A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, April 9, 2023 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.
JONATHAN KARL, HOST (voice-over): Arrested in defiance.
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never thought anything like this could happen in America.
KARL: Donald Trump pleads not guilty, a former president now a criminal defendant.
ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: These are felony crimes in New York State no matter who you are.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER: Everybody knows this is a weak case. Everybody knows this is political.
KARL: An extraordinary legal and political battle ahead, the leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate facing multiple criminal investigations. This morning, our exclusive interview with Trump's attorney general, Bill Barr, Trump's personal attorney, Jim Trusty, plus, our powerhouse “Roundtable.”
Partisan retaliation, 10 days after deadly school shooting in Nashville, Republicans in Tennessee's legislature expelled two Democrats for protesting gun violence on the house floor.
STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D), TENNESSEE: We called for you all to ban assault weapons and you respond with an assault on democracy.
KARL: And as the new season gets under way, historic rule changes transform Major League Baseball.
(on camera): You're about a week-and-a-half in, how's it going?
ROB MANFRED, COMMISSIONER, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: It's a lot of change in a game that doesn't change very often.
KARL (voice-over): Commissioner Rob Manfred, on his mission to save America's pastime.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's “This Week.” Here now, Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning, and welcome to “This Week.” It has been hugely consequential week in American politics. A major rolling in Texas to ban the abortion pill. In Tennessee, two young Black lawmakers expelled from state house of representatives after they took a stand on gun violence.
But we begin with history made in New York. Donald Trump becoming first former president of united states to be indicted. Republicans denounced the charges as weak and politically motivated. Some of them saying the backlash will be so intense that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg effectively guaranteed Trump the Republican nomination in 2024.
Trump was uncharacteristically quiet as he was arraigned in New York last week, but a few hours later in Mar-a-Lago, we saw him attacking this prosecutor and the others still investigating him. A message now central to his presidential campaign.
TRUMP: The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.
KARL: But a new ABC News/Ipsos poll this morning suggests the charges may already be hurting Trump politically. A majority saying they think the former president intentionally did something illegally compared to just 20 percent who say he did nothing wrong. Now, just 25 percent of Americans view Trump favorably.
And there's likely more to come on matters more serious than anything rising out of hush money payments to an adult film star. There is the Georgia election case, the special counsel investigations into classified documents and January 6th. Decisions on whether to indict are expected on all of them by the start of summer.
All of that raising the possibility of court appearances and trials playing out as voters cast their ballots in the primaries next year.
Joining us now is one of Donald Trump’s attorneys, Jim Trusty.
Mr. Trusty, thank you for joining us.
The -- the former president has been rather quiet since the indictment Tuesday, since that speech in Mar-a-Lago. Outside of a few posts, we haven’t heard from him. What is he telling you about how he wants to approach his defense?
JIM TRUSTY, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Yes, well, I -- I never can quite disclose that, but let me just say this, I mean, the president is obviously a very resilient guy. He's upset by this situation in terms of being targeted. And that’s really the key, I mean, he -- he’s very mindful of the historic nature of prosecutors flipping our criminal justice system upside down and saying, I’m going to target somebody, vote for me, and I’ll target somebody, in this case Donald Trump.
You know, if we cross that Rubicon and -- and we don’t shut this down somehow, we've got a whole new model of criminal justice in this country. And he’s very aware of that. You know, anybody that gets targeted by federal investigators, by New York prosecutors, yes, they -- they certainly turn inward a little bit and think, this is really bad news, this is terrible for me. But he very quickly pivots to the big picture, the historic picture, and I -- I tend to agree. This is a bad moment for this country.
KARL: In his remarks Tuesday night, he really went after Alvin Bragg again, calling him a criminal, suggesting that it is Bragg who should be indicted. As his lawyer, do you -- do you think this makes sense to -- to go after the prosecutor in such deeply personal and aggressive terms?
TRUSTY: Yes, look, I’ll just say this, I mean, there’s kind of the political lane and the legal lane. I’m in the legal lane. I’m not going to worry too much or be able to try to control the politics of the moment. But, look, Alvin Bragg ran for office saying he’s the best guy to take out Donald Trump.
I mean, none of us, no matter who your favorite candidate is, no matter what your political stripes, we should not have a criminal justice system that starts off with targeting people to find some sort of charge, because if you do, you end up coming up with threadbare charges like this, relying on witnesses like Michael Cohen. I mean, it is an absurd situation that multiple prosecutors passed by this rancid ham sandwich of an indictment. And Alvin Bragg suddenly decides to do it, perhaps with the help of a senior adviser who parachuted in from DoJ to help him on this thing.
But, again, you know, we have a lot of confidence about how it plays out in the long run, but the long run, the historic run, this is a bad moment and we’ve got to do what we can to -- to let the people know that this is a different criminal justice system if we go down this road.
