'This Week' Transcript 7-16-23: Jake Sullivan & Former Gov. Chris Christie
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, July 16.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 16, 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)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Heating up.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're up very big in the polls. We have been like a rocket ship.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let the people chose what’s the better vision for the United States of America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Five weeks to the first primary debate. Republican 2024 candidates race to qualify.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went past 45 unique donors in just 35 days.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll make the debate stage. We're working around the clock.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As the fight intensifies over a potential third-party bid.
JAIME HARRISON: There is no third-party candidate that will win this election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, Republican candidate Chris Christie in a debate over who really stands to lose if the No Labels movement fields a candidate.
Plus, analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for liberty and freedom today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden rallies NATO allies against Russia as House Republicans pass a controversial defense bill. All the fallout with the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
DANI SILVERSTEIN, DIRECTOR, LONG ISLAND CRISIS CENTER: We can be a good kind of emergency stop button in the moment when you really need to talk.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One year after the launch of a national suicide and crisis line, Erielle Reshef reports on its impacts and the challenges ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.
Six months from the Iowa caucuses, five weeks from the first debate, Donald Trump is still the clear front-runner for the GOP nomination. Two indictments, more legal jeopardy to come, has solidified his base. The big question now, is the broader GOP electorate willing to take the chance that he will run again and lose again?
Now, as Trump feuds with Iowa’s governor, mulls skipping the first debate, will the rest of the field find a way to make headway? We'll speak with Chris Christie in a moment.
Chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl starts us off.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Iowa, a gathering of just about every major Republican presidential candidate, except for the one with the big lead. He opted to stay in Florida.
It was Donald Trump's latest Iowa snub, coming after he attacked the state’s popular governor. He's upset that she’s staying neutral, therefore not endorsing him. Will it hurt? Nothing has so far. Since he declared last November, Trump has weathered two indictments and a slew of other controversies. As the campaign enters a critical new phase, leading up to the first debate next month, the most notable movement have been the struggles of Trump's rivals. The big question now, who will be on the debate stage? Trump says he may or may not bother showing up.
DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you’re 40 points up, why would I let these people take shots at me?
KARL: His opponents are desperate to break through.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody is entitled to this nomination. You have got to earn the nomination. Doing things like these debates, they're important parts of the process.
KARL: With or without Trump, the debate stage may be a relatively small one. The RNC putting strict requirements. To make it, a candidate must have donations from at least 40,000 different donors. A few claim they'll be there.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That means I'm going to be on the debate stage on August 23rd.
SANDRA SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: So, are you going to make that debate stage?
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC) AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am – I am looking forward to it.
SMITH: What do you know?
SCOTT: I will be there.
NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have qualified to be on the debate stage.
KARL: Thirty-seven-year-old tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy offered 10 percent kickbacks to anybody raising money for him.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you help me in raising that money, you get 10 percent that you keep for yourself.
KARL: North Dakota Doug Burgum went further, offering a $20 gift card to the first 50,000 people who give at least $1 to his campaign. Others seem likely to miss the cut. The most notable names struggling to make it, former Vice President Mike Pence. In Iowa on Friday, Pence got a chilly reception from fellow evangelicals as he tangled with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson over U.S. support for Ukraine.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Your concern is that the Ukrainians, a country most people can't find on a map, who have received tens of billions of U.S. tax dollars, don’t have enough tanks. I think it’s fair question to ask, like, where's the concern for the United States in that?
MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it’s not my concern. Tucker, I've heard that routine from you before but that's not my concern.
Anybody that says that we can’t be the leader of the free world and solve our problems at home has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth. We can do both.
KARL: Pence has only raised $1.2 million for his campaign, raising doubts about whether Donald Trump's former vice president will even qualify for the first debate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Jon Karl for that.
We're joined now by our former ABC colleague, former governor of New Jersey, current Republican candidate for president, Chris Christie.
Chris, thanks for coming in today.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to talk about the broader race. But, first, you weren't in Iowa. You weren't at the Tucker Carlson forum. But if you were being pressed on Ukraine like that, how would you have responded?
CHRISTIE: I would have said, you've always been wrong about this, Tucker, and you're still wrong. That, in fact, what’s going on, George, is that this is a proxy war with China. The Chinese are funding the Russian war by buying Russian oil. They're coordinating with the Iranians to provide lethal weapons to the Russian army. And we can decide when to have this conflict. Right now the Ukrainians are willing to fight this fight for themselves if they have our support to be able to win it. If the Chinese watch us back away from Ukraine, as Tucker Carlson and others would advocate, believe me, the next move will be Taiwan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was getting standing ovations. You don't think that's a big sell in the Republican Party?
CHRISTIE: I don't. And I'll tell you, as I travel around, George, look, I’m not saying there’s not some division in the party. There is. That's obvious. But I still absolutely believe, both from what’ve seen in polling and what I’m experiencing anecdotally, that a majority of Republicans want us to be supporting Ukraine because those folks are fighting for their own freedom, their own liberty, and they're degrading the Russian army and sending a message to the Chinese. Those are all good things for America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You announced this week that you're going to make the debate stage, you've qualified to make the debate stage. Do you think Donald Trump’s going to be there?
