'This Week' Transcript 9-24-23: Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Mike Turner

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, September 24.

ByABC News
September 24, 2023, 9:08 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 24, 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



MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR (voice over): Warning signs.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the lowest inflation and the fastest recovery and the strongest economy.

RADDATZ: But alarming new poll results spell trouble for President Biden’s re-election campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the economy is struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in trouble in America.

RADDATZ: Both Biden and Donald Trump plan to visit Michigan as the autoworkers strike expands.

SHAWN FAIN, UAW PRESIDENT: This is about working class people all over this country.

RADDATZ: How will economic anxiety impact the race to the White House? Rick Klein breaks down the striking new numbers. Plus, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and our powerhouse roundtable.

Border crisis.

JASON OWENS, U.S. BORDER PATROL CHIEF: It's about as bad as I’ve ever seen it.

RADDATZ: President Biden facing his largest surge of migrants this year.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Joe Biden's open border policies have turned every community to a border community.

RADDATZ: As he extends legal working status to nearly half a million Venezuelan migrants, fear of a government shutdown grows.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We have a majority here.

And we can work together to solve this.

RADDATZ: And Senator Bob Menendez indicted. Prosecutors alleging a brazen bribery scheme. House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner weighs in.


RADDATZ (on camera): How do you think Mahsa Amini died? She was arrested for not wearing her hijab correctly.

RADDATZ (voice over): One year since protests erupted across Iran over women's rights, we sit down with the wife of Iran's president.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.

We are coming on the air this morning with a brand new poll with "The Washington Post," and it is brutal for President Biden, just over a year to Election Day. It shows broad frustration among American voters, especially on the economy, where the president has focused his re-election pitch on the success of Bidenomics.

And on immigration, where the strain in America's largest cities is leading to divisions among Democrats, while at the same time, Republican divisions in the House may force another government shutdown. Although our poll shows Biden would get the blame for that as well.

But most alarmingly for the president, the new poll shows that Americans are just not feeling the upbeat message coming from the White House.


RADDATZ (voice over): President Biden has been touting a strong economy led by his administration's policies as the cornerstone to his re-election bid.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has the strongest economy in the world.

RADDATZ: Despite low unemployment, cooling inflation, and so far avoiding a recession, Americans overwhelmingly say they are not feeling good about the economy, and that the president is to blame. Just 30 percent approve of his performance on the economy, a career low, largely dragged down by pocketbook issues for families, like food prices that have risen 4.3 percent since last year. Our poll showing more than 9 in 10 Americans, rating them negatively. Voters across the country telling ABC News they are frustrated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It costs a lot more to buy a loaf of bread these days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all trying to survive. We can’t even work two jobs at this point and try to make it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that anybody is really paying attention to the working man.

RADDATZ: Nearly as many upset about gas and energy prices after a brutally hot summer. The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline this week hitting $3.88 per gallon according to AAA. The highest level in nearly a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just drove through California yesterday. Gas was $6.39 a gallon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it’s just ridiculous in my opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People can't afford rent.

RADDATZ: And it's not just the economy. The other hot button issue, immigration. The Biden administration attempting to mitigate yet another surge at the southern border as more big cities navigate the impact of the migrant crisis.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: This issue will destroy New York City.

RADDATZ: Authorities announcing there were more than 232,000 migrant encounters at the southern border in August, the highest monthly total this year. The president says his policies are working.

BIDEN: We've put in place policies that process people in a fair and fast way.

RADDATZ: But our poll shows only 23 percent approve of his handling of the situation, another career low. All this putting his job approval rating 19 points underwater. One of many challenges facing the incumbent president in his quest for re-election.


RADDATZ: Let's dig into this more with our political director Rick Klein, here with the breakdown to help make sense of this poll and dive into the numbers.

And, Rick, the economy is clearly at the top of voters' minds.

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Martha, these numbers are simply staggering for the sitting president. Forty-four percent of people in this poll say they are not as well off as they were at the start of the Biden administration two and a half years ago. Those are the worst numbers that we've seen in our ABC News/"Washington Post" polling. And it’s a question we’ve been asking going back to the Reagan administration.

And when – when you dive into the big questions around the economy, we know President Biden has been out there trying to make the case, unemployment is low, he's been talking about how inflation has been easing, but people aren't buying it. You covered some of the reasons why. Gas prices, food prices, grocery prices and the like. Right now, on the big picture in the economy, 74 percent of the country, that's about three-quarters of Americans who say the economy is either not so good or downright poor.

RADDATZ: And it's not just the state of the nation or the policies that are giving people pause on President Biden. It seems to be the man himself.

KLEIN: Yes, Martha, let's talk about age because we know for sure that the country certainly is.

President Biden would be 82 years old on Inauguration Day 2025. That's how old he is. He's not getting any younger. And, of course, perceptions around his ability to perform in the job are not getting any better. Right now three-quarters of Americans, 74 percent, say that he is too old to effectively serve in a second term. That compares to about 50 percent who say the same around Donald Trump.