KARL: But -- but in that legal lane, we also saw the former president go after, again, in -- in personal terms the judge in this case, criticizing not just the judge, but his wife and even his daughter. We heard from another member of the legal team, from Joe Tacopina, saying that he didn’t think that the judge is biased. Trump obviously does. Who-- who's right about this? Do...
KARL: Do you think that this is an impartial judge or not?
TRUSTY: I don’t have any experience with this judge, and -- and, again, my practice as somebody who has been in the criminal justice lane for about 35, 36 years is to not, you know, jump on to any bandwagon when it comes to criticizing. I think the criticisms of the family were not something personal. It was pointing that they have a bias. That they have a political interest that is contrary to President Trump’s.
But, look, the bottom line is that stuff will play out. The New York team that’s on the case is a very knowledgeable group of lawyers. I’m a huge fan of the recent addition, of -- of one of New York -- former federal prosecutor, Todd Blanche.
And so, you know, they'll -- they'll weigh through this. If there’s an actual legal basis for disqualification, they’ll pursue it. I think the -- the fundamental thing I would expect, and this is not from being in the huddle with them, but I think there’s going to be some very well-placed motions to dismiss based on the legal frailties of this kind of, you know, mental gymnastics indictment that Alvin Bragg is trying to piece together.
KARL: So -- so, if we can expect a motion to dismiss or multiple motions to dismiss, also, should we expect motions to change venue? Mr. Trump has suggested it should be held in -- the trial should be held in Staten Island and not in Manhattan or other -- are you going to change to change the judge? What else should we expect?
TRUSTY: Well, look, I think the motions to dismiss have to be a priority because they amputate this miscarriage of justice early on. When you get down to kind of the trial tactics lane, then maybe you start thinking about venue. And, look, the issue with venue is that Manhattan was like 87 percent pro-Joe Biden the last election. It's a -- it's a real stronghold of liberalism, of activism, and that infects the whole process.
So, we’ll see. I mean, we’re a long way out from worrying about -- I think, worrying about changes of venue or evidentiary-type motions. And remember, pretrial motions don’t typically -- you don’t typically win as a defense attorney by filing a pretrial motion that says, hey, judge, they’ve got the worst witness imaginable, they’ve got a convicted perjurer with an ax to grind.
You know, that’s the kind of stuff where a judge says, well, so be it, that was their choice. But legal motions that pick apart the statute of limitations of problem, the specific intent problem, the bootstrapping of perhaps federal election law into a New York case, there’s a lot to play with there and I think you’ll see some very robust motions. And I hope and think probably much earlier than December, which is the next court date.
KARL: So, you -- you represent the former president in the classified documents case. Can -- can you tell me, just point blank, are you 100 percent certain that Donald Trump no longer has classified documents in his position?
TRUSTY: Yes. And -- and, you know, what has been publicly put out there, through incredible amounts of leaks from the DoJ and FBI, was they -- they started making mention of some of the follow-up searches to comply with the subpoena that were undertaken by our team with very professional searchers. And every step of the way, if we found anything of interest, even if it’s probably not classified, we’ve turned it over to the FBI and DoJ.
So, we’ve been thorough, we’ve been professional, we’ve been ethical, and we’re satisfied that, you know, there’s no -- no outstanding issue relating to compliance with the subpoena.
KARL: So, no more classified documents in his position? They’ve all been turned over?
TRUSTY: Correct. But, you know, as the president made the point the other night, you know, the Presidential Records Act allows presidents to determine what’s personal and what’s presidential. And that dictates how they relate to the archivist who in this case was extremely politicized against Donald Trump, making criminal referrals to the first time in history when there’s no criminal overlay for the Presidential Records Act.
So, we’ve had some real bad faith in the underpinnings of how this thing got started, the use of criminal investigative tools for what is a civil dispute. And so, again, you know, we’ve done what’s right when it comes to the court proceedings and to knocking out the issue of whether there’s anything standing. And it also shows there’s no obstruction going on.
So, I think we’re in a good place if the facts actually come out.
KARL: All right. Jim Trusty, part of Donald Trump’s legal team, thank you for joining us.
TRUSTY: Sure. Thank you, Jon.
KARL: And we are joined by Donald Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr. Sir, thank you for joining us.
I heard you right before the indictment was unsealed, saying that the case was pathetically weak. Now that you’ve had a chance to see the actual indictment and the statement of fact that went along with it, do you still think there’s no merit to this case?
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yeah, I don't think it has any merit. I think it’s transparently an abuse of prosecutorial power to accomplish a political ad (ph). And I think it’s an unjust case.
That’s not to say that every legal challenge that the president faces is unjustified. But this one, especially, is.
KARL: I want to get to those other cases in just a moment. But looking at this one for a moment, they did provide significant detailing of what was alleged falsification of business records. So, putting aside the decision about whether or not you would choose to prosecute that, isn't that at least problematic? I mean, some of this falsification of business records actually happened while he was president of the United States.
