'This Week' Transcript 8-28-22: Sen. Bernie Sanders & Sen. Roy Blunt
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, August 28.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 28, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST (voiceover): Evidence unsealed.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): The fact that this had markings like top secret is really terrifying from an intel perspective.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A DOJ affidavit makes the case for the FBI's Mar-a-Lago search. Pointing toward mishandling of top secret intelligence and obstruction of justice.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did nothing wrong. They brought many, many FBI agents in, all right before the midterms.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pierre Thomas brings us the latest on the investigation, with analysis from Dan Abrams, former prosecutor Mary McCord, and our Powerhouse Roundtable.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden forgives student loan debt.
SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R-SD): What you're saying here is go ahead, take out loans, don't worry about it. We'll just write it off when the time comes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That debate with senators Bernie Sanders and Roy Blunt.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: We are breathing in peace which is a big thing for us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One year after fleeing the Taliban, a family finds new hope in America. Martha Raddatz reports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.” Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS (on camera): Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
Donald Trump lost his bid for re-election almost two years ago, left The White House more than 19 months ago but as we close in on the midterm elections, Trump continues to dominate our political debate as he confronts increasing criminal exposure. Investigations in New York over his business practices. Georgia over his bid to overturn the 2020 election. Department of Justice is investigating that as well. And with the release this week of the DOJ's affidavit justifying the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, more evidence of what may be the greatest legal threat to the former president.
The key question now, will he be indicted for refusing to return government documents, many of them highly classified, and obstructing justice? Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas starts us off.
Good morning, Pierre.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: George, good morning.
Today every indication that one of the most historic and consequential FBI investigations in recent history is intensifying by the day and word this morning that the intelligence community is planning to launch a damage assessment review.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS (voiceover): The release of that affidavit detailing the origins of the FBI search of former president Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and office revealing stunning new details with potentially extraordinary national security implications.
JOHN COHEN, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: If this type of intelligence is disclosed publicly, it places the national security at risk and what that means is it places the lives of Americans at risk.
THOMAS: The affidavit DOJ's road map of their case, along with another newly released court filing, though heavily redacted, offer compelling insight into the scale of the FBI's sprawling (ph) investigation with a clear sign that it's far from over.
We found out that the FBI launched the search based in part on evidence from a significant number of civilian witnesses, DOJ warning that as the investigation continues, key witnesses could face intimidation or retaliation. Those witnesses may have information on how the classified documents got to Mar-a-Lago, who had access to them and whether there was obstruction of justice. Were there efforts to intentionally block the discovery and retrieval of highly classified documents?
CHANNA LLOYD, LEGAL ANALYST: Anyone involved in the process of moving these documents, storing these documents is definitely and should be concerned.
THOMAS: And we learned there is an ongoing grand jury investigation and that prosecutors have already identified potential targets with a clear indication that they're looking for more.
This section from the affidavit jumps off the page, quote, “The FBI has not yet identified all potential criminal confederates nor located all evidence related to the investigation.”
There's even concern that super-secret documents may have been taken to other locations beyond Mar-a-Lago. The affidavit also provides more eye-opening details on just how many classified documents have been taken from The White House. In excess of 700 pages. At least 184 classified documents, 67 labeled confidential, 92 marked secret, 25 labeled top secret.
SCHIFF: The fact that this had markings like top secret is really terrifying from an intel perspective.
THOMAS: And the FBI has found other documents involving the most sensitive of classified material including some on human intelligence, spies, electronic eavesdropping and secrets from allies.
Much of it, warned the FBI, involved national defense and intelligence gathering methods, which if compromised, would have enormous national security implications.
Former President Trump on a Lou Dobbs’ podcast fighting back.
TRUMP: I did nothing wrong. This is a political attack on our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS (on camera): ABC News has learned some Trump associates are concerned about the legal jeopardy he faces and have been urging him to bring in a heavy-hitting criminal defense team.
George, no one knows how this ends but it appears everyone connected to this case ought to take it quite seriously. This affidavit makes it clear that the Justice Department is highly suspicious felonies were committed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about that. Pierre Thomas, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our chief legal analyst, Dan Abrams and Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor who is also senior official in the National Security Division of the Justice Department.
Dan, let me begin with you. A lot of redactions in this affidavit but have you seen enough now to conclude whether or not former President Trump should be indicted?
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, not in terms of whether he should be indicted or whether he will be indicted. He could be indicted. There's definitely enough here to potentially indict him. When you look at the words of the statutes and you look at the actions, there definitely could be an indictment here.
The most important part that's redacted, though, relates to the obstruction and that to me is what this all is going to come down to. It's not just an obstruction of justice charge. It's exactly what actions were taken to thwart this investigation, to thwart getting back those documents. That could also determine whether there are charges in connection with the other statutes there -- potentiality (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, separate from the statutes dealing with classified documents, that the president knew he had the documents and refused to return them, that's obstruction under those statutes, correct?
