'This Week' Transcript 7-2-23: Former Vice President Mike Pence & Rep. Ro Khanna

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, July 2.

ByABC News
July 2, 2023, 10:00 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 2, 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.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The court, once again, walked away from decades of precedent.

KARL: The Supreme Court ends its term with a series of divisive decisions, ending affirmative action.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it is in so very many ways a denial of opportunity.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): This was a win for fairness, a win for the Constitution.

KARL: Limiting anti-discrimination protections.

LORIE SMITH: Colorado can't force me or anyone to say something we don't believe.

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): The Supreme Court continues to reinterpret religious liberty as a license to discriminate.

KARL: And rejecting President Biden's student loan plan.

MIGUEL CARDONA: You should be able to earn a college education without student debt blocking you from opportunity.

KARL: As the court becomes the central focus of the presidential campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Religious liberty got a tremendous win today.

BIDEN: I think the court misinterpreted the Constitution.

NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are making a lot of wrongs right.

KARL: This morning, all the fallout with former Vice President Mike Pence and Congressman Ro Khanna.

Plus, what Americans now think of the court. Our new poll and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.

And with Russia in turmoil, Ukraine hopes to make gains. Martha Raddatz is live in the war zone.


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

KARL: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.

As we come on the air this morning, a brand-new ABC News/Ipsos poll shows that Americans increasingly view the Supreme Court as political. A majority now say they believe that the justices rule mainly on the basis of politics and not the law. This after the court's conservative supermajority upended years of precedent with decisions that will have a lasting impact. The court was predictably praised by Republicans and condemned by Democrats.

But despite the headline-grabbing decisions, and despite the majority view that the justices are acting mainly based on politics, the Supreme Court, this term, was significantly less divided than you may think. Consider this, more than half of the court's decisions this term were unanimous, or nearly so, either 9-0 or 8-1. Nine out of ten decisions had at least one of the court's liberal justices in the majority. In other words, less than one out of every ten were decided by a 6-3 margin with all six Republican-appointed justices in the majority.

And on some major cases, the court's rulings reassured liberals and disappointed conservatives. The court flatly rejected the idea pushed by allies of President Trump that state legislatures have total control over federal elections. It also upheld a key component of the Voting Rights Act, and it rejected a Republican-led challenge to President Biden's immigration and deportation policies.

But in some of the most consequential rulings of the term, especially regarding affirmative action, there is no doubt that the court's solid conservative majority is making its mark.

And that's where we begin with ABC's Devin Dwyer at the Supreme Court.


DEVIN DWYER, SENIOR WASHINGTON REPORTER: A Supreme Court term with surprising consensus ended with explosive decisions, striking down President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan, creating an exception to anti-discrimination laws for free speech. And, after 45 years, ending affirmative action in higher education.

The court's internal fault lines deeply personal on matters of race spilled out into the open. Justice Clarence Thomas, who's acknowledged benefitting from affirmative action, blasted the program as flying in the face of our colorblind constitution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor firing back that ignoring racial inequality will not make it disappear. And Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, even more biting, accusing Thomas and the majority of let-them-eat-cake obliviousness.

VINCENT ROUGEAU, PRESIDENT, COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS: I do think we have to be prepared for less diverse campuses in the short-term.

DWYER: For some Asian American students who have felt disadvantaged in the elite college admissions process, it was vindication. At Harvard, between 1995 and 2013, Asian American applicants had the highest average SAT scores of any racial group, but the lowest acceptance rate.

CALVIN YANG, STUDENT, UC BERKLEY: Affirmative action is a well-intentioned idea that is poorly executed in reality.

DWYER: The nation's most selective colleges and universities are now scrambling for a new approach.

CLAUDINE GAY, PRESIDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: For many, this decision feels deeply personal. It means the real possibility that opportunities will be foreclosed. But at Harvard it has also strengthened our resolve to continue opening doors.

DWYER: Nine states had banned affirmative action before the court’s decision and may offer clues to what's ahead.

At UCLA, the student body was 7 percent black in 1996. A decade later, after race was outlawed as an admissions factor, it was 2 percent. But California schools have largely retained highly diverse student bodies when it comes to race.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Every school will find a way to adapt. They will find a way to meet the burden of diversifying their campuses in their own way.

DWYER: Some schools are considering an end to legacy admissions, or even early decision programs, see as giving advantage to white applicants. Others are encouraging students to talk about issues of race in their essays.

SARA HARBERSON, FOUNDER, APPLICATION NATION: The student has to be able to connect the race to something that they have realized about themselves.

DWYER: German and Yuril (ph) Ortega, first generation college students from Queens, say it's time that the process was overhauled.

GERMAN ORTEGA, STUDENT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: It's sad that I got a full ride because I'm Hispanic, because they needed to give –

DWYER: It’s sad?

ORTEGA: Yes, because they needed to give that scholarship to an Hispanic. And, ironically, you know, I was --

DWYER: But it's good for you.

