'This Week' Transcript 5-12-24: Sen. Chris Coons & Rep. Michael McCaul

ByABC News
May 12, 2024, 9:04 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 12, 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.





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're not going to get our support if, in fact, they go in these population centers.

RADDATZ: The State Department finds Israel's use of U.S. arms may have violated international law, as Republicans slam Biden's threats to withhold weapons.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Give Israel what they need to fight the war they can't afford to lose.

RADDATZ: Tens of thousands flee Rafah as ceasefire talks grind to a halt.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We will do what we have to do to protect our country.

RADDATZ: This morning, the latest on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza with UNICEF’s Tess Ingram.

Plus, reaction from House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul, and Democratic Senator Chris Coons.

Fiery testimony.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything you’ve been watching has nothing to do with the case.

RADDATZ: Stormy Daniels takes the stand in New York, as Trump successfully delays two of his four criminal trials. Our powerhouse roundtable on what it means in the race for the White House.

And --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You are aware of the weight of history when you're in that room. And the history echoes through the room.

RADDATZ: Our George Stephanopoulos dives into the nerve center of the White House in his new book "The Situation Room."


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.

With tens of thousands of Palestinians killed, with protests raging on college campuses across the country, and with Israel poised for a full-scale assault into southern Gaza, this was the week President Biden put his foot down. After months of urging Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza, the president announced that he has withheld U.S. weapons that were supposed to be sent to Israel and warned that more could be stopped if Israel invades the city of Rafah.

But at the same time, a State Department report out Friday fell short of concluding that Israel violated international law. But the report did say it is reasonable to assess that some U.S. weapons have been used in instances inconsistent with Israel’s obligation under the law, and that the high levels of civilian casualties caused by those weapons raises substantial questions as to whether the Israeli Defense Force is using them effectively in all cases.

THIS WEEK anchor George Stephanopoulos sat down with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in the situation room this week and asked him about withholding those weapons.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Israel's ambassador to the United States has responded to President Biden’s decision not to provide some offensive weapons that could be used in the Rafah invasion, saying it sends the wrong message to Hamas and puts Israel in a corner.

How do you respond to that?

JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Nobody has been a stronger supporter of Israel than Joe Biden. He has sent an enormous amount of capability for Israel to take on Hamas. Secondly, the president has made clear, he's going to continue to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself, full full-stop, four square, that will happen. And then, third, the president has said that he has concerns about a full-scale military invasion of Rafah, a place where there's more than a million people sheltering with nowhere else to go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What would happen if they went in?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, because there’s a million people there in very close quarters who have been pushed there because of the military operations in other parts of Gaza, you would have really significant civilian casualties. And while Israel would also be able to kill some Hamas folks, many Hamas folks would melt away because they're terrorists. They're not really organized fighters in the way that we think about a typical military.

In that context, he doesn't want to see American weapons used in that kind of operation. That's not to say that he is going to abandon Israel or cut them off from weapons. He was focused on a particular operation that he doesn't believe will succeed in defeating Hamas and that will cause grievous harm.


RADDATZ: So, what does it mean for what happens next in this conflict, I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

Good to see you this morning, Senator.

These huge bombs that the president is now pausing have already been used by the Israelis in Gaza, causing massive destruction. Civilian casualties. And yet the State Department report says there is not enough information to conclude they violated any international law.

Are you satisfied with that conclusion?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE & (D) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Martha, thanks for a chance to be on with you again.

Let’s be clear about what that report also concludes, which is that because of how Hamas has conducted itself in this horrifying conflict that began with their tragic, barbarous attack on 1,200 civilians in which they also killed 45 Americans on October 7th.

Because Hamas embeds its fighters and its war piles and its stockpiles underneath civilian targets, beneath hospitals and mosques and schools, the report by the State Department says it’s difficult to conclude whether the unacceptably high civilian death toll is because of Hamas and its strategies and tactics, or because of Israel and how they’ve conducted this conflict.

I do think it bears repeating every time we talk about this, that Hamas started this conflict and Hamas, and their conduct, has largely driven the humanitarian crisis that continues in Gaza.

RADDATZ: No question that Hamas started this on October 7th. But again, what you’ve seen is massive destruction, civilian casualties. Some estimates of 14,000 children killed.

Are you happy with the conclusions of the report? The conclusions I just read you.

COONS: Well, what matters more than the conclusions of the report, Martha, is what we do. What the United States does with our close and trusted ally Israel.

Privately, over many months, President Biden has urged, has cautioned Prime Minister Netanyahu and his far-right government to not go into Rafah at scale without first allowing for civilians, the million refugees who have moved down to Rafah at the direction of the IDF and are now trapped up against the hard border with Egypt, because Egypt will not allow any of them in.

