'This Week' Transcript 8-6-23: John Lauro, Rep. Pete Aguilar and Gov. Doug Burgum
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, August 6.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 6, 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Arrested again.
JACK SMITH, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: The attack on our nation's Capitol was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. It was fueled by lies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump pleads not guilty to charges he plotted to overturn the 2020 election.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If you can't beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Arraigned just blocks from where his mob of supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.
REP JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD) : The First Amendment does not give you the right to try to overthrow the government.
ADAM KINZINGER, FORMER ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN: It's not OK to create fake electors and attack the Capitol and get your way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The former president now faces 78 charges across three indictments.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Stop using government to go after people that politically disagree with you.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Smith and his team have followed the facts and the law wherever they lead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Setting a collision course between the election and courtroom calendars.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Anyone who puts themself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The election is what it is. All those theories that were put out did not prove to be true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, the latest reaction from Trump's attorney John Lauro, Congressman Pete Aguilar, who served on the January 6th committee, and Republican presidential candidate Doug Burgum. Plus analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.
The great challenge of covering this Trump era has been preventing the unprecedented from becoming routine. Turning historic events into the same old news. I don't pretend to have a full answer to that challenge, but I do believe that one antidote is reporting and repeating stark facts.
We crossed a monumental threshold this week. It’s the first time the federal government has charged a former president with defrauding the country. It's the first time the federal government has charged a former president with obstructing congressional count of electoral votes. It’s the first time the federal government has charged a former president with engaging in a criminal conspiracy to deprive millions of American citizens the right to have their votes counted.
Donald Trump will eventually have his day in court. The bottom line for now in these early days of the presidential campaign is this, the leading Republican candidate has been credibly accused of trying to destroy the democracy he wants to lead.
We're going to speak with Trump's attorney in a moment.
Chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl starts us off.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Donald Trump stood before a federal judge in Washington this week, he became the 1,090th person charged in connection with the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol. This may have been Trump's third indictment, but this one is different. Not because he faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison, the maximum in the classified documents case is even higher, but because it accuses him of betraying the very oath of office he hopes to take once again.
The charges include defrauding the United States and depriving the rights of Americans to have their votes count. A right central to the meaning of democracy.
As with all those other defendants who have appeared in that same courthouse, the judge told him, you have the right to remain silent. As a condition of his release, he is not allowed to talk to other witnesses about the case, even though he could find himself on a debate stage with one of the prosecution's leading witnesses, former Vice President Mike Pence, who is now saying Trump is disqualified from ever again holding the office of president because of what he did on January 6th.
MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I really do believe that anyone who puts themself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.
KARL: But it is Trump, not Pence, or anyone else who is the far and away frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. None of the many charges he faces have hurt him. In fact, they have become the animating message of his campaign. One he hit again minutes after pleading not guilty in Washington.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is a persecution of a political opponent.
KARL: A large number of Republican voters seem to agree. Party leaders too. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy going so far as to say Trump is being prosecuted for expressing an opinion. Bizarrely comparing Trump's efforts to overturn the election with how Hillary Clinton and Al Gore handled their defeats.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I could say the same thing that Hillary Clinton says about her election that she lost. I can say the same thing about the DNC who said it about the 2016 race. I can say the same thing about those in the Democratic Party, from the leadership on down about George Bush not winning, that Al Gore did. But were any of them prosecuted? Were any of them put in jail?
KARL: Except there was no insurrection after A Gore and Hillary Clinton lost. Both did something Trump never did. They conceded.
While Trump seems as strong as ever among Republicans, a new ABC/Ipsos Poll shows 65 percent of all adults say the charges against Trump are serious. A majority say he should have been charged with a crime. Nearly half say the charges are politically motivated, but just as many say Trump should suspend his campaign.
He won't, of course. But the campaign calendar is now on a collision course with the legal calendar. The first hearing in the January 6th case scheduled for just five days after the first Republican debate. The New York trial in the hush money case scheduled for the middle of the Republican primaries. The classified documents trial scheduled for just weeks before the Republican convention, with more court dates and likely even more charges still to come.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Jonathan Karl, for that.
We’re joined now by Donald Trump’s attorney, John Lauro.
Mr. Lauro, thank you for joining us this morning.
JOHN LAURO, ATTORNEY TO FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to start with the man who’s probably turning out to be one of the top, if not the chief witness for the prosecution in this case, former Vice President Mike Pence. He’s taken issue with your contention that President Trump was simply asking him to pause the certification.
Let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The American people deserve to know that President Trump and his advisers didn’t just ask me to pause, they asked me to reject votes, return votes, essentially to overturn the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s your response?
Mike Pence will be one of our best witnesses at trial. I read his book very carefully. And if he testifies consistent with his book, then President Trump will be acquitted for these reasons.
Number one, Mr. Pence recognizes that John Eastman, who was giving legal advice, was a renowned legal scholar.
