'This Week' Transcript 9-17-23: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Nancy Mace, Cindy McCain and Gen. Mark Milley

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, September 17.

ByABC News
September 17, 2023, 9:08 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 17, 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.




JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Congressional clashes.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER & (D) NEW YORK: There is not a shred of evidence that President Biden broke the law.

KARL: House Republicans launch an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. Days later his son is indicted on federal gun charges.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): And that's the one crime he's committed that you cannot tie to Joe Biden.

DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): Hunter Biden is a private citizen. He is not the president of the United States.

KARL: As Congress barrels towards a government shutdown.

RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): If it comes to a government shutdown, let's have it.

REP. NANCY MACE, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If we have a shutdown, nothing else gets done this year.

KARL: The latest this morning from House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace. Plus analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.

Parting thoughts.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You saw what happened on January 6th. Are you nervous about that happening again?

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: I am confident that the United States and the democracy of this country will prevail.

KARL: Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley speaks with Martha Raddatz about his 40-year military career.

And --

CINDY MCCAIN, U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: We have to pay attention to it. We’re either going to feed them now or fight them later.

KARL: U.N. World Food Programme leader Cindy McCain on tackling global hunger.


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

KARL: Good morning. Welcome to THIS WEEK.

With more accusations than evidence, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy launched an impeachment inquiry of President Biden this week. A bid, perhaps, to placate hard-line members of his party and the leading Republican presidential candidate, the twice-impeached former president. This morning we'll talk to the top Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Democrats see Jefferies as a speaker in waiting, just five seats away from taking the gavel. He’s leading a strikingly unified House minority while the actual speaker of the House, McCarthy, struggles to keep together a loudly divided Republican majority.

While Democrats expressed outrage over the impeachment inquiry, the special counsel, appointed by Biden’s own attorney general, indicted the president’s son, Hunter, on charges that he lied about being drug free when he purchased a gun in October of 2018.

All of this is going down as Congress seems to be barreling towards a government shutdown. If that happens, and it sure seems like it will, Democrats will blame Republicans.

But congressional chaos can hurt the economy, and that’s not good for President Biden regardless of who’s to blame.

We’ll get to it all, including Donald Trump’s latest legal troubles, but we begin with New York’s Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House.

Mr. Leader, thank you for joining us.

I want to start with those new charges against the president’s son, Hunter. As you know, Republicans have been saying that Hunter Biden was getting special treatment. But now that these charges have come out, you hear from the president’s son’s legal team that these charges would never had been brought if his name weren’t Biden.

What’s your sense? Is there something political here? Would these charges have been brought if this was not the president’s son?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER & (D) NEW YORK: Well, good morning. It’s great to be with you.

I certainly think that that’s a case that will be made in a compelling fashion by the president’s son’s attorneys. And they should vigorously defend him.

Hunter Biden is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The matter is before a court of law right now. And let’s see how it proceeds.

I think what’s more important is that President Joe Biden continues to lead us forward, to focus on the things that matter, to build an economy that works for everyday Americans that’s built from the middle out and the bottom up, and to lean into creating a situation where every single American in every single zip code can truly experience the American dream.

KARL: But is there frustration that you have this indictment coming again out of Biden’s Justice Department that plays right into what Republicans are trying to do, which is to campaign against the Biden family and suggest there’s corruption there? Now you have special counsel indicting the president’s son.

JEFFRIES: Well, if anything the indictment indicates that as President Biden and his administration have consistently said, there is no interaction between the president, the administration and the Department of Justice, which is going to simply follow the facts, apply the law, and president the truth as they see it to the American people.

KARL: Meanwhile you have Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy launching this impeachment inquiry and he did it just days after saying he would not launch an impeachment inquiry without a full vote of the House. Obviously, the voter never happened and he did it anyway.

What’s going on here?

JEFFRIES: Let’s be clear, House Republicans are in the middle of a civil war. A civil war has the following attributes, chaos, dysfunction and extremism. The House Republican civil war is hurting hardworking American taxpayers and limiting our ability to be able to solve problems on their behalf. It’s unfortunate, but as House Democrats we’re going to continue to try to find common ground with the other side of the aisle, to work with Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans and President Biden.

And hopefully, the House Republicans will come along so that we can work to make sure we are funding the government, that we have a government that can provide for the health, the safety, the economic well-being of the American people and we can end the partisan, political gamesmanship that right now has captured House Republicans.

KARL: As you know, McCarthy is saying that he is just doing this because he wants to get to the facts. And they’re saying this will give them new subpoena power. But the Trump Justice Department, after the first impeachment of Donald Trump, issued an opinion that the White House did not have to cooperate, did not have to produce documents or compel witnesses to testify unless the impeachment happened with a full vote of the House.

So, what’s your sense, will – will Democrats, should Democrats, should the White House cooperate with – with this impeachment inquiry?

JEFFRIES: The White House has cooperated, and I believe the White House will continue to cooperate because there is nothing to hide. There is no facts in the record to suggest that President Biden engaged in wrongdoing. There are no facts on the record to suggest that President Biden engaged in impeachable offenses. There are no facts on the record to suggest that President Biden broke the law in any way, shape or form.

