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'This Week' Transcript 4-21-24: Rep. Michael McCaul, Rep. Ro Khanna and Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

ByABC News
April 21, 2024, 9:50 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, April 21, 2024 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Defining moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.

KARL: After months of delay, a rare coalition approves billions in aid for America's allies.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): A bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans has risen up.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House has worked its will. These are not normal times here in the House or around the world.

KARL: A big win for the speaker of the House, one that may cost him his job.

THOMAS MASSIE: Mike Johnson's a lame duck. He is not going to lead us into the next Congress.

KARL: This morning, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul and Congressman Ro Khanna join us.

Plus, our powerhouse roundtable.

Supreme warning.

KARL: Their political system seems hopelessly divided. The court seems to reflect that division.

STEPHEN BREYER, RETIRED ASSOCIATE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It's a very complex institution.

KARL: Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, as the court once again takes centerstage in a presidential election.

And –

MARYALICE PARKS, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: At the end of the day, do you feel like this is the most important thing you can do to fight climate change?

KARL: As Earth Week kicks off, MaryAlice Parks speaks with the environmental advocates fighting climate change at the ballot box. Part of our ABC News special series "The Power of Us."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.

KARL: Good morning. Welcome to THIS WEEK.

This weekend we saw a rare outbreak of bipartisanship in what had seemed to be a hopelessly dysfunctional Congress. Just maybe the dawn of a new day for the House of Representatives, or it might have been a final act of yet another Republican speaker destined to be brought down by hardliners in his own party.

Here's what we know. After months of delay, the House overwhelmingly approved billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The vote on Ukraine funding was lopsided, a resounding show of support for Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s efforts to defend his nation from Russia’s aggression.

But look more closely at the vote. Look at how Republicans voted. Just 101 Republicans voted yes, 112 voted no. That's a majority of House Republicans voting against support for Ukraine, a defining moment for the Republican Party and a screaming indicator that the party of Reagan, and the hawks who followed him, is a distant memory.

This is Trump's party, not Reagan’s. It's a party that has fully embraced Trump's vision of America first. And while that is Trump's slogan, it was also the slogan of the isolationist Republicans who nearly a century ago opposed America’s support for Great Britain in the beginning of World War II.

Yesterday's vote was also a defining moment for Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. He did his job. He allowed the House to work its will. But he had to stand up to many in his own party to do so.

Minutes after the vote, President Zelenskyy took note of the man who made it possible, posting on X, quote, “I am grateful to the United States House of Representatives, both parties, and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track.”

Speaker Johnson had to rely on Democrats to make it happen. And as he now faces a challenge to his leadership, Mike Johnson will almost certainly need to rely on Democrats to survive as speaker. A fact that could radically change the power dynamics in Congress.

So we begin this morning with ABC’s Selina Wang on Capitol Hill.

Good morning, Selina.

SELINA WANG, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Jon.

This is a defining moment for Speaker Johnson. After months of delay, the House has finally passed $95 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. But Johnson, he took enormous risk to get this done, defying the far-right wing of his party. But his job is safe, at least for now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I think we did our work here, and I think history will judge it well.

WANG (voice over): For weeks Marjorie Taylor Greene threatened to force a vote to remove Mike Johnson as speaker of the House if he dared to allow a vote on military aid for Ukraine. But now that the vote has happened, Greene still has not pulled the trigger, at least not yet.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I'm actually going to let my colleagues go home and hear from their constituents.

WANG (voice over): Now she'll have to wait until the House is back in session at the end of the month.

GREENE: There is more support that's growing. I've said from the beginning, I'm going to be responsible with this. I support my majority. I support the majority next time. I do not support Mike Johnson.

WANG (voice over): So far only two other House Republicans have signaled they backed Greene's potential motion to vacate Johnson as speaker. But with the razor-thin Republican majority, that could be enough to oust the speaker. But Johnson says he doesn't care because support for Ukraine is more important than his job.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys. My son is going to begin in the Naval Academy this fall. This is a live-fire exercise for me as it is so many American families. This is not a game. It’s not a joke. We can't play politics with this. We have to do the right thing.

WANG (voice over): Johnson’s support for Ukraine has won him some unlikely allies, Democrats who could help him save his job.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Traditional conservatives led by Speaker Mike Johnson have risen to the occasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you can trust the speaker?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, so far it looks that way.

WANG (voice over): Republican hardliners are outraged by Johnson’s turnaround. For months he had said any aid to Ukraine should be tied to funding for U.S. border security, despite recently rejecting a bipartisan border deal that former President Trump opposed.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We're worried about America's border. He seems to be more worried about Ukraine.

WANG (voice over): And Republican hardliners are even angrier that Johnson reached out to Democrats to get this done.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I'm concerned that the speaker's cut a deal with the Democrats to fund foreign wars.

REP. ELI CRANE (R-AZ): I'm very disappointed. And I've told Speaker Johnson that personally. I've continued to see capitulation and an unwillingness to even fight.

WANG (voice over): Johnson says he’s not worried about the threats.

JOHNSON: I don't walk around this building being worried about a motion to vacate. I have to do my job.

WANG: Johnson may need Democrats to keep his job. And so far at least some say they will.

REP. TOM SUOZZI (D-NY): I will vote to keep Johnson as speaker.

REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): I think that there will be Democrats who are happy to support him if he wants it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WANG (on camera): In addition to aid to Ukraine, the House also passed $26 billion in aid to Israel. In the end, 37 Democrats voted against that. So now this package of bills, it heads over to the Senate, where they're expected to vote on this on Tuesday.

And for his part, President Biden, he thanked the House for getting this done, saying that this sends a powerful message to the world about American leadership.

Jon.

KARL: Thank you, Selina.

I'm joined now by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul.

So, let me ask you, Congressman, at the end, the vote was overwhelming, particularly on Ukraine.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIR & (R) TEXAS: Right.

KARL: On all of these bills. Why did it have to be so difficult? Why would – why did it take months to happen?

MCCAUL: Well, I think, you know, the motion to vacate McCarthy, which is a rarely used tool – only twice in the history of Congress, right, and the threat of the motion to vacate kept this from coming to the floor in a timely basis.

I have to say, watching your piece, I am so proud of the speaker, Mike Johnson. He went through a transformation. At the end of the day, a profile in courage is putting the nation above yourself. And that's when he did. He said at the end of the day I'm going to – I'm going to be on the right side of history irrespective of my job. And I think that was what I admired so much.

KARL: It was a transformation. I mean he – he had initially said, no Ukraine funding until we take care of the border. He was with a lot of – you know, what – basically what the radicals are saying.

What – how do you explain that transformation? What made Johnson become the steadfast guy on this? The – as you said, the profile in courage?

MCCAUL: I think he tried to do what the, you know, say the Freedom Caucus wanted him to do. It wasn't going to work in the Senate or the White House. At the end of the day, we were running out of time. Ukraine's getting ready to fall. And I think the – I think the briefings that he got in the classified space, the advice he got from people like me and Mike Turner, House Intelligence, Armed Services, I think talking to world leaders, he became the man that went from a district in Louisiana to the speaker of the United States, to also someone who had to look at the entire world and had to carry the burden of that and make the right decision. And his son's going to Annapolis. He is smart. He knows what's at stake here if we surrender in Ukraine, like we did in Afghanistan. America will be weaker, not stronger.

KARL: It's fascinating, he really was the one guy that could either make it happen or not happen. Is his job now in jeopardy?

MCCAUL: I tell you what, he's got my support. And he has a lot of – I think he – his – the stock in Mike Johnson’s gone way up. I think the respect for him’s gone way up because he did the right thing irrespective of his job. That garnered a lot of respect. And also from the Democrat side.

Now, that’s not what you normally want. But I do think that –

KARL: What's not what you normally want?

MCCAUL: Well –

KARL: To rely on Democrats?

MCCAUL: To have to do that, right?

KARL: Yes.

MCCAUL: It shows you that we're in a bipartisan era to some strange – in some strange way where Democrats will be able to back the speaker on the other side of the aisle and not have him vacated out of the chair. But I think that – I think – I think he's in good shape. I really do.

KARL: I mean, you already have enough Republicans to force it -- it only takes one to force the vote and you already have enough to remove him if it were only Republicans.

So it looks like he's going to need to rely on Democrats to remain speaker of the House. How does that change the dynamic? I mean --

MCCAUL: Well, I think there are also --

KARL: We now have a coalition government in the -- in the House effectively?

MCCAUL: Well, I don’t know, maybe some people like that. I mean, there are --

KARL: Yeah.

MCCAUL: I mean, there are -- there are those in my party -- look, the motion to vacate has only been used in history. Once Joe Cannon used it against himself to keep his position, and then McCarthy.

When the motion gets threatened every week in the Congress, that is being abused. And I think we need to fix that. That is a tool that's being abused by a minority when the majority of my conference don't agree with them.

And they use that because they think that gives them power, and it does if they have a gun to the speaker's head every day. And so, I think that's something that we’ll -- we'll be looking at.

KARL: I mean, when you look -- when you heard the way Johnson was talking about this moment in history, whether or not we support Ukraine, the warning that if we don't, if Putin succeeds there, he moves through Europe, potentially. It’s certainly what -- particularly the Eastern Europeans worry about. You've made that case.

Why is it that a majority of Republicans in the House voted against supporting Ukraine?

MCCAUL: I think they bought into this notion that it's an either/or proposition. You can't secure the border -- you can't support Ukraine without the border.

We can do both. We're a great nation. Now we are stuck in a political issue here.

But, you know, America's back, and we have our allies back now. And the people, you know, in Israel, and in Ukraine, and in Taiwan, and our NATO allies now know that America's back. That we're leading the free world like Ronald Reagan did -- and, you know, Reagan brought down the Soviet Union for God's sakes.

The eyes of the world are watching and our adversaries are watching, and history is watching. And that's what I kept telling my colleagues, do you want to be a Chamberlain or a Churchill? Because that is the moment in time that we are at.

KARL: Well, one of your colleagues who agrees with you on this, Dan Crenshaw, said that looking at his colleagues that don't support this, fellow Republicans, it's -- I’m guessing the reasoning is they want Russia to win so badly they're willing to oust the speaker over it.

I mean, how is it that we have Republic -- the party of Reagan, or formerly the party of Reagan, acting as if they want Russia to succeed in Ukraine?