CHRISTIE: You know, Georgie, I do. I do think he’ll be there.
CHRISTIE: Yes, I think he'll be there because, look, I've known him for a long time, as you know. His ego, I think, will not permit him to have a big TV show that he's not on. And I think he’d be enormously frustrated sitting back in Bedminster and watching what I’m going to do to him on that stage in absentia.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sounds like you're baiting him to come – to come in.
CHRISTIE: No, look, I mean, I don't think I have to, but I'll happy to say right now, come on, Donald, get on the stage and defend your record. You know, if you want to be the nominee, you need to defend your record. And he has a record of four years as president where he didn't deliver on a lot of issues that Republicans cared deeply about. He didn't repeal and replace Obamacare like he said he would, even though he had a Republican Congress. He – he said he was going to balance the budget. He added $6 trillion to the national debt. He said he was going to build the wall in Mexico. He built 47 miles of new mile. You know, George, at that pace in four years, he’d need 110 years as president to be able to finish the wall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, none of that has shaken his support right now, at least it appears inside the base of the Republican Party. What can you say that people haven't already heard that can change their minds?
CHRISTIE: Look, George. I think it’s just about patience and persistence on this. He's got a record that – that is not great as president. And, by the way, we didn't even talk about the three-time loser record where he lost in 2018 the House, lost the Senate in the White House in 2020, and led us to a horrible midterm performance in 2022 with a president who was at 35 percent job approval.
So, it's going to take time, though, George. This guy has been at the front of every Republican primary voter's mind for eight years. I've been in the race for five weeks. Give me some time. And you can see already when he's up at 1:00 in the morning posting on Truth Social about me, I think we're in his head.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We might see a post in a few minutes right now. But I also want to talk about the president -- former president's legal standing. It sure seems like the special council, Jack Smith, continues to investigate both the classified documents and the invest – and the January 6th.
We learned that another Trump employee received a target letter in the classified documents case. We also learned that former top White House officials, including Jared Kushner, have been called before the January 6th grand jury.
Kushner reportedly told the grand jury that Trump sincerely believed that he won. What do you make of that, number one? And what do you make of the fact that Smith has reached that deep into the Trump White House?
CHRISTIE: Well, first off, it shows that Jack Smith’s running a serious investigation. And that's what he should be doing because the American people are owed at least that much by someone who has the authority that Jack Smith has. And if you’re going to bring charges relating to January 6th, you better be right and you better have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a jury is going to be able to understand and that's unimpeachable.
As far as, you know, what's going on with Donald Trump in terms of these charges, the fact is that he doesn't believe he won. He was concerned before the election that he was losing. And I know that because he said it to me directly. So, you know, he knows he didn't win, but his ego, George, won't permit him to believe that he's the only person in America, outside the state of Delaware, to ever have lost to Joe Biden. And so his ego is running that.
And am I surprised that Jared Kushner would say that? He doesn't want to be disinvited to Thanksgiving, George, so he said what he needed to say.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your path to victory?
CHRISTIE: Through Donald Trump. There’s no other way to do it, George. There’s not a separate lane or a – you know, we’ve heard these conversations before in presidential races. In this Republican primary there is one lane to the nomination, and that lane is right through Donald Trump. He's at the head of it. And you have to make the case against Donald Trump and convince Republican primary voters two things. One, that he is not electable, and he will not beat Joe Biden. He's lost to him before and would lose to him again, and probably Joe Biden would bring a Democratic House and Senate with him. And, two, that his record doesn't merit him to be the nominee again given all the failures, both personal and policy, that he’s had.
The difference with me having been a Republican governor in a blue state is I had to deliver, I had to deliver results. And when we were in this bad of shape, George, I think the last time we were in this bad of shape as a country was in the late '70s with Jimmy Carter as president, angry, divided country, energy crisis, inflation, all the rest.
What did America do? They turned to a conservative governor from a blue state, Ronald Reagan from California. I think we're going to do the same thing this time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're about to have a debate over this No Labels movement, the No Labels third party movement. You’ve said publicly that you wouldn't join their movement. Why not?
CHRISTIE: I -- because I think it's a fool's errand, George. I’m not in this for show time. I’m not in this, you know, for making a point. I’m in this to get elected president of the United States.
And there are only two people who will get elected president of the United States in November of '24 -- the Republican nominee for president, and the Democratic nominee for president.
And I don't want to participate in something which, by the way, is also a scatter gun approach to this.
They think they know who they going to hurt. They want to hurt Donald Trump if he’s the nominee. But, you know, when you get (ph) a third party campaign -- and we saw this with Ross Perot, we saw this later with Ralph Nader, you never quite know who you’re going to hurt in that process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, thanks for coming in today.
CHRISTIE: Thanks for having me on, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s get more on the No Labels movement right now, this push to get a third party candidate in 2024.
