'This Week' Transcript 5-7-23: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Sen. James Lankford
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, May 7.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 7, 2023 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, a mass shooting at the Texas mall leaves nine dead, including the shooter. We’re live on the scene.
On the brink.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden to meet with congressional leaders as the nation barrels toward default.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The way to go is a clean debt ceiling extension.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We will not pass a debt ceiling that just raises it without doing something about our debt.
STEPHANOPOULOS: All the fallout this morning with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Republican Senator James Langford, Rick Klein breaks down our new poll results, plus analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: The border is not open, it has not been open, and it will not be open.
STEPHANOPOULOS: U.S. troops being deployed. Cities brace for more migrants when Title 42 ends next week.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): What is now a flood is going to turn into a tsunami.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The latest from Mireya Villarreal, live at the southern border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God save the king.
CROWD: God save the king.
STEPHANOPOULOS: James Longman reports on the future of the British monarchy as Charles III is crowned king.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. We have a lot to get to and we begin with that breaking news overnight out of Texas. Yet another mass shooting in America. It happened at an outlet mall in the Dallas area. Nine now dead, seven wounded. Hundreds of shoppers were terrorized before the gunman was killed by a police officer.
John Quinones is on the scene in Allen, Texas.
Good morning, John.
JOHN QUINONES, ABC NEWS: Good morning, George.
Yet another heartbreaking tragic day, this time in Allen, Texas, here in Allen, Texas, just north of Dallas. The victims, innocent folks who were out enjoying a beautiful spring day doing a little shopping in the mall behind me. Investigators are now reviewing graphic video of the moment the government stepped out of a sedan and opened fire. Thousands of shoppers running for their lives.
A police officer nearby heard the gunfire and shot the gunman dead. But by then, he, the gunman, had already shot eight victims, ranging in age from five to 61. Seven others remain hospitalized this morning, three of them in critical condition, four are in stable.
You know, George, this weekend’s tragedy marks the 199th mass shooting so far this year in the U.S., and we’ve only had 127 days and we’re barely into the month of May.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is just unfathomable. OK, John Quinones, thanks very much.
We’re going to go to Washington now and our brand-new poll conducted with “The Washington Post.” It shows major challenges for President Biden. His approval rating’s at 36 percent, a career low. More Americans now say Donald Trump did a better job handling the economy. And Trump is leading Biden in a 2024 matchup.
But as the president prepares for direct talks with Republicans over the nation’s debt limit, a majority of Americans agree with his refusal to negotiate over meeting America's debt obligations. We’re going to speak with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen after this report from chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis.
REBECCA JARVIS, ABC NEWS CHIEF BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As President Biden and congressional leaders prepared to hold their first talks on the debt ceiling this week, neither side is showing signs of backing down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill has passed.
JARVIS: House Republicans passed their bill last week to raise the debt ceiling while dramatically cutting domestic spending.
REP KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will not pass a debt ceiling that just raises it without doing something about our debt.
JARVIS: While Democrats are insisting on a clean debt limit raised without conditions --
SEN CHUCK SCHUMER, MAJORITY LEADER: The time to discuss those cuts is not hostage taking with the debt ceiling. That is too dangerous.
JARVIS: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the U.S. could default as early as June 1st. On Friday, President Biden slammed MAGA Republicans over the standoff.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether you pay the debt or not doesn’t have a damn thing to do with what your budget is.
They are two separate issues.
JARVIS: If congress fails to act, analysts predict dire consequences, a major stock market collapse, millions of job losses, no Social Security checks for nearly 50 million seniors, and unpaid troops. Next week’s showdown comes after a surprising jobs report shows the labor market remains resilient despite turmoil in the banking system and rising interest rates. The U.S. added 253,000 jobs in April, outpacing expectations by more than 70,000, as unemployment hit a five-decade low of 3.4 percent. The White House lauding the numbers.
BIDEN: We obviously have more work to do but we’re treading in the right direction. And I think we’re making real progress.
JARVIS: The jobs market could complicate efforts to slow inflation, with the Fed hiking interest rates another quarter point this week, the 10th consecutive increase over the last year. The Fed chair signaling this may be the last hike.
JEROME POWELL, CHAIR, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: Our future policy actions will depend on how events unfold.
JARVIS: Wall Street still on edge after three major U.S. bank failures in less than two months. Two additional region bank stocks, PacWest and Western Alliance recovered some lost ground Friday after plunging earlier in the week. But the specter of a U.S. default could up end the entire economy if Congress does not act in time.
MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: We need to end this drama as quickly as possible. If we don't, we're going to go into recession and our fiscal challenges will be made even worse.
JARVIS: For THIS WEEK, Rebecca Jarvis, ABC News, New York.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Rebecca for that.
We’re joined now by the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Madam Secretary, thanks for joining us this morning.