What matters, Martha, is whether the next stage of this conflict against Hamas, which Israel has every right to carry out, allows for civilians to get out of the way of any future attack on Rafah. And that’s what President Biden has said now publicly, as well as privately, to our trusted ally, Israel is, you can continue this war against Hamas, but if you’re going to use our munitions and continue to have our support, you have to do it in a way that minimizes civilian casualties.

RADDATZ: Senator – Senator Coons, I know – I –

COONS: And that means, not that you’ve encircled Rafah, pausing and allowing civilians to move forward.

RADDATZ: Senator – Senator –

COONS: One thing I’d also note, just how hard President Biden is working to achieve a hostage deal and a ceasefire. That’s the other path forward here, Martha.

RADDATZ: Which has been paused, of course.

Senator, I want to go back to the report.

Your Democratic Senate colleague, Chris Van Hollen, said, “The administration ducked all the hard questions about making the actual determination. I think what they are trying to do is make clear that they recognize how bad the situation is, but they don’t want to have to take any action to hold the Netanyahu government accountable for what’s happening.”

Your Response?

COONS: Well, I disagree. I think President Biden has taken forceful action. So much so there’s been a lot of blowback for his recent public statement. And I'll remind you, other American presidents have done the same thing when a close, trusted partner isn’t listening to private admonitions. It was President Reagan who repeatedly paused the delivery of F-16s when then Prime Minister Menachem Begin carried out a strike against a Syrian nuclear complex and invaded southern Lebanon and conducted the war in southern Lebanon in a way that raised real concerns about the civilian consequences.

So, for my colleague and friend, Senator Van Hollen, to say that there’s been no consequences and no forceful action by President Biden, I think, misses the point here, that President Biden has, over and over, urged the far-right government of Prime Minister Netanyahu to take the appropriate action –

RADDATZ: So – so, Senator –

COONS: And have now publicly said what the consequences will be.

RADDATZ: So, Senator, what is the line from moving from inconsistent to illegal?

COONS: I think we’ll be looking closely at the path forward that Prime Minister Netanyahu chooses in the days ahead. Whether he will use American-supplied munitions to bomb and invade and attack Rafah and the million civilians who are there in order to get at the Hamas fighters who are buried in tunnels deep in east Rafah, or whether he will move ahead with allowing those civilians to be relocated in accordance with a plan developed with the United States, a plan that isn’t yet fully acceptable to us, or, my preferred outcome, whether the months of work to make ready a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel that will allow for a ceasefire, a hostage release and a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and a regional security architecture that will deliver long-term security for Israel against Iran.

RADDATZ: And what –

COONS: Martha, I'll remind you and your viewers, it was just three weeks ago that President Biden ably came to Israel's defense, in partnership with the British, the French, the Saudis and the Jordanians when Iran launched 300 missiles and drones at Israel.

It’s clear we are willing to strongly defend Israel, but he’s urging president -- excuse me, Prime Minister Netanyahu to choose the path of peace that’s right in front of him, that requires reaching a deal with regional actors.

RADDATZ: Senator, if Netanyahu, Prime Minister Netanyahu, does go in with a full-scale assault on Rafah, what do you think the president should do? We’ve heard his warnings.

COONS: I think we will act. And I think this will be up to the president in exactly what way he will act.

But I’ll remind you, there’s precedent for this. President Reagan was -- was in a position where he did the same thing.


RADDATZ: Again, you remind us of that. But what -- what do you mean he will act? He’ll stop weapons? He’ll stop more weapons?


RADDATZ: How many weapons? All weapons?

COONS: I'm clear that we will not abandon Israel. He will not stop providing defensive systems to Israel.

Look, Hezbollah continues to attack Israel in the north. Just last night there was more rockets and shells coming into the north of Israel. I don’t believe we will leave Israel defenseless at all.

RADDATZ: So, you’re saying he’ll stop offensive weapons?

Not defenseless, but you talk about specifically defensive weapons. So are you saying offensive weapons should be stopped?

COONS: Look, I think whatever munitions, such as the 2,000-pound bombs that have previously been used in Gaza, that are supplied only by the United States, and that can cause massive civilian casualties may well be paused.

It is tragic that we’re at this point. And, Martha, I want to conclude by saying that I hope Prime Minister Netanyahu is thinking about his legacy. Right now his legacy is the huge, strategic and defensive failure of October 7th and his legacy could be a real gap, a break in the long, strong, bipartisan, strategic relationship between the United States and Israel. I think that would be tragic. His legacy could instead be achieving regional security and peace for Israel.

RADDATZ: OK, thank you so much for joining us this morning, Senator.

For the latest on the humanitarian crisis, I’m joined now by UNICEF spokesperson Tess Ingram who was in Gaza just last month.

And, Tess, I want to start with another part of this report that says it does not currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance. Is that your experience?

