'This Week' Transcript 5-30-21: Secretary Pete Buttigieg & CIA Director William Burns

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, May 30.

ByABC News
May 30, 2021, 9:29 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 30, 2021 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 VIDEOTAPE)

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice-over): America on the move, COVID cases falling to the lowest point in nearly a year, holiday travel surging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leisure travel domestically for United Airlines is higher than it was pre-pandemic.

RADDATZ: And, as travel takes off, so is the debate about planes, trains and roadways, the GOP countering Biden's infrastructure proposal.

We will cover it all this morning with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Plus, the powerhouse roundtable takes on Texas' sweeping bill set to restrict voting.

And new this morning: From massive cyber-hacking to the mysterious ailment hitting our spies and diplomats, are the Russians to blame? Former NSA Director General Keith Alexander joins our panel of experts.

Plus:

(on camera): Military service. All three of you served. Why was that so important?

(voice-over): Three brothers served. A sole survivor remains.

(on camera): Did you go through a period where: Why us?

(voice-over): One family's extraordinary sacrifice.

BEAU WISE, CO-AUTHOR, "THREE WISE MEN": He was invincible, in my mind.

RADDATZ: The emotional interview this morning, and new the CIA director on the powerful meaning of these stars.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."

Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week" on this Memorial Day weekend.

It's the unofficial start of summer, and with COVID cases rapidly dropping and over 40 percent of the country now fully vaccinated, travel is roaring back, another big step in a long return to normalcy.

Of course, Memorial Day is, at its core, about remembering those who have served and sacrificed. We will bring you that extraordinary story about a sole survivor.

But we begin with the travel surge on the road and in the air, nearly two million people passing through TSA checkpoints Friday, setting a new pandemic record.

We will talk to Pete Buttigieg momentarily.

But let's first check in with our correspondent Trevor Ault at La Guardia Airport.

Looks crowded there, Trevor.

TREVOR AULT, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It definitely is, Martha. America is certainly getting back on the move once again; 37 million people are estimated to be traveling this Memorial Day weekend.

And we have already seen several pandemic travel records. On Friday, we saw a new record high for gasoline demand. And, on Friday, the TSA screened two million people. That is six times as many as we saw this time last year. In fact, some airlines say their domestic leisure travel numbers have already surpassed what they were in 2019.

Tourist hot spots like Miami Beach and today's Indy 500 are really drawing out the crowds, after a year spent at home. But we still do have a little bit of a ways to go to complete the rebound. Those TSA screening numbers were down about 24 percent compared to 2019.

But airlines are banking on a busy summer. Now, if you were among the many who traveled Thursday and Friday, and you noticed some excessive slowdown for traffic, experts say the worst of it is over, but you will probably still have some added congestion as you make your way home.

It is just one of the symptoms, Martha, of America returning to normal -- Martha.

RADDATZ: Thank you, Trevor.

And, for more, now let's bring in Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Good morning, Mr. Secretary. Great to have you with us this morning.

As we know, more than 37 million people were expected to travel this holiday weekend, more than double the number that traveled this time last year, certainly a good sign of where things stand in the pandemic.

But airline schedules have been reduced dramatically over the past year, for obvious reasons. There have been layoffs, reductions. You can't get a rental car. Were we fully prepared for this travel surge? And what has happened going forward?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, as secretary of transportation, of course, I'm thrilled to see America getting back on the move.

We're not back to normal yet, and we're not out of the woods yet as a country with this pandemic. But we're seeing such progress.

And the real game-changer has been the vaccine, which is why we're continuing, especially in the run-up to July 4, to urge Americans to get that vaccine if you haven't yet and to check on loved ones and others you care about.

As people return, of course, we are coming out of the biggest shocks, perhaps the biggest shock that the modern American transportation system has ever seen in terms of demand, schedules, all of these things changing. And so the system is getting back into gear.

One thing I want to emphasize is, safety, of course, considers to be our top consideration. And a lot of American will be traveling for the first time. That also means, for the first time in a while, maybe encountering flight crews and flight attendants and other transportation workers.

Remember what they have been through, what they have been doing to keep you safe, and make sure to show some appreciation and respect to everybody from a bus driver, operator to a flight attendant to a captain. They have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, their jobs have been in doubt. They are here for your safety, and it's so important to show appreciation for the work that they're doing in this very, very busy holiday weekend.

RADDATZ: And Mr. Secretary, to that point, we're also seeing more violent encounters on plans over federal mask mandates. You mentioned the flight attendants and others, there have really been violent altercations on board. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that he thinks those mandates will stay in effect through the summer but health experts have told us there's really no difference between an airplane or a restaurant or gym where vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks.

