A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 29, 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)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC HOST (voiceover): Tragedy in Texas.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: It happened here and it took my baby.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: She wanted to make a difference. I want that for her now. She still can.
KARL: The deadliest school shooting in a decade. A gunman murdering 19 elementary school students and two of their teachers. Warning signs missed. A cascade of errors in the police response.
STEVE MCCRAW, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR: Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision, period.
KARL: Marcus Moore with the very latest from Uvalde. Pierre Thomas and former DHS counterterrorism chief, John Cohen, on where the investigation stands.
Demands for action.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D-CT): As the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing.
BETO O’ROURKE, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, (D-TX): Why are we letting this happen in this country? STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS HEAD COACH: When are we going to do something?
KARL: Calls for gun reform met with fearish (ph) resistance.
RICK SCOTT, U.S. SENATOR (R-FL): What some people do is immediately want to take people’s second amendment rights away. And I’m not willing to do that.
KARL: After decades of doing nothing, will Congress finally act?
JOHN CORNYN, U.S. SENATOR (R-TX): I’m actually interested in what we can do to make the terrible events that occurred in Uvalde less likely in the future.
KARL: Senator Chris Murphy and Congressman Adam Kinzinger join us live.
Plus, our Powerhouse Roundtable covers the political fallout.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week." Here now, co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
KARL (on camera): Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
As we come on the air this morning, we are yet again trying to come to terms with the slaughter of innocence, 19 children and 2 of their teachers gunned down in their classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, murdered by an 18-year-old who was armed with two AR-15-style rifles and enough ammunition that could have killed dozens, even hundreds more.
The horror at Robb Elementary came just 10 days after the murderous rampage at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, where another 18-year-old faces charges in those killings.
This morning, we are trying to get to the truth of what happened and what should have happened and what it will take to prevent a horror like this from happening again.
First, to the facts as we now know them. Officials initially told us a security officer confronted the gunman as he entered the school, that was not true. In fact, the gunman was inside the elementary school, locked inside adjoining classrooms filled with kids for nearly 80 minutes before law enforcement broke in and took him down.
The emerging timeline of this horror is chilling. After crashing his grandmother's car and firing shots outside, the gunman entered the school at 11:33 a.m., shooting 100 rounds of ammunition and locking himself inside those classrooms.
Two minutes later, the first police arrived. At 11:37, the gunman fires another 16 rounds. Over the next 15 minutes, more police arrive on the scene.
At 12:03, 911 receives a call from inside the classroom, a student whispering that she was in room 112. At 12:10, she calls back saying there are multiple dead. She calls again and again, on the fourth call saying there were eight to nine students still alive.
Over the next 35 minutes more calls are made from inside the classroom as shots can be heard and a plea, please send the police, now. But officers don't break into the classroom until 12:50 p.m., 77 minutes after the gunman fired his first shots inside the school.
And beyond the tragic inaction of the police during the shooting, there are questions about the warning signs that were missed.
We'll get to all of that in a moment. But first, let's turn to Marcus Moore in Uvalde where President Biden is meeting this afternoon with families of the victims.
Good morning, Marcus.
MARCUS MOORE, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jon, good morning.
You can feel the pain here in this community that not even a full week ago was thrust into chaos and despair. And as you just mentioned, President Biden will be here at Robb Elementary to help this community heal from what they have been through and people have been coming here in the days since the shooting to pay their respects, many traveling hundreds of miles to leave flowers here, hoping to support the families who meanwhile are continuing to ask the ever-present questions about why this happened? How did the 18-year-old gunman obtain the weapons and carry out this heinous act on the most vulnerable and the most innocent?
The investigation remains under way this morning with the FBI assisting state authorities as they piece together details of what happened here, including establishing more clarity on the timeline.
The officers who arrived here at the scene, what information were they given and then what prompted them to finally make the decision to force their way into that classroom, Jon, where that gunman was holed up. We now know that the officers were outside that room for 77 minutes before finally deciding to go in.
KARL: And, Marcus, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, initially praised the, quote, swift action and quick response of the police, saying they, quote, were able to save lives. What is he saying now?
MOORE: Well, Jon, he says that he was misled and that he is livid about that and that the day he took to the stage to deliver that information he had met with law enforcement officials and he said that he took handwritten notes about what -- the information they relayed to him and that is what he recited to the public. We now know that that information was not accurate and he says the people who deserve the answers now most are the families who lost their loved ones here at this school in Uvalde.
KARL: Thank you, Marcus.
Joining us now for more on the investigation is ABC Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas and ABC News Contributor and Former Department of Homeland Security Counterterrorism Chief John Cohen.
So, John, you led the DHS effort to -- about how law enforcement should respond to these active shooter situations after Newtown a decade ago. Help us understand now, how did this go so wrong?