Number two, Vice President Pence recognized that there were discrepancies and fraud in connection with the election. He wanted it to be debated on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump wanted it to be debated in the state legislatures. But what – make no mistake about it, based on what Vice President Pence will say, the government will never be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had corrupt or criminal intent. And that’s what this case is about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what Mike Pence has said all this week is that what President Trump did was wrong and he knew it was wrong and he was pressing him to do something that was wrong. It was also pretty clear –
LAURO: He never said it was criminal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said it was wrong.
LAURO: He never said it was criminal. There’s – there may be difference. You may think that somebody is acting inappropriately under constitutional principles, but Mr. Pence, who’s a lawyer, never said to Mr. Trump, I think what you’re doing is criminal. That’s very important.
One of the things that – you’ve been there as – in – in White House meetings. A lot of –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a meeting like that, but go ahead.
LAURO: A lot of options are – are – are on the table, are discussed. The ultimate option that Mr. Trump asked for, President Trump asked for at the Ellipse speech, was merely to pause the voting for a period of time to allow the state legislature to weight in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: For many – for many days before that he was insisting that they would reject the votes. He was making it very clear to Mr. Pence that he wanted them rejected. You’re right that he eventually went to the Ellipse and said, let’s pause the votes.
Now even that, though, you talk about Mr. Eastman. Even that Mr. Eastman said was a violation of the law. So, he didn’t know that he was breaking he law.
LAURO: No, he didn’t say that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He actually did say that.
LAURO: No, he didn’t say. He said –
STEPHANOPOULOS: He wrote, it’s a minor violation of the law.
LAURO: No, he said that the Electoral Count Act was unconstitutional. And the only thing that’s required under the Electoral Count Act is a vote on January 6th. What Mr. Eastman said, which is very important.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said in an email that it was a violation of the Electoral Count Act.
LAURO: No, but you have to let me finish. You have to let me finish.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but I – I was responding to something that was –
LAURO: Yes. No, because – no, because what Mr. Eastman said is that the Constitution is superior to any statue and it – and it trumps the Electoral Count Act. What he was saying is that ultimately the right of the state legislatures, under the Constitution, exists to weigh in on this issue, to recertify or audit.
So, what Mr. Eastman was saying – and Mr. Trump is not a lawyer. Let’s understand that. He’s a – he’s – he’s a – he’s a political leader and a businessman. What – what Mr. Eastman was saying, as an attorney, is that there is a constitutional pathway to making this ask. And one thing that Mr. Trump did, he only asked. You’re allowed to petition your government for a redress of grievances. A president is even allowed to petition his vice president. That has never been criminalized before. This is the first time it has happened.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because it is the first time anybody’s ever tried to stop a certification of the vote.
You talked about Mr. Eastman right there. Mr. Eastman did say that he believed that rejecting the – the – the certification would lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court.
LAURO: But that option was not the ultimate one that was passed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. –
LAURO: And all of those points, most importantly, were discussed among council in – in a meeting in terms of the opportunity for people to weigh in. These kinds of constitutional –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, except – wait – hold on – I know I have to stop you there because that’s not –
LAURO: No, no, no, these kinds of constitutional debates happen all the time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That actually not accurate. Mr. Trump excluded his White House council from the – from the ultimate meeting with Mr. Eastman because he didn’t want his White House council there because his White House council was telling him it was wrong.
LAURO: Yes, but – but – but Vice President Pence had his lawyers there. And – and also he had Mr. Eastman there to make that pitch.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he said what Mr. Eastman was saying was crazy.
LAURO: But that's fine. That's what happens in constitutional debates. People disagree all the time about constitutional points, but nobody gets indicted. These are not criminal cases. This is how the electoral system works out. Nothing is more important and sacred than political --
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that will be sorted out.
LAURO: And you have to have the ability, even in the White House, to discuss these various political and constitutional options.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that will be adjudicated in the court. It’s good to see that you're welcoming Mr. Pence as a witness.
President Trump also said this week that he never told Mike Pence that he is, quote, too honest, as alleged in the indictment.
Is the president prepared to say that under oath in a court of law?
LAURO: The issue was described in Mr. Pence's book with respect to some of the litigation that was going on, and Mr. Pence said that he recalls Mr. Trump saying that Mr. Pence's position on a particular piece of litigation that was going on was hyper technical and hyper legal.
That's a side issue. No one is going to be concerned about that. I cannot wait -- I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Pence, because what he will do is completely eliminate any doubt that Mr. Trump, President Trump firmly believed that the election irregularities had led to inappropriate results.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if he has notes --
LAURO: What was so frustrating for President Trump was that he thought that Vice President Pence was certifying an election that was not lawfully held and he had every right to petition his vice president to deal with that issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just want to go back to the issue of too honest. You're saying that the president -- he's saying that Mike Pence did not say that. What if Mike Pence has notes?
LAURO: I’ll ask Mr. Pence the circumstances to that, but as described in Mr. Pence's book, it dealt with litigation --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m asking about as described in the indictment.