TESS INGRAM, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: We have for months now been calling for more aid to get into the Gaza Strip. The average number of trucks that got in last month was 200 a day compared to 500 before the escalation in hostility. So, it's nowhere near enough, and my experience was that the slow and complex screening process at the border is what is really slowing down the aid, and that's something that we can remedy to get more aid in and to prevent a famine which is -- could happen any day now.

RADDATZ: Just describe what the situation is on the ground overall from your trips there, what you are seeing.

INGRAM: It's absolutely catastrophic. It's unlike anything I’ve seen, and a colleague who has been working in humanitarian emergencies at UNICEF for the best part of 30 years says it is the worst he has ever seen.

On the ground, there are people fleeing Rafah in the thousands. We know that in the last week, 300,000 people have been forced to leave Rafah. They're piling onto donkey carts and trucks and buses, possessions, people.

We even saw people loading a toilet onto the back of a truck which just shows how desperate the situation is that people feel like they need to bring these sort of items with them because they know that where they're going, the services are nonexistent. And that is unacceptable when we talk about having safety for people. It's not just safety from the bombardments that they need.

It's also a safe place to go to, and the places where people are being told to move to, completely unsafe.

RADDATZ: And, Tess, I just want to say. If -- you read the report. Obviously, you've heard that President Biden wants to put a pause on weapons, but you've also heard, and our next guest, Michael McCaul, certainly wishes we’d give all weapons to Israel.

What's your reaction to what you’ve heard this week?

INGRAM: Look, as somebody who was on the ground and who spent a lot of time in hospitals in Gaza, including in Rafah, I saw the impact of this fighting on children’s bodies, and it is horrific. I saw – I met a nine-year-old girl who was clinging to life in a hospital bed in Rafah with major blast wounds down one side of her body. And when I met her she’d been that way for 16 days because the medical ability in Gaza to repair those wounds was nonexistent. And so she was lying there in pain with open wounds. A nine-year-old girl. And that was – she was in her grandparents' house when it was shelled.

This is what is happening on the ground. So, we’ve been clear at UNICEF, we need to see an end to the fighting and the indiscriminate killing of civilians, especially children.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks so much for joining us this morning, Tess, and thank you so much for your courage and what you do.

And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul joins me now.

Thanks for coming in this morning.


RADDATZ: Congressman, you slammed the administration for withholding some weapons and you slammed the State Department report.

Do you see any evidence that it is reasonable to access as the State Department found that there are instances in the use of those weapons, those big bombs, especially, that are inconsistent with international law?

MCCAUL: There’s -- there’s a lot of confusion about what’s happening on the ground. I can tell you the weapons we approved, I signed off on all foreign military sales, myself, the ranking member, and the chairman and ranking member in the Senate. So, that’s four in the Congress.

We also passed an appropriations package. What we’re worried about is a sort of defiance of congressional intent here that we have passed these weapons out of Congress and now, the president’s holding them back.

I would say most of these weapons, to answer your question, are precision-guided weapons. And that means precise, and that means that it spares civilian casualties because the targeting is so precise.

As you noted --

RADDATZ: Congressman, we’re talking about 2,000-pound bombs here. The U.S. rarely uses 2,000-pound bombs. The radius can be a thousand feet. If you look at the casualties there, if you look at the craters, if you look at the investigations, those 2,000-pound bombs caused civilian casualties. Again, the U.S. rarely uses them and especially population centers. You have no problem with them doing that?

MCCAUL: I -- you know, the precision-guided weapons, I think the problem, Martha, is that Hamas --

RADDATZ: You keep saying precision-guided, that would be a term, but again, the blast radius is enormous.

MCCAUL: Well, I -- the problem is Hamas embed itself with its people and they put themselves as human shields to attack. And they are the ones blocking a lot of this aid that they’re trying to get in. They destroyed Erez. They destroyed, you know, the checkpoint going from Israel into the Gaza, into Rafah itself.

And it’s really hard to deal -- to concern (ph) with an enemy like that. I give you the kill ratio number --

RADDATZ: Let me just say that. I --


RADDATZ: You say human shields, without question they are doing that. And Senator Coons said the same thing. They are being used as human shields. They’re in these tunnels.

But would you be comfortable if U.S. troops were in Gaza, say, and doing the same thing with that enormous amount of casualties, the destruction of that? We didn’t use 2,000-pound bombs in Mosul when we were going after ISIS. We didn’t destroy Kabul. We didn’t destroy Kandahar.

So, would you be comfortable if this was a U.S. operation, U.S. military as well?

MCCAUL: Well, I think you’ve got comparison. It’s what happened in Iraq, in Mosul and Fallujah, where the kill ratio between ISIS-K and civilian was five ISIS-K or five -- I’m sorry, one ISIS-K to five civilians. And in this case, it’s two civilians to one Hamas.

