn the lesson of -- Vietnam War took us 30 years to finally learn the lesson Vietnam War, we haven’t learned (inaudible) 30 days (ph). And do we really honor the ones that didn't make it home by banning transgender troops -- transgender people from being in the military. And so to me, when I look at this -- and the -- this -- this race in 2020, going back to it, is not going to be about whether our economic situation with is with China and what’s the GDP numbers and employment is, it's going to be about who we are.

And on this Memorial weekend, I think it's important to ask that, is who we are and how do we honor those people that didn't make it home.

RADDATZ: Hard to respond to that one, Alex, but I’m going to give you about 10 seconds.

CASTELLANOS: I think it's going to be about something else larger and that is maybe it's about who we are, but who we are as compared to an elite that's losing all over the world. Losing in Australia, losing in Brexit, in Israel. The Democrats are the party of that elite here that's making that government work for them and not us. Donald Trump is still the outsider and I think he's got a big advantage going in. He’s the only --

DOWD: A guy worth $3 billion that puts his name on everything?

CASTELLANOS: Yes. He’s still the blue collar -- he's the only thing standing between us and them. That’s what a lot of Americans I think are going to vote for.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks to all of you and have a good Memorial Day weekend. Thanks for coming in. Up next, after sharing her own experience with sexual assault in the military, Senator Martha McSally is now working to change the system, but it won't be easy. Our candid conversation when we come back.



SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: This is personal for me too but it's personal from two perspectives. As a commander who led my airmen into combat and as a survivor of rape and betrayal. I share the disgust of the failures of the military system and many commanders who failed in their responsibilities.


RADDATZ: Senator Martha McSally captured America's attention with that powerful testimony about her own experience with sexual assault in the military. Now the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat is taking on a new mission, introducing a bill to change the way the military handles sexual assault, pushing for additional research, establishing a special victim's council at every military installation, and promoting information sharing to better track criminal cases.

I sat down with Senator McSally for an exclusive interview. We began with that startling newreport showing a 38 percent increase in military sexual assault since 2016.


RADDATZ: I have heard commanders and I have heard military leaders say "zero tolerance, zero tolerance, this is not going to happen." And it keeps happening. How do you really, truly change things when you look at statistics like that?

SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY, (R) ARIZONA: Well, I think we need to take a hard look at what’s not working and figure out what IS working. What training works for 17 to 24 year olds in this generation? And that's where the prevalence of the crimes, according to the last report, have happened. So part of what I'm putting in this year's defense bill is additional research dollars dedicated to evidence-based solutions as to what works, what’s going to work, to get through to this generation to change these behaviors and stop these crimes.

RADDATZ: One of the things you talk about, things that have not worked and I know critics of -- of your approach to this are saying commanders should not have anything to do with this anymore. It should be some sort of independent prosecutor. Why are you convinced it has to stay in the chain of command?

MCSALLY: I think a lot of people don't quite understand the role of our commanders, having been a commander myself. It's like no other position in civilian life. I mean, we tell people to go take lives, maybe to give their own life. We are responsible for every element of their -- everything that they do. So if you want to solve anything in the military, you have to have commanders more involved. The problem is that we need more investigators that are highly trained. We need more special victims councils. We need better data forensics evidence for crimes that are really, really difficult to prove in the first place, even when they’re reported right away. But let's set the process up for the best success. That's what the focus is of my legislation this year.

RADDATZ: Sen. Duckworth, a veteran as well, she doesn't think that works. She thinks serious crime should be in the chain of command and commander, but not sexual crimes and says it just doesn't work.

MCSALLY: I respect her opinion. And we have many conversations about this issue. I just feel very strongly that commanders need to be responsible. And this is again, not just coming as a commander but somebody who's also a military...

RADDATZ: But sexual assault victims will say it's harder to go to a commander or a commander might like someone else and not prosecute someone they know.

MCSALLY: It’s just not the way that works.

If the commander is the perpetrator, you can go above the commander, you can go around the commander. So there are many relief valves in this process. But, the problem is not the ultimate decision whether to prosecute or not by the convening authority, which is usually a colonel or a general, trhe problem is that oftentimes, the case along the way is taking too long. It's like a cancer rotting in the unit while this case goes on, that we don't have the absolute best capabilities for the forensics in order to build a case, while also having due process for the accused.

