'This Week' Transcript: Gen. Martin Dempsey, Reps. Ruppersberger and King, and Glenn Greenwald

ByABC News
August 4, 2013, 7:31 AM
PHOTO: ABC News' George Will, ABC News Political Analyst and Correspondent Matthew Dowd, ABC News Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, Starfish Media Group CEO Soledad O'Brien, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden on 'This Week'
ABC News' George Will, ABC News Political Analyst and Special Correspondent Matthew Dowd, ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, Starfish Media Group CEO Soledad O'Brien, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden on 'This Week'
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New York, August 4, 2013— -- RADDATZ: Good morning. Welcome to This Week.

Cause for alarm: there is a worldwide alert. We have breaking details this morning on that terror threat. New concerns about that risk to the homeland, plus the fresh intelligence that has officials so spooked and so convinced al Qaeda may be poised to strike.

Then, our exclusive interview with the president's top military adviser. Will Edward Snowden's secrets end up in enemy hands?

And the man at the center of the domestic spying debate, Glenn Greenwald, reveals his brand new report here live.



ANTHONY WEINER, NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to let the people decide.


RADDATZ: Anthony Weiner not going anywhere. A Republican family feud takes off.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon.

REP. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: This is the king of bacon talking about bacon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the Russian Olympics on thin ice? All that ahead this Sunday morning.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" starts now.

RADDATZ: Good morning. I'm Martha Raddatz. George has the morning off. It's great to have you with us. And we begin with breaking news as more than 20 embassies and consulates are closing around the world right now. And here at home, increased security measures are now in place. ABC News has learned this morning that the intercepted communications that led to the alert indicate terrorists are planning an attack that is going to be big and, quote, "strategically significant."

Yesterday the White House held an hour's long meeting, high-level meeting with the country's top national security official to discuss the response to the threat. And we've just learned what went on at that meeting.

So let's go straight to Jon Karl who is at the White House. And Jon, it sounds like the national security community is really spooked by this.

JON KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about that, Martha. The high-level meetings here at the White House over the weekend are a sign of just how seriously the U.S. is taking this threat.

In fact, officials tell us they believe that they are al Qaeda operatives already in place for this attack in Yemen and possibly in other countries, as well.

The cause for concern are those intercepted communications from the leadership of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.

One U.S. official telling us, quote, "the part that is alarming is the confidence they showed while communicating and the air of certainty about their plans."

The official tells us they even talked about their media plan for after the attacks take place.

Now, one of the things that is especially concerning about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is that they have developed techniques to evade western security measures, specifically officials are concerned about terrorists carrying surgically implanted bombs.

As one U.S. official told us, quote, "these are guys who have developed the techniques to defeat our detection methods."

RADDATZ: Jon, people I've talked to said they don't really know exactly what the target even if it's an embassy or consulate. What do you know about that?

KARL: That is exactly right. They've closed those embassies and consulates, Martha, because they are strategically significant and would fit that description, but there is no guarantee that this would be an embassy or a consulate. As a U.S. official told us, we do not know whether they mean an embassy, an air base, an aircraft or trains.

Now, we saw last year with the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, the diplomatic outposts are a possible target, but Martha there is no guarantee this time around that the target list is confined to embassies or consulates.

RADDATZ: Very frightening, Jon. And thank you to you.

And while the NSA helped uncover this latest terror threat, there are also new revelations this morning in the controversy over its secret surveillance programs.

Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for "The Guardian" newspaper has been at the center of all this breaking the story with his interview with Edward Snowden. And he joins us now from Brazil. Good morning, Glenn.

You're reporting there are new frustrations, frustration in congress about being thwarted in the attempts to exercise oversight. What does that mean and who is stopping them?

GLENN GREENWALD, THE GUARDIAN: Members of congress, members from both political parties actually came to us and showed us all kinds of letters and e-mails that they've been exchanging in which they're trying to get the most basic information about what NSA is doing and spying on American citizens and what the FISA court has been doing in terms of declaring some of some of this illegal, some of it legal.