And it's not just Republicans or independents who are skeptical over Joe Biden. This is a question we asked, should Biden be at the top of the ticket? Sixty-two percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents said they think that someone else should be the presidential nominee, although the party is deeply split on who that someone else should be.

Now, if you’re looking for a potential good sign, a positive sign for Democrats in this poll, opposition to the Supreme Court's decision on Roe versus Wade, overturning abortion rights at the national level, remains very, very strong, 64 percent opposition. Of course, it was Donald Trump's three Supreme Court justices who authored that opinion and made it possible.

RADDATZ: And, of course, abortion played a big role in last year's midterms, but most of these numbers paint a bleak picture for President Biden's re-election chances, Rick.

KLEIN: Yes, and, Martha, maybe the most startling number in our poll is this, the hypothetical matchup, a rematch of Donald Trump versus Joe Biden. Our poll with the – with "The Washington Post" pegging this at 51 percent to -- for – for Donald Trump over Joe Biden. That is a nine-point edge. Now, that's only a couple of points difference from our last poll in May, but it is significantly different than most recent polls. It is an outlier compared to other polls we've seen recently.

Our partners at FiveThirtyEight put together an analysis for us. They find an average of recent polls having this more in the one to two-point range with Joe Biden typically having the edge. But whether you believe that or not, look, there's a good chance that there’s people just trying to send a message in the polling right now, given the other frustration we've seen. We know in this poll there’s some – some quirks, some oddities around the number of black voters and Hispanic voters, the younger voters who seem to be supporting Donald Trump.

And get this, because it’s pretty hard to believe, but we asked people whether Donald Trump should be constitutionally disqualified from running for office. And among people who said, yes, one in five, about 18 percent, said they’d vote for Trump anyway. So, that might just be sending a message that's more anti-Biden than it is pro-Trump. But, regardless, the weaknesses that we are seeing for Joe Biden and his approval rating across the board are very real. They are alarming to Democrats, even if no one thinks this is ultimately going to be a nine-point race.

RADDATZ: Rick Klein, thanks for that.

Let’s take this all to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning. Good to see you.

As you heard from Rick, the poll, the vast majority of American people are not happy with President Biden’s leadership on a range of topics and issues.

So, what do you say to the 44 percent of Americans who say they are worse off now than they were before Biden took office?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, look, we all know the economic pressure that Americans have felt. When the president took office, the economy was flat on its back. But we’re also getting extraordinary results, more than 13 million jobs created. That’s more than any presidential term in American history. And, yes, it takes a while for people to feel the full benefits of those results, just like it’s going to take a while to build all of the infrastructure that we’re now underway on with the president’s generational infrastructure build.

But he got the bill done after president after president, congress after congress couldn’t make it happen. He did. We’re getting the results on the economy.

And one other thing that I think is really important is that the American people agree with us and not with congressional Republicans on what to do about it. So, when you look at the economy, the most important thing, in the president’s view, is to support families and support workers, not just with the job creation that’s going on, but lowering costs. That’s why, for example, lowering the cost of insulin to $35 for seniors is something that the president pushed for, got, wants to do for all Americans, but congressional Republicans are blocking him.

We’re going to keep pushing on that because, in the end, what we are seeing to do, versus prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy, let alone driving this country toward a government shutdown, is not what the American people want to see in response to these conditions.

RADDATZ: Whether they want to or not, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged there is a disconnect. You are seeing the disconnect.

I have heard this time and time again over the past few months, what President Biden has done. But the message is not getting through. And that message, in a re-election campaign, is vitally important.

So what do you do about that?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, of course, I'm here on the official side, not to talk about the campaign side. But one thing I'll tell you, just from an administration perspective, is, when we go out on the road, when we demonstrate, for example, how the president’s agenda of investing in roads and bridges and railroad improvements and better airports and all the things that we’re doing around the country, how that’s actually arising in community after community, you have a whole different kind of conversation.

Now, there’s a lot more work to do. The story of these investments, these efforts and these results isn’t going to tell itself, but that’s exactly the work that we’re doing. And we’re an administration that isn’t all about the polls. We recognize that if we get the results over time people will come to appreciate that.

RADDATZ: But -- let’s drill down on this again. Gas prices are on the rise again.

Gas prices. People look at that. No matter what you say about what you are trying to do, they are feeling it. They are feeling gas prices. They are feeling food prices.

It’s just not breaking through because they live their lives, they see it every day.

BUTTIGIEG: Which is why we are prioritizing making life easier and more affordable for Americans. Again, it’s one thing to point to a problem and, frankly, in some corners of the --

RADDATZ: About gas prices.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, they’re down from their peaks. They’re higher than -- than they were a few weeks ago. And the president will continue taking actions, not just to make sure that gas prices stay under control, but to make sure that Americans can afford their -- our overall bills.