ORTEGA: Oh, it’s good -- it's good for me, but, you know, it says a lot.


KARL: And Devin joins me now from the Supreme Court.

Devin, you have been in the chamber throughout this term. You have met with each of the justices. Is it your sense that they are keenly aware of the controversies surrounding the court? Are they worried at all about the perception?

DWYER: Yes, no question, John. I mean the justices like to say they don't decide cases based on public opinion, but they certainly aren't blind to it. And Chief Justice John Roberts has made defending the legitimacy of the court his top priority. He’s got an ally in Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And those two justices, Jon, were most in the majority this term 95 percent of the time.


KARL: Thank you, Devin.

I'm joined now by Sherrilyn Ifill, who leads the 14th Amendment Center for Law and Democracy at Howard University, and George Mason University Law School Professor Jennifer Mascott, a former clerk for both Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

Thank you both for being here.

All right, Sherrilyn, big picture looking at this term, this was really a defining moment in some case -- in some sense for the Trump court, three Trump justices.

SHERRILYN IFILL, VERNON JORDAN ENDOWED CHAIR IN CIVIL RIGHTS, HOWARD UNIVERSITY & FMR. PRESIDENT & DIRECTOR-COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Yes, it was. I mean, I think this is what we expected from these justices. We all knew that these cases were coming through the pipeline. And what this court has shown since these justices joined the court is a really aggressive approach to dismantling core and critical issues that have been championed on the – on the progressive left, and that are really part of the infrastructure of our country, our kind of post-civil rights country.

They're moving quickly. I think they're moving in some ways -- in – in – in a manner that actually undercuts their legitimacy. And they are taking steps at a time when our country is deeply divided, that I think will result in further division. I think this affirmative action decision is disastrous, is a mistake, and, you know, we're going to be left with the consequences of it.

KARL: I want to get to that specifically in a moment.

But, Jen, first, more than anything this was a Roberts’ court. I mean we had 59 decisions. He was in the majority 55 times. And there were some surprising wins for – for the -- for the liberals on the court.

JENNIFER MASCOTT, ASST PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY ANTONIN SCALIA LAW SCHOOL & FMR. TRUMP ASSOCIATE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think that's true and I actually think this term actually there's more consensus than there maybe has been the last several terms and less polarization. And if you look at some statistics put together by some Supreme Court advocates, at least current for the next to last day of the term this year, it was Justice Thomas and Justice Alito who more frequently were in dissent. I think Justice Kagan, last term, had perhaps over 20 dissents, this term ten or fewer. And so that suggests that actually the court's not necessarily always aligning how we would expect. But they're trying to decide each individual case in accordance with the rule of law as they understand it.

KARL: So, on the affirmative action case, you – you heard in – in Devin's story there, there's an effort from Harvard and from other schools to say, we are continuing our commitment to diversity, we’re just going to have to do it in a different way.

IFILL: Well, that's easier said than done. And if you look at schools in California, which outlawed affirmative action in 1996, you will see that it is quite challenging. And, you know, it's important to remember the whole point of affirmative action, which is to create this environment where people from all different backgrounds can engage, can do problem-solving, can innovate, can learn about each other, and particularly at selective institutions, which, whether you like it or not, tend to be the places from which the nation's leaders emanate.

And so if we –

KARL: I mean eight out of nine of the justices went to Harvard or Yale.

IFILL: I'm just saying –

KARL: Yes.

IFILL: If these are the places that are incubating the leadership of this country, I -- I would think at this moment in our country we would recognize that universities are quite correct, that that incubation has to happen in a way that trains leaders who are equipped and prepared to deal with people of different backgrounds, who have been exposed to different perspectives, who have knowledge of lifestyles and ways of thinking that are different than their own.

I certainly experienced this when I went to college. I, too, am from Queens, like the young men that were in that segment. You know, youngest of ten children.

And when I went to Vassar College, I learned a whole different way of life and different worlds. And I like to think that my friends -- many of whom were White and with whom I was quite close -- learned about the life that I led and about different perspectives and that it shaped their lives.

So, that was the whole point of this and to have this dismantled, it seems to me, is going to be quite, quite difficult, and I think it's quite dangerous actually for our democracy at this moment.

KARL: In what had been the landmark decision, the Bakke decision in 1978, Justice Powell who was the deciding factor in that decision said that universities, colleges have a compelling interest in having a diverse student body.

Is the court now saying, Jen, that there is no longer such a compelling interest?

MASCOTT: Well, the chief justice’s opinion that six justices joined said, like, inconsistency with the strict scrutiny standard that there has to be a compelling interest that's narrowly tailored. And the chief in his opinion said that the way in which the interest has been explained here by Harvard and UNC was tough to measure, and it was not anywhere close in those situations and enough of a nexus.

