'This Week' Transcript 9-3-23: Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Kaine
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, September 3.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 3, 2023 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: “THIS WEEK” with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: Fall faceoff.
MIKE PENCE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am the best qualified, the best prepared, and the most tested conservative.
NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You saw us fight in the debate. We're just getting started.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As the frontrunner faces his fourth round of felony charges in five months.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What interferes with the primary process is Donald Trump's conduct.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The 2024 fight is in full swing with one challenger seizing the spotlight since the first debate.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't hold back. I hold campaigns predicated on not having a political filter.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This week, we interview Vivek Ramaswamy and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. Plus, all the week's politics with our powerhouse roundtable.
Painful remembrance. Two years since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
CHRISTY SHAMBLIN, MOTHER-IN-LAW OF MARINE SGT. NICOLE GEE: Wars can't be forever, but there was a better way to end this.
CORAL BRISENO, MOTHER OF MARINE CPL. HUMBERTO SANCHEZ: I was just so angry. They didn't take the right decisions and they did not help our kids to come back home.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha Raddatz speaks with family members of U.S. Marines who died in the August 26th Kabul Airport attack.
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER & COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: For voters under age 30, the environment is one of their top two or three issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: After a summer of extreme heat and dangerous weather, Ginger Zee digs into the roots of polarization over climate change science.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC news, it’s "THIS WEEK". Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome this "THIS WEEK".
There was a time when scandal, the whiff of scandal, or even a simple gaffe was the kiss of death for a presidential candidacy. To say that it’s not our time is a pretty dramatic understatement. Donald Trump has been charged with 91 felonies in four jurisdictions, facing civil suits too, after two separate impeachments.
But a new poll this weekend in "The Wall Street Journal" shows him increasing his lead over the Republican field, drawing support from 59 percent of GOP voters. Looking ahead to the general election. he's locked in a dead heat with Joe Biden.
Today we want to take a look at why this is happening, what it means for our democracy. And we begin with a Republican candidate who is both a challenger to and a supplicant of Donald Trump. Vivek Ramaswamy has called Trump the greatest president of the 21st century, promised to support him in the general election, even if Trump is convicted of felonies. If Ramaswamy prevails, he promises to pardon Trump. We'll speak with him live after this report from Rachel Scott.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eight years after Donald Trump's march to the Republican nomination --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's give it up for Vivek Ramaswamy.
SCOTT: Another outsider is making waves in the GOP. Thirty-eight-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy is the first millennial Republican presidential candidate.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do need somebody of a different generation to lead this nation forward.
SCOTT: With no political experience, he's calling for generational change, doubling down on Trump's most extreme policies.
RAMASWAMY: The truth is, I'm going further than Trump did.
SCOTT: The former president even starting to take note.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he's got a lot of talent. He's a little bit -- getting a little bit controversial. I got – so I'm going to be a little bit careful.
SCOTT: Ramaswamy wants to end affirmative action.
RAMASWAMY: That you get ahead in this country, not on the color of your skin.
SCOTT: And stop U.S. support for Ukraine.
RAMASWAMY: Make a hard commitment that NATO should never admit Ukraine.
SCOTT: His poll numbers propelling him to center stage and into his rivals' crosshairs.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT.
MIKE PENCE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need to bring in a rookie.
NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows.
RAMASWAMY: And you know what –
(CROSSTALK) HALEY: It shows. RAMASWAMY: -- the foreign policy –
SCOTT: But his performance is making an impression.
AMY LEWARNE, VOTER: Strong, youthful leadership.
SCOTT: And while Trump remains the front-runner, even he's fueling buzz for the rival half his age.
GLENN BECK, FOUNDER, “THE BLAZE”: Have you thought of vice president Ramaswamy?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think he's great. He's got good energy. And he – he could be in some form of something.
SCOTT: For THIS WEEK, Rachel Scott, ABC News, Washington.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Rachel for that.
Vivek Ramaswamy joins us now.
Mr. Ramaswamy, thank you for joining us this morning.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your hand shot up pretty fast at the debate when you were asked whether you would vote for Donald Trump in the general election even if he was a convicted felon. Can you just explain why you would vote for a convicted felon for president?
RAMASWAMY: Well, look, I expect to be the next nominee, and that's why I'm running for president. But I also intend to keep the pledge that I made. I take those things seriously.
And the reality is, the way we do things in the United States, George, is that the people of this country decide who runs the country pursuant to the rules laid out in our constitutional republic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I –
RAMASWAMY: So, if the Constitution permits somebody to run, and that's the person that people of this country want to elect, then that's the way our system works, and I stand by it. But I'm in this race because I expect to be that nominee and to lead our country forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I'm asking you why you – I'm asking you why you made the promise. Why do you think it's OK for a convicted felon to be president?
RAMASWAMY: So, look, I think that many of these prosecutions against Donald Trump are outright, downright politicized persecutions through prosecution that set an awful precedent for our country. I do not want to see us become a banana republic where the administrative police state uses police force to eliminate opponents from competition. That's not the way it works.
