‘This Week’ Transcript: Reince Priebus and Sen. Jeff Sessions

This is a rush transcript for "This Week" on May 15, 2016

ByABC News
May 15, 2016, 9:27 AM

— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' ON May 15, 2016 and it will be updated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Starting right now on THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos, Trump under fire. Questions on taxes.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's none of your business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How he treats women. And, with his credibility on the line, his party at a crossroads...

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Are you endorsing Donald Trump?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't want us to have a fake unification process here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Trump ready for the road ahead?

TRUMP: It will be a little process, but it will come along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus weighs in live.

Plus, battle lines...

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The danger is far from over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exclusive, in-depth with the American soldiers taking on ISIS -- Americans, Iraqis fighting together.

But are the politics back home driving them apart?

Martha Raddatz on the front lines, asking, are we close to defeating the enemy?

From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK.

Reporting from Baghdad, co-anchor, Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning to you from Iraq, where the fight against ISIS terrorists is intensifying. An enemy, a threat to our nation that voters see as one of the most important challenges our next president will surely inherit.

With a growing number of U.S. forces, nearly 5,000 U.S. troops on the ground right now in Iraq and several hundred headed to Syria, the decisions our next commander-in-chief will make about this fight will have life or death consequences.

We have seen the battle from the air, but this week, for the first time, we saw those American ground forces up close as they helped the Iraqis push back ISIS.

It is a battle that continues to claim American lives, the latest a Navy SEAL just two

. And here in Baghdad, the deadliest week in months, with half a dozen bombings and shootings, a sign that the terrorist threat is evolving yet again.

We will have exclusive interviews with American soldiers and Marines scattered across this war-torn country and a one-on-one with the U.S. commander of all ground forces here.

It is one of many important issues which voters are now examining as they ask themselves who can be trusted to be commander-in-chief?

We will look at the progress and the problems here.

But first, we turn to my colleague, Jonathan Karl, back in Washington, where this week's political battle hit a fever pitch -- Jon.

KARL: Good morning, Martha.

There is a struggle going on right now for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. But even as he was dogged by new controversies this week, this was, in many ways, a good week for Donald Trump, as the most unconventional candidate in modern political history moved one step closer to bringing the Republican establishment together with that populist electorate that helped him win the Republican primaries.

But he has a long way to go to change a general election map that is stacked against him and to win the White House in November.


KARL (voice-over): If you were watching the news over the last few days, you might think the tide had finally turned against Donald Trump.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The tale of the tapes -- Donald Trump denying he posed as his own publicist in a telephone interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop asking about Donald Trump's taxes, will you?

That's the message from the likely GOP nominee.

KARL: A new scathing article in "The New York Times" about his past with women, from those questions about his tax returns...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no, do you believe voters have a right to see your tax returns before they make a final decision?

TRUMP: I don't think they do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your tax rate?

TRUMP: It's none of your business.

KARL: The growing confusion over what Trump actually stands for.

TRUMP: Look, anything I say right now, I'm not the president. Everything is a suggestion, no matter what you say, it's a suggestion.

KARL: Then there's that recording unearthed by "The Washington Post" from the early 1990s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) until he got his divorce.

KARL: With a Trump spokesman who sounds a heck of a lot like Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's somebody that has a lot of options and, frankly, you know, he gets called by everybody, in terms of women.

KARL: Trump flatly denied it.

TRUMP: That doesn't sound like my voice at all.

KARL: Raising questions once again about his credibility. With female voters already turned off by Trump, "The New York Times" unloaded a front page expose on his treatment of women.

But despite the onslaught, the reality is after those meetings on Capitol Hill, Trump is finally starting to unify the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very good. It's very productive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I can say it was a great first meeting, to just start that process.

KARL: And like the stepdad you didn't like when mom starting dating him...


KARL: -- it's sinking in for many of his Republican critics, he's here to stay. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, who said this in December...

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.

KARL: And after a phone call with Trump this week, he's now saying the campaign is over, he won, the insults will stop with me.

But House Speaker Paul Ryan still isn't quite sold.

(on camera): Are you endorsing Donald Trump?

If you're not, what is holding you back and do you really have a choice?

RYAN: It's very important that we don't fake unifying.

I don't want us to have a fake unification process here.

KARL: Republicans like Ryan are concerned about the damage Trump could do to their party. But no one really doubts Ryan will eventually endorse Trump,


KARL: Joining us now to discuss, Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus.

Chairman Priebus, thanks for joining us this morning.


KARL: So let me ask you, do you agree with that?

I mean basically, everybody I spoke to up on Capitol Hill this week says they fully expect that Ryan will come on board and endorse Trump at some point.

Do you agree he’s going to do that?

PRIEBUS: I get the sense that it was a great meeting. I get the sense that it was everything both parties wanted it to be. I don’t speak for Paul Ryan, but I...

KARL: But what do you expect?

I mean a...

PRIEBUS: I got the sense that things are moving in the right direction.

KARL: Yes, are you going to be shocked if he...