JANET YELLEN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Thanks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start out with the timeline now of this – of this possible default. You said earlier this week that you expect that it could come as early as June 1st. I know you get new information every day. Is that still your best estimate?
YELLEN: Yes, early June is when we project that we will run out of cash. And there is a chance it could be as early as June 1st. Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty and I plan to update Congress as new information becomes available. But that’s still our current thinking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are there extraordinary measures you can take around that time or is that it?
YELLEN: Well, really that’s it. We have been using extraordinary measures for several months now. And our ability to do that is running out. And we will start to run down our cash and our current projection is that in early June a day will come when we’re unable to pay our bills unless Congress raises the debt ceiling. And it’s something I strongly urge Congress to do.
Of course, it’s appropriate to have negotiations about the budget, about spending priorities. President Biden has presented a detailed budget that does cut deficits by $3 trillion over 10 years while investing in the strength of the American economy. But we do need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid economic calamity.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What – what -- paint a picture for everyone. What happens on that day? Let’s assume for the sake of argument it’s June 1st. What happens that day if the debt limit has not been extended?
YELLEN: Well, Treasury finds itself in the position where we’re unable to pay all of the bills that come due that day. And this would be really the first time in the history of America that we would fail to make payments that are due. And, you know, whether it’s defaulting on interest payments that are due on the debt or payments due for Social Security recipients or to Medicare providers, we would simply not have enough cash to meet all of our obligations. And it’s widely agreed that financial and economic chaos would ensue.
U.S. Treasury securities are the safest bedrock security underlying the global financial system. A failure of the United States to honor all of its debt would call into question our credit worthiness. Even as we get very close to this date, if Congress doesn’t act, we're likely to see financial market consequences.
In 2011 there was a steep decline in the stock market and our borrowing costs back in 2011, the U.S. was downgraded by the credit rating agencies. There would permanently higher borrowing costs for Americans for buying a home, buying a car and a failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a steep economic downturn.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A question -- the question is what to do about it. Of course, you talked about spending cuts. We’ve now seen 43 Republican senators say they’re not going to extend the debt limit without significant spending cuts and other reforms. Of course, the House passed their bill as well. But the president says he’s not going to negotiate.
So, are we -- is one possibility that you do a side negotiation on spending cuts, the president says it’s not tied to the debt limit, Republicans say it is?
YELLEN: Well, look, I don't want to get ahead of the negotiations that will occur.
President Biden has invited -- invited the leadership of Congress to the White House. So, on Tuesday, I know he wants to set up a process in which spending priorities and levels are discussed in the negotiated.
But these negotiations should not take place with a gun really to the head of the American people because --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they are taking place with that gun to the head of the American people.
YELLEN: Well, it’s important for Congress to meet a responsibility. Since 1960, the debt ceiling has been raised 78 times, three times during the prior administration, always with bipartisan support. And it simply is unacceptable for Congress to threaten economic calamity for American households in the global financial system as the cost of raising the debt ceiling and getting agreement on budget priorities.
But, of course, in negotiation, that spending levels and priorities should take place and the president is more than prepared to engage in that negotiation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, there’s always a chance -- of course, there's always the chance for this kind of negotiations, kind of brinksmanship, that you don't reach a deal and then it comes back to the president.
He said on Friday night that he’s not ready to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, the Fourteenth Amendment says that full faith and credit of the United States should not be questioned. And the implications to that would be, if he invoked it, the United States would just continue to issue debt, saying it’s unconstitutional not to.
Now, the president said he’s not ready to do that. But it didn’t seem like he took it off the table. So, is it still a possibility?
YELLEN: Look, you know, our priority is to make sure that Congress does its job. There is no way to protect our financial system and our economy other than Congress doing its job and raising the debt ceiling and enabling us to pay our bills. And we should not get to the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt. This would be a constitutional crisis.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you -- but is it on the table? Is it something that could be considered? Are you saying -- you just said there’s no way this can be done without Congress. Is that a hard and fast position that the president will under no circumstances invoke the Fourteen Amendment?
YELLEN: Look, all I want to say is that it’s Congress's job to do this. If they fail to do it, we will have an economic and financial catastrophe that will be of our own making and there is no action that President Biden and the U.S. Treasury can take to prevent that catastrophe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m still not exactly clear on whether it’s on the table or off the table. Is it a “break glass in case of emergency” option?
YELLEN: Look, I don't -- I don’t want to consider emergency options. What’s important is the members of Congress recognize what their responsibility is and avert what will surely be regardless of how it’s handled, what option is used to handle it, an economic and financial catastrophe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like you’re saying you don't want to, but you may have to.
YELLEN: Well, what to do if Congress fails to meet its responsibility? There are simply no good options and the ones that you’ve listed are among the not good options.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, I want to ask you a question about the banking crisis. We’ve seen three bank failures this year. Two more regional banks appeared to be on the edge.