LAURO: As described in the indictment?
LAURO: It's up to the government to prove that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then I go back to --
LAURO: But it appears to be contrary to what Mr. Pence was saying.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I go back to my original question.
LAURO: All right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will President Trump under oath take the stand and say that Mike Pence did not say that?
LAURO: Let me say one thing. This is a criminal trial. It's up to the government to prove these things.
The defense has no obligation to prove anything. We put the government to its test. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had criminal intent.
What Mr. Pence is saying in his book and if he's consistent in his book is that Mr. Trump, President Trump did not have criminal intent. He certainly disagreed with him as a constitutional matter, but he not once suggested -- even until today, I’ve never heard him say he thought that President Trump acted criminally. I think if I asked him on cross-examination, he’s going to say it's shocking that the Biden administration brought this as a criminal case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we'll see what he says he’s under cross-examination.
You still haven't answered my question about whether Mr. Trump is going to take the stand.
LAURO: I -- that's impossible to say right now. What we have to see is what the Biden administration is going to put on evidence. If they put on Vice President Pence as a witness, I think the case will be dismissed after the government's case.
It'll never come to a defense case because the government -- the government really has no evidence of criminal intent. What they have to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, is that President Trump did not believe that this election had irregularities and improprieties. They have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Smith is pretty clear in the indictment about the fact that President Trump lost the election. So, are you arguing that Trump won or that he believed his lies about the election?
LAURO: No, here's what people don't understand. This is a criminal case where they have to prove not whether or not he won, but whether or not he was acting corruptly. Whether or not he was acting with a consciousness of guilt with criminal intent.
They'll never be able to prove that. That's the point. Whether or not Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden won, there's no question that there were irregularities and anomalies in the election. This election --
STEPHANOPOULOS: And every single court that looked at it said there weren’t -- there weren’t irregularities that would overturn the election.
LAURO: This election occurred in a pandemic.
Not every court got to address the merits. As you know, most of the cases were dismissed prior to the merits.
Now, this is a criminal case. The burden of proof is on the government, not on the defense.
One thing that Mike Pence and President Trump agree on, and there's no doubt about it, is that these issues needed to be debated on January 6th.
Mr. Pence wanted them to be debated in Congress. He invited congressional leaders to make objections, to raise issues of fraud, to raise issues of irregularity. The only difference was that Mike Pence wanted it to be done on Capitol Hill. President Trump wanted it to be done in the state legislatures.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The difference is Mike Pence wanted to certify the election. He said he was right to certify the election. He said President Trump was wrong to pressure -- to pressure him not to do that.
LAURO: In his book, he said he wanted an open debate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s not what he said. That’s not what he said right now and that’s not what he did.
LAURO: Well, you have to read his book.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He certified it. I did read his book.
LAURO: No, you have to read his book.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask a final question. The prosecutors have also asked for protective order governing the discovery -- the discovery materials. You're supposed to respond by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow to the judge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s your response going to be?
LAURO: This is an attack on you and members of the press. I'm – I'm really surprised people haven’t spoken out about it. What the government – what the Biden administration is trying to do is prevent the press from learning about exculpatory and – and helpful information, evidence, that the people have a right to know about.
What – what the position of the prosecutor is non-sensitive, ordinary evidence should not be disclosed to the press. That's shocking. Not only do they want to violate President Trump's First Amendment rights, they want to violate freedom of the press. And I'm surprised that the major networks aren't filing papers along with me on Monday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will see what the judge has to say.
LAURO: I can get you a lawyer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Lauro, thanks for joining us this morning.
LAURO: Good to see you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Pete Aguilar, also served on the House January 6th Committee.
Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning.
I want to get right to your response to Mr. Lauro. He said the government's never going to be able to prove corrupt intent on the part of Mr. Trump.
REP. PETE AGUILAR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR & (D) CALIFORNIA: That's just not true. I'm confident that the government will prove that. Jack Smith, in his indictment, said that the former president deliberately disregarded the truth. That was his quote. And our January 6th Committee report showed time and time again that President Trump was told he lost the election by his campaign lawyers, by his advisers. And some of those political advisers told him from even before the election that they weren't going to accept the results of a free and fair election. That's just the truth and those are the facts that we laid out in our report.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We also saw Mr. Lauro say that he welcomes the chance to cross-examine Mr. Pence, thinks that Mr. Pence is going to be a helpful witness for the defense. Based on what you know from the January 6th committee, based on what you know from the indictment, your response?
AGUILAR: Well, I – I hope that the president's lawyers then stop putting up hurdles and indicate that they want a speedy trial. That's, I think, where we can get to the – to the root of this. If they want to have their day in court, they should remove any hurdles and they should seek the truth and seek their day in court. I think the former president's afraid of that. And I think the American public can see right through that and – and knows.