This is an illegitimate impeachment inquiry. It’s a product of the House Republican’s civil war. Why in the world, in the middle of all the issues that we are trying to tackle, all of the problems that we are trying to solve on behalf of the American people, would House Republicans inject this illegitimate impeachment inquiry in the middle of us trying to do the business of the American people. It’s quite unfortunate. It’s wrong. It’s distracting. And it should end now.

KARL: So, are you going to be able to do the business of the American people? It seems like we’re headed towards a government shutdown. What’s going on? Are you having backchannel conversations with McCarthy or – or with Republican moderates? Where’s this going?

JEFFRIES: Well, it’s my expectation that we will continue to have conversations as we move forward. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, has our full confidence. And we are ready, willing and able to talk about moving America forward.

You know, we have a vision to put people over politics. That’s what we should be doing. That’s why we were sent to Washington, D.C., not to make an ideological point, but to make a difference. And we’re going to continue to focus on making life more affordable for everyday Americans, lowering costs, better paying jobs, safer communities, defending democracy, fighting for reproductive freedom, and, of course, building an economy that works for everyday Americans.

And we urge our Republican colleagues in the House to join us. Stop fighting each other in the reckless, reprehensible Republican civil war and let’s get to the business of the American people.

KARL: You and McCarthy both talked about working together when he became speaker. If it comes to this motion to vacate, you hear Matt Gaetz and – and other McCarthy critics saying that they are moving in that direction. They’re going to try to remove him as speaker. Will – will you? Will Democrats help bail McCarthy out? Are you going to be there to – to help him, are you going to go along with the effort to – to oust him?

JEFFRIES: Well, we haven’t given it any thought one way or the other because, Jon, as I've indicated, we’re going to continue to focus on solving problems for the American people. Now, if that moment presents itself, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But what we should be focused on right now is avoiding an unnecessary government shutdown that will hurt the ability of our economy to continue to recover, which President Biden has led a tremendous recovery to date. And that shouldn’t be interrupted because of partisan, political gamesmanship.

KARL: OK, we -- obviously this is happening against the backdrop of the UAW strike. Are you going to Detroit? Are you with the autoworkers on this?

JEFFRIES: I'll be heading to Detroit a little later on today. Looking forward to standing in solidarity with the United Auto Workers who are fighting for the fundamental American dream, which is quite simple, if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide a comfortable living for yourself, for your family, educate your children, purchase a home, and one day retire with grace and dignity.

That’s the principle upon which the United Auto Workers are standing, and I stand with them.

KARL: How long do you think this is going to drag on?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think it’s all of our hope that it will end sooner rather than later. But record profits have been generated. Incredible economic prosperity has been generated for the corporations upon whom the UAW works with. And so I think it’s only fair that everyone share in those record profits in the prosperity that has been created.

That’s a fundamental American principle. That’s why we were able to build in the aftermath of World War II the great American middle class. And we need to keep that going for everyone.

KARL: OK, I have to ask you something that your predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, said this week. She was asked a very direct question about Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. Let me play the exchange.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Is Vice President Kamala Harris the best running mate for this president?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He thinks so. And that’s what matters.

COOPER: But do you think she is the best running mate of --

PELOSI: She’s the vice president of the United States. And what people to say to me, well, why isn’t she doing this or that? I said because she’s the vice president.


KARL: But why couldn’t she directly answer the question about whether or not Kamala Harris is the best running mate for Joe Biden?

JEFFRIES: Far be it for me to ever speak for Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi, the greatest speaker of all time. She’s very capable of answering that question on her own.

I will say that Vice President Harris has been a great vice president. She’ll be a great running mate. She’s been a tremendous partner in the things that President Biden has been able to accomplish, which has been phenomenal. Not just rescuing the economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fixing our crumbling infrastructure, clean water in every single community, bringing domestic manufacturing jobs back home to the United States of America through the Chips and Science Act, standing up for our veterans, gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years, and, of course, capping the price of insulin at $35 per month for millions of Americans.

President Biden has led that effort. House Democrats and Senate Democrats have worked with the administration to get those things done.


JEFFRIES: Vice President Harris has been a tremendous partner.

KARL: All right, Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader in the House, thank you for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Jon.

KARL: And let's get a response for the Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Congresswoman Mace, thank you for being here with us.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Good morning.

KARL: Good morning.

So, you heard him say Republican civil war.

MACE: Yeah.

KARL: It kind of looks that way in the House.

How is McCarthy doing this? Does he have the confidence of Republicans in the conference?

MACE: Well, I mean, using the word the civil -- the phrase “civil war” over and over again in an interview, if that were a Republican, there would be outrage on the left.

So, I find it a little bit hypocritical that that is the divisive language that he used in his interview, and talking about people over politics. If Democrats and, quite frankly, Republicans wanted to put people over politics, they would not have joined hands earlier this year to add $18.8 trillion to the debt, which is saddling Middle America --

KARL: The debt ceiling deal.

MACE: The debt ceiling deal.

And I called this, you know, months ago. I said this is what they're going to do. They’re going to have supplementals. They’re going to have a CR no matter what, and that doesn't give a budget for the country, and that doesn't give consistency for the economy, for businesses that are trying to grow.