PRIEBUS: I would -- let me put it this way, I’d be surprised if -- I would be surprised if he doesn’t get there, because he wants to get there, and the things that were -- had taken place on Friday seemed to move the ball a long distance down the field. So I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.

KARL: So was it right of Ryan to go to that meeting, come out of that meeting, and still refuse to endorse Trump?

PRIEBUS: No, because I think -- I think most people involved, you know, would agree that, you know, in a 45 minute meeting, you know, to just suddenly have reservations and then come out after 45 minutes and say, OK, here’s a big bear hug, let’s move on. I think everyone gets that the process is better in going through the real details of what everyone brings to the table.

What does Donald Trump believe?

What does Paul believe?

And then only after that process, even if it’s a short process, then I think closure is most appropriate then.

Let me just say this, Jon. Both parties left, I think, very pleased with how it ended. So I don’t think anyone left surprised or chapped. I think it ended in the right way for everybody involved.

KARL: OK, but let me ask you the big question -- who is the leader of the Republican Party right now?

Who speaks for the party?

PRIEBUS: You know what?

That’s a -- people ask that question all the time. I mean I speak for the Republican National Committee. Paul speaks for House Republicans. Donald Trump speaks for the millions and millions of people out there that have broken records that were voting. I think a lot of people speak for our party, because it’s a huge party. And there’s only two parties in this country. I mean, this isn’t Italy. We don’t have 12 parties where everyone can fit neatly into a box.

And so that’s why I would say in order for us to be successful, we have to be the party of the open door to recognize that, you know, differences among each other doesn’t mean that we ask people to leave. It means that we ask people in and that we keep growing.

And so a lot of people speak for our party.

KARL: Two weeks ago, right before he dropped out, Ted Cruz called Donald Trump "a pathological liar." He said, "He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth."

And you heard the latest story this week, the one about Trump apparently posing as his own spokesperson. And then you also heard him come out and deny that was him on that tape.

Let me just ask you more broadly, do you have any doubts about Donald Trump's truthfulness?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, it doesn’t matter as far as what Ted Cruz said or what Lindsey Graham said or what Jeb said or Marco or the whole 17 folks that we had --


KARL: Yes, I'm asking about you --

PRIEBUS: -- does matter, what we're dealing with, not --


PRIEBUS: -- my interaction with Donald Trump -- I have to -- listen, I have to judge people by -- based on how I have dealt with individuals one on one. I have never had a situation where he’s lied to me. I’ve never had a situation where he was not gracious and -- to me.

Now, obviously we had a fight over the elect -- you know, the delegate allocation system, but I didn’t back off of that. I came out and defended the party and he didn’t have a problem with that.

So I judge people one on one --


KARL: Do you trust him?

Do you think he’s trustworthy?

PRIEBUS: I also believe that people are entitled to listen -- yes, of course. And -- but I also believe that people are entitled to forgiveness and redemption. And the question I think most people have in this regard is whether or not people are who they say they are.

And Hillary Clinton -- I mean, you can talk about this issue of 30 years ago with "The Washington Post."

But the real question is and I think bigger questions are that, on Hillary Clinton’s watch, in regard to exchanging cash for favors in The Clinton Foundation. What -- I mean, that’s an issue. Whether someone impersonated someone to some dumb story in "The Washington Post" -- now that’s interesting, but what about --


KARL: OK, let me ask you --

PRIEBUS: -- four dead American heroes in Benghazi. I mean, these are issues, guys.

KARL: OK. Well, let me ask you.

Your nominee, your presidential nominee from four years ago, is calling on Trump to release his taxes, saying, quote, "It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters.

"There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his returns: there’s a bombshell in them."

So let me ask you, do you agree with Mitt Romney on this?

Or do you agree with Donald Trump, who said it is none of our business?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, first of all, I’m not -- I believe that the American people look at someone like Donald Trump and say, OK, here’s a guy on the outside. Here’s a guy that’s never run for office.

And I just have to tell you, after a year of dealing with this primary, one on one -- and you know it’s been a lot -- I don’t think the traditional playbook applies, Jon. We’ve been down this road for a year. And it doesn’t apply. He’s rewritten the playbook.

KARL: So he doesn’t have to return (sic) those taxes?

PRIEBUS: And while it's interesting to analyze Donald Trump based on the old -- you know what? It’s going to be up to the American people. I mean, they’re -- they’re going to have to decide whether that’s a big issue or not.

I think, though, that Donald Trump represents such a massive change to how things are done in Washington that people don’t look at Donald Trump as to whether or not he releases his taxes or what this story was of 30 years ago.

People look at Donald Trump and say is this person going to cause an earthquake in Washington, D.C., and make something happen?

That is it. That’s how he is being judged by the American people.

So all these things that we’ve been analyzing for a year and that Mitt Romney’s obsessing over, it hasn’t done a thing. And that, I think, people are missing about Donald Trump.

KARL: And, finally, I’m sure you’ve seen the front page of "The New York Times" today, a story about Trump’s relationship with women, saying -- talking about unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd alliance with ambitious women and unsettling workplace conduct.

Do you have any doubts in your mind about Trump’s relationship with women, about the way he talks about women?