I will pick who I believe the best next president should be. I'm in this race because I believe I can lead us forward and reunite this country. But if it's not me as the nominee, I still expect that Donald Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be better than the alternative. And I care about what actually moves this nation forward. That's why I’m in this race.
But George, frankly, I’m not interested in this talking about who else I’m going to vote for. I expect to vote for myself, both in the primary and the general election, and focus on how we actually reignite the American spirit and revive our national identity.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You may –
RAMASWAMY: That’s why I'm in this race.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You may not be interested in it, but right now Donald Trump is the frontrunner by a very wide margin over you and all the other Republican candidates.
Two of the four sets of felony convictions are around the president’s actions around January 6th, leading up to January 6th and beyond as well.
Back in January of 2021, you described President Trump's actions then as abhorrent. What exactly did you find abhorrent about his actions around January 6th?
RAMASWAMY: So, look, I – that was response to a "Wall Street Journal" piece that I wrote days after January 6th where I said that systematic censorship was the true cause of what happened that day.
But that being said, I think the job of a true leader is to reunite this country. I would have handled that situation very differently than Trump did. But I do draw a distinction, George, between bad behavior and illegal behavior. And once we start conflating those two things, I think we're in a long, downward slide as a country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it wrong –
RAMASWAMY: So I'm in this because I think our nation badly needs to be reunited, but that does not mean he deserves to be prosecuted for it. Those are two separate questions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, was it wrong for the president to create slates of phony electors?
RAMASWAMY: I think there were a number of bad judgments that were made. Frankly, if I were the U.S. president, I would have never let it get to that place. We had systematic suppression of information. We had systematic Covid mandates, which I think actually created a lot of the frustration that led up to January 6th that was pent up. Two different standards of law for people who were part of BLM or Antifa or otherwise. A Hunter Biden laptop story that was suppressed on the eve of an election. So, if I were the U.S. president, I would have never let it get to that place.
But the important part of the story is, at the end of the day, I’m in this race because I’m actually going to lead this country to reunite us.
That being said, I do not believe that Donald Trump should be prosecuted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you don’t – you didn’t answer my question. You –
RAMASWAMY: I think these prosecutions are wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn't answer my question. Was it wrong to create slates of phony electors?
RAMASWAMY: I would not have. I – the answer to your question is, no, I would not have nominated phony slates of electors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it wrong to encourage the mob to – to storm the Capitol?
RAMASWAMY: I disagree with that characterization because I've read the transcript very carefully. Peaceful protest is what Donald Trump encouraged. Is that what I would have done that day under those circumstances? No. But I do think that that’s different from a crime.
And so I disagree with a lot of what he did that day. I said so at the time. I say to today, George. I haven’t wavered on that. But that is still different for saying that he should be prosecuted for it, which I think sets a dangerous precedent o first amendment infringements in this country and sets a dangerous precedent for eliminating political opponents in the midst of an election. That's not where I want to see our country go. I think I’ve been crystal clear about that.
But what I do care about is, we spent a lot of time talking about the Trump family. I want to talk about American families. Where do we lead this country? What are we actually running to? How do we shut down the administrative state that is the source of that illegal prosecution against Trump? That's what I’m focused on is, how we get rid of that unconstitutional fourth branch of government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You call it an illegal –
RAMASWAMY: And I think I will be able to do that more effectively than any other candidate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You call it an – you call it an illegal prosecution. There's no evidence it’s an illegal prosecution at this point. It’s all in the courts.
The president has also been indicted for take –
RAMASWAMY: I view it as unconstitutional. And I've laid out my reasons why in "Wall Street Journal" op-eds and otherwise.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Keeping classified information, refusing – refusing – refusing – but let me –
RAMASWAMY: It’s unconstitutional.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Refusing to turn over – refusing to turn over classified information after he was met with a subpoena, moving that information, sharing it with others. You find nothing wrong with that behavior?
RAMASWAMY: Again, George, I'll come back to a simple theme, and I hope I can make this clear for you, there’s a difference between a bad judgment and a crime. The Presidential Records Act was nowhere mentioned in that 49-page indictment in the documents case. I think the Espionage Act, under which Trump was charged, is the most un-American statute in our history. I've laid out exactly why in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed and otherwise.
So, no, would I have done the same thing and held onto those documents? No, I would not have. Do I think it's an illegal behavior under the Presidential Records Act and other statutes? No, I do not.
But I think we continue to set a dangerous precedent. I do not want to see us march to some kind of national divorce, and I am worried, George, that day by day, we're inching in a dark direction for this country. I don't want to see another day like January 6th in this country, but I think the way we're going to get there is by moving this nation forward not by engaging in pros -- vengeance-driven prosecution to eliminate one man from running, becoming some sort of banana republic.