So, it’s actually the civilian --

RADDATZ: And where those -- where those from? The statistics?

MCCAUL: That’s what we gathered, you know?


RADDATZ: Two-to-one, you’ve --

MCCAUL: Yeah, those are the facts and figures that we have. That’s actually lower than what America did in Iraq.

RADDATZ: Again, people that I talked to who were in Iraq, who were in Afghanistan, know -- members of the military, say we would not do a war like this. And if it were mistakes made, they would admit it.

MCCAUL: Right. I know there are CentCom commanders working with them. Here’s what I object to, Martha, is to say blunt -- just point blank that we are not going to give weapons to Israel if they invade Rafah.

Now, of course, you want the conditions with humanitarian to be in place. Of course, you want the tents (ph) in place. But to say that you cannot Rafah, we’re telling the Israelis, dictating their military strategy, this is the last point, the last step in the completion of their military objective, and for us to step in and say, no, you can’t go into Rafah and finish the job, I think, is tantamount to an arms embargo.

It's also very similar for us to say, in World War II, "Hey" -- like my dad's generation -- "You can invade all the way up to Berlin, but you can't go into Berlin to finish the job."

And Chris Coons is right. Until we do that, we will never have the resolution, the peace resolution that I think everybody wants.

RADDATZ: Do you think what President Biden has done, pausing those weapons, would really make a difference?

The Israelis basically say they have everything they need right now, even for a full-scale assault. So -- so why does this pause really matter in terms of Rafah, if that is, in fact, what they decide to do?

MCCAUL: Well, it may not matter -- I know it doesn't matter with respect to Israel. Netanyahu has said, and I've talked to him, "I'm going to do this alone if I have to."

You know where it matters, Martha, is the signal and the message we're sending the rest of the world that you can't count on the United States, you can't trust the United States. There are allies, you know, our allies, and our enemies see this as well.

So if our allies and friends see this as a trust issues, if the Saudis say part of this peace deal, they want to buy military equipment from the United States, how are they going to trust us?

And the rest of the world looks at this. Iran looks at this. Yahya Sinwar got a victory by this administration without a shot fired from him. And I think Russia and China are right there looking at this, too.

RADDATZ: You regularly invoked former -- or invoke former President Ronald Reagan. You heard Senator Coons bring up the fact that he paused weapons to Israel as well. You constantly ask yourself, "What would Ronald Reagan do?" That's what Ronald Reagan did.

MCCAUL: Well, I'd think -- look, in this case to say, "Look, I'm all for the humanitarian peace here, and that can be done," but I am not for saying -- what the president said is different. He said, "I -- if they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons, period."

He didn't say something else. That's what he said. And I have to go by his words because, you know what? They're not giving us any information. The State Department, this administration, have been -- not been transparent. They've been hiding the eight ball, and that's what he said.

RADDATZ: Just -- just quickly if you can, you heard Tess Ingram. You heard the horrible situation on the ground. Are you comfortable when you see those pictures of children? And estimates are 14,000 children have died there. Are you comfortable with that?

MCCAUL: No. I'm not at all. I mean, it is heartbreaking. You know, war, as they say, is hell. War is messy. But Israel didn't start this war. Hamas started this war. And Israel's going to finish this war. And until Hamas is eradicated, we can't get to the peaceful solution. And I think that's my -- my biggest concern. But, yeah, my heart goes out to that. I saw a video today of Hamas killing their own people, Palestinian children trying to get food out of the trucks.

RADDATZ: OK. We're going to stop it there. Thanks for coming in this morning, Congressman.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Martha.

RADDATZ: Up next, Stormy Daniels' testimony in the Trump hush money trial gets heated, and Michael Cohen prepares to take the stand. We'll break it all down when we come back.



REPORTER: What do you think of Stormy’s hush money?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So this was a very big day, a very revealing day as you've seen, their case is totally falling apart. They have nothing on books and records, and even something that should bear a little relationship to the case. It’s just a disaster.


RADDATZ: That was former President Donald Trump reacting to the sometimes salacious and often heated testimony of Stormy Daniels this week in his New York hush money trial. Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen is expected on the stand tomorrow.

ABC's Aaron Katersky has preview of what Cohen’s testimony could mean for the case.


AARON KATERSKY, ABC NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the last three weeks, the jury has heard a story of sex and scheming. Stormy Daniels described a 2006 sexual encounter with Donald Trump in a hotel suite that he said never happened. She told the jury Trump wore silk or satin pajamas, kept Old Spice, Pert Plus and a manicure set which was gold in his toiletry bag.

And she said while she never felt threatened, there was an imbalance of power for sure. There are the details the prosecutor said Trump paid to bury in 2016, and they are now counting on Michael Cohen to complete the narrative and pin the crime on Trump.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I’m kind of looking forward to it because, again, can't be finished with something unless you start it, right?