Do you believe -- still believe that our banking system is strong and resilient? We don't have a systemic problem?
YELLEN: I do believe that. I believe our banking system has strong capital levels and access to liquidity. We have taken decisive action to make sure the difficulties at a few banks don't create contagion that undermines the confidence of depositors in the safety of their deposits and the banking system. And the tools we used previously, we would be prepared to use again if necessary.
But while bank stocks, some bank stocks are under downward pressure, earnings have been under pressure, the banks have access to liquidity and are well-capitalized, and I have confidence in the overall strength of the banking system.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Madam Secretary, thanks for your time this morning.
YELLEN: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring in Oklahoma Senator James Lankford now.
Senator Lankford, thank you for joining us.
I want to start with the debt limit. You heard the secretary there. The president does not want to invoke the 14th Amendment, but she didn’t seem to completely take it off the table. Just said it wasn’t a very good option. What’s your response to that?
SEN JAMES LANKFORD, (R) FINANCE COMMITTEE & (R) OKLAHOMA: Yes, it’s certainly not a good option and she rightfully said it would be a constitutional crisis because the Constitution is very clear that spending -- all those details around spending and money actually has to come through Congress. So I just want to remind everybody, it’s been 96 days since the president set down with the speaker of the House to be able to talk about anything on the debt limit. The debt limit conversation came up the week after the election in November to say this is coming in the – in the coming days. Everyone knew this was coming. And the president’s refused to be able to negotiate about it. That’s been the most stunning part about this is, everyone knew it was coming. It’s time to be able to negotiate it.
And even last week, when the Treasury secretary said, well, now the x day may be June the 1st, the president's response was, well, maybe next week we should get together and talk about this. It should have been the next day that they would actually sit down and be able to talk about it. So we’ve really been very surprised that the president has been unwilling to be able to negotiate and talk about this. And so we’ll –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, of course, the –
LANKFORD: We’ll see what he does in the days ahead. But this is between the speaker and the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, the Congress – and, of course, the Congress also hadn’t passed a budget. The House only passed their bill days ago. And just yesterday you – the – you 43 senators put out your position saying -- suggesting that there has to be spending cuts and reforms.
It does appear that there seems to be some wiggle room here, that there could be some sort of a deal where you all reach some kind of agreement on some sort of spending cuts. You all say it’s tied to the debt limit. The president says it’s not.
LANKFORD: No, it will be tied to the debt limit because we’ve got to have this conversation. We’re the only country in the world that has a debt limit like this. There’s only two countries that have any kind of debt limit. We’re the only one that has a debt limit like this one. The reason we have it is because it forces a moment to be able to talk about debt and deficit and to say, where are we going on this? Deficits are rising very, very quickly. The American people feel it. We feel it in our economy. It’s entirely reasonable to be able to sit down and say, if we’re continuing to add more and more debt, let's talk about the whole (ph) view (ph). Republicans are (INAUDIBLE) the House and Senate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it – but it’s about paying bills you already incurred, isn’t it? It’s about paying bills that the United States has already incurred.
LANKFORD: It is about debt that’s already incurred. It – it – George, it’s about – as you know, it’s about not just debt that’s incurred, but it’s also raising the limit of what we can continue to be able to add on this.
And, again, this is not new. You go back to 2017. Senator Schumer said that the debt limit was leverage for Democrats to be able to negotiate with President Trump. When president – when, at that time, Senator Biden was there under the Bush administration, there were five different debt ceiling votes during that time. He voted for one. He voted no on two of them. And on two of them he didn’t even show up to vote. On the two that he voted no on, he put out a statement saying that the world has changed and that we need to raise taxes at this point. So, he was using that time to raise taxes.
Speaker Pelosi used that leverage with President Trump to increase spreading around the debt limit. So, it seems very odd every time that there's a Republican that’s involved in the debate, suddenly the media talks about, oh, there's going to be this great calamity. We’ve always paid our bills.
But Democrats and Republicans have both used this moment to be able to look at it and say, let's talk about where we're going, what’s the direction, what’s the future? All of the debt limit increases under the Trump administration, none of those were clean. Speaker Pelosi demanded additional spending for every single one of them. So, these are not moments where there’s this, quote/unquote, always clean unless Republicans are negotiating. But Republicans are very united at this point to say, we should look at debt and deficit and to say, what are we going to do to slow down our spending as a government (ph)?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you prepared – are you prepared to specify the kind of cuts you’re talking about? Even the House bill doesn’t really specify the cuts.
LANKFORD: Right. Yes, the House bill, as they put out, was their first parameter. It is the beginning of a negotiation to say the House is well prepared and has been prepared to be able to negotiate this. This will be a negotiation between the speaker of the House and between the president. That’s the same as it was during the Trump administration when it was Speaker Pelosi and President Trump negotiating.