And both sides, quite frankly, have put us in this position and he ought to take ownership of it and so, too, should Republicans.

KARL: But McCarthy promised to have votes on all individual spending bills.

MACE: And we haven't.

KARL: You absolutely haven’t.

MACE: I haven’t seen -- I haven't seen the bills.

KARL: So, what’s going on?

MACE: And quite frankly, a lot of promises were made. It’s not just to the Freedom Caucus but to other members of the House. And those promises ought to be fulfilled. If you handshake --

KARL: You’re talking about promises that McCarthy made to --

MACE: Yes. Promises that the Republican Conference has made, but -- and leadership (ph) has made to not just the Freedom Caucus.

But, you know, if we say we're going to do something, let’s do it. We want the American people to trust us, to trust Congress to do the right thing, and to be responsible with their tax dollars. And no one knowswhat’s going to happen, no one knows what spending is going to look like, and no one knows what additional spending, supplementals, et cetera, that are going to be added on top of that. So it probably ends up being more than $18.8 trillion over the next decade. You know, I called this three months ago.

KARL: So, you’ve seen Matt Gaetz come out. Not just Matt Gaetz but he’s the most loudly and prominently, saying that he’s going to push to oust McCarthy, a motion to vacate. Could you see yourself under any circumstances supporting a motion to vacate against McCarthy?

MACE: It hasn't happened yet and I'm not going to, you know, you know, comment on conjecture here. Either he’s going to file it or he’s not. If he’s going to do it, put his money where his mouth is. I do hear that some votes might be up for grabs because people were made promises that have not been kept.

KARL: What about your vote, is it up for grabs? I mean could – could you support that effort?

MACE: We'll – we’ll see how it turns out. But I will tell you, I'm one of those members who were made certain promises. I've worked on women's issues, I've worked on issues, you know, related to gun violence I feel are very important and, you know, it's fallen on deaf ears. And if I – if I give a handshake on someone, I expect them to follow through with it.

KARL: Wow, so you don't rule out supporting that. Do you think –

MACE: I – I might – you know what, everything's on the table at this point for me because I want to do the right thing for the American people, I want to do the right thing for women, I'm trying to show, here’s a path forward for women post Roe for birth control, for women who are rape survivors, et cetera. My district is no stranger to gun violence, to mass shootings. You know, there are things that we can do to keep our communities safe and follow the Constitution at the same time. We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We ought to be able to work hard for the American people and show them that. And here we are facing a government shutdown and – and really what have we accomplished this year?

KARL: So do you think McCarthy is going to be speaker of the House at the end of the year, bottom line?

MACE: I think he does. I do think he will continue to be speaker, but I do think it’s going to be a long, a long rest of the year.

KARL: And shutdown, are you expecting one?

MACE: I am expecting a shutdown. But again, you know, what most America don't know, the vast -- the majority of the government will be operating, will be working. And I've talked to some federal employees that don't really mind it because they're going to get a vacation, they’re going to get time off, but then they’re going to get back pay. And so they’re not really grumbling about a government shutdown. It’s more than meets the eye.

KARL: Of course there's uncertainty though. I think that – I think that’s what troubles a lot of government employees.

Let me also ask you, before you go, the impeachment inquiry that – that McCarthy announced even though he had said he wouldn’t do it without a vote and then a few days later he does it without a vote. I want to read you something that Ken Buck, one of your Republican colleagues, had to say in a “Washington Post” op-ed of the impeachment inquiry. He said, “impeachment is s serious matter and should have a foundation of rock-solid facts. Trump's impeachment in 2019 was a disgrace to the Constitution and is a disservice to Americans. The GOP’s reprise in 2023 is no better.”

He says these allegations against the Biden family are part of an imagined history and a fictitious version of events.

Was this premature going all the way with an impeachment inquiry?

MACE: I don't believe so. The facts are everywhere. There are text messages, there are e-mails, there are witnesses, there are whistleblowers, there are meetings, there are phone calls, there are dinners. And you can’t say, hey, there’s a little bit of smoke, we’re not going to follow the fire. And the inquiry, my understanding is, as you said earlier, gives us expanded subpoena powers. I want the bank records of Joe Biden. All of that should be on the table to prove out the allegations in the SARS reports. We're talking about a significant sum of money. We are talking about bribery. And in the Constitution Article 2 Section 4, that is the basis for impeachment.

KARL: I mean there’s no – there – there’s – there – there’s no evidence of bribery in this. I mean there’s a – and --

MACE: There are witnesses. The 1023 form. There are, you know, there --

KARL: And – and you’ve been investigating. I mean you're on the Oversight Committee. I mean --

MACE: There is evidence. You can’t say that there’s no evidence there – when there is evidence. And, quite frankly, it was the --

KARL: There's no evidence connected to Biden.

MACE: It was the fourth estate. It was the media and journalists when Nixon was going down that helped do that investigation, helped bring down the president when they – when he broke the law.

And, you know, you guys want to deny that there's evidence. It's everywhere.

KARL: Right.

MACE: And the bank records will prove it out.