No Labels is going to be in New Hampshire tomorrow to launch a national tour with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and former Republican Governor Jon Huntsman, touting the idea of a bipartisan unity ticket.
Our political director Rick Klein is back with the breakdown.
And, Rick, explain what the group is trying to do here.
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, it starts with Biden and Trump, and voters clearly want an alternative to the current president or the former president. One recent poll, 70 percent of voters said they don't want Joe Biden to run again, 60 percent of voters say the same thing about Donald Trump, and there is -- the groundwork is there if you look at party registration and party affiliation.
Gallup has been asking this question for decades, what party do you identify with? And check out how the rise in independents has fueled so much of our politics. Forty-four percent of the country now considers themselves a political independent, only 27 percent Democrats, 25 percent Republicans. That's a big, big gap, but, of course, being an independent doesn't necessarily mean you're a moderate or mean that you’re open to a third party candidate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just heard Chris Christie say it's a fool's errand for a third party. Traditionally, historically, these third parties just can't break the lock on the Electoral College.
KLEIN: Yeah, look, this is how No Labels sees the potential map. They think that they can win the states that are here in yellow, and if they do all of that, that's 286 electoral votes.
But, you know, that's a lot of optimistic assumptions. Take a look at this. They need to win Texas. They need to win Florida. Those are redder states. Illinois, Hawaii, some of the bluer states, and you need 270 to win.
So, this is a tall order for No Labels, and there's other states they think they can be competitive in, but it's going to be difficult at every step.
And maybe the hardest thing for them is that they don't get to run just on this idea of a third party. You have to run a candidate. You mentioned Manchin, Huntsman, Larry Hogan, the former Maryland governor, someone else is talked about running. All of men are guys, and men and women that have records, people that will be firing at them.
There's going to be a lot of big forces out there, George, that want to make sure they're irrelevant.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also heard Chris Christie says it’s hard to know who it’s going to help, who it’s going to hurt. Most Democrats are convinced it's going to hurt Joe Biden and help Donald Trump.
KLEIN: Yeah. And, look, they look at recent history. They look at people like Ralph Nader and Jill Stein and a lot of Democrats are still convinced that their candidacies ended up impacting the election.
We hear a lot of -- a lot of people with No Labels talk about Ross Perot, and he hit the high water mark for a third party candidate. He got 19 percent of the vote when he ran in 1992, but he ended up with zero electoral votes. So, it's very, very difficult.
And the other interesting thing to look at on this, is some of the polling that's been out there recently. Our partners at FiveThirtyEight looked at all of the recent polls that have been pitted Biden and Trump and then a third party candidate, either a No Labels candidate, or in the case of Cornel West, someone as running as a progressive in the Green Party.
In all of these polls, George, Biden/Trump, Biden was either tied or up by a point or two when it was head to head. When he went up, though, against a third party candidate, Trump was either tied or up by a point or two.
The concern among Democrats is that Biden has a softer hold on his voters than Donald Trump voters who are going to do anything for his candidates and just remember how close it was in some of those key battlegrounds last time around -- 10,000, 11,000, 20,000 votes in the states that Biden won. Every single one of them had more than enough third party votes to a potentially swung an outcome.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Klein, thank you very much.
We're now joined by two former Democratic senators on the opposite sides of this. Joe Lieberman, one of the founding chairs of No Labels, elected as an independent in his last term, and Doug Jones, part of a new group that's joined forces to oppose this third party effort.
Thank you both for joining us this morning.
Senator Lieberman, let me begin with you. Back when you were running as vice president on Al Gore's ticket in 2000, you warned that Ralph Nader would be a spoiler in the election. It turned out that he was right. Aren’t you concerned that’s going to happen this time around?
JOE LIEBERMAN, FOUNDING CHAIR, NO LABELS & (I) FORMER CONNECTICUT SENATOR: No. I mean we’ve made very clear that we’re not in this to be spoilers, we’re in this to give the majority of the American people who feel that the major two parties are failing them a third choice, both in policies, such as we're going to release in New Hampshire tomorrow, but also possibly in a third candidate. And – and we’ve been very explicit and we’re -- just watch us. If the polling next year shows, after the two parties have chosen their nominees, that, in fact, we – we will help elect one or another candidate, we're not going to get involved.
The other thing to say, George, is if the two parties listen and – and maybe think about what we're trying to do, and they pay attention to the numbers Rick Klein spoke of -- I mean 60 percent, 70 percent of the American people don't want the choice of Donald Trump and Joe Biden again. An enormous number are now saying they're independents, not members of the two major parties.
The two major parties are failing the American people. And that's because the American people see that the Republicans and Democrats spend most of their time fighting each other to maintain their own power instead of working together to fix our – our country and – and make it better.
So, we're trying to give voice to that majority of the American people. The common sense majority that want something different than the two parties.