I think the justices also were concerned about, in general, broad stereotypes and that Asian Americans in particular had been negatively facing stereotypes under some of the admissions criteria. And so, six justices joined the reasoning saying that there can't be discrimination or separate treatment on the basis of race.

It maybe can be looked at as an individual factor, if an applicant ties it to circumstances in their life, but no longer will people be favored on the basis of class and race in admissions.

IFILL: Well, see, that's difficult --

KARL: Yeah.

IFILL: -- because, in fact, this is a holistic admissions process that actually doesn't just look at race isolated and independently, but within the context of many other factors.

And I think what find most disturbing about the majority's decision in this case, is that in both of these cases, there were trials. There was extensive evidence that was submitted. There were expert witnesses.

There were graphs. There were charts. There were students who testified in favor of affirmative action.

And after two-week -- a two-week trial in the Harvard case, we get a decision from a federal court judge, 130 pages, in the UNC case, 155 pages, meticulously going through the information that was submitted, that was vetted, that was subject to cross-examination and concluded quite the opposite, that, in fact, these admissions processes do not discriminate against Asian Americans.

That's the way our legal system works is that we actually subject things to the rigor of trial. We get a fact-finding decision from the district court as we did in both these cases. The fact that six justices have a different opinion or hunch --

KARL: All right.

IFILL: -- about what they think is going on is not actually the way the legal system is supposed to work.

KARL: All right. Sherrilyn Ifill, Jen Mascott, thank you both.

MARCOTT: Thank you.

KARL: I spoke earlier with Vice President Mike Pence about these major decisions.

Thank you for joining us. I want to start with the big Supreme Court decisions.


KARL: Vice President Pence, thank you for joining us.

I want to start with the big Supreme Court decisions, specifically --


KARL: -- specifically the decision ending affirmative action as we know it.

I understand you fully support this decision. But if the end result is that America's most selective colleges and universities have fewer Black and Hispanic students, is that a problem for America?

PENCE: Well, look, I think I couldn't be more proud of the progress we've made toward a more perfect union in my lifetime, the Civil Rights Acts in the 1960s. And I think there was a time for affirmative action, Jon, were to open the doors of our colleges and universities to minority students and particularly African Americans who may have been denied access.

But I think those days are over. You know, it was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who more than 20 years ago, said that she thought affirmative action would go away in 25 years, it went away a little sooner than that. And I think that's a tribute to our minority students. The incredible accomplishments of African Americans and Asian Americans in this country and Hispanic Americans speaks for itself.

And I really believe that the decision by the Supreme Court today was an acknowledgement of the incredible progress that minority Americans have made, their extraordinary educational achievements, and I have every confidence that – that African Americans and other minority Americans are going to continue to compete and succeed in universities around the country, but we're going to do it with a colorblind society that I – I think is the aspiration of every American.

KARL: But, respectfully, you didn't answer my question. We've – we’ve seen what has happened in nine states that have banned affirmative action. We've seen in Michigan and California and Florida that after affirmative action was done away with, the result was that you saw fewer Hispanic and black students at their elite universities. So, again, my question to you, if that is the result here, is that a concern? Is that a concern for you?

PENCE: I just – look, I -- I haven't seen your studies. I don't know the numbers. First job I ever had was as an admissions counselor at the college I graduated from. And all – I'm -- I'm just very confident with the progress that we have made now in 2023, a fourth of the way through the 21st century, the achievements of African Americans, leaving aside the – the achievements of the first African American president, and African Americans all across the country. I'm just – I'm just very confident that African Americans, Hispanic Americans and other minorities are going to be able to compete and succeed. But we're going to be able to do it with – with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision in place, that we’ll be judged not by the content – or judged by -- not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character and by our own academic performance.

KARL: So -- so why did the court carve out the military academies? This ruling does not apply to – to our military academies. As Justice Jackson said, one standard for the board room, another standard for the bunker. Doesn't she have a case -- a point there?

PENCE: Well, look, I -- this probably won't be the first time that I disagree with our newest justice, but, Jon, come on, the American military, and you know I've got two service members in our immediate family. The American military has been -- has been an instrument of advancing equality since virtually the founding of – of this country. I mean there were African American officers in New England regiments in the Revolutionary War that we'll be celebrating on Independence Day.

And the military has opened its door. You know, I celebrate and I'm proud that we appointed him to the Joint Chiefs. I celebrate our new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first -- the first member to come up through the service ranks as an African American member of the joint -- or chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Colin Powell preceded him, but came essentially from – from private life after a long career in the – in the military.

So, I think the military's been a place where the doors have been open for a long time –

KARL: But – but – but, sir, what – what –

PENCE: For minorities and they've distinguished themselves with sacrifices and service for generations, and I now they always will.

KARL: Totally understand all of what you just said, but this decision does not apply to the military academies. Under this decision, the military academies can still use race as a factor in admissions. Shouldn't -- if you agree that this is the way it should be for – for – for universities across the country, shouldn't it also apply to the military academies? Why the carveout?