KATERSKY: Cohen has already been a trial fixture. The jury saw his $130,000 wire to Daniels 12 days before the 2016 election. The invoices Cohen prepared, and the checks Trump signed to reimburse him in monthly installments, and the jury heard a recording of Cohen on the phone saying Trump complained about paying.

COHEN: I can't even tell how many times he said to me, you know, I hate the fact that we did it, and my comment to him was, but every person that you've spoken to told you it was the right move.

KATERSKY: The defense has tried to distance Trump from criminal conduct, but prosecutors have said Cohen will testify that he paid off Daniels at Trump’s direction and did it to make sure voters did not learn of her sexual encounter with Trump that he denies happen.

Cohen will have to overcome unflattering testimony from other trial witnesses. Stormy Daniels' one-time lawyer Keith Davidson called Cohen a jerk and highly excitable, sort of a pants on fire kind of guy who no one wanted to talk to. Hope Hicks said Cohen was Trump's fixer only because he broke things.

Trump’s defense attorney has said Cohen cannot be trusted as a convicted liar and is obsessed with Trump. There he is on TikTok first reported by ABC News wearing a shirt with Trump behind bars in an orange jumpsuit, taunting his former boss.

COHEN: Trump 2024? More like Trump 20 to 24 years.

KATERSKY: Ahead of his testimony, the judge instructed prosecutors to communicate to Mr. Cohen that the judge is asking him to refrain from making any more statements about the case. He will have plenty to say from the witness stand.


KATERSKY (on camera): Martha, when Michael Cohen takes the witness stand here on Monday, it will be the second time in recent months he has come face to face with Donald Trump. Cohen testified against Trump in the attorney general's civil fraud case. That time, Trump volunteered to come to court to stare down Michael Cohen. This time as the defendant, Trump will have no choice but to sit there and listen -- Martha.

RADDATZ: Our thanks to Aaron Katersky.

Let's bring in our powerhouse roundtable. Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, “National Review” editor Ramesh Ponnuru, “Politico Playbook” co-author Rachael Bade, and “Washington Post” columnist Charles Lane.

Welcome to all of you.

And, Rachael, I want to start with you.

Let's go back to Storm Daniels. Trump still denies there was any encounter at all. How do you think this played out?

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTING POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's still an open question about whether her testimony is going to help or hurt the case against Trump in this particular matter, but clearly, a huge embarrassing moment for the former president with her, describing in details this alleged encounter.

RADDATZ: Which was surprising in the courtroom, given what the judge has said.

BADE: Exactly. And given he cannot attack her personally given this gag order, the former president has brought in a bunch of allies to New York to try to go after her, people like Rick Scott who wants to lead the Senate Republican conference and is trying to get in his good graces right now.

But as Aaron was just saying in that piece he just did, I mean, the big question I think, is moving forward, what is Michael Cohen going to say? I mean, this is a person who is a central witness. He was very close with Donald Trump, his fixer for a really long time, and he's going to be on the witness stand this week and to see them interact --

RADDATZ: It's going to be hard for Donald Trump to sit still during that one, I’m sure.

And, Charles, Trump and his team actually thinks this is all helping him, and the polls really kind of say the same thing.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL WRITER & COLUMNIST: The polls say it's not hurting him and not just this trial is not hurting him, but the three other criminal cases, one in Georgia and the two federal cases, one in Florida, and one in Washington -- it's hard to keep track sometimes, have caused a lot of hassle, have caused him to sit in a New York courtroom, but haven't really affected the polls and the presidential race, which show him still well-positioned to win. And on the testimony this week, you know, don't forget the fact that she, under the prosecution's own direction, kind of strayed into a lot of detail that's kind of extraneous to business records --

RADDATZ: putting it nicely.


LANE: Yes, because that's the only way you can put it -- sets up a potential appeal issue for the president -- former president rather that could then extend this thing even longer and that is the only case of the four that even stands to finish a trial before November.

RADDATZ: And Donna, regardless of all the legal merits or what was said in the court, Daniels' testimony really did seem to get to Trump.

DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER DNC CHAIR: Of course, and now, we perhaps know why they went out of their way to make sure that this story never saw the light of day back in 2016, immediately following the release or whatever of the "Access Hollywood" tape. You know, I have to remind myself, and I'm not a -- I'm a churchgoing Christian, but I have to remind myself this is not about the sex. It's about the documents. It's about the paper trail, and I think to the extent the prosecution can continue to focus on what's at stake in those 34 indictments, that's the case. That's the meat and bone.

So the fact that a 27-year-old woman had consensual or non-consensual sex, that's irrelevant. What's relevant is the documents and the fact that had those documents come out, had that story come out in 2016, it could have altered the outcome of that race.