That is not how we should do things in the United States of America, and I say this as somebody who was in some of these recent national polls, polling second. It would be easier for me if Donald Trump were eliminated from competition. That is why it's particularly important for me to state with clarity that on principle, I’m still against seeing him eliminated that way, and that's why I have been so vocal about this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You find his actions abhorrent around January 6th. You said he was wrong to take the classified information. You said you would not do that yourself. But you still say you would vote for him for president. That's what I don't get.
RAMASWAMY: George, I said what every Republican nominee said to make it on that debate stage that we will actually support the Republican nominee from our party. Frankly, I think that this is an embodiment of what's wrong with our culture right now. Looking backwards, obsessing over details in the past, going after one man, a deranged mental cultural state in the media in this country as opposed to talking about what we need to talk about, how to better declare independence from China than any past president has (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: That man is defeating --
RAMASWAMY: -- how we actually restore the integrity of a constitutional republic --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That man is leading you by -- sir --
RAMASWAMY: Stimulate our economy, that's what I care about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sir, that man is the front-runner for the Republican nomination right now. He's a former president of the United States. He's leading you by 40 points. Yet you still say you would vote for him despite what you say about his behavior.
That's the question I am asking. It's not an obsession. He is the frontrunner in that right now.
RAMASWAMY: Just as I expect him to vote for me when I’m the nominee.
Well, look, George, I think the way elections work in the United States of America is that the people in a political party get to choose their nominee, and then the people from the general election get to choose their president. The fact that that's a foreign idea shows how badly our political culture has decayed in this country. That's an obvious statement of how our constitutional republic works.
Now, I’m in this race to be that nominee, and I think our republic would be better served if we debated who exactly in the Republican Party and who exactly in the general election was best positioned to reignite our economy, to reunite our country, to declare independence from our adversaries.
I’ve offered unprecedented clarity on how I would go further than Trump in advancing that America first agenda in a way that brings all Americans together. And unlike many in the media, I’m not rooting for division by using a trial or four trials about one man to make that a basis for a referendum on an election.
No. What I’ve said is clear. If Donald Trump's the nominee -- yes, I will support him, and if I’m the president, yes, I will pardon him because that will help reunite the country.
But it's not the most important thing I’m going to do as the next president. It is the table stakes for moving this country forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, your bottom line is that you would vote for a convicted felon because other people are voting for a convicted felon?
RAMASWAMY: My bottom line, George, is that I will vote for the person who I think is best positioned to move this country forward. I do not think that's Joe Biden. I do not think that is whichever other puppet, Kamala Harris or anybody else, that they roll out after Joe Biden.
And if I’m expecting and deciding between the nominee -- even though I disagree with many of my rivals in the Republican Party on a lot of issues, I think any of them will be better than Joe Biden or Kamala Harris to move this nation forward.
And that is my arbitrator when I cast my vote for who the next president is -- who's going to serve the interests of the American people? That's not some sort of commitment driven by vengeance or grievance. It is driven by a commitment to our purpose as citizens of this country.
And that's what we need to revive in the United States, our civic spirit, remembering that even the America first movement is bigger than Donald Trump. It is bigger than me. It is bigger than one political candidate.
It belongs to the people of this country, the people of this country who thankfully still get to decide who their next president actually is. I want to keep it that way rather than getting a federal police state as the new arbitrator of who governs this country, and I stand by that without apology.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vivek Ramaswamy, thanks very much for your time this morning.
RAMASWAMY: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia.
Senator Kaine, thank you for joining us this morning.
I just wanted to start off by getting your response to Mr. Ramaswamy, and the other candidates -- most other candidates on that Republican stage all committed to vote for Donald Trump even if he is convicted in one of these felony trials.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Well, George, what I just heard was the complete lack of a moral compass. If you are unwilling to say that the behavior of Donald Trump trying to overturn the peaceful transfer of power is a disqualifier. If you pledged despite that to vote for him, if you pledged despite that to pardon him should you be elected, it shows that you don't have the moral compass that you need to be the leader of the greatest nation in the world. And, sadly, Mr. Ramaswamy is not alone in lacking the compass. I think that was displayed pretty patently by many of the GOP candidates on the debate stage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned whether that behavior is disqualified. As you know, there’s a movement right now sparked in part by this law review article by two conservative law professors suggesting that President Trump should be disqualified under Section Three of the 14th Amendment which bars anyone from office who participated in insurrection or gave aid and comfort to enemies of the Constitution from being on the ballot. You’ve got several secretaries of state now looking at the possibility of – of moving to disqualify Mr. Trump under that provision.
Do you believe that the president is disqualified under the 14th Amendment?
KAINE: I – I discussed this with colleagues at the time of the second impeachment, George. I thought actually it might have been a more productive way to go than the second impeachment to – to do a declaration under that section of the 14th Amendment. The language is specific. If you give aid and comfort to those who engage in an insurrection against the Constitution of the United States, it doesn't – it doesn’t say against the United States. It says against the Constitution. In my view, the attack on the Capitol that day was designed for particular purpose at a particular moment, and that was to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power as is laid out in the Constitution.