PRIEBUS: Look, I mean, these are things that he is going to have to answer for, but I also think there are things from many years ago. And I think that, you know, as Christians, judging each other I think is -- is problematic. I think it’s when people live in glass houses and throw stones is when people get in trouble.

And so, you know, is Hillary Clinton -- it’s a classic Clinton operation. Now suddenly these things are coming out.

It’s not necessarily that people make mistakes or have regrets or seek forgiveness; it’s whether or not the person launching the charge is authentic in their own life and can actually be pure enough to make such a charge. That’s what I think most people look at when they evaluate people’s character.

Again, I don’t think Donald Trump is being judged based on his personal life. I think people are judging Donald Trump as to whether or not he’s someone that’s going to go to Washington and shake things up. And that’s why he’s doing so well.

KARL: All right, Chairman Priebus, thanks for joining us here on THIS WEEK.

PRIEBUS: You bet.


KARL: Let's get more with Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a long-time member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump and is now chairman of his foreign policy team.

Senator Sessions, let me pick it up right where we left off with Chairman Priebus. He talked about this article in "The New York Times," about Trump's relationship with women and said there are things in here that he is going to have to answer for.

Do you agree with that?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALA.: Well, of course, he has to answer and people will ask those questions and they've got 20 or -- they've got hundreds, I suppose. People digging in to everything he's done for all these years.

But people have not expected purity on his part. What they're concerned about, they're deeply concerned about is this: somebody strong enough to take on Washington.

Will he challenge the establishment?

Will he end the illegality in immigration?

Will he insist on trade agreements that lift our economy, increase manufacturing?

And will he stand up to the elites?

And he's doing so and the people are responding. He's leading in Ohio by 4 points, a state we've lost for several terms now, elections now. Pennsylvania, neck-and-neck; Indiana.

So these situations to me suggest that he's appealing to the new group of voters, bringing in voters Republicans haven't had in eight years, the ones necessary to win an election.

KARL: So you were in the meeting with some of those elites today when Trump came in and met with the Senate leadership. As you well know, many of those Republican leaders have deep doubts, intense skepticism about Trump.

Did he reassure them that he's going to tone it down?

SESSIONS: He did a great job. He was a good, positive meeting. He talked; they talked, explained concerns they had and he responded appropriately. And he was just -- was not tense and afterwards, people came around him and gathered around him and talked informally.

I thought -- I was just really pleased --


KARL: But are we going to see a different Donald Trump?

Is he going to stop --

SESSIONS: Well, I think he's already being more careful about some of the things he says. But he -- you know, he's out there speaking to 20,000 people in a crowd. He doesn’t use notes or teleprompters. He goes straight at the issues people are concerned about.

And I think that's part of his strength.

KARL: Let me ask you the question I'm going to ask Chairman Priebus, see if I can get a direct answer from you.

Who speaks for the party right now?

SESSIONS: Well, I think he answered exactly right. He speaks for the Republican National Committee. Mitch McConnell in a way speaks for the Senate and in a way --

KARL: But where's the --

SESSIONS: -- Paul Ryan.

KARL: -- center of gravity now for this party?

Because you've had a party that has been in favor of free trade agreements. It has been in favor of entitlement reform. It has been open to immigration reform, a path to citizenship. Those are all diametrically opposed to where Trump is.

So, where is the center of gravity now for the Republican Party?

SESSIONS: That's a good question, Jonathan. I would say it's with the movement Donald Trump is leading. He is leading the Republican Party, which is the Republican voter. And the Republican voter is adopting his views and not the views that too often we've seen out of Washington, Democrat and Republican.

And so I think he's showing real strength there. He's unifying the people who are going to say we want some change. We want better jobs, better wages. We don't want falling wages. We want an immigration system that protects our interests.

KARL: So, I've got to ask you, and I saw you were in Texas speaking on behalf of Trump at their party convention down there, I know you don't expect to be asked, and I know you're not looking for it, but if he asked you to be his running mate would you accept?

SESSIONS: Well, I don't expect to be asked. He needs to get the best person who can lead this country. But you saying would I be ashamed or unwilling to serve this man? No. It would be a great honor to be able to assist him in any way possible. We've got to change America. Donald Trump will result in the elimination of Obamacare. Donald Trump will appoint the Supreme Court justice to replace Scalia. They will keep the court from flipping. That will on the gun rights. He will reduce taxes and create growth and stand up to our trading partners and make sure they comply with our trading agreements.

KARL: All right. Well, if you get the call, you'll give us a call next, I would hope.

But as I mentioned, you are a longstanding member of the Senate armed services committee and you are the chairman of Trump's foreign policy team.

Let me get back to Martha in Baghdad. She's got some questions for you as well.

RADDATZ: Thanks, Jon.

Senator Sessions, we're going to take a closer look at what's going on here with the battle against ISIS in just a few moments, but first this will be the challenge confronting the next president. There have been lots of questions raised about Donald Trump's judgment, his knowledge of foreign policy, does he have the temperament to be commander-in-chief of our armed forces?