BARR: Well, it's a crime -- falsifying a business record is a crime if it is part of a fraudulent scheme, if it was a fraud, it was committed in the course of fraud. And I don't see anywhere specified in here exactly what the fraud was.
These were his own business records. He was paying himself the hush money and the business records were his own company. He’s the owner of the company. I don't see he was the defrauded.
But there are a host of other problems having to do with the statute of limitations. His failure to specify exactly what the other crime was that was being committed that makes this into a felony.
So, I found what’s been put out very opaque, and I thought -- I think if he has a good case, he would specify exactly what his case is. But he’s trying to hide the bull.
KARL: I mean, he did -- he did suggest --
BARR: I think it’s unfortunate. I think it’s --
BARR: Yeah. I mean, the left is always talking about the ills of politicizing the criminal justice system and I couldn’t agree more that that's a serious risk, and I’ve spoken out against it for decades. And this is unfortunate. This is a clear example of that kind of abuse.
And I think it also may accomplish its purpose which is to get into the middle of the Republican primary process and turn it into a circus. And I think, ultimately, the savvy Democratic strategists know this is going to help Trump, and they want him to be the nominee because he is the weakest of the Republican candidates, the most likely to lose again to Biden.
KARL: What about the way he’s gone after the judge and the judge's wife and the judge's daughter, made those deeply personal attacks on the Manhattan D.A.? I mean, is this -- is this appropriate behavior for any defendant, let alone a former president?
BARR: I don't think it’s appropriate or wise. I mean, the president is notoriously -- lacks self-control and he frequently gets himself into trouble with these midnight tweets and other things. The thing with the baseball bat, for example, was very imprudent of him to do in the middle of the night, and, you know, these are gratuitous comments and aren’t particularly helpful.
KARL: So, you mentioned the other cases. There’s at least three other criminal cases. You have the two brought by the special prosecutor, the case in Georgia, you know, January 6, classified documents, obstruction of justice.
What -- what do you think, if you were advising the former president, which obviously you're not, which -- which would you be most concerned about?
BARR: I'd be most concerned about the document case in Mar-a-Lago because, from what I can see, and -- and it, you know, the -- when it first came out, a lot of Republicans manned the ramparts and were dumping all over the FBI and the government, and as the facts have come out, as I suggested when I spoke about it, the FBI was opposed to conducting the search. They weren't involved in launching the search.
But also, those steps were taken after a long period, about a year-and-a-half of trying to get the documents from him, which he had no claim to. He had no claim to those documents, especially the classified documents. They belonged to the government. And so, I think he was jerking the government around. And they subpoenaed it. And they tried to jawbone him into delivering documents.
But the government is investigating the extent to which games were played and there was obstruction in keeping documents from them. And I think that's a serious potential case. I think they probably have some very good evidence there.
KARL: We -- we heard Jim Trusty make the case that the president can just decide whatever he wants to make personal is personal. That -- that seems like unusual reading of that law. But do you -- do you think that this will end up in an indictment from the special counsel? What is your read?
BARR: I did think it was -- I was -- my read was, before they found documents in Biden's house and in the vice president -- Vice President Pence's house, my -- my read was that they were going to indict him. And I still think there's a very good chance of that because -- and I think it depends on how sensitive the documents were, but also what evidence they have of obstruction and games-playing by the president and the -- and whether he directed people to lie or gave them information that was deceitful to pass onto the government.
KARL: And -- and...
BARR: ... the president, unfortunately, has a penchant for engaging in reckless and -- and self-destructive behavior that brings these kinds of things on him. In many respects, he is his only -- he's his own worst enemy. I don't think that's the case with Bragg's case. But certainly he -- he has dug himself a hole on the documents.
And also on the January 6th stuff. That was reckless behavior that was destined to end up being investigated. So it doesn't surprise me that he has all of these legal problems. He was warned about this before he left office.
KARL: And -- and he has also attacked, not surprisingly, Jack Smith, the special counsel on this. What -- what's your assessment of Jack Smith?
BARR: I -- I don't know him well, but by reputation, he is a -- he is a very dogged, aggressive prosecutor who will get to the bottom of what happened. And this is one of the things that leads me to believe that if there is a case to be made, it will be brought. Because I think the attorney general would not have -- would have selected another kind of special counsel if he wanted discretion -- more discretion exercised.
Like, well, yes, there is a case, but we don't want to bring the case here because there is a lot of reasons, you know, against the public -- you know, it might hurt the public interest to do it or something. But I think here the decision has been made that if there is a case, it will be brought. And I still think that that's the likely posture of the government.
KARL: And -- and he is also unlikely to bring a case that he thinks he is going to lose. What do you think the likelihood is at the end of the day that we are actually going to see Donald Trump convicted and sentenced to prison?