Why not institute that same policy on airplanes?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, some of the differences have to do with the physical space, some of them have to do with it being a workplace where in some of these transit and travel situations people don't have a choice.

Of course, the decisions will continue to be on the part of public health authorities and driven by public health considerations. But just remember that the flight crews and other workers you encounter, they’re doing their job. They're following regulations and they're there to keep you safe.

It is absolutely unacceptable to ever mistreat a transportation worker, and of course, there is very serious fines and enforcement around that. It's a matter of safety but it's also a matter of respect. And as we get back and as we're so thankful to get back to the skies, to get back on the road, to get back to loved ones, let's make sure we are doing it in a way that we can all be proud of.

RADDATZ: Let's talk about the infrastructure. You have said you wanted to see major progress by Memorial Day, tomorrow. Republicans unveiled their $928 billion counterproposal this week, calls for about $257 billion in spending, a $1.4 trillion gap from the president's plan.

So is that major progress? Is there a deal to be had? Are there still wide differences?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, there’s certainly been major movement and a lot of good conversations. Look, we started out with a $2.2-plus trillion on the part of the president. Their numbers in terms of new spending were about a tenth of that.

There's been a lot of movement. The president has put a counteroffer on the table that moved by half a trillion dollars. They seem to be embracing the idea that about a trillion is appropriate.

So there's movement in the right direction, but a lot of concerns. Certainly have some concerns about some things that are not in their counteroffer that are really important in terms of speaking to the climate imperative and the climate consequences of our transportation decisions, what we need to do around transit, as well as things like taking care of veteran hospital infrastructure, and other things we really believe we need to do right now.

So between now and when Congress comes back on June 7th, this is not going to be a break for these conversations. The conversations will continue with the president, with members of Congress, and we remain very hopeful that we can get to a good place.

But as the president so often says, inaction is not an option, and we really are facing some serious time pressure as we look to that week following this week when Congress is going to be back in D.C.

RADDATZ: “The Washington Post” is reporting this morning that Republican senators who met with President Biden feel they may have landed on a compromise of $1 trillion over eight years, spread out, and that it could include existing spending plans. Is this a possibility? Is this a possible compromise?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, the devil is often in the details. I know when we talk about existing spending plans -- I want to make a couple of things clear. One, we need to make investments over and above what would have happened anyway. This is a moment for a generational investment in American infrastructure. Otherwise, we’d be going to all this trouble, having all these conversations and doing all this work just to stay in 13th place as a country. I don't think that's what the president wants, and I hope that's not what the Congressional leaders want either.

Now the other issue is this idea that we're hearing about taking money out of what was already committed in terms of the COVID relief dollars, and right now we're seeing -- bipartisan organizations of mayors, counties, cities who are really up in arms about this because they're using those resources, of course, in very important ways.

Remember, the rescue dollars, those went out to cities, to states, to small businesses, rural hospitals, for schools. We don't have to spend those same dollars twice. Let's keep our commitments.

Let's also make sure that we come together in good faith to find revenue that's going to pay for these plans, which by the way the president has. He's put forward a way to do this that doesn't touch the middle class just by having fairer corporate tax rates. And we continue to be interested in what might come forward in terms of other ideas. But haven't yet seen one that, at least in my view, is as responsible as what the president has put forward.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much. Still sounds like you've got a lot work to do. Thanks for joining us this morning, Mr. Secretary.

While the administration grapples with domestic challenges, new and alarming reports on suspected threats from Russia have emerged, and all of it comes as President Biden and Putin officially announced a meeting in Geneva next month.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ (voice-over): This week, the White House acknowledging that hackers infiltrated the email system of the U.S. development agency USAID, sending out genuine looking emails to more than 7,000 accounts across 350 organizations, human rights groups, nonprofits, some of the Kremlin's most vocal critics.

Microsoft identified the hack and said, Nobelium was responsible, the same Russian-based group behind the SolarWinds attack. That massive hack, the full extent of the damage still unknown, stretched deep into the email systems of numerous federal government agencies, including the Treasury and Pentagon.

The Russian government denied responsibility for any of these attacks.

ANNE NEUBERGER, DNSA, CYBER AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY: This isn't the only case of malicious cyber activity of likely Russian origin. This is a sophisticated actor who did their best to hide their tracks.

RADDATZ: Cyberattacks are just one area of suspected Russian activity. The National Security Council now determined to find out who and what is responsible for those more than 100 reported cases of so-called Havana syndrome. The mysterious and serious health incidents that first affected Americans in Cuba now reaching U.S. spies, diplomats and other personnel around the globe.

Former CIA Marc Polymeropoulos says Russia must be behind it. He became dangerously ill during a trip to Moscow in 2017 with debilitating symptoms that have plagued him ever since.

MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, FRM. CIA OPERATIVE: I woke up in the middle of the night with an incredible case of vertigo. The room was spinning. I’ve had splitting headache every day for three years. I’ve had a splitting headache, a migraine headache in the back of my head. It's a headache that never goes away.

RADDATZ: In an internal cable, the State Department urging employees worldwide to be on the lookout for those crippling symptoms -- headaches, loss of vision, cognitive defects and more. The National Academies of Science’s report conducted in December found the injuries were consistent with directed microwave radiation.

POLYMEROPOULOS: For the first time, it gave a very plausible explanation to what happened, which is a directed energy attack. We have something, you know, concrete that says what happened to us.

RADDATZ: U.S. officials say they are not certain of the cause, and can't say for certain Russia was involved, but acknowledge even domestic incidents are now under investigation. At least two of them reportedly occurred in the Washington area, one just feet from the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: So let's bring in the experts on this.

General Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency, and the first commander to lead U.S. Cyber Command; Niloofar Howe, cybersecurity fellow at the “New America” think tank; And ABC contributor Tom Bossert who served as homeland security adviser to President Trump.

Welcome to all of you.

General Alexander, I want to start with you, and I want to start with those cyberattacks.

Americans realize how serious these cyberattacks can be with the Colonial Pipeline. Of course, that was a ransomware attack, and they wanted money. But the SolarWinds and now the USAID attacks are different, but so, so serious.

What are the hackers after?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, FRM. NSA DIR.: I think the Russian hackers are clearly after gaining intelligence on our country, on what the administration is doing, what President Biden is thinking, and what's coming up against Russia as they prepare I think for the upcoming talks between President Biden and Putin. They're stealing information.

And, you know, it's interesting, Martha. This is more blatant than I’ve seen in my career. They're going after this in the SolarWinds, and I think 18,000 companies and now, as you said, 7,000 more with this last USAID attack, and the Colonial Pipeline, even though they claim that was from hackers. I believe they're associated somehow.

They're sending a message and they're doing it blatantly. And they're going after our intelligence system and they're saying, “We can do this”. We've got to fix it.

RADDATZ: And it obviously did expose our vulnerabilities. So how do you fix it?

ALEXANDER: I think that's -- I like what President Biden put in the executive order. It's public/private partnership. We have to build this solution together. The government can't do it by itself. You see most of the attacks are going against the commercial sector. The government can't see them. We need to create a radar picture between the public and private sector that shows attacks in time to prevent them, not talk about them after the breach, but prevent the attacks.

So we need to work this together as a team. This is part of our future, and we've got the get good at it, and we've got to do it quickly. Both Russia and China are challenging us in this space, and it's shown that we're not ready. I think the executive order hit some part of it. We have to go faster.

My experience, the private sector is ready. They're pushing forward. So this is where Congress and the administration, the government and the private sector can really help fix this problem. And we need to do it.

RADDATZ: And -- and -- and, Niloofar, I want to ask you, I know you've worked with several government agencies and you testified before Congress about the SolarWinds attack and said there is simply no unifying governmental organization looking at future vulnerabilities. You heard what General Alexander said. What do you think has to happen?

NILOOFAR HOWE, SNR. FELLOW, NEW AMERICA: Well, Martha, for anyone who is still asleep at the wheel, these attacks are a wakeup call, and they're a wakeup call about the new normal that we live in, which is strategic competition in cyberspace is happening every single day. Whether it's effective (ph) defense secrets, intellectual property, personal, identifiable information, for example, against political dissidents and activists, and it's only going to escalate over time.

And the approach we've had, which is this Whack-a-Mole approach of dealing with issues as they arise simply doesn't scale to the scope of the problem. We have adversaries who are creative, they're agile, they're bold, they are evading our best defenses, they're using our laws and regulations against us to launch these attacks. So we need to take a different perspective. WE need to have, as the general said, a public/private partnership, an organization that's looking over the ridgeline to identify the future of global threats, the future risk environment and the vulnerabilities that we face so that we can develop the defenses for those.

And we have great examples. I mean if you look to World War II and Tuxedo Park, where -- where Alfred Loomis pulled together the best and the brightest to solve the hardest, technical problems and arguably change the course of the war, it has to be public/private, it has to be the best and the brightest, and it has to be strategic, not tactical.

RADDATZ: But, Tom, one of the problems there is, is that public/private, you're -- you're protecting government vulnerabilities and -- and these companies, Colonial Pipeline, don't some companies just look and say, you know, it costs a lot of money to protect my system or to upgrade my system, you know, what's $5 million if I have to pay a ransom?