SESSIONS: I truly believe he does. He's got a clear vision about some of the most basic things we need to know. First, ISIS is a threat. He has stated that clearly. And he will use all our power to effectively destroy ISIS.

He's also said he's dubious about nation building, overextending our troops, committing the United States in a way that we can't financially afford and shouldn't send our troops to -- at so much risk. I think that is a healthy view, too.

RADDATZ: Former CIA Director David Petraeus, who commanded coalition forces here in Iraq and Afghanistan wrote an op-ed piece this week saying that the kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric we're seeing back home is very harmful to U.S. national security, writing, "demonizing a religious faith and its adherents not only runs contrary to our most cherished and fundamental values as a country, it is also corrosive to our vital national security interests and ultimately to the United States' success in this war."

I was out yesterday with the ground commander here, major general Gary Volesky. He will not talk about politics or the election, but I did ask him his reaction to the Petraeus op-ed.


GEN. GARY VOLESKY, GROUND COMMANDER, IRAQ: People forget I have Muslims in my formation, that wear my uniform. Your religious background, your beliefs, your ethnicity, we're soldiers here. And we're all defending the constitution of the United States. That's why we're able to go and operate anywhere in the world it's because we stand for our values and that builds trust and people understand we take the moral high ground in this.


RADDATZ: Your reaction to that, senator.

SESSIONS: We need to respect people's faith. We need to -- when working in the Middle East we need to be very respectful of how these good people conduct their lives and the faith that they have. It means tremendously important to them.

But I've got to tell you we do have problems with violent extremism. We need to talk about that, we need to admit it. We need to know the nature of the threat that the United States faces. So, I don't think Trump has gone too far. He said we should have a temporary ban on entry of people into the country from the Muslim world, but that's because we have an ineffective screening process that the Defense Department and security forces tell us we don't have needs we have.

So, I think that we're moving in the right direction. It's an important issue. I believe Donald Trump is speaking openly about it, but he has also made clear that he hopes to see that end, and end soon. Any temporary ban would be, in fact, temporary.

RADDATZ: OK, Donald Trump has also declared ISIS will be gone if I'm elected president, they will be gone very, very quickly. But no one I've talked to on the ground says the threat will be stamped out quickly here. So, how does Trump make that happen?

SESSIONS: Well, we've got to unite all of our friends and allies in the region and Europe, NATO. And this can be done. We're going to have to defeat ISIS, because it's a direct threat to us.

But there are other problems around the world that don't represent a direct threat to us that we should not be overly engaged in, just supporting in a way that's effective.

So, I think the Trump policy will be -- work. It is a great, great tragedy that we totally pulled our troops out of Iraq in 2011. Senator McCain warned, pleaded with President Obama not to do that. We would have to send troops back in to this area. He and Hillary Clinton did it anyway. Now whole parts of Iraq are in danger. ISIS is holding parts of Iraq, building bases to attack from. This was a classic, colossal disaster. And it was one of the greatest error of the 21st Century politically in my view.

RADDATZ: Well, Senator, let's look forward and let's talk about some specifics. What would Trump do differently than Hillary Clinton has proposed?

SESSIONS: We're going to have to step it up. We're going to have to use whatever forces we have in every way we can to defeat this ISIS threat and try to put back together this disaster that has occurred since we had a reasonably stable government in 2011. It was -- you've got to be smart about the utilization of force. You just have to be smart about it. You have to get the best advice. And I'm not going to advise today how to do it. If I think Donald Trump would say to the military what do you need? What can we do to increase the pressure on them? I'll back you up. We're going to destroy ISIS. And I think that's the kind of leadership we need.

RADDATZ: Is there anything you would like Donald Trump do differently?

SESSIONS: Well, I think he's going to need to learn. He's going to need to understand really completely -- as you know, Martha, how complex this world is, even within Baghdad and the region around Baghdad -- Kurds, al Anbar, Sunni, Shia, Iranians, so forth. It's just a very, very complex world and you have to be careful when you commit a military force.

RADDTAZ: OK, thanks so much, Senator Sessions.

As we mentioned, we've been and seen for ourself this week the fight against ISIS, our exclusive report with the Americans on the ground here next.


RADDATZ: Five thousand American troops are on the ground right now in Iraq.

How close are they to the front lines and the fighting?

Our exclusive report alongside the Americans in the thick of it and what it means for the next commander-in-chief, in just two minutes.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We continue to make progress pushing ISIL back from territory that it controls.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Daesh is unequivocally losing ground, losing leaders, losing fighters, losing cash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The progress we're making against Daesh, it's real, serious, and it's -- it's committed.


RADDATZ: There has been a lot of talk about whether we are winning...



OBAMA: We continue to make progress, pushing ISIL back from territory that it controls.

KERRY: Daesh is unequivocally losing ground, losing leaders, losing fighters, losing cash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The progress we're making against Daesh, it's real, serious and it's -- it's committed.

RADDATZ: There's been a lot of talk about whether we are winning the fight against ISIS, that the terrorists have lost territory and are losing their will to fight. Also warnings -- they're still a very real and present danger.