JOHN COHEN, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, Jon, it was a failure. I’ve been in law enforcement almost 40 years, I am proud of my profession, I respect the men and women who are out there each day trying to make our community safe. But at the end of the day, we had 21 people die. We had 19 children die. We had people potentially die while law enforcement was on scene.
We'll learn more in the days ahead about whether they were properly equipped and whether they were properly trained, whether the Incident Command System worked as it should, whether the incident commander made the right decisions, whether there were communication issues or information sharing issues, but at the end of the day it doesn't change the outcome. When you put on that badge, you make a commitment to safeguard the community and protect those who cannot protect themselves. And on that day, law enforcement failed.
KARL: I mean, there were shots coming from inside that classroom, we know that a couple of the officers were grazed by bullets but what you're saying is, the requirement of the job is essentially to put yourself in harm's way, to break into that classroom and to do it immediately?
COHEN: It is accepted practice in law enforcement that when responding to an active shooter situation, you enter the location, you locate the shooter, you engage the shooter, you neutralize the threat, you provide care to those who are injured. These incidents generally last less than 10 minutes, most of the fatalities occur in the first several minutes. You have to get inside that location. You have to stop that shooter.
KARL: I mean, one thing that’s so horrifying about this is the 911 calls, four of them came from a single student. In some of those, we’re told, you could hear the gunfire. The 911 operator could hear the gunfire.
But, Pierre, let’s take a step further back. The missed signals, there were clear missed signals regarding this shooter, danger signs that at least some of his friends saw.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There was every indication that this was a troubled young man full -- increasingly full of rage. And that’s the only way to describe it, full of rage.
There are examples and sources telling us that he was streaming videos of him abusing animals, classmates are telling us that he threatened to kill one of them, classmates are telling us that he stalked classmates, following them to school, knowing what they would wear to school, telling them what they were wearing to school, even though he was not often in school. Creepy is only the word that you could describe to what we've been told.
And, we have some information that came out on Friday that is literally stunning, there's a series of private Instagram messages to a group of about four people in which they clearly are discussing the notion that he's going to become a school shooter. They're discussing it. At one point, one of the people on the chat asked him, are you going to go shoot up a school? And he says, no, but basically you'll see. Now we know what happened.
KARL: And -- I mean, what's also haunting here is -- I’m just thinking, the two of them were on the set of this program just -- you know, just after the Buffalo shooting. We saw the same thing. There were clear missed signals, even abuse of animals.
Some of the very -- the very same things we're talking about this shooter, we saw with the 18-year-old in Buffalo.
THOMAS: Well, that situation, the missed sign -- the missed signs I would describe as a neon flashing red, you know, Las Vegas kind of missing signal.
Here's what happened there: he was asked to write a school paper prior to his graduation his senior year. In the school paper, he responds: murder/suicide. Murder/suicide.
That prompts school officials to contact state police. They order a mental health evaluation. He's in a mental health hospital for 20 hours. He lies to them. He says he was joking.
And he writes about it later in a private, you know, diary, that, yeah, maybe I was crying out for help, but I just lied to them and they bought it.
KARL: So, John, what do we do? How do we get -- how do we get this, you know, clearly, in both these cases, you had people who knew these kids, these people -- these 18-year-olds who knew they were troubled, who were worried they were going to do something wrong, how did -- how does that not go up the -- how do officials not know about this?
How -- what needs to be done so that that -- those red flags can be -- can be taken into account?
COHEN: So, that's the key question. What Pierre described, the behaviors exhibited by the Buffalo shooter and the Texas shooter, they're not uncommon. This is what we see in almost every single active shooter situation, whether it's ideologically motivated or motivated by some personal grievance.
We actually know what to do, but -- and we know the systemic changes that need to take place. Law enforcement organizations need to be able to do threat assessment investigations. They need to work with mental health professionals and others in the community to develop threat management strategies.
We have to be able to recognize the warning signs, whether they're on the Internet or in our community. And we need to come together as a community --
KARL: And to make it impossible for them to buy these guns. I mean, in both cases, these 18 year olds we’re able to go in and buy AR-15 style rifles.
So, Pierre, we're almost out of time, but, you know, you and I covered Columbine together at CNN. We've been dealing with these -- these mass -- these active shooter mass casualty events for a long time.
But is there something different now? Has it actually gotten worse?
THOMAS: It has. In general, gun violence has surged since 2019. And we saw a 30 percent increase of more than like 5 -- almost 5,000 more gun deaths, non-suicide from 2019 to 2020. So, it's pandemic-related. It’s tied to the pandemic.
But also, we're just seeing more active shooter scenarios. In 2013, there are only 17 active shooter scenarios. Last year, there were 60, a nearly fourfold increase.