I'll just sum it up this way, George, the problem is not what the third -- is not the third choice that No Labels is offering the American people. The problem is the American people are not buying what the two parties are selling anymore. And I think the parties would be wiser to think about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about that argument, Senator Jones?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Seventy percent of Americans don’t want Biden to run, 60 percent say they don't want Trump to run.
DOUG JONES, (D) FORMER ALABAMA SENATOR: You know – you know, those -- those polls right now mean nothing, George. You know that. You've gone through this process before. The same could have almost been true for Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, for John McCain and Barack Obama. Polls a year and a half out mean nothing. And the fact of the matter is, we've got a president who has spent the last two and a half years bringing jobs to this country, 13 million. He's bringing down inflation. He’s brought America's allies back together. He's brought an infrastructure bill. He has brought a PACT Act and Chips Act. He’s done all the things for the American people, but he has governed. He’s not been a candidate.
Right now, this past weekend, you saw that the Biden/Harris team raised $70 million. Thirty percent of those were new donors. That is not a candidate that is being rejected by the American people.
And as Chris Christie said, it is folly. It is a fool's errand to think that a third party can win in this country. There is no way on God's green earth that they can get to 270 electoral votes, which means they will be a spoiler. One way or another, they'll be a spoiler. And as Rick Klein said, it looks like they will be a spoiler in favor of Donald Trump. And that will be the biggest threat to democracy that we have seen since January 6th.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lieberman, you said that if the polling shows next year that that – that is the case, that the third – that No Labels would be a spoiler one way or the other, then No Labels would stand down. That sort of runs against human nature, doesn't it? Once a campaign starts, it’s hard to stop.
LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see.
Look, the polling a year and a half out, as Doug Jones just said, really should be taken as a warning by the two parties. The American people don't like what the two parties are doing, and they particularly don't like the two candidates that they seem set on nominating. So, we're trying to offer a third choice, both in the policies that we're issuing tomorrow, which really speak for the majority of the American people, and I'm happy to say that in all our polling we show that the American people are much more united than the – than the leaders of the two parties, who – who thrive on division, would indicate.
So, no, we’re – we’re in this – listen, we have said all along that we're not yearning to run a third-party ticket. If one or both parties move more toward the center in their policies, George, and maybe think about the two candidates being so unpopular among the American people, we won't run. We also said we won't run if the polling shows we're going to be spoilers. But, you know, Ross Perot was not a spoiler. He took, by the exit polls, evenly from both parties, and he put the balanced budget on the national agenda as a priority. And, lo and behold, President Clinton ran with it, worked with Newt Gingrich on a bipartisan basis and got it done. In the last three years of the Clinton administration, actually, we ran a surplus in the federal government.
That's why we're talking about running a bipartisan unity ticket for president, unprecedented, at least since 1864. It's unusual. And we know the -- the odds for third parties, but we think the American people are so fed up with the two parties and so pessimistic about the course that our country is on that they may well be ready for a third choice, a bipartisan unity choice next year. And if that's the way the polling looks, we're going to run.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Jones, I know you've joined this group with my former boss, Dick Gephardt, to counter No Labels. Is there a -- is there a strategy in place to head this off? What is it?
JONES: Well, I think it's getting the same messages out. It is -- it is basically saying, you know, No Labels is looking at a centrist candidate. We've got a centrist candidate, George. We've got Joe Biden. Look at what he has done, bringing the infrastructure package together, pulling that together for the first time in decades to do infrastructure, for the PACT Act, the CHIPS Act. You can go time and time again.
Senator Manchin has had a tremendous effect on the Biden administration's climate agenda. You've got a centrist candidate. I don't know why in the world somebody thinks that -- that Joe Biden's administration is so far left, unlike a Donald Trump or someone else that is an extreme right.
The second thing about this that I think the message has to get out is that No Labels says they want to be democratic. They want to give people a choice. But guess what? They're not disclosing their donors. They're not playing by the same rules. You've got a bunch of mega-rich Republican donors who are pushing this agenda. They won't disclose who those donors are. And it's going to be those donors, and I presume Senator Lieberman, who are going to select the nominee. It will be a coronation, whenever they do that. That's not very democratic. That's not a choice. It's a false choice and really an illusion as to what they're doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Jones, Senator Lieberman, thank you very much for your time this morning. Roundtable's coming up. Plus, President Biden has returned from his trip to Europe and the NATO Summit. We'll speak with his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: We will not waver. We will not waver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden at the close of the NATO Summit this week. We're joined now by the president's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
Jake, thank you for joining us this morning.
The president said we will not waver. We will stay with -- with Ukraine as long as it takes.
It is taking a long time. Has his war become a stalemate?
JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It has not, George. You’re seeing Ukrainian forces, in fact, make progress, both in the east and the south.
We said before this counteroffensive started that it would be hard going, and it’s been hard going. That’s the nature of war.
But the Ukrainians are continuing to move forward and we’re continuing to supply them with the necessary weaponry and capabilities to be able to do that. And they will keep attempting to take back the territory that Russia has illegally occupied, and we will continue to support them in that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president is not going to waver at all, but we are seeing divisions among Republicans at this point, lead by Donald Trump. People like Tucker Carlson questioning the U.S. support for Ukraine.
