'This Week' Transcript 6-18-23: Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, June 18.

ByABC News
June 18, 2023, 9:05 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 18, 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.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm not the one who thinks I'm above the law. I'm the one that followed the law.

KARL: Donald Trump pleads not guilty to federal felony charges.


NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this indictment is true, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security.

KARL: As President Biden holds the first rally of his re-election campaign in Philadelphia.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got a fight on our hands. Are you with me in this fight?

KARL: What's ahead for the campaign and the criminal trial? Our guests this morning, Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and our powerhouse roundtable.

High-stakes mission.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The intense competition requires sustained diplomacy to ensure that competition does not veer into confrontation.

KARL: America's top diplomat touches down in China, the highest level visit in five years.

MATTHEW MILLER: Our primary focus is to have candid, direct, and constructive discussions.

KARL: ABC's Matt Rivers is live for us in Beijing.

And --

ANGIE MARTINEZ: When did you first realize that hip-hop was more than just music?

KARL: Ahead of the Juneteenth holiday, a preview of “Hip-hop @ 50,” a “Soul of a Nation” presentation.


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

KARL: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.

This weekend, President Biden held his very first campaign event since announcing he is running for re-election. A campaign where he may very well end up running against the man indicted, prosecuted by his own Justice Department. The political world is only beginning to come to terms with what such a campaign will look like, and what it all means for American democracy and the rule of law.

Donald Trump has said that he will continue to run even if he is convicted of multiple felonies, a real possibility. It's also possible he may win the Republican nomination where, despite it all, he remains the clear front-runner, and maybe even the presidency again.

We will talk about what that all means for Democrats shortly with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. We'll also talk to Asa Hutchinson, one of the few Republican presidential candidates who has said that Donald Trump is unfit for office.

We begin with the turmoil in the Republican Party where there is little evidence that Trump's support among party leaders or party voters is significantly eroding.


KARL (voice over): It was almost exactly eight years ago that Donald Trump came down that escalator and launched what was widely considered a long shot, even no shot, bid for the presidency. He had no prominent endorsements and so little support among voters that he hired actors to cheer him on in the lobby of Trump Tower. Back then, Republican leaders largely ignored him, figuring he’d fade away.

Instead, Trump upended the party and American politics, vanquishing or co-opting most of his critics within the Republican Party. Today, most of his opponents for the party's presidential nomination are even now reluctant to directly take him on.

Ron DeSantis, as of this moment anyway, is the leading rival to Trump. He has said virtually nothing about Trump's alleged obstruction of justice or his mishandling of America's most sensitive national security secrets beyond leaving open the possibility that if elected president he may pardon Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been talk about if for some reason he was convicted a potential pardon. Would a President DeSantis potentially pardon him?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I said when I – before that even happened that we have an uneven justice system. We've seen it weaponized. I'm going to end the weaponization.

We – we said this -- even before this happened with Trump, you know, we’ll have people who have been wronged, before we come into office, apply. We're going to look. If there was a different standard, we're going to be very inclined to grant clemency in those situations.

KARL: Another contender, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, seemed to condemn Trump's alleged actions.

NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this indictment is true, if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security.

KARL: But the very next day, she too was raising the possibility of a Trump pardon.

HALEY: What's happening is unfortunate. I think the Justice Department has handled this whole thing terribly. You know, when you look at a pardon, the issue is less about guilt and more about what's good for the country. And I think it would be terrible for the country to have a former president in prison for years because of a documents case. So, I would be inclined in favor of a pardon.

KARL: The most forceful Republican condemnation’s of Trump’s alleged actions come from two contenders who are now considered longshots for the nomination, but both are former prosecutors.

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is of such national interest that you can’t tiptoe. You have to be clear, these are serious charges, and we don’t’ need a commander in chief that disregards our secrets.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's reckless. It's harmful to the – to American national security, and it doesn't show the kind of judgment that you need to be an effective president.

KARL: Contrast that with the top Republican leader in Congress, who has used the indictment of Trump as an opportunity to take a shot at President Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about those pictures? Was that a good look for the former president to have boxes in a bathroom?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't know. Is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time? A bathroom door locks.


KARL: We are joined now by Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson.

Governor Hutchinson, thank you for joining us.

Before we get to the campaign, I want to ask you, from your perspective as a former federal prosecutor, how serious do you think these charges from Jack Smith are against President Trump, former President Trump, and how damning is the evidence that he’s presented?

ASA HUTCHINSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & (R) FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Well, I've tried scores of federal criminal trials, and taken them to a jury, and the cases don’t get any more serious than what’s been outlined by Jack Smith because you’re talking about the allegations of not handling our nation’s top secrets in accordance with law. You’re talking about obstruction of justice. And these are serious. And, obviously, they’re factually well-based because they lay out so many facts in the indictment.