KARL: Dramatic increase and, of course, mass shooting incidents represent a tiny fraction of overall gun deaths, about 1 percent or less.
THOMAS: We're talking thousands and thousands every year.
KARL: Thank you. Thank you both very much.
Joining us now is Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, who has made combating gun violence his mission in Congress.
Senator Murphy, thank you for joining us.
I want to go back -- you were on this program just two days after the Sandy Hook massacre. It was just a couple of weeks before you were first sworn in as a U.S. senator and you were asked at that point -- this was ten years ago -- you were asked if Sandy Hook and that horrific tragedy we saw in Newtown was going to represent a turning point, a tipping point if something was finally going to be done about gun violence.
This was your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): The time for sort of saying we can't talk about the policy implications of tragedies like this is over. And for us here in Connecticut, while we're going to grieve and make sure the families have everything they need, we're going to be on the floor of the Senate very soon talking about where we go from here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Ten years later, what has been accomplished?
MURPHY: It’s inconceivable to me that we have not passed significant federal legislation trying to address the tragedy of gun violence in this nation, especially because since Sandy Hook, we've seen even worse slaughter -- in Las Vegas, in Orlando. As has been mentioned, the pace of everyday gun violence has dramatically escalated over the past two years.
Now, states have passed tighter laws. There have been referendums passed. There are plenty of local efforts that have been successful in tightening up our gun laws.
But we need federal legislation. And my hope is that this time is different.
I get it. Every single time, after one of these mass shootings, there's talks in Washington and they never succeed. But there are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have ever seen since Sandy Hook. And while, in the end, I may end up being heartbroken, I am at the table in a more significant way right now with Republicans and Democrats than ever before. Certainly, many more Republicans willing to talk right now than were willing to talk after Sandy Hook.
KARL: And Senator McConnell, the Republican leader, has tasked John Cornyn, one of his top lieutenants, to take part in those negotiations.
Can you bring us inside the room or inside -- I guess you guys are having Zoom conversations now that the Senate's in recess -- what is going on? What are you hearing from Cornyn, from the other Republicans?
MURPHY: It's -- so, we have continued to work throughout the weekend. I was in touch with Senator Cornyn and Senator Toomey, other Republicans and Democrats yesterday. These are serious negotiations. And we are going to continue to meet through early next week to try to find some common ground.
Now, listen, I've been clear, I'm not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Of course I would love to ban assault weapons. I think that's the -- probably most impactful way to stop these mass shootings. I would love universal background checks. That's the best way to try to curb the level of violence that happens in my city of Hartford and other cities like it across the country.
But what we're talking about is not insignificant. Inside this room we're talking about red flag laws, we're talking about strengthening, expanding the background check system, if not universal background checks. We're talking about safe storage. And, yes, we're also talking about mental health resources and more security dollars for schools. A package that really, in the end, could have a significant downward pressure on gun violence in this country and break the logjam. Maybe that's the most important thing we could do is just show that progress is possible and that the sky doesn't fall for Republicans if they support some of these commonsense measures.
We've got a short timeframe, Jonathan. We've got to get this ready for Congress when Congress reconvenes in about a week. But I think we can do it.
KARL: But let me ask you, in this case, I mean, I -- the issues we hear the most about are, you know, expanding background checks, red flag laws. Well, this person who bought this -- this shooter here did not have a criminal record. You know, it's hard to see a background check would have -- would have stopped him.
In terms of red flag laws, he had no diagnosed mental illness.
School security, this school system had just doubled its security budget.
Let me ask you about one thing that I don't hear a lot about, raising the age. I know you're in favor of this, but is it part of the discussion? Right now you can buy an AR-15 at 18. You can't buy a handgun until you're 21. So, I mean, what -- is this now part of the discussion?
MURPHY: Yes, I think that -- right now we're having, I think, a discussion inside this room about the profile of the current mass shooter, which, as you mentioned, does tend to be young men in between the ages of 18 and 21. That is a profile that does not allow you to buy a handgun but does allow you to buy an assault rifle. And so there are discussions happening in these room about how they recognize this profile and maybe make it a little bit harder for those individuals to quickly get their hands on weapons.
I don't yet know exactly what's possible, whether the votes are there to raise the age, but we're having a discussion about what we do about that specific profile. And it's an encouraging conversation.
KARL: So, you mentioned that some states have acted. One of those states is Florida. After Parkland, Florida passed a law signed -- passed a bill signed into law by the governor in 2018. Let's look at what it did. It raised the minimum age, as we just discussed, for long guns from 18 to 21. It imposed a three day waiting period. It banned bump stocks. It improved background checks.