KARL: All right, we will see. Haven't seen much yet.

But Congresswoman Nancy Mace, thank you for being here with us.

MACE: Thank you.

KARL: Coming up, an in-depth interview with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, on his service, the scrutiny he faced and the future of our democracy.



GEN MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: In the broader sense, the war was lost. We -- we were fighting the Taliban and their allies, you know, for 20-plus years. And -- and they prevailed in that capital. Wars aren't lost in the last 10 days or -- or 10 months. Typically they're the cumulative effect of lots of turns and twists over many, many years. And this war, when the final history is written, will prove to be the same. But lots of regrets, absolutely, 100 percent.


KARL: Lots of regrets. That was chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley talking about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. For the past three years he has been the principal military adviser to President Joe Biden and, before that, to then President Donald Trump. It's a career that took him from combat to controversy. General Milley sat down this week with my "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz ahead of his retirement at the end of the month.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice over): In his 44-year career, Mark Milley has seen great loss.

MILLEY: Those 13 gave their lives so that people they never met will have an opportunity to live in freedom.

RADDATZ: Great triumph.

MILLEY: There are now 31 members of NATO, and NATO is even stronger and united in the face of Russia's aggression.

RADDATZ: And no small degree of controversy, becoming one of the most well-known chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent history, like it or not.

MILLEY: As one previous chairman told me, D.C. can be a contact sport. I grew up playing contact sports, and it can be rough sometimes. So you take your shots and you deal with it.

If he's not a terrorist, don't worry about it.

RADDATZ: Milley spent five years in war zones, from Iraq, where I first met him, to Afghanistan, before Donald Trump chose him to be the nation's top military officer in 2019.

MILLEY: You can rest assured that I will always provide you informed, candid, impartial military advice.

RADDATZ: That became an understatement. The Princeton-educated hockey player known for his brash, blunt and sometimes profanity-laced advice makes clear his oath is to the Constitution, not politicians.

MILLEY: I think it's very important that we in uniform stay nonpartisan, apolitical, and we stay out of politics. I think that's critical. It's fundamental to the health of the republic.

RADDATZ: And he learnt that lesson the hard way. In June 2020 Milley made what he quickly realized was one of the biggest mistakes of his military career.

UNKNOWN: Who do you protect?

RADDATZ: After police forcefully cleared protesters fighting for racial justice in an area surrounding the White House, General Milley, in battle dress uniform, walked with Donald Trump across Lafayette Square, an image projecting clear political support.

MILLEY: And I said at the time, and I'll say it again, I should haven't been there. I should have recognized it. And as soon as I did recognize it, I walked it away.

RADDATZ: But for days after that walk through Lafayette Square, Milley considered resigning. While he has not and will not talk about Donald Trump publicly, Milley acknowledged he has spoken to several authors of books written about Trump, books he says he never read.

According to one, "The Divider," he wrote a letter of resignation to President Trump that he did not send, saying "It is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country. You were using the military to create fear in the minds of the people, and we are trying to protect the American people. You subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against."

You thought about resigning. You did not.

MILLEY: I thought at the time, it was a consideration of mine. But several people counseled me and, and they reminded me that that an officer -- a commissioned officer resigning is the consummate political act, and that it's our obligation to stay out of politics. And if I were to resign, then that would be a grave mistake. And it would be putting the uniform even more into politics.

RADDATZ: So for the months ahead, Milley concentrated on only his vast military responsibilities -- but then came election day, January 6th -- and Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the election.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: That was a rigged election.

RADDATZ: Reports abounded that Chairman Milley was worried that President Trump might try to use the military to stay in power.

Were you concerned at any time that you might receive an illegal order after Election Day?

MILLEY: I never did receive an illegal order.

RADDATZ: Was there concern?

MILLEY: No, you know, I -- I argued the case at various times to -- for alternative courses of action. Never received an illegal order.

RADDATZ: You were in this building on January 6.

MILLEY: Uh-huh.

RADDATZ: You saw what happened on January 6.

MILLEY: Sure, uh-huh.

RADDATZ: Are you nervous about that happening again? Can you honestly say you're not nervous about that happening again?

MILLEY: No, I'm not nervous about it. No, I think that, first of all, I think --

RADDATZ: Do you worry about it? You, you will be long gone from the Pentagon.

MILLEY: Yeah, no, I don't, don't worry about a lot of things, Martha, I don't get nervous about a lot of things. I've seen a lot of combat. So I'm beyond that actually. So -- but I would tell you that the United States, the institutions of the United States, are very strong and very resilient. I have -- I talked to --

RADDATZ: I just want -- I want to clear this up.


RADDATZ: Okay, whatever words you use worry, concern. But are you confident that that won't happen again?

MILLEY: I’m confident that the United States and the democracy in this country will prevail and the rule of law will prevail. I'm absolutely confident of that. And these institutions are built to be strong, resilient, and to adapt to the times, and I'm 100 percent confident we'll be fine.

RADDATZ: But nearly three years after the 2020 presidential election, millions of Americans still believe it was illegitimate.

As you leave, what do you see when you look at this country and you know, millions and millions of people are convinced the election was stolen?

