'This Week' Transcript 5-19-24: Sen. Chris Van Hollen & Victoria Nuland

ByABC News
May 19, 2024, 10:15 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 19, 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: Make my day, pal. I'll even do it twice.

RADDATZ: President Biden and Donald Trump agree to two presidential debates.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will never give up and we will never ever, ever back down.

RADDATZ: The candidates defy tradition with new rules after chaos four years ago.

TRUMP: Which was heavily –

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: No. Mr. President – Mr. President –

RADDATZ: This morning, how the history of candidate clashes led to big changes.

Plus, reaction from Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen and a former top adviser to both Trump and Mike Pence. And our powerhouse roundtable.

Under fire.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT) : This kind of conduct is taking down the Supreme Court.

RADDATZ: A photo shows a stop the steal symbol flying outside Justice Samuel Alito's home just days after the January 6th insurrection. As the Supreme Court weighs immunity for Trump's actions. We’ll discuss the fallout with Pierre Thomas and “New York Times” reporter Jodi Kantor, who broke the story.

Renewed offensive. Russia moves in on Ukraine's second largest city, as Ukrainian troops struggle to repel the latest advance.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT: It is difficult. It is serious. Brigades are not totally equipped.

RADDATZ: James Longman is in the war zone.

Plus, reaction from former top U.S. Diplomat Victoria Nuland.

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

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.

Make my day. Those were President Joe Biden's fighting words this week, proposing two live debates with former President Donald Trump. Just hours later, it was set.

ABC will hold a September 10th debate with David Muir and Lindsey Davis as moderators. And next month, on June 27th, CNN will host Biden and Trump in the earliest general election debate in history.

The candidates jettisoned the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized presidential face-offs since 1988. Instead, agreeing to rules that would cut off mics when it is not the candidate's turn, and ruling out a live audience.

Biden's unprecedented and unexpected debate proposal comes as new swing state polling out this week paints a gloomy picture for his re-election. So, can the early debates shift the race? We’ll dive into all of that this morning. But first, a look at the tradition that began back in 1960.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MODERATOR (1950): The Republican candidate, Vice President Richard M. Nixon, and the Democratic candidate, Senator John F. Kennedy.

RADDATZ (voice over): It was the first ever televised debate with no live audience but nearly 70 million Americans watching Richard Nixon sweat and the handsome young John Kennedy likely sealing his narrow victory.

Fast forward to 1984, to 73-year-old Ronald Reagan, who was then the oldest candidate in history, tackling his age head on.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (1984): I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.

RADDATZ (voice over): And if anyone doubted that debate answers can make or break presidential campaigns, remember this. Michael Dukakis' robotic answer to what was an emotional question.

BERNARD SHAW, MODERATOR (1988): Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?

MICHEAL DUKAKIS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE (1988): No, I don't, Bernard. And I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.

RADDATZ (voice over): And you don't just have to watch your words in these debates. There was George H.W. Bush checking his watch. And Vice President Al Gore's exasperated sighs.

RADDATZ (2012): Good evening and welcome to the first and only vice presidential debate.

RADDATZ (voice over): I moderated the vice presidential debate in 2012 between Congressman Paul Ryan and Joe Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (2012): It’s why they arrive here.

RADDATZ (2012): Is he wrong about that?

PAUL RYAN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLICAN NOMINEE (2012): He is wrong about that. They’re –

BIDEN (2012): How’s that?

RYAN (2012): You can – you can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle class taxpayers.

BIDEN (2012): Not mathematically possible.

RYAN (2012): It – it is mathematically possible. It's been done before. It's precisely what we’re proposing.

BIDEN (2012): It has never been done before.

RYAN (2012): It's been done a couple of times, actually.

BIDEN (2012): It has never been done before.

RYAN (2012): Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan --

BIDEN (2012): Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy.

RADDATZ (voice over): It was feisty, yet civil debate. My how things have changed.



RADDATZ (voice over): Four years later, enter Donald Trump.

I co-moderated one of the debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was, to say the least, challenging.

RADDATZ: Thank you very much. We’re going to move on.

TRUMP: You know, it’s funny, she went over – a minute over and you don't stop her. When I go one second over, it’s like (INAUDIBLE).

RADDATZ: You had many answers.

RADDATZ (voice over): But that debate was nothing compared to what would follow in 2020, when Trump and Biden’s first debate spired out of control.

BIDEN (2020): I'm not going to answer the question because –

TRUMP (2020): Why won’t you answer that question?

BIDEN (2020): because the question is –

TRUMP (2020): You want to put a lot of new Supreme Court justices –

BIDEN (2020): The question is –

TRUMP (2020): Radical left. Who is –

BIDEN (2020): The question –

TRUMP (2020): Listen –

BIDEN (2020): Will you shut up, man.

RADDATZ (voice over): From endless interruptions to name calling.