So they should sit down – in fact, they should have sat down months ago to be able to talk about this. But, for whatever reason, President Biden has determined that he doesn’t want to negotiate on this and has said it’s got to be clean and has made promises if you’ll – if you’ll do this today, I promise I’ll do something later on, on the budget. That’s just not proved to be true. Joe Manchin can tell you that if the president says I – you know, do this for me today, I'll promise I'll do something later for you, has not worked out for Joe Manchin in what he did -- what happen with the Inflation Reduction Act.
We’ve certainly seen this movie before. It’s time we actually sit down and make a larger plan. The exact same thing that happened under Speaker Pelosi and President Trump when they sat down and negotiated it around a debt ceiling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you expect to happen Tuesday?
LANKFORD: Well, I would hope that they would all sit down and be able to talk about, "OK, what are the parameters? Where are we?" We have $31 trillion in debt. That's happening as a nation. It's continuing to accelerate. We're continuing to see high inflation. We have all the risks of a recession that's out there based on what's happening on government spending and such.
So I would hope they would sit down and say, "What are the areas that we do have common ground on? What are the areas that we can actually begin to reduce spending?"
I don't find a single American, whether they're around government or not around government, that says "The federal government spends every dollar perfectly; there's nowhere in federal spending we can cut; everything's very efficient."
Everyone knows that there's areas of waste in government. We should actually sit down and be able to talk about it and say, "What are the priorities? How are we going to spend on those priorities and to make sure that we're realigning and not just saying what we're spending now we need to just keep spreading and keep adding debt at the rate that we're adding it?"
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you a political question. President -- former President Trump seems to be strengthening his front-runner status for the Republican nomination right now, in most of the local and national polls. He's leading President Biden in our poll out today. Are you comfortable with the idea of him as your nominee?
LANKFORD: Well, we're going to allow the nominee process to go through. I've not endorsed anyone in this race and not going to for quite a while, if I do it all. I didn't in 2016, either. So I'll stay out of this, as we've got an open seat at this point. Clearly, President Trump is leading in all the polls on it. But it's still early. There are several folks that are unannounced that may announce in the next couple of months. And then the first debates for Republicans will be in August.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lankford, thanks for your time this morning.
LANKFORD: You bet. Good to see you again, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, the U.S. is bracing for a surge in migrants when Title 42 expires next week. We're live on the southern border. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: What we are seeing is an operation that was stood up in 72 hours by the United States Border Patrol to address a surge predominantly of Venezuelan nationals.
MIREYA VILLARREAL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It does sound like you see this as a success. Some people would say, though, this feels like we're treading water.
MAYORKAS: We are -- we are maximizing the resources we have to deliver the most efficient results. We are doing so within a system, an immigration system, that is fundamentally broken and has been broken for decades. And about that, everyone agrees. And so we urge Congress to fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was Mireya Villarreal, pressing the homeland security secretary, as the U.S. prepares for a surge in migrants when the Title 42 pandemic border policy expires next week.
She joins us now from El Paso.
Good morning, Mireya.
VILLARREAL: Hey, good morning, George.
Border towns are already stretched thin. You know, resources are being pushed to the brink here in El Paso. They are getting about 1,500 to 2,000 migrants processed and released every day.
And, you know what? They are expecting a larger surge. That number to skyrocket in the days and weeks to come.
VILLARREAL (voice-over): Piles of trash, makeshift tents and little privacy. This is a home for thousands of migrants at a camp in Matamoros, Mexico, along the Texas border.
Many have been here since December. Others just a few days. All are desperate to leave.
This young mother right here just got to the camp today and she is already choosing to go across. She says she doesn’t have the time to wait for an appointment. She has a one-year-old with her and two young little girls that already went across.
Crossings like this expected to soar when Title 42 ends in a few days.
Are you okay?
Lucia Gomez and her two-year-old daughter Jessica are anxious to get out. When the Biden administration announced they’d let Title 42 to expire in May, migrants were required to apply for a legal entry through a phone app and set up an appointment.
So, they brought -- they let her get an appointment but not her daughter?
When she tried to cross through a legal point of entry, she was turned away. Since then, she’s had no luck getting another appointment.
With just days left until Title 42 lifts, chief of border patrol, Raul Ortiz, insists he needs more help on the front lines.
RAUL ORTIZ, CHIEF, U.S. BORDER PATROL: I don't have enough agents. I don't have enough infrastructure. I don’t have enough technology.
VILLARREAL: The Biden administration sending 1,500 active-duty troops to the El Paso area for the next 90 days.
Republicans decrying the move.
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): It is a show so they can say they are doing something because they finally are having to admit they’ve got a problem.
VILLARREAL: Arguing that Title 42 works and should remain in place.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is a conscious decision by the Biden administration to take a tool out of the toolbox that’s been very effective and it’s going to lead to holy hell.