Now, that law passed after Parkland was passed by a Republican legislator in a very Republican state and signed into law by a Republican governor named Rick Scott, who is now, of course, one of your colleagues in the Senate. Couldn't that be a model? I mean if Rick Scott could sign that into law in Florida and support that in Florida, why couldn't that pass in the United States Senate?
MURPHY: The Florida law is a good law and it's a signal of what's possible, right? It married together changes to Florida's gun laws with some significant investments in mental health and school security. And I, you know, had a long conversation with Senator Scott last week, and had him tell me the story of how they were able to pass that legislation and get Republicans to support it.
It also proved that Republicans could take on the gun lobby because the NRA opposed that measure and still get re-elected, which has been the case I've been making to Republicans for a decade.
So that kind of legislation certainly is a model. Significant, not everything that anti-gun violence advocates would want, and while I don't think we will mirror the Florida law, it certainly is the kind of thing that would make a big difference and would make a lot of families and kids in this country feel more secure and more safe if at passed at a national level.
KARL: And very quickly -- we're almost out of time -- I mean you have led the discussion on the gun issue, which is obviously a critical one here. What are the other things that you think need to be done, aside from, you know, having gun safety measures, limits on gun purchases, red -- all that we've just discussed, what are the other issues that need to be addressed to deal with this -- this problem?
MURPHY: Well, I mean, remember, this is a problem that happens every day in our cities. And so we have got to invest in our cities. When you talk to the victims of urban gun violence, they want gun laws changed, but they actually want services for their kids, so that there's not a sense of hopelessness that drives many kids into very at-risk and dangerous behaviors.
So the president's domestic agenda includes significant money, $5 billion, for urban anti-gun violence initiatives, violence interruption programs. And I think we've got to remember that gun laws is a big part of the solution, but we also have to have, in these poorer neighborhoods, services wrapped around kids and families that need them.
KARL: All right. Senator Murphy, sounds like at least there are some encouraging signs that this time could be different, based on your discussion with Republicans. Thank you for joining us.
MURPHY: Thank you.
KARL: Up next, we'll take a look at the influence of the NRA on the debate over gun violence. Republican Adam Kinzinger, whose NRA rating went from an A to an F, joins us next. We're back in 60 seconds.
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: As a nation we have to ask, when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?
Why do we keep letting this happen?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): It's a lot easier to moralize about guns and to shriek about those you disagree with politically. But it's never been about guns.
KARL: President Biden and Senator Ted Cruz in a debate over gun violence that has become all too familiar. One Republican who has changed his position on guns is Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He joins us now.
Congressman Kinzinger, let me just ask you straight up. We heard from Senator Murphy that he thinks that something different may be happening this time, that he has had far more encouraging conversations with Republicans now than even after Newtown. What's your sense?
I mean, you're obviously willing to deal on this, but do you think tjhat something will get done?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): It does seem that way. I mean, it's -- first off, I want to commend Chris for one specific thing. I've known him since he served in the House. It is easy in this business to start throwing out things that Republicans aren't going to do and just make it a campaign issue for November. I think he is really -- and it doesn't mean it's not going to continue to be a campaign issue. But he is really focusing on "What can I actually do at this moment?" He gets a lot of credit for that. That's a hard thing. It's a hard thing to do.
So I do think we're on the track to maybe getting something. It's not -- look, I mean, the reality is, I actually think that raising -- if we can't get it done, Chris is right not to focus on it now. But I think that raising the age of gun purchase to 21 is a no-brainer.
If you look at the Parkland Shooting, you look at Buffalo, you look at this shooting, these are people under the age of 21. We know that the human brain develops and matures a lot between the age of 18 and 21. We just raised without really so much as a blink the age of purchasing cigarettes federally to 21. I think we need to get there eventually.
But I commend Chris (ph) on focusing on what is possible now. That’s important.
KARL: Well, I mean, that -- the issue of raising the age -- I mean, it is remarkable to look back at all of these shootings and see how many of them are done by individuals, men -- young men 18 to 21. I mean, even Newtown. At Newtown, the shooter was 20, his mother actually got him the gun, but many of them are bought legally as 18, 19, or 20 year olds.
But let me ask you about your journey on this, because you -- you were once an A-rating from the NRA, you owned an AR-15. Do you still own an AR-15?
KINZINGER: I do, yes.
KARL: So help me understand, how did you -- how did you go from being somebody that was kind of right in line with the gun lobby on this to somebody who thinks it time to change these laws?
KINZINGER: Look, it's a journey of, you know, getting sick of seeing the mass shootings, you know, being a strong -- look, I’m a strong defender of the second amendment. And one of the things I believe that for some reason is a very rare thing is that as a person that appreciates and believes in the second amendment, we have to be the ones putting forward reasonable solutions to gun violence.