But, look, this is something that we want to be adjudicated in the courts. If -- we'll let them hash out what that looks like under cross-examination. I played a royal in the Pence hearing and I can tell you I wish that he would have shared some of those notes and some of that information with the January 6th Committee. But it's clear that Vice President Pence took notes and has a pretty good memory of what the president told him and the pressure that he was under from January – from a Christmas Day phone calls to January 1st, New Year's Day, to the Oval Office meeting on the 3rd and the pressure campaign on the 4th and 5th. And then when the former president still didn't get his way, he tweeted out that Mike Pence has the ability to change this. And – and that's just unfortunate.
But the bottom line, George, is, everybody saw this. Everybody saw exactly what the former president was doing. We saw the attack on the Capitol, the attack on the police officers and the insurrection. And so for his lawyers or for him to somehow say that this was just a mistake and bad legal advice is pretty sad at this point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that -- that's going to be the key – it seems to be one of their key arguments. Not only the president, First Amendment right to say whatever he wanted to say about the election, but this was – be he was relying on legal advice. This was routine, constitutional debates inside the Oval Office and that every president has the right to petition his government for redress of grievances. He was certainly putting a lot of pressure -- put a lot of stress on that point.
AGUILAR: Yes, he lost 61 times in court when they were challenging the election results. Sixty-one times. And so I think it's just, you know, the height of hypocrisy for them to, you know, bring those arguments out now.
I think it's pretty clear -- I'm not a lawyer, George, but it seems pretty clear to the American public that they are throwing everything they can at the wall and they are trying to see what sticks. The bottom line is, for us to have accountability, we need to ensure that there aren't two sets of legal systems, one for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else. And the former president is allowed his presumption of innocence and his day in court. And I hope that he pushes forward with that and so we can hear these charges even further and we can get to this evidence. That's where we will have, you know, true accountability, and that's what we want.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just said there's a two-tiered legal system. That’s the same argument in reverse being made by the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It seems as though every time Trump goes higher in the poll he gets a new indictment. It seems to me, after you learn of the real dealings behind the Bidens, the next day he gets indicted. Any time there is new information, the federal government just seems to have a two-tier system.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We also just saw, in Jon Karl's piece, that he seemed to be suggesting that, under the same rules, that Hillary Clinton and Al Gore should have been indicted as well. Your response to that argument?
AGUILAR: Look, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore didn't encourage their supporters to charge the Capitol and overturn a free and fair election. I think it's pretty clear that the -- that the current speaker is -- is pretty frustrated by this. But, you know, this is a guy who stood in the -- in the well of the Capitol building and said that Donald Trump bears responsibility.
The only thing that changed is that he needed to count votes to secure the speaker's gavel. That's the only thing that changed. And so now he has to be, just like many others, a key supporter of the former president, just to hold his caucus together. They have to continue to espouse these extreme, you know, theories and beliefs. And by the way, this is also someone who said years ago that he created the Benghazi subcommittee to attack Hillary Clinton's poll ratings when she got high in the polls, so not exactly a lot of credibility when it comes to this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, thanks for your time this morning.
AGUILAR: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable's coming up. Plus, just over two weeks to the first Republican primary debate. North Dakota governor and presidential candidate Doug Burgum joins us live. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DOUG BURGUM, (R) NORTH DAKOTA & (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can improve the life of every American. We know we can bring out the best of America. We know that we can help America realize its fullest potential, if we get it right on -- get it right on the economy, get it right on energy and get it right on national security.
People have to understand that there's a -- a great alternative out there, someone who's had a career in business, someone who's taken a shower at the end of the day, not the beginning of the day, someone who understands hard work, someone who understands commitment and service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: North Dakota governor and Republican candidate for President Doug Burgum, he joins us now.
Governor, thank you for joining us this morning.
I know you want to talk about your campaign and the future, but the fact is that Donald Trump is the front-runner right now. He's facing three felony indictments. Have you read the indictments, and what's your reaction to them?
BURGUM: Well, George, good morning, great to be on with you. And I -- and I appreciate the question, but, you know, there's an entire industry built around commenting on President Trump, and -- and I'll just leave it to the pundits. I mean, we're in a position today where, when we're out talking to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, they're not asking about the indictments. If they want to, they can turn on a cable news network and watch that seven by 24.
But what they are asking about is inflation. You know, prices are up almost 30 percent versus two years ago. They're paying too much for their gas. They're paying too much for their food. They're concerned about our relationship with China. And -- and these are the things that we're focused on in our campaign every day because, as you said in the lead-in, we have an opportunity to improve every American life.
We’ve got to be looking to the future, not to the past. Presidential campaigns should be about the future, not about the past. And that's what we're bringing, that voice to this -- to this campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, well, there's a difference between is and odd (ph) and what is right now is Donald Trump is the front-runner. He’s been charged with three felony indictments including for trying to overturn the election.
Was Donald Trump wrong when he Pence -- when he pressured Mike Pence not to certify? Was Mike Pence right when he certified?