Remember, we keep hearing that there's all kinds of robust oversight by congress and we need not worry, and yet these members of congress, one of whom is Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia, the other Alan Grayson, the Democrat from Florida, showed us and we're publishing this morning very detailed letters trying to get this information and they're being blocked from getting it and they've said, and other members have said, that they are forced to learn about what the NSA is doing from what they're reading and are reporting.

RADDATZ: And when you say they're being blocked, how are they being blocked? People are refusing to give it to them in congress?

GREENWALD: Correct. I think the most amazing thing, one of the most amazing things in this whole episode, Martha, there is a 2011 opinion, 86 pages long from the FISA court, that ruled that much of what the NSA is doing which is spying on American citizens is both unconstitutional in violation of the Fourth Amendment and illegal, a violation of the statute.

This opinion remains a complete secret. The FISA court has said they have no objection to having it released, but the Obama administration insists it has to be secret.

Both members of congress and others have been requesting simply to read that court opinion. And the intelligence committee that is led in the House by Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, who represents the NSA district, receives all kinds cash from the defense and intelligence agencies, industries, have refused to allow them access. That's extraordinary to have a court opinion ruling that our government violated the constitution and the law, and not only can't we read it, but neither can our representatives in congress.

RADDATZ: Edward Snowden, do you think there's any way he'd ever accept a deal to come back to the United States.

GREENWALD: Well, I think the concern is, is that whistle-blowers are in the United States have become the number one public enemy of the United States government, which is incredibly disturbing. McClatchey has been reporting great things about how the Obama administration equates whistle-blowing with treason with all kinds of programs, "The New York Times" has, as well.

So unless that culture which investigative journalists in the United States have been warning about for several years now changes fundamentally, he doesn't believe he can get a fair trial. Whistle blowers in the United States are put in prison for decades and basically disappeared as we saw with Bradley Manning. And until that happens, I don't think that he would be willing to come back. He's instead going to exercise his well established right to seek asylum from political persecution.

RADDATZ: OK Glenn, thanks very much for joining us this morning.


RADDATZ: Now to respond to all of this, two key members of the House intelligence committee, ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, Democrat from Maryland, and New York Republican Peter King. Thank you both are joining you us.

I want to start and go back to the threat with the embassy. I'll let you talk about Glenn Greenwald just said in just a moment, but I want to talk about that threat.

I spoke to Obama's top military adviser General Dempsey about the terror threat and this is what he said.


DEMPSEY: There is a significant threat stream and we're reacting to it.

RADDATZ: Is the threat to blow up an embassy, a consulate or something else?

DEMPSEY: That part of it is unspecified, but the intent seems clear.

RADDATZ: And the intent is to what?

DEMPSEY: The intent is to attack western, not just U.S. interests.


RADDATZ: Representative Ruppersberger, let's start with you. What specifics can you tell us? You heard what Jon Karl reported. This sounds like a very frightening, very credible threat.

RUPPERSBERGER: Yes, it's a very credible threat and it's based on intelligence. You know, what we have to do now is the most important issue is protect Americans throughout the world, whether the intelligence community, our military or people in the State Department. And citizens living throughout the world.

We know that al Qaeda and other people out there want to attack us and kill us and our allies.

The good news is that we picked up intelligence. And that's what we do. That's what NSA does. NSA's sole purpose is to get information intelligence to protect Americans from attack.

RADDATZ: You heard Jon report operatives are in place.

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, we can only say the intelligence that we get. And by the way intelligence is the best defense against terrorism. Those operatives are in place, because we've received information that high level people from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack and these are people in the high level.

Now whatever that intelligence is, we act upon it, because our first priority, again, is to protect the Americans that are in other parts of the world.

RADDATZ: Congressman King, this is also spread domestically. We're on a higher alert here in the country, or at least beefed up security. I think Americans don't really understand why this keeps growing in the last few days.

First it was the embassy closing. Now domestically. Why the higher alert here in America?

KING: Well, quite frankly, Martha, because this threat was so specific as to how enormous it was going to be, and also there's certain dates were given, but it didn't specify where it's going to be. And, you know, the assumption is that it's probably most likely to happen in the Middle East at or about one of the embassies, but there's no guarantee of that at all.

