Former GOP congressman on Biden-Putin summit: 'Russians aren't going to change'

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable breaks down the biggest headlines from President Joe Biden's first overseas trip as president.
17:38 | 06/13/21

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Transcript for Former GOP congressman on Biden-Putin summit: 'Russians aren't going to change'
Paid for by Eric Adams 2021. You know Vladimir Putin, you think he's a killer? Mm-hmm. So what price must he pay? The price he'll pay, you'll see shortly. When president Biden was asked whether he believes you are a killer, he said, I do. Mr. President, are you a killer? I'm always guided by the Russian people. What kind of labels, this is not something I worry about in the least. Vladimir Putin laughing off that comment from president Biden calling him a killer. Just one topic that might be on the agenda at their summit next Wednesday. Let's talk about it with our round table now. Former Republican congressman will Hurd, under secretary of policy under president Obama, Michelle Flournoy, our managing partner of west exec advisers, and ABC political director Rick Klein. Great to have all of you here this morning. A lot to talk about. Rick, I'll start with you. Joe Biden does have bona fide foreign policy experience, but this is his first foreign trip as president. How's he doing politically? So far it's all kinds of elbow bumps and smiles. It seems like it's very friendly. That's different than a domestic political audience, and there were a couple of different points in our new abc/ipsos poll that were constructive. More than half of people say they have confidence on president Biden's behalf. Nearly a third felt the same way about president trump, and that's reflected in the numbers on Putin and this is really interesting as we've heard so much. We asked people a whole range of topics. What should be a priority in foreign policy, and protecting U.S. Jobs, American jobs, two-thirds of Americans are saying that's a top priority when you are talking about foreign policy. That's about the same number that say a priority should be protecting against terrorism. So I feel like Biden gets that and he's trying to transfer to a domestic audience. Up next of course, the Putin summit. The white house, and we talked about this. No joint press conference. Is it really because they decided he would do it alone or is there more to it? I think there's a lot of potential for the optics to be pretty bad, but you heard secretary blinken say the best way to communicate with the free press is to deliver our message. If there's one thing we know about this white house, it's message discipline. They're going to deliver the same message in as a controlled way as they can. Speaking one on one with the press is probably the best way for them to do that. As you mentioned those cyberattacks and the message being delivered. Any journalist would love to be a fly on that wall to see how that goes down, but right now the message is engagement, right? Biden has reached out to Putin and they have had one-on-one phone calls, especially when Russia was amassing troops, and they pulled back. Russia is at the top of the list with as long as you mentioned China, China, China. You have heard the summit amid the cyberattacks. These are serious moves in Russia. Should -- should this summit have happened? Is it a reward? I don't think it's a reward. You have to talk -- we should engage our allies, right? I think going into the g7 and the effort there is, we strengthen our allies, but we should be talking to our enemies as well. Let's be frank. Russia won't change. There's there's radical new leadership in that country, Russia won't change. That's why the west needs to continue to penetrate Russian society with our western values and democratic values and ideals to -- in order to encourage opposition to that regime, and one way we should do that, we should be doubling down on our support to Ukraine, maldova, those places. The Russians aren't going to change. I hope that Joe Biden goings into this knows that, but unfortunately ever since the George W. Bush, every American president thought they could reset relations with Russia, and that won't happen. You spent a lot of time looking at these summits in your time. What do you think Vladimir Putin wants out of this? I think Vladimir Putin wants to be seen on the world stage as an equal, and as -- Is that another reason not to have that press conference? It is. We don't want to give him that platform for propaganda and spinning things his way. I think the president has to go sit down with him face to face. This is not about a reset. This is about a very clear-eyed approach to Putin that says, look. These are our interests. We are resolved to defend them. These are our concerns about your behavior in all these different areas. These are our expectations and we want to get things on a more stable, predictable footing so this relationship between two nuclear powers doesn't go off the rails. I think that's where you have to start and it's really a test for Putin as to whether he'll reduce some of his first behavior. There was an interview where Putin praised Donald Trump and he called him an extraordinary individual. Do you think Putin is thinking America might return? That he's thinking about the midterms? Putin doesn't have to worry about free democratic elections. He knows the American process and the political system, and