MCCAUL: I grew up in the Cold War, and I see -- I see the whole thing differently.

I think if we -- if we -- if we surrender on Ukraine like we did in Afghanistan, which was a debacle, is the United States of America going to be stronger or weaker? I would say weaker, and then Putin will invade Moldova. That’s not Article 5. Georgia, he'll threaten the Baltics.

And the United States has already -- we can't shrink from this responsibility. You know, I quoted Chamber -- Churchill yesterday, the gathering storm. He talked about how it was unnecessary war.

He saw the axis of evil and Hitler coming to power, but then he says, also, this is an unnecessary war that could have been stopped.

My dad was in that war.

Just think if we could have stopped Hitler at Poland, how much blood and treasure we could have prevented. I think we're at the same moment in history now.

KARL: So where's Trump on this? I mean, we saw it when we met with Viktor Orban in Turkey, Orban came out and said, not a penny more for Ukraine. Where's -- where’s the leader (ph) of your party on this?

MCCAUL: If you read through the tea leaves, he has not come out and condemned a vote for Ukraine. What he said --

KARL: Not yet, yeah.

MCCAUL: -- what he said, it wouldn’t happen if I’d been president.

He likes the idea of the loan program. You're going to hear Lindsey Graham talk today on Sunday. We’ve been talking to him about this loan program, and Mike Johnson has, too.

He likes the idea that it's not just a giveaway, but a loan program like the EU has for Ukraine.

And so, I think what he wants is for a lifeline to be given to Ukraine so that when he gets into office, in his thinking, that he can then negotiate and save it.

KARL: Well, it's a loan program that can be forgiven.

Congressman McCaul, Chairman McCaul, thank you very much for joining us.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Jon. Thanks for having me.

KARL: Appreciate it.

Coming up, we'll ask Congressman Ro Khanna how Democrats are responding to Speaker Johnson's moves and whether they'll help him stay in power. We're back in just two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: After a busy and dramatic day on Capitol Hill, I'm joined now by Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California.

Congressman Khanna, does Speaker Johnson deserve credit for how this played out?

REP. RO KHANNA, (D) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE & (D) CALIFORNIA: He does. Look, we came into Congress together and he always cared about civility. He actually led the civility pledge.

KARL: That's right. Yes.

KHANNA: And he – we had one issue, which was give individual votes. Don't lump things together. And I give him credit for doing this. I would actually vote to table any motion to vacate him.

You know, Congressman McCaul quoted Churchill. One of the things Churchill said is that America always exhausted every wrong option until doing the right thing.

KARL: Yes.

KHANNA: And this shows that American democracy still is very strong.

KARL: OK, you just said something significant. You said you would oppose the tabled – the motion to vacate. In other words, you will protect Speaker Johnson's job if Marjorie Taylor Greene and the others go through with their threat to try to remove him?

KHANNA: I would, though the end of the term. I expect Speaker Pelosi -- Speaker Jeffries will be there in 2025.

KARL: Right – not – speaker, yes. Yes.

KHANNA: But look, I'm a progressive Democrat and I think you would have a few progressive Democrats doing that. And I disagree with Speaker Johnson on many issues and have been very critical of him. But he did the right thing here and he deserves to keep his job until the end of his term.

KARL: Now, would you and fellow Democrats that will protect him at this moment ask him anything in return? I mean do we effectively have – you heard me ask Congressman McCaul, a coalition government in the House?

KHANNA: I'll leave the negotiations to Speaker Jeffries.

KARL: Yes.

KHANNA: But I don't think everything in politics needs to be transactional. I think here you have Speaker Johnson, who not only put this up for a vote, but he also separated the bills, which I thought was courageous. He let people vote their conscience on Taiwan, on the offensive aid to Israel, on – on Ukraine. And I give him credit for that.

KARL: Now, you were one of the 37 who voted against the funding for Israel. Tell me – tell me more. Tell me why. I mean I – you know, why? And was that a high number or a low number in your – in your view?

KHANNA: It was a high number. It was a hard vote. I mean, look, it – this was a stance against a blank check for Netanyahu and offensive weapons unconditionally while he's talking about going into Rafah with – when we know more women and children are going to die. And the reason that you had people like Jamie Raskin, Lloyd Doggett, myself, who have voted for Israel aid year after year and voted for Iron Dome, take this stand, is that we wanted to make it clear that there has to be a change in strategy and no more famine and suffering in Gaza.

KARL: I'm sure you saw the report in "The Wall Street Journal" on Friday that the administration – the Biden administration is considering a billion-dollar arms deal with Israel. Are you concerned about how Biden is handling this?

KHANNA: I am in terms of, I’m glad that he's moving in the rhetoric. But we can't be shipping offensive weapon when Netanyahu, on his own terms, is defying the president's State Department, defying the president's secretary of defense. And we know that thousands of people are going to die.

And, by the way, Jon, we know that Israel is still using the 2022 authorization and appropriation for Iron Dome, which I voted for, and many of the 37 who voted no voted for that funding.

The money yesterday is not going to be used for another two and a half years. So why are we giving this unconditionally to Netanyahu when the entire world is saying that there's famine there, that we need a new strategy, that we need release of the hostages and peace?