ABRAMS: It absolutely could be, right? It could be. But the question, again, comes back to the level of intentionality of the conduct in deciding whether to indict, right?
There are two separate question -- you could indict. There's no doubt that you look at the words of the statute and you look at the actions and people are going to say, well, of course there could be an indictment. The question of whether they will indict is a separate question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And let me bring that to you, Mary. Does it make a difference that we're dealing with a former president here? I worked in the government. If I had taken home any of these documents, any doubt that I would be prosecuted?
MARY MCCORD, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: No doubt you would have been prosecuted based on -- assuming intentionality, as Dan has said. And I would have been too if I had taken these kind of documents when I left the department. But I do think that, you know, we -- there's still -- the investigation is still ongoing. That, as Pierre indicated in the opening, there's still the potential for other criminal confederates and other information and so, you know, we don't want to jump too far ahead.
MCCORD: -- this is the president though, it’s -- yes, it -- I'm sorry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, go ahead. Finish your point.
MCCORD: Oh, I was going to say with respect to your question about does it matter that it's the former president, yes, of course, it does. This is super sensitive. It has ramifications beyond just criminal prosecution.
It has already, of course, the former president's allies are calling it, you know, a political gamesmanship. Of course, you know, if you look at the actual evidence that we can see in the affidavit and you look at the facts that seem to be uncontested, it doesn't look political to most objective observers, but that doesn't mean that it won't be called that. And these are things the department has to take seriously and also has to consider what this means for the future.
That doesn't mean I think that there won't be indictment. I just don't know. But I think the fact that this is a former president is very significant. It's also significant that there's a national security interest here --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that's what I wanted to ask you about.
MCCORD: -- investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, I wanted to ask you about that. It's a crime to keep any government documents after you leave government service but what about the fact that so many of them were labeled -- were classified, so many of them were even top secret, 25 documents top secret. We’ve heard this argument from some of the president's allies. His lawyers didn't make it. That he had this blanket authority to declassify all documents.
MCCORD: Well, two points on that. One is that in the unredacted portions of the affidavit, we see that that argument was -- some of that argument was presented to the judge before he signed the search warrant, the argument was made that the president has the authority to declassify documents, that because there was an attached letter from the president's lawyer advising the Department of Justice of that and asking the Department of Justice to present that to the judge. And then there was also a reference to Kash Patel, one of the former president’s senior aides, saying he had in fact declassified everything. So that argument, in short, was presented to the judge who still signed the warrant.
But to your other point, there is a whole separate interest here in protecting national security. And that's why the director of national intelligence announced a day or two ago that the intelligence community will launch a full assessment of the national security potential and national security harm from these documents. That means not only how sensitive are they if they were to get into the hands of people unauthorized to have them, it means do we have confidential human sources at risk? Do we have intelligence collection methods at risk that our adversaries might now be able to learn about if they obtain these documents?
So quite apart from the criminal investigation, there's an enormous interest in figuring out who had access to these. This is -- this is a location where apparently these -- this national defense information was stored willy-nilly in various places at Mar-a-Lago, places that potentially visitors to Mar-a-Lago including foreign visitors could have had access.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mary McCord and Dan Abrams, thanks very much.
Let's bring in Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri right now.
Senator, thanks for joining us again on "This Week."
You heard former President Trump in Pierre's piece saying he did nothing wrong. Do you agree with that? Was he right to take these documents to Mar-a-Lago?
SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Well, I think we need to know more about the documents.
One of the things I was concerned about when I heard about this so-called raid or seizing of these documents was, why hadn't the Intelligence Committee that I’ve been on for my time in the Senate and time in the House, why hadn't we heard anything about this, in fact, if the administration was concerned that there was a national security problem? I got immediately involved with Chairman Warner and Vice Chairman Rubio and said, we need to get a letter out right now to the Justice Department and the director of national intelligence to say if there is a problem, why haven't you told us about that problem?
That hasn't happened yet but the director of national intelligence announced I think on Friday that she's going to be briefing the committee soon and then we'll know what the problem is.
But I will say this, we hadn't been told there was a problem and if this --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator, that's --
BLUNT: -- if there’s a problem, the Oversight Committee should have been told.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a fair point and we'll find out why they weren't or what was going on. It was probably to protect the criminal investigation.
But setting that aside, whether or not these documents were classified, was it right for the president to take these government documents which he is supposed to turn over to the National Archives down to Mar-a-Lago?
BLUNT: It was -- you should be careful with classified documents. I’ve had access to documents like that for a long time. I’m incredibly careful.
I was wondering as I was listening to that discussion if the same things were said when Secretary Clinton had documents, when Director Comey had documents, they had them on the Internet which is much more dangerous than having them in a box somewhere.