BARR: Well, I don't think anything is going to happen before a nomination is made, and even perhaps until the election, the -- the '24 election. This stuff is going to drag out through -- through '24. And it's going to stymie and -- and disrupt the whole Republican primary process.
And I think part of -- as I say, I think part of the reasoning behind it is that they know this is a red flag to a big portion of Trump's base. And that they're going to rally to him because they feel that this is persecution. And that will strengthen Trump's hand throughout the process.
I also think though, as far as the general election is concerned, it will gravely weaken Trump. He is already, I think, a weak candidate that would lose. But I think this sort of assures it.
KARL: All right, former Attorney General Bill Barr, thank you very much for joining us, and happy Easter.
BARR: Thank you.
KARL: Coming up, after unprecedented partisan expulsion of two Democratic legislators in Tennessee, we will speak with one of the ousted lawmakers about the fallout and what happens next. And later, Chris Christie and our “Roundtable” Donald Trump's indictment of possibility of more criminal charges to come. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN PEARSON (D), FORMER TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: In a country that was built on a protest, you say to protest is wrong because you spoke out of turn, because you spoke up for people who are marginalized, you spoke up for children who won't ever be able to speak again.
JUSTIN JONES (D), FORMER TENNESSEE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: This is not about expelling us as individuals, this is your attempt -- this is your attempt -- this is your attempt to expel the voice of the people from the peoples' house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL That was Tennessee Democratic Representatives Justin J. Pearson and Justin Jones before they were expelled from Republican-controlled legislature on Thursday for participating in a gun control protest on the State House floor last week. Justin J. Pearson joins us now.
Representative Pearson, thank you for joining us. You have spoken with great passion on the issue of gun violence. And I was wondering if you can -- can tell us -- I know you lost a classmate of yours to gun violence shortly before you were sworn in as a representative, what can you tell us how that motivates you?
PEARSON: Yes, Larry Thorn was a classmate I graduated with from Mitchell High School here in Memphis, Tennessee. Larry was an ordinary person, a great administrator in school, worked with kids all the time, and the mourning and grief we still feel and experience today because we still have not found out who killed Larry. But we do know that it was gun violence that killed Larry.
We do know that in Nashville, just over a week ago, there was a shooting where six people killed, three children at 9-years-old and three adults who were working at the school.
This has catalyzed the conversation about the need to end gun violence in our communities and to realize that, yes, it is in schools and that is something that we need to do deal with, but it is also in our communities. And that's because there has been a proliferation of guns and also a proliferation of laws in Republican-led majority-led legislatures like here in Tennessee that continue to have negative consequences for our communities.
This state passed a permit-less carry law. Over 2,000 cars have gotten broken into in our city, in our county. The reason why? Because people are looking for guns. Murders are up 44 percent relative to this point last year in our city.
There are real consequences to the decisions of people in power, and those consequences are disproportionally hurting our community in District 86 which I have the great fortune of representing.
KARL: The expulsion left your constituents, obviously, now without a representative in the -- in the statehouse. The Shelby County board of commissioners will have to send a replacement for you.
Are they going to send you? Can we see you reinstated as early as next week?
PEARSON: Yeah, I do hope to continue to serve District 86 and the reappointment. And if there is a special election, I would definitely run in the special election, because our voters have been disenfranchised. This is one of the greatest tactics of voter disenfranchisement and voter oppression that I have ever witnessed.
It is not only unprecedented. It is historical in nature. It’s a historical abuse of power by Cameron Sexton and the supermajority of Republican legislature who would rather expel our voices and try to expel our peoples' voices from the peoples' house rather than address issue of gun violence and the need for gun safety reform legislation that could prevent people from dying in first place.
But District 86, and our community, and District 52 as well, Representative Jones' community, wants to see us to serve them and to speak up and to speak out when people like Cameron Sexton and the Republican leadership would rather be silent or silence Democrats and progressive voices.
KARL: Well, your voice has certainly grown since this. We saw both you and Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, having a call -- video call with President Biden. Obviously, you had the vice president come in to see you as well.
How are you going to use this platform to get done what you were trying to get done in the first place here?
PEARSON: Yes, we can never forget that it was tragedy that has brought us to this moment. There were six lives that were lost in addition to the shooter in Nashville at the Covenant School, who has catalyzed this conversation and this need for change in our state.
And it is young people, it’s children and teenagers by the thousands who continue to protest, who continue to march, who continue to raise voices to say, we need to do something end gun violence. We need to make sure that we’re banning assault weapons. We need red flag laws. We need gun storage safety laws in our state that are going to help to propel this movement.
And I pray to God to be able to use my voice as a member of the state legislature to represent Memphis and Shelby County and Millington to continue to fight, to pass reasonable, sensible legislation that the majority people in Tennessee want.