We're here in Baghdad to get a clearer picture of what's really going on. And for that, we got exclusive access to the American troops working alongside Iraqis as they take the fight to ISIS.


RADDATZ (voice-over): It was a familiar and sobering routine this week. I have flown on Blackhawk helicopters over Iraq with Gary Volesky countless times over the years during Iraq's darkest days. But neither of us expected to be back again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember when we (INAUDIBLE)?


RADDATZ: Volesky, now a major general, is commander of the land forces in the fight against ISIS, forces which include close to 5,000 Americans. This is Volesky's fourth deployment in this war, but this is a new battle.

(on camera): Is it a different enemy?

MAJ. GEN. GARY VOLESKY, COMMANDER, 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION: It is. It is a different enemy. This enemy that we're facing today, make no mistake, is out there to attack everyone. We -- we saw it in Paris. We saw it in Brussels. We've seen it in California.

RADDATZ (voice-over): The fight to stop that enemy right here in the desert of Al Asad Air Base in Western Iraq, ISIS country.

(on camera): Did you imagine you'd be back in Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not -- not Iraq, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been very busy, very dynamic, much different than it was the previous times.

RADDATZ: -- dynamic to say the least. We saw for the first time up close American troops on the ground, taking direct aim at the terrorist group.

Backing up Iraqi forces outside the base. And they certainly don't stop for General Volesky to give interviews.

VOLESKY: The change now is we're -- they're -- they're (INAUDIBLE). That's the sound of freedom right there.

RADDATZ: Freedom from the threat of ISIS remains a challenge nearly two years after the militants overran large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

But General Volesky says with the help of U.S. forces, the Iraqis have ISIS on defense.

VOLESKY: Every day, they lose terrain. And they're not regaining anything. And so that's really what's different.

RADDATZ: And the Iraqi security forces did score a major victory against ISIS in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's largest province.

But as we drove toward that restive region, we saw the cost of the fight.

(on camera): We can see all of the destruction as we drive and if you look way off into the distance in the tree line, you can see areas ISIS still holds.

(voice-over): The destruction sprawls in every direction. Schools crushed, bridges left in pieces. Even after watching more than decade of conflict here, the extent of this damage is stunning.

These before and after satellite images make so clear what was lost here -- a bustling, thriving city one year ago, today in ruins.

One million people called Ramadi home when ISIS rolled through one year ago this week. Civilians fled in waves. Iraqi forces had to be evacuated by helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first place that Daesh came into, Ramadi, and got hold of the neighborhood. This used to be a school.

RADDATZ: Al-Anbar University, once filled with thousands of students, was turned into ISIS headquarters.

It would be eight months before Iraqi troops, backed by American air power, would take it back. Ferocious artillery fire forced ISIS out, as Iraqi forces planted their flag once more.

(on camera): The city may be liberated, but people here are far from safe. It's estimated that this city has more unexploded bombs, unexploded ordinance, than any place on Earth.

(voice-over): Only some 15,000 families have been able to return. This family struggles to accept their new reality.

(on camera): How hard will life be going forward? What is next?

(voice-over): "Maybe it will be more difficult," says this father. "We want this place to be rebuilt. Our homes are all destroyed, our cars gone.

It's up to a crew of just 40 Americans contracted by the State Department to diffuse thousands of bombs and booby-traps ISIS left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not pick anything up. Do not move anything.

RADDATZ (on camera): You've got it.

(voice-over): The bomb technicians of Janus Global Operations prefer to work in anonymity, but their job is crucial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what you see coming out of the jugs is homemade explosives. There's a couple of pressure plates that were pulled up. RADDATZ (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can see they're very small. It doesn't take a lot of weight. So those would be either set for vehicles or a person.

RADDATZ: Hundreds and hundreds of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And this is just the ones they found in this local area.

RADDATZ (voice-over): It could take years, maybe decades, to clear Ramadi, and the road ahead could be even tougher.

(on camera): Ramadi is Iraq's third largest city, but the next challenge is taking back Mosul, the second largest city. And it will be much more difficult than retaking this.

(voice-over): Mosul has been under ISIS control two years, after Iraqi forces essentially gave up.

(on camera): Are you confident this time that they can face the challenge?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you've seen some examples today. When they get out to that -- into the battlefield, they're ready for their mission.

RADDATZ: This Iraqi Special Forces commander told me they are ready.

(on camera): Should we expect that Mosul will fall by the end of the year?

RADDATZ (voice-over): The Iraqi prime minister and the commander-in-chief said the general said 2016, we will liberate Mosul.

But like in Ramadi...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, take off.

RADDATZ: -- U.S. air power will be key.

Of major concern here, avoiding civilian casualties caused by airstrikes. The U.S. and Iraqi forces don't always see eye-to-eye on that risk.

(on camera): And when you say the Iraqis have a little looser idea of what they'll go after...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's their country. So...

RADDATZ: But what -- what would they go after that we wouldn't?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean they're -- they're willing to destroy any buildings -- mosques, schools, whatever else. I mean they don't want to do that, but they're more willing to do that when they see something happening, when we look at a target with our rules of engagement, we can't strike it and we tell that, well, I'm sorry, we -- we can't hit that. It does cause some frustration.