But everybody needs to be more careful about how these documents --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, you're still not answering --
BLUNT: We need to be sure we don't characterize them differently.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you’re still not -- you're not answering the question. You were critical of Senator Clinton who actually turned over what she had, turned over all her devices. What we have here is a situation where the president did not turn over these documents.
Can you say whether that was right -- or right or wrong? Do you believe it was right for the president to take those documents to Mar-a-Lago?
BLUNT: He should have turned the documents over and apparently had turned a number of documents over, George. What I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years and less than 100 days before the election, suddenly, we're talking about this rather than the economy or inflation or even the student loan program you and I were going to talk about today?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it went on because the president didn't turn over the documents, correct? He was asked several times. He didn't turn them over. He was subpoenaed, he didn’t respond to the subpoena.
BLUNT: You know, these documents apparently -- good thing they're going to have a special master look at these documents to sort through the documents that the president had every right to have and the documents that he hadn't yet turned over.
I understand he turned over a lot of documents. He should have turned over all of them. I imagine he knows that very well now as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he hasn't said that. He said he did nothing wrong.
But I do want to ask you about the president’s -- President Biden's decision to forgive student loan debt.
BLUNT: Well, I think, one, I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college. I was a university president for four years. Higher education is important. It should impact the way people live their lives.
I just thought it was monumentally unfair -- unfair to people who didn't go to college because they didn't think they could afford it, unfair to people who paid their loans back, unfair to people who got higher education in an area that the government didn't make loans, and just bad economics in addition to that.
I think it's going to have a long-term devastating effect on a student loan program that worked pretty effectively until about ten years ago when the federal government assumed responsibility for that program.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Most economists who looked at it said it's not going to increase inflation.
BLUNT: Well, if that's what they're thinking, most economists are wrong. You can't -- you can't forgive that much debt and assume people won't spend the money for other things. It's certainly going to take about $24 billion that should have been coming into the federal government every year in payments and make that available for more spending.
You know, the president says it's going to grow the economy. So how it doesn't impact inflation and grows the economy, you've got $300 billion to maybe $500 billion going back into the economy in 10 years at a time when the Federal Reserve chairman is saying, we’ve got to do everything we can to slow the economy down.
You don’t slow the economy down by forgiving debt and giving people another $24 billion to spend that they would have been spending paying off the student debt that they borrowed. And when you pay off the student debt that they borrowed, other people have a chance to have that money in the future to use for their opportunity to go to college.
You know, Pell grants matter. I've been one of the great advocates in the Congress for well over a decade of Pell grants that help people go to school who can't afford to go to school. Pell grant recipients are going to be treated differently in this way than others.
But there's a way to do this that's fair to people who have a challenge going to college and doesn't wind up forgiving debt of people who, George, you could have a joint filer, a joint filing where one of the people's currently not working and the other one makes $250,000 and they get $10,000 or $20,000 forgiven by the federal government. That’s just wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator –
BLUNT: The administration had been very hesitant to do this. And here they are doing it right before the election. And I think people know they got their debt forgiven. Other people won't know the impact that has on them or their taxes between now and Election Day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Blunt, thanks for your time this morning.
We're going to hear now from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Senator Sanders, thanks for joining us again this morning.
You just heard Senator Blunt right there. He said this program is unfair. It’s going to hurt the economy.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, he's wrong. Sixty percent of the benefits go to people who were on Pell grants, 87 percent of the benefits go to people who are making $75,000 a year.
Look, I know it is shocking, George, to some Republicans that the government actually, on occasion, does something to benefit working families and low-income people. I don't hear any of these Republicans squawking when we give massive tax breaks to billionaires, when we have an effective tax rate today such that the 1 percent are having a lower effective tax rate than working people. We have major corporations in a given year don't pay a nickel in federal taxes. That's OK. But suddenly when we do something for working people, it is a terrible idea.
I was in Boston last week and I was talking to nurses. And these nurses were telling me that they are working in some cases two jobs, outrages hours, partly in order to pay for the student debts that they have accumulated.
So, in my view, the president did the right thing and we have got to be really thinking about higher education in general. And, in my view, at a time when hundreds of thousands of bright, young people can't even afford to go to college, if we're going to be competitive in a global economy, we need to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Senator Sanders, it's not just Democrats – I mean Republicans who have criticized this program. Several of your Democratic colleagues who are up for re-election this year have criticized it as well. Michael Bennet said President Biden should have included a plan to pay for it. Catherine Cortez Mastro, she says it doesn't address the root cause of college affordability. And to your point, Tim Ryan is running for senate in Ohio, said it's unfair to those with student loans who -- without student loans who are struggling to make ends meet. Working people.
SANDERS: Well, the truth is, in a sense that criticism is correct but the answer is not to deny help to people who cannot deal with these horrendous student debts, who were delaying getting married, delaying even having children. The answer is that maybe, just maybe, we want to have a government that works for all working people and not just the people on top.