TRUMP (2020): Will you consider –

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR (2020): Go ahead. You get the – wait a minute. You get the final word, Mr. Biden.

BIDEN (2020): Well, it’s hard to get any word in this with clown. Excuse me, this – this person.

TRUMP (2020): Hey, hey, let me just say here –

RADDATZ (voice over): Trump combative throughout.

TRUMP (2020): Can I be honest? It’s a very important question.

BIDEN (2020): Try to be honest.

WALLACE (2020): No, I – I –

TRUMP (2020): He stood up – he stood up –

WALLACE (2020): No, I – the answer to the question is no.

TRUMP (2020): And he threatened Ukraine.

WALLACE (2020): No. I – sir –

TRUMP (2020): With a billion dollars if you don’t get rid of the troops (ph).

WALLACE (2020): Sir –

BIDEN (2020): That is absolutely not true.

WALLACE (2020): You know here, wait, stop –

TRUMP (2020): Well, you’re on tape doing it. You’re on tape.

BIDEN (2020): Not true.

WALLACE (2020): You are going to have -- gentlemen!

RADDATZ (voice over): Nearly a month later, the final debate of that year. Both men seeming to have learned a lesson, showing more restraint. But the debate was just 12 days before the election, and more than 48 million Americans had already cast their ballot.


RADDATZ: And I'm joined now by Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who has helped Joe Biden prepare for debates in the past.

Good morning, Senator. Great to have you on set this morning.

The campaign has talked about wanting to do these debates early because so many people vote early, as we just pointed out in that piece. But does this give Biden a chance to change the narrative given his polling numbers?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE & (D) MARYLAND: Well, Martha, first of all, it's good to be with you.

And I'm glad now we have debates that work better for the American people. These debates will now take place before millions of people have voted. They’re designed to focus on serious issues rather than create a circus atmosphere. And, in – in June, when the first debate will be, it will give the president, yes, an opportunity to really frame the choice that's before the American people. And the sooner we begin to frame that choice, the better.

RADDATZ: They – they cut off mics – you said an advantage for the American people. They cut off mics if the candidates aren't speaking. It's just one on one. No live audience. That seems to be advantaging Biden since former President Trump loves that live audience.

VAN HOLLEN: Again, I think this is an advantage to the American people. They want the candidates focused on issues, on the economy, on foreign policy. What Donald Trump likes is a carnival-like atmosphere. He’s more of an entertainer than a serious debater on the issues. And so I think this helps the American people crystallize the choice.

RADDATZ: President Trump – former President Trump has already started trashing Joe Biden, calling for a drug test, saying that President Biden was high during the State of the Union. So, we’re not exactly talking about policy yet. So, what are your expectations of these debates?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we know Donald Trump. You just mentioned, you know, the drug testing. This is the guy who was the – the birther candidate. He is not focused on issues that, you know, are important to the American people. He wants to create this sort of atmosphere of a circus-like entertainment.

But the choice will be very clear. I mean you’ve got Joe Biden. He’s the guy who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He fights for the middle class. He believes in the dignity of work and decency. Donald Trump, agent of chaos, somebody who’s running for revenge and somebody who just said to a bunch of oil company executives the other day, give – give me $1 billion for my campaign and I'll give you everything you want.

RADDATZ: He – he clearly – Donald Trump clearly thinks there's an advantage here, though, or he wouldn't have accepted. So, what do you think he gains out of this? I mean certainly, he can talk to his base. Does it attract independent voters?

VAN HOLLEN: You know, look, Donald Trump believes that by sort of creating this atmosphere of chaos, entertainment -- we saw him yesterday down with the NRA promising, you know, the gun lobby everything they wanted, you know, saying he was proud of the fact he didn't take action after kids were gunned down.

So, I – look, the Trump campaign will have to answer, you know, what they want out of this debate.

RADDATZ: But – but let's talk about – the American public is concerned about Joe Biden's age as well. And I know you’re going to say Donald Trump is almost that age. But can you honestly say you don't have any concerns about Joe Biden that night in these debates?

VAN HOLLEN: I do not have concerns. I mean there were people who said they were concerned about the State of the Union address. He came out swinging. You know, he delivered a very clear message to the American people.

Look, it's not about the age of the candidate, it's about the ideas of the candidate, what they're going to do for the American people going forward.

Donald Trump is all about revenge. He's all about the past.

Joe Biden is about fighting for the American people and putting forward an agenda for the future.

RADDATZ: Okay. So let -- let's put campaigning as aside for a moment. I know in the 2012 debate, which I moderated, you played the part of Paul Ryan in rehearsals. What did you learn about Joe Biden's process for these debates?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the challenge as always is to boil down a huge amount of issues into a short amount of time. And, you know, Joe Biden likes to explain things. He likes to talk about his record. But in a debate, you've got to really crystallize that.

And again the choice is going to be so clear this time between Joe Biden, somebody who's protecting democracy, and Donald Trump who wants to trash it.