How concerned are you that the longer the war goes on, the more division you’ll see here in the United States over supporting Ukraine?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, the American people have really hung in there and supported the Ukrainian people. You can see it reflected in opinion polls even today how much the Ukrainian -- the American people continue to have a strong degree of backing for what we’re doing to support Ukraine.
Second, if you look at the Republican Party, there is a small cadre of Republicans who stand up and say we should stop helping Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. But the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, did a joint statement with the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, in which they both said that Ukraine’s assistant would not -- assistance to Ukraine would not be subject to the debt agreement that was reached between President Biden and congressional Republicans. Senior Republicans in the House have said the same thing.
So I actually think that there was strong backing for Ukraine in the Congress, not just among Democrats, but among Republicans as well. And, therefore, we believe that we can back up the statement that we will give Ukraine everything it needs for as long as it takes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: At the beginning of the summit, President Zelenskyy was clearly unhappy with what he was hearing about joining NATO. We saw those tweets that he sent out. Later he said he believes Ukraine will join NATO the moment the war is over.
Was that explicit promise made to him?
SULLIVAN: What we said in the communique is that Ukraine’s future is in NATO, period, full stop. No qualifications. No negotiations with anyone. It is going to happen.
There are two elements to this, George. One, having Ukraine come into NATO while the war is going on would mean that NATO was at war with Russia, it would mean the United States was at war with Russia. And neither NATO nor the United States were prepared to do that.
Second, every country that wants to come into NATO has to make certain democratic reforms in order to meet NATO standards. Ukraine has made a lot of progress on that pathway. It has more reforms to make. And we are working through with Ukraine, the nature of those reforms, which it itself has embraced as necessary for its democratic future.
So, there is a good conversation going on between Ukraine and NATO. There was a great conversation between President Biden and President Zelenskyy. And I think we have an excellent understanding.
And at the end of the day, President Biden and President Zelenskyy stood together before the world, and President Zelenskyy said that while he didn’t get everything he wanted, he was very satisfied with the results of the NATO summit and very satisfied with the support that he’s getting from his Western partners.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Here at home we saw the traditional bipartisan unity over the defense authorization bill pretty much break down in the House. They did beat back attempts to take away aid to Ukraine or limit aid to Ukraine, but there were also amendments dealing with abortion, transgender issues, diversity training.
Republican House leaders said that the Democrats voting against that is an example of Democrats walking away from supporting our troops. Your response?
SULLIVAN: Look, I think it’s just the opposite. Trying to mix up domestic, political issues into support for America's military and America's troops, that’s what this set of amendments that the Republicans brought forward did. And those who oppose those amendments, who said, let’s keep focused on what’s real here.
What’s real is the necessary capabilities, technologies and fundamental social support for our troops and their families. That’s what this all should have been focused on, not these domestic, political issues.
And it’s of a piece, George, with the larger challenge that we’re facing, which is there is a senator, a single senator, from the state of Alabama, who is holding up all of the military promotions that come before the Senate.
For the first time in 150 years, we don’t have a commandant of the Marine Corps. We are very soon not going to have a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of a chief of Naval Operations. This is making America less safe.
And why? Because of the attempt to score domestic, political points. It’s just got to stop. And that’s a message that President Biden sent in his press conference in Helsinki. It’s a message we’re trying to communicate to all of the leaders on the Hill, including the Republican leaders.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, you were talking about Senator Tommy Tuberville.
I do want to ask you one final question about the Chinese hack this week of the -- it included the Commerce Department, State Department, Microsoft revealed that earlier this week when we spoke about it you said the U.S. is investigating. What more have we learned and how will the U.S. hold China accountable?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, George, this was actually an intrusion into a Microsoft cloud system. And through that cloud system they got into unclassified U.S. government e-mails. It was the U.S. government who discovered the intrusion, alerted Microsoft, got it shut down and now we're taking steps to insure that's not an ongoing venerability.
Secondly, this is the type of activity and behavior that we have seen from multiple foreign adversaries over multiple administrations. And in ever case we take the necessary time and rigor to be able to fully investigate what happened, who did it, and what the best response is. We're still in the middle of that, so I'm going to leave it to our continued working through of this challenge. But as we have in the past, we will take steps to hold those who perform this responsible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not prepared yet to say it was China?
SULLIVAN: Well, because of the way we do our attribution, we do it carefully, rigorously and thoroughly before we come out with an attribution. Microsoft has said it was China. We've seen nothing so far to dispute what Microsoft has said or to second guess their claim that it was China.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jake Sullivan, thanks for your time this morning.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Roundtable is next. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: It is woefully irresponsible that extreme MAGA Republicans have hijacked a bipartisan bill that is essential to our national security.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Stop using taxpayer money to do their own woke-ism. A military cannot defend themselves if you train them in woke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Heated debate this week over the defense bill. One of the things we're going to talk about on our roundtable.