So, the answer, I think, is to say, yes, if you are a working person right now, you're worried about what happens to you when you are retiring. Well, maybe we should demand that the wealthiest people in this country start paying their fair share of taxes so we can expand Social Security, improve the benefits and protect those workers. Maybe we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage for lower-income workers. Maybe we should do what every other major country on earth does, George and guarantee health care to all people as a human right rather than spending twice as much per capita on health care as other countries and leaving 70 million Americans uninsured and underinsured. Maybe we should have the courage to take on the drug companies and not pay ten times more for a particular drug than they do in other countries.
So the answer is not to do what Republicans want to do is, like, "Oh, it's unfair to this person because we're helping that person." The answer is maybe to create a government where -- which works for all people and not just for wealthy campaign contributors.
And, by the way, George...
SANDERS: ... you know, we don't talk about this enough. We've got to deal with this massive income and wealth inequality. Three people on top owning more wealthy than the bottom half of American society. That's some of the issues that we've got to deal with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You can't address any of those without more Democrats in the Senate. How are you feeling about the midterms right now?
We know there are a lot of headwinds for Democrats, but there have been some successes over the course of the summer.
SANDERS: Yeah, I think that what the Supreme Court did in saying to every woman in America, "You can't control your own body; your state government will make a decision on this most personal matter of an abortion, I think that the American people are saying, "Excuse me, in America, in the year 2022, women will make that decision." And I think that decision is going to reverberate very poorly for Republicans who think that women do not have a right to control their own bodies.
I think the gun violence that we have seen is also going to play a role. People understand, whether you're Democrats or Republicans, that we need common-sense gun safety legislation.
So I think there is a reasonable chance that Democrats will retain control over the Senate. I certainly hope we get more than 50 in the Senate, that we get at least 52, so we can start going forward and protecting working people in a way we have not been able to do up to now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Blunt on former President Trump's legal exposure right now. Your take on the affidavit?
SANDERS: Well, my take is there's something a little bit absurd when it appears that we have a former president who was taking highly classified documents to his own residence. I mean, it's just incomprehensible to me. But then again, when we talk about President Trump, it's -- there's a lot of incomprehensible things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Political director Rick Klein is up next with the "Midterm Monitor."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Republicans should be very, very, very scared this morning about their prospects. I have never believed that we would not hold the House. That's my mission, and that's what I hope to accomplish. And I have a plan to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrating after Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election for a House seat in New York State on Tuesday, offering new hope to Democrats in the midterms.
Political director Rick Klein is at the "Midterm Monitor."
And, Rick, midterms, always tough for the party in control, but Democrats are feeling a lot better than they did at the beginning of the summer?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, George, Democrats are starting to get their voters out. We saw it in the surprise result in Kansas, where that abortion initiative went down, abortion rights preserved in a deep red state. And we're seeing it in just about all of the special elections that have happened since the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. There's been four of them, Democrats and Republicans squaring off, just like they will this fall. And in each one of those four races since Dobbs, the Democrat has done better than Joe Biden did two years ago.
Start in Nebraska, a deep red district, but the Democrat did six better -- six points points better than Joe Biden did just two years ago. Minnesota, same situation, three points better than Biden. And last week, in western New York, you had a Trump-plus-11 district. The Democrat did three points better than Biden did there as well.
Now, look, the Republicans won all of those seats, but where they didn't win, this was a closely watched race last week. Because this is a swing district. This is the lower Catskills, the Hudson Valley. And it's a district that voted for Donald Trump just two years ago. Democrats wanted to hold on to it, and they did. They did it by outperforming Biden's number by three points. The Democrat Pat Ryan won that race. And the way he did it, George, he told voters there explicitly abortion rights are on the ballot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What are the other Democratic targets going forward?
KLEIN: Yes, look, abortion rights are at least hypothetically on the playing field everywhere. There’s a couple of states that are going to vote explicitly on whether to keep abortion legal or to outlaw it. You’ve got initiatives in places including California, Montana, Kentucky, also Vermont. And Michigan is likely to join that list as well.
And the places to watch, George, to your question, the battleground states where you now have a Democratic governor and Republicans controlling at least part of the legislature. Take a look at places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, some of the biggest most important battlegrounds and who controls the governor's office there could determine the abortion rights. Add to that places like Texas, Georgia, Florida, Democrats are hoping to make the choice this fall explicitly about choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the question is can they do that? You heard Speaker Pelosi right at the beginning of this segment saying she always believed (ph) Democrats are going to hold the House. She’s a -- kind of a lonely figure in that view. If you look at history, the party in control almost always loses seats, especially when you consider President Biden’s approval rating.
KLEIN: Yes, and the math here is just so stark, George. Even with that victory in the special election, Republicans still need to flip only five Democratic seats this fall. Most of the battleground continues to be Democratic-controlled seats but what has changed, George, even if most Democrats still don't believe that they'll control the House, some are starting to think that they might be able to minimize the losses, take some marginal seats off the table, given some of the other dynamics at play right now, and their hope at this point is that even if the Republicans do end up controlling the House, it might be a very narrow majority.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the Senate is a different story. The Democrats have a reasonable chance there of maintaining control.