RADDATZ: No way you're putting campaigning aside, right?

In the 2020 debates, President Biden was exasperated at one point. I mean, those were very different debates. The first one was total chaos. The second calmed down a bit, but he was calling Trump a clown, saying “shut up”.

Would you advise him not to do that this time?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I don't know if I would because you have to show the human side of people. I mean, I remember in the vice presidential debate that you moderated, there were plenty of times that Joe Biden did things that we had not gone over, right, in the prep. I mean, he at one point responded to Paul Ryan, “That's a bunch of malarkey”.

So you've got to show who you are. And, you know, when Donald Trump is being a complete jerk, then I can understand the president of the United States, you know, responding and letting him know that's what he thinks.

Former President Trump, he's accepted the invitation for these two. He also wants to do more debates including Telemundo, Hispanic audience. Would you advise him to do more, President Biden?

VAN HOLLEN: I think we finally nailed down two debates. Rather than getting into a debate about debates, you know, my understanding is Telemundo can partner with other, you know, ABC or CNN, as part of that night.

So, look, you know, Donald Trump likes to talk trash, he always says he wants to do something and then doesn't. I don't know if he's going to testify at his trial in New York this week, where he says he really wants to get on the stand.

So the good news for the American people is that we've now locked down two debates.

RADDATZ: Let's look at this polling. The battleground states polls from the New York Times and Siena College this week show he's down by 12 in Nevada, seven in Michigan, seven in Arizona, and three in Pennsylvania. The only states where he had the slight edge, in Wisconsin.

How do you turn that around? That is a pretty dire polling.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I, first of all, polls go up and down. I mean, you and I have been following politics for a long time. We know it will go up and down.

But the short answer is to begin to frame the choice for the American people, which is why it's very good news that the first debate will be in June.

RADDATZ: And we’ll be looking forward to that.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Senator.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you. Thanks.

RADDATZ: And I’m joined now by former Trump-Pence adviser Marc Lotter, who was involved in Vice President Pence's debate prep in 2020.

Good morning to you, Marc.

Former President Trump quickly agreed to all the terms of Biden campaign laid out and yet in his speech at the NRA, which we've talked about, he was complaining about everything, trashing Joe Biden, calling for drug tests. Is that the right approach in your view?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS & AMERICA FIRST POLICY INSTITUTE CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER: Well, I think the choice is going to be clear in this election and I think people will see it on that debate stage in June. You know, for Donald Trump, I think, it's basically a strategy of reality and real life. The reality is that people are struggling in real life to pay for groceries and gas, the open border problem, crime, the wars raging around the world.

And so, what you're going to see is a policy put forth by Donald Trump that brings back economic success, affordability, a secured border, versus Joe Biden, which is more of the same, and the American people have clearly showed in the polls they don't like it.

RADDATZ: Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debate, said Trump's decision to agree to the conditions that the Biden campaign wanted could end up being one of the greatest blunders of the entire election cycle. Someone described it to him as political malpractice. Your response?

LOTTER: Oh, absolutely not. Look, this is going to be a choice between two candidates. It’s great to see them both on the stage. I think the American people need to see Donald Trump and Joe Biden side by side.

This is not a Joe Biden that can shield himself with his staff walking the Marine One or take the short stairs or use a teleprompter. This is going to be live recall.

And, you know, Donald Trump gets up there two or three times a week and pontificates for 90minutes. Joe Biden rarely does an actual hard interview. This is going to be a challenge for the – for President Biden.

RADDATZ: But – but, Marc, you just – you just heard Senator Van Hollen talk about like a circus atmosphere. And – and we’ve seen that in the past. We saw that in 2020 certainly. I moderated a debate in 2016. It’s a very different kind of debate. Will he really stick to policies instead of outbursts?

LOTTER: I think he will because I think he wins with the policies. And I think the American people know that they were better off, things were more affordable and the border was secure when Donald Trump was in the White House. And many want it back, which is what the polls really show. So, without the – but without the –

RADDATZ: OK, Marc, I – I – I want to put campaigning aside for a minute. Let – let's talk about what I ask about. Those outbursts. This is very different dealing with Donald Trump. Would you advise him, if you were advising on this, to stop that, to stop the circus-like atmosphere, to stop attacking already the moderators, the format?

LOTTER: Well, since the mics are going to be closed, it looks like it's just going to be the candidate themselves answering the questions and responding to each other. So, I think that format takes care of itself. And when Donald Trump sticks to the policies, I think there is a stark difference between these two candidates.

RADDATZ: I want to talk about some polls from – from those past debates. CNN/SSRS poll conducted immediately after the general election debates in 2020 found that more voters who watched thought Biden had won. Of course, he won in 2020 as well. So, this could be seen, as Frank Fahrenkopf said, precarious for Donald Trump.