TOM BOSSERT, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Even worse, some companies then view it as a cost of doing business when they do get hit. They pay the ransom and they come back online.

So there's a number of things I'd like to change about the way we look at it, including in that question, are we just protecting individual companies, critical infrastructure or, as I see it, is the United States in a position to do something to stop the adversary? So if you get closer to the source, you end up with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran behind many of these cyberattacks. As you get farther on the end points, you get 3 trillion end points that we have to protect every day. So it's a very difficult challenge.

If everyone's in this alone, though, individually, against a Russian, Chinese and increasingly combined Russian and Chinese effort, we're going to fail every time. Whether it's an individual government agency or a pipeline operator, There's got to be a collective defense that's generally -- General Alexander's point of view. So I agree. But public/private partnership suggests that we're going to partner to protect those end points. I think we have to do something far more direct. And I would add to the general's answer, I think Russia's doing more than just collecting intelligence. At this point there's evidence that they are carrying out their strategic intent to reduce the U.S. in its influence and power. They're trying to do things to destabilize us. And destabilizing big companies like Microsoft is just one way.

RADDATZ: And -- and I want to move on to that so-called Havana syndrome.

General Alexander, let me -- let me ask you quickly about that. "The New Yorker" had an excellent investigation this week that mentioned those directed energy devices, saying the working hypothesis is that agents of the GRU, the Russian military's intelligence service, have been aiming microwave radiation devices at U.S. officials to collect intelligence from their computers and cell phones and that these devices can cause serious harm to the people they target.

Does that make sense to you?

ALEXANDER: Yes, it does. And you've seen that in what's called the Havana syndrome. We've seen that. We're proven that. And they've done it before. And not just against our country, but in the same thing it talked about Canada and others. And I think it's time --

RADDATZ: It's an incredibly bold move, though, an incredibly bold move. What do we do about that? How do you punish them (INAUDIBLE)?

ALEXANDER: Well, yes. So it's the same thing as cyber, when you think about it, how do you push back? You've got to give the president and the administration the tools, and they have those, to look at this from a diplomatic, economic, military, across the whole spectrum. Covert and overt, what are they going to do?

And I think the president has said in a number of meetings -- I've been with him on some of those when he was vice president. They do it right. They'll get the National Security Council together and say, "OK, what message are we going to send back, and how do we do this in the best interests of this nation?"

So I think that will be done right. But it does need to be push back, Martha. You've hit on a key point. This is egregious. This is blatant. And as Tom said, they're telling us, "Look, we don't care. We're going to keep doing this. We'll deny it publicly, and we're going to keep doing it."

RADDATZ: And I want to -- thank you -- thank you, General.

I want to, and very quickly, hear from the two of you. Tom, what does he do at the summit?

BOSSERT: My advice, he's got to take a position on Nord Stream 2. He's got to prevent Russia from breaking up the European Union. And he's got to do it from a position of strength, meaning he lays out a path in which we apply meaningful sanctions to their oil revenues, Russia's, and to their sovereign wealth.

RADDATZ: Nilo?

HOWE: Look, messages don't work with Putin. Actions do. We have to take action. We have a really good example of how action works in protecting the 2018 midterm elections and shutting down Russian influence operations, taking a whole-of-government approach, with the FBI authorities working with the private sector, with DHS and its mandate to protect elections, with Cyber Command and its ability to operate overseas.

So we need to take action. It's not just about delivering those messages. And there are three things we can do today, including, by the way, regulating cryptocurrency becomes so important if we want to stop ransomware, which is a scourge right now in cyberspace.

RADDATZ: Thanks to all of you. It was a really fascinating discussion.

Our powerhouse roundtable, Nate Silver, plus CIA Director Bill Burns' first Sunday interview since taking office, all ahead this Memorial Day weekend. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: The roundtable is all here, ready to go. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): On the January 6 incident, we all saw what happened. We were witnesses. We were under assault by the insurrection.

If we set up this commission, I think the basic goal of our Democratic friends is to keep relitigating in public what happened back on January 6, rather than getting to a quick solution.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This vote has made it official. Donald Trump's big lie has now fully enveloped the Republican Party. Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they're afraid of Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Just six Republicans crossed party lines, short of the 10 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Let's talk about that with our roundtable, chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl, Politico White House correspondent Laura Barrón-López, the weekend host of NPR's "All Things Considered," Michel Martin, and our senior national correspondent, Terry Moran.

Great to see all of you today.

And, Jon, I want to start with you on that commission.

Was it just a foregone conclusion once President Trump said he didn't want it and leadership said they didn't want it?

KARL: Look, Mitch McConnell didn't want to have an investigation that was going to drag into the following years.