KLEIN: Yes, look, the battleground has always favored the party that is out, but if you look at the states in play, you see so many states where Republican candidates continue to trail their Democratic opponents, many of those Republicans were selected in the primaries by Donald Trump, many of them denied the results of the last election. Many of them, frankly, have been flawed candidates. Right now our partners at FiveThirtyEight still think Republicans are not favored to control the Senate next year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Klein, thanks very much.
Roundtable is up next and one year after the fallout of Afghanistan to the Taliban, Martha Raddatz reports on how one Afghan interpreter and his family managed to escape. They were some of the lucky ones.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is here and ready to go. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The MAGA Republicans don't just threaten our personal rights and economic security, they're a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace -- embrace political violence. They don't believe in democracy.
We must be stronger, more determined and more committed to saving America than the MAGA Republicans are destroying America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden kicking off his midterm campaign and went on to call the Republican Party semi-fascist.
Let’s talk about this in our roundtable.
We're joined by Chris Christie, our chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, our chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl, and former Democratic senator from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp.
And, Chris, let me begin with you. We saw the president not shying away from the midterms even though a lot of Democrats don't want to be campaigning with him this fall and he’s determined to make this election a choice, not a referendum.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, if I were him, I would want not want it to be a referendum either, you know, with inflation where it is, with people feeling the way they are about crime in streets across the country, with parents really upset about what's going on across the board educationally in the country, and some of the positions Democrats have taken.
If I were Joe Biden, I would want to run against Donald Trump again. What he knows is he beat Donald Trump two years ago and if he turns this into an election about him and Donald Trump, he's got a much better chance of doing less poorly.
But there is no scenario under which Joe Biden does well in this election. He's going to lose the House of Representatives. He’s going to lose some governorships. And the Senate is up for grabs.
And so, if you're for him, this is the best argument you could make given all the circumstances. I don't blame him for making it.
And the key is, will Republicans stay focused or will they get distracted? If they stay focused, they'll do well. If they get distracted, less well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Clearly, Cecilia, the White House wants to capitalize on recent Democratic victories.
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and, actually, you’re really seeing that. You saw that there with the president this week.
Look, it really wasn't that long ago and I know you know this, George, from your -- Jon from your reporting too, you were talking to Democrats a few weeks ago and they would throw their hands up openly and say that they'd lost everything and walk away from the midterms basically.
But there has been a real shift in the conversations that you’re having with folks. Even inside the White House there is this sense of optimism that perhaps -- they are not as confident as you – but perhaps that they will actually keep some seats in the House. They know the victory is still a really hard one. They’ve got some very competitive states at play. But it is this – this legislative wins that they’ve had on health care and climate. And it’s also Roe. It's abortion. They are saying that they see the numbers in terms of the polling. They are seeing it in terms of turnout in states like Kansas, where you're seeing more women registered in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling and they're really believing in their messaging that this is going to be an issue that stick come the fall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Heidi, is abortion enough to make the difference?
HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a huge factor.
But, also, what we're not talking about is the trend lines in the economy. You saw an uptick in the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment. You're seeing gas prices with a three instead of a five in front of them. You’re seeing still a very, very robust employment. Even if you’re laid off, you can find a new job. And so I think there's a sense that – that – that the economy will not be as big of a – of a voting issue as what we would have predicted probably three months ago.
So, what steps in? What steps in is all the social issues, like the abortion issue. I think Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving, right? He reminds people that that time was chaotic. We need stability if we're going to manage the economy. We need stability if government’s going to function. And Donald Trump is not helping the Republican cause in any way, shape or form.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which explains the president's strategy.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. And, look, there is economic anxiety out there. Gas prices are down. Inflation seems to be heading down. But, look, if you're going out and trying to buy a house, you're paying almost double what you are in terms of your mortgage rates. There is economic anxiety. True, the unemployment rate is down. But there's no question, as Cecilia says, they feel much better going into the midterms. They believe they will hang on to the Senate. They could even pick up a Senate seat or two. They're going to lose some governorships as well. And in a lot of these races it's because of Donald Trump. It's because Donald Trump has gone in and supported --successfully supported in Republican primary candidates who are not strong general election candidates.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cecilia, I wonder if these recent successes are one of the factors that pushed President Biden over the line on this student loan debt forgiveness program. It does appears that it was something he had been struggling with for months.
VEGA: No. I mean, look, he really did not want to go there. And behind the scenes there was a two-year lobbying effort on the part of Schumer, on the part of Warren. Look, just even right before this announcement officially came out, the NAACP like really came at them and publicly shamed them. So, he was really pushed to do this.