I think that comment is designed to remind people, those same forces that powered Donald Trump to office, they're still around. They haven't gone anywhere, and this is about a warning to Biden that I think he's aware of about those forces that are still there, and it's it's arena he put out a statement this week saying he hopes Biden gives Putin his best. I don't think he's going to do that. It's are reminder that trump is still there. I don't think he'll do that. Biden may rent and he owns. Donald Trump put out a statement to reaffirming his love of the Russian leader. So what do you think Donald Trump is thinking about? I think Donald Trump is thinking he wishes he was still president and was going to have this conversation, right? That doesn't change the goals of what president Biden has to do, and he's coming off of a nato summit, and hopefully after that nato summit, you're going to have nato reconfirming what is article 5 five in a digital world rook like? President Biden can go in with a possible strength, and that's what he has to accomplish, and it's going to be a tough decision. It's going to be a tough conversation, and I think not having a dual press conference is the right move. I want to turn to the doj. We're learning about how far the trump administration went. Revelations about subpoenaing journalist records and now that bombshell report about subpoenaed records from congress. I think there will be more physicians and details coming out Abt out of how, answer. Ive. So of them were. We did see under the Obama administration a much heavier hand going after leakers and journalists using the espionage act as a tool to be able to do that, and there was some concern that that was laying groundwork for somebody like Donald Trump who has authoritarian tendencies to go even further. We have tripled the number of investigations going after leakers. We knew this was a priority for them. I think now learning the extent to which they were doing that, the extent to which they were leveraging the tools of democratic institutions to be able to look what looks to be like carrying out critical missions there, that is worrying and alarming and the backstops are still there, and that remains a question. You have been critical about how Adam Schiff talked about investigations. Some do you see these as legitimate pursuits or as trump trying to use the doj to do his bidding? Using federal law enforcement and doj to go after your opponent is wrong and shouldn't happen, right? But also leaking classified information shouldn't happen either, and what is going to happen here, we're going to have an inspector general to review what actually happened, why it happened, and then after that, it gets presented to congress. Then you have all the relevant people coming to testify to make sure that the process was being done in the right way. And Michelle, deputy attorney general referred to the watchdog to investigate. How much should the Biden administration probe the trump era offense? I think it's important to hold people accountable, and to avoid politicizing something like the justice department which is -- it's so important for that to remain independent and a trusted institution by the American people. So I think accountability is very, very important. We don't want to spend all of time, and one of the things we're seeing at the g7 summit is how seized these leaders are with this critical moment. They feel the weight of covid, of the economic impacts of the challenge of China and the challenge of climate, so we want to look forward, but again, you have to do the necessary probing and investigation for accountability to prevail. You can't have a functioning democracy without it. We only knew about this just recently because of a gag order on the news organizations. We're learning more about this as time goes by. This will be a major challenge on the justice department. Merrick Garland was brought in with the idea of being independent. He is not the partisan warrior that many people on the left wanted to see responding to trump, and what these judges want, it's up to the Biden justice department to pursue that wherever it goes, and there will be a lot of more, and I think that's now going to be a major headache among many for this Merrick Garland department that has tried to find a different path. When you look at Donald Trump and what he's doing now, he's got a lot of things to take to voters. He's got the Wuhan. He's got the border. There are a lot of messages from the trump administration that still very much resonate with the Republican base. I have been out in the field reporting on a lot of these issues including on immigration some of what we call the culture war issues, this way to cross the legislature across the there's a way to get people motivated and those are still very much coming from the legacy of the trump administration. Part of the computation for the Biden administration right now is to Michelle's point, accountability is key, but how do you continue to move on while you're still looking into the previous four years. We'll be back with all of you shortly, but coming up, an exclusive look at the probe into covid-19-'s origins, and we'll look into the latest on the concerning new delta variant, and we'll talk to Tom Bossert and Dr. Ashish jha. 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This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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