Now, obviously, you’re going to hear another side whenever the defense presents their case, but this is serious and, obviously, Donald Trump should take him seriously, but the American people should because this case is most likely not going to come to trial before voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are going to have to decide the case, or decide the vote, which is going to involve them evaluating the seriousness of these charges. And I view them serious and disqualifying, actually, for a commander in chief.

KARL: Disqualifying. Well, I want to ask you about that, the – the timing. Based on your experience, do you think it is a real possibility that this trial could go forward, that Trump could be convicted and sentenced before the presidential election in November?

HUTCHINSON: It could. Ordinarily, this kind of case would come in that order. I would estimate a year under the normal circumstances. But it all depends upon how much the judge is going to hold the council’s feet to the fire and say, this is important in the public interest that this is handled in a – in an appropriate way and not drug out.

Now, ordinarily, you have the defense trying to drag it out and there’s going to be some real, serious, legal issues here. So, I can see that this would be extended beyond the election date just because of the nature of this case. But I can also see that between – between June of next year and October, the election, that this case would be set for trial. Now, they might extend it because there is an election, but that really invokes the political timeframe into the judge setting the calendar. And that should not be a consideration.

KARL: There had been some talk about pardons. You know, you’ve seen some of – some of your – some of your other Republicans running saying that they would pardon Trump. But what I want to ask you about is the question of – of a self-pardon. What – what is your read on it? Can a – can a – can a president pardon himself? This – this has, obviously, never been tested by the Supreme Court and never been attempted.

HUTCHINSON: You know, I – from a legal standpoint, a constitutional standpoint, that is a question that the courts would have to resolve. I'm doubtful of it. I don’t think that’s what the Constitution intends in giving the president he pardon power. But, most importantly, it would be inappropriate, unseemly and – and – although I can certainly see a Donald Trump doing that. That’s exactly what he would intend if he got elected president. And if it was not brought to trial before then, he’s likely to issue that as well.

Fifty-six percent of Americans under a Marist poll say Donald Trump should drop out of the race under these circumstances. And that’s the biggest challenge politically is that independent voters particularly are not going to move in the GOP direction, if Trump is the nominee, under these circumstances, and under his promise, really to enact retribution. That’s not what we need and – and I think that is a serious, political issue as we go forward next year.

KARL: And you agree with those 56 percent? You think that Donald Trump should drop out of this race.

HUTCHINSON: I've said that some time ago and it’s based upon the fact that you should put the office of presidency and our country above yourself. And whenever you’ve got these serious allegations against you, whenever you’ve got the challenge of multiple different investigations during the course of the next year, it’s not fair to the country and certainly it’s not fair to the party that wants to get this country back on track.

And so, to me, that is the high-level consideration the candidates should give to the important office of president in making that decision for the country’s interest.

So, yes, I think that he should drop out. Clearly, he’s not going to. This is going to be decided by the voters, which is the American process. But the American voters are going to have to decide on the merits of these charges.

And the whole concept of the -- that so many Republican leaders adopting that this is a weaponization of the Justice Department, and I think they’ve made some bad decisions. I can certainly disagree with many of the decisions they’ve made, particularly Jim Comey and some of his reference to Hillary Clinton. But in terms of the overall charge of weaponization of the Justice Department, look at Donald Trump. He’s already declared that he’s -- if he’s elected president, he’s going to appoint a special prosecutor to go after the Biden family. That’s called a weaponization of the Justice Department.

And so, let’s back off of these accusations and let’s get back to being the party of the rule of law, of the justice system supporting law enforcement and equal application of the law. Let’s don’t undermine the greatest justice system and criminal justice system and rule of law in the world today this side of heaven.

KARL: On Thursday, the RNC rejected your request to eliminate the -- the requirement to be in the debate you have to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee regardless of who that is. So, how are you going to handle that? Are you going to be willing to make that pledge, which would be effectively pledging to support Donald Trump if he actually won the nomination?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you have to make the pledge based on the fact that Donald Trump is not going to be our nominee and you’re confident of it, therefore, you can sign a statement saying you’re going to support the nominee of the party. I'm not going to, you know, support, just like other voters are not going to support somebody for president who is under indictment, that is potentially convicted at that time.

And so, that’s not where I'm going to be. But we’re going to make that debate stage and Donald Trump will not be the nominee of the party, and I'm sure that’s how those that participate in it will view that.