So, I think there is a powerful argument to be made. My – my sense is it's probably going to get resolved in the courts. But, you know, I think what we have to focus on, on our side is – is, we've just got to win in 2024. We’ve got to make sure that we have a great election in Virginia in 2023. Our state legislature is up, all 140. That will impact my state dramatically. The president and the DNC are investing heavily in Virginia, which is great, and that will then send a message about 2024.
So, I'll let the lawyers worry about the 14th Amendment. My colleagues and I, our focus is on winning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that -- that election right now, as we just showed at the top of this program, according to the latest "Wall Street Journal" poll, a dead heat between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
How do you explain that?
KAINE: Well, look, here – here’s how I explain it. I think the years of Covid from March of 2020 through the end of the public health emergency have been brutal on Americans, have been so painful. More than a million dead, jobs lost, people couldn't visit a new grandchild, people couldn't go to the funeral of a friend. And I think there is a collective trauma that still is kind of working its way through the system. And as I travel around Virginia, George, I talk to a lot of people who feel pretty good about their circumstance, how their business is doing. But they're nervous about, well, what will it be like in two or three months? I think they're a little bit nervous to let their hopes get up after such a challenging time.
But as I look at what the Biden administration, working with Congress, has been able to do, delivering on infrastructure, delivering on clean energy, record job growth. Manufacturing is back in the United States. And I have every reason to believe we're going to continue to be able to celebrate those accomplishments.
So, on our side you’re going to see an accomplishment momentum building and building and building. And on the other side you're going to be reading what is the latest news about Donald Trump's criminal trials.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But – but given – given that, given all these potential criminal trials coming up at this time, does it say something also about President Biden -- concerns about President Biden, whether it's his age, or his health, or his policies?
KAINE: Well, again, I just look at it as, we've come through an unprecedented time. I'm 65 years old. The – the experience during Covid that – that I had and – and I wasn't affected as directly as so many were, it was just unparalleled in my life. And I just think that a human psychology and an individual's life can also be a national psychology, which is, we're still climbing a ladder out of a very, very dark chapter. Joe Biden is building that ladder, trying to reorient our economy so that we don't focus on just folks at the top, but we build an economy that works bottom up, middle out.
I think a lot of the evidence is pointing in a good direction. We have to do, as Democrats, something that we don't do so well, which is go out and sell. Sell the accomplishments. Sell the infrastructure project. Sell the growth in manufacturing jobs. And if we do that, I think Joe Biden is going to get re-elected.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kaine, thanks for your time this morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable’s up next. And, later, Martha Raddatz interviews family members of U.S. Marines lost in the Kabul bombing during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
We'll be right back.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: What are my thoughts about what?
QUESTION: Running for re-election in 2026.
MCCONNELL: ... that's...
PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: It's not at all unusual to have the response that sometimes happens to Mitch when you've had a severe concussion. And so I'm confident he's going to be back to his old self.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another tough moment there for Mitch McConnell this week, leading to questions about how long he can remain as Republican leader in the Senate. One of the things we're going to talk about on our roundtable, joined by Donna Brazile; the Manhattan Institute president and Atlantic contributing writer Reihan Salam; Politico's national investigative correspondent Heidi Przybyla; and the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, Susan Page.
And, Donna, let's begin with the presidential race, and I want to ask you the question I asked Tim Kaine towards the end there. It -- it is, kind of, shocking in a way that, despite all of the baggage that Donald Trump carries, he's tied with Joe Biden right now.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. I mean, George, when I looked at that recent poll, the Wall Street Journal, I said, "Oh, this could keep me up at night."
Look, the problem is, and the biggest challenge we face as Democrats -- I say "we" because I'm a Democrat -- is that young voters, young black and Latino voters, they're not ready to come back to the party. They're not even looking at the so-called messaging that's being sent to them about the economy, about climate change, about student debt relief. They are worried about their future.
And right now, they're looking for a leader who represents their values and their vision. And I think the president's campaign is going to have to really, you know, go deep and go hard to motivate those voters to come back within the Democratic Party coalition. Because, without them, it is a tight race, and it's going to come down to four states.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Susan Page, with every passing month, with every new indictment, Donald Trump seems to be consolidating his control over the Republican Party.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: This Wall Street Journal poll, after 91 criminal counts against the president, which only strengthened his position, so I don't know why we think that a conviction on one of these counts or more would fundamentally change the fact that Trump supporters have baked into the cake the fact that he has these legal troubles.
You know, in the Wall Street Journal poll, if you added the third party candidates, Trump leads narrowly over Biden. That is the situation we find at this point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And maybe it won't change anything, Reihan Salam, but Republicans almost unanimously now, on that stage several days ago, would vote for a convicted felon. Did you ever think you'd see the day?
REIHAN SALAM, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE PRESIDENT & THE ATLANTIC CONTRIBUTING WRITER: Well, the truth is that we are in a very polarized moment. And when you're looking at the Republican Party, it is strikingly unified. If you look at the most conservative voters in the party, they back the former president disproportionately. If you look at more moderate voters, female Republican primary voters, he just really has a lock on both wings of the party, so to speak, and that's something that any rival has to appreciate and respect.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what does the rival do, though? Do they -- right now, it seems most of them are treating the former president with kid gloves. At some point, is one of the rivals going to have to go after him directly?