KARL: So have you -- have you given this message to the White House?

KHANNA: They know.

(LAUGHTER)

KHANNA: They -- they've heard from many -- many of us. But it's not just progressive Democrats. I mean -- and we need an architecture for peace in -- in the Middle East.

I mean, look, Iran's attacks were totally unjustified. We -- I voted to condemn them. But the reality is, until we have a security cooperation effort, a diplomatic architecture in the Middle East, with Iran, with Saudi Arabia, with Israel, you're never going to get peace. And we're not going to be able to do what Lindsey Graham wants, which is blow Iran off the map.

So what is the alternative? How are we going to get diplomacy and peace? That's where President Biden should be leading, as President Obama did.

KARL: I mean, given the Iran attack, attempted attack on Israel, I mean, it was for the most part unsuccessful. But, I mean, how do you -- how do you not support Israel in terms of defense aid at a time when the Iranians, you know, have done something they have never done before, which is try to directly attack the -- the Israelis...

KHANNA: You know, I...

KARL: ... directly from Iran to Israel?

KHANNA: You absolutely do, and I supported Iron Dome funding. I would have voted for a -- we tried -- Dan Kildee introduced an amendment saying let's just make this about Iron Dome and David's Sling and Arrow 3. That amendment wasn't ruled in order.

Many of us have voted for all the defensive aid. I'd still support it, and I'd support the United States using the Interceptors to knock anything down against Iran. But what we need is to figure out how we de-escalate, not give them offensive weapons now going to Hezbollah to expand the war.

And by the way, Jon, look, I'm for the Labor tradition, from Ben-Gurion to Golda Meir to Rabin to Peres to Barak. I'm not for Begin to Sharon to Netanyahu. And what you've done is given a far-right Israeli government a carte blanche right now.

KARL: And before you go, there was also the vote on TikTok that was part of this. I know you have opposed efforts to force the sale of TikTok with the threat of a ban. But now it looks like, if TikTok is not sold within a year, this bill becomes law that ByteDance has to either, you know, if it doesn't sell, it's banned in the United States?

KHANNA: I don't think it's going to pass First Amendment scrutiny because I think there are less restrictive alternatives. We could have made it a crime to transfer Americans' data to an adversarial foreign nation or foreign state interference. But to just ban 170 million Americans who are engaged in speech and livelihood, the federal judge in Montana struck it down. The judges struck it down when Trump tried this. I doubt it survives scrutiny in the Supreme Court.

KARL: All right. Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you for joining us here on "This Week."

KHANNA: Thank you, Jon.

KARL: The powerhouse roundtable is standing by, ready to break down what happens next for Speaker Johnson and how Donald Trump's first criminal trial could impact the 2024 race. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under my predecessor, who's busy right now, Pennsylvania lost 275,000 jobs.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m supposed to be in New Hampshire. I’m supposed to be in Georgia. I’m supposed to be in North Carolina, South Carolina. I’m supposed to be in other different places campaigning, but I’ve been here all day on a trial that really is a very unfair trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: President Biden and former President Trump on how his criminal trial is impacting his campaign.

Let's bring in the powerhouse roundtable. We have former DNC chair Donna Brazile, former RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, ABC News senior White House correspondent Selina Wang is back with us, and “Politico” senior columnist, Jonathan Martin.

J-Mart, let's start right with McCaul. This was a transformation --

JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, POLITICO: It sure was.

KARL: -- that we saw it from the Speaker of the House Johnson.

What do you think drove it? How did he suddenly become this force willing to lose his job for the sake of something he opposed just six months ago?

MARTIN: I think it was a combination of intel briefings with folks who work for groups with acronyms that were on their organizations.

KARL: CIA, DNI, whatever.

MARTIN: Exactly, folks with four stars on their shoulders, foreign leaders. I think it was also frankly the call of history, him recognizing that he was in a providential moment.

And lastly, politics. He was trying to save face, Jon. The fact is if he hadn't moved this bill the way he did, there was going to be an effort to bring it to the floor directly through a procedure that would have effectively brought the Senate bill up for a vote, gone around him, and so he wanted to save face.

And he -- you know, cut the bill up like he did, and he added that TikTok ban which is, I think, more consequential than what would have happened if it was just the Senate bill. That's something else.

KARL: Does he lose his job next?

MARTIN: So, look, I think right now he obviously is going to face a challenge, but two things. I think the Democrats are going to rally to him because otherwise, they’d look small, and they would not look like they were answering history's call.

KARL: Yeah.

MARTIN: But also, something else is important. I think Trump will stand with him at least for now not because Trump has this sort of great sense of altruism, but because of Trump's politics, Jon. He doesn't want the distraction and the mess. Trump does not want more drama. He has plenty on his own.

KARL: All right. So, Donna, we heard Ro Khanna say he will vote to protect the Republican speaker of the House's job. Is that what we’re going to see in the House? Are we going to see a lot of that?

DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it all depends. Look, I think the speaker will have to reach out to Hakeem Jeffries and others like he did over the last couple of days to be able to save -- save his job.

But look, I have to say this. I’m a Louisianan. I’m always proud when Louisiana people come through, especially -- especially someone with LSU ties.

But he's no -- he's no moderate. He's a MAGA Republican. We all know that. We know what he stands for.