LOTTER: I actually think it's the reverse. I think this is a Hail Mary for Joe Biden. I think they know they are losing in the polls. The people disagree and disapprove of Joe Biden's handling of just about every single issue across the board. And so I think this is their shot, this is their Hail Mary to try to change the narrative. And I think in a way they’re also setting up Joe Biden to possibly fail if he doesn't do well in the June debate. I mean what's that say moving forward? Will they try to remove him and change horses in August?

RADDATZ: And – and right now polls show that Donald Trump is ahead of Biden in battleground states. So, why does he believe this is in his best interest? He didn't do any primary debates, so why do these?

LOTTER: Well, I think – I think what you want to see, and I think what the Trump campaign wants to see is a direct comparison between Donald Trump and a clearly not up for primetime Joe Biden. I mean he struggles with – with answering questions. He gets the facts wrong about the economy in an interview last week or two with CNN. He makes up stories about his uncle being, you know, eaten by cannibals. If you’re only going to have 90 seconds to two minutes to answer and Joe Biden is struggling for his words or the facts, that's a problem for Joe Biden. It will be on display for the American people.

RADDATZ: Thanks for joining us this morning, Marc Lotter. We will all be watching those debates.

Up next, we’ll tackle the uproar around Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito over an upside down American flag at his home after January 6th and what it could mean for cases before the Supreme Court.

We’re back in two minutes.


RADDATZ: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is facing backlash following a New York Times report out this week showing an upside-down American flag was flown at his home in the weeks after January 6th.

For more on what that means and why it could potentially impact cases before the court, I'm joined now by the person who broke that story, New York Times investigative reporter Jodi Kantor and ABC News chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Good morning to you both.

And, Jody, let's start with you. Alito claims this happened because his wife was in some sort of dispute with neighbors. Explain that.

JODI KANTOR, NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, let's take this from the point of view, first of all, of the neighbors and also the people back at the court who heard about it shortly after it happened.

It's just after January 6, 2021. It's just before President Biden's inauguration. And people are seeing this upside-down American flag outside the justice's home. And this, at the time, is really a "Stop the steal" symbol. And so people have this, kind of, "What the heck" reaction, on a lot of levels.

First of all, as everybody knows, federal judges are just not supposed to make political displays. It's a pretty bedrock rule. Second of all, they're looking at it and saying, "Wait a second. Is Justice Alito an insurrectionist? Does he oppose the peaceful transfer of power?"

And so that's really how the questions started. I learned about it, I was able to document it very recently. And I think the question now that it leads to is Justice Alito has this, sort of, long story about a fight that his wife was in with a neighbor, that he's using to explain it.

But of course, it raises bigger questions about judicial bias, especially at a time when the court is still contemplating January 6th questions.

RADDATZ: And, Jodi, just quickly, this happened a long time ago. It's surprising that it took so long for the neighbors to come out?

KANTOR: Perhaps. You know, I mean, believe me, I was only able to really confirm this information very recently, and we got it in the paper pretty fast after that. I don't know the full explanation. But I'll say two things. Not everybody saw it. You would think now, with this being news, everybody did. But it was up for a few days. And you would have to, sort of, pause for a second and look at the flag and say, "Hey, that's upside down."

And then the second thing is that people on this block are nervous, I can tell you. There have been a lot of protesters on the block. People -- some people on the block favor that. Some people on the block are upset about that. And I think there's collective worry on this block that it is going to turn into a circus, and to some degree already has.

RADDATZ: And -- and, Pierre, I want you to talk about the symbolism, a little more, of an upside-down flag. But -- but this is the second Supreme Court justice's spouse who's had an issue about "Stop the steal." But this is different. Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas, she was posting things on her Facebook page about "Stop the steal." That's her. This is a flag flown at their house, his house.

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Martha, make no mistake about this. This inverted, or upside-down flag has become a symbol of election deniers and "Stop the steal" supporters, including some who attacked the Capitol on January 6th. That's just a fact.

And it's interesting -- and critics say that people who use the flag in this way are at odds with federal law. There's something called the flag code, federal flag code. And it says basically that it calls for respect for the flag and states flatly, and I quote, "No disrespect shall be shown to the flag of the United States of America. The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress or in instances of extreme danger of life or property."

So, again, there are no penalties for this. There's no criminal enforcement of this. But, again, this is a very serious issue.

RADDATZ: But on -- on the point of Ginni Thomas, second Supreme Court spouse, but -- but this is different?

THOMAS: It -- it absolutely is different. Ginni Thomas was a person who had great misgivings and took actions regarding what she thought was a stolen election from Donald Trump.

This involves a Supreme Court justice where the Justice Department has two cases before the Supreme Court, one involving presidential immunity, another involving whether they'd applied a federal statute to broadly in connection with January 6 suspects.

DOJ expects and wants the court to have blinders on. Justice is supposed to be blind, but they're very concerned, Martha, very concerned. But there's little they can do about it.