SALAM: Well, it looks as though his rivals are hoping that he's somehow taken off the board. They're relying on some intervention, perhaps the prospect of the lawsuits proving so burdensome that he decides to step aside. There doesn’t appear to be anyone who wants to frontally attack him with the exception of Governor Christie.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess, at least, other question, Heidi, how is this legal system, process going to play out, and will any of these trials actually come to trial before the voters have basically made up their mind, at least on the Republican side?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, POLITICO NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: They may well, but if you dig into that "Wall Street Journal" poll, you find that 78 percent of Republican voters say that he was justified to try to turn over the election. So, it's not going to necessarily matter even if he is convicted and there's nothing in the Constitution that says even if he's convicted and goes to jail, that he can't run a campaign from a jail cell under the worst circumstances.
So, yes, it does look like this is -- we're not in 2016 anymore. We are seeing these mini boomlets like in 2016 of other Republican challengers --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But nobody’s gotten really above 20 percent.
PRZYBYLA: But they're tiny. They’re tiny. It's, like, 30 percent spread between those candidates and between Trump, and you don't see anything in the underlying Democratic -- in the crosstabs to show that this is going to change any time soon, and that there's nothing that could come out of a conviction that would potentially change it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan Page, one of the hopes some of the other Republican candidates is that Donald Trump is at least in some respect somewhat -- has somewhat softer support in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yeah, and that’s -- that's the formula for defeating him or at least shaking things up in a Republican way. Somebody else win Iowa, somebody else win New Hampshire prompt voters -- Republican voters to look at some of the -- are there other options?
But his lead -- you know, his lead is somewhat less in Iowa and New Hampshire. It's still double-digits. It is still pretty formidable.
Democrats do have two hopes I think. One is the economy is doing pretty well. Inflation has come down. Maybe that starts to sink in with voters.
And the other is the issue of abortion that has been so powerful in the midterm elections and could prove to be that again with those suburban swing women voters who are --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's the question, Donna Brazile. What happens when it comes to a general election? We did -- there is a pattern in the last couple of elections where the Democrats are winning the close races.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Because I think the Democrats understand that, you know, you can beat the superficial which is what we're seeing on the Republican side with substance, and the substance to policies, the practices of the Biden/Harris administration, improving people's lives.
Look, this past week, this movement to reduce prescription drug prices, that's going to help Democrats.
But I have to say something because, George, I’m old enough to say this. I’ve seen two movements outside of the social justice movements in my life on the political side.
One was the Reagan movement. Reagan had a hold on his base. The country at large, they saw him as someone who was willing to stand up for American values, whatever that might have meant. Now I thought it was reactionary.
The other movement I saw was Barack Obama, hope and change. That galvanized the American people.
I’ve never seen anything like this with Donald Trump. I mean, what doesn't kill you make you stronger? I mean, being convict -- I mean, being indicted, that's making him stronger? Raising $10 million using an ugly mug shot to raise money? This is a movement.
And anyone who thinks that you can apply the old political rules to try to defeat this candidate based on he's scary, he's ugly, whatever you might want to call him, this is a movement. And we have to respect the fact that it's a movement.
SALAM: I’ll also just note that he's been incredibly shrewd and discipline when he’s focused on the political. This week, for example, he was trying to appeal to UAW members to talk about, for example, this effort to transition away from combustion engine vehicles.
Now, that might not sound like a very wonky thing, but that's what he's very focused on and discipline about when he’s campaigning. And I think for a lot of people, they feel like the talk about litigation -- you know, these various charges, they consider that noise that is baked in, and when he's focused on the issues, he speaks in a very accessible way that could be meaningful in a general election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is possible, and I want to bring this both Heidi and you, Reihan, though.
Donna brings up Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, hope and change, optimistic candidates. There's a fundamental difference between those candidacies and 90 percent of Donald Trump's message which is focused on the past and prosecuting his opponents.
SALAM: Right. Well, you're looking at a candidate who has galvanized people who are suspicious of authority. They're suspicious of what they see as the establishment.
So, actually, the fact that so many folks look aghast on this, including many traditional Republicans is something that is actually reinforcing this kind of support. You see systematic shift in where voters who are more suspicious, less trusting, where they're giving their support, and it's to Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess the question is, what does it mean for those voters who don't generally engage until the end of a campaign and have at least in the past elections were turned off by Donald Trump's behavior?
PRZYBYLA: Well, you know, well, first of all, I think that it is not necessarily these messages that he may be micro targeting to groups like union members, given that when we saw the poll numbers move on Trump, previously, prior to that, we thought, well, maybe there's going to be a DeSantis candidacy. DeSantis is the future, the Murdochs proclaimed.