We’re joined by Donna Brazile, former Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt, “USA Today” Washington bureau chief Susan Page, and "New York Times" national political reporter Astead Herndon.
And, Senator Blunt, let me begin with you.
You heard Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, take a pretty hard line against that House Republican defense bill, and also Senator Tommy Tuberville, who's holding up military appointments over the issue of abortion. What's your response to all that?
ROY BLUNT, (R) FORMER MISSOURI SENATOR: Well, on the – on the defense bill, I think eventually there will be a bill that has about 300 plus House members vote for it, but that wasn't the bill they were able to pass this week.
I was mostly concerned, frankly, from my own point of view, about what they’d do in that bill on Ukraine. And two-thirds of the Republicans defeated any amendments that would have moved us away from a commitment to Ukraine. So, I would think the administration should feel good about that. And those of us who believe we have a specific role in the world that has to be played by the United States should feel good about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're confident the Senate is going to strip out those controversial amendments over abortion, over diversity training, over transgender issues?
BLUNT: Often the – the defense bill passes very late. The authorization bill. But it always passes with a big bipartisan vote. I think that will happen again this time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, it was pretty clear, at least the House Republicans, and many running for president right now, think these woke issues are their key to victory.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. They think that somehow or another the culture war, that they are really launching against the American people, will somehow or another give them an edge when it comes to the fall election. Next fall.
George, I was struck by some of the amendments. I mean, look, a time when we're trying to make sure that we have the best fighting force in the world, here you have a lawmaker from Arizona, Congressman Crane, who referred to so-called black people as colored people, and then he said, I didn't mean – I mean people of color, but he was doing it – doing this at a time he was trying to strike out diversity and inclusion programs in the defense department that – that essentially hopes to bring people into the military, help them work together, and to ensure that we have a fighting force.
This bill is important. It raises the pay of people in the military. It enables women who have issues, problems with their reproductive health, to get the best possible help. And what the Republicans are doing, they're layering it with what I call social cultural war (ph) issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan Page, one of the things we're seeing here is that Kevin McCarthy really has to negotiate a very tough road here in the House. And it appears that his most conservative members have the most power right now.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, I think Senator Blunt has a pretty rosy scenario of what's ahead. I'm sure that the Senate -- the Democratic-controlled Senate is going to strip out these measures on access to abortion for people in the military, on diversity training. But I don't think it's at all clear that this Republican-controlled House is going to be willing to accept that version. You know, it's -- it is one of the final pieces of legislation that had a bipartisan history. It passed with 350 votes last year. It passed the House this year with 219 votes. That is a reflection of just the way our polarized politics has infected basically every piece of legislation in...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it said, inside the Republican party right now, it appears that, at least for now, cultural issues for the most part are trumping national security.
ASTEAD HERNDON, NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. It's a change of what we have come to know as, kind of, kitchen-table issues. This version of the Republican Party is pushing -- is thinking of a kind of kitchen table where wokism or anti-wokism is the main topic of discussion.
We see this -- we see this reflected in the presidential race. We see this reflected in Congress. And it's really Speaker McCarthy not being able to marginalize a small minority of his caucus that's really driving this. And that's -- and he's not able to do that partially because the leading figure in the Republican Party, whether it be Donald Trump or whether it be Ron DeSantis, his main challenger, are using this kind of grievance to mobilize the base. This is the core of how the party has shifted from when we think about 10, 15 years ago to now.
And the reason it's not been uprooted is, for many of those base Republicans, the folks who are left, they like that shift. It is not a shift that is unpopular. They're responding to at least the most ardent point -- ardent portion of their base. They are driving that, and that's part of the reason I think Susan's right. We can't assume that this version of the GOP Congress accepts a stripped-down bill, even though that's been the history with this type of bipartisan, important legislation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, let's pick up on this No Labels debate. Democrats are terrified that the strategy will lead to Donald Trump getting elected.
BRAZILE: Well, Democrats have a lot of experience of third-party candidates basically biting at our heels and, of course, turning the election over to the Republicans. We saw that with Ralph Nader in 2000. I experienced it personally. I'm -- I'm no longer crying.
And we saw it again in 2016 with Jill Stein. So, yeah, there's -- you know, we know this is going to be a close collection. George, regardless of where the polls stand today, it's going to come down to three or four states and likely less than 100,000 people across those states. So, yeah, every vote matters.
We have a multi-party system in the United States. I tell that to people all the time. You've got a Socialist, a Libertarian, a Reform, whatever you want. So I don't see them filling a vacuum. I see them trying to make an argument that there needs to be a moderate. Well, the moderate is Joe Biden. That's the moderate in the race. They're -- they're saying that there needs to be another choice. Well, we offer plenty of choices in American politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roy Blunt, it sure seems like a lot of big Republican donors want this third party.
BLUNT: Well, if the model's Joe Biden, 70 percent of the people don't want the model. And 60 percent of the people don't want the alternative. So that creates an environment where people are looking for something else. Now, in our system, the structure doesn't lead itself for that to be a successful...