This one actually had a deadline of the end of the year. And there is still going to be an investigation, Martha. In fact, there already are congressional hearings. There are congressional committees looking into this. And you know that Nancy Pelosi is all but certain to start a special committee on this, just like the Republicans did on Benghazi.

The key difference here is that that will be partisan-led. This would have been something that would have been an equal -- had an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, a chair and a vice chair, a Republican and Democrat, and would have had the force of something that could not be seen through a partisan lens.

We no longer have that. And there are still questions. There are still questions. What was Donald Trump doing during those hours? I still don't have a sense of what the delay in the National Guard was all about. There are still questions. Those questions will still be looked at.

RADDATZ: And, Terry, Republicans, as Jon mentioned, are calling it a real partisan ploy. Mitch McConnell clearly doesn't want this affecting the midterms.

Lisa Murkowski, however, strongly commended -- condemned it, saying it was there for short-term political gain, saying: "Is that really what this is about? Is everything just one election cycle after another?"

MORAN: Yes, I think...

RADDATZ: Is that what's happening?

MORAN: I think it's bigger than that.

And with respect, I think Senator Murkowski has an outdated understanding of the Republican Party and of our politics. The Republican Party isn't very Republican, and it's not really a party, right? It's a nationalist Trumpist movement right now.

Parties are static. They operate within a received set of laws and traditions. They compete for voter support to enact policy preferences. Movements move.

And nationalist movements move to attack the establishment in their own party first and then everywhere else. And anything that gets in the way must be attacked as well.

So, when democratic laws and traditions and values get in the way and the basic arithmetic of democracy, if the other guy gets more votes, you lose, they attack that too. And that's what's happening.

RADDATZ: And, Laura, as Jon mentioned, there will be other investigations. There will be.

But how do you see that going? Clearly, it will be seen as partisanship by the Republicans.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ:: Well, as Jon said, Pelosi is pretty much all but certain to create the select committee. She will need the support of the majority of her caucus. She's likely to get it.

And then that committee is going to give Democrats subpoena power. They're going to be able to subpoena whoever they want. And Republicans will try to characterize it as a partisan endeavor. But, as we all know, they just voted down the independent commission that would have allowed them to appoint half of the panel.

It would have been outside experts. And so the reason that they blocked that, as Terry was mentioning, is because they're worried about 2022. They're worried about their primaries, being primaried by people that Trump is going to support, and the fact that they feel that they have to pledge loyalty to Trump.

But, as you asked earlier...

RADDATZ: Should Lisa Murkowski be worried about 2022?

(LAUGHTER)

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ:: Well, Lisa Murkowski is a bit of a unique situation in Alaska. She won as a write-in in the past.

But that doesn't mean she shouldn't be worried. She definitely will probably be facing some primary challenges.

RADDATZ: And, Michel, this comes as Texas is drafting this bill to make voting in the state far more different -- far more difficult.

Several Republican states are doing the same thing. And this is all around, it seems, Donald Trump's election lie, that they want -- that they want to look at those people and say, oh, look, look, no, we're doing it differently this time.

MARTIN: I want to connect this to your story which you raised earlier which is about the January 6th Commission, because yeah, you can argue that sure, president -- the former president is going to have his sights on Lisa Murkowski and anybody who voted for impeachment, anybody who sort of opposed him. But I don’t know that the other folks who voted to vote this down should sit easy either, because statewide races are higher visibility. And while some people -- you know, you can't gerrymander the state.

And while some people may say sure, it's in their short-term interest to stick with Trump, the fact is other people -- some people do believe in norms and standards and certain values.

I was looking at a “Military Times” poll in August of 2020. This was taken right before the conventions and they pointed out that at the beginning of Trump's presidency, 46 percent of troops had a favorable impression of him, and at the end, by four years later in 2020, it had completely flipped. Nearly 50 percent had an unfavorable view of Trump, 38 percent had a favorable view, and among officer, it was even more pronounced. A majority of those surveyed had an unfavorable view.

Now, why do I raise this? Because this is our nation's warriors. We all know that tomorrow is Memorial Day. These are people who generally see themselves as nonpolitical, but adhering to a sense of values.

RADDATZ: And generally thought of as more conservative.

MARTIN: Generally thought of as more conservative, generally thought of as a sort of core, a traditional Republican constituency.

And if our nation's warriors believe that they're taking their oath more seriously than elected officials do, these are people who still enjoy the esteem of the public. And while they're not going to come out and sort of campaign for people, the reality of it is that there is a core of people who still think this is wrong, who still care what happens, want to know what happens, and people who are not willing to understand what happened and to take it seriously. I think this could have a long tale. So, I don’t think this is a slam-dunk for people who voted against this.