The reality is we have supermajority of Republican legislature that doesn’t want to see progress, that prefers to listen to the NRA, rather than the constituents. And in fact, the speaker had the audacity to call some of those children and some of those parents and grandparents insurrectionists, likening them to January 6, because they’re demanding that their voices be heard in a democracy, which is what we have a responsibility to ensure every person feels that they have a voice in democracy and will not be silenced.
KARL: All right. Representative Justin J. Pearson, thank you for joining us on "This Week". We’ll talk to you again soon. Thank you.
The roundtable will discuss --
PEARSON: Thank you so much (ph).
KARL: Thank you.
The roundtable will discuss all of this next and the decision by a federal judge in Texas to ban the nation's most common abortion medication.
We’ll be right back.
KARL: The roundtable is here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no question that the president and I are going to stand with the women of America and do everything we can to ensure that women have the ability to make decisions about their healthcare, their reproductive healthcare. It is contrary to what makes good public health policy to allow courts and politicians to tell the FDA what it should do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Vice President Harris Friday evening speaking as the Biden administration announced it would appeal an unprecedented ruling that reversed an FDA approval of the abortion pill. The case is likely to wind up at the Supreme Court.
Let’s bring in roundtable. Former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie; Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, Karen Finney; ABC News political director Rick Klein; and “Washington Post Live” anchor Leigh Ann Caldwell.
Thank you all for being here.
I want to start -- when we get to the court case, but I want to start with this indictment and the effects on our politics.
Our new poll this morning, Governor Christie, shows that actually significant downgrading of Trump’s favorability rating in view of this case since the indictment was unsealed.
Take a look -- take a look at this, the effect of independents. So, the question: should he have been charged before the arrest and the unsealing of that indictment? Forty percent of independents said yes. After, 54 percent.
Should he suspend his suspect campaign? About the same before. Now, more than half saying he should.
I mean, what’s your take on this?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Kind of what I said a few weeks ago here, Jon, like no matter what he says and his people say, being indicted is not good for political candidate. Like that’s just -- you know, he can get short-term bump among certain parts of our own party. But in the end, it's not good to be indicted.
Now, we’re not going to see a trial here probably until early 2024. And so, we won’t see what the result is. But he's got other things -- you know, it’s kind of like trying to land at Newark Airport on a Friday. You have a bunch of planes circling and you don’t know when they’re exactly going to land and if they land, when they're going to have a gate, you know?
But it’s coming. And being indicted, the public does still look at that and say that's not what should be happening to a national leader.
KARL: And you heard Barr, he seems to think there will be further indictments. That Jack Smith doesn’t do all this and decide not to indict.
CHRISTIE: Look, I think when you bring over a war crimes tribunal prosecutor to be a special counsel, those are generally not known as low-key men and women. They’re known as prosecutors typically have blinders on and think they have a job to do and they’re going to do it.
Now, I don't know what Jack's Smith will or won't do, but that was not a compromiser that they brought over here. That was not somebody who they brought over to try to plea the case out.
KARL: And -- Karen?
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I was going to say, couple things were interesting. Trump also didn’t not do himself any favors with that speech -- I’ll call it that -- after the indictment, after he’s gone in for the indictment. It reminded so many people of exactly why they did not vote for him in 2020 in terms of the chaos, the attacks on democracy, attacking the judge and his family.
I think it also showed that the poll, the growing division in this country, it’s like the one third of the country that is for Trump, is in their own MAGA bubble. And the rest of the country, a growing number of independents, a majority of Democrats are living in actual reality that says they saw through -- they didn’t just know that being indicted wasn’t good, they saw through, whatever people said about the strength of the case or not, American people got it that he actually -- I think they understood that here -- these actions were taken to try to subvert an election essentially, to withhold evidence that the American people should have had when they went to the polls in 2016.
KARL: What was interesting is there was like virtually no change among Democrats or Republicans. They think of Trump what they think of Trump. All the change was on independents.
But, Rick, does that mean we’re headed towards a scenario where Trump is actually maybe even stronger in the Republican primary but weaker in the general election?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Look, if you're looking to piece that argument together, this poll is a big piece of evidence in that direction. Republicans are in his corner, although a large number are they’re still saying they’re not sure, which might be they’re parking their support because they don’t want to say they’re behind him and they don’t want to say they’re against him.
People are tuned in to this. I think that number among independents is really telling. And the fact that a clear majority of the country thinks he did something wrong intentionally, that is very bad news if you’re going into general election campaign. And just like we heard the former attorney general say, it might be that strengthens him politically among Republicans, inside the Republican primary at the same time that it makes him significantly weaker with the -- with the whole American public, especially because we’re just beginning to see even with this case is much less what the other cases might be.
KARL: But Republicans charge into general election like this with a candidate who the evidence seems to suggest can't win a general election?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, “WASHINGTON POST LIVE” ANCHOR: Well, it depends on what the Republican primary voters think. And what Karen mentioned, she said there’s always a third of the public who has back Trump. What this poll showed me, which was really interesting, that 30 has shrunk since his overall approval rating was just 25 percent, which is the lowest we’ve seen in the very long time for Donald Trump. And so, perhaps, even that group is shrinking.