PENCE: Well, I -- you know, I’d – I’d refer your – your viewers to the decision itself. And -- but I just have to tell you, I am so pleased to see the Supreme Court, so strengthened by three of the conservative justices that we appointed, this week live up to, in this case, and in other critical cases, the -- a – a vision for this country that is really grounded in freedom and in the equality of opportunity for every American.

So, I – look, I – I -- I'm very confident our military's going to continue to distinguish themselves and be that -- be that agent of opportunity for Americans of every background that want to put on the uniform of the United States. I – I respect the decisions that they make.

KARL: So -- so let me ask you. You had also said that there is no place for discrimination based on race in the United States. I think everybody would absolutely agree with that. Do you also believe there is no place for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

PENCE: Well, look, I'm -- as you know, I'm a Bible-believing Christian. I'll always believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. But the Supreme Court, now the better part of ten years ago, recognized same-sex marriage. But now in – in what is a second important case in this area, this week that strong conservative majority also affirmed the right of every American to live, to work, to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.

I mean in the Lorie Smith case that the Supreme Court decided today, the court essentially said that – -- that Lorie Smith, who said that she'd make a website for anybody -- all customers were welcome -- but that she said she didn't want to be required by the government in Colorado to create a website that violated her deeply held religious beliefs.

It was the same in the cake-baker case, Jon, where he said, "We'll sell a cake to anybody. We'll sell cookies. The bakery's open to anybody, whatever their background, whatever their lifestyle." But he could not be compelled, the Court held in that case -- he could not be compelled to create a product that violated his conscience. I think it's -- it's a real victory for religious liberty and a real victory for the freedom of religion that -- that really is the first freedom in our country.

KARL: We only have a couple minutes left. So I want to get to Ukraine. You just met with President Zelenskyy in Ukraine. President Trump, in a recent interview, said that "territorial concessions" would be a matter for -- subject to negotiation.

Speaking with Zelenskyy, did you get the sense that he's ready to consider territorial concessions to Russia to get peace?

PENCE: Jon, I believe that America is the leader of the free world. We're the arsenal of democracy. And I went to Ukraine and was privileged to meet with President Zelenskyy just a few days ago, to tell him that "The American people are with you."

You know, I met with courageous soldiers who, using Javelin missiles that America provided to them, literally turned back Russian tanks in the small town of Moshchun. I met with families whose homes had been shelled. I saw the courage and the resolve of the people of Ukraine. And -- and I would tell you that I think -- I think it's absolutely essential, and it's in our national interest that we continue to provide Ukraine with the military resources they need to drive the Russian military out of the territory of Ukraine and reclaim their sovereignty.

Jon, I think President Biden has failed miserably to explain our national interest here. He's given these gauzy speeches about democracy, the reason we're there. Look, we're there because it's in our national interest to give the Ukrainian military the ability to rebut and defeat Russian aggression. Because if Russia overran Ukraine, I have no doubt, Jon, that it wouldn't be too long before they crossed a border where American servicemen and women would be required to go and fight.

KARL: But -- but I was asking you about President Trump and his suggestion there would be territorial concessions.

Let me just ask one more question. You said that you know the difference between a genius and a war criminal, referring to Putin. Obviously, it's President Trump who said that the invasion of Ukraine was genius. So are you saying, essentially, that Donald Trump is an apologist to Putin? Because in the very same sentence, you said that there is no room in the Republican Party for apologists to Putin.

I mean, you're clearly talking about Donald Trump here, right?

PENCE: Well, look -- and, look, others in this Republican primary have said that it was a territorial dispute. And let me be very clear. I do know the difference between a genius and a war criminal, and Vladimir Putin's unconscionable and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was an act of naked aggression. And I was -- I was literally on the streets of the city where more than 500 civilians were gunned down by the Russian military.

I mean, the Russian military's conduct, on an ongoing basis, is not just -- it's not just about warfare. It's evil. And I think that's another reason why we -- we must continue to provide the Ukrainian military with what they need. But I want to be clear here. The -- what I heard from President Zelenskyy and military leaders in the briefing that I received was that there is -- there is a great need. They're beginning to make progress on the front lines, Jon. It was a very wet spring, but -- but now it's dried out. And they said they're making steady progress every day against that huge Russian military.

But he said, "Look, we need the tanks. We need the aircraft. We need more munitions."

The Biden administration promised 33 Abrams tanks in January, and now they're telling the Ukrainians they won't be there until September. They -- they've -- several of our NATO allies who said "We'll provide F-16s; we've agreed to train the pilots," but they're telling them they won't have them until January. President Biden says, "We're there as long as it takes."