You know, the reaction of my colleagues of the NRA to say, hey, if you want to come and take my guns -- so I’m going to walk around, I’m going to go into the Michigan State Capitol with my AR because I can -- by the way, can I make a point that open carry, especially with ARs, is one of the more insane things. Maybe out West it works fine. I’m not going to go after it there.
But to walk into the State Capitol of Michigan with a gun because it makes you feel tough, these are the kinds of things that second amendment supporters are doing no favors to defend that second amendment in the next generation
So for me, I woke up the morning after Vegas -- the Vegas shooting, I had shot a bump stock before, I heard the audio from that shooting, I knew that was a bump stock and I called for banning bump stocks -- which, by the way, was ultimately done and because of that, the NRA basically said, Kinzinger is a rhino or whatever their language was, and I realized especially then, the only thing the NRA cares about is raising money on your back -- they don’t really give a lot of money to people. They can get people upset. And they’re competing with another group called Gun Owners of America.
You think the NRA is crazy, look at the Gun Owners of America. These are the ones that believe that there should be zero restrictions on owning guns. And now NRA has to compete with this group for crazy because that’s where they get their money from.
The NRA has become -- it’s gone from defending rights of gun owners, it has become a grifting scam. And all you have to do is look at the last few years of the grifting scam of the NRA to know that that's true.
KARL: The Gun Owners of America, I remember covering them after the Oklahoma City Bombing. They’re outright in support of militia movement in the country.
But the NRA itself is, you know -- has had huge issues with its budget, internal scandals, is not the force it once was, but does seem -- the issue seems to still have a hold on Republicans -- I mean, as much as ever now.
KINZINGER: Well, I think -- yes, I -- look, I think the right to keep and bear arms is important to Republicans. It is to me too. But for some reason we’ve got locked in this position of what are things where we can make a difference?
You were mentioning earlier Florida, raising the age of buying guns to 21, the red flag laws, this is Florida, right, this is Rick Scott, this is Ron DeSantis' state, there was no blowback. Like, let's do that kind of stuff now, because, look, yes, it's ultimately a mental health issue.
Somebody has to make a decision to pull a trigger. But can an 18-year-old buy an assault rifle the day of his birthday with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, then buy a second one, make it clear he wants to shoot up an elementary school, and still kill 20-some people with 150 cops standing around? Obviously yes. So what are the things we can do to stop and mitigate that?
This is -- Jonathan, you know as well as I do, I talk to people overseas all the time in my job, this is embarrassing, they look at the United States and say, what's going on? Like, we could have this rich tradition of kind of individualism and gun rights; you know, I’m a big staunch advocate of concealed carry if you’re trained and you know what you’re doing. But this kind of Wild West, I’m going to carry a gun around because it looks cool, come and take the gun out of my cold-dead hands attitude -- first off, you’re not really doing anything to defend your rights with the next generation.
Secondly, you’re just -- you’re playing tough camp out there, while real people and innocent people are dying.
KARL: So, just before you go, the AR-15, which as you said, you used -- you own an AR-15. Las Vegas, it was an AR-15. The Pulse Nightclub, Sandy Hook, Uvalde -- so many of these are with that weapon.
What do you say to Chris Murphy who says the AR-15 should be banned, straight up banned? What do you say still own one?
KINZINGER: I say that I'd love to get in a conversation with him about it in a good way because I’ll tell you where I’d come on this, I think we need to have this real discussion and I don't mean that as politicians saves (ph), so they can kick to the next question.
I think if there's a way to maybe when it comes to ARs, you know, if there's a special license you need to own one. Are there ways that we can ensure that those that own them are the ones -- look, again, we all have to admit and know 99.9 percent of AR owners aren’t walking in and having mass shootings. Is there a way to differentiate and make a distinction there?
KINZINGER: I’m definitely ready to engage in that conversation. And maybe that ultimately includes not selling them anymore. That’s fine because to me, again, I’m focused on saving life now.
At the same time, what's the first thing we can do that I think will mitigate this problem? Let’s raise the age to 21. And I think, look at the AR discussion as kind of the short and near and far, and also far-term target.
KINZINGER: Right now, this is insane and there’s things we can do to stop it.
KARL: Congressman Kinzinger, let me also say, I know you're an Iraq war veteran, member of the Air National Guard, Memorial Day weekend, thank you for joining us on this -- on this Memorial Day weekend. Really appreciate it. Thank you for your service.
KINZINGER: You bet. Thank you. KARL: Thank you.
We’ll have more on the debate over gun safety when we come back. Plus, two of Donald Trump's top Republican targets successfully fended off primary challengers on Tuesday. Is the former president still the GOP kingmaker? Our roundtable is next.