RADDATZ: Terry, I want to talk about another alarming poll this week showing that nearly one in four Republicans believe in QAnon conspiracy theories. That theory as we all know is that our leaders are all controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

So, what does that say about the Republican Party, and what do they do about it?

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they ride the tiger. That’s what they do about it because one of the intoxications of a nationalist movement is you claim you're the real people, the real Americans. You get to determine the sole legitimate arbiter of the destiny of the nation, and a fact. Remember, they used to call them alternative facts.

But you get to determine the reality because, you know, us around here, we’re not real Americans. We're fake. We're the fake media. We’re the enemy of the people.

You get to determine your own facts and the cognitive dissonance that comes with that, just disappears in the glory of it, in the intoxication of it. That's what happens.

We don't have the language and the concepts of what’s happening in the Republican Party because it's never happened in our country before. It’s happened in countries far a away. It's happening here now. And this is part of it.

In Poland, oh, the Russians shot down that plane with the president. No, they didn't. In the United States, oh, Donald Trump really won that election, Joe Biden -- no, he didn't, but it doesn't matter because the alternative facts have now become the only facts for the Republican Party.

KARL: And here’s the thing, the Republican leadership in Congress knows that this stuff is out of control, is frankly insane. The Republican leadership in Congress knows the election wasn't stolen, knows that Donald Trump's rants about widespread fraud and voting machines and all this is bunk and ridiculous. But they also know that they are this close to taking control.

I mean, we have the narrowest Democratic majority in the House that we have ever seen. Just through redistricting, Republicans will be on the cusp of taking control in 2022. If you would look at the historic trend, they are quite likely to take over control of the House, and possibly the Senate. So they don't want to have these disagreements played out.

So, it’s kind of like you said, ride the tiger, it's not that they believe it. It’s not that they're repeating a lot of it. It’s that they don't want to have the inner family fight.

MARTIN: But what is the track record of democratic governments controlling extremist movements? I mean, how well has that worked out in other countries? Where extremist movements were allowed to flourish because a party or any group of elites thought it was in their interest, and then what happens? Those extremist groups by definition can't be controlled.

So I think, you know, they can ride the tiger, but the tiger has its own ideas.

KARL: The tiger will eat you.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: It happened inside the Trump White House, because you had his aides. Most of the senior people around Donald Trump knew that what he was saying was -- was crazy, but they were like, you know, we’re just -- and then we had January 6th.

MARTIN: But I guess what concerns me about this is, is this isn't just a problem for political parties. It’s a problem for the country. I mean, these conspiracy theories are tearing families apart. I mean, people are unwilling to see -- they're unwilling to get vaccinated because they're believing these conspiracies that there's some chip being implanted in their head which means they're not seeing their families.

Families are being torn apart by this. This is not just a political problem anymore. This has become a cultural problem for the country.

RADDATZ: It really has indeed.

I -- I want to turn to Biden's legislative agenda. And I want to talk about infrastructure. You probably heard Pete Buttigieg talk about that. The Senate Republicans' counteroffer is still really hundreds of billions of dollars away from Biden's plan and includes a very different proposal to pay for it.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ:: Yes, the pay-for that Republicans are posing is to use what they say should be left over funds from the COVID rescue plan that was passed earlier this year. And the Biden administration is saying, those funds are 95 percent allocated. Those funds are pretty much out the door. We -- we don't want to use that. And they haven't said it's a red line, but it really looks like one. And the other red lines that the administration has is that they don't want to increase taxes on those making under $400,000 a year.

So it's difficult to see how in this next week they come together, not only because, as you said, they're so far apart on the top line number of what this infrastructure package is going to be, but also how they're going to pay for it. And a lot of Democrats are pressuring Biden now to just move on, to go the reconciliation route where you only need Democratic support. But Biden, at his core, wants to get a bipartisan deal, and so he and those around him are still trying to figure out a way to do this.

RADDATZ: And, Terry, Biden also released a $6 trillion budget proposal on Friday. It calls for the largest increase in federal spending since World War II. And then we'll talk about the deficit that that would -- is this the time for that? Does that have a prayer?

MORAN: Well, the Republicans have rediscovered their commitment to fiscal probity, which happens whenever a Democrat is president. Trump, before the pandemic, debauched the -- the federal -- the federal budget. It was -- it was completely out of control, passing spending like a drunken sailor, passing tax cuts primarily for the rich without a serious plan to pay for a dime of it. Then the pandemic hit.