MILLEY: Well, I wouldn't ever comment publicly on politics, you know, in America. I mean, that's not the place of a commissioned officer. Certainly not the place of --

RADDATZ: I'm not asking you to talk about politics. I’m --


MILLEY: But I’m very optimistic --

RADDATZ: I'm asking you to talk about the American people.

MILLEY: Yeah. So I'm very optimistic, always have been. American people are strong, they're good people. They're smart.

Our military is still far and away the number one military in the world. Despite the various criticisms that are out there, it's a highly respected institution within our -- within our society. We've got a very strong and resilient set of institutions. Sometimes they bend, but they don't break.

So we've got a committed group of people in uniform. We're committed to the Constitution, and I'm very, very optimistic about the future of the United States.

RADDATZ: General Milley, I know you say that, I know you're an optimistic person, but 38 percent of Americans think Joe Biden is not the legitimate president. As optimistic as you are --

MILLEY: Uh-huh.

RADDATZ: -- when you look at those numbers, and when you look at crowds saying the election was stolen, what do you think? What do you do about that?

MILLEY: The United States, you know, Martha, has been under a lot of challenges over the years, right? So there's a term I've talked to people about, the conceit of the present, where people think that the present is always the worst.

Well, it's not always the worst. So we did have an American Civil War, which was unbelievable, tore the country apart. The late 1800s were tough. World War I was certainly a challenge, right after World War One was a challenge.

If you go to the 1930s, there were 25,000 people in Madison Square Garden, saying, you know, Sieg Heil before the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor, and then all of a sudden, everything changed.

My mother and father, both products with Depression and World War Two. Korea was a challenge. Vietnam was hard.

I was 10 years old in 1968, when Bobby Kennedy was shot, Martin Luther King was shot. And there was a riot right here in D.C. that killed 38 people.

So we've been through some tough times, this is not the toughest time. America will prevail, it will come through stronger on the other end, and the American people are going to be just fine.

RADDATZ: You told your “Princeton Alumni Weekly”, that as a soldier you have and never will make public comments about President Trump, President Biden or future presidents.

How about when you're out of uniform?

MILLEY: Same thing. I mean, I -- look at, you know, in uniform or out of uniform, as a general officer, I'm always a general officer. And I think it's inappropriate for me to make comments about this president or that President, I just don't think it's right. Look at, I’ve spent --

RADDATZ: Even if the president, you feel, threatens democracy?

MILLEY: Like I said, I think it's a -- it's a professional ethic. And the American people will be the deciders of who they elect as a president, it's not going to be a general, it's not going to be someone in uniform. I comment on policies, you can comment on and you should comment on policy, especially in the areas of national security because you have certain expertise in that.

But ad hominem attacks on politicians, I don't think there's a place for that.


KARL: Thanks to Martha Raddatz and to General Milley.

The Roundtable is here. We will right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is who we are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The marquee (ph), we're here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was not just about music. It's about a movement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Latinos we have like this special energy.


KARL: In honor of Hispanic and Latin American Heritage Month, ABC News studios is debuting a one-hour Soul of The Nation Special this weekend. The Latin music revolution explores the massive popularity of global Latin music and the young stars who are taking the industry by storm.

Check it out streaming now on Hulu.

We'll be right back with the Roundtable.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I considered my age and the fact that at the end of a second term, I would be in my mid-80s, and I think it's time for guys like me to get out of the way and have people in the next generation step forward.

There’s no question but that the Republican Party today is – is in the shadow of Donald Trump. He is the leader of greatest portion of the Republican Party. It's a populist, I believe demagogue portion of the party.


KARL: Senator Mitt Romney announcing he would not seek re-election when his term is up and calling for a new generation of Republican leaders.

We're joined now by former DNC chair Donna Brazile, “The Dispatch” senior editor, Sara Isgur, “Politico” senior political columnist Jonathan Martin, and “Washington Post Live” anchor Leigh Ann Caldwell.

So, J. Mart, we heard –


KARL: We heard Romney call for a new generation of leadership and also denounced the populist, but that’s exactly who the new generation of leaders for Republicans is right now.

MARTIN: Well, I give Mitt points for self-awareness on at least one of those things that he said, which is where the party is today.

Look – look, Romney is the latest, but certainly the most famous, anti-Trump figure in the party to retire rather than face a tough primary that would have been certainly in question. And this, to me, Jon, is what realignment looks like in real time. It’s not Romney’s party anymore. And I think you’re going to see more and more of this. And really the only vestige left of the pre-Trump party that’s still in leadership right now is Mitch McConnell. And, obviously, there’s questions about how much longer he can stick around.

But, you know, make no mistake, Romney was going to face a tough primary in Utah next year. He may have had a chance to pull it out, but he would have had to make some real concessions to win that primary. And at age 75, he didn’t want to do that, clearly.

KARL: I mean, Leigh Ann, it is astounding to see all of the Republican critics that have come up and taken on Donald Trump fall by the wayside,


KARL: And beginning when he was president, you know, the Jeff Flakes and the Bob Corkers. I mean, I guess it is Mitch McConnell. And he's not really anti-Trump these days, he just doesn't talk about Trump at all.