He resisted this. He said at first, we will not pass this foreign aid package until we get the appropriation bills through, until we get the FISA -- he kept putting conditions.

At the end of the day, I agree with J-Mart, he decided to go with history and to be the soul who understood what's at stake and protecting Ukraine, serving -- protecting our allies in the Middle East, as well as in the Indo-Pacific region. So he did the right thing.

KARL: So, Reince, let me ask you something -- about something that Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House from days long gone by, said about the mess unfolding. He said: The demons that Gaetz -- Matt Gaetz -- unleashed by going after Kevin McCarthy are still out there. You can't govern by shooting yourself in the head every day.

MARTIN: Whoa.

KARL: I think that's probably correct, but are Republicans going to be effectively shooting themselves in the head?

REINCE PRIEBUS, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think so because obviously, I think Speaker Johnson and his leadership prevailed. And what he did was he also listened to his colleagues this week for hours. He allowed amendments on the floor, and I think he made it pretty clear as has been just said that, you know, it's one thing to govern through media clicks, small-dollar donations, podcasts, and getting famous as a representative. It's another thing when you sit down in intel hearings and discussions, and you really hear the truth and you listen to recordings, and you know what the truth is and you feel the weight of our country --

KARL: That Ukraine may fall if this doesn't pass.

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: And the uncertainty, and where we are going. The last thing though is Donald Trump also laid off.

KARL: Yeah.

PRIEBUS: Because he knows also the intelligence, number one. Number two, as was said, nobody in the Republican Party wants to look so stupid as to have yet another leadership fight with no pathway in sight.

KARL: I got a fact check -- I've got to fact check you there because there are many Republicans who are already --

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: It's OK if there's a few. There is a few, but --

KARL: But you are --

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: there are always going to be a few that want -- that want to get this kind of attention, but Trump is doing very well.

KARL: Yeah.

PRIEBUS: And Trust in the Economy poll came out and he was plus 22 in Georgia, plus 12 in Michigan, and why would -- why would he or any Republican want to create this kind of mess?

KARL: Selina, I saw you up there all week on the Hill running after those that were gunning for Johnson and also with Johnson himself. What is your sense? I mean, he sure seemed -- he seems confident that his job is not at risk. Is that a real confidence?

SELINA WANG, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And every time he's asked about it, including when I did, he just laughs it off and says, I need to do my job. I can't be focused on this motion to vacate every day. But I think Reince makes a really good point which is when I was talking to a lot of these more moderate members of the Republican House, they said, look. I'm very angry at Johnson. I'm extremely disappointed in him, but it makes us, the Republican Party, look bad if we throw this House into chaos once again.

So, they were saying they were not for what Marjorie Taylor Greene is doing, and so far let's be real. She's been all bark, no bite. We haven't seen any motion yet. So, so far Johnson has managed to use some Congressional jujitsu so get these bills across the finish line and so far he still kept his gavel.

KARL: And the Democrats seemed serious about actually not allowing Marjorie Taylor Greene to do this.

WANG: Yeah. I mean, I think that they understand that they want to get some stuff done and they're going to look like adults in the room if they end up -- if she ends up doing it, and they end up coming in to save him. So, there is really, even if there was a motion to vacate, it's not necessarily going to be successful.

KARL: You know, Reince, your former colleague in the White House, Steve Bannon, told me this morning, Mike Johnson is going down.

(LAUGH)

PRIEBUS: Well --

MARTIN: When? What year? What year?

(LAUGH)

KARL: Yeah.

MARTIN: We'll see.

PRIEBUS: But I think -- I think as we're listening to this, the Democrats do need to be careful. I mean, they need to keep quiet as far as their willingness to jump up and down and save Speaker Johnson because the more Democrats come out and say, I'm going to protect Speaker Johnson, the more --

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: (Inaudible) wait a second -- we can't have that.

BRAZILE: Why would -- first of all, we're not going to be silenced because we're standing up for the American people. We want a budget that works for everybody. We want a country that functions. We want to, you know, we want to protect America's dignity in the world.

PRIEBUS: By protecting Johnson, that's very good.

(LAUGH)

BRAZILE: Well, he's the Speaker of the House and while he is elected by the majority Republicans, he's a constitutional officer. So it's not about the individual, it's about the constitution and an officer of the nation.

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: (Inaudible).

KARL: My question -- my question to Donna --

BRAZILE: He didn't come without some support.

KARL: And to J. Mart though is, if Democrats continue -- if this effort goes forward and Johnson is there because there were Democrats that refused to go along with the effort to oust him, is there going to be a price that the Democrats -- now this is politics after all. Do Democrats want to get something in return for supporting Johnson? This is my question about a coalition government.

BRAZILE: I mean, look. I'm not in Hakeem's office every day or anyone else in the House leadership, but as a former Hill staffer, I would hope that the Democrats would put the interest of the country -- this is a very -- as the president often said, it's an inflection point for the nation. So the Democrats must do what is in the best interest of the nation, and then figure out what's in the best interest of our chances 197 days from now.

MARTIN: I think the agenda for the rest of this calendar year in the Congress is pretty darn thin. They're not bringing up the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, OK (ph)?

(LAUGH)

MARTIN: Talking about like re-authorizing, yes.