But it’s not a pleasant way to start off the debate. The RNC, I have great respect for that institution. I've served on it. They’re trying to hold the party together. But we need to concentrate on supporting the principles of the party, which is the rule of law, support of law enforcement and law and order, versus simply trying to circle the wagons around Donald Trump and making sure he’s protected going into next year.

KARL: All right, Governor Asa Hutchinson, thank you very much for joining us.

President Biden has refused to comment on Trump’s indictment,but he held his first official campaign event yesterday in Philadelphia touting his record in office.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I’m looking forward to this campaign, I want you to know why. Because you’ve got a story to tell -- we’ve got a story to tell. We’ve got a record to run on. And most importantly, we’re not only changing this country, we’re transforming it.


KARL: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Senator Whitehouse, thank you for joining us.

I want to get to the Trump indictment in a moment. But, first, that campaign event was the first for Biden even though he announced he was running 54 days ago.

Does he need to pick up the pace and be a little more aggressive?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): No, I think he’s got a lot of time ahead of him, a lot of runway. And I think just laying a good solid base of these strong endorsements like he got out of the environmental community last week and he got out of the labor community at this big rally is just the way to go. I don’t know that people are interested in a whole lot of campaign noise out of him, and I think he’s doing it right.

KARL: But let me ask you, you said recently this about President Biden. You said, I think everybody would certainly like a younger Joe Biden. You know, I think the people are concerned about an 80-year-old president and I think that’s an issue that President Biden’s going to have to deal with on the campaign.

So, how does he deal with that question, with the age question? How does he address it?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, I – I went on to complete that sentence that you quoted to say that he can do that by continuing to talk about his successes, about the experience, about the wisdom, about the sagacity that he brings to this job, and the record that he’s shown to the American people by virtue of those characteristics and qualities that he has.

And I think we’re going to see enormous amounts of new construction, whether it’s infrastructure. Factory construction in America is soaring right now. And when you’re building factories, there’s a lot more building that happens after the factories up as you’re building the products in the factory.

So, he’s got a really good story to tell about the end of Covid, the reduction of inflation, the explosion in infrastructure jobs and manufacturing. And I think that’s going to be a really solid baseline for him to go into the voters in the coming, what is it now, 15 months, 16 months.

KARL: If – if Trump wins the nomination, Biden would find himself running against somebody that is possibly under trial, in maybe multiple cases, prosecuted by his own Justice Department. How -- how do you see that playing out?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think he’s done a good job steering well clear of the prosecution. As you know, there are at least two firewalls between the president and this prosecution. First, he does not do business with Attorney General Garland. He does not speak to him about criminal related matters. And, second, Garland is firewalled off from this prosecution because he’s appointed a special counsel. And his ability to engage with the special counsel is extremely limited. Limited basically to violations of departmental rules and policies and procedures and so forth, which hasn’t even been alleged yet.

So, he’s a long way from the special counsel prosecution. And I think that goes forward the way it should, pursuant to rule of law, pursuant to justice policy, and pursuant to the very able judgment of the special counsel team.

KARL: So, that makes sense in terms of trying to convince the country that this is not a political prosecution, especially Republicans and independents. But is there also a risk? I mean, you know, Biden is not talking about this. Other top Democrats aren’t talking about this. And yet Donald Trump has made it the centerpiece of his campaign. So, you know, he is the one out there, you know, professing his innocence, attacking the Justice Department, attacking the FBI, while Biden and other top Democrats are saying, we’re not going to talk about the issue.

WHITEHOUSE: Yes, I don’t think that works well for Trump, to tell you the truth. I know that’s his M.O. when he’s involved in civil litigation, when he’s -- a bank is suing him for the money that he owes, that kind of stuff. He goes into this sort of bullying, bombastic mode where he tries to make the other side as miserable as possible and hopes that they’ll go away or settle on good terms.

When you’re dealing with federal prosecutors, that stuff just doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter. It’s just background noise to the federal prosecutors. So, it’s not going to help him at all in this case.

The case is going to go forward. And as it does, we’re going to learn more about it through the motion practice, through, as the Attorney General Garland said, through to the filings that the special council makes in the case. So there’s going to be a steady drumbeat of both activity and evidence that emerges as it properly should through the case itself.

KARL: Do you think Judge Aileen Cannon, who was randomly assigned to this case -- she’s obviously a Trump appointee, ruled favorably in the past for Trump -- do you think that she can preside over this in a way that – that is independent?

WHITEHOUSE: I think that’s to be determined. As we all know, her first intervention in the case was very badly smacked down by the 11th Circuit, a conservative circuit that not only overruled her but schooled her. And as a new judge, I’m not sure how often you want to do that. So, we will find out whether she goes back to regular, normal judging or continues to be a Trump advocate in a robe.