CALDWELL: He – yes, he just doesn’t say his name. He doesn’t want to talk about it.

KARL: Yes.

CALDWELL: He doesn’t want anything to do with it.

We saw a speech that Mike Pence gave just a couple of weeks ago on populism versus conservativism. So, he is also in that realm trying to maintain the old grip of the Republican Party that no longer exists. We see where Mike Pence is in the polls. We see that --

KAR: Two or three percent maybe.

CALDWELL: Right, in the low single digits. And Mitch McConnell, absolutely, he’s also, separately, trying to maintain a very foreign policy-focused component of the Republican Party, separate from America first. Supporting Ukraine is one of his biggest priorities right now. And he is struggling to get that through Congress.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's telling that there's no place in the Republican Party for a Mitt Romney, who comes from a very good, decent family of Republicans, starting with his father, who even led the battle for civil rights. There’s no place in the Republican –

KARL: His niece.

BRAZILE: His niece is the – yes, that – well, she --

KARL: Current leader of the Republican National Committee.

BRAZILE: And she's probably hanging on by a thread, waiting for the – the former president to give her, her marching orders. But there's no place -- there's no place for Liz Cheney. I mean it says a lot about the Republican Party. Yes, both political parties need, you know, to find their new chapter, their new song, their new verse. And that will happen. But as long as people like Mitt Romney can't find a decent place to have a seat at the table, it's – it’s really telling that this party has gone so far to the right that you can't have moderates like Mitt – Mitt Romney.

MARTIN: But it's not even ideological, Donna. It's a cult of personality. It's not like Romney fails a policy test. That was last decade's challenge for Mitt Romney. This decade's challenge for Romney is it's persona, not policy.



MARTIN: Yeah, at best.

ISGUR: The Republican Party at this point is going through one of the fastest realignments I think we've seen in politics in the last 100 years. I mean, the Goldwater revolution, the Reagan revolution didn't happen nearly this quickly, where, you know, you mentioned some of the Republicans who have fallen by the wayside. Don't forget all of the Republicans who voted for impeachment, faced incredibly hard primaries, sometimes with Democrats helping their opponents in those primary challenges.

And what I think will be fascinating is we're so stuck in the day-to-day news cycle. When we look back, Mitt Romney's candor about what it looks from inside in the party to experience this realignment over the last 10 years that he's been a famous -- you know, one of the most famous Republicans in the party, I think he's -- he's doing a real service to historians, at least, letting us know what that looks like.

KARL: OK, so speaking of Republicans, Kevin McCarthy -- we heard Hakeem Jeffries, I think it was six times, used the phrase -- six or seven -- "Republican civil war."


KARL: Leonne -- Leigh Ann, what does it look like? I mean, is -- is -- is McCarthy's speakership truly in jeopardy?

CALDWELL: So it's a mess on Capitol Hill.


CALDWELL: Kevin McCarthy has really struggled to govern, to keep his conference together. If his speakership is in -- is in jeopardy, there are threats to it. If there are the votes to oust him -- remember it needs a majority of the House of Representatives, it will likely also take Democratic support. So what McCarthy is doing, he is governing under the fear of a threat of losing his speakership. And so he is placating the right flank of his party, ignoring the moderates, even though they are the majority-makers of his party. And the Democrats, who could actually help save his speakership, he has just opened an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. He is governing to the right, so he is making no friends on the Democratic Party and in the moderates to help him keep his job.

BRAZILE: Yeah, Jonathan, he's in a real pickle. He doesn't have a lot of friends in that caucus. He came out of that caucus meeting looking like he just left a James Brown concert, OK.


BRAZILE: I mean, looking all flustered, using big words.


BRAZILE: But, look, the fact is, is that Democrats saved him earlier this spring with the debt ceiling deal.

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: And he promised his right flank everything, the moon and back. He said, "Look, I'll give you what you want on the committees; I'll -- I'll allow you to establish regular order." And you know what they've done? They've -- they've shown him the third finger.

So I think he's in a real pickle. And I don't see why Democrats should try to bail him out. We should bail the country out. We should make sure that we avert a government shutdown. But when you're not able to pass appropriation bills on time after calling for regular order, that shows you there's no leadership on that side.

ISGUR: The reason Democrats bail him out, though, is because of the alternative, right, like "the devil you know." Kevin McCarthy is just solving the problem right in front of his face each time. He's just trying to make it to the end of the week, each week, whatever he has to promise. The problem is those promises are coming due, like you saw with Congresswoman Mace saying she was made promises. It's not just the Freedom Caucus folks.

KARL: Everybody was made promises.

ISGUR: Everyone was made promises.

KARL: George Santos was probably made promises.

ISGUR: I think, with this impeachment inquiry, yes, it bought him another week or two. But if Republicans aren't able to get those bank records to show the things that they want to show, that Joe Biden himself was profiting, was getting money from this, Kevin McCarthy then is in real trouble.

KARL: Yeah, what are they going to do, do an impeachment inquiry and then come at the end of the day and say "Never mind?"

CALDWELL: Right, exactly.

KARL: Now they're like -- I mean, they -- I mean, if you don't produce, then you're basically exonerating.