KARL: The government's funding --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: We are authorizing the FAA, keeping the lights open in the government. Look, I think the only way the Democrats would change their mind and move on Johnson is, if Johnson was to move to impeach Biden, OK?

KARL: Yeah.

MARTIN: Because that I think would effectively break the tacit bargain. I don't see that happening. And if this is just sort of (ph) to keeping the government open until November, I think Johnson's job is safe because of those Democrats.

KARL: All right.

MARTIN: Now, next year, I think who knows?

KARL: All right. I want to turn to the other big story this week, Trump in court, and I want to play a little something that he had to say outside of the courtroom this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a shame. And I'm sitting here for days now, from morning till night, in that freezing room. Freezing. Everybody was freezing in there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Everybody's freezing in there. I mean he's stuck in a room where he can't even control the thermostat.

PRIEBUS: Fifty percent –

KARL: You’ve – you've seen that Donald Trump before.

PRIEBUS: Well –

KARL: That's an irritated Donald Trump.

MARTIN: How cold is (INAUDIBLE)?

PRIEBUS: Fifty percent of the American people think that this case is political. That's a big number. Donald Trump, of all people, is – he's turning himself into a victim. And that's an amazing thing. And – and he's doing it. And this is the perfect case to do it. And this is classic Donald Trump. And whether it be – not being able to go to Barron's high school graduation, whether it be not being able to go to the Supreme Court hearing this week, or whether it be freezing in the courtroom –

KARL: He’s been planning that graduation for years. Yes.

PRIEBUS: Yes, but this is all part of the narrative. It's all part of the movie script moving forward. And – and he's playing it.

BRAZILE: And that's why he's tried to delay this trial ten times, because it's meaningless. It doesn't matter.

You know what matters? He is sitting in a courtroom every day while Joe Biden is going from your home state, to Pennsylvania, down to Florida this week, because the Biden campaign will take every opportunity to show that he was working for the American people.

PRIEBUS: And – and it's not working. It's not working. He’s still behind. He’s still behind.

WANG: But my – does –

BRAZILE: Oh, man, you are reading the wrong polls.

KARL: Selina.

WANG: You know, I was going to say, but does his message from the courtroom, to make himself a victim, does that resonate with anyone outside of who already supports him? That’s the question.

PRIEBUS: I think it marginalizes with independents, whatever outcome happens in this case. In 2016 it was 24/7 lousy press, good press, every in between, Donald Trump. If you look at the press, 90 percent of it's about Trump. And he – he went through the last three weeks with five rallies a day and turned out one of the big upsets in modern history. When it's all about Trump, he's winning.

MARTIN: Yes. No, I – so, I disagree with that.

KARL: The FiveThirtyEight average has shown a bit of a (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: I think the opposite is true. I think if the election was about Biden –

KARL: A movement towards Biden.

MARTIN: I think – if the election’s about Biden, Trump’s going to win. I think if the election’s about Trump, Biden’s got a lot better chance.

KARL: Take –

MARTIN: And right now Biden's problem is, this election’s about Joe Biden.

KARL: Yes. Yes, yes. I mean that – that –

MARTIN: This is the challenge, right?

KARL: That – those are the kind of numbers that make a Biden very nervous.

MARTIN: And Michigan –

KARL: So, Selina, how does the White House feel –

MARTIN: Michigan’s the most ominous number there.

KARL: How does the White House deal with the fact that, you know, Trump is stuck, you know, he’s got the world’s attention, certainly.

MARTIN: He’s on trial and he’s still winning.

WANG: I think they're loving it actually because you haven't seen them directly tackle his legal issues head-on. You've seen veiled swipes from the president throughout this week. But for them, for the Biden campaign, they believe to have the former president, the GOP front-runner, sitting in court, defending himself against criminal charges for covering up this massive scandal, they think that speaks for himself. And you’ve seen the president, he did some half a dozen campaign stops in Pennsylvania. He's going to be in Florida this week hammering home the issue of abortion, which is significant because as a Catholic he’s been uncomfortable and then has let Harris deal with it. But they think that all these issues they’re hitting on, on the economy, on abortion, that’s going to be that strong split screen they want with Trump, meanwhile, in court.

KARL: But, Donna, those numbers have to just terrify Democrats.

BRAZILE: You know, Jonathan, last week I had numbers that looked better than that. Every week when we see one number this way and one number that way, they – they’re going to seesaw. But here’s –

KARL: You know –

BRAZILE: But here’s – here’s the best – here’s the best part of this conversation.

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE).

BRAZILE: No, it’s not that far down because if you look that far – if you look that far down then you will not see the bottom. And I'm from the Mississippi River. I know – I know –

MARTIN: He’s scraping though.

BRAZILE: No. It – you know, Joe Biden has to do a delicate dance in bringing back the Democratic family and the independents.

MARTIN: Yes, tough.

BRAZILE: Especially suburban women.

MARTIN: Yes.

BRAZILE: And he is showing every day that he's bringing them back home. And when he brings them home, they will turn out.

KARL: All right. All right, time to go.

MARTIN: The numbers aren't there yet though.