And the only good news about that is that her decisions can’t kill off this case until after a jury is empaneled and then jeopardy has attached. So, there’s going to be a lot of proceedings beforehand for Special Council Jack Smith to test her behavior, to see how she’s conducting herself and to have time to move for her recusal if she’s not providing proper rulings.

WHITEHOUSE: I suspect there's a pretty good chance that she will just decide this is a good time in her career for her to act like a real judge, and she'll take the correction of the 11th Circuit and act accordingly.

KARL: And that would make it much harder for Donald Trump to do what he always does, which is attack judges, as well. I mean, it's hard to attack somebody that's...

WHITEHOUSE: Yeah, it would be very hard to attack this judge...

KARL: Yeah.


WHITEHOUSE: ... for him -- although I wouldn't put it past him because attack is his mode.

KARL: No, no, and consistency is not -- not very consistently practiced by -- by Trump.



KARL: So, before you go, I want to ask you a question. I know you are longtime friends with Bobby Kennedy, Jr. You guys went to law school together; he supported your initial campaigns, all of your campaigns, campaigned with you. What -- what do you make of his run against Joe Biden? And are you still in touch with him? Are you still close with him?

WHITEHOUSE: Not so much, particularly not since this political episode has begun. I 100 percent support President Biden. I don't think that vaccines are a hoax or a scam or dangerous. And I strongly, strongly support the people of Ukraine in their bid for freedom under the onslaught of the Russian military, because I think that's the frontier for freedom around the world. So I think Joe Biden has those issues and others right, and I'm more than happy to support President Biden for re-election.

KARL: All right, Sheldon Whitehouse, joining us from Rhode Island. Thank you, and happy Father's Day.

WHITEHOUSE: Thank you. You, too.

KARL: Up next, the powerhouse roundtable, with Donna Brazile and Larry Hogan, breaks down all the week's politics. We'll be right back.



ATTORNEY GENERAL MERRICK GARLAND: When I appointed Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department's commitment to both independence and accountability. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity and the rule of law.


KARL: That was Attorney General Merrick Garland defending Special Counsel Jack Smith in his first comments after Donald Trump's indictment.

Let's bring in our roundtable, former DNC Chair Donna Brazile; former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan; ABC News political director Rick Klein; and Politico Playbook co-author Rachael Bade.

So, Rick, I want to get to you about the political impact of that indictment. Let's take a look at a poll taken entirely after the indictment was announced and unsealed from NPR.

It showed that Trump's favorable ratings actually went from 70 -- 76 percent -- I’m sorry. His favorable, 76 to 60 -- you got me. I’m mixed up here. But --


KARL: Let me start all over.


KARL: The bottom line is his favorable ratings actually increased and his unfavorable ratings went down among Republican voters and independents who lean Republican.

So, in other words, his standing among Republicans actually has improved since this indictment was announced.

KLEIN: Yeah, Jon, it's remarkable. We've seen it before.

I think whether or not you believe the political situation today is the same it will be when the voting starts early next year, and whether or not you think this is just kind of rally around the flag, a sugar high for Trump, the reality that his rival candidates have settled around, and I’ve talked to their campaign managers. I’ve talked to their strategists.

They think at this point, there’s not going to be a dam that breaks, there’s not going to be an event that ends Donald Trump. It's going to have to be a candidate who ends Donald Trump. And to that point, we're seven months before the voting starts and this is an issue where they see there are some vulnerable, like hope -- hope is the keyword here. They hope that they can find a way to find an argument against Trump that makes sense because right now, nobody's got it. He’s getting stronger. He’s not getting weaker despite what's out there.


KARL: Rachael?

BADE: I was just going to say, I mean, it is. It is completely fascinating because it was not just the indictment that came down. Donald Trump’s top rival, Ron DeSantis, recently jumped into the campaign. His former vice president recently jumped into the campaign, and despite all these shakeups, he's still far ahead of everyone else. The polls are not changing for him when it comes to the indictment.

And it really raises the question, what, if anything, could knock Donald Trump out of the lead? There is one exception. I mean, if you look at the New Hampshire polls, Chris Christie who is going right at Trump in terms of attacking him has actually seen a bump there.

So is he onto something? We'll have to see, but certainly, these Republican candidates are not trying to take him down with the indictment except a few of them.

KARL: All right. So, Governor, answer the question. What's it going to take?

LARRY HOGAN (R), FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR: Well, I think its’ going to take somebody that emerges from the pack and does really go directly at him. I think Chris Christie did a good job and started out with a good launch because he's the only one challenging him.