VILLARREAL: In Brownsville, Texas, 2,000 migrants are already coming across the border daily and the city’s outgoing mayor, Trey Mendez, knows those crossings are not planning to stay here.
MAYOR TREY MENDEZ, BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS: We know that people don’t want to stay in Brownsville, so we do our best to get people out as quickly as we can.
VILLARREAL: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has made a point to bus migrants to sanctuary cities across the nation like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City, where more than 50,000 have come in the last year.
The city just announcing they’ve run out of shelter space and will be housing asylum-seekers in the city gyms and emergency facilities in nearby counties.
Democratic Mayor Eric Adams blaming Republicans and the White House, saying New York City doesn’t have resources to support migrants.
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY: It is the irresponsibility of the Republican Party and Washington for refusing to do real immigration reform and it’s the irresponsibility of the White House for not addressing this problem.
VILLARREAL: So again, the Department of Defense surging 1,500 troops to the border, all of them will end up here in the El Paso sector.
Chief Raul Ortiz telling us that will absolutely help him and his men, that allows him to shift a lot of their resources to other parts of the border that will be responding to that anticipated surge over the next few days -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What a week ahead.
Okay, Mireya, thanks very much.
Roundtable is coming up.
Plus, political director Rick Klein breaks down our new poll.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE RUHLE, HOST OF 'THE 11TH HOUR' AND SENIOR BUSINESS ANALYST, NBC NEWS: There's not a Fortune-500 company in the world looking to hire a CEO in his 80s. So why would an 82-year-old Joe Biden be the right person for the most important job in the world?
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Because I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom. I know more than the vast majority of people. I'm more experienced than anybody has ever ran for the office. And I think I have proven myself to be honorable as well as also effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden pushes back on questions about his age from Stephanie Ruhle as he bids for re-election. Just one of the big challenges he faces now, more revealed by a brand-new poll. Political Director Rick Klein here to break it down. And Rick, this poll is just brutal for President Biden.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Absolutely, George. And you talked earlier about that record-low approval rating for President Biden. It's actually six points down just since February. And the skepticism over his leadership extends deep inside his own party, only 36 percent of Democrats think that their party should nominate Joe Biden for a second term.
58 percent say they would support someone else, prefer someone else. That is despite the fact that the entirety of the DNC, most of the Democratic establishment has rallied behind President Biden. And you see real weaknesses in the coalition that powered Joe Biden to the presidency back in 2020. Biden carried independents by 13 points, against Donald Trump. He is now trailing Trump by nine points, among those same voters.
He carried black voters by 75 points in 2020. He is up just 35. That may sound like a lot, but the fact of the matter is, in modern politics, that is not the kind of number that a Democrat needs to be victorious and that of course, that does spill over into the head-to-head match-up, the hypothetical rematch, Trump versus Biden, right now a 7-point edge in our poll from -- and Trump leading Biden and in fact, it is an identical number with Ron DeSantis in a head-to-head that might happen next November.
That tells us at this very early stage, George, that this race is shaping up a lot more about the incumbent president, Joe Biden than it is about any of his challengers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Rick, as I mentioned, with Senator Lankford, President Trump at least right now appears to be strengthening his hold on his frontrunner status for the Republican nomination.
KLEIN: Yeah, that's exactly right. We've seen Donald Trump's numbers go up in the last couple of months across a range of polls and most of the other candidates either going down or staying around the same. Ron DeSantis, a 20 percent. Of course, that is not even half Trump's total right now. Everyone else in the single digits. That includes ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, who is considering a run of his own. He is at 1 percent in this poll.
And when we asked people to focus in on the top candidates, to choose just among the top contenders, you actually see Trump's number go up a little bit. Ron DeSantis does as well but still he is nowhere near where Donald Trump is across the country. The candidates, again, still in the mid- or low-single digits. And this is interesting because despite all of that, despite the strength that we are seeing for Donald Trump right now, a strong majority of Americans think he should be facing criminal charges across a range of investigations, including on this one, 56 percent say that he should face charges over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
What is interesting to me about this, George, is that even among the 56 percent, the people who think that, yes, Trump should face criminal charges, 18 percent say they would vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden anyway. That tells you a lot about Trump's potential strength, but maybe more than that, some of Biden's weaknesses. And that question of age that you mentioned earlier, that Joe Biden has been trying to address. Donald Trump is less than four years younger than Joe Biden but the concerns over Biden's age are much more significant. 68 percent of voters say they think that Joe Biden is too old for an additional term. Only 44 percent say the same about Donald Trump. STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick, I've got to admit, I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. You’ve got one in five people who say they believe President Trump should be face – should face criminal charges but they’d still vote for him?