I put a question to them on the record to comment. They declined to comment because they're at the mercy of the court.

RADDATZ: And, Jodi, a little bit more on that elaborate on these cases before the court, but also the difference between the Ginni Thomas and this case?

JODI KANTOR, NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Sure. So right now, the court is deciding two essential questions about January 6th. One is about a law that rioters and former President Trump could potentially be bound by, what is the nature of this law, does it apply to this situation? And then the even more immediate one is to what degree President Trump has immunity for his actions on January 6th.

So these are climactic questions. They're going to shape the history of January 6th and how we remember it, the level of accountability that former President Trump has. And they also are going to have a lot of impact on the next presidential election because polls are showing that former President Trump is viewed differently whether he's convicted or not.

So the court was already almost in an impossible situation with these cases because the nation is so politically divided and trust is dropping so much that it was going to be very difficult to get really broad faith in whatever they decide.

But now that one of the justices has flown this flag at his home, even if his wife is the one who put it up. And also, as you say, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas, was actually involved in the Stop the Steal efforts and yet Justice Thomas has not fully recused himself from these cases.

These questions of trust and acceptance and legitimacy I think are going to be on people's minds in a week when these opinions come out.

RADDATZ: They certainly will be. Thanks to both of you. We really appreciate your time.

Up next, as Russia advances on Ukraine's second largest city, we’ll have a report from the ground. And a former top State Department official breaks down the war effort as that stalled U.S. aid makes its way to Ukraine.



ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: Bottom line is this, for anyone who is tempted to bet against Ukraine, don't. It would be a big mistake. I have every confidence that together, we will get through these difficult moments and together help the other country that's free, that's prosperous, that's secure, that writes its own future.


RADDATZ: That was Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a visit to Ukraine this week, showing his support for the nation as Russian forces are now threatening the major city of Kharkiv. Can recently approved U.S. aid to Ukraine get there in time to stop Russia's advances? ABC's James Longman has the latest from Ukraine.

JAMES LONGMAN, ABC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kharkiv is Ukraine's second largest city. And right now, it feels like Russia's number one target, under daily threat from bombardment. A strike on this neighborhood not far from the city center injured five people Saturday, among them two children.

LONGMAN: We have been in Kharkiv a few days now and every day, we hear missile and drone attacks coming in on the city. This hit just a few hours ago. We actually heard it hit here. We've got investigators here on site. The house ruined, you can see the crater there in the garden.

LONGMAN (voice-over): But to the north of the city, a battle is raging. A week into Russia's major incursion, at least 12 towns and villages now swallowed up by their advance. More than 8,000 have fled, among them 78-year-old Nina (ph) from Vovchansk, the epicenter of the fighting.

LONGMAN: So what's happening here is Nina (ph) is desperate to go home. She keeps repeating it. She's crying. Perhaps she hasn't fully understood is that Vovchansk is not going to be a place she can maybe ever go back to.

LONGMAN (voice-over): Ukraine now says they have stabilized the station. I spoke exclusively with the battalion commander responsible for the defense.

The aid shortage made a difference, he says. We have a saying. The sweat of the artillerymen saves the blood of the infantrymen. When there's only sweat and no shells, more of my men die. Despite all the talk of Ukraine's failures, the commander seems pleased at the chance to strike into Russia. For the first time in my life, he says, I can shoot into the territory of the Russian Federation.

Speaking in China, Vladimir Putin said he wants to create a buffer zone to stop Ukrainian forces from being able to launch those attacks. Putin's visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping further cementing that alliance as the West stands behind Ukraine. But touring a Kharkiv hospital last week, President Zelenskyy told me, the stalled U.S. aid package has held them back and the two Patriot systems would be enough to protect Kharkiv.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If we are speaking about this region, Russian can't occupy this if, for example, two Patriots will stay in this region. Just two systems.

LONGMAN: Americans are worried about how much money is being spent in Ukraine. What's your message to them?

ZELENSKYY: All this money, we don't get any money. All this money, it goes to the factories in the United States. And then this factory gives jobs to Americans. And then weapon goes to us.

LONGMAN (voice-over): The only issue perhaps more critical than the weapons and ammunition shortage, Martha, is manpower. And that's why this week, a new law came into effect here in Ukraine, which lowers the age of men are drafted into the army from 27 to 25. Martha?


RADDATZ: Thanks to James. I'm joined by Victoria Nuland, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Biden Administration. Good morning to you. These are the largest gains we have seen in Russia, as James just explained. President Zelenskyy directly blaming the delay of foreign aid. Can they turn this around?

VICTORIA NULAND, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they can certainly turn this around, Martha. But the six-month delay certainly made a difference. The frontline for Ukraine needs the artillery that we are sending. They need more air defenses. They need to be able to stop these Russian attacks that are coming from bases inside Russia. So, I think there's also a question of whether we, the United States and our allies, ought to give them more help in hitting Russian bases, which heretofore we have not been willing to do.