And, you know, when you look at a congressional Republican opposition that is literally against having insulin capped at $35, is against the caps on those out-of-pocket costs, seems more concerned with tax cuts for the wealthy than with actually solving these problems, that’s when you see the real difference in approach.

So, even if you have an agreement on an economic challenge, like prices at the grocery store, you have two different ways of dealing with it. Our way of dealing with it is to invest in the supply side that -- that -- for example, improves the supply chains, which in turn helps bring down those prices, it’s to invest in making life more affordable every day for Americans.

And the other side’s talking about a shutdown. They’re talking about government cuts that would -- I mean, you want to talk about groceries. They’re talking about something that would wait-list families that need access to support to be able to afford to feed their children. They’re pushing it --

RADDATZ: Do -- do you see -- you bring up the shutdown. Do you see that as inevitable at this point?

BUTTIGIEG: I hope not, because in the event of a shutdown, we would have to immediately stop so many important activities in the Department of Transportation, like training air traffic controllers. After everything we’ve been through, after all of the disruptions to air traffic -- to air travel that we experienced last year, this year, we finally see cancellations and delays back to normal. They’re actually a little below where they were before COVID. This would be a reversal that nobody wants, nobody asked for.

And I can’t believe some of the very same congressional Republicans, who get in line to try to beat us up any time there’s a -- there’s a travel disruption, even a weather-related travel destruction, are going to turn around and shut down air traffic control training. And that’s just one example, from one department, that I happen to be very concerned about. So it better not be inevitable.

RADDATZ: And there are -- Secretary, our poll found that more Americans would blame Democrats for a possible shutdown than Republicans. How do you explain that?

BUTTIGIEG: I just don’t think that’s how it’s going to actually play out in a Republican shutdown. You know, this is because Republicans can’t -- you know, on the Hill -- can’t even agree among themselves.

And remember, Kevin McCarthy and -- Speaker McCarthy and President Biden made a deal. And that deal was tough for all sides. Frankly, it was tough for our department. It meant cutting back on some things we wanted to do, some funds we were going to use to improve roads and bridges and airports. But we accepted that because that was the deal that was made earlier this year.

And now all we’re doing is asking them to live up to that deal. If they can’t be organized enough among themselves, if the House Republican conference is in such chaos that they can’t even accept a deal that they supported earlier this year, or in the words of one House Republican, take yes for an answer, then I think Americans are going to see very quickly how we got in that situation.

And, by the way, not only are they driving us toward a shutdown, but their position, the thing they’re trying to use the threat of a shutdown to get, is further cuts that would also undermine things that the American people overwhelmingly want us to do. In the case of transportation, things like railroad safety inspections.

RADDATZ: But let – let’s talk a little more about transportation and turn to the autoworkers strike. The UAW extended its strike against GM, Stellantis, to 20 different plants. Is that something you support?

BUTTIGIEG: We stand with the UAW’s determination to make sure that autoworkers benefit from the next chapter in the auto industry. As the president has said, when you have record profits in the auto industry, there ought to be record pay and record benefits for the workers who create that value.

RADDATZ: President Biden is going to join the picket line on Tuesday, he just announced. We can’t find that, talking to historians and labor leaders, that that’s ever happened before. Is that a good idea? He’s planting his flag with the workers. Obviously, he is a big supporter of unions, but how can he be a mediator of something like that if he’s right there with the workers, standing with them?

BUTTIGIEG: That’s where he stands. He’s a pro-worker president. He is an unapologetically pro-union president. And, you know, not just in contrast to the anti-union policies of the Trump administration, but really with respect to presidents of both parties over the last half century. He’s proud of the fact that he is the most pro-union and pro-worker among them. And, by the way, getting this right.

RADDATZ: So, does he support a 40 percent raise and a four-day week?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, the – the president and this administration, we are not at the – the bargaining table, but we are with workers. And, by the way, the – the American –

RADDATZ: But that sends a pretty strong message.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, and I will say also, the companies, the American auto sector, will benefit in the long run from the deal that moves this country forward and secures American leadership, especially in the next chapter of the automotive industry.

Part of what the UAW has made clear is that they’re not trying to turn back the clock, they’re not saying that they want us back in horse and buggy days, they’re not pretending that we can have the – the technologies of the – of the ‘60s power us into the 2020s, ‘30s and ’50s. What they’re saying is, if a whole new way of making cars is going to be the way of the world and the way of the automotive sector, then workers ought to be able to benefit from that and thrive on that, just like the last generations of workers did. And – and there is a win/win future to be had. And that’s what the president and the administration are urging the parties to reach.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

RADDATZ: The roundtable’s coming up.

Plus, more on the surge of migrants arriving at the southern border. We’re on the scene in El Paso.

And House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner joins us next.



PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: The MAGA Republican Congress and my predecessor spent four years gutting the immigration system, under my predecessor. They continue to undermine our border security today, blocking bipartisan reform.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS: We have a president who is an obstructionist to Texas, who's trying to do our best to impede the flow of illegal immigrants by us building our own border wall, by us putting up these razor-wire barriers and not allowing people to pass.


RADDATZ: Migrant encounters at the southern border are surging once again after a lull this summer, with cities straining to host more asylum seekers. To alleviate the pressure, President Biden granted temporary legal status to nearly half a million Venezuelans already in the country, allowing them to legally work. But thousands more migrants are arriving daily, testing the Biden administration's migration strategy.

ABC's Matt Rivers is in El Paso with the new border chief in charge there.

Good morning, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Martha. We had an exclusive conversation with the new Border Patrol chief, Jason Owens, who laid out the myriad challenges facing his organization amidst unrelenting, historic migration.

The crisis continues at the U.S.-Mexico border, the highest total of migrant encounters since December, and this month reportedly on pace to surpass that figure.

And this morning, exclusive access to the top U.S. official on the front line, Border Patrol chief Jason Owens giving ABC News his first interview since taking over the top job nearly three months ago.


JASON OWENS, U.S. BORDER PATROL CHIEF: In terms of flow and -- and the threats that we're seeing with Fentanyl and with the criminal organizations that -- that are our adversary, it's about as bad as I've ever seen it.

RIVERS: The last week has been intense, to say the least, thousands crossing per day in the latest spike in migration. We haven't seen these numbers since the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that allowed officials to quickly expel most migrants at the border without allowing asylum claims.

How sustainable is this, your ability to respond to this amount of people at the border?

OWENS: This isn't sustainable. This is a -- up and down the system, everybody is overwhelmed. Even the government of Mexico, which have been great partners for us, U.S. Border Patrol, a lot of times our facilities are already over capacity.

RIVERS: Nowhere more overwhelmed than the small town of Eagle Pass, Texas, where thousands of migrants converged and crossed over the last week. Behind that in part, organized crime. Officials say human smugglers surged migrants to that area for a reason.

So you believe what's happening in Eagle Pass is directly a distraction to occupy your time instead of looking at something else?

OWENS: I believe it's a money-making opportunity for those smugglers and I believe it's a distraction from them to cross other things into the country.

RIVERS: Other things like?

OWENS: Narcotics, Fentanyl, (inaudible), weapons, people of interest, whether it be hardened criminals and gang members, convicted -- convicted sexual predators.

RIVERS: Owens says his agents should be focused on stopping those kind of things, but instead must deal with unrelenting flows of migrants. It's quickly overwhelmed federal facilities, with officials forced to release thousands of migrants into the U.S. to await immigration proceedings, human smugglers promising migrants they'll simply just be let in, which Owens says is not true.

OWENS: They're still facing removal and deportation. So it is not this -- this open gate that the -- the smugglers are promising.

RIVERS: But that's what they're saying.

OWENS: That's what they're saying.

RIVERS: Immigration law aside, migrants are going to keep coming. A record 81,000-plus migrants crossed the notorious Darien Gap from Colombia to Panama last month, eventually joined on the route to the U.S. by those from Central America and Mexico. Owens is keenly aware of the political debate but says his agency just follows the law.

OWENS: We see a lot of -- lot of folks say, "Just push people back. Just don't let them cross, or send them back immediately."

The U.S. Border Patrol is a law enforcement agency. We enforce the laws that are on the books. We don't have the right, nor should we, of denying somebody due process once they are on American soil.

RIVERS: And, Martha, the thing that Owens kept coming back to is that it is not the job of Border Patrol agents to process migrants, or at least it shouldn't be. It's their job to stop deadly, harmful things from coming into the country. But they can't do that as long as this kind of migration keeps happening and as long as Congress doesn't pass comprehensive immigration reform to fix what is unquestionably a broken system. Martha?

RADDATZ: Matt Rivers, thank you.

Joining us now is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Turner.

Great to see you this morning, Congressman.


RADDATZ: Many predicted that we'd see a migrant surge after Title 42 ended. That did not happen, but we have this situation now with these record numbers. Why now?

TURNER: Well, the Biden administration has been encouraging, and the manner in which they have -- have provided assistance to migrants, not really communicating that our borders should be closed. Instead, have encouraging an open border policy.

You know, this is a national security and an economic security threat. On national security, we’ve seen individuals on the terrorist watch list be apprehended. We certainly see fentanyl and other drugs coming across the border. On economic security, you even have the mayor of New York saying that it’s destroying his city.

That’s why the Republicans put forth a border protecting bill, House Bill 2, which would put physical barriers on the border, but also change our asylum rules. And at the same time, put more border agents.

And to contrast that with the Biden administration just in the last 10 days took action to give 200,000 Venezuelans temporary protective status, which includes that they cannot be deported and work privileges.

This type of encouraging --

RADDATZ: Do you not agree with that, I take it?