MARTIN: But McCarthy is telling people privately that it doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to go through actual -- you know, with an impeachment vote. But it's hard to see how you go down this road and then not pursue articles of impeachment.

But here's the challenge. If Kevin McCarthy wants to keep his speakership in the short term, he's got to placate those hardliners on the right who are threatening him every single week. If he wants to keep it in the long term, he's got to protect his vulnerable moderates facing tough races next year.

KARL: Right.

MARTIN: And guess who doesn't want to vote for an impeachment inquiry? Those folks facing races next year. So the...


KARL: Republicans in districts that voted for Joe Biden.

BRAZILE: Well, he started the year with a -- a slim four-seat majority. Chris Stewart retired last Friday. And several members...

MARTIN: Utah, yeah.

BRAZILE: ... one -- one that I have a personal friendship with, my congressman from Louisiana, he's not well.

MARTIN: Right, Steve Scalise.

BRAZILE: And then there are a couple members who have just had newborn babies. So this is a very slim majority.

KARL: It's a -- it's a perilous time for...


BRAZILE: I mean, that's why I say he's in a pickle.

KARL: Can I ask you about the Democrats, though?

BRAZILE: Always.


KARL: I'm -- I'm hearing real frustration in some corners, but you've -- you've got your finger on the pulse, Donna, with the Special Counsel going forward and bringing these indictments against Hunter Biden, which for whatever the -- you know, for these gun charges. I think it's widely agreed these are not kind of charges that would be normally brought. How much frustration is there in the Biden White House?

BRAZILE: There is a…

KARL: They are going forward (ph)?

BRAZILE: Of course, there's frustration. I know -- I don't -- I haven't seen any material evidence that they're making calls to the Justice Department. Of course, they're not. I mean, is it frustrating? Yes. I mean, Hunter Biden has been under investigation for the last five years. He is -- he was willing to plead guilty to -- for failing to pay his taxes and this gun charge, where two of the so-called indictments about lying, and one is about possession of an unloaded gun for 11 days. I don't know who in the hell gets an unloaded gun for 11 days. But that's another conversation.

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: Democrats know they'd have to keep their eyes on the prize…

KARL: And it was -- it was thrown out by his sister-in-law because she thought he was going to use it to kill himself.

BRAZILE: And harm himself. I mean…

KARL: Yeah.

BRAZILE: But look, Republicans are looking…

ISGUR: But which isn't…


BRAZILE: They are looking for dirt.

ISGUR: Is he going to be tough on these gun laws?

BRAZILE: They are looking…

ISGUR: Is he going to enforce the gun laws?

KARL: Oh, calm down.


BRAZILE: Look, they're looking to…


ISGUR: (inaudible).

BRAZILE: Sarah, they're looking for dirt. They are looking for receipts. They're looking to muddy the waters. The bottom line is Democrats got to stay focused. Hunter Biden is not above the law. Like Donald Trump, he's innocent until proven guilty, and it just shows that this Justice Department is going to grab the boat (ph).

KARL: Yeah.

ISGUR: Down there, people are serving serious time for (inaudible) and possession, lying on these forums, what are going to tell those folks that get charged?

KARL: Yeah, but you -- but you almost never see this charge brought up on its own.

ISGUR: I mean…

KARL: It is always in conjunction with an underlying crime, that the gun was…

ISGUR: Absolutely not. I think it is unusual to bring this charge on the substance abuse because it's usually hard to prove.

KARL: Yeah.

ISGUR: But once you bring the charge, you don't plead it out for pre-trial deferment either. These guys go to trial and you get time.

MARTIN: What's bothering Democrats is less Hunter Biden's legal jeopardy, all of that -- that's absolutely a nuisance, and more the fact that Joe Biden's numbers don't get better. Here we are, well after Labor Day, the economy has been clearly improving, inflation is not what it was. Biden gets no credit for it. I think Democrats are coming to terms with the fact that maybe the numbers do come late and will follow the economic improvement at some point next year.

But I think some (ph) Democrats privately are coming to terms with the fact that Biden isn't going to get credit for the economic improvement. What they are not coming to terms with is doing anything about it. It is remarkable to see what Democrats will say in private versus in public about Joe Biden, about Kamala Harris. You played the Pelosi clip earlier, which is a taste of what Democrats say in private about Kamala Harris.

But there is a remarkable cynicism when it comes to Biden's re-election and Democrats in Washington State Capitals (ph).

KARL: I mean, what are you hearing privately on the Hill from Democrats about this?

CALDWELL: There is a lot of concern privately. Publicly, like Jonathan said, they are all in. We heard Hakeem Jeffries earlier. I asked him that same question on Thursday, but what keeps happening is this argument is never going away. We heard Dean Phillips in August was really loud about it.

MARTIN: Right.

CALDWELL: We saw David Ignatius' column last week about Biden stepping down. There is a lot of hand-wringing happening.

ISGUR: There is not an alternative (ph).

KARL: The moment was (inaudible).


ISGUR: Stepping aside, not stepping down.

KARL: We got to take a break right now.

BRAZILE: Democrats are fine.

KARL: Thank you, Donna.