STEPHANOPOULOS: No realistic path to victory, right?
BLUNT: ... realistic path to victory. Candidates matter. There's no candidate here. This will always be a more popular polling issue without a candidate than it is when you begin to have a candidate. That candidate appears not to be there. And even if there was a candidate, the two times when you had a candidate that really significantly performed on the debate stage, 1980 and 1992, the incumbent president lost.
The -- the only time an elected president lost their re-election campaign since World War II were those two instances, and there was a 19 percent candidate with Ross Perot and a significant candidate with Congressman Anderson. I don't know how it impacted the election, but it certainly didn't impact the election with either of them getting any electoral votes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Astead, it is true. No actual candidate, and basically, sort of, bromides for policy prescriptions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It all sounds great until you actually engage in the campaign?
HERNDON: Until you actually engage in the campaign, until you add meat to the bones of this theoretical unity ticket.
You know, we talked to Senator Lieberman and Ryan Clancy of No Labels for an hour for our podcast the Run-Up. And one of the things that becomes fairly clear is that they are identifying a real thing, right? There are 70 percent, 60 percent of people who don't want these two candidates as the leading folks for the next -- for the next presidential election. It's the solution that's really murky.
When we talk to people who don't want either members of those parties; they don't want Biden or don't want Trump, they're not coming from an ideological perspective. They're not saying "That's the reason why I want a centrist or a moderate or someone like Joe Manchin." A lot of those people told us they think people are too old, or they think politics is too top-down and too -- too important from the rich and not -- or they want to see the system be blown up further.
None of this leads to those kind of third-party candidates. And that's the kind of sleight of hand No Labels is doing here. I think Senator Jones was really right to call out the, kind of, anti-democratic nature of this. The people who will be selecting those candidates are these kind of insider, rich donor Republican folks. And so, for all of them, for all of their saying that this is a kind of democratic movement for a third party, it's not really reflecting what we see from people who don't like either -- either of those candidates.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And generally, Susan Page, these third-party candidates, these are fueled by a charismatic candidate, not a set of policy proposals.
PAGE: Yes. That's right, and of course, you don't need to get a majority of the vote. You don't need to win an electoral vote. You don't need to win a state in order to affect the election. The person who should know that is Joe Lieberman who is not a former vice president today because Ralph Nader siphoned off thousands of votes in Florida in 2000.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roy Blunt, let's talk about 2024 more broadly. At this point, you just heard Chris Christie earlier in the program. He thinks that Donald Trump is going to show up at the debate. What do you make of Donald Trump's standing in the party right now? As I said at the top of the program, it appears that he solidified his most loyal core supporters, but there are more questions out inside [ph] the broader Republican electorate.
BLUNT: Well, I think that's right. I think a lot of things could happen here, frankly, with either of these candidates. They've both been president. They're older than candidates normally are. They are legal problems on both sides. I'm not absolutely sure what happens here, but clearly we know who the two leading candidates are.
I would be surprised if President Trump shows up at the debate. He's got not much to gain by being there. He elevates the event. I would be less surprised if President Trump decides I'm going to have a big event of my own at the same exact time of that debate, maybe in the same city, and see what happens.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're nodding your head.
HERNDON: Yeah, you know, it sounds very Trump-like, right? The counterprogramming we even saw all over this weekend. The reason why he skipped that Faith & Family forum in Iowa is because he believes it gives oxygen to his opponents and also, we haven't seen an electorate really penalize them for skipping those events. They're not holding him to a kind of standard that says that he has to go or in the nomination as Governor Ron DeSantis says.
If anything, we've seen his challengers fall further and further behind him. Trump is a known quantity for the Republican electorate, and for a lot of those people, what they know, they like. And that is what he is betting on to really get him all the way through, and even if it cost him in a state like Iowa or New Hampshire, a place that really values that type of retail campaigning, he's betting that the kind of national picture is so tilted toward him that it can of swallow that.
I mean, it reminds me of Joe Biden in the 2020 primary for the Democratic side where there was an understanding that the national appeal was greater than those first two states and frankly, I think they thought -- they think that they would cost themselves by really engaging in Iowa and New Hampshire early.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan, with the exception of Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson perhaps on the Republican side, the other candidates have been afraid to take on Donald Trump directly. I have to believe that the closer we get to the actual vote, that's going to change.
PAGE: Yeah. They haven't taken on -- they haven't found a way to dent him. Donald Trump has not been dented by the press so far. He's been strengthened. We've seen Mike Pence not even qualify at least so far for the first debate. We've seen Ron DeSantis' once pretty formable standing really fade in a significant way. He's now got a little bit of a staff shakeup going.
So, why should Donald Trump go to the debate? Why should he change his tactics? And how can these other candidates confront him in a way that holds his voters, but takes him down? They have not figured that out.