KARL: The roundtable is here and ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There is no rhino in America who has thrown in her lot with the radical left more than Liz Cheney. She is terrible. She has gone crazy.
And it's why in two months from now the people of Wyoming are going to tell her, Liz, you're fired! Get out of here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Former President Donald Trump, last night, in Casper, Wyoming, taking on Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and not exactly telling the truth. While Cheney has come out forcefully against what Trump did on January 6th, she continues to have one of the most conservative voting records in Congress, and there's no evidence that she's gone crazy.
Here to discuss that and more, the editor of "National Review,” Ramesh Ponnuru, former DNC chair Donna Brazile, "New York Times" national political correspondent and co-author of "The New York Times" bestseller "This Will Not Pass," Jonathan Martin, and ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott.
We're going to get to Trump and the midterms and everything else. But, Donna, first, after this discussion we've just had with Kinzinger and Murphy, the tragedy in Uvalde coming right after the tragedy in Buffalo, what is your sense? Do you agree with the slight note of optimism that something might be done this time?
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm a woman of strong faith, tremendous courage, but most importantly, hope. Hope that when you see what we have witnessed personally, the tragedy in Buffalo, I'm not optimistic. You know why? Because I've seen these cowards walk away before. And I'm going to call them cowards. I've seen lawmakers stop, right when it's time to act, and say, well, you know what, we'll wait. Or they'll accuse Democrats of politicizing it. And we're not politicizing anything, we're trying to stop the murder of innocent people, period. Children.
You know, I love politicians when they can come on TV and give us all of the stuff that they plan to do, but why are not acting right now? Why are you waiting for another mass shooting? And how many mass shootings do we need in the state of Texas? For God's sake, they've had more than most states. And it's horrific.
I got to tell you, I went to a major retailer. You know, I'm a shopper. I saw a cop yesterday. And, you know, I was so -- I said, thank you for your service. I always say, thank you for your service.
KARL: A police officer, indeed, yes.
BRAZILE: Yeah, a police officer. But when I walked out, I just wanted to hug him. And then I said, "You know what, I'm going to say something to him."
I say, "Sir, I was raised by a dad who served in the military. He always told us as children, 'Say thank you.'" I said, "Man, I want to hug you. Because you're protecting me going to the store."
That young man was casing the joint out, figuring out where black people were shopping. And yesterday I felt that vulnerability.
So, no, I don't feel that they're going to act. We need more than cowards. We need leadership. We need to take these guns out of the hands of people who have no right because they're unstable, and we need to act now.
KARL: But -- but, Jonathan, the NRA, which has been this, you know, larger than life, you know, force...
JONATHAN MARTIN, CO-AUTHOR, "THIS WILL NOT PASS": Right.
KARL: ... you know, don't cross the NRA, if you're -- if you're a Republican, and in some cases if you're a Democrat. But the NRA's a shadow of its former self.
MARTIN: Yeah, the NRA is not what it used to be. It does not have the clout, necessarily, anymore, as a group. But the NRA isn't the issue here. The issue is the perceived strength of gun owners in Republican primaries and collectively, as a force, what they could do in a fairly small pool of voters, when they act together.
And that strikes fear in the heart of a lot of GOP politicians. And I think that's the issue here. It's the polarization that is the larger issue that's driving this debate. It's not the donations or the endorsements of one group anymore; it's our politics today, which is, sort of, locked in this red and blue dynamic. And I think that's what's driving this issue.
I will say, though, I'm told that there's going to be Zoom meetings this week. Congress is now in recess. But there's going to be Zoom meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week between lawmakers in the Senate, Democrat and Republican, to try to come up with some incremental solution on this issue.
I thought it was so telling last week that Chuck Schumer did not schedule a vote. That to me was the big reveal last week. There was no show vote. There was no message vote. Because Schumer wanted to give Murphy a few days, or a few weeks, to try to get some kind of a small-bore compromise on guns.
KARL: And, Rachel, you were -- you were in Houston at the NRA convention...
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah.
KARL: You've been covering the debate in Congress. But I think Kinzinger pointed to something important that picks up right on what Jonathan just said. Murphy, in that interview, here on "This Week," was restrained in terms of how he went after Republicans, didn't really do so, and was -- made it very clear that he is willing to take a half-measure or a quarter-measure to get something done.
SCOTT: And I thought that...
KARL: That's different, isn't it?
SCOTT: That was so notable, Jon. Because, when you were asking him about why not just go and raise the legal age limit to purchase a gun, you saw him, kind of, hesitate there, right?
SCOTT: Because I think he knows that there may not be enough Republican support for that. And I think Democrats have reached the point that says, "Let's just figure out something to do, even if it's something that they call modest like these two background check bills that have already cleared the house, or some measure of a red flag law. Why don't we just look at that?"