He had the very same concerns that Republicans are raising about fairness and perception. And he said -- made it clear behind the scenes, he did not want these -- this debt forgiveness to go to people like his own family.
But, you're right, he was pushed there because the White House and Democrats very much believe that this could be a galvanizing issue when it comes to young voters come the fall. They really believe that this is a winning one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it does appear, Chris, at least in the first week, that it probably is looking a little bit more like a win than a loss for the president, actually giving away money in an election year can't hurt.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it can hurt and it's a lose/lose, George, and this is why. First off, it's a lose because ultimately this is going to be found to have been illegal. He needs to get this money appropriated by Congress. He didn't. And they’re -- one of the reasons he was hesitating, and Cecilia knows this, is because the legal advice he was getting was you can't do it. Nancy Pelosi, a year ago, said, you can't do it. We have to do it. So, he knows he's done something that's illegal and over the top.
But the worst part of this is, the American people are not stupid. You're right, giving away money is always a pretty good thing in politics. But, here's what they understand, this does nothing to control college costs.
The reason people have higher loans is because college is more expensive. And this does not make college less expensive, it makes it more expensive when you're giving away things.
Here’s what he should do. He wants to get on the side of working people in this country, he should say to all these colleges and universities, if your tuition goes up more than the rate of inflation, then you don't participate in any federal program. No student loans, no Pell grants and no research grants. Keep costs at the rate of inflation or you're out of the federal pie.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is an argument, Heidi, that a lot of Democrats have been making.
HEITKAMP: Well, I – I mean, I -- this is not a program that I would have supported. I think there's a way to give student loan relief. And one of the challenges you have is, people have been out there ten years and they haven't paid any principal because the interest is too high. He could have done something on interest.
Let's just remind everybody, there isn't going to be a check. There's going to be a write-down of student loan interest. And so the question is, is that an appropriation? Is it an appropriation? Is this right? I think that – that we can argue the politics -- or we can argue the policy, but the politics of this are much more complicated.
So, what's a Republican, what’s Ron Johnson going to say when he's in Madison campaigning to students or people with student debt, I'm going to take that away from you now, something the president promised. And the president promised this during the campaign. I think that this is something that he believes he needed to do to fulfill a campaign promise. We've seen the numbers that you ran this morning. Overwhelmingly, this supports minority students. And again, this becomes that kind of dividing point in America.
KARL: It's actually beyond -- it's actually beyond what he promised in the campaign. He said $10,000 in forgiveness. Now we're at $20,000 in forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients.
Look, one factor here is cost. The costs are massive here. And the White House has been squirrelly about how much it would cost. For the first several days after the rollout, they wouldn't say how much. They said, "We can't really project how much it will cost." But they spoke with specificity about who would benefit and how much they would benefit by.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's why why I think -- I mean, I guess I...
KARL: And now we're seeing -- George, I mean, they're saying $240 billion over 10 years...
HEITKAMP (?): Much lower...
KARL: Estimates are now, you know, by several groups, over $500 billion for 10 years.
CHRISTIE: The Wall Street Journal printed this week, 18 percent of Hispanic students, who will qualify for this, 18 percent of Hispanic students. This is not going to be some boon to them. And in the end, what people are going to see here is what Barack Obama's chief economist said this week, which is it is wholly irresponsible to throw this in there while we're trying to also battle inflation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess -- I guess that's where I guess I disagree with Heidi. The politics on this actually seem quite easy to me. And maybe I'm completely -- completely wrong, but the policy is complicated. It is going to cost a lot. It likely could get overturned in the courts.
VEGA: It very well could, but the White House keeps sticking to this one figure, 20 million Americans will see zero debt by the time they are done with this program. This is overwhelmingly, they say, going to end up helping the majority of people who have student loan debt. That is their -- their cause going into the midterms with this. They believe it's a winning issue.
And you're right. They really struggled with these numbers. They also really can't say whether this is going to help cut costs down long term with college.
CHRISTIE: It won't.
VEGA: And will colleges then therefore hike tuition prices? There's no guarantee that that won't happen.
HEITKAMP: And I think it's also important to understand the income caps. Because people are saying, "Oh, it's going to be these doctors and lawyers and pharmacists who get this. No, any doctor or lawyer who doesn't exceed the cap right now is really not working.
And so I think it was measured to try and address lower-income folks who felt like they couldn't get ahead. And I think, you know, like I said, I wouldn't have done it this way, but, dang, it's a good -- it's fulfilling a campaign promise and it's speaking to young people who may not be motivated. If the Republicans get out there and say, "You've been promised this; we're going to take it away," are they going to be motivated to show up in the midterms?
HEITKAMP: And I think that's the question.
CHRISTIE: ... people in this business, in the business I've been in, have been trying to figure out how to motivate voters from 18 to 34 forever, and they...
HEITKAMP: Well, maybe this will do it. Chris.
CHRISTIE: Maybe. Maybe this will do it.