KLEIN: It is – it is remarkable. And I do think once there’s a matchup with an actual person, maybe that changes. But that just tells you about how much Trump is kind of baked into the political equation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Klein, thanks very much.
The roundtable is ready to go. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, historically, that’s true with stars.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It’s true with stars that – that they can grab women by the (EXPLETIVE BLEEPED)?
TRUMP: Well, that’s what it’s -- if you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You consider yourself to be a star?
TRUMP: I think you can say that, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump being shown to the jury in that civil case brought by E. Jean Carroll. It goes to a jury this week. So far, as we’ve seen, those cases don't seem to be having any impact on President Trump’s approval ratings.
Let’s talk about this on our roundtable.
I'm joined by Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, the executive editor of the AP, Julie Pace, and “USA Today” Washington bureau chief Susan Page.
Chris, let me begin with you.
As Rick said, you’ve been pondering the possibility of a presidential run. When you look at this poll, does it make you more or less likely?
CHRISTIE: It doesn’t have any effect one way or the other on my thought process politically, either for myself or for anybody else. Look, I think it tells you something we already knew, which is President Biden’s got problems. And his problems are twofold. It’s based on the conditions people feel in the country right now where they feel economically threatened, and it’s based on his age. And I’ve been talking about this for a while. I mean I think the American people look at him and they just think he’s too damn old. And that’s what the poll shows.
On the Republican side, until there is a campaign engaged, Trump is untouchable. By definition, as you know, a candidate is untouchable until they’re touch and you see what the reaction is to being touched, and that will happen in this race. There’s no question in my mind that he will be attacked directly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, still, for a very few of those, including the ones who are already in our – are willing to take him on frontly (ph), as you have.
CHRISTIE: Yes, no, and I think that’s a problem. I mean I think that’s a problem in our party. I mean, if you can't -- you know, I don't believe in this lane business, we’re talking about different lanes. There’s one lane. And that one lane, Donald Trump’s at the head of. So, if you want to be the nominee, you got to go through Donald Trump. I don't think there’s any other way to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, I can only imagine what it's like inside the White House now, looking at the numbers in our poll coming out this morning. BRAZILE: George, I was told I could not send the poll around 'til after 12 midnight. I sent it out at 12:02. Because it kept me up, and I thought they should wake up and look at those numbers.
You know what's sobering? It's not the age. Look, I want to be 80-plus just so I can hang out with you.
And let me just tell you, I'm going to have my hair and my teeth and a bottle of wine so come hang out with me when I'm 80.
CHRISTIE: I'm ready, Donna.
BRAZILE: And I'll even play a round of golf.
But it's sobering in the sense, George, that the coalition that elected Joe Biden, with the historic numbers that we saw in 2020, that coalition right now is fragmented. That should concern them.
The second thing that should concern them, of course, is that they -- they are still unable to get a real, good strong message to the American people, not just on the accomplishments but where they want to take the country.
And so while the Republicans are operating on fumes -- you said there's no lane, well, there's fumes because it's nothing but blue smoke in Marist. The Democrats are operating on policies, policies that they've passed, policies that have enabled job growth. If they are unable to make this campaign from the bottom up and talk to people where they are, it's going to be be a struggle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan, I guess one of the questions is going to be, does this -- does this cause any other Democrats to rethink the possibility of challenging President Biden?
PAGE: Absolutely. It may not impact on Governor Christie's decision.
But you think about ambitious governors, the governor of California, the governor of Illinois, who could look look at this and say, "There is an opening to challenge Joe Biden." And what do we know about challenge -- intra-party challenges for presidents? They often keep the nomination. That was true for Carter and the elder Bush. But they turn around and lose the general election, so weakened by an intra-party challenge. And that is, if this poll is confirmed by, say, another reputable poll, that is going to be, I think, a -- a growing concern within the Biden White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think, Julie, one of the things that has, I think, kept democrats from taking of challenging President Biden is either fear that Donald Trump will be the nominee or, kind of, a hope that Donald Trump will be the nominee and Joe Biden is best positioned to beat him. It's still hard to see, despite what Susan says, the Democrats who are really ready to go on for a frontal challenge to President Biden.
PACE: It really looks unlikely that another Democrat is going to step in, even if these numbers...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have Robert Kennedy, Jr., but...
PACE: Exactly -- but even if these numbers continue to trend. I think the challenge for Biden right now is he's living in a space where this is a referendum election at this point. He needs to change it to a choice election. That will get easier when there's an actual choice, when there is a Republican, whether it's Trump or another Republican who emerges. But I think it's very clear that, if this stays in that space where it's a referendum election, he's going to have a real challenge because Americans, whether it's age or policy, have questions about his ability to execute on a second term.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, I saw you nodding your head on the choice. And I see the -- you know, the match-up now, the head-to-head match-up, both Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump are beating Joe Biden.