But when the Bragg indictment came out, that was when Donald Trump really started to consolidate and became clear, no, this is, this is not going to happen. For the people who aren't paying attention, yes, there's about 8% in those polls that are not paying attention. I did talk to a number of Democrats last night who are close to the White House when I saw those poll numbers. And I said, hey, that's a little frustrating, a little bit of anxiety there for you maybe, and they said, no, look, this is about where Obama's numbers were, during his reelect.
We don't have a primary going on, on our side. You got all these indictments, all the attention on the Republican side to Donna's point, yes, they're really concerned about young minority voters. But they are going forward with a very aggressive campaign to try and target some of those groups.
And they think that they also have another potential advantage, which is that guess what the news might be when we all come back, or when Congress comes back, they're going to try and impeach Joe Biden, based on charges that don't exist in evidence that doesn't exist. And I think that that will just redound to there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I was going to ask Susan Page about that it does appear the Speaker McCarthy is under tremendous pressure to start an impeachment inquiry, even risking government shutdown, possibly in September over that issue.
PAGE: Or holding out the prospect of impeachment in order to avoid a government shutdown. I mean, I think it's a strategy on his part to try to get this hard right wing of his party to support just a continuing resolution for a couple of months on government spending by saying yes, we'll move ahead with an impeachment inquiry and trying to make this distinction, which I don't think exists between doing an impeachment inquiry and doing an impeachment you are, it's like you're pregnant, or you're not, you're impeaching the president, or you're not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I think maybe the Republicans are freezing the history under Bill Clinton when he was impeached, and they lost seats in the –
BRAZILE: Oh, it backfired. I was, I was involved in that campaign. And Republicans, I mean, Newt Gingrich was already, you know, measuring the drapes and getting new carpet and he came within five seats of not taking back the House. They are going to overreach, there's no evidence, there's nothing that Joe Biden did anything wrong. And what they're looking for is something to thread the needle, and there's no dots to connect.
Look, I think Kevin McCarthy is going to be facing -- facing the reality, not just with our military and Senator Tuberville holding up key nominations, but also the fact that President Biden is requesting additional funds to help provide relief to the people who are suffering through some of the climate crisis we're facing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can Kevin McCarthy thread this needle?
SALAM: Oh, yes, when one of the reasons he can thread the needle is because when you're looking at the politics of it, leaving aside the kind of content of the investigation is that over 50% of Democrats do not want Joe Biden to be the party's nominee come 2024. That's pretty concerning. And part of it is exhaustion with these investigations in the sense that actually something has gone wrong. You have seen a shift among many Democrats before there was a sense that there was absolutely nothing to see here.
And now people are being more circumspect. There do appear to be some issues that are legitimate that merits some investigation. And, you know, there may well be a situation in which Joe Biden is so compromised, that race –
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- there’s still no evidence that Joe Biden was personally involved in anything having to do that taking any kind of money. So, which –
SALAM: There’s an active investigation among Republicans in the House, and not all of the information --
BRAZILE: It's been five years.
SALAM: -- that's been disclosed.
BRAZILE: Five years the Justice Department --
SALAM: You may well be right.
SALAM: And you may well be vindicated. But I will say is that there are many Democrats, including over half of Democratic voters who have serious misgivings about the incumbent president. So, we'll see--
BRAZILE: You know, Democrats --
SALAM: -- how that unfolds.
BRAZILE: -- always like a shiny, new object, but right now we're going to stick with the one who has the experience and who has delivered for the American people.
SALAM: And that's absolutely the right --
BRAZILE: That's the other 50%.
SALAM: -- of the minority of Democrats are enthusiastic about reinaugurating the president --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask Heidi, is Mitch McConnell -- we only have about 30 seconds left -- going to be able to continue as leader?
PRZYBYLA: Oh, yes. Look, when he was out for two months, the three Johns, Barrasso, Thune, and Cornyn, they were running the show, and they still are, I'm told, according to Republicans that I talk to. And so, unless something more catastrophic happens. Look, they like the man. He's -- he's going to be able to just stand up there and do the news conferences. They're running the show anyway.
So, unless something more serious happens right now, I see no reason for that to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all for -- great, great discussion.
We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, the gold star families demanding accountability two years after the Kabul airport attack.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The lives we lost today were lives given in the service of liberty, the service of security, and the service of others. In the service of America. Like their fellow brothers and sisters in arms who have died defending our vision and our values in the struggle against terrorism, the fallen this day are part of a great and noble company of American heroes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was President Biden two years ago speaking after a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. servicemembers outside of the Kabul airport during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Martha Raddatz sat down with three of the fallen marines' family members.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: It was the only way out for Afghan civilians, Abbey Gate, Kabul Airport, August 2021. Tens of thousands of Afghans swarming the gate, desperate to escape Taliban rule, 6,000 U.S. troops dispatched to aid in the evacuations. Twenty-three-year-old Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole Gee was among them.
CHRISTY SHAMBLIN, MOTHER-IN-LAW OF MARINE CORPS SGT. NICOLE GEE: She shared with me that she had never seen people so desperate. And I think, once she saw that, she was just going to give 100 percent to help them be rescued.