TURNER: But if the president would close the border and stop encouraging, providing people incentives to come, others would not see that the path is worth it, and that’s what you see --


RADDATZ: Eric Adams says it saves taxpayers’ money, with the Venezuelans to work. What would you rather have them do at this point?

TURNER: Well --

RADDATZ: As long as they’re already here?

TURNER: Right. But they shouldn’t be here. If we had the right policies, they wouldn’t be here. By providing them these -- the open assistance, what you’re seeing is an encouragement for others to come.

Wherefore, House Bill 2 makes certain that we close the border for immigration, this migrant immigration, makes certain that provide border security and at the same time change our asylum rules to give us the legal tools to send people home.

RADDATZ: I know you talk about the Biden administration encouraging an open border and saying, come across. I’ve certainly heard Security Mayorkas say, don’t come across. And Border Patrol arrested more than 180,000 people along the border throughout Biden’s term. Agents have apprehended 5.4 million dollar (ph) migrants. You really say that’s an open border?

TURNER: Well, the numbers speak for themselves, right? Just this year, we’ve had 1.9 million people across our border. That -- that’s more people that live in the cities of Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton, Ohio, and southeast Ohio, combined.

These numbers speak for themselves. They surely show that the administration’s policies encouraging people to come across the border. We need to stop this.

RADDATZ: Former President Trump boasted about the wall along the border, and that that would stop migrants. That doesn’t seem to be working.

TURNER: Well, the wall isn’t finished. Biden, by executive order, stopped the wall, began selling off --

RADDATZ: How about 500 miles of new border wall?

TURNER: In the places -- and I’ve been down to the border.

RADDATZ: Not all new, some refurbished.

TURNER: I took the Intelligence Committee members down to the border, and what we saw was in areas where that -- the wall had been built, immigration had -- migrant immigration had stopped.

We gave Border Patrol an ability to control the area. But when areas that it’s open, people are walking across.

RADDATZ: So, what do you do right now? You heard the new border control chief says it’s bad as it’s been, they want -- they want to be doing their jobs down there. They want to be screening people and guns, and instead, they’re basically processing people.

TURNER: Right. That’s why we passed a border protection bill with our House Bill 2, and that completes the border and barrier area to give the Border Patrol an ability to defend the border. More Border Patrol agents and also change our asylum laws, so that we can encourage lawful immigration and get people here that we need, who have skills, so we can put to work and can grow our economy.

But right now, with this migrant immigration that’s occurring on the border, it’s a national security threat, drugs and people in the terrorist watch list, economic security threat, even the mayor of New York says it’s too much, his city can’t take it.

RADDATZ: Okay, I want -- I want to turn to the possible shutdown. We did see President Zelenskyy here this week. Kevin McCarthy has left that in the defense spending bill, $300 million. But do you see a shutdown that’s almost inevitable? How do they solve this?

TURNER: Well, it’s very difficult. You know, I’ll bet on Kevin McCarthy any day. And we certainly have time yet to go.

But he’s in a very difficult position because the holdouts keep saying to Kevin McCarthy -- don’t bring bipartisan bills to the floor. We don’t want you to use Democrat votes to try to avert a shutdown.

But they’re using Democrat votes to try to cause the shutdown. And these individuals, these Republican holdouts are voting with Nancy Pelosi against Republican bills that have been brought to the floor that will -- could trigger a shutdown.

Now, I think Kevin is going to continue to negotiate until the end. But, you know, the Republicans need to vote for Republican bills and we can avert the shutdown.

RADDATZ: McCarthy said this whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down, he’s speaking about his own GOP House colleagues.

TURNER: Right, and they're doing so. And this is the thing they're doing so by voting with Nancy Pelosi, that's what -- I think back home, they ought to have difficulty answering to the voters as to why they're voting with Nancy Pelosi and not with Kevin McCarthy and Republicans to pass Republican bills and keep the government open.

RADDATZ: And just quickly, Senator Robert Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges. Do you think he should resign?

TURNER: I -- absolutely. I think that everyone has been calling for his resignation. I think that the body of allegations are certainly of the kind that it's makes it very difficult for him to do his job.

RADDATZ: Okay. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.

The Roundtables next. We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: The Roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.



MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: More and more people are seeing that what Donald Trump is offering to conservative voters today is different than what he offered in 2016.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He -- he's taking positions that I -- I think are different from what he took in 2015 when he first came onto the scene. And – and I do think he's a different candidate today than he was back then.

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's not going to be on the second debate stage. I think that's going to hurt him. You can't win the American people by being absent.


RADDATZ: Some of the Republican primary contenders taking shots at front-runner Donald Trump ahead of the second primary debate this week. Trump is skipping this one as well for a primetime speech with autoworkers in Detroit.

So, let’s bring in the roundtable.

Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, “Politico” head of news, Alex Burns, “The Dispatch” senior editor Sara Isgur, and NPR “All Things Considered” co-host, Wanna Summers.