Well, Jon, I say honestly, it shouldn't take that long. We're the most powerful nation on Earth. By providing the Ukrainian military with the support on a more -- on a more quick basis, I believe they can take the fight to these Russians; they can drive them out. And ultimately, when Ukraine is secure, I believe Europe will be more secure, I believe Europe will be more secure, but I also believe it sends a deafening message to the Communist China regime of President Xi, that the United States and the West will not tolerate the use of military force to redraw international lines.

KARL: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for joining us.

PENCE: Thank you, Jon.


KARL: Martha Raddatz is in Ukraine. We'll hear from her shortly.

And up next, Democratic California Congressman Ro Khanna responds to the high court striking down President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me begin by saying I know there are millions of Americans -- millions of Americans in this country who feel disappointed and discouraged or even a little bit angry about the court's decision today on student debt -- and I must admit I do, too.

What I did I thought was appropriate, and was able to be done and would get done. I didn't give borrowers false hope, but the Republicans snatched away the hope.


KARL: That was President Biden on Friday reacting to the Supreme Court's decision to scrap his student loan plan.

We are joined now by Congressman Ro Khanna of California, a leading House progressive.

Thank you and happy Fourth of July, Congressman Khanna.

So, we've heard from the White House that they are going to now pursue an alternative means of trying to provide some help for people saddled with student debt, working through the Higher Education Act. The president said that's going to take time.

Do you think the White House is doing enough?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Jon, I am pleased that the White House is invoking the Higher Education Act. As you know, Justice Roberts explicitly said in the opinion that the opinion has no bearing on the Higher Education Act.

I do hope that the White House will make sure that the interest doesn't accrue starting in September. I know the president has said he isn't going to refer students to the credit agency. I also believe under the Higher Education Act, he can stop the interest accrual.

KARL: You've called for a total pause on payments as I understand it. Have you expressed that to the White House?

KHANNA: I have, Jon. I mean, you have all of these students who have relied on a promise that they are going to have their student loans forgiven. I had to take out $150,000 of student loans. There were times in my life where I had to have a forbearance. I’m fortunate now and been able to pay them off, but this is a real hardship.

And when people are out there are saying that they are relying on this, we should at least pause it until that is forgiven, especially when we have Supreme Court who in my view has usurped the authority of Congress.

Look, the Congress passed the Heroes Act. If you believe Congress gave the president too much authority under the Heroes Act, then the solution is Congress can repeal the Heroes Act.

But Justice Roberts and his court shouldn't be overturning the will of Congress justice because they think Congress gave too much power to the president.

KARL: But the argument that the courts making is that the Heroes Act does not give the President the authority to rewrite student loans. In fact, this was a position essentially, that was taken by Nancy Pelosi. I know you've called for, for the President to forgive $50,000 in student debt through executive action. Take a look at what Nancy Pelosi had to say about that just two years ago.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) FMR SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not, he can postpone he can delay. But he does not have that power. That would fast to be an act of Congress.


KARL: And the Supreme Court decision quoted those words.

KHANNA: Speaker Pelosi took that position before the President asked for a legal analysis on the Heroes Act. When you look at the analysis of the Heroes Act, it says specifically, that the President and the Secretary have the authority to cancel or amend or to waive or amend the student loans. They were as an analysis done, that the Secretary has that authority has to over a certain amount get the approval of the Attorney General. And the speaker said after she looked at that legal analysis, it was clear to her that under the Heroes Act, the administration did have that authority.

Now, we can have an argument that the Heroes Act passed in 2003. In the wake shortly after 9/11 was way too broad in giving that kind of authority to the President and the Secretary. I don't believe it was the case. That's a legitimate argument. The place to make that argument is in the United States Congress is not for unelected justices to override what Congress has passed. And that is what this Court is doing. It's very dangerous. They are basically reinterpreting congressional statute to fit their ideological preconceptions.

KARL And in Congress, I want to ask you about the latest developments in the Hunter Biden case. As you know, the House says Republicans in the House have released testimony of this IRS whistleblower suggesting saying that he's got evidence that in fact, the contention that the decisions are being made by the U.S. -- it was being made by the U.S. Attorney in Delaware and not by the Attorney General is not true that ultimately, it was the attorney general. Just mean justice deciding this. Would that -- are you concerned about what's coming out of this case?

KHANNA: God no. I mean, let's just review the facts here. You had President Trump appoint a U.S. Attorney in Delaware. And President Biden had the ability to fire that U.S. attorney if he wanted as is customary, that new president comes in they remove all the U.S. attorneys. President Biden didn't fire the U.S. Attorney, he had his past opponents appointee have total power over making a decision on Hunter Biden.


KARL: But certainly, the whistleblower is saying is that Weiss was appointed by Trump said that he was not the deciding official on this case. If that turns out to be true, doesn't that directly contradict what the Attorney General has said.

KHANNA: But Weiss is not saying that. Isn't this the source Weiss? I mean, if Weiss was saying that I would have a concern. If Weiss was out there saying, I didn't have total authority, there was interference. But Weiss -- Weiss is the key person and he's not saying that and --

KARL: Congressman Khanna.