BRAZILE: George, he is coming under withering attack whether it is from Chris Christie, who I was quite surprised. His "Tell It Like It Is" PAC is putting out an ad today that is jarring. I mean, calling Trump a liar, a coward, a chicken. I mean, will Trump sit on the sideline and let -- allow Chris Christie or Asa Hutchinson or someone else knock him out?
No, I think Trump is going to find a way, like you said, brother, that he is going to find a way to make this about him once again. But I was surprised at Mike Pence's number. I mean, you were vice president for four years and you can raise only what? $1.2 million! That's sad. And DeSantis, DeSantis is still stuck on the runway. He can't get a lift.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan, we only have about 30 seconds left. But, all in all, I'm sure Joe Biden is loving this debate inside the Republican Party. He also had some rare economic good news this week.
PAGE: Yeah, and that is very good news for him, the easing of inflation. So, Biden people think there are three things that could defeat them -- a recession, maybe we'll avoid that; a health crisis; and the third thing would be a credible third-party challenger, and that is something that is harder for the White House to deal with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much. Great conversation.
Up next, one year after the launch of the 988 crisis line, Erielle Reshef reports on the efforts to tackle the nation's mental health crisis. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
XAVIER BECERRA, SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: When you hear 911, you think emergency and rescue. Starting tomorrow when you hear 988, think crisis and rescue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: One year ago today, the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline became a three-digit number ritual nationwide. Available to anyone having mental health difficulties. That transition marks the end of the years long process to establish the 988 lifeline. But work continues to keep the service sustainable for the vast network of centers tasked with answering the millions of callers asking for help.
Erielle Reshef, reports.
ERIELLE RESHEF, ABC NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an unassuming building, tucked behind a church in Belmar, New York, the Long Island Crisis Center is providing a critical service.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE), Micah speaking.
RESHEF (voice-over): That's what callers would hear first at this center, one of about 200 across the country fielding calls to the 988 National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. ABC News was not present during any actual crisis calls to maintain privacy.
KATIE STOLL, DIRECTOR, LONG ISLAND CRISIS CENTER: We want people to know that we are a resource that is available to them and you don't have to be suicidal to call.
RESHEF (voice-over): It's been one year since the federal government relaunched the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as an easy to remember three-digit number, a 24/7 resource to anybody experiencing a mental health crisis.
BECERRA: We're breaking down stigma, it doesn't take much to be able to reach 988 now, call text chat. And it's working.
RESHEF (voice-over): In the last year, crisis centers have responded to nearly 5 million contacts, seeing a surge in text, chats and calls while slashing the average time it takes to answer. But some officials acknowledge staffing and funding challenges have resulted in uneven answer rates across the country.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): We're saving lives but that doesn't mean the service is perfect. And yes, Congress needs to do more to provide additional funding, to make sure that every state has an answer rate near 100%.
RESHEF (voice-over): Democrat Seth Moulton co-authored the legislation to establish the three-digit number with Republican Chris Stewart. As a Marine veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq. The issue is personal. Veterans are more likely to die by suicide and about 20% of the lifelines contacts were answered by the Veterans Crisis Line.
MOULTON: I know there are a lot of veterans out there who feel just the way I did a few years ago, which is I don't need help. Better give these resources to someone who's in greater need. But we've got to get the word out that everyone deserves help.
RESHEF (voice-over): At the Long Island Crisis Center…
KATIE STOLL, DIRECTOR, LONG ISLAND CRISIS CENTER: We have a lot of counselors that answer the phone from home but we do have a couple of counselors here with us today.
RESHEF (voice-over): Many on staff also called to this work.
SILVERSTEIN: People who come from -- who have had mental health challenges want to be able to give back or people who feel like somebody in their life could have benefitted from speaking to a counselor often come to us.
RESHEF (voice-over): Dani Silverstein oversees the Center's 988 Program. She says the confidentiality of the Lifeline is key.
RESHEF: Why do you think people feel so safe calling 988?
DANI SILVERSTEIN, DIRECTOR, LONG ISLAND CRISIS CENTER: Because we don't know them. Sometimes when we talk to those closest to us, there is a fear of how will my feelings make them feel? When you call in anonymous and confidential helpline, that's not really part of the equation.
RESHEF (voice-over): Allison is one of the more than 100 counselors who work or volunteer work with the center. For her, the hardest part of the job is letting go after hanging up.
ALLISON, COUNSELOR, LONG ISLAND CRISIS CENTER: Whenever treatment plan or a plan for themselves that they set for themselves, you kind of just have that hope that they're going to stick to it and remain brave.
RESHEF (voice-over): The job is taxing, but she says it's worth the toll.
RESHEF: This is a very rigorous job. Why do it?
ALLISON: Across the board, the 988 counselors, they're very special people, and they want to help. I want to help. It takes a very special person to answer 988 and an extremely strong person to be able to call the hotline.
RESHEF (voice-over): For "This Week," Erielle Reshef, ABC News, Bellmore, New York.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Erielle, for that. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or any mental health crisis, free confidential help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call or text the National Lifeline at 988.
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'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."
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