Welcome to all of you.

And, Donna, we'll talk about that debate in a minute, but let’s – let’s go back to that poll. Trump with a nine-point lead over President Biden in that poll. And whatever caveats, whether that is an outlier, that's a tough one to spin.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It's a tough one to spin, Martha, but I don't believe Democrats should be sitting in a panic room. I think they should be out there in the streets, like they’ve been all year long. Look, after all, Democrats haves won in places like New Hampshire, or a district that Donald Trump carried this Democrat won by six points, Democrats won in – down in Jacksonville, Florida. Democrats have won in Wisconsin. Democrats also, with the ballot measure in Ohio. So, don't go into the panic room just yet. Get out there, make your case to the American people.

Look, the American people are angry. In fact, the – there’s a angry emoji all over the country. They're angry because of electric. Their gas bill has come due. The electric bill has come due. Their rent's due. And, you know, they don't feel it in their pockets. So, get back to the kitchen table and start talking to the American people.

RADDATZ: But – but – but that’s exactly – exactly it, they are talking to the American people. You heard Pete Buttigieg too, they are talking, and yet it is those pocketbook issues. The message may be out there, but they're not feeling it.

BRAZILE: Well, yes, 13 million jobs created, lower prescription drug prices. You hear all of this great news and then you go into the grocery store and you try to -- you're still in the aisle where they sell the vegetables and the fruit. You haven't even turned around to the meat and already you've spent $70. They’re not feeling it.

Yes, you can say a lot, as James Brown would say, you’re talking loud and saying nothing, but at the end of the day, there's more than enough time to turn all of this bad weather around and go out there and make your case to the American people.


RADDATZ: Sara, should they be panicking?

ISGUR: The economy’s been getting better and Joe Biden's numbers have been getting worse. That tells you something about what the American people are trying to tell these pollsters. Set aside the individual questions. The Democratic Party, though, has a really serious problem, which is, there's no one on the bench. You know, you look more on that poll. Do you want Harris to be the nominee? No. Do you want Buttigieg? No. Someone else got 20 percent. The Democrats have had a historically weak bench for the last 10-plus years. It’s because everyone’s Joe Biden's age. So, there's no one to replace Biden on the ticket. And so they're stuck with him a little bit. And his numbers keep going down and his appearances keep getting worse.

RADDATZ: And – and speaking of that age, they talk about as – as such a huge factor. Obviously, he can't do anything about that, but he does keep saying, just look at me, and people look at him.

ALEX BURNS, POLITICO HEAD OF NEWS: Right. And – and this poll is the result of what they see, right? That when you – when you have an unfixable issue like that, right, you cannot make the president younger, you can change his appearance on the margins, but not by a lot, what do you do with that? And what the White House is essentially doing is asking Democrats to just factor that in as a massive risk for 2024 and saying, we'll deal with the rest of this. That we – we’re confident that we can take on Donald Trump. And maybe they're right to be relatively confident that they can take on Donald Trump. But whenyou have a summer of Bidenomics messaging and the result at the end of that is the numbers that you see in this poll, that should be pretty alarming for Democrats.

And just to Sarah's point about the Democratic bench, it's true that the party doesn't have a sort of -- sort of deep bench of people tested at the national level. There are a lot of governors, a lot of senators who have won tough races, and if the value proposition is an incumbent president with the numbers in that poll, with the American people saying so consistently they don't want him to run for re-election, versus a promising but relatively untested character like a Gretchen Whitmer or a -- a Raphael Warnock, I don't think it's obvious that the safe bet is to stick with the guy you've got.

RADDATZ: Juana, what -- what do you see in this?

I mean, obviously, there's so much to unpack here, but -- but it really is at the center of this. It's the economy, which has been his central message, Bidenomics.

JUANA SUMMERS, NPR 'ALL THINGS CONSIDERED' HOST: That's absolutely right, and I think Alex really hit the nail on the head here, is the fact that they've spent the summer touting this message and yet, at the end of the day, despite some strong indicators that they can point to, such as low -- low unemployment, people aren't feeling that. And the things for which president and the White House feel like he should be getting the credit for, that then should carry over into stronger polling numbers as he seeks re-election, he's not getting that credit.

And if you talk to people up and down the age bracket, I think there's a big concern about whether or not this is a White House that fundamentally is in check with what the American people are really thinking and feeling. And I think this poll is an indicator that perhaps the messaging is not working as well as they had hoped.

RADDATZ: And, Donna, we've also got these striking auto workers this week. President Biden is going to go out and join the picket line. Pete Buttigieg said, you know, he's just siding with the workers. But historically, I -- I don't think that's really ever happened before.

BRAZILE: First time ever that a president -- but look, he's probably...

RADDATZ: Is he making the right move?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. He's a pro-union president. He -- he has always sided with working people. And this year alone he has helped to avert strikes in other major industries.