RADDATZ: The Iraqi forces hope for even more air strikes in the future.

(on camera): What more do you need from the Americans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Airstrikes, with the airstrikes.

RADDATZ: You want more air strikes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very important.

RADDATZ: It's important; are they not doing enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, good, good, good.

RADDATZ: They're good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the -- always we need more.

RADDATZ: You need more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially in Mosul and --

RADDATZ: In Mosul.

RADDATZ (voice-over): But whether the battle for Mosul is this year or next, real success against ISIS or Daesh, as they call it, will take the military and the next president a very long time to achieve.

RADDATZ: How would you define success?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, success for us is stage the thing (ph), occupy and stick their flag in any terrain, is getting Daesh out of -- you know, out of these cities and getting the Iraqis to the -- at a point where they're secure in Iraq.

RADDATZ: That security will continue to come at a price and it may be a long road ahead. Our thanks especially to the 101st Airborne Division and particularly Maj. Gen. Volesky. I'll have a personal look back at the war and the major general later in the show.

But first, let's turn back to Jon Karl in Washington, with more on the wild week in politics -- Jon.

KARL: Thank you, Martha.

Coming up, Donald Trump faces some brutal headlines this week. But as Republican leaders began to rally around him, was it actually his best week yet?

The powerhouse roundtable is standing by to weigh in.


KARL: A firestorm over Donald Trump's tax returns, new allegations of how he treats women and that bizarre recording of a Trump spokesman that sounds a lot like Donald Trump.

Is it the beginning of the end already for Trump?

The powerhouse roundtable is next.


KARL: We're back now with the powerhouse roundtable: "Washington Post" chief correspondent, Dan Balz; "Fusion" anchor and special correspondent, Alicia Menendez; Republican Congressman Tom Cole, a member of the House Republican leadership and Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, who has endorsed Bernie Sanders.

So, Dan, I got to start with you.

Paul Ryan comes out of this meeting with Donald Trump, says he's encouraged. You've got Lindsey Graham is even saying he's going to stop saying nasty things about Donald Trump.

Are we seeing unity or fake unity?

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, so far, it's fake unity although I think that -- I think there was some progress made in those meetings on Thursday. But the relationship between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan is still tenuous.

They don't know one another. I mean, we know that this was the first real meeting they had. We're told by various sides that it was a pretty productive meeting and a decent meeting.

But Paul Ryan was not ready to come out of that meeting and give a full-throated endorsement. And I'm not sure how quickly that's going to happen.

KARL: But, Congressman, these guys are fundamentally different in almost every way that we can imagine, stylistically, temperamentally, on the core issues, entitlement reform, immigration, trade.

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, they're probably the same on tax reform; they both believe the Obama foreign policy's been a disaster. There's common ground and they're differences. That's sort of normal politics.

KARL: This is a -- this is normal politics?


COLE: Differences with your nominee are normal politics.

But obviously, look, Donald Trump's a political phenomenon. And I think the Speaker was wise when he said we shouldn't, you know, appear that there's fake unity, to use your phrase, when there's not. I mean, let's actually have a process; let's have a discussion. Let's see where there's common ground. Let's see if we can work together.

In the end, their interests dictate that they do. In the fall campaign, Donald Trump needs Paul Ryan, needs the Republican establishment, needs Republican members. And, frankly, a fight between a Speaker and a nominee isn't going to help you keep the majority. And that's Paul Ryan's number one job.

So at the end of the day, that -- but I do think they have to get to know one another and know where they can work together in places where honestly they don’t agree and are comfortable saying that and knowing how to say that in ways that don't undermine --


KARL: Alicia, can you imagine that joint press conference when the endorsement happens?

I don't imagine it's actually going to happen that way. But Paul Ryan and Donald Trump?

ALICIA MENENDEZ, "FUSION": I'm sure it'll be a very entertaining press conference. I think that it would have been very disingenuous if Ryan would have come out of this meeting and said we're on the same page; we're good to go.

I think the challenge for Ryan is that while there are clearly short-term benefits in this election cycle to him embracing Trump, getting the party behind him, there's a longer-term question, especially for Paul Ryan, who considers himself the conscience of the Republican Party, about whether or not giving Trump a pass on some of the divisive remarks that he has made during this primary reflects poorly on the GOP brand going forward.

KARL: Well, I guess you're not going to be giving anybody a pass.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, absolutely not. But I think Paul Ryan needs to be -- needs to consider his own credibility here. He has said -- and I appreciate him saying this -- that there shall be no religious test for people coming into this country.

He called the idea un-American. He called it un-American. How you going to turn around and say, OK, well, it's sort of American.

Paul Ryan has in his own integrity to protect. And I hope he protects it carefully because it is a long-term --


COLE: I think he's already demonstrated he will protect that integrity.

ELLISON: Well, we'll see. You know, I mean, he said -- he said he was open to immigration reform. This guy wants to build a wall and build it higher. As a matter of fact, I mean, I think that the stakes are incredibly high for everybody here.