I can hear that. Every consultant who's trying to sell you an idea tries to tell you this (inaudible) and guess what, they don't vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll tell you what does do it, though, and I'll bring this to Jon, and it will help to switch subjects as well. In 2016, in 2018, in 2020 Donald Trump did motivate 18 to 34-year-olds on the other side.
We saw the affidavit this week. I know you've been in touch with the Trump world. They are worried about this.
KARL: Yeah, look, publicly what they're saying is, "This is rallying Republicans to Trump's defense. This makes it more likely that he will run for president, more likely that he will win the Republican nomination, campaigning against this political action by the FBI and the DOJ." Privately, they are really concerned. And one of the big concerns here is that Trump has nobody defending him. If you look at his legal team, it is comically inept and inexperienced. All of the big names who defended him through the first two impeachments, through the Mueller investigation, they are gone. There is real concern that he needs to bring in a heavy-hitting criminal defense attorney...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he get one?
KARL: Well, he's been asking. I mean, I know of several that have been approached who have said no. I even know of one prominent criminal defense attorney who was approached who didn't even return the phone call. So he -- and this raises another question, George, is the idea of Donald Trump running for president again and being the front-runner for the Republican nominations. Will Republicans be comfortable supporting a candidate who cannot even hire a criminal defense attorney?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, that is -- that is a big question. But, Chris Christie, you saw me talk to Roy Blunt earlier. He couldn't even say, or he struggled to say that taking all these government documents to Mar-a-Lago is wrong.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, it shouldn't be a hard thing to say, you know, so I'll say it, George, so you see that a Republican can say it.
... for you to take Top Secret, classified documents back to your house.
KARL: Even on a good padlock -- even with a padlock?
CHRISTIE: Doesn't matter what kind of -- when I was U.S. Attorney, it was wrong for me to do; when I was governor, it was wrong for me to do. And when you're president, it's wrong for you to do.
Here's the thing about the lawyer stuff. Look, lawyers take...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I take it you haven't gotten the call?
CHRISTIE: I have not.
Lawyers take clients for two reasons, either because they think it's a good case or they think they're going to get paid. With Donald Trump it’s neither, okay? The case is not good and he does -- he has a reputation for not paying his lawyers. He’s developed that well-earned reputation over the course of time.
And so the reason that no one’s rallying is because they -- the lawyers don’t want to put themselves in that spot with a client who is impulsive and who is obviously in trouble. But here’s the --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- put on your prosecutor's hat for a second. You heard me talk to Mary McCord earlier in the program, had I taken these documents home I would have been prosecuted. Had she taken them home she would have been prosecuted. But it is different for a former president.
CHRISTIE: Look, it’s always different. And, first of all, George, I would have prosecuted you if you brought those documents home. Let there be no doubt.
But it is different with a former president and it's different -- and I used to say in our office when we would have, not a president, what we -- we investigated a sitting governor when I was U.S. attorney, and what I would say to my prosecutors was, this has to be clear so that even anyone in the State of New Jersey, no matter your level of education, no matter where you work, no matter your party can hear these facts and say, you know what, that's wrong and whoever did that needs to be prosecuted.
So that the bar for DOJ here is, you have to articulate a case as to why I think this threatened national security. Should they get the documents back? Absolutely. And whatever they needed to do to get those documents back they should have done.
But here's the other problem, you were talking to Dan about this, about there being a long time that the documents were there. Well, you're damned if you do and you’re damned if you don't in that situation as the DOJ.
If you executed a search warrant on week three, afterwards they would have said, ah, you didn't even give the president the chance to voluntarily return them. If you go through the process that it appears they did go through, where they asked nicely, negotiated with lawyers, subpoenaed, second subpoena, and still don't get it all back and then you execute a search warrant, people say, hey --
CHRISTIE: -- if it was so important why did you wait that long?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they -- you know, but hey -- I think that's a fair point. I also take Chris' point about national security. But we don't know what we don't know here --
HEITKAMP: Right, right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- based on the redactions and there does appear to be some evidence from some reporting that there was -- there were people going in and out of the storage area and moving boxes, putting files into different containers.
HEITKAMP: And there is reporting that this would disclose maybe our assets, that this already has hurt our -- but we're over our skis on this. We've got to give Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice time to make these decisions and latitude. And the second guessing is natural in a political environment, but to me this is serious enough that it has to be done well.
If you are going to prosecute the former president, you better win, right? You better have a very, very strong case. And so to me, there is all this speculation about what's in these documents, whether he agreed to give them back and didn't give them back, let's just give this some time because it's too important to not give it some time.
KARL: And we don't know why they did this. I mean, there are many unknowns but one of the unknowns is was the primary reason for seeking and getting this search warrant to get the documents back and to secure them or was it to prepare to indict the former president? We don't know. Is there a decision here to prosecute Donald Trump?
STEPHANOPOULOS: They may not know yet.