KHANNA: -- there were charges that were pursued.

KARL: Thank you very much for joining us. Unfortunately, we're out of time.

KHANNA: Thank you.

KARL: Thank you for your time.

The Roundtable is up next. We will be right back.


KARL: The roundtable is here and ready to go.

We'll be right back.



KARL: Doesn't it erode confidence when you see so many of these high-profile cases, beginning with Bush v. Gore, I mean, is the ultimate example, breaking down 5-4 along ideological lines?

STEPHEN BREYER, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (December 2015): You think it’s ideological. In fact, there are 50 percent are unanimous. And there was well --

KARL: Yes, but I'm talking about –

BREYER: No, come on, 20 percent –

KARL: I'm talking about high-profile cases.

BREYER: I know that you only want to talk about the ones – the 20 percent that are 5-4.


KARL: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer back in 2015.

Let's bring in the powerhouse roundtable, ABC News political director Rick Klein, former Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and former Trump Justice Department spokesperson, Sarah Isgur, and Juana Summers, co-host of “All Things Considered” on NPR.

So, you heard Justice Breyer admonishing me for suggesting the court was divided back in 2015. But, Sarah, in fact, this court, despite these explosively divisive decisions at the end, was actually more -- had more cross-ideological decisions now than they did back then.

SARAH ISGUR, FORMER TRUMP JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON & THE DISPATCH SENIOR EDITOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. And in fact, you see a lot of even those biggest cases, the most divisive cases, they were pretty split. I mean, we're paying a lot of attention to the affirmative action case, to 303 Creative, that religious compelled speech case. But you think about the Voting Rights Act case, about the immigration case, where the Biden administration got a green light to pursue their immigration priorities. And, actually, I think it's more accurate to think of this as a 3-3-3 court, not 6-3. You've got Kavanaugh, Roberts and Amy Coney Barrett in the middle there really as those swing votes on a lot of these biggest cases.

KARL: It was noticeable that, in the breakdown on how these cases decided, that you saw Roberts and Kavanaugh voting more often with the liberals than they voted with Alito and -- and Thomas.

But let me ask you, Senator Heitkamp, about the big affirmative action decision.


KARL: We had a -- our poll looked at how people saw the court. Most people were saying they think the court is acting politically rather than based on the law. But on the Supreme Court's affirmative action case, you had a majority saying that they agreed with the decision, 52 percent, only 32 percent saying they disagree.

HEITKAMP: I think this country has always been uncomfortable with quotas based on race. And so you see that in the reaction. And it takes a lot of explaining on why that needed to happen.

I think what the -- what the universities are going to do in reaction to this is they're going to look at other ways to provide diversity into their student body. This is not over yet. It just simply says the way you did it is -- is functionally not constitutional. Not sure I agree with that, but there is a workaround on this, as there is a workaround on the student loan, as there is a workaround on the -- on the free speech provisions.

And so these issues are not yet resolved, I don't think, in terms of how the public will respond and what will happen as a result of the Supreme Court decision. But the one thing that has happened is now we have tried for years in the Democratic Party to make the court a voting issue after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. And now, with these decisions, this court will be a voting issue come the presidential election and the Senate elections of 2024.

KARL: And I want to get to that in second. But, Juana, you saw me try to get an answer out of Mike Pence...


KARL: ... about whether or not it would be a concern if this resulted in less diversity, less racial diversity in our campuses, as a result of the decision. Because the polling is -- not that these decisions should be decided by polling, but the polling is fascinating because you have a majority saying they don't want race-based affirmative action. But you have an even larger majority saying that it is important to have racial diversity on college campuses.

JUANA SUMMERS, NPR 'ALL THINGS CONSIDERED' CO-HOST: That's right. And I think that's why this creates such an uncertain landscape for the nation's colleges and universities, who I do think will continue their goal of trying to create entering freshman classes that are diverse at the undergraduate level, to ensure that that happens.

But I think there's a lot of question as to how they are still able -- how they're going to be able to do that. And if you take that in tandem with the student debt ruling and look at the nation's debt borrowers and what that population looks like, I think there are just a lot of unanswered questions. Back to Senator Heitkamp's point, I think that's why this could be quite a galvanizing issue, particularly for young people in this country, because we know that the youngest generation of voters are the most diverse generation of voters, if you look at that 18 to 24, 18 to 30 age bracket. So I think this is going to be a huge election issue this year.

KARL: So -- so Rick, did the Supreme Court, by denying Democrats on substance, give them a victory by giving them something to rally around for the campaign?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, with an asterisk. Because affirmative action is not abortion. And it's not the same kind of ruling that Dobbs was to, kind of, up-end the political landscape. Our poll shows that. And even the other big issues, in our poll with Ipsos, showed that -- that as well. People are a lot more divided on the other major rulings that close out the term. They may be generally in opposition.