But now if you look at -- at polls, polls show that Americans are really -- they really like the idea of universal child care, of child care and pre-k. And -- and a lot of the parts of that agenda they like and they like the idea of taxing rich people in order to get it done. So Biden is -- is kind -- he's kind of like a throwback, right? His -- his bet, as the antidote to this problem that we're talking about, is that if you make pragmatic change the old-fashioned way in people's lives they'll calm down. And so he's negotiating in this way that really doesn't embarrass the other side, that gives him some room to sign on, and, you know, is he going to get a $6 trillion budget? Probably not. But this is really the bet that he's got, that if he does what the American people say they want, and the Republicans come on and get some of the credit, this country will calm down.

RADDATZ: And -- and, Jon, I want to turn to COVID. We talked about COVID this week and travel is up again and -- and the numbers of COVID cases are way down. But a lot of talk this week about the origin of COVID again. Tom Cotton especially and many people in the Trump administration said it originated in the lab in Wuhan, China, not with bats. They're taking a second look at that. Do some people have egg on their face, and why does this matter?

KARL: Well, I mean, look, it matters for the same reason we were talking about the January 6th commission. We should find out what happened. This was one of the greatest crises our country's ever faced. We should know the start -- the world's ever faced. We need to know how it started.

And, yes, I think a lot of people have egg on their face. This was an idea that was first put forward by Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, Donald Trump. And, look, some things may be true even if Donald Trump said them. And there was -- because Trump was saying so much else, it was just out of control. And because he was, you know, making a, frankly, racist appeal, talking about kung-flu, and the China virus, his notion that -- put forward that this may have -- or he said flatly that this came from that lab was widely dismissed. But, actually, there's some real reason -- we don't know. By the way, we still don't know. We absolutely don't know. But now serious people are saying it needs a serious inquiry.

RADDATZ: And -- and, Laura, I want to end with you, we have about 30 seconds. And just thoughts on the upcoming summit and what that will mean for Joe Biden.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ: Well, it's a big deal, right? But this -- they're heading into this summit not necessarily expecting any big agreement on anything. It could be an airing of grievances. And so this is about whether or not they're going to be able to find a cooperation enter on climate change, cooperation on -- on the ongoing warfare in Afghanistan. So --

RADDATZ: And usually those things, not a whole lot gets accomplished.

BARRÓN-LÓPEZ:: Yes.

RADDATZ: It's sort of a meet and greet. So we'll keep our eyes on all that.

Thanks very much to all of you. It's all great to see you in person.

Up next, want to be a millionaire? As more states roll out incentives to boost vaccination rates, Nate Silver gives his take on vaccine lotteries.

Stay with us.

RADDATZ: Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: We wanted to pause this Memorial Day weekend to salute former Senator John Warner, who passed away Tuesday at 94.

Warner devoted his life to the military, first serving in World War II and Korea, later appointed secretary of the Navy, and then faithfully representing Virginia in the Senate for 30 years, where he twice chaired the Armed Services Committee.

We honor his memory this morning. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): It's exciting. And not only is there going to be a millionaire tonight. Not only are we going to have a student who is going to be guaranteed four years of room, board, tuition, everything else at one of our great state universities, but even more important is the number of Ohioans who have gotten vaccinated.

We need to save lives. We need to get Ohio moving forward. The way we do it is through vaccines. This is our ticket out of the pandemic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine pitching his state's vaccine lottery.

They're one of several states turning to cash incentives to encourage residents to get a COVID shot, as vaccination rates fall nationwide. But will it be enough to overcome hesitancy among unvaccinated Americans?

Here's Nate Silver.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATE SILVER, ABC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I'm not much of a lottery guy myself. You're far more likely to find me at the poker table.

But I think this is one of the most creative public health interventions in a long time. And the evidence so far suggests that it's working.

In Ohio, the number of people getting their first vaccine doses bounced up by almost 20 percent within a few days of a lottery being announced, even as the rate declined by around 10 percent nationally.

So, as other states, like New York, Maryland, Kentucky, Colorado, and Oregon, copy Ohio's idea, let's think about why this might be working.

One is that it appeals to people who are risk-takers. Playing the lottery is not ordinarily super rational. Only 50 percent of Mega Millions' ticket revenue goes into the prize pool. You're much better off playing roulette, for example, which returns around 95 percent in the typical American casino.

But, frankly, the types of people who like to take chances may also be running around and not taking very many precautions against COVID. So it's really key to get them vaccinated, even if we need a lottery to do it.

Also, lotteries tend to appeal to demographic groups that are ordinarily more vaccine-hesitant. Around 70 percent of people in their 20s and 30s buy a lottery ticket each year, and their vaccination rates have trailed those of older Americans.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged people are also more likely to play the lottery, including 61 percent of people in the lowest socioeconomic quintile, and they have been hard to reach with vaccines too.