If you look at -- you know, you've got 11, 12 challengers out there that aren't challenging him, and they're, you know, sort of enablers and just making excuses. I don't see anyone saying, why should we move on from Donald Trump with the exception of Chris Christie and maybe Asa Hutchinson, two of my former colleagues, both of whom are both tough prosecutors and former U.S. attorneys that are --


KARL: They know something about the law well.

HOGAN: -- taking this indictment more seriously than some of the others.

But, look, Trump obviously got a bounce. We -- I think most of us expected him to get a bounce because there's a rallying around him, and defending him because they feel he's being unfairly attacked and it's the weaponization of the Justice Department, but it's absurd that candidates won't stand up and say that these are very serious charges. We need to take them seriously, and, you know, if you are not going to challenge him, why challenge him?

KARL: What do you make of Nikki Haley who on one day comes out and says, these are very serious allegations, if true, he was reckless with national security, and then the next day attacks the Justice Department and says that she would -- suggest that she would pardon him?

HOGAN: Well, I thought it was absurd, and she was right the first day. But, you know, I think they're all trying to find that balance. And I get the fact that they are concerned about overzealous prosecution.

It’s -- but this is not the Russia probe. You know, this is very serious potential national security implications, and to say we don't want to look at that, anybody who doesn't want to look at the facts, they should be disqualified from running, not just Trump.

KARL: So, Donna, is it the expectation among Democrats that he is going to be what he appears to be now, and he'll be the Republican nominee?

DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, let me just say to I agree with you, and maybe I should give you a little bit of that sugar high that Rick talked about. I’ll bake you a cake, because if you’re not going to challenge the standard bearer, and if you don't have something different to offer to the American people, I don't get why these 17 people are slicing the pie because Donald Trump has the biggest piece of the pie.

Donald Trump is the brand that they know. They know that brand, and they're not going to go looking for someone new or someone different when all of the Republicans are rallying around the person who has been accused of violating the law. So this is going to be a real test not just for the Republican Party, but for the country. Do we really want to go down this road of embracing somebody who would allow national security secrets -- national security materials to be in the -- in their storage of the bathroom?

By the way, who leaves paper on the floor in the bathroom, okay? All right?

So -- but Democrats, and I agree that the president should not comment on this, or the vice president for that matter. But for those of us who are Americans who believe in the rule of law, we need to comment and the Republicans need to stand up for the rule of law.

KARL: I mean, it is interesting, Rick, that the Democrats almost up and down the line, are not commenting on it's not just Biden isn't Tommy (ph), but Hakeem Jeffries is not commenting about it, Schumer is not really saying much about it. But Trump, it's all he's talking about.

KLEIN: It is fascinating, because in a normal political environment, you'd imagine that the Republican front runner is indicted now in two different jurisdictions. That is the only political attack, the main political attack, and of course, it isn't right now. It's coming at the margins, though. And I think -- I think Democrats have seen this movie before they realize that their legal process will play out, there's nothing good from them coming out and looking like they're putting a thumb on the scale of justice in any way publicly or privately.

But on the Republican side, I do think this is a lot different than Manhattan, because you are seeing, you're seeing some Republicans say there's troubling things here. You're seeing some candidates that Governor Hogan's point, they may not be going all the way they're not doing the Chris Christie, Asa Hutchison route, but they're calculating that. Look, you have to draw a distinction, you're not going to benefit if you're Nikki Haley, Tim Scott there thinking, you can't just rip the front runners head off. You can't go right after Trump because he comes back after you, his supporters come back after you. You need to be hanging around, draw those distinctions and hope and again, this I come back to this word, because that's the strategy. But whether you like it or not, they hope that something else happens that disqualifies Trump or that just allows voters gives them the permission once the voting starts to turn in another direction, because you're not seeing it out there in the public rhetoric saying, this guy is just flat can't do it.

HOGAN: Although I think the Democrats also are thinking Trump is the best one to run against. He's the only person in America that Joe Biden, you know, has already proven that he's beaten. And so, they're just going to continue to let it happen. And Trump's get getting a bump with Republican voters. But he's also turning off wide swaths of swing voters, which helps Joe Biden.

BADE: Well, the issue here is that if you have both Republicans and Democrats who are not willing to talk about the seriousness of these charges, Trump is the one who is very much setting the narrative here. I mean, Republicans for you know what, for six years now have turned a blind eye, they've been afraid, too afraid to criticize Donald Trump, because they're afraid that it's going to hurt them in the polls? Well, by doing that, they've just made him stronger, and it made it so any allegation against the former president is dismissed by the base is not relevant, because if they're not hearing from Republican voices, Republican voices, who are saying this is serious, we need to actually, you know, say this is a problem, and that we can't have a nominee who's being convicted and charged with these crimes, then who is going to say it? And who is the best thing to ever believe if they don't talk like this?