RADDATZ: And do you think they should?

NULAND: I think if the attacks are coming directly from over the line in Russia, that those bases ought to be fair game, whether they are where missiles are being launched from or where they are where troops are being supplied from.

I think it’s time for that because Russia has obviously escalated this war, including, as you said, at the beginning, attacking Russia’s second city, Kharkiv, which is not on the front lines, and trying to decimate it without ever having to put a boot on the ground. So I think it is time to give the Ukrainians more help hitting these bases inside Russia.

RADDATZ: One of the reasons that the administration has hesitated is because they believe it will escalate things even further with Russia, pull the U.S. further in. Why not – why – so why do you think that's a good idea?

NULAND: Because it's Russia that has escalated this war. Russia has learned how to pull its forces back out of the range where we have allowed Ukraine to use our weapons and get our support. So, they are getting a direct advantage in this war from our hesitation, and they have escalated massively. As you know, they have flattened a third of Kharkiv without ever having to get on the ground there. So, it is time to stop that and help Ukraine push them back.

RADDATZ: You have dealt with Vladimir Putin over multiple administrations. When you look at what's happened here and what he is doing, just – just tell us what you think he is up to, besides the obvious, and what mistakes we have made with Vladimir Putin.

NULAND: Well, clearly at this point in his life, Vladimir Putin has decided that his legacy is based on restoring at least the Soviet Union, if not a larger empire for Russia. He is defining greatness for Russia in territorial terms rather than an economic or political power. And he’s willing to sacrifice the future, not only of Ukraine and his relationship with the rest of the world, but of the Russian people for this crazy imperial ambition.

You know, I think the Covid period, when he was in isolation, just made him more and more paranoid, et cetera. If I had to look at one mistake we made, I think we underestimated what he was willing to do to get to this place that he wanted to get to for Russia, which is territorial and not political or economic.

RADDATZ: Secretary Blinken's trip to Ukraine certainly sent a message that the U.S. is supporting him. But what would you say to those Republicans who are still concerned about aid going there, or those Americans who say, look, we have – we have problems at home, why do we need this aid?

NULAND: Well, obviously, we have problems at home and we need to support our domestic front and our international front. But this is about more than Ukraine. And this is about more than Vladimir Putin. First of all, if Ukraine cannot survive and thrive, Putin will not stop there. He will walk towards NATO, and we will have a much larger war, because he will know that he can. And we will become directly involved.

But also, if you don't stop Putin here, a guy who has bitten off a piece of a smaller country that was not doing anything to hurt him, then it sends a message to autocrats everywhere that it's free game to invade your neighbor, et cetera. And that will send a message in Asia, it will send a message to Iran, all around the world.

So, if the United States wants to lead in this world, if we want to maintain the free and open democratic order that has served us so well, we’ve got to protect it abroad so that we can stay safe at home. And to remind the vast majority of this aid for Ukraine is coming right back to U.S. defense industry to build those weapons, for us, to replace the ones we’re sending to Ukraine, and it provides good jobs in more than 30 states of the United States.

RADDATZ: And NATO is now considering sending trainers to Ukraine, but the U.S. has said no to that. Is that the right move?

NULAND: You know, we do a huge amount of training for Ukrainians in NATO territory, in Poland and Germany and other parts of the alliance. It is hard for Ukrainians to come out and come off the front to train. But I worry that NATO training bases inside Ukraine will become a target for Vladimir Putin. And it does directly implicate NATO on the ground, which could, as you worried about earlier, escalate the war in a different direction and cause Putin to think that NATO territory might be fair game for him.

So, I think it still makes most sense to do most of the training outside of Ukraine but to give advice inside Ukraine as the Ukrainians ask for it and need it.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so much for joining us this morning. It's great to see you, Secretary.

Coming up, the powerhouse roundtable takes on the Trump trial and the latest in the 2024 race.

We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: The "powerhouse roundtable" is here, ready to go. We're back in a moment.



SEN. J.D. VANCE, (R-OH): I think this trial is absolutely ridiculous. I think it's a sham prosecution. And I think that, luckily, the president's supporters should know that he is in great spirits despite the circumstances of this.

GOV. DOUG BURGUM, (R-ND): The American people have already acquitted Donald Trump. The sooner that this scam trial can be concluded, the sooner that the president can get back to getting out campaigning and talking to the American people about the issues that matter to them.


RADDATZ: Top Trump supporters and VP hopefuls, J.D. Vance and Doug Burgum joining the parade of GOP supporters at the Trump trial this week. Let's bring in the Powerhouse Roundtable. Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, Former Trump Justice Department Spokesperson and Dispatch Senior Editor Sarah Isgur, NPR White House Correspondent Asma Khalid, The New York Times David Sanger, Author of 'New Cold Wars'. I don't want to get your book title wrong but I do want to start with you.