Now, I'm not going to predict when and whether the U.S. will hit herd immunity, but if you're trying to play the odds, every additional vaccination helps.

So, I buy that this is a smart nudge to get our numbers up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Seems that way.

Thanks to Nate for that.

Up next this Memorial Day weekend, the story of one family that paid the ultimate sacrifice twice and our exclusive interview with CIA Director Bill Burns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: On this Memorial Day weekend, a remarkable and heartbreaking story of service and sacrifice. The Wise family from Arkansas had three sons serving in the military in Afghanistan. Within two years, two were killed.

The youngest, Beau Wise, designated a sole survivor and pulled from the battlefield in Afghanistan. Their story told in Beau's memoir, "Three Wise Men."

I sat down with Beau Wise in Washington earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: What was it like growing up a Wise boy?

BEAU WISE, CO-AUTHOR, “THREE WISE MEN”: I was kind of constantly getting pulled into various different shenanigans of variety, mostly instigated by Jeremy.

RADDATZ: It was Jeremy, the oldest, who led the pack of Wise siblings, telling brothers Ben and Beau: We'll always have each other. No matter what happens, you'll always have two brothers to lean on.

But 9/11 would change everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just got a report in that there's been some sort of explosion at the World Trade Center in New York City.

RADDATZ: All three of the Wise boys eventually deploying to Afghanistan in what would become America's longest war. Beau, a Marine, Ben, a Green Beret, Jeremy, a Navy SEAL, and later a CIA contractor.

Beau's brothers serving eight combat deployments combined, both becoming husbands and fathers, snatching precious moments at home with loved ones.

(SINGING)

RADDATZ: But always returning to the next tour.

They both saw a lot of action.

WISE: They saw a lot, but I think Ben might have seen probably the most.

RADDATZ: Beau worried about Ben, but not so much about Jeremy.

WISE: From the beginning, I -- I wasn't really worried about him. I mean, I was just -- he was invincible, you know, in my mind.

RADDATZ: Invincible in the way only an older brother can be, but not against a suicide bomber.

TV ANCHOR: We turn now to the other major story this evening, Afghanistan, where a grim port rate is emerging tonight.

RADDATZ: Jeremy was among seven CIA employees or contractors killed in Khost, Afghanistan, the deadliest attack on the CIA in more than 25 years. Beau was in Helmand Province at the time.

Tell me about the day that Jeremy died.

WISE: Immediately, first response was absolute anger. I -- I really pointed to just -- you know. And then I just -- the shock came over and it was just numb for a while and --

RADDATZ (voice over): Beau and Ben would return for Jeremy's funeral. Ben telling Beau, I can't believe I'm the oldest brother now.

But soon, Beau would be the oldest. Some two years later, in 2012, with Ben and Beau both in Afghanistan, the wise family would suffer another shattering loss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took eight to ten rounds that traveled south to north through his chest, legs and groin. And he was a fighter. And he fought for six days. And they eventually lifted him to Landstuhl, a hospital in Germany. And after six days, he eventually succumbed to his wounds.

RADDATZ: Beau served as what's called a guardian angel, among those who escorted his brother's body back home. Beau, with the realization he was now a sole survivor, one of the only ones with that designation since World War II.

RADDATZ (on camera): The commandant told you that night, told your parents that night you would not be put in harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't take that news very well at the time. I do now.

RADDATZ (voice over): Jeremy's CIA service is now commemorated with a star on the CIA Memorial Wall. Beau, unable to attend the memorial service in 2010, saw that star for the first time this week.

Still emotional, hours later.

CIA Director Bill Burns honoring Jeremy as well.

RADDATZ (on camera): You talked to his brother today.

WILLIAM BURNS, DIRECTOR, CIA: I did, which was a privilege because, you know, Jeremy Wise, as you well know, was a remarkable patriot, a Navy SEAL, before he came to CIA, in a family of remarkable patriots.

RADDATZ (voice over): The weight of that wall ever present.

BURNS: This memorial wall is hallowed ground for CIA. It now holds 137 stars, each one marking a CIA officer who was killed in the line of duty. CIA officers go to places that others can't go, to hard places around the world to collect information, to disrupt adversaries, to fight terrorists, and so almost by definition what we do at CIA is rarely seen. It's often not well understood. People take enormous risks here. And those risks are very real, and the sacrifices that they and their families make are very real as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Very real indeed.

Our thanks to Director Burns, to the Wise family, and to Beau's co-author Tom Sileo. Beau tells us Ben and Jeremy's families are doing well, and that one day he hopes to take their young sons to visit that sacred space at the CIA.

Thanks for joining us this Sunday and have a relaxing and meaningful Memorial Day.

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