But I will say this, too, after being on the ground at the NRA convention and talking to gun owners on the floor, they were telling me they support some of these measures; they support background checks for gun sales; they support even, maybe, raising the age of the -- of when you can purchase a gun. One woman told me no 18-year-old should be able to buy a weapon that powerful.
KARL: So, Ramesh, did you read anything into the NRA convention in Houston and who didn't got?
Cornyn pulled out. Abbott pulled out. The lieutenant governor, Patrick, pulled out. What did...
RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW”: Well, Abbott sent a message.
KARL: Yeah, he did. He'd have a videotaped message.
PONNURU: And I think -- I don't think that the people at the NRA convention begrudged him going to Uvalde instead of going to the convention.
I -- I think that what Jonathan was saying is right, though. The point has never been -- people have always exaggerated the power of the NRA on this issue. What has really made the difference in the politics of guns is that supporters of gun rights are much more intense than opponents. They are much more likely to vote on the issue. There are a lot of soft supporters of things like -- like bans on assault weapons. And that's why those polls that often show strong support for some of those measures never seem to translate into action.
But I do think we are seeing a different situation right now. I think Senator Murphy is coming at this in a different way than we've seen in previous negotiations. And I think we're focusing on a slightly different set of issues, where there might be more potential to generate some consensus.
So, for example, red flag laws are one of the things that Speaker Pelosi has talked about. I don't know that it makes sense to do that at the federal level, in part because I think we should try and see what works in different states, because there's different ways you can try and structure those sorts of laws. But I think that is a more hopeful beginning than something that is focused on what gun owners see as an attack on gun culture. Raising the age, I think, is another one, because it is a more targeted response than, say, going after the most popular rifle in the United States.
BRAZILE: An AR-15. You know what an assault weapon is, you know what it’s designed to do. I grew up in a household, in a neighborhood full of weapons. And the only time they actually used the weapons, it was not to kill a creature or some water moccasin out in the back. They used it during the celebrations, you know, New Year’s Day.
BRAZILE: My father was trained to use weapons. If we're not talking about training, if we're not talking about banning some of these assault weapons-- I mean, you go out on your 18th birthday -- I remember what I did on my 18th birthday, unfortunately I'm not going to tell you on television because God knows I still -- I'm still doing it.
MARTIN: Right. Good for you.
BRAZILE: But I can tell you this much, I don't anybody in my family who went out on their 18th birthday and bought an AR-15. I don’t know anybody in my family who went out and bought 400 rounds of ammunition. And then went out and bought another one. Come on. We’ve got to have a conversation.
KARL: Okay, I want to do a quick flashback to what happened after Parkland when there was a different president in The White House who had this to say. This was 2019.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don’t know. So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill.
UNKNOWN MALE: We didn't address it, Mr. President. Look, I think --
TRUMP: You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I --
KARL: I mean --
MARTIN: It's classic Trump, Jon, where he sort of blurts out a widely accepted verity in Washington that just happened to sort of scorch his own party in that moment. But I think right there what you're seeing is, this sort of deeper red and blue in American politics, I think you were around to cover some of the 1990s, early 2000s votes on guns, you had conservatives Democrats opposing measures and more liberal Republicans voting for gun control measures. It was a much more heterodox political moment where you had more diversity within the parties. That just isn’t the case anymore.
The book you mentioned earlier that we have out now, there’s a reason why it’s called “This Will Not Pass.” We are stuck in -- sort of locked in this extraordinary polarized moment politically and it’s very tough to get out of.
If we do see 10 Republicans vote for the bill that Murphy was talking about, whatever small board (ph) bill that is, I guarantee you, those 10 Republicans are going to be folks who are retiring either this year, in 2024 or 2026 because they don't want to be voting for this kind of bill and be on a primary ballot ever again.
Mark my words, if there are 10, at least 8 of those 10 will not -- will not run for office again.
KARL: Do you think there will be 10, (inaudible)?
MARTIN: I think it’s possible. If you watch Murphy today and if you see what McConnell has done to deputize John Cohen on this issue, there's clearly an opening to do something incremental. And I think Murphy is trying to convince Schumer hold back, hold back, don't call a vote yet to jam Republicans, let's see if we can get something across the line first. But again, he’s got to find people in the GOP Caucus who probably are not going to be on the ballot again.
KARL: Okay --
MARTIN: -- everything.
KARL: I want to turn to these primaries and Rachel, the Georgia primary, which has been overshadowed of course by all of this, was a significant moment, wasn't it? These were two of Donald Trump's top targets, the governor, Brian Kemp, and the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, Trump did everything in his power to defeat both of these men and they both won their Republican primaries.