RADDATZ: So we went from not knowing if there would be any debate to two debates. But this is really upending tradition.

DAVID SANGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE & NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT & AUTHOR, 'NEW COLD WARS': It is upending tradition. First, ending the role of the commission on presidential debates. Second, having the candidates work it out between themselves. I think the big question is, is this going to be a contained debate like the better ones that you showed at the beginning of the show?

In the ideal, we are back to the Nixon/Kennedy era where there was actual real discussion of speaking of new cold wars, the old cold war and strategic advantage for the United States versus its adversaries and real domestic issues. The debates have been straight downhill with occasional bumps ever since.

And it's going to be a real challenge to keep these on. But when you think about it, if this debate goes well, the moderators will force a discussion of how each candidate views democracy, how they view the importance of, say, climate change. I think we already know that from the different policies. And mostly, I think if we get a view of what the role of the United States is in the world, something that, believe it or not, has not been debated or discussed by these candidates once in the midst of the divisions we have seen.

RADDATZ: And Asma, the Biden campaign is holding firm that the president will only debate twice. Donald Trump is offering more debates with Telemundo, vice presidential debate with HBCU.

ASMA KHALID, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. And you know, I think what Donald Trump is trying to do is goad Biden into participating in additional debates, specifically because they say that -- and this is true that Biden does have weaknesses when you look at certain minority communities. The challenge is, Joe Biden and his campaign has made it clear that the debate about debates is over.

They want to keep this very limited. They don't want to have a live audience for folks to cheer or jeer. And they also really want these debates to occur before early voting begins. We know early voting is going to begin as early as September in many states.

RADDATZ: And Sarah, what do you think about the conditions of the debate? Who does that help? Who does that hurt? I mean, cutting off a mike is not what Donald Trump likes.

SARAH ISGUR, 'THE DISPATCH' SENIOR EDITOR, FORMER TRUMP JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think, believe it or not, this actually probably helps Donald Trump. He may not like his mike cut off. But to force him into a more disciplined debate environment will probably help him because it will empower the moderators. It will make it watchable debate.

Part of what happened in 2020 is that the debates were unwatchable. The candidates kept talking over each other. I have no idea what they were trying to talk about. And so, then the debate didn't matter at all. There's actually a chance, if the mikes get cut off and we actually hear what they say, the moderator is in charge, that this debate could matter.

RADDATZ: And Donna, what do you think about the conditions? Does it help Joe Biden?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR &ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it helps the American people to separate the substance from the superficial. I mean, to have two candidates stand with moderators is I think a far better opportunity for us to learn about those issues that you highlighted and to get the audience out of it. Look, I have no problem with the audience participation. But this is a serious moment for the country and for the world. And I think what the president outlined, (inaudible), his campaign cheer out line (ph), it's good. Donald Trump has accepted. So let's get it on.

RADDATZ: David, but these are two candidates who everybody is very familiar with. I mean, you’ve heard Marc Lotter, you've heard Senator Van Hollen, I mean going into the campaign pitch. So where they right to -- was Joe Biden really right to want this debate right now and Donald Trump as well?

SANGER: I think he's got two or three reasons. First of all, he's got to get past this age debate that keeps coming back. And so he was on a little bit of a roll from doing well in the State of the Union, and--

RADDATZ: -- as Senator Van Hollen brought up. But, basically, you never know.

SANGER: That's right. You never know how this is going to be, but he's got to give that a shot.

And, secondly, by doing them this early, he's got an opportunity to begin to affect those independents. Remember, this is a battle that is going to be fought among an incredibly narrow group of undecideds in the United States. And that's the group he's got to go appeal to.

KHALID: I also--


KHALID: -- think, thought, that he does need to energize his base. I mean, this is -- I think there are two things he needs to do. And by doing this early, I think there is a sense that he does need to mobilize voters.

I mean, I was just out in Georgia--

RADDATZ: Which he's been trying to do.

KHALID: He has been trying to do it, with black voters. I'm sure we'll talk about that. I mean, there are key parts of the coalition that helped elect Joe Biden that are seeming to have some softness right now in terms of his re-election bid. And I do think that they say, the Biden campaign continues to say that -- that voters are not tuning in and they want this election to be a -- a choice, not a referendum. And I think the debates at least attempt to try to crystallize that choice.

RADDATZ: And -- and, Donna, despite how much Trump has complained about being in court this week -- it seems like weeks and weeks and weeks -- it really doesn't seem to have hurt him. And this week, of course, he, kind of, had the campaign come to him.


He had numerous people; he had J.D. Vance, others, standing behind him, supporting him.

BRAZILE: Yeah, it was a -- it was a spectacle. Look, the bottom line is, it is true that Joe Biden has to work a little harder to capture the coalition that -- that put him into the White House in 2020. He received 95 percent of the black women, who turned out to vote, 87 percent of black men. He noted this election is going to hinge on a strong, enthusiastic turnout. And that's what he's doing.