But what I want to say is that these workers have been screwed out of the -- the type of compensation that they should have received after the American people bailed out the auto industry. The American people -- the auto industries have had one-quarter of a trillion dollars, which I don't even know how to count that -- that much. Maybe I need some gold bars. But they've had one-quarter of a trillion dollars in profit, and yet CEOs have been able to benefit shareholders, but what about the workers? They -- they had their pay cut. They had their pension for new hires. So they deserve an opportunity to be heard, and I'm glad the president's going to stand with them.

RADDATZ: And the former president is headed out there as well, giving that primetime speech out there with the auto workers instead of a debate.

BRAZILE: What an incredible moment in American -- you know, the horseshoe theory of American politics, where you have now the leading two candidates for the 2024 presidential election both siding with, again, just a relatively small constituency. Nobody's out there saying, "This will make cars more expensive." There's a lot more car buyers than there are auto workers.

Obviously, Donald Trump has been making huge inroads with blue-collar, white, non-college-educated voters, for instance. Union workers still moving strongly towards the Democratic Party. Union-sympathetic, union-similar-looking workers moving very quickly into that Republican side. Biden and Trump, they're basically at the exact same time making this pitch. I'd bet on Trump coming out stronger.

RADDATZ: And speaking of that, are Trump -- in our poll, we found more of the same, with Trump maintaining his large lead over the rest of the field. Take a look at that. I think you just have to read Trump 54 percent, and the others are barely registering, Juana.

SUMMERS: That's right. And I think it's interesting, especially when you look in the context of the fact of the number of indictments, and the number -- and over multiple states, against the former president, the fact that he still maintains this strong grip on Republican primary voters and Republican-leaning voters.

I think that shows that, despite the fact that he's not showing up to these debates, he's going to stand with the auto workers. Instead, he's giving these big speeches. It really looks like it is a -- we are setting up for another election, unless some big, dynamic changes, in which you have a Trump-Biden matchup. And when I go out and I talk to voters, I hear a lot of people saying, "I'm not really satisfied with either of these people, but these are the options I have in front of me that I'm likely going to be forced to choose with."


RADDATZ: So do those voters actually go out on Election Day, or do they throw up their hands? I mean, that is...

SUMMERS: That is the big question, right? And it's -- it's the big unknowable question.

RADDATZ: Whether they like them or not, will they go out?

SUMMERS: And that's a great question and, I think, particularly, I spend a lot of time talking with the youngest segment of the electorate, and I do hear a lot of people who are fearful that these are the choices they have, unless something big changes, and I think that's the big thing that we don't know and why I will be really interested in watching how each party works to enthuse not just the base but those independent-leaners who we know are not always as likely to go out as tried-and-true Republicans and Democrats.

RADDATZ: I keep remembering one voter, one Democratic voter, said "Get me out of bed, Joe Biden, right away."


SUMMERS: Oh, wow.


RADDATZ: Donna, let's go back to the Republican debate. And -- and the Republican debate, one less candidate -- I think Asa Hutchinson has not met the criteria yet -- the criteria yet. Will this change anything?

BRAZILE: I don't think so. Nikki Haley is running, I think, one of the most interesting campaigns. She's taking on Donald Trump. She's basically calling him weak at the knees on foreign policy with Ukraine. So I don't know if -- you know, Mr. Trump has a little bit of Teflon right now. The American people who are siding with him are siding with him because they love the entertainment value. They love the fact that, you know, he's out there fighting every day. Americans really want a fighter, in the sense that they see him as a fighter.

But this debate, I think this is -- this is almost the last curtain call for several of the candidates. If they don't perform, then you know what? We might not see them.

RADDATZ: And -- and now it's over half of voters nationally back Trump in our new poll. But look at this poll. In New Hampshire, Trump is still leading, but four others are in the double digits. These candidates have argued early state polls are more reflective of the state of the race. Are they?

BURNS: I don't think they're necessarily more reflective of the state of the race, but they do create a little bit of uncertainty around a primary that looks pretty much finished in every other level, right, that it's pretty clear at this point that, if Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee, it's going to be because somebody takes him out at the knees in Iowa, followed by an embarrassing result in some combination of New Hampshire and South Carolina. It seems highly unlikely that someone is going to overtake him at the national level before it happens at the early state level.

I do agree with Donna that I think the curtain call is coming for a lot of these candidates.

Martha, I do think going -- if you look at, sort of, the last two weeks, Donald Trump is giving the rest of the field a lot of ammunition to work with. At any other point in my lifetime, for a Republican presidential candidate to attack restrictions on abortion, say that they're going to compromise on abortion rights with Democrats, stand with trade unionists against what Republicans used to call our great American job creators, gosh, if the other candidates can't do something with all that material, then you've got to ask yourself, like, why are you in show business?