RADDATZ: I want to talk about your own experience if we can, senator.

MCSALLY: I am also a military sexual assault survivor, but unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time. I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused.

RADDATZ: When you finally did talk to someone, you’ve said you felt like it was handled horribly. You felt like you were being raped again.

MCSALLY: Yeah. You know, for me, it took many years for me to even come to terms with what had happened to me and the impact that it had on me. And those who are close to me, friends and family and others, are well aware in my journey of healing and my journey of not being crushed by it, but instead being strengthened by what happened to me and being empowered, not just to fight for myself but other women.

As I think back, I just don’t even know if I would have known where to go at the time. And so yeah, I really feel like there was a second very deep failure when I tried to -- to bring this to the attention of others.

A lot of times people look at someone like me -- and I've even had this happen since I revealed what happened to me -- and they say ignorantly, like, "How could this happen to you?" And that, I mean, part of -- one of the reasons why I shared what I did is because I think some people -- well intended, some in the media, by the way, since this happened -- well intended, but extremely naive and ignorant about what a sexual assault survivor looks like.

RADDATZ: Tell me what it was like the day you did reveal it? What was going through your mind and how you felt after it?

MCSALLY: I saw that we were having a hearing on military sexual assault. And it would include victims on the panel, that I decided on Monday night that I was going to share that I was with them. Didn't make that decision lightly, but I just really felt like I wasn't trying to keep it a secret.

Anytime -- even though I feel like I am as healed as you can be this side of heaven after what I've been through -- but anytime you churn up the reminders of the traumatic things that you’ve been though in your life, I mean, I'm human, those are not easy things to open up the door in your heart and mind of what happened to you.

I didn't realize it was going to be as little emotional as it as it was, but there I was on that day. It was - I’m glad I did it. I don’t regret sharing what I shared and it has been an extraordinary journey since then.


We’ll be right back with a special tribute to those who serve and sacrifice.


On Memorial Day, we honor and remember those who have died while serving our country. So we visited Arlington National Cemetery this week to ask several of those currently serving who they’re remembering this holiday weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m thinking about my battle buddy Major Paul Karen (ph). Paul (ph) and I were together in Afghanistan in 2010 when he lost his life and this morning I went over to section 60 very early to his gravesite and I took a moment and I thought about our friendship.

SSG MATTHEW SEXTON, U.S. ARMY: I’m remembering Jordan Schuman (ph), he was a person I had served with when I was in Afghanistan. He was an awesome person, a class clown almost. He would – he would always put a smile on everybody’s face, always making people laugh.

CPT TIMOTHY MARTZ, U.S. ARMY: Today I’m thinking about all those – all those men and women who came before us and either gave the ultimate sacrifice or gave vast amounts of military service or their family members to this country.

CPT CHRISTOPHER KITTLE, U.S. ARMY: I came out early this morning to pay my respects to Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Gibbs, he’s my wife’s uncle. He served in Bosnia and unfortunately passed away in a helicopter accident.

I didn’t get to meet him personally, but coming here and visiting a tombstone, why I recognize the name, a name of somebody that means a lot to my family and being able to plant a flag personally, I just felt very honored.

SSGT NADJA BERNARD, U.S. ARMY: I am remembering a friend’s father in law. I was on Facebook last night and posted that we’re drawing our flags for flag (inaudible) and he asked if I could find his father in law.

It means a lot that someone reached out because they’re not able to be here and we’re able to honor their loved ones.

MAJ STEPHEN VON JETT, U.S. ARMY: This is a chance for us to remember where we came from, what our legacy is and to honor the fallen. And even for our soldiers that don’t, it is a chance for them to connect with our history and connect to those who went before and really find out where our freedom came from and place a flag and see what it costs.


And this Memorial Day I will be thinking of Specialist Ahmed Cason and his daughter Akilaah. Ahmed was killed during a fire fight in Iraq when Akilaah was just three years old. Today she is 18, just graduated from high school and is heading to college to study nursing.

Good job Akilaah and good job to her mom, Alison (ph), Ahmed would be so proud. That’s all for us today, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and have a lovely and meaningful Memorial Day.