Look, he has crisis-crossed this country, been to every battleground state, while Donald Trump is sitting in -- sitting in a courthouse trying to defend his -- his lifestyle and his record. Joe Biden is out there telling the American people how he's going to lower costs, how he's going to expand opportunity and how he's going to--


ISGUR: And look where the poll numbers are.

RADDATZ: And look where the poll numbers are--



BRAZILE: And look what date it is. I mean, we're in June.

RADDATZ: Let -- let's stick with the court for a minute, Sarah, our legal scholar here. The -- the defense signaled it will wrap up next week. How did Michael Cohen do, in your view?

ISGUR: So a few weeks ago I said on this show that I thought it was more likely than not that Trump would be convicted and that most of the problems with this case would actually be on appeal.

And a huge problem, by the way, for a presidential candidate to be convicted right before an election, maybe it's a close election, and then have that overturned on appeal, something that we saw happen with Ted Stevens during his Senate race, I am not sure that the prosecution has actually come particularly close to meeting their burden.

They had to prove the business records were false, that Trump did it himself fraudulently, knew they were false, and that he did it for the purpose of concealing another crime. They have not met those other two. They have not really shown much evidence that Donald Trump knew and that, if he knew, he did it for the purpose of concealing some other crime.

So I am actually not at all convinced that we're not headed towards an acquittal, a hung jury. And if that's the case, watch what happens to the polls then.

RADDATZ: And -- and, either way, Asma, does it affect the election at all, do you think?

KHALID: Does it affect the election? I don't know what really affects the election, at this point. I think that -- that's all a wash. I mean, I think the challenge is that many voters still don't seem entirely convinced that this election will be a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. The amount of times that, anecdotally, I'm asked, "Is this really going to be the nominee?"

And so I do think, to go back to the debates, that allows this contrast. It allows just the reality to set in for many voters--


KHALID: -- that this -- these are your options, and if you want to vote, you've got to decide between these men.

SANGER: And it's up to Biden in some ways to try to trigger Trump. That has clearly been their strategy all along. You saw, even when he was calling him "Sleepy Don" the other day for falling asleep in the -- in the trial. They are doing everything they can to set Trump off, knowing that their best move right now is to make Trump appear to be not ready to go back.

RADDATZ: And something that set Trump off is that President Biden formally exerted executive privilege over the audio of his interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur. The transcript has been released. The audio hasn't.

SANGER: This was a little bit of a strange decision. If you're going to declare executive privilege, it seems strange to declare it only over the audio but not over the actual text, which tells people what it was that was said.

Clearly, it was done because they fear that Trump and his allies will use that tape selectively and pick out little bits and pieces. But I haven't quite seen a claim of executive privilege quite like this.

RADDATZ: And -- and, Donna, let's go to Capitol Hill -- or maybe not.


Let's go to Capitol Hill. What happened this week, House Republicans moved to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over this. And then this happened.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R-GA): I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading.

REP. JASMINE CROCKETT, (D-TX): No, ain't nothing.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D-NY): How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person?

COMER: Meeting will suspend; meeting will suspend.

GREENE: Are your feelings hurt?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Move her words down.


CROCKETT: Oh girl, baby girl.

GREENE: Oh, really?

CROCKETT: (Inaudible).

COMER: Ms. Crockett, you are not recognized. Ms. Crockett?

GREENE: I can't hear you with your yelling. Calm down. Can you please calm down?

CROCKETT: No, don't tell me to calm down because you all talk noise.

GREENE: Can you calm down? You are out of control.


RADDATZ: The speaker said that was not a good look, kind of underplaying that. I might have said something different. How about you, Donna?

BRAZILE: As a former Hill staffer intern, it was embarrassing. And I have no words to say that could bring any light on that situation. Only to say this, I mean, when you are dealing with someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene who loves the camera, who loves to fundraise off of every word, every spoken word, every whatever, this is what happens. But my advice to my side of the aisle, don't take the bait. Just don't take the bait.

RADDATZ: They took the bait. David, I want to talk here, as we close, about the trip made by Vladimir Putin to China. You are writing about new Cold War. What did that tell you? I mean, clearly, they are getting closer and closer together, which is not good news for the U.S.

SANGER: Yeah, I answered that central theme in the book that, in the old Cold War, we had one major adversary. It was mostly a military conflict with the Soviet Union, mostly a nuclear conflict. We now have China and Russia building this partnership. I wouldn't call it a real alliance.

One of our central strategic challenges is to figure out how to get in the way of that or you are going to have a world in which there is a United States, NATO and its Western allies, and we are back to a China/Russia/Iran/North Korea alternative. And that's a pretty scary picture.

RADDATZ: It is a pretty scary picture, one we have watched. Everybody think the debates will happen?



KHALID: I think so.

RADDATZ: OK. All right, we will end on that note. And we will be right back.


RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and have a great day.