RADDATZ: Ramesh, do you agree with that? Who do you think of the whole week?

RAMESH PONNURU, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR & BLOOMBERG OPINION COLUMNIST: Well, I think it's absolutely right that it's about the documents and not about the sexual relationship that happened 11 years prior, but that's what the prosecution is focusing on right now, and you have to wonder, as Charles was saying, whether that does set up the possibility of a reversal appeal. The political part of this though that I think needs to be kept in mind is the undermining character issues on display with Donald Trump here. They've always held his numbers down. It's just that there's no new information about his character that the trial is giving us. It's sort of already baked in by the electorate.

RADDATZ: And Charles, back to you. Do you think that it is people just are not really listening at this point, and now as Rachael pointed out, probably no other cases are going to court before the election?

LANE: There is a sort of hardcore of people who, mostly Democrats really, who follow this stuff very closely. But I'm skeptical that outside of that group, a lot of people are focusing on the day-to-day. Now look, Stormy Daniels is such a let's just say colorful story that it probably attracted more attention than usual, but I think Trump has succeeded through skillful lawyering, in part through luck, and through his natural kind of bullet-proofness with his own base to just kind of turn this into background music of American politics and something that's not providing a fresh drama that changes the narrative on his character.

As Ramesh points out, people know Donald Trump is not exactly a conventional person and is kind of mean and nasty at times and does all kinds of sketchy things, but that is not new.

BRAZILE: He's no choir boy. I think that's the best way to put it. But at the same time, I think people want someone with a little different character than what we are witnessing or seeing in the New York trial. And you are right, I think a lot of Americans are paying attention, not just Democrats, but I think independents too. Just look at the results this past week in Indiana, I mean, when you got that many voters, over 100,000 people saying no way, I am going to just go ahead and stick with Nikki Haley.

RADDATZ: You're talking about Nikki Haley getting 21 percent of the vote.

BRAZILE: Yeah, absolutely.

RADDATZ: Exactly. I want to move to Israel and talk about, you heard Senator Coons there and Mike McCaul. The White House made the clearest conditioning of aid to Israel yet. Your reaction to that State Department report, Ramesh, it sort of muddied this up in a way. He said, look, we're not going to -- we've paused these weapons and we could pause them even further as if go into full-scale, but then this report is kind of somewhere in the middle. It's finger-wagging and yet nothing illegal.

PONNURU: Yeah. Somewhere in the middle, I think, is a good description of the Biden Administration's position on this, and it does make you wonder about what the underlying thinking is because a lot of it doesn't seem to make sense except with respect to a political problem in the United States, in the Democratic Party. This deep split over our policy on Israel, but who is going to be made happy by this kind of sort of alternately finger-wagging and statements of resolve? If you are one of the protesters who's saying, Biden is complicit in genocide, it's hard to see you being mollified by this kind of gesture.

RADDATZ: Chuck, how do you see him threading that needle?

LANE: With great difficulty.

Just on the report by the State Department, I have – maybe it’s – I'm the only one who thinks this, I think the report may actually be true in the sense that it is very difficult, you’re right, these 2,000 pound bombs are tremendously destructive. But under law, the question is whether their use was related reasonably to a proportionate military goal. And on a case by case, that’s a judgment call.

But, again, telling that, if I'm –

RADDATZ: But it is about proportionality.

LANE: Exactly. And –

RADDATZ: And every military person I talk to said, look, it’s proportionality. And – and from what many of those I've talked to are seeing it's –

LANE: Undoubtedly. And that’s why I say it was true. There are cases where you would find that their use was inconsistent with international law. But the people Ramesh is talking about who are saying Genocide Joe are not interested in – you know, they want a cutoff of aid. And so they won't be happy. And then over here you have 26 House Democrats saying the president should not have done this, he’s betrayed an ally. That's his problem.

RADDATZ: And, Rachael, what do you see from – from the angle of The Hill? You've got Republicans like Mike McCaul saying, what you are doing?

BADE: Yes, I mean, we’re talking about, you know, the split in the Democratic Party here, but we also have to – to think about the Republican side. As you mentioned, I mean, there are already some Republicans, one in particular, who has come out and said he’s going to introduce articles of impeachment against Joe Biden because of his handling of this situation.

Now, obviously, Republicans tried to impeach Biden months ago. They didn't get any traction on this. The public wasn’t paying attention. And ultimately they shelved this.

But this idea actually has supporter – has support by people like Senator Tom Cotton. So, I'm going to be watching that very closely. I think in the coming days we're going to see the House pass a resolution to basically force Biden to continue supplying these weapons to Israel. But, obviously, that's not going to go anywhere in the Senate. And even if it did, Biden would never sign it himself. So, I'll be watching the Republican reaction in the House.

RADDATZ: Donna, how – how big a problem you think this is for Joe Biden?