KARL: You heard it from Donna Brazile. We'll be right back with the Head of the UN World Food Program, Cindy McCain.



CINDY MCCAIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: We are facing an unprecedented -- unprecedented year with regards to food and food insecurity around the globe. We -- right as of this point, we do not have enough money, we need more money.


KARL: That's Cindy McCain, who became the Executive Director of the World Food Programme in April. The United Nations World Food Programme is the world's largest and most important anti-hunger agency providing meals to millions of hungry and starving people every day. But this year it is facing its biggest funding shortfall in 60 years.

Cindy McCain joins me right now.

So, thank you for being here.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

KARL: You have such an important job right now. Give us a sense of how severe is the food crisis around the world right now.

MCCAIN: It's desperate. It is -- we are in a desperate situation. And it's a combination of things. It's, it's COVID, its climate change, its conflict and it's also the cost of being able to do business. Come -- those things combined. And of course, a world that has kind of grown tired of all of this. They had -- there's a great malaise right now within, within countries about foreign aid and giving.

So, it's, it's a combination of terrible things. And the bottom line is those that are going to suffer those who can't afford to. They're the ones that women and children around the world.

KARL: And you've, you've been traveling to some of the really, the really dark spots on the globe --


KARL: -- that are really suffering. What are you seeing? First of all, we'll get to the challenges. But the importance of the work of the World Food Programme does?

MCCAIN: Well, these people that I see, I see the desperate of the desperate, I see the worst of the worst in terms of being able to just survive. And a lot of this is, is women running with their children to keep their sons from being recruited into terrorist groups. And -- because the terrorist groups are feeding people -- so the mothers are running with their children to make sure they don't --

KARL: The terrorist groups are feeding people.

MCCAIN: The terrorist groups are feeding people. And it's primarily a lot of the stuff they steal from us.

KARL: So, this is a national security --

MCCAIN: It is, it --

KARL: It's not just --

MCCAIN: It is an absolute national security issue. And we have to pay attention to it because we're either going to feed them now or fight them later. And there's no -- there's no way about this. And that -- it's also it as a human being and a humanitarian, we cannot turn our backs on this. We can't. If we don't do it, who will? Who will?

KARL: You -- we talked earlier about Afghanistan, which faces so many challenges, including a real starvation problem. What is the funding shortfall doing for your program in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: Well, here we are in the middle of September, and unless we can build up some funding for Afghanistan, we'll have to pull it completely out. So, what does that mean? Right now, women can't work. They can't -- they can't hold jobs of any kind. And in the case of WFP, we've been feeding women, feeding women and children. And if we have to pull out, starvation and famine is going to be the result of this. And we don't have enough money to even get through October.

KARL: Why is there a funding shortfall? Who's not giving money that used to give money? What's happened?

MCCAIN: Well, it's the world. I mean, right now I -- it's -- you know, Ukraine, for better or worse has sucked the oxygen out of the room. And I -- we certainly understand the need to support Ukraine. But there's other hotspots in the world that are deeply and as much desperate as Ukraine is.

So we have to make sure that we remind the world the importance of taking a look around the globe. But, parliaments -- people are talking to their parliaments, their parliaments are saying no, their constituents are saying no. And we are facing some of the same things here in the United States.

KARL: Keep the money here, and we have problems here.

MCCAIN: Yeah, exactly.

KARL: So, I want to -- before you go, I want to ask you about our current political world. I understand President Biden is going to give a major speech on democracy and they're considering doing it at the McCain Institute.


KARL: What would the significance of that be?

MCCAIN: Well, it's more about the McCain Library, but it is in Arizona and I don't have confirmation on all of this yet, but we would welcome anything that President Biden would like to support on our behalf.

KARL: What would John McCain say about where we are now (ph)?


MCCAIN: We play that game every day. What would John McCain do? He would be furious. He'd -- I know he'd be traveling the world to make sure that people got the message and understood the importance and the desperation of the situation we're in.

KARL: I know he had an on-and-off relationship with Mitt Romney over the years, sometimes rival, sometimes allies.


KARL: What did you make of Mitt Romney's decision not to run and what he said on the way out?

MCCAIN: Well, I certainly understand wanting to take care of yourself and your family, and so I laud him for that, for making that decision. We will miss him. I mean, he's a voice of reason like so many others were and that are no longer here, including my husband.

KARL: And your views on Donald Trump are well known, but what's at stake here? What if he were to come back and become president again?

MCCAIN: Well, as you know, I'm working for an organization that is non-political.

KARL: Non-partisan.

MCCAIN: We're non-partisan, non-political. But we have to consider what's at stake worldwide, and the influence and impact a single human being can have on the situation.

KARL: We are just about out of time. I want to close by reading a quote from John McCain's final letter that he wrote to the American people.


KARL: "We have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times."

MCCAIN: Yeah, that was John McCain to a T, and that's what we miss right now, is the ability to agree to disagree, discuss, debate and still remain friends and not make it personal. And so, I wish the best for the country.

KARL: Cindy McCain, thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

KARL: Thank you for sharing your time with us.

MCCAIN: Thank you, my pleasure.

KARL: We'll be right back.


KARL: 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 day.