It could basically be in Europe, it could be in the United States, it could be a series of combined attacks. It can be the same concept as the 2006 liquid explosive planned attacks whether there are going to be a series of attacks carried out almost simultaneously. So we're have to be ready for everything. And that's what this is about.

And the administration I think has tried to first with the embassies, then with the global travel advisory and also letting state and local governments know over the last several days over the nature of this threat so we can be on guard. And this is a wake-up call. Al Qaeda is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11, because it's mutated and it spread and it can come at us from different directions. And al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is probably the most deadly of all the al Qaeda affiliates.

RADDATZ: Let's focus on these embassies for a moment, Congressman Ruppersberger, if we can, is this more a reaction to Benghazi, because we don't know that the target is an embassy or a consulate?

RUPPERSBERGER: Look, we have to take all precautions, whatever, to protect American lives. It was unfortunate what happened with Benghazi and we need to learn about what happened to make sure that our highest priority will be to protect Americans.

So we need to make -- take every precaution necessary and that's what we're doing right now. Again, we're relying on intelligence, but, you know, we get intelligence through signals intelligence, what NSA does, and through human intelligence.

But right now we're concerned and we're attempting to prepare ourselves to protect Americans. That's the bottom line.

RADDATZ: I want your reaction to this. The New York Times reported this Saturday that: "Some analysts and congressional officials suggested Friday that emphasizing a terrorist threat now is a good way to divert attention from the uproar over the NSA's data collection programs, and that if it showed the intercepts had uncovered possible plot, even better."

What's your response to that?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I am glad you raised that issue because the bottom line is, is that the NSA's job is to do foreign intelligence. The whole purpose is to collect information to protect us. We have NSA people going to work every day that this whole purpose is to get information against terrorist attacks.

And these people who work at NSA are hard-working people who follow the law. In fact, we have lost 20 members of the people working for NSA in Iraq and Afghanistan attempting to get information to help the troops.

Now, this issue of metadata and that we're violating the law is just not true. That's absurd. We have checks and balances...

RADDATZ: But what Edward Snowden leaked is very different than what we're talking about here. Tracking a terrorist. Representative King?


KING: Yes, I mean, as far as, you know, this being announced by the government, no, there's -- it's absolutely crazy to say there's any conspiracy here. I mean, Dutch has seen the intelligence, I've seen it, the government would have been totally negligent if it did not take the actions taken.

Whether or not there was any controversy over the NSA at all, this would -- all these actions would have been taken. So I'm a Republican. And I'm saying the administration -- and I've had problems with the administration on different issues, well, what they are doing now is what has to be done.

They'd be derelict if they were not. And, you know, we can't criticize them for doing too little with Benghazi and now criticize them for doing too much. I'm going to give them credit, they've learned from Benghazi. And that's why they're firming up the embassies.

But also as far as this worldwide alert, I think it's absolutely warranted in this situation.

RADDATZ: I want a very quick reaction from both of you. And I want to start with you, Representative Ruppersberger, because Glenn Greenwald mentioned your name specifically. Are efforts being thwarted in trying to get information for members of Congress?

RUPPERSBERGER: We have rules as far as the committee and what you can have and what you cannot have. However, based on that, that statement I just made, is that since this incident occurred with Snowden, we've had three different hearings for members of our Democratic Caucus, and the Republican Caucus, where General Alexander has come with his deputy, Chris Inglis, to ask any questions that people have as it relates to this information.

And we will continue to do that because what we're trying to do now is to get the American public to know more about what's going on. The NSA is following the law. And that we have checks and balances. We have the courts. We have both the Senate and the House intelligence committees. We have the Justice Department. We have checks and balances here to make sure that NSA does not violate the law in what they're doing.

And, you know, since these two programs have come in effect, especially the metadata, there has not been one incident of any member of the NSA breaking any law whatsoever.

But we can do better. I have to educate my caucus more, the Democratic Caucus. And we're trying to declassify as much as we can. We just had a meeting...

RADDATZ: Representative King, I want a very quick response from you, if you will.

Thank you, Representative Ruppersberger.