BRAZILE: First of all, the president made it clear back in December that he wanted Israel to have a shift in strategy with regard to some of the uses of some of these bombs.

The president has been firm in his support of Israel. I mean he has been so firm in giving Israel everything they need, including a couple of weeks ago when Israel was under attack. So, I doubt very seriously it will cause any more, you know, division within the Democratic Party, but it's clearly something the president felt very strongly about. This is a president who's very pro-Israel.

RADDATZ: Rachael, I want to end with you here and talk about what happened on The Hill this week, the other big story, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene's attempt to oust Speaker Mike Johnson didn't happen.

BADE: Yes.

RADDATZ: Overwhelmingly so. What do – what does this tell you about the state of the Republican Party and the speakership?

BADE: Yes, I mean, so I was fortunate enough to have an hour to sit down with the speaker right after this vote took place. And I can tell you, he was very relieved. He told me that he didn't see it coming, didn't get a heads-up. But he's had this cloud hanging over him for months. Now that Marjorie Taylor Greene has lost this vote, it – he seems to think that he's going to be on track to continue his speakership as long as he has Trump's support. So, we'll see if he maintains that.

PONNURU: As long as he does.

RADDATZ: A lot – a lot of drama yet to come.

BADE: Yes. Yes.

RADDATZ: A lot of drama.

Thanks to all of you.

Coming up, George Stephanopoulos takes us inside the nerve center of the White House in his fascinating new book "The Situation Room."

We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: Coming up, my conversation with George on his new book "The Situation Room," diving into the history of presidents in crisis since the Kennedy administration. We're back in a moment.



QUESTION: Is there any prospect for a negotiated solution on Bosnia with the talks broken off now?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the secretary is going to hear about how the talks have gone right now, and we continue to hope that the parties do -- are able to work out a settlement.

The president believes this is a serious situation. He's taking it very seriously. We have an intensive review going on right now by the National Security Council and advisers, and we continue to review our options.


RADDATZ: That's our George Stephanopoulos 31 years ago, in a former life, at the start of the Clinton administration, facing questions from the press on Bosnia, just one of many global crises he witnessed firsthand from the White House.

George's fascinating new book "The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis" delves into the history of the secret White House nerve center where some of the nation's most profound decisions have been made.

I sat down with him this week to discuss that extraordinary history.


RADDATZ (voice over): It's the most secure location in the White House, first set up by President John Kennedy in 1961 to coordinate national security after the disastrous Bay ofPigs invasion. But it was two years later, when Kennedy's assassination would throw the room into crisis and heartbreak.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There are actually recordings, audio recordings of the situation room talking to Pierre Salinger, who was JFK's press secretary, who was actually on a plane with several cabinet officials on their way to Tokyo. And what you hear in the tapes is the situation room duty officer, through a series of phone calls telling, Pierre Salinger who is very close to the president, the president has been hit. We're not sure how bad it is. Five minutes later --

OLIVER S. HALLETT, SITUATION ROOM STAFFER (through telephone): This is the Situation Room. I read from the AP bulletin, Kennedy apparently shot in head.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ten minutes later, we have to report to you and you'll actually hear his voice shaking.

HALLETT (through telephone): This is Situation Room. We have report quoting Mr. Kilduff in Dallas that the president is dead, that he died about 35 minutes ago.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And this was the actual communication from the day that John F. Kennedy was shot.

RADDATZ (voice-over): That was, of course, the day that Lyndon Johnson inherited the presidency and the Situation Room, where he would obsess on the Vietnam War.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not only was he there all the time, he was calling the Situation Room all through the night for any scrap of information about Vietnam.

LYNDON JOHNSON, (D) 36TH U.S. PRESIDENT: It looks like, are two pilots lost?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like two U.S. pilots lost, and search and rescue is underway for them at this time, sir.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, one of the things, I as a researcher, and I think the readers will take away from it is that you learn that that information is not necessarily insight. All the information in the world about what was happening at any particular battlefield wasn't really going to tell him how to win that war because it was an unwinnable war. And deep down, he knew that, but he was looking for any -- any chance he had to get some control over it.

RADDATZ (voice-over): LBJ's reliance on the Room did not pay off in the end, which may have colored the perception of the Room for his successor, Richard Nixon, but he was managing a crisis of his own making, Watergate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Nixon hardly ever went to the Situation Room, but probably the most dramatic moment of his presidency occurred in the Situation Room without him there. It's October, 1973, war breaks out in the Middle East, the first Yom Kippur War. And Nixon is overwhelmed by the problems he's facing. He is spending most of his time in a private hideaway in the old executive office building, drinking scotch and listening to "Victory at Sea."