But I -- I have to admit, I just don't believe that number in our poll that says one out of five people who believe that Donald Trump should be charged with a crime would still vote for him if he's charged with a crime.
CHRISTIE: Again, all these things are made in a vacuum where no one is making an argument and, quite frankly, over the last number of weeks, Donald Trump has not been a presence anywhere in the media, not his normal...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he's been at that trial.
CHRISTIE: Right, but he hasn't been there, right? His video has been shown. But I think that was an intentional choice by him. When -- there's no upside -- remember I said there's no upside to being indicted? There's also no upside to being sued for rape and to be sitting there and being cross-examined by a skilled lawyer on the other side. He didn't show up because he didn't want to answer those questions.
At some point, you've got to answer the questions if you're a candidate. And he's going to have to answer them. And then the numbers will look different, I suspect.
But I would say, on Biden, I do not believe there's any credible Democrat who will challenge the president. As long as the president's health is OK, I don't see any credible Democrat challenging him. We all know how hard it is to be challenging an incumbent president. And then, whether it was Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter or George Bush 41, then you're the person who gets blamed for the general election defeat. And for young people like Newsom, like Pritzker, they don't want their lives ruined in the Democratic Party. They can see a light at the end of the tunnel four years from now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to throw a hypothetical out to you, Donna, and then make your point. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Donald Trump actually is indicted, that he maybe loses the civil case, that he is indicted by the special counsel in one or both cases, either January 6th or the documents. Is it conceivable that President Biden takes that as an opportunity, assuming that Donald Trump is then pushed out of the race, to say, "I'm not going to run, either?"
BRAZILE: Well, George, we're a long way from the nomination and August of next year, and of course we're a long way before the presidential in 544 (ph). I've talked to a number of those governors on the Democratic side. I've talked to a lot of senators. And, by the way, there are a lot of senators who would like to also run for president one day. They all like Joe Biden. You know, there's a likability factor here, too. And it's not just the respect for his age and his wisdom but the fact that he is really -- he has a good bond and a relationship with Democratic voters.
I saw someone that we both know come in for a donor meeting. I said, "Are you sure people are excited?" She said, "We're excited."
So there's -- there's a legitimacy -- there's a legitimacy to the Biden re-election campaign, but he has to tap into it. But he also needs to turn all of those Democratic governors and senators and others into real strong surrogates to get out there and hit the road. Because I'm telling you, when you see that number with black voters, let me just tell you, somebody we both worked for, and...
... our ex-ex-ex President...
Clinton saw those numbers, the first black president, he would have called us at 12:01, when I sent that poll, and say, "Get out there and start working."
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the puzzles here, Susan, is these feelings about the economy right now, despite the fact that a recession has been forestalled, at least for now. And we saw those jobs numbers on Friday, 253,000 jobs created, incredibly strong job creation for a long period of time.
PAGE: Yeah, it's -- you know, it's not as though things are catastrophic in this country, record low unemployment for black people in this country, and yet they're still not with Joe Biden. People are obviously very concerned about inflation. They -- if the effort to control inflation tips the country into a recession; if the debt ceiling debate doesn't go well, tips the country into recession, what's going to happen to Joe Biden then?
I -- I understand that it is a big thing for an ambitious Democrat to challenge a president. Maybe it's not the person who will win the nomination. But it's going to be an appealing thought if the president continues to show this kind of weakness, appealing also not just for a Democratic challenger but for a third-party candidate. And that would be very bad news for this White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, the No Labels campaign, which a lot of people believe would be a spoiler right there.
Julie, how do you see these debt limit negotiations, or non-negotiations...
... playing out? I -- it does seem to me, sort of -- you saw it in my questioning there of both the Treasury secretary and the senator, that there can be some kind of a win-win here, where both sides say they got what they needed, if there's some sort of a deal on spending cuts?
PACE: And it does feel like we've just been in this exact situation so many times, where you see that deadline; it is fast approaching; every side says that they're going to stick to their position; and then somewhere, as we get closer, you see a little bit of movement to get us out of this.
I think it's still unclear what the framework of a deal would look like at this point, but it is hard to imagine, because of the consequences on the economy, what they actually would mean for both parties. Nobody comes out of the situation clean if they don't resolve this. You do feel like they will find a way through. I do think, though, that it was interesting that the Treasury secretary left some openness to that truly extraordinary measure on the 14th amendment there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which other presidents have ruled out in the past.
PACE: Exactly. there was no hard "no" on that one. The fact that they are leaving that out there, I do think speaks to the -- the intransigence of this particular negotiation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, there's no hard "no" there because there is the fear that this brinksmanship can create some kind of a crisis through a miscalculation, an accident, or just pure -- pure stubbornness?