KARL: Thank you all. We are –

BRAZILE: That’s what president –

KARL: We've got to move on, because, up next, we have retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer joining me right here in our chambers in the studio.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: I'm here today to express our nation's gratitude to Justice Stephen Breyer for his remarkable career in public service and his clear-eyed commitment to making our country's laws work for its people.

STEPHEN BREYER, RETIRED ASSOCIATE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I can't take this around in my job. People have come to accept this Constitution, and they've come to accept the importance of a rule of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: That was President Biden and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaking following Breyer's 2022 announcement that he was retiring. Justice Breyer is out with a new book titled "Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism."

And Justice Breyer joins me now, right here in the studio.

Thank you for joining us.

BREYER: Well, thank you very much.

KARL: So let me get right at the thesis of the book. You make the case, in this fascinating book, sweeping history of the Supreme Court, that justices should consider the practical consequences of a decision such as how those affected by the decision will react.

How do you -- how does that work in practice?

BREYER: In practice, you do your best to figure out what's going to happen. When it's most likely to play a major role is when you look at the words of the Constitution and they don't tell you the answer.

Look at the words of a statute. They don't tell you the answer. And so people forever, since Chief Justice Marshall in eighteen-whatever-it-was, and Holmes and Brandeis, the others, they say, "Look at -- somebody wrote those words. They had a reason. And you're -- you're interpreting them."

KARL: Because, as you know, there's -- there's an argument that a justice has to stay within the -- the four corners of what's written on that page.

BREYER: Yes.

KARL: Let -- let's look at, for instance, in the Dobbs decision, what Justice Alito wrote, "We do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today's decision overruling Roe and Casey. And even if we could foresee what will happen, we would have no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision."

BREYER: Really?

KARL: Why is he wrong?

BREYER: Really? Because, well, let me give you a very simple case. You may know that if you have a person who has a child who's handicapped, the school board has to give that child a good education. And if the mother or father think not, they can bring a lawsuit. And if they win that lawsuit, the statute says they're entitled to their cost. Now, that was the case -- cost.

Does cost include the cost of an educational expert, $29,000, or does it just mean legal cost? So I say, here. why don't you try this, Mr. Textualist? Say it loud. Cost! Now do you know the answer? Say it twice. Cost, cost -- three times, cost, cost, cost. It doesn't tell you.

So the other things that judges have always looked to, too, who wrote those words and what did they have in mind? What was Congress trying to do? What are the consequences if you go one way rather than another way? How does it fit into a set of values that begins with the Constitution?

Judges have always done that kind of thing, and it is part of the role of interpreting a statute, or the Constitution.

KARL: So let me ask you, though, as a justice, when you're going through a high-profile controversial case,are you hearing the noise outside?

I mean, I guess literally the protests outside the court, but more -- more broadly, do you -- are you gauging and thinking about how the world is going to react, how the country is going to react to your decision?

BREYER: Yes. I would say that's in your mind.

KARL: And how? How do you do that? Are you -- how?

BREYER: And when you say, does that lead -- does that lead to your deciding X rather than not X?

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: Well, I can never say never, but rarely. Paul Freund, Professor, right, Professor of Constitutional Law, said that the role of politics in the courts, any court, he says, no judge should or will be moved by the temperature of the day, but every judge will be aware of the climate of the season.

KARL: So what about our time now? The political system seems hope hopelessly divided. The court seems to reflect that division.

BREYER: Hard to say. It's a different -- it's a very complex institution, and where I think the politics that I've seen -- I've not seen politics in the court, and I have been a judge for 40 years. I have not seen --

KARL: You've not seen politics in the court?

BREYER: Not politics in the sense in which I understood that word when I worked for Senator Kennedy, Ted Kennedy when I was a Senator.

KARL: Yes.

BREYER: And I worked there for a few years. Look, you get a phone call, Mayor of Wooster; same time --

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: Secretary of Defense, which call will Senator Kennedy take first?

KARL: Mayor of Wooster.

BREYER: Of course. It's politics.

(LAUGH)

BREYER: Of course. I mean, politics was how popular is this? How unpopular is that?

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: How are we going to get the Republicans to go along possibly? Or some Democrats too?

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: How do we get all the people to the Senate meetings? Where do you want to stand when you are running for election? And -- and, and, and -- no, that isn't there. That just isn't there.

KARL: So, how important it was for the Supreme Court when they ruled on the Colorado case about whether or not Trump could be on the ballot that that was a unanimous decision?

BREYER: How important was it?

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: Well, don't talk about that case because you'll know more about it than me because that's after I left the court. But in general --

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: -- that is a very interesting question for me because it's very tempting once you've written a dissent, even from a denial -- refusal to hear a case.

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: You've written the dissent. Your real audience is the other judges. But if you fail at that, now you've written it, why not let the country have the virtue of seeing your -- no, said Holmes.

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: No, said Taft, and Taft said, it's just ego. So I always thought, well, it doesn't hurt to publish these things. It puts out another point of view. It shows people which they would believe anyway that not everybody's in agreement, but there's also something to be said to try to keep down the extent to which you publicly reveal the disagreement.

KARL: Would the justices ever do the kind of horse trading we see in Congress? I mean, I don't mean to be crass about this --

BREYER: No.