And what this poll also confirms to me is what Republican and Democratic sources have been telling me all week and that is that this does, for some reason, strengthen Trump in the primary but it really weakens him in the general against President Biden.
KARL: That doesn’t seem sustainable as a primary candidate. Hey, I’m the guy that --
CHRISTIE: Look, it strengthens you in the primary when you have no opponents, okay? I mean, basically, it’s Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy right now.
KARL: You got that guy in Florida that --
CHRISTIE: And Asa Hutchinson. But again, he’s not a candidate yet and not really saying much of anything.
And so, the campaigns, and Karen knows this, campaigns don't happen until they happen.
FINNEY: That’s right.
CHRISTIE: And they are a human dynamic, right? There are people interacting and they often say and do things that aren’t according to script. And that’s why people show up and watch.
CHRISTIE: And so, what's going to happen here with Trump is that his act is going to remain the same. He's gotten over (ph) the act. I mean, Karen mentioned the speech here tonight, that sounded to me like a guy that you'd encounter in a bar who you’d wind up sitting next to and he's griping to you about his bad divorce. I mean, and you are like, well, what are you doing now? And he's like, let me tell you what she did next.
And you know, that's what it sounded like to me. I don't think most elections, Jon, in my experience are won on the past. They are won or lost on the future. And that is going to be his problem when the primary comes because the smart primary candidate will be talking about the future and ignoring Donald Trump, except for when he pops up. And then like wacko ball, you hit him down.
FINNEY: Also, we got signs this week that 2024 is again going to be about protecting democracy and freedom. Donald Trump attacking democracy in our democratic institutions, what happened to Wisconsin? People said, no, we are going to stand up for reproductive freedom, we are going to stand against gerrymandering which is basically subverting the voices of the people.
What we saw and we know that was a big driver of the electorate in 2022, we know that some of the independents, even moderate Republicans post-showed (ph) voted for Democrats. They cited January 6th as one of the reasons. So these attacks on democracy are going to continue to motivate. I was particularly thinking about what happened in Tennessee, whether it is at the local level where these super-majorities are over-reaching, whether it is that decisions like had on Friday with Mifepristone, taking away bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom from people, it is going to continue to drive the electorate and Trump does not have the answer to that.
KARL: And Wisconsin was a big wake-up call for Republicans on that. I mean, you had the -- it's not (ph) technically a partisan race (ph), but the judge -- the candidates supported by Democrats winning by 11 points in Wisconsin. And then after that, you have this decision on the abortion pill.
KLEIN: Yeah, think about what it means to win by double-digits in Wisconsin. I mean, when Donald Trump that state, he won it by about 0.7 percent. And when Biden flipped it, I think it was by 0.6 percent. So the win by 11 percent is insane. That is -- that is an absolute blowout. And it was clear. The abortion ruling from the 19th century was either going to or not going to into effect in all likelihood, they saw in this. And yes, I think we are still --
KARL: From the 19th century?
KLEIN: That's right. We are still only beginning to understand the real potency of the overturn of Roe v. Wade from more than a year ago. The idea that we are going to have another abortion related case before the Supreme Court potentially after the ruling out of Texas, it brings it back, front and center, and I think Karen is right to tie it together with the battles over democracy. These are the kind of stakes that are shaking up early. Governor Christie is right, we are a long way from an actual campaign but if look at the atmosphere, if you look at the issues that are going to be driving voters in a major way, these are a lot of things that Democrats like the playing field on.
KARL: And Republicans will tell the Dobbs decision will hurt them in the mid-terms.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, ANCHOR OF 'WASHINGTON POST LIVE', THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely.
KARL: So, how big is this decision on the abortion pill?
ANN CALDWELL: Well, their silence is deafening. We are hearing --
KARL: The Republicans?
ANN CALDWELL: The Republican silence is deafening. We have heard a lot from Democrats decrying this case. And you've not heard a lot from Republicans, even Republican sources that I have reached out to in preparation for this show, asking them to talk to me about this case and what the implications are politically, and I've heard nothing. And so, that is a real big sign that Republicans are actually worried about this. It was abortion directly in some instances, and abortion and Donald Trump who lost Republicans this senate in 2022 and give Republicans a very slim majority in the House when they were expected to --
KARL: We have a Republican senator there.
CHRISTIE: Hi, how are you?
KARL: So what is your take on it?
CHRISTIE: I would say a few things, because there is a lot in there from what everybody said. First off, on the decision itself, I have also been of the view -- I am pro-life, but I've always been of the view that these things should be decided by the states, and state-by-state these decisions should be made. So, I don't favor federalizing this in any way whether it is by a federal court or whether it is by the Congress, or whether it is by some presidential executive order. I think this should be a state-by-state determination. And we saw in Wisconsin that people made decisions.