BURGUM: George, again, I just have to say, you guys -- I just listened to 15 minutes of legal debate on this thing and -- and I’m sure you could run it again, 7 by 24. But what I know is that I’m running against Joe Biden and that's what we're going to be talking about, and, of course, not a mention in the last 15 minutes of, you know, Hunter Biden or the laptop.
Americans out there do concern. There are people on the ground that are not watching these Sunday programs that are saying, you know, why is the -- why is the DOJ defending Hunter Biden and why are they attacking President Trump?
It does seem political to people and I think the folks in Washington have to understand that, you know, if they're surprised why Trump is leading the polls, it is basically people pushing back and saying, hey, we don't trust the system. And that's a bigger problem for America in any case --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I -- hold up. But, Sen -- but, Governor, I’m asking you what you think. Do you have an opinion on the fact that the President Trump tried to overturn the election as alleged in the indictment this week by special prosecutor Smith?
BURGUM: I’m not a lawyer. I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m -- I’m someone who leads and operates businesses. It’s something -- I care about the people of this country, and you're asking me, you know, basically a legal question.
We're focused on the future. There are just so many people that want to weigh in on this topic around the clock. And you know who loves it when all we do is talk about this? Of course, President Biden does because then we don't have to talk about inflation or Afghanistan or the Russian invasion, the fact we're in a cold war with China.
And you know who else loves it? China loves it when America is divided like this and talking about the past. This is perfect. This is how democracies fall is when citizens lose confidence in their institutions.
When I’m president, the number one thing we're probably going to have to do is rebuild trust in the actual institutions that are the foundational thing, because right now, Americans are not trusting. That's the signal that you're getting is that people don't trust the system and that’s -- and that's a scary thing for our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not simply a legal question, sir. It's a moral question. It’s an ethical question. It’s a question about civics.
Do you believe the president was -- Trump was right to try to overturn the election results?
BURGUM: I believe that the election -- that Joe Biden won the election and I believe we have to move on to the future. But I do believe there were irregularities in terms of how the election went and those are going to be explored. The court is -- courts will go through all of that and they’ll do that.
And, again, panel after panel talk about it, but everybody is innocent until proven guilty. That's the way the system works in America.
And we should be talking about the energy, economy and national security. We've got a wide open border. I’m going down to see North Dakota National Guard troops at the border tomorrow. I’ve been down there before.
But, you know, with 110,000 overdose deaths last year in America, 107,000 the year before, that's 300 people a day. Could you guys run a panel on that and talk about why are we losing sons and daughters every single day to fentanyl that's coming into our country, that's being manufactured by China?
Because when we're on the trail and talking to people who come to us and say, we lost our niece, our nephew, our son or daughter, they're concerned about that. They're concerned about why isn't the federal government doing its job? Part of the job is national security and part of that job is protecting our border. Why aren't they doing that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we've covered those issues extensively. But you're not answering my questions about the front-runner who you need to defeat in order to become the presidential candidate for the Republican Party. You mentioned irregularities. Those have been adjudicated by the courts dozens and dozens of times and they ruled against President Trump every single time.
Mike Pence said, flatly, I really do believe that anyone who puts themselves above the Constitution should never be president of the United States. Do you believe that President Trump has disqualified himself?
BURGUM: I believe your question about -- you're basically saying, you know, when -- and you know the position that I’m starting from, George, eight weeks ago, we launched our campaign. We're just getting started.
Most of America doesn't know who Doug Burgum is. It's the job of a campaign to try to explain to people. When I was in business and we were a start-up and started with ten kids in North Dakota and built a 2,000 -- you know, a billion dollar company. When -- a first trade show I went to, there were 64 companies there.
We didn't start by saying, oh, we think the guys that are in the lead have got all these problems. We talked about what we could do for the customer. What we could do for our partners, what we could do to improve their lives and their businesses.
We’re doing the same thing here because when you're starting where we're starting right now, we have to talk about what we can do to get this economy running instead of crawling. How we can solve energy. Everybody is paying too much for their gas and energy.
And we're empowering foreign dictators. China imports 10 million barrels of oil a day, and we send leaders over there and don't even talk about it. Americans not just independence, that could be American energy dominance. We could -- we are literally have an unstable world. And every question we get is about the past and not the future. I'm running for the future of America. And we're going to keep talking about that at every stop.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor, thanks for joining us this morning.
BURGUM: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable's. Next, we'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is here and ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.
We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: As we have learned in the last several weeks.
We're joined now on our roundtable by Donna Brazile, former RNC chair, Trump White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the executive editor of the AP, Julie Pace, and “Washington Post” congressional correspondent Marianna Sotomayor.
And, Reince, let me begin with you.
I didn't have much luck with – with Governor Burgum getting a response to the indictment, but I'm sure certain you’ve read it this weekend. What was your response?
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER RNC CHAIR &FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I mean, look, I probably would have done what Mike Pence did if I was in the same place. You know, I'm not a person that likes to get too close to the lion.