CHRISTIE: Sure. And, look, the wild increase that we've seen in federal spending started back in the Trump administration, to be fair, and then continuing because of COVID, and then through the Biden administration, the things they've done. There's plenty of room to be able to make spending reductions here without anybody feeling some enormous amount of pain. And so I think that's part of what helps to get us to a deal.
But I think, to answer the question on why do people feel this way about the economy, George, there's nothing like inflation. There's nothing like inflation. You know, people go to the supermarket. I went to the supermarket yesterday. I picked up six items. It was 50 bucks. I had six items in my bag. I'm like, how is it -- I went to the self-checkout. And they were like $50.24. When people feel that no matter what the job numbers are, no matter what they're hearing from economists about recession, when they go to the supermarket and they are -- got sticker-shocked like I did yesterday, they don't care about all that other stuff because that's what matters to them most.
PACE: And I think this is where Biden's economic argument is a little bit tricky right now because part of what he's arguing is, "I've prevented it from getting worse." And that's not something that resonates with people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And there's not much the president or anyone can really do about this inflation problem, Donna. It's a global problem.
BRAZILE: It's a global problem, and we all get sticker-shocked, not only at the grocery store, when you're going to the movie theater -- it's everywhere. Trust me.
BRAZILE: And you and I still got to talk about grocery shopping because, in Louisiana, we say, "We make groceries; we don't buy groceries." That's the first thing.
But -- but, look, America has always paid its bills. The last thing we want to see is a default. This is the world's greatest economy. We should not make America or the world suffer again because we have this division and partisanship. There's a season for dealing with the spending cuts and there's a season to raise the debt ceiling. This is the season to raise the debt ceiling. I hope they can cut a deal. Maybe I should bring them something to have to eat before they talk.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan, we only have about 30 seconds. You think there is going to be a deal?
PAGE: You know, I think we have become accustomed (inaudible) that we've hurtled toward the cliff, and we stopped at the last possible minute and we don't go over it. That's hope that happens this time. I don't think it is guaranteed that it happens this time. I think it is possible that we will be in entirely new territory.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, that is -- that is really -- it is really possible this time. Thank you all very much. Great discussion.
CHRISTIE: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, after King Charles and Queen Camilla were crowned yesterday, James Longman reports on the future of the British monarchy. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARDINAL PIETRO PAROLIN, SECRETARY OF STATE, THE VATICAN: God save the king.
CROWD: God save King Charles. God save King Charles. May the king live forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cheers of God save the King heard after King Charles and Queen Camilla were crowned yesterday, a ceremony steeped in centuries of tradition as the monarchy faces questions about its relevance in the modern United Kingdom. James Longman reports from London. Good morning, James.
JAMES LONGMAN, ABC FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning, George. It was an extraordinary day of history and pageantry. Leaders of nearly 100 countries were here. Millions watched around the world as Charles was crowned king, something he has waited for, for a very long time.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
LONGMAN (voice-over): After a lifetime of waiting, King Charles met his destiny this weekend.
PAROLIN: God save the King.
LONGMAN (voice-over): Crowned King in a spectacular ceremony at London's Westminster Abbey. His wife, Camilla, crowned queen alongside him. Thousands braving the rain to see the couple leave Buckingham Palace in their finery, the military putting on its biggest ceremonial display since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. 100 heads of state, foreign sovereigns, and dignitaries, including First Lady Jill Biden, waiting for them at the Abbey, host to every coronation since 1066, for a ceremony rich with pomp and pageantry. Prince Harry was there, and his nephew Prince George helped carry his grandfather's robe, walking the steps one day he'll take.
Recalling the ancient rituals, Charles was invested as both Head of State and Head of the Church of England. Charles presented with regalia, sword (ph), ring, glove, and scepter, all symbolic of the king's responsibility under God and to his people. Riding in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, history and tradition that this was a service to reflect Modern Britain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This moment is magical and finally, the king becomes the King.
LONGMAN (voice-over): As Charles becomes King, the support for the monarchy is weakening. While he was ahead of his time on the many issues that grip society today, climate change, sustainability, and the protection of nature, the legacy of English imperialism as Member of the Commonwealth reconsidering their country's relationship to the crown and Charles as their Head of State.
PROTESTERS: Not my king! Not my king! Not my king!
LONGMAN (voice-over): Even some of the King's subjects are opposed to the monarchy.
PROTESTER: You can't have a system where God has defined one man to be more equal than others.
LONGMAN (voice-over): It will be the younger members of the family who must take up that fight now, as the newly crowned king and queen met their public from that famous balcony. Questions remain what the monarchy will look like for two future kings, Prince William and the young Prince George.
LONGMAN: And what place does monarchy have in modern Britain? Well, that's the challenge Charles now faces as he tries to remain as symbol of national unity in these increasingly divided times. George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will be watching how he deals with it. James Longman, thanks. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out 'World News Tonight' and I will see you tomorrow on GMA.
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