RADDATZ: Nicole posting this image with an Afghan child less than a week before her death, with the caption, "I love my job."
SHAMBLIN: And that's exactly, I feel like, how everybody there felt. They loved what they were doing,and they were so proud.
RADDATZ: Thirty-one-year-old staff sergeant Taylor Hoover certainly loved his. He was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.
KELLY BARNETT, MOTHER OF MARINE CORPS STAFF SGT. DARIN "TAYLOR" HOOVER: I have heard from many of his friends, his men, that had said that, when it was time for them to take a break, he didn't want to. He wanted to stay out there and continue to bring people in.
RADDATZ: And 22-year-old Humberto Sanchez, known as Bert, who would join the Marine Corps at 17 with permission from his mother, Coral.
CORAL BRISENO, MOTHER OF MARINE CORPS CPL. HUMBERTO SANCHEZ: One day he just showed up and said, "I want you to go and sign up because I enlist in the Marines."
And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because I want to be the best of the best, and I want to make you proud."
RADDATZ: These marines just three of the 13 U.S. servicemembers and more than 170 Afghans killed outside Abbey Gate on August 26th when a suicide bomber exploded in the crowd.
Christy Shamblin was on vacation with Nicole's husband, her son Jared, also a marine.
SHAMBLIN: As soon as we saw the news that 13 servicemembers had been killed, he -- he said to me, "Mom, I have a very bad feeling," And we stayed up that whole night waiting for our phone call that we -- we knew was coming. As -- you know, as time wore on and we didn't hear from her, my son knew. I was, I think, in shock or denial.
RADDATZ: Like Nicole's relatives, Taylor Hoover's, too, were gripped by fear.
BARNETT: I kept texting him, "Are you OK? Are you good?" I had a horrible feeling. I had a three -- a three-hour drive back to my house. That whole drive home I was sobbing. I knew something was wrong. I could feel it. I got home around 7:00 p.m. The doorbell rang. I -- we don't -- nobody's allowed to use that doorbell anymore. And I looked at my son-in-law and we both just dropped before we even looked at the door. We knew. I don't remember much more from that night, but I remember that moment.
RADDATZ: What do you remember, Coral?
BRISENO: Well, I went to sleep, but I cannot sleep. I was awake. And at 1:42, I hear my phone vibrating under my pillow. I didn't want to answer. It rings again. I wake up my husband, and I said, "They are calling again from California." And he said, "You have to answer that call." I'm, like, "I'm not. You are going to have to answer." And he's, like, "Get up and answer the phone."
And I give them my address and they said, "We're going to be there in a few minutes." So as soon as I went downstairs, I still have that -- that hope that they were going to say, "Your son got wounded and we have to take you somewhere." When I looked out the window, I just saw my husband and I said, "Please tell me that they are not full dress." And then he just shake his head.
RADDATZ: Days later, the remains of all 13 servicemembers would arrive at Dover Air Base, greeted by President Biden. But these families say he offered little comfort.
SHAMBLIN: The administration didn't seem to know our story. They didn't seem to know Nicole's name, our names. People from the military certainly knew our story, Nicole's name, our names, and that was expressed to us in a way that felt very genuine and loving. But when it came to the people in suits, it felt very disingenuous and hollow.
BRISENO: First, he called me Ms. Lopez and I was not Mrs. Lopez, and he just talked about his son and said how much he knows, or he understand how that we feel because he lost his kid, and he didn't feel -- he didn't know how we feel because he was there with his son when he passed. We didn't have that privilege. We received our kids in a casket. I just feel so disrespectful by that man because it was all about him.
BARNETT: We had decided as a family that we would not meet with the president. So, we were actually in a room on the side. We had decided because strong opinions and then out on the tarmac made it even worse. The disrespect that we were shown with him checking his watch, not even looking at us, it was just total disrespect.
RADDATZ: Someone screamed at President Biden, "Burn in hell."
BARNETT: That was my daughter, yes. And she meant it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ (voice-over): In response, Spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement, the White House understands these Gold Star families are still grieving and suffering, and that little can be done to ease their pain. We do hope they know how deeply committed the president and first lady remain to honoring the service and sacrifice of their marines, their soldier, and their sailor.
While the pain will always be there for these families, they hope more than anything that changes will be made so the chaos of the withdrawal will never happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAMBLIN: That's all I can really hope for, you know? So that we don't have another addition to our Gold Star family. We don't -- we love each other very much, but we don't want anymore.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Martha and those families.
Coming up, after some extreme weather across the country, a closer look at the roots of polarization over climate change. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you believe in human behavior is causing climate change? Raise your hand if you do.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not school children. Let's have the debates.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The climate change is a hoax.
NIKKI HALEY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is this climate change real? Yes, it is. But if you want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Part of the discussion climate change at the first Republican primary debate, Ginge Zee now reports and how rhetoric around climate change science became so polarizing, and what it means for the 2024 race.