KARL: And here's the thing. For all the talk of this not being -- I'm not politicizing this case, ultimately, this is going to be decided by the American voters, this trial may not be finished by the time Americans vote in November of next year. And certainly, even if it is that the appeal wouldn't be finished. And if Donald Trump were to get the nomination can't elected again, he could direct his Justice Department to drop the case or he could try self-pardon?

HOGAN: Well, I think it's unlikely that these cases will go to trial before the election. So, they'll still be hanging out there. I also don't think this is the end of the potential indictments. I mean, we still have the Georgia case, we still got January 6th. There may be four different things going on. And none of them resolved. And it's this is going to allow --

KARL: He can't pardon himself in Georgia and he can't pardon himself (INAUDIBLE).

HOGAN: Yes, he's sucking all the oxygen out of the room and, you know, these other it's kind of like a clown car. He's the Trump Circus and we bet 12 other people that are can't get any attention. So (INAUDIBLE) --

KARL: So, let me try to put some oxygen back in the room. Donna, I want to try to do another poll, try to do this a little cleaner this time. But a poll from Quinnipiac, on a possible Biden Trump match -- matchup puts Biden at 48%, Trump at 44%. This is a poll again, taken largely after the indictment. I mean, that's got to make you a little -- that's within the margin of error. That is a statistical tie.

BRAZILE: The race was close before the indictment, the race is going to be close no matter what happen (INAUDIBLE) --

KARL: So, what does that say about Biden?

BRAZILE: And what --

KARL: It's barely building or in some polls, actually (INAUDIBLE)?

BRAZILE: It says that the country is very divided. It says that the country is, is really looking to get beyond 2020, it says a lot about where we are as a nation, not where we are in terms of who's personally (INAUDIBLE).

Look yesterday, President Biden kicked off -- officially kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia with the support of the AFL-CIO, when I was campaign manager for Al Gore, they endorsed former Vice President Al Gore in October. This is the first time the America's largest labor union has endorsed the President of United States. Joe Biden has a remarkable story to tell. I don't know why anybody should go around talking about Donald Trump when you've created 13 million jobs when you got 35,000 projects all over the country investing in America, rural America to urban America. I don't know why anyone should spend all their time talking about a former president who has been indicted and face more charges when you talk about what you’re doing to help the American people, lower prescription drug prices.

Look, often, Governor, sometime I veer into Maryland to find cheaper gas, but, guess what, I can find cheap gas in D.C. now because, damn it, those prices are going down. So, that’s good news for the American people, that’s good news for Joe Biden, and that's what he should be talking about right now.

HOGAN: But, Donna, look, he – he’s – other -- Trump and Biden are the -- have the lowest approval ratings of any two people you can imagine. And 70 percent of the people in America do not want Joe Biden or Donald Trump. And this is not the choice that they want. They don't want to see a repeat of 2020.

KARL: So – so that raises the obvious question about a – a third choice. And there is this effort from No Labels to put a, you know, kind of a unity ticket, Democrat and Republican, on – on a third party. Where do you think that is going?

HOGAN: Well, look, I think a lot of people are rushing to judgment on that one. Obviously it's not something that's ever happened before, and it sounds a little crazy, but when an overwhelming majority of the people in America are not happy with the choice – the potential nominees. And if they are the nominees, it could be a real effort.

And, you know, people –

KARL: But –

HOGAN: All this – all this attacks from the left saying, this is just going to take votes away from Joe Biden, how do they know? I mean if you have a right of center Republican that's running, isn't that going to take votes away from – from Donald Trump? And, you know, Ross Perot drew equally from both sides.

So, never before in our history have I ever seen a time where this might be possible. And it's possible.

BRAZILE: Well, they're stirring the pots. I don't know if they're going to make a stew or – or – or make something else. But what – what I do know, the American people are really tired of politics.

HOGAN: There’s no question.

BRAZILE: That's why when I go home I don't talk politics, I talk about what I'm going to cook. And speaking –

HOGAN: That's hard to believe.

BRAZILE: And speaking of cooking, I mean, come on, baby, you know, I'm -- I'm a stir fry burner, whatever I'm going to do.

HOGAN: No, I know you can cook.

BRAZILE: It's Juneteenth tomorrow so – and Father’s Day to all you gentlemen sitting at this stage.

KARL: Thank you.

BRAZILE: But, look, the American people really – they do hunger for change. That’s want they hunger for.


BRAZILE: They want something different. They want civility (ph). And maybe that's what No Labels is trying to provide.

HOGAN: They definitely want civility (ph), but Joe Biden and Donald Trump are not change.