Trump has suppressed press freedom. He has said punch people in the face. He has made open appeals to racism and he has tried to persecute religious minorities. This is dangerous to the whole republic. And I think people ought to take it a whole lot more seriously. It's bigger than an election, in my view.

KARL: OK. But let's listen to what Trump said about these campaign proposals. Take a listen to this.


TRUMP: Look, anything I say right now -- I'm not the president. Everything is a suggestion, no matter what you say, it's a suggestion.


ELLISON: It just goes to prove that he even lies about his own bigotry. He doesn’t -- so he says he doesn’t know who David Duke is. When he, 10 years before, had denounced David Duke. But when it was in his interest to play coy in the Louisiana primary, he acts like, oh, I don't know who David Duke is. He's not even serious about that.

He has openly appealed to banning Muslims. He didn't say people from the Muslim world; he said ban Muslims and now he's acting like, oh, I didn't really quite mean it that way.

He's not even sincere about his own bigotry. And that is his core strength, that he's --


ELLISON: -- a truth-teller and authentic. He's neither one of those.

KARL: Congressman, you're going to be hearing a lot more of this for the next six months.


COLE: Well, first, on that particular issue -- and I spoke out against him when he made the remark --

ELLISON: And you were right to do so.

COLE: -- well, I was right to do it. I read the Constitution. You know, the Constitution is pretty clear, no religious test. Now if you want --

KARL: -- but is it just a suggestion?

Is he going to back away from this?

I mean, first of all --

COLE: -- I think more than most candidates, he is a work in progress. You know, usually you know a lot more about a candidate because they've run for other things; they've cast votes; they've done things. And he does have a shoot-from-the-hip style. There's no doubt about that.

And over the course of the campaign, he's already said some things that he ought to regret. And I think he will regret politically,


COLE: Having said that -- well, actually, I think you guys have a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see. We're going to get to that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just begin the discussion on Hillary Clinton, servers, disaster in Afghanistan --

COLE: -- don’t want me to change in disaster in Afghanistan, Russian reset -- I'm concerned sometimes about what Donald Trump says. I’m always concerned about what Hillary Clinton does and has done. And so it's going to be a pretty raucous fall campaign.

KARL: So -- and you've looked at this, Dan, you've looked -- you've spent some time looking at the math. And I mean, what's your sense? First, we had Congressman Ellison on this show back in July who told us all -- he predicted that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination. Most people thought he was out to lunch. He turned out to be correct.

But can he win a general election against Hillary Clinton.

BALZ: I think it's very tough. You know, you look at the current map. You look at a lot of current polling. And you say he has a very tough road to get to 270 electoral votes. There are a number of smart handicappers who have looked at this more seriously than probably the rest of all, all of them say that this is a very strong map for Hillary Clinton at this point.

What Donald Trump has to do is put into play states that Mitt Romney was not able to win. He's clearly looking at kind of the upper Midwest, the industrial Midwest the Rust Belt where there's a -- you know, there's a potential outpouring of white working class voters.

It's not clear that there's enough of those voters to really turn the tide, it's not clear whether he's going to be able to do it, and I think what is clear is that the Clinton campaign is going to do everything they can as early as they can to try to block his road through those states.

KARL: OK, but we had those three polls, Quinnipiac this week, that looked in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, three states that Obama won, that showed within the margin of error basically a tie.

BALZ: They did.

KARL: I mean, if Trump can win those three states, he's president, right?

BALZ: That's correct. If he wins those three states and holds everything that Mitt Romney held he becomes president.

I think we have to see more polling before we know whether those polls are a true snapshot of where we are at this moment. If you put those up against the other thing we know about Donald Trump, which is he is totally under water with Latinos, he's totally underwater with women. He's totally under water with a variety of constituencies in the electorate that he's going to have to have, so if he is dependent totally on white working class and particularly male voters, he's going to have to do something to move those other constituencies in order to get there.

KARL: Alicia, can he do it?

MENENDEZ: Can he do it? I think it's incredibly challenging. And I think that there is, you know, another element at play, which is how his being at the top of the ticket affects some of these down ballot races. In a number of the states, you mentioned, there are competitive senate races, and I think that's part of the reason that you are seeing people who are coming out and saying Never Trump.

For example, I live in South Florida. Representative Curbelo is saying I can't support him, in part because he has a very heavily Hispanic district where Trump is toxic.

KARL: So, that's sort of the other side, through. Your man, Bernie Sanders -- and you were, I think the second member of congress to support him way back when. He keeps winning. And everybody tells him he can't win.

But you saw Senator Feinstein come out and say it's time for Bernie Sanders essentially to get out, that Hillary Clinton needs to begin to pivot, you know, to a general election. What's going to happen with Sanders?

ELLISON: Well, first of all, Bernie is bringing out young voters in -- who are going to be important to a Democratic win in the fall. Bernie is helping the overall effort, he's not hurting it. And, in fact, money in politics is a big deal. It was before Clinton, it was after, it's going to be. And it's right for him to continue to talk about it.