Henry Kissinger is running foreign policy for government. The Russians started to move towards the Middle East, and Henry Kissinger believed and his team believed that the only way they could deter them was to raise the nuclear alert level to DEFCON 3 which had only been done once before, during the Cuban missile crisis, and he did that basically without even telling the president of the United States.

RADDATZ (voice-over): If that weren't jaw-dropping enough, fast forward to a Situation Room meeting with the next president, Jimmy Carter, a nugget which George uncovered after reading Carter's diary.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Strangest story in the book.

RADDATZ (voice-over): It happened in the spring of 1980, just weeks after the failed rescue of the American hostages held if Iran.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There was actually a program in the intelligence community during the 1970s and 1980s called Operation Grill Flame, which used psychics, and because they were so fascinated by this, they actually called a meeting in May, so they could get a briefing on this parapsychology program. Jimmy Carter doesn't say a word, just takes out his notepad and writes one word on it, and sends it across the desk. The word is "hostages." Can you do anything he asked? He was so desperate for anything that might help him find a way to get the hostages home.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Needless to say it did not help. All of the hostages were not released until the day Ronald Reagan became president in January of 1981, and less than two months later, his aides would live another nightmarish day in the Situation Room. A gunman, once again, targeting a sitting U.S. President.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Richard Allen who was Ron Reagan's national security adviser, on the day he was shot, carried a portable tape recorder in the Situation Room, so you hear his top aides deliberating in real-time, trying to figure out how to run the government with the president unconscious. And it really does capture the chaos, the fog of -- equivalent of war and these people not really knowing what kind of shape the president was in, what the chain of command was. It captures a moment that became infamous when Al Haig, who was the secretary of state at the time, famously went up to the White House Press Roomand said...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... thinking that he was third in line for the presidency. And, of course, they're talking about that in the Situation Room before he goes out there. They didn't bother to correct him because they thought, "Oh, well, he's not going to do anything with this." And it became such a famous mistake for him, an indelible mark on his career.

But you also saw the human moments of them trying to figure out what capacities the president had to continue to do his job. And it's really the only real-time record of that kind that was ever -- ever made in the Situation Room.

RADDATZ: There has been great sadness, but moments of incredible triumph as well, like May 2011, when President Obama and his advisers watched two dozen Navy SEALs carry out the raid that killed Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I interviewed Pete Souza, President Obama's photographer, who was stuck in the corner of the room, just flashing -- you know, hitting the shutters as fast as he could. He's pretty sure that -- he can't be 1,000 percent sure, but he's pretty sure that the moment that he captured, that is now the most iconic photo ever taken in the Situation Room, is the moment when the first helicopter had the hard landing in Abbottabad.

President Obama famously said, you know, when -- after all the intelligence came in on where Osama bin Laden was, whether that person, the pacer, was indeed Osama bin Laden, he says, "Listen, in the end, it's a 50/50 call, and you just have to make the judgment."

But, you know, as -- as someone who spent several hours in that room, you are aware of the weight of history when you're in that room. And the history echoes through the room.


RADDATZ: And coming up, George takes us inside the Situation Room on January 6th. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: January 6th was one of the most harrowing days in our country's history. So, I asked George about the role the Situation Room played on that day. What was going on in the Situation Room that day as rioters were storming Capitol Hill?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Harrowing. It was a harrowing day inside the Situation Room. I talked to a duty officer named Mike Steegler (ph) who -- it had been his dream to work in the White House and he was on duty on January 6th, getting real-time reports from the vice president's secret service detail about how much danger the vice president was in. He and his colleagues started to implement the continuity of government operations.

People may not know what that is. Those are the Executive Order -- the First Amendment by Dwight Eisenhower, to figure out how the government could survive a nuclear attack and putting everything in place, the line of succession, safe spaces for people to go to. They started to implement those procedures. It had only been done once before, on 09/11. They were implementing those on January 6th, dealing with a crisis inspired by the president of the United States, and all during that day, as they're dealing with this crisis, President Trump never once called down to the Situation Room, the nerve center of the White House, for any information.

RADDATZ: Never called the Pentagon, never did anything. And when he walked out of the White House that night at the end of the day, I think you described that in the book.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mike Steegler (ph), you know, it had been his dream to work in the White House and he couldn't believe what had happened, but he also knew that he had to steel himself for going back in the very next day, and that's exactly what he did because, like all those people who served in the Situation Room, say we serve the presidency, not the president. He feared that the institution would crumble that day, but it didn't. It still stood. And he was determined to do his part to keep everything going.

But to this day, he and several of his colleagues who served the day, still have a hard time talking about it. Go to the Lincoln Memorial every January 6th, and they raise a glass to the fact that we didn't crumble that day, we stood our ground and the nation survived.

RADDATZ: Our thanks to George and "The Situation Room" will be out on Tuesday. It is simply an amazing read. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. And to all the moms out there, Happy Mother's Day.