But what I also think, though, is that if you could write the wildest screenplay and have a miniseries as far as what's happening in this campaign, this would be it. And if – if you look at what's happening in the Republican base, on day one when I walked into the White House on January 20th, I woke up that morning to a "New York Times" article that Russia played a role in the Trump victory. And if there's two things that are consistent in the Republican base right now, it's, number one, that Trump is under constant attack and the base repels that, and, number two, the issue of election integrity has been part of the Republican base for decades.
So, unwinding all of that, and then inserting all of this -- these issues into that mix creates an almost self-fulfilling prophecy –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn’t it –
PRIEBUS: That if all these things get racked up, it's making President Trump even stronger.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But to – to your credit, you said you would have done what Mike – what Mike Pence did and certified the election. But isn't part of the reason that the Republican base continues to – to hold on to these views is because Republican leaders, like Kevin McCarthy, like other leaders, instead of calling out what they believe about what happened, reinforce what the base already thinks?
PRIEBUS: Well, look, you -- the governor you just interviewed from North Dakota, he didn't want to touch it with a ten-foot pole? Why? Because he knows that over half, 60 percent, 70 percent of the Republican base believe that the president is under --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's my exact point, they don't stand up to the beliefs.
PRIEBUS: And – and – and they would all lose. I mean the reality is, is they know the truth about where they're at. It's a market-based economy. It’s a market-based political system.
I mean we have two worlds that we're living in. We're living in one world that thinks president Trump is the worst thing ever and – and – and he's a criminal, and we have another world that thinks that there's a split system of justice and that President Trump didn't do anything wrong.
And I talked to state party leaders over the weekend in the early states, and they -- and I asked them -- I didn't tell them what to think -- is this hurting President Trump? What's the effect? And the response immediately was, no. And this is reasonable people in the party, no, it's actually making President Trump even stronger.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: But I think Reince is making an important point here, which is that Republicans are reading this indictment through a purely political lens. Republican leaders. And they're making a calculation they have to -- with few exceptions, like Mike Pence, because of his direct involvement in this, they have to keep an arm's length from this. They can't look at this and make a judgment on the merits of it because it would hurt them politically.
But I do think it's important for us to take a minute to talk about the merits of this indictment. I mean it is a striking indictment in terms of the scope of what the president is charged with here, in terms of the way that his actions are outlined in those days after January 6th. And I think that it does go far beyond certainly, from a risk standpoint for him as well, the earlier indictments that we've seen, and potentially even the – the – somewhat the Georgia indictment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And – and – and – and, Donna, it goes beyond what we saw even in the January 6th committee. You just heard Congressman Aguilar saying he wishes he had some of the evidence that -- that the special counsel has, including those contemporaneous notes from Mike Pence?
BRAZILE: Not only that, George. I was shocked by the level of detail with regards to talking to state officials. I mean, in your beloved home state of Wisconsin, after the trump campaign ordered a recount and paid for it, the -- the Republican leaders said there's no "there" there.
When you look at this indictment, it is a story of how the former president tried to pressure Republican officials, state officials, to overturn the results. And at one point, he said, "Don't worry about it. We'll leave it up to me and the congressmen, knowing that, you know, he could not find the truth of election fraud, but rather he said, "We'll just spin it."
Let me just say something, and I've been on the -- I've been on the ground for most of my adult life. In fact, every two years I used to tell my family, "I'm going on a campaign, so I'll talk to you in two more years." This is an attempt to undermine faith in our democracy, undermine faith in the integrity of our election. And what the former president did was he went to great lengths to try to deny the results of this election to the eventual winner; that was Joe Biden.
And I've got to say one last thing. I'll never forget that night that Al Gore called after the Supreme Court said "Stop." And he said, "The campaign is over. We're going back to business," which is the business of government. Donald Trump never did that. He never said "It's over; let us stop; let us move on."
STEPHANOPOULOS: Marianna, you cover -- you covered -- let me just go to Marianna first. Then we'll come back to you, Reince.
You cover Congress, of course, every day. When you see someone like Speaker McCarthy, in your reporting on that, compare Donald Trump's actions to Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, who both conceded the election, just give us a sense of what it's like in the room. Do you believe that he believes it, or he just feels like he has to say it?
MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yeah, you know, when you first hear it, it is surprising because it's not true. I mean, both of those candidates conceded that election, and that is a radically different outcome than what President -- former President Trump has done. But it is part of the playbook.
I mean, we have seen McCarthy, these last couple of weeks, inching closer towards an impeachment inquiry against former president Donald Trump, which -- or, sorry, current President Joe Biden, which a lot of the public polling shows people don't like that. They see that as political. But this is something for the base.