KARL: So – so, but before we go, I want to ask you, Donna, about something former President Obama said recently. And he mentioned specifically Tim Scott and Nikki Haley, two candidates for the Republican nomination.

Listen to what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think there is a long history of African American or other minority candidates within the Republican Party who will validate America and say, everything's great, and we can all make it.


KARL: What -- what – what do you make of his criticism of, you know --

BRAZILE: I don't think if was -- his critique.

KARL: Critique.

BRAZILE: Of – of where certain people stand. Look, I – I have known as many African Americans, black Americans, who are Republican. I come from a family that once had Republicans and continues to have Republicans. I believe one of my sisters voted for President Bush. So, the – the point that he was making is that the country is still moving forward on this great progress, but some people are trying to bring us back. But I don't think he meant any disparaging thing about either Tim Scott, who I know very well, or former Governor Nikki Haley.

KARL: Nikki Haley, at least, very much did take it as disparaging.

HOGAN: Well, you know, I'm not sure what – what his intension was, but I think it was a – a – you know, he shouldn't have said what he said. And, you know, President Obama's an example of how much progress has been made, and so are Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. The fact that we've got a couple of serious candidates that are minorities, instead of disparaging them and criticizing them, you know, we ought to be celebrating them.

BRAZILE: But – but – but he makes a – but there’s a point here. And I think the point should not be lost. And that is, we have made progress, but we are still –

HOGAN: There’s no question.

BRAZILE: Working toward a more perfect union. I wish, after reading that Justice Department statement on Minneapolis --

KARL: Minneapolis, yes.

BRAZILE: There was racism before George Floyd was murdered and there's still work to do.

KARL: After.

BRAZILE: I think what the president -- former president was saying is that there's still work to do.


All right, we are out of time. Thank you very much.

Coming up, as America's top diplomat touches down in China for a long-awaited visit, we are on the ground in Beijing. That's next.


KARL: ABC's Matt Rivers is standing by in Beijing with the latest on Secretary of State Antony Blinken's high-stakes trip. We'll be right back.



SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: In light of China's unacceptable action, I am postponing my planned travel this weekend to China. The presence of this surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace is a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law. I told Director Wong that the United States remains committed to diplomatic engagement with China and that I plan to visit Beijing when conditions allow.


KARL: That was Secretary of State Antony Blinken in February, shortly before the U.S. shot down that Chinese spy balloon. After months of rising tensions, America's top diplomat finally touched down in Beijing overnight, becoming the first Cabinet official to visit China since President Biden took office.

ABC News correspondent Matt Rivers is traveling with Secretary Blinken.

Morning, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jon. Secretary Blinken finishing up his day here in Beijing at a working dinner with China's foreign minister, just one of a series of crucial conversations that will go a long way in determining whether Secretary Blinken meets with the most important player in this country, President Xi Jinping.


RIVERS (voice over): Antony Blinken arriving in Beijing today, kicking off the first visit here for a U.S. secretary of state in five years, the stakes significant, in what's expected to be a whirlwind trip on the ground, even as both sides downplaying the chance of any major breakthroughs.

The U.S. says it will raise China's role in the Fentanyl crisis, Ukraine and tensions over Taiwan, China blaming the U.S. for any problems, calling on the U.S. to stop, quote, "interfering in China's internal affairs."

This trip itself supposed to take place back in February, that is until this Chinese spy balloon showed up in U.S. airspace, floating across the country. That ended with the U.S. shooting it down, Blinken saying he postponed his trip as a result, angering china, which called the response an over-reaction.

Since then, it's been confrontation, not cooperation, the South China Sea as a flash point. In the air above, this Chinese fighter jet streaking in front of a U.S. plane in May, a maneuver the Pentagon called "dangerous and unnecessary."

And down below, this video showing a Chinese warship cutting in front of a U.S. Destroyer, coming within 150 yards of each other in the Taiwan Strait, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying the U.S. will not be bullied but wants to talk.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD AUSTIN: The door is open, and my phone is -- my phone line is open. And so they can pick up the phone and call at any time.

RIVERS: It's all part of a broader conflict between the countries, China taking an increasingly hostile approach, flexing its muscles against what it sees as U.S. attempts to contain its rise.

A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry saying Friday, "I would like to emphasize once again that the U.S. should not fantasize about dealing with China based on its position of power."

The U.S. regularly accusing China of being a bad actor on the international stage, propping up U.S. adversaries in Iran and Russia, stealing intellectual property and promoting unfair trade practices. Little is expected to come of these meetings, but experts say any talks at a time of heightened tensions can help.

PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: I'm hoping that, over the next several months, I'll be meeting with Xi again and talking about legitimate differences we have but also how there's areas we can get along.