But here's the thing, Bernie Sanders says we need to work on debt-free college, and he's even proposed debt-free tuition. Hillary Clinton yes, yeah, debt-free college -- Hillary Clinton says she's for minimum wage, Bernie says I'd like to increase it even more.

They're basically on the same page, it's just that one...

KARL: Well, Trump says -- actually look at trade, he's closer to Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton is to Bernie Sanders.

ELLISON: Hillary Clinton has opposed TPP. And here's the thing, I think that at the end of the day, we don't have -- we're not going in opposite directions in the Democratic ticket, we're going in the same direction, one is just a little bit more strident, stronger than the other.

I think we have consistency.

KARL: I want to at least get at least on these Millennials, because you've spent a lot of time talking to them. Are those Millennials that have been 90 percent in some of these states for Hillary Clinton really going to around -- I mean, for Bernie Sanders, really going to turn around and say OK I'm for Hillary?

MENENDEZ: So, we've been doing these focus groups throughout the primary talking with young voters who I think it's important to remember like young I'm talking sometime people my age, 32, want to get married...

KARL: Very young, by the way, just for the record.

MENENDEZ: Yeah, but like -- they're not children. And we are so investing in this election, paying such close attention. When I talk to Bernie Sanders supporters, it is the policies that they are after, right. They like Bernie, but really it is a number of those policies that you just indicated.

But when you really push them and you say, if it comes down to Trump versus Clinton who will you vote for, over and over again you hear that they will show up for Hillary Clinton even if, to them, that is a distasteful choice. If that is the choice that they have to make in November, they'll come home.

KARL: OK, we've got a powerhouse puzzler for all of you. OK, are you ready? Is everybody ready? The powerhouse puzzler: this week, President Obama signed a law naming the bison as the official American mammal. Millions of bison once thundered across North America, but in 1884, the number of bison in the United States dipped to just 325.

So, today's puzzler: approximately how many Bison are there in the United States today? And can you name them?



KARL: OK, so today's puzzler, how many bison are there in North America today, an approximation, please. Dan Balz: 500,000. Alicia: 100,000. 75,000, Congressman Ellison.

ELLISON: I'm optimistic.

KARL: 1 million.

All right, I've got to tell you, you nailed it, Dan Balz, a half a million bison today in North America. Congratulations, we'll have a prize for you backstage.

Now, let's get back to Martha.

RADDATZ: Thanks, Jon.

And a final thought from Baghdad after this from our ABC station.


RADDATZ: We introduced you at the top of the broadcast to the two star general in charge of the land forces here in Iraq. For Major General Gary Volesky, Iraq is familiar territory. This is his fourth deployment since 2004, and that's no the only place he served in the last decade.

While the country has waged wars both here and Afghanistan, General Volesky has been there again and again, spending more than six years away from his family.


RADDATZ: I first met Gary Volesky in 2004.

VOLESKY: They root for the police station in there.

RADDATZ: A lieutenant colonel back then, leading a first Calvary battalion in what was supposed to be a peacekeeping mission in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Instead, on the very first day he took command, the Baghdad neighborhood exploded in violence. There was an ambush, eight of his soldiers killed, dozens wounded but many more rescued after being pinned down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uncommon valor was common that day because there were soldiers doing things that we talk about but you don’t teach stuff like that.

RADDATZ (voice-over): They would go on to fight for 80 straight days. Volesky would be awarded a Silver Star during the deployment.

Back in the States at Ft. Hood, his wife, LeAnne, had his back. He calls her his hero.

LEANNE VOLESKY, MILITARY WIFE: I'm glad that he thinks of me that way. I think that's really neat. I don't feel like I've done anything special, either. We just do what we have to do.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Raising their son, Alex, who was just 6 years old, fell largely to Leanne (ph).



RADDATZ (voice-over): As Volesky rose through the ranks, two more deployments to Iraq would come along with one to Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want to do when you grow up?

RADDATZ (voice-over): We've joined him on every one of them.

RADDATZ: How many years away from home?

MAJ. GEN. GARY VOLESKY, U.S. ARMY: I'm not sure how long away. We've been on a -- the Volesky family's been almost one year gone, one year at home, with some exceptions.

RADDATZ (voice-over): For the Voleskys, there is little choice. They have chosen a life of service.

LEANNE VOLESKY (PH): It's a ride you wouldn’t -- you couldn't forget even if you wanted to.

RADDATZ (voice-over): And Alex, that little boy Volesky had to leave behind so often, he is close to 6 feet tall today, about to graduate from high school, another event his father will have to miss.

RADDATZ: And now he's heading off to college?

MAJ. GEN. VOLESKY: He graduates in about 10 days from high school. All you want to do is have your son be proud of you.

And he told me, "Hey, I've joined Junior ROTC."

And I looked at him and I said, "Are you crazy?"

He said, "I just want to be an infantryman."

And so, you know, if he's proud of what I'm doing, then -- and I'm just proud of him and proud of Leanne (ph). That's all that matters.


RADDATZ: Our thanks to General Volesky and his family and all those just like them and Happy Graduation to young Alex.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," we'll have more reporting from here and we'll see you next week. Have a great day.

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