KARL: But you have two cases before the court that could determine the presidential election, decide one looks better for Donald Trump, the ballot access issue, one absolute immunity that doesn't serve his purposes, and they both come out, send the country a message?

BREYER: I mean, I've been -- look, it may be that you could find a compromise in the conference or a way of approaching things in the conference that will, in fact, solve a number of problems, and that could be one of the problems.

KARL: It would be a very powerful message to the country to see two 9-0 decisions that can't be broken down into straight political lines.

BREYER: The second -- Sandra O'Connor used to say this.

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: The first unwritten rule is nobody speaks twice until everyone speaks once. Second unwritten rule, tomorrow is another day.

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: You and I were the greatest of allies on case one. Case two, we're absolutely at loggerheads. So --

KARL: but they are looking to how the country is going to receive these decisions?

BREYER: Be careful in saying that. I want to say no. I want to say no, but I can't say no, never. I mean, you're up there in that. You're up there in that building which I can see a picture of.

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: And in that building, you are making decisions that will affect people. Of course, knowing that a lot of people are going to read a case, leads me to write, if it's my opinion to write, use certain language that is easy to understand and spend a lot of time trying to explain why.

KARL: And you don't want to contribute to the political divide in the country?

BREYER: No. Of course, not. Of course, not, but you're looking for an easy answer.

KARL: Yeah.

BREYER: I'm not being coy and saying, no. There aren't easy answers.

KARL: All right. Justice Stephen Breyer, thank you for being right here in the studio on "This Week." It's an honor to have you here. Thank you.

BREYER: Thank you.

KARL: Coming up, MaryAlice Parks kicks off Earth Week with the ABC series, "The Power of Us." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: As we mark Earth Day tomorrow, ABC News White House correspondent MaryAlice Parks travels to battleground Pennsylvania to report on the effort to turn out voters who care about climate change. It kicks off our network-wide series, "The Power of Us" covering emerging solutions for our changing world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARYALICE PARKS, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Emily Church is a biologist turned activist.

EMILY CHURCH, BIOLOGIST AND CLIMATE ACTIVIST: I'm aiming for around 80 today.

PARKS: Knocking on doors in Pittsburgh, she tells me she used to spend time pushing lawmakers on climate change, but lawmakers told her voters didn't care.

CHURCH: The people who prioritize climate and the environment need to show up.

If the voter comes to the door, basically just follow the script.

PARKS: The Environmental Voter Project is targeting very specific voters, environmentally conscious citizens, often young people and people of color, who rarely head to the polls.

Of all the ways to work on climate change, why this?

JOANN KARSH, ENVIRONMENTAL VOTER PROJECT VOLUNTEER: Because people who vote or who politicians pay attention to, and so they make the decisions.

NATHANIEL STINNETT, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL VOTER PROJECT: And that's our biggest problem in the climate movement right now. We don't have enough voting power.

PARKS: The group's founder, Nathaniel Stinnett, says they've had some success.

STINNETT: We've sometimes increased turnout as much as 1.8 percentage points in general elections, 3.6 points in primaries and 5.7 points in local elections.

PARKS: OK, if I'm being honest, that doesn't sound like a lot.

STINNETT: Ask Donald Trump how big a deal 1.8 percent is in Pennsylvania, and he'll tell ya.

PARKS: The group is nonpartisan though acknowledges it's almost exclusively Democrats right now working to address climate change. They hope they can push Republicans to come to the table, too.

STINNETT: We want to scare the bejesus out of as many politicians as possible, no matter what side of the aisle they're on until they think, you know what, the only way I can win elections is if I start recognizing the biggest crisis that humanity faces.

PARKS (voice-over): But that's no easy task. Across the board, this election registered voters list immigration, the economy, abortion, and democracy as their top issues, with climate change not even making the top ten. Partisan and generational divides at play.

NATHANIEL RAKICH, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT SENIOR EDITOR & SENIOR ELECTIONS ANALYST: Basically the younger the voter, the more they're likely to prioritize climate change as a voting issue, and yeah, that is going to be a reality that Republicans are going to need to grapple with eventually.

PARKS (voice-over): In November, the choice before voters is stark, but many Democrats worry young progressives might still stay home despite the Biden Administration investing billions to fight climate change.

PARKS: What do you say to those young voters who argue, he hasn't done enough?

LENA MOFFITT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. EVERGREEN ACTION: Well, the fact is President Biden has done more to address climate change than any president in U.S. history, and there's a lot more to be done. Scientists have said that we still can avoid the worst of the worst of the climate crisis, but what we do in these next few years is essential.

PARKS (voice-over): Nathaniel says big policy matters and too often Americans have been too often told to focus on their own small habits.

STINNETT: Hey, don't pay attention to that coal-fired power plant back there. Instead, it's all your fault for having a plastic water bottle in your hand and we bought it. When in truth, it is far more of a political and a systemic problem that needs political and systemic solutions.

PARKS (voice-over): It's an uphill battle, but for Emily, finding and activating these new voters is worth the fight.

CHURCH: The science is very clear. So, we know what we need to do. It's just a matter of getting it done.

PARKS (voice-over): For "This Week," MaryAlice Parks, ABC News, Pittsburgh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Our thanks to MaryAlice, and be sure to catch more of "The Power of Us" series across ABC News this week. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Have a great day.