GINGER ZEE, ABC NEWS CHIEF METEORGOLOGIST (voice-over): It's often seen as one of the most divisive issues in American politics.
RAMASWAMY: Drill, frack, burn coal and brace nuclear.
ZEE (voice-over): Even though scientists have been warning for years that human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels is warming our planet.
JAMES HANSEN, FMR NASA CLIMATE SCIENTIST: So, with 99% confidence, we can state that the warming during this time period is a real warming trend.
ZEE (voice-over): Science also shows that those emissions are amplifying natural events like longer, more intense heat waves.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about all-time records being smashed.
ZEE (voice-over): Prolonged drought, and increasingly intense hurricanes,
GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA GODDARD INSTITUTEE FOR SPACE STUDIES, DIRECTOR: We're seeing things happen, and change that are clearly unprecedented, and many millennia. It's because of what we've been doing to the atmosphere, it's because of the burning of fossil fuels, and the increases in greenhouse gases.
ZEE (voice-over): Still, Republicans and Democrats disagree on the scientific consensus.
In 2023, 88% of Democrats attribute rising temperatures to human activities, compared to 66% of independents, and only three in 10 Republicans. But climate change hasn't always been partisan. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush went to Rio de Janeiro to support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a major step toward international cooperation.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Our commitment to action did not begin and will not end with Rio.
NAOMI ORESKES, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, PROFESSOR: And it's in that period after Rio, I would say between about 1992 and 1995, that we begin to see a political division, where liberals and Democrats say yes, this is a problem we need to act on. But conservatives and Republicans begin to say, well, I don't know the science isn't settled.
ZEE (voice-over): Meanwhile, talk radio host like the late Rush Limbaugh waged attacks on climate science.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, FMR RADIO HOST: I can produce as many scientists who say that there is not global warming as they can produce scientists who say there is.
ZEE (voice-over): As awareness of global warming grew, the issue began to take center stage in presidential politics.
AL GORE (D) 2000 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that in this 21st century, we will soon see the consequences of what's called global warming.
GEORGE W. BUSH (R) 2000 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Global warming needs to be taken very seriously. And I take it seriously. But science, there's a lot of -- there's differing opinions.
ORESKES: George W. is a complicated figure, because like his father, he on the campaign trail expressed his commitment to doing something about climate change. But once in office, went the other way.
ZEE (voice-over): Frank Luntz advised Republicans that climate change was not a winning issue for the party in the early 2000s. And suggested back then, in a memo that they quote, continued to make the lack of scientific certainty, a primary issue. He now says that Republicans need to move on.
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: And if I were looking the Republican straight in the eye right now, I would say, stop following these ideas, and start legislating.
ZEE (voice-over): In 2006, the film An Inconvenient Truth made shockwaves adding to public concern and polarization.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're getting great reviews, good box-office so far. What exactly do you hope to achieve with it?
GORE: I hope to get the message about the climate crisis to more people in a shorter period of time. I've been trying to tell this story for 30 years. And the debate in the science community is over.
ORESKES: And so, we see in the 2000s and 2010s, the Republican Party becoming more aggressively anti-scientific.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is global warming is a fact? And -- is it human activity that is causing global warming?
DICK CHENEY (R) FMR VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: And those are the two key questions. I think there's a -- an emerging consensus that we do have global warming. I mean, you can look at the data in that and I think clearly, we're in a period of warming. Where there does not appear to be a consensus, or begins to break down as the extent to which as part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man.
ZEE (voice-over): As the Republican Party dug in, the Obama Administration cemented climate change as a key part of its legacy, signing the U.S. onto the Global Paris Climate Agreement.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world.
ZEE (voice-over): That same year, Republicans sending a very different message.
JIM INHOFE, (R) FORMER SENATOR OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. I ask the Chair, you know what this is? It is a snowball. It's very, very cold out.
ZEE (voice-over): When Former President Trump was elected, he made a point to undo Obama-era climate policies.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
ZEE (voice-over): Even when the U.S. released a major climate report in 2018, Trump cast doubt on its findings and a subsequent push for action led to more gridlock.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: This is such a major watershed moment.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: This is a government power grab.
ZEE (voice-over): Now, a new generation of Republicans are trying to gain momentum, arguing that the party can no longer be associated with climate denial.
BENJI BACKER, FOUNDER, AMERICAN CONSERVATION COALITION: Our planet needs a pro-environmental agenda from Republicans. If we don't get that, we're going to fall behind as a party, and we are going to fall behind as a country.
ZEE (voice-over): Lund says the current polarized political environment and lack of trust makes consensus on the issue a major challenge.
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER & COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Make no mistake. For voters under age 30, the environment is one of their top two or three issues. It may not matter to some in their 60s and 70s, but it absolutely matters to that first and second-time voter, and that's where Democrats have the advantage.
ZEE (voice-over): As President Biden continues to emphasize his environmental priorities, the 2024 campaign will be key in shaping the climate conversation. For "This Week," Ginger Zee, ABC News, New York.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Ginger Zee. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."