RADDATZ: Just a quick response, please.

KING: Martha, I would say that over the last several weeks General Alexander, all of his top people have come in, subjected themselves to questioning from any member of Congress at all, including those who are most critical.

And I have found often that those who are most critical publicly ask the least amount of questions in private. But he has answered every question. They get the information. They sit there and they go -- they just cooperate...


RADDATZ: So they're just not telling the truth?

KING: ... with the members of Congress.

I've never seen this -- to me it's unprecedented to have all of these top people from an administration during this time of crisis still come in and answer question after question after question. So anyone who says that Congress is somehow being stonewalled is just wrong and is generally, I think, raised by people who are trying to make a name for themselves.

RADDATZ: Thank you very much for joining us.


KING: Thank you, Martha.

RADDATZ: And now for more on the terror threat and what it means, we welcome former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View.

I want to start with you, Secretary Chertoff. Really alarming details this morning. It seems a very credible threat but not a specific target. Operatives in place at least in one place, that's believed to be Yemen. But here at home, these beefed up security measures. What do you make of all this, why at home?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, first let me observe, as Congressman Ruppersberger did, that apparently the collection of this warning information came from the kinds of programs we've been discussing about, the ability to capture communications overseas.

Now, that gives you very credible information. It's believable because you're hearing the bad guys themselves talking about doing something. The challenge is it's not specific. They haven't yet talked about a particular target or a particular location. And that's why you have a broad warning but one that's taken quite seriously.

RADDATZ: But it reminds me of those color-coded days. That everybody gets used to it, so is this going to be the new normal once again? Are we going to have vague threats for the homeland indeed and undertake these measures all the time?

CHERTOFF: Well, it's actually quite rare to have this broad and yet so alarming and specific a warning be publicly disseminated. What's going to happen now, though, is they'll follow all the leads to see if there's any way to connect people here in the U.S. to some of the bad guys overseas.

And, by the way, that's...

RADDATZ: Any specific bad guys.

Jeffrey, what does it mean overseas when we close all of these embassies? I mean, the one thing that I notice is, they trumped the ambassadors on this. That's sort of a call-back to Benghazi and Ambassador Chris Stevens. They didn't care what the ambassador said. We're closing down these embassies. What does that do to diplomacy?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Right. Well, we're in a post- Benghazi environment, so they're going to be hyper-cautious now. What it does is -- I mean, this is very problematic. You're telling 21 countries, you know, we want them to believe that we're a powerful country, an open country, a free country, and we're preemptively closing our embassies because of a somewhat vague threat.

It does signal that al Qaeda is very effective at scaring us. And that's not necessarily a very good message for our allies in that region to hear.

RADDATZ: What do you take -- what do you make of the fact that the terrorists clearly broke operational security, as it's called. They were talking on cell phones or who knows what they were talking on. Could this all be a ruse?

CHERTOFF: I mean, it's always possible. But the reality is nobody is able to maintain 100 percent operational security all the time. And this does happen. They do make mistakes. And the ability to seize on those mistakes and get warnings is what all of this big intelligence apparatus is really about.

RADDATZ: This is al Qaeda splintered, just as dangerous today as having a core al Qaeda 15 years ago?

CHERTOFF: In many way it's more dangerous, because now we have what I call 2.0 or 3.0, which is widely dispersed, a younger generation coming up with new ideas, not necessarily repeating what did in the past. And we now see them all the way from West Africa into South Asia. And so there's a much broader battlefield.

RADDATZ: Jeffrey, I was going to say the same thing. The whole region, look at the whole region and this threat.

GOLDBERG: Right, well, you know, this is what's interesting is that we might actually be in a more dangerous phase with al Qaeda. Most of the al Qaeda affiliates or al Qaeda-leaning groups have not formally targeted the United States.

They're busy in Syria. They're busy in Iraq. Doesn't mean they're not going to. The focus right now is this Yemen affiliate.


GOLDBERG: AQAP, which has...

RADDATZ: Arabian Peninsula.

GOLDBERG: ... what everybody by acclimation agrees is the most sophisticated bomb-maker, this guy