But I think the idea, though, that -- that shines through is that people are increasingly viewing the court as highly politicized. To Sarah's point about a 3-3-3, if the 6-3 ones are the ones that get the most publicity, whatever former Justice Breyer thinks about it, this is what people are going to focus on. And it will be a voting issue. And guess what? We've heard it for decades. It's true. Elections have consequences. These decisions would not have happened if Donald Trump had not been president and not put three justices on the court. Whatever else you think about this -- and these are major changes to American life, on gay rights, on affirmative action, on abortion rights from a year ago. These are big, big -- big changes.

KARL: So it's interesting, we heard from Ron DeSantis this week, actually somewhat critical, or at least not overly enthusiastic about Donald Trump's appointees to the court. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA & (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I respect the three appointees he did, but not -- none of those three are at the same level of Justices Thomas and Justice Alito. I think they are the gold standard, and so my justices will be along the lines of a Sam Alito and a Clarence Thomas.

KARL: DeSantis was also trying to hit Trump for at one point saying he didn't mind affirmative action. But is that going to -- is that going to work in a Republican primary?

ISGUR: Well, it's interesting we talk about the politics of this because, for the last two decades, the Supreme Court as a political issue has been more helpful on the right. Democrats really haven't voted as Supreme Court voters like we've seen from the Republican side.

So certainly Ron DeSantis is trying to see if he can get those Supreme Court voters to give him that second look instead of Donald Trump. Justice Gorsuch had an opinion that annoyed conservatives last term on Bostock. This was discrimination on LGBT issues. And then you have Barrett and Kavanaugh as those swing voters this time. But I think we've yet to see whether Democrats can actually become those Supreme Court voters, whether there's a bloc there for that, or if it's just the underlying issue which they've already had.

KARL: What's your sense, Juana?

SUMMERS: I think that's right. I think that -- this is an argument that the right has largely won, but I think maybe they don't become Supreme Court voters, but I think that at the heart here we're seeing a court that has the potential to fundamentally reshape the America that we're living in for the next 20, 30 years, because these are lifetime appointments.

And I think, when I talk to rank-and-file Democrats, and I'm talking about Democratic voters here, I think there's a concern about what comes next, given the age of this court and given these three new appointments. So I think they're tuned into it, but we're just not clear yet whether or not they'll be able to make this as salient as the right has. And they've been winning this one for years.

KARL: OK. So I want to get to Kevin McCarthy because this was quite a week for the speaker of the House. He early in the week gave an interview with CNBC saying that he wasn't sure if Donald Trump is the strongest candidate, presidential candidate, for Republicans. And then the blowback was immediate.


He took it back. Suddenly Trump is stronger than he's ever been. I mean, Rick, how -- how much more damage control does the speaker have to continue to do?

KLEIN: The classic Washington gaffe where he accidentally tells the truth, right?


And he got to a fundamental truth, but then he had to walk it back, because he would not...

KARL: And the walk-back was on Breitbart, of all places.

KLEIN: That's right. The speaker -- he would not be speaker today if it were not for Donald Trump's support. And he won't be speaker tomorrow if he lost Donald Trump's support, and he knows that.

And what's interesting to me is that it's not just about rhetoric. There's actual things that are happening in the House of Representatives, the call for impeachments that are happening right now, actively, on Capitol Hill, that McCarthy himself says he might entertain around Merrick Garland, around the Justice Department. These are things that actually could happen with him as speaker of the House. It's not just what he says about Donald Trump. It's how he acts in support of Donald Trump that could see this play out.

HEITKAMP: If -- if there's any doubt that the Republican Party was -- was the party of Trump, he resolved it. The Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump, and Donald Trump has a stranglehold. I mean, you see Pence trying to differentiate himself, but just, kind of, moving over there. You see DeSantis trying to differentiate himself, just, kind of, moving over there. No one's willing, with the exception of Chris Christie...

KARL: Chris Christie, yeah, I was going to say.


HEITKAMP: ... to really throw -- throw it all down and say, "We cannot do this again."

And so this is -- this is a huge problem for the Republican Party. As long as they're defined as the party of Trump, they're not going to be a winning party.

KARL: But I think there's also something else going on, and it's -- it's very difficult for people like Kevin McCarthy to placate, to appease Trump and his supporters. I want to play you something that we saw just over the weekend in South Carolina, Lindsey Graham getting introduced at a -- at a Trump event. Take a look at this.




GRAHAM: Welcome to Pickens.


GRAHAM: Thank y'all for coming.


KARL: He continued to get booed by that Trump crowd. And Lindsey Graham is somebody who, like Kevin McCarthy, you know, has one view perhaps in private, another view in public about Donald Trump, or at least his views have dramatically changed depending on circumstances. But he was one of the first people to endorse Trump's latest presidential campaign. He's done everything he can to appease Trump, and yet he's still getting booed, energetically booed, at a Trump rally.