RIVERS: Both sides have a vested interest in stabilizing a relationship worth hundreds of billions of dollars in trade. On Friday, Xi Jinping welcoming Bill Gates to Beijing, telling him, "You are the first American friend I've met with so far this year."


RIVERS (on camera): And, Jon, of course, these meetings going on right now in Beijing would be crucial towards setting up any potential Biden-Xi visit for later this year.

KARL: And, Matt, there's been a lot of speculation about whether or not Blinken will meet with President Xi. Remarkably, he's already there in Beijing, and we don't know if that meeting is going to happen. But I did notice there is a little bit of a gap in his schedule for tomorrow. What do you think? Will Secretary Blinken meet with President Xi?

RIVERS: Yeah, they're certainly leaving time aside for it in my conversations with State Department officials here on the ground. I do think it's more likely than not at this point that the meeting takes place, but I think a lot is riding on these initial conversations that are being had today and tomorrow, Monday here in Beijing. But of course, if the Chinese want to send a certain kind of message, Jon, a snub always remains on the table.

KARL: For sure. Matt Rivers in Beijing. Thank you, Matt.

Up next, ahead of the Juneteenth holiday tomorrow celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, we have a sneak preview of ABC's new "Soul of a Nation" special. Stay with us.



KAMALA HARRIS (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: This Monday, this upcoming Monday, Americans from all walks of life will again come together to celebrate Juneteenth. To honor black excellence, culture, and community and to celebrate one of our nation's founding principles, the principle of freedom.


KARL: That was Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at the White House's Juneteenth event. It's the nation's newest federal holiday, marking the end of slavery after the Civil War. ABC is honoring Juneteenth and Black Music Month, with a one-hour primetime soul of the nation special celebrating hip hop's 50th anniversary. Here's a preview.



So obviously, you know, we're celebrating Juneteenth and just the impact of hip hop 50 years of having a voice that we've used in so many different ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hip Hop's voice has become so important at this point that we can make very important social statements.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR: When I think about Black Lives Matter. I think about Beyonce information, stop shooting us, stop killing us.


DYSON: You get dressing up in her black panther gear at the Super Bowl, sending a message that our black lives matter.

MARTINEZ: When did we first see that connection service?

FAT JOE, RAPPER: I have to say when we elected Obama.

BARACK OBAMA (D) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

FAT JOE: If you see how divisive this country is now. It's never changed. It's always been divisive. Right? But because of hip hop music, they brought a generation of people who grew up under hip hop who were partying in clubs and loving this art form together and he was like, yo I can rock with him, like I don't see it as --


FAT JOE: -- he's the black man, I'm the white man, you know what I'm saying? I remember that night he won. And I went to the club, I was in Miami, and the whole club.


FAT JOE: Young Jeezy, my president is black.


FAT JOE: I mean, 150 times like, they wouldn't stop.

DYSON: He was a man who was conversant with the lyrics, and the lyricism of hip-hop artists. And then they supported him.

OBAMA: And you know, you've just got to kind of let it.

DYSON: President Obama is known as the first hip-hop president. If you make a gesture of brushing the dirt off your shoulders, you're pretty, you're pretty hip.

WES JACKSON, PRESIDENT, BRIC ARTS & MEDIA: This is not so strange in hip hop, of having a young woman or a black man empower. You know, in ways that I don't think America never seen.

MARTINEZ: When Obama first got elected, I got my first invitation to the White House, which they asked me to come a host a panel on criminal justice reform. I know what I see. I knew what I saw growing up, but I hadn't done work in the space, I didn't feel worthy of to some extent. And then they explained to me that the reason they wanted me there is because it is my audience that this topic most affects.

FAT JOE: That's right.

MARTINEZ: And so, when I understood that as like, absolutely, that's my seat to have.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's my great honor to introduce to you the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

So, I wonder as a culture, when do we take ownership that we belong in every space?

CHELSEA MILLER, ACTIVIST: Yes. So, I would say so I actually worked me up on White House in 2016, during his final, you know, months in office, and I worked on criminal justice reform. And so, I think that there's also something to be said about the fact that there are people in those positions that are advocating for us to make those spaces and have those rooms.

FAT JOE: Hip hop, let me go to Capitol Hill and represent American people on behalf of prices and transparency and healthcare. They know what I came from, and that's all of this and I got to speak for the voiceless.


KARL: "HIP HOP AT 50, A SOUL OF THE NATION PRESENTATION," premieres Monday night in primetime right here on ABC. And it streams the next day on Hulu.

We'll be right back.


KARL: That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Father's Day with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT." And have a great day.