KARL: Or -- I mean, yes -- or is it, we need to secure these documents?
CHRISTIE: They better know.
VEGA: But they got a grand jury.
CHRISTIE: But, by the way --
CHRISTIE: -- they better know, George.
CHRISTIE: Because if you're Merrick Garland and you authorize this search warrant, you better know why you did it.
CHRISTIE: And I used to say all the time in high-profile cases when someone came to me for a search warrant you better have enough to indict if that's your goal before you even ask me for the search warrant because when you execute a search on a high-profile individual --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- well then does that answer the (ph) question?
CHRISTIE: No, because here it's different because these documents themselves also have great value. You're not usually -- when you're searching for something, you're searching for evidence of a crime. Here you know that this stuff is top secret classified stuff. You got to get that back no matter what. So that's why it's a bit of a different situation.
HEITKAMP: And you know there was a crime committed.
CHRISTIE: Well, sure.
HEITKAMP: Clearly, there has been a crime committed. You could indict this tomorrow. The question is whether the president is going to get preferential treatment and to your argument, Chris, you think he should and I think --
CHRISTIE: No, I don't think he should. Let's be fair. I think he --
KARL: It’s different --
CHRISTIE: -- a practical matter, that's the way it works.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is going to have to be the last word right now, as you both said, we have a long way to go on this.
Coming up, one year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Martha Raddatz reports on the story of one lucky family who escaped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: You're very concerned about the Taliban coming after you.
ABDUL, FORMER AFGHAN INTERPRETER FOR U.S. MILITARY: You know that I was working with the coalition forces. If they takes over the Kabul, then they will come, they will behead us, or they will kill us. I know that I will be killed by the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR: That was Abdul, an Afghan interpreter for the American military speaking to Martha Raddatz just before the fall of Kabul one year ago. Abdul and his family were able to escape Afghanistan with the help of ABC News and others, but as Martha reports, they were some of the lucky ones and it was a frightening journey.
DAUGHTER OF ABDUL: It was scary because there were so many firing sounds.
ABDUL: Those were the worst days in all life, in all Afghanistan.
RADDATZ (voice-over): As a former interpreter for the U.S. Marines, Abdul was on a Taliban hit list. When they swept into power in August of last year, the comfortable life the family once knew was suddenly over.
LIMA, WIFE OF ABDUL: We lost almost our -- everything. Our dreams, our planning that we wanted to do for our future.
RADDATZ: Abdul and Lima knew the only way to give their three daughters a future was to flee, leaving everything behind.
DAUGHTER OF ABDUL: It was scary to go and I don't want to be on there anymore because there's Taliban in there.
DAUGHTER OF ABDUL: Kabul when we were coming to airport, it was very horrible.
RADDATZ: Braving the gunfire and the chaos, the family made the harrowing journey to safety.
ABDUL: With the help of our friends, working friends, once again, we have hope.
RADDATZ: The family spent many months at a military base in New Jersey, but finally, they were able to resettle in Northern Virginia where they're rebuilding their lives now after starting from scratch.
ABDUL: I want to work. I don't want to stay at home. I want to sustain my family.
RADDATZ: Trained as an engineer and lawyer, Abdul attended a job fair in Virginia where he met a representative from the Hilton Hotel chain, so impressed with Abdul, Hilton hired him as a safety and security manager.
ABDUL: I love my job, and I love the environment of my job especially. And I am sure I will get more opportunities because this is the land of opportunities.
RADDATZ: After just one month, Hilton gave Abdul a performance-based raise.
LIMA, WIFE OF ABDUL: It makes me happy that my kids, and us, we are breathing in peace, which is big thing for us.
ABDUL: Our three daughters, they're doing great job. I love them. They look like their mom. They’re smart, clever and intelligent.
RADDATZ: Susan, Hosai, and Uswa have now started the new school year thrilled to be back in the classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This year is going to be so much fun because I like math subject. I want to learn something because learning is so fun.
RADDATZ: And, over the summer, they learned something they had never learned before, how to swim. Between work and school and swimming, their lives --
ABDUL: Like normal American life right now, busy.
LIMA: So busy.
ABDUL: Very busy.
RADDATZ: Abdul and Lima realize their daughters are the lucky ones.
ABDUL: Right now, current situation is not good, especially for the women. There is no hope for the women in Afghanistan.
LIMA: Yes, and the situation is going worse and worse.
RADDATZ: But even though they've adjusted to American life, a part of their hearts still ache for their home country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really miss my friends, my grandparents and even my country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I have to go. I have to go away from them because there's Taliban in there.
LIMA: We are happy here, but it makes me so sad that those plans or those dreams that we had, we couldn't able to do that.
ABDUL: It's difficult, but this is life. This is the place that they will have a great future. I'm happy. Everybody’s happy in here right now. These five people are very happy and enjoying their life in America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Martha for that.
We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and I’ll see you tomorrow on "GMA."