CHRISTIE: We saw that in Kansas.
CHRISTIE: -- where folks made decisions, right? So, these are going to be state-by-state decisions are (ph) made and we should respect those decisions that are made by people in those states. And I think that is what Republicans should be saying, that these should be state-by-state decisions.
I'd also say by gerrymandering, where you stand depends on what you said. In New York, the gerrymandering was so bad that you did not need Republican majority on State Court of Appeals, that six out of seven were Democrats and they overturned the New York map. And now what do you see? You see Kathleen Hawk and the legislature trying to change the rules to give the Supreme Court, they don't like that they are not the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals in New York, which is highest court.
They want to give them new members and other authority, so they can overturn and bring back their gerrymandering map. Both parties engage in that kind of stuff. So in the end, Jon, I would say this, that I still think that while Dobbs had an impact on 2022, no question, the bigger impact were the Donald Trump endorsements and the awful candidates, whether it was Kari Lake or Herschel Walker or Tim Michels in Wisconsin or Mastriano in Pennsylvania. Those were the candidates that lost and they were Donald Trump's candidates.
FINNEY: But they were also election deniers. And the election denier was the one who lost in Wisconsin, as you know. And I'll tell you what, when you are looking at Tennessee, that is a microcosm happening in this country. The older fellows in the Tennessee legislature, they did not know what to do with those younger legislators who represent the changing America.
KARL: Those guys are going to come back.
FINNEY: Yes, they are.
KARL: With a much bigger platform.
FINNEY: We are younger, we are black, we are brown, we are female.
FINNEY: And they had -- I mean, and to lecture about decorum --
FINNEY: -- and to be so unaware of the racial implications of the way they were being treated and the firestorm that they set off, that is now I think awakening in Wisconsin, it was younger voters who actually came out in record numbers. We will have more younger voters than older voters in 2024 and I think if the GOP does not get with it on whether it is guns, climate, reproductive freedom, they are going to be in big trouble.
CHRISTIE: Jon, look, in the end, what we saw over and over again in national elections is, the economy is what determines what goes on and if there are huge foreign challenges and crises, which are both here in Ukraine and over the horizon with North Korea, with China, with Iran. And so, Joe Biden still sits in the low-40s. He is still got a third of the people, just a third when you are talking about ratings, who said they think he deserves to be re-elected in the latest poll.
KARL: But you still think he beats Donald Trump in a general election.
CHRISTIE: I think he is -- I think Donald Trump is the only Republican he can beat. I don't think he can beat any other Republican who gets nominated. And -- but the economy will still be the thing that will determine this and I think we have more bumps coming to us ahead from the banking problem and other things that have gone on.
KARL: We are almost out of time, but the politics on abortion have changed.
KARL: When you look at the polling, it has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.
KLEIN: And right now, what the Republicans need to recognize is that there is a majority, a very strong majority of the country that wants to see abortion accessible at least in some circumstances, if not most circumstances. And things flipped in terms of the politics around this where it became a motivating issue for Democrats, for liberals, in a way that it had been for generations for conservatives when Dobbs came down.
FINNEY: When I joined the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America 10 years ago, six in 10 Americans supported access to abortion. It is now eight in 10 Americans because the nature of the conversation has changed.
FINNEY: It is about body autonomy --
FINNEY: -- and not having the government tell a woman what medicine she can take, what procedures she should have.
CHRISTIE: Let each state decide it. And that's what -- the whole issue behind Dobbs is, and that's what Republicans should be saying, let each state decide it. In New Jersey, I am pro-life but we can have abortion up to the ninth month in New Jersey now. I don't favor that. If I want to try to change it, I got to go and try to change the legislature.
FINNEY: Percent of Democrats though, it is (inaudible).
KARL: All right, we're out of time. Thank you. We'll continue that later, I'm sure.
Coming up, Major League Baseball is back but with some of the biggest role changes in the history of the game. Our exclusive interview with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about the new era for America's pastime; that is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN CRANSTON, ACTOR: This game is for you, the fan. You want the action to flow, the bat on the ball and daring on the base paths. This is the game we all want to see. It’s the best game in the world, now it’s even better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: And there’s actor and die-hard Dodgers fan Bryan Cranston explaining the Major League Baseball’s new rule changes for the season, the most significant changes to America’s past-time in decades.
I spoke with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about those changes and what’s happening on the field after they’re -- and how they are being received after the opening week.
SPORTS ANCHOR: Swing and a miss, strike 3.
KARL (voice-over): While baseball now has the greatest two-way star since Babe Ruth and Yankee slugger who just broke Roger Maris’ AL home run record -- it’s not a player who’s not transforming Major League Baseball this season, it’s new rules, some of the biggest changes in the history of the game.
ROB MANFRED, MLB COMMISSIONER: It’s a lot a change in a game that doesn’t change very often.