ISGUR: This is a little bit of what Ron DeSantis has at least been tiptoeing towards on the Republicans needing to reject the culture of losing. There is something about the Republican Party that has really embraced the idea that losing is a sign of purity...


ISGUR: ... that, like, somehow losing makes it clear that, like, you're winning the fight philosophically or something. And it's actually why I think the Kevin McCarthy thing is so damaging, because the real opening that these 2024 alternatives to Donald Trump have in the Republican Party is that Donald Trump can't win in a general election. If they can't convince Trump voters of that, they've got no hope. And so, when Kevin McCarthy tiptoed towards that line, like, "Well, maybe someone else would be better at winning," and that was so rejected immediately by Trump's base, that's a bad sign for people who are trying to win the Republican nomination who aren't named Donald Trump.

KARL: So, Juana, they're not tired of winning yet?


SUMMERS: I mean, I guess not. I mean, it's very clear that speaking ill of Donald Trump in any forum is a Deathwish and this Republican primary and I think that's why you see all the candidates.

KARL: Although Chris -- Chris Christie's numbers have gone up.

SUMMERS: They have gone up.

KARL: I mean a little bit. He's still --

SUMMERS: Yes, I mean, let's keep --


KARL: Five, six or nine in some cases. Yes.

SUMMERS: But yes, I mean, the numbers are going up a little bit, but they're just -- they're still does not seem to be. There's no alternative that people are widely coalescing around. And I think that there's still obviously the question of the former president's legal challenges.

I think the Trump story we just don't quite know yet. But so far, there doesn't seem to be anybody out there in the water, who is captivating the attention of Republican voters in the way that Donald Trump is.

KARL: You know --

ISGUR: You got to find a way to attack Donald Trump without looking like --


ISGUR: -- your piling on from the left. And that's -- they don't have an opening for it yet, because then Donald Trump gets indicted, or then Donald Trump gets attacked by Biden or whatever. Anytime you can pile on that, you're part of the bad guys.

HEITKAMP: And every day we're talking about Donald Trump is a good day for that (INAUDIBLE) --

ISGUR: That's exactly right.

KARL: You know, Rick, I think Sarah's point about a lot of Republicans seeing losing as a sign of purity is fascinating, because it's not really new. You remember (INAUDIBLE) who was watched the far right in the Senate saying he would rather have 30 Marco Rubio's in the Senate, 30 real conservatives than a 60-seat majority, with, you know, with moderates. I mean, what -- what is it?

KLEIN: Well, it's interesting, because there's still a donor class out there that doesn't want to see more losing. We had the news this week from the Koch Aligned Americans for Prosperity that they've banked $70 million to try to get a nominee who isn't Donald Trump.

KARL: How big a deal is that by the way?

KLEIN: It's a lot of money. But I don't know how dumping money on that art -- to make that argument is going to change anything. If we've seen a history of that before --


KLEIN: They weren't, but they want to win. But their point is --

KARL: And Charles Koch told me in '96, that he might vote for Hillary Clinton if --

KLEIN: 2016, yes, yes. And -- and I mean to Sarah's point. Someone has to find something here, we are six months into 2023. And Donald Trump is undeniably stronger than he was at the start of the year. There was an opening potentially, after the midterms for someone to exploit it. He filled the void. And right now, halfway through the year, he's in better position than ever. We're two months away from debate that he may not go at (INAUDIBLE).

KARL: But the big question is will he be at that first debate? I'm now hearing that he may actually be at that debate. We will see.

Thank you all. We will be right back with Martha Raddatz on the ground in Ukraine.



GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: This offensive, which is going by the way -- it is advancing steadily, deliberately -- it's going to be very difficult. It's going to be very long, and it's going to be very, very bloody.

We are giving them as much help as humanly possible, but at the end of the day, Ukrainian soldiers are assaulting through minefields and into the trenches. And this is literally a fight for their life.


KARL: That's the nation's top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, speaking on Friday in Washington.

Martha Raddatz is in Ukraine with more on the counteroffensive.



This is a critical time here in Ukraine, and while Chairman Milley acknowledges a long and bloody fight ahead, the U.S. is urging Ukraine to move hard and fast, taking advantage of the chaos in Russia right now, with Vladimir Putin reportedly detaining one of his top generals and investigating others after the attempted mutiny just over a week ago by the head of the Wagner private army. That Russian general was said to be in touch with the Wagner leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, before the mutiny attempt.

Prigozhin is now in Belarus where Vladimir Putin has said he has deployed tactical nuclear weapons, although there is no evidence he plans on using them.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are already warning about ammunition shortages and are pleading for more weapons. The Biden administration now considering a move they had thus far avoided, sending cluster munitions which send multiple explosives over a wide area as soon as next month, a controversial weapon, but one the Russians are already using -- Jon.


KARL: Thank you, Martha.

We'll be right back.


KARL: And that's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and have a great Fourth of July.