SUMMERS: Martha, the reason candidates drop out, though, is because of money. They run out of money. The donors at this point who don't want Donald Trump to be the nominee are enough that a lot of these candidates have plenty of money to stay in this race for a while. All eyes on Iowa. DeSantis has goaded Donald Trump into showing up more. There's clearly still a DeSantis versus Trump dynamic there going on.

Alex is totally right. If Iowa shows DeSantis coming in strong, maybe this changes. I don't think the debate's going to move much.

RADDATZ: And, Juana, I want to turn to Capitol Hill and the possibility of a shutdown. From your point of view, from your vantage point, do you think it's inevitable?

SUMMERS: It's starting to look that way. I mean, I think House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is between a rock and a hard place here. It's clear that, when you look at the leverage in this situation, he is in a difficult position, where hardline Republicans in his own conference are not aligned with him, do not want to see him work with Democrats to get a deal. So I think that puts things in a really tricky position.

You're seeing a lot of embattled Republicans who are coming together and talking about how do we get -- because they know that their jobs are likely on the line for their re-election if the government does go into a shutdown, if they're unable to -- if they're unable to avert this.

And I think it's just really important to understand this is a huge Capitol Hill story, but we are talking about thousands of federal workers across the country who will not be able to report to work. We are talking about massive reverberations across our economy. This is a really big deal, and I think sometimes that fact gets lost on Capitol Hill.

ISGUR: Except now we do this every couple years.


RADDATZ: We do seem to do it every couple of years.

We've got about 10 seconds, Alex.

BURNS: Well, there's something else we do every couple years is there's a shutdown right before Virginia's off-year elections, where tens of thousands of federal employees vote. And I'll tell you, Republicans in that state are desperate for this not to happen.


RADDATZ: OK, thanks to all of you.

Up next, one year after the death of an Iranian woman in police custody for allegedly violating the country's hijab law, we'll talk with the wife of the country's president about her view of women's rights in Iran. Stay with us.



EBRAHIM RAISI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translation): It is time now for the United States to bring a cessation to her traveling on the wrong path and choose the right-side.

Ladies and gentlemen, a humanity is entering a new framework, old powers will keep their current downward trajectory they are the past and we are the future.


RADDATZ: That was Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi's fiery message at the United Nations General Assembly this week. I sat down with Raisi's wife Jamileh Alamolhoda shortly after that speech. She comes from an ultra-conservative family in a country that erupted in protests after the death of Mahsa Amini one year ago.


RADDATZ (voice-over): It was a message heard across the globe. Thousands pouring onto the streets supporting women in Iran demanding rights and accountability after the death of 22-year-Mahsa Amini. Amini had been arrested for improperly wearing the mandatory hijab or headscarf. She died in police custody. But the wife of Iran's President disputes that Amini was beaten.

I was in constant contact with all of the medical personnel involved in this case, she said. She was ill, she had pre-existing conditions. She was loved by all of us. I'm a mother myself. And I do understand that the value of girls and women as a whole.

Amini's family strongly disputes that was the cause of her death. And so, do those willing to risk their lives to support her. The reality is this. A government crackdown that was swift and brutal.

RADDATZ: You had more than 500 people, including 71 children killed by Iranian police officers or law enforcement or, or military during those protests.

RADDATZ (voice-over): This event has been a big lie, she said, disputing those UN figures. I do think that things can happen of that nature in any country naturally. However, in our country, they are turned into political projects. And those are due fundamentally because of the intentions of foreign governments who are keen to see other events occur in Iran said Alamolhoda, blaming the U.S.

RADDATZ: So no one was killed? No one was executed because of those protests? Is that what you're saying?

RADDATZ (voice-over): Many were killed, but in defending the Islamic Republic of Iran, she claims.

While women do continue to openly defy the hijab law, the protests ultimately brought no change. Iran’s parliament now clamping down, passing a law this week where women who violate it could face up to 10 years in prison.

The United Nations previously compared it to gender apartheid.

What do you think should happen to women who choose not to wear a hijab?

The issue of hijab is part of a bigger issue about dress code in general, she said. It is out of respect for women. It is natural in any country, you have dress codes everywhere, even here in university environments, in schools and everywhere else. And I need to tell you that hijab was a tradition, was a religiously mandated tradition, accepted widely. And now for years it has been turned into a law, she said. And breaking of the law, trampling upon any laws, just like in any country, comes with its own set of punishments.

I’ll ask again, what do you think the punishment should be? Because there are women who believe it is repressive, while they respect those who wear their hijab, they don’t want to be forced to wear the hijab. So, what do you think the punishment should be?

I do not specialize in law, she said. So I cannot answer you on a professional level, but punishments are equally dispensed to any breaking of the law throughout many countries.


RADDATZ (on camera): Again, the U.N. found more than 500 people were killed by Iranian forces during those protests under a regime that is known to imprison journalists and countless others under dubious charges. One of the five Americans released this week after eight years in prison called the Iranian government a dark and dastardly regime.

We'll be right back.


RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," and have a great day.