KARL: So, you’re -- you know, you’re about a week and a half in. How’s it going?
MANFRED: Look, we’re thrilled with where we are. We really are. Hats off to our players. They’re great athletes.
KARL: The changes, dramatic for a sport so steep in tradition are meant to excite loyal fans and bring in new ones.
MANFRED: When we talk to our fans, we found out that we had issues with them that they desperately wanted to see us.
KARL: And those issues were games are too long, what?
MANFRED: Too long, not enough action, de-emphasis on really athletic plays that they wanted to see, things like the stolen base.
KARL: Because we’re seeing strikeout, home run, strikeout, home run.
KARL: One of the most notable changes, hitters and pitchers are now up against the clock. If the hitter takes too long to get set, it’s an automatic strike. A ball if a pitcher takes too long.
So, we decided to get out here to Citi Field in New York to check out how these rules are applying with the people that are directly affected.
What are the players think of the new rules?
BUCK SHOWALTER, NEW YORK METS MANAGER: Oh, you know, we’re all creatures of habit and, you know, the game is such a rhythmic game.
I think it’s about the fans. It’s always about the fans. It enhances the level of our game and, you know, continues to make people embrace it.
KARL: Do you of trepidation about putting a clock on a baseball field? I mean, it’s a game --
SHOWALTER: Of course, I did.
SPORTS ANCHOR: He did, high-five all.
KARL: So, what do you think? You’re a week and a half in. You like the new rules?
MARK CANHA, NEW YORK METS PLAYER: Yeah, I do. I like that I get home from a ballpark half and hour earlier and --
KARL: That's -- that’s a good thing, right?
CANHA: Yeah, keeps you on your toes. And it’s new and we’re learning as we go. But I think it’s a good thing.
KARL: The clock has sped things up, but there have been some glitches.
So, we had a spring training game as you’re well-aware that ended on a batter being called out on third strike --
KARL: -- because he took too long to get ready. I mean, you don't really want to see games end that way, do you?
MANFRED: We don't. When it happened, it was the very first week of spring training. We were glad we got it out of the way. And I think it reinforced for the players how important it is to make these adjustments and avoid that outcome. And I think our players will avoid that outcome.
KARL: Imagine that game 7 of the World Series coming down to one second pitch clock violation.
MANFRED: Let me say this. Our feet are not in stone on this. We want to be responsive to the people that play the game on the field and see these issues. Right now, right now, we’re really comfortable with where we are.
KARL: But are -- is it possible you would see changes in the postseason?
MANFRED: We’re going to watch carefully what goes on at the end of games in high leverage situations and, you know, we’ll make a decision about it as the season goes on.
KARL: Also new, strict limits on the number of pickoff throws, and a ban on the defensive shift. No more putting the shortstop in right field.
And bigger bases, designed to limit injuries but also bringing the bases a little closer together.
What about the records? I mean, you take Rickey Henderson, who, you know, the all-time stolen base leader. He thinks he get another like 50-60 stolen bases if he had bigger bases, and less pickoff attempts.
MANFRED: Look, if we get to the point that somebody is getting towards Rickey Henderson’s number, that’d be a good thing for the game is the way I look at it.
KARL: The bottom line, we’re already seeing more stolen bases, shorter games, and higher scores.
What do you worry about most with these changes? There’s got to be something that has (INAUDIBLE).
SHOWALTER: Oh, there are some private things.
KARL: Yeah, private things.
SHOWALTER: From a health standpoint more than anything. And selfishly, what’s best for the Mets.
SHOWALTER: You know, I wake up every morning, what’s best for the New York Mets. I’m selfish about it. I could care less --
KARL: Can you make these rules work for you?
SHOWALTER: We’re trying. Jon, we’re trying.
KARL: There could be more changes on the horizon. In some Minor League games, MLB has even tried using a robot to call balls and strikes.
Could we see also balls and strikes called by a robot?
MANFRED: The balls and strikes, even with the system, are called by an umpire. He just has an earpiece that tells him what the call should be. So, this idea of a robot I think is shocking to people. And it would not be robot. You’d still be a homeplate umpire.
KARL: Can he overrule the robot?
KARL: So, it’s, you know --
MANFRED: Yeah, it is -- it’s an automated system, it’s not just a robot.
MANFRED: You know, we are testing it in Minor Leagues. We had a lot of change this year. I don't want to go too fast in terms of change.
KARL: The commissioner hopes that changes will preserve baseball's unique legacy, while attracting a new generation of fans.
Is baseball still America's pastime?
MANFRED: I think our spot as America's pastime doesn’t really turn on viewership. It really is about the place that baseball occupies in our culture.
KARL: Is baseball still America's pastime?
SHOWALTER: Oh, yeah. It always has been.
SPORTS ANCHOR: Welcome to opening night in Anaheim!
KARL: We’ll be right back.
KARL: That’s all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Easter Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and have a great day.