SCOTT: Yes, and Trump, you know, has endorsed a lot of candidates but he hasn't given a lot of money in some of these races and poured $2.5 million working to back up --
KARL: -- when Trump spends money, that’s --
BRAZILE: That’s a sign.
SCOTT: There is no denying it. This was a major defeat for the former president. And I think it tells you that in Georgia, some voters that you can't just start talking about false claims about the 2020 election. We want to move forward.
But also I think that it's hard to say that this is a party that is departing from the former president. And when you look at the types of candidates that are running across the country, in many ways this is a party that has moved closer to Trump and Trumpism. And Trump has had a lasting effect on the GOP Party.
KARL: Ramesh, what’s your sense? I mean, first of all, do you think -- did the events in Georgia make you think Trump is either more or less likely to run for president himself?
PONNURU: I think we have to see what the next round of primaries and the round after that say about the candidates that he's supporting. What I think we're seeing right now is most of his candidates, with some exceptions, but mostly they're getting about a third of the electorate in different primaries.
KARL: There seems to be locked in (ph) -- you get a Trump endorsement, you got 30 percent --
KARL: Between 30 and 40.
PONNURU: And sometimes that’s --
KARL: -- Mo Brooks was at 29. Although Mo, you know, he kind of took back the endorsement. So --
PONNURU: Right. He actually did better after the endorsement was taken back.
But in Ohio, for example, that was enough for --
KARL: JD --
PONNURU: -- JD Vance to win the Senate primary for the Republicans there. And of course, not all of that 30 percent is just the Trump effect, presumably some of these candidates would have had support without him. But he’s giving 10, 15 points to these candidates. So, that is substantial, right?
PONNURU: There is nobody else in Republican politics who has that kind of sway, whose endorsement matters that much.
So, he’s a factor. But I think that he is -- he's ebbing a little bit each month.
MARTIN: Sure is. And, Jon, I mean to say, the Brian Kemp model is important in Georgia because it's not the Liz Cheney model. Brian Kemp never publicly confronted Donald Trump. He just bit his tongue and ignored Trump and didn’t -- did not bait the bear, if you will.
And I think -- as we capture in our book, Alex Burns and I capture in our book, there's three models basically now for the GOP. There’s the Liz Cheney ballot, and she’ll be in the ballot in August, which is open war with Donald Trump. Take him on, denounce him as unfit for office, all right?
Then, there's the Mitch McConnell, which is what Brian Kemp did --
MARTIN: --which is just go silent. Hope Trump loses altitude, to borrow a phrase that McConnell used all the time, and hope he fades away.
And then, there's the Kevin McCarthy model, which we chronicle at great length in the book, Jon --
MARTIN: -- which is you go back to Trump's open arms and you do a full embrace of the Trump himself and the Trump version of the GOP. That's basically --
KARL: The tapes that you have that, you know, that showed that he was in private much -- at a much different tone.
But, you know, I mean, McCarthy, though, he was out -- he spoke at the rally last night in Casper via tape --
MARTIN: And he got some boos.
KARL: And he got boos.
MARTIN: Because people in that audience heard the audiotapes that we have from our book which does capture the Kevin McCarthy who is actually the real Kevin McCarthy, which is somebody who like most GOP members of Congress wants to move on from Trump, believes he's basically is a headache for their party but will never dare say so in public.
But that private dimension, though, is what sort of captures the GOP leadership today, never can I recall in modern history has there been such a gap between the leaders of the party and the grassroots of a party, that when it comes to today's GOP and Donald Trump.
BRAZILE: You know, elections are about to future and while the Democrats are sitting around trying to figure out how to control inflation, how to, you know, lower the cost of prescription medication and how to relieve students of this awful debt, Republicans are relitigating 2020. That’s all we have to say.
KARL: All right. On that note, we will be back. That's it for the roundtable.
More from the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, is next. Please stay with us
KARL: Up next, a tribute to those who tragically lost their lives in Uvalde, Texas, last week. Lives we should never forget.
KARL: That's all for us today. We leave you this morning with a tribute to the 21 lives lost in Uvalde, Texas.
ON SCREEN TEXT: Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10.
Alithia Ramirez, 10.
Amerie Jo Garza, 10.
Annabell Rodriguez, 10.
Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10.
Ellie Garcia, 9.
Eva Mireles, 44.
Irma Garcia, 48.
Jacklyn Jaylen Cazares, 10.
Jailah Nicole Silguero, 11.
Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, 10.
Jose Flores, 10
Layla Salazar, 11.
Maite Rodriguez, 10.
Makenna Lee Elrod, 10.
Maranda Mathis, 11.
Nevaeh Bravo, 10.
Rojelio Torres, 10.
Tess Mata, 10.
Uziyah Garcia, 10.
Xavier James Lopez, 10.