And as much as they might be playing to, right now, the primary election, those voters, I don't know how they're going to do in the general. And a lot of vulnerable Republicans on Capitol Hill don't want to be taking votes on expunging the last couple of impeachments against Trump. They don't want to be voting on a possible impeachment vote on Biden. This is just not something that they want to be doing, not something that their own constituents are talking about. And at the end of the day, that general election politics, voters think of this differently, and we are also seeing that in a lot of polling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring that to Reince Priebus. Because you talked a lot about the base in your first responses, Reince. Is placating the base going to doom the Republican Party in the general election?
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, if you look at the polling today, George, it shows that the election would be tied between President Trump and -- and President Biden. Biden's running about 20 percent below where he was in 2020. And if you look at Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, they were all three decided by less than half a percentage point.
We're not dealing with a national election anymore. We are dealing with eight elections in eight states, and it comes down to 100,000 people. And the campaigns know what beer you drink, what car you drive, how many kids you have, how much money you make, and what drives you and what doesn't drive you. And all of this is going to get thrown into the washing machine. And throw Cornell West in, as well, and a real Green Party candidate, I don't know what's going to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But are you pretty confident Donald Trump's going to get the nomination?
PRIEBUS: I mean, at this point, I think there's a couple people making moves. I think that Vivek has made some moves. I think Chris Christie's made some moves in New Hampshire. But, I mean, they're all running 20, 30, 40 percent below President Trump. And my point before is that these issues, indictment after indictment, election integrity, this is embedded into the decision-making that you're asking people...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I totally -- I totally...
PRIEBUS: ... if he's going to be the nominee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I totally get that. And then I want to go to Donna in a second, but I just have to ask you one more question. So you believe he's more likely than not...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... to be the nominee, at this point? Are you comfortable with the fact, as a former chairman of the RNC, a former chief of staff in the White House, with your nominee facing three felony trials as he's moving into the general election?
PRIEBUS: Well, look, I -- I don't think it helps you in a general election. I meaning, certainly these indictments are not comfortable. I would be, like, you know, curled up in a ball in the corner, you know, if it was me, but...
PRIEBUS: ... the reality is -- is that...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Refreshing candidate.
PRIEBUS: I can't take that kind of heat.
PRIEBUS: But, no, the reality is, is that where we're at right now in this country, where division is profitand unity is a loser, and all of this just creates more and more attention for President Trump, he's going to be, I think, at this point if it keeps going, the nominee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, we all saw "The New York Times" poll this week, basically a dead heat.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER DNC CHAIR: It's a dead heat, yes, because as I said before, the Democratic family is still being unified. When you look at the president's weaknesses, it's among young voters and I talked to his campaign manager this weekend, Julie Chavez Rodriguez. They have a strategy to re-engage with those voters, to bring those voters back into the room. Once those voters come back into the room, it is not going to be a dead heat.
Look, Donald Trump is out on bail. He's out on bail. He's been indicted. I mean, he was arrested. And while we don't have the fingerprints and the mug shot, the Republicans are willing to put their brand, their entire apparatus behind someone who has been indicted for defrauding the United States government and denying the people of America the right to vote. That's huge.
We've never seen this before. And the notion that all of a sudden we got to continue to break, so that we can hear his blues, hear the former president say "I'm going to go after you if you come after me." That's what he said to the Republican officials who tried to certify the election. Follow the law. I don't know the Speaker of the House of Arizona, but you should call him and say, "How do you feel today with all of the death threats?" Call Ms. Freeman and her daughter, "How do you feel with the death threats?" And ask Mike Pence, "How do you feel with all of the death threats?"
This is un-American for the former president to continue to threaten our democracy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Julie, despite…
PRIEBUS: But Donna, it's going to be a choice and the choice is going to be…
BRAZILE Oh, great.
PRIEBUS: …those are things that are firing up, but those people in Arizona are also going to ask about the economy. They are going to ask about Ukraine. They're going to ask about ISIS. They are going to ask about the border. They are going to ask about Hunter Biden, and guess what, it's not going to be some national advertising campaign. It's going to be individual people, 10,000 in Arizona, 20,000 in Pennsylvania, and so on and so forth. And that's what these elections are about…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie, one of things that is going to affect that…
BRAZILE: And they are going to ask about (inaudible). They are going to ask about the right to vote. They are going to ask about (inaudible) you know what?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring…
BRAZILE: We will win those debates.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of these things this is going to depend on is whether or not these trials actually do happen during the course of the campaign. It's pretty clear that the Trump legal strategy is delay.
JULIE PACE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean, timing is going to be so crucial here. I mean, are we going to be facing -- it's a different situation, I think, really if we are having Trump on trial actively in the primaries, potentially the back half of the primaries or if they are going to try to get this pushed back further. I think, you know, ultimately, when we talk about some of the other Republican candidates right now, I think, you know, they can say whatever they want when on the ground in Iowa, they can hold their town halls in New Hampshire.
If anything is going to change the dynamic in the Republican primary, it's got to be around the way the electorate views Trump and his electability in the general election. I think that's what we haven't seen yet and I think only really these trials are probably going to be able to potentially shake up that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Marianna, you talked about Kevin McCarthy inching towards impeachment because some in his base want that to happen right now for president Biden, but he's also facing a stark fact that if the election continues to go in this manner, a lot of his newest members who won Biden-held seats back in 2020 could get knocked out in 2024.
MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. And I am hearing that a number of those 18 Biden districts, those Republicans are starting to really behind the scenes get very aggravated. Once they actually do something and confront McCarthy, I mean that's a significant number. We are likely seeing next month, September, once they're all back, government shutdown fights…
SOTOMAYOR: …and a lot of these political moments where McCarthy is very much going to be tested from not just the far right, but also these members who won them the majority.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will be watching. Thank you all very much for a great discussion.
Coming up, Russia and Ukraine are stepping up attacks in the Black Sea as diplomats gather in Saudi Arabia for peace talks this weekend. Ian Pannell is live in the war zone. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've heard from around the world, of course of condemnation for this action and the strong desire on the part of many, many countries that this arrangement be put back in place. It's on Russia to decide whether to do so.
Of course, we could end the war that it started tomorrow and that would solve the problem definitively. But short of that, at the very least the world is insisting that it restored the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary of State Antony Blinken after United Nations Security Council meeting about the war in Ukraine, Russia's attacks on Ukraine's grain infrastructure and the impact on the world's food supply. It comes to Saudi Arabia has peace talks this weekend without Russia.
Chief foreign correspondent Ian Pannell is on the scene in Kyiv. Good morning, Ian.
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Georgia felt like we entered a new and different phase in this war in this last week with attacks deep inside Russian territory hundreds of miles from the battlefield and also in Russian territorial waters. It feels like the Ukrainians are trying to inflict some of the pain damage and instability on Russia that it's been suffering for almost 18 months now.
PANNELL (voice-over): This is the week the war in Ukraine came home to Russia, on land by air and in the sea. Five waves of drone strikes have hit the Moscow region in the last two weeks. Video circulating online showing one UAV slamming into a skyscraper housing government offices, which was then hit again just two days later. Russia accuses Ukraine of terrorism despite launching massive daily attacks of its own. While not admitting responsibility --
PANNELL (voice-over): -- President Zelenskyy saying gradually the walls returning to the territory of Russia, even its territorial waters now look vulnerable. A series of strikes in the Black Sea captured in video circulating online showing marine drones attacking. A Russian warship docked hundreds of miles from Ukraine had to be towed back to base listing badly. Ukraine not saying it was responsible for this attack either. But security sources confirming to ABC News they did carry out the strike.
The Russian defense minister promised a massive increase in attacks against Ukrainian military targets. One of the first retaliatory strikes was on President Zelenskyy's hometown, but it wasn't a military site at all.
PANNELL: Once again, Russia has struck a residential building in the heart of Ukraine. At the moment, rescue workers are still going through the rubble and pulling out survivors, but they're also in the process of pulling out the dead.
PANNELL (voice-over): At one point, debris falling, rescues running for their lives. And hours later, a Russian drone strike in the Northeast.
PANNELL: Russia apparently responding as you can hear air raid sirens are currently going off, and in the last two hours there's been drone strikes and explosions here in Kharkiv.
PANNELL (voice-over): And this was the scene in the south, Russia again turning its guns onto Ukrainian grain depots and ports. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemning Russia.
ANTONY BLINKEN, (D) SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow enough. Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail.
PANNELL (voice-over): One of the countries that was counting on the destroyed grain supplies is China. Beijing surprising many by deciding to attend Saudi-led peace talks under way this weekend, given its close relationship with Moscow. Russia not attending as Kyiv tries to rally global support for Zelenskyy's peace plan.
But it isn't the sound of peace that rings out across the fields and woods of Ukraine. Ukrainian troops trying to advance on three main axes. In the east around Bakhmut, and in the southeast towards occupied Mariupol, and in the south towards occupied Melitopol. The strategy is to cleave Russian forces, effectively severing the land bridge that runs all the way from Russia into occupied Crimea. But the going has proved incredibly slow and costly in blood and treasure. Many lives have been lost.
Ukraine successfully targeting Russian firepower, military storage, and supply nodes, and insisting it is going slowly to avoid an even greater loss of life, that its troops are advancing and that the allies must continue to be patient.
PANNELL (on camera): Russia's invasion has come at a terrible price. It's hard to overstate the level of sacrifice. Every single grave here was dug after the start of the large-scale invasion last year. And as we now approach the 18-month mark, there are growing questions how long the allies will continue to support the war in Ukraine and how long this country can endure such loss.
The longer this war grinds on, the more pressure there is going to be to sue for peace. But these meetings in Saudi look like a smart tactical move by Zelenskyy, gathering so many important nations together, including China, to discuss his own version of a peace plan. But the reality on the battlefield is that for now neither side is winning and for now it looks more like war than peace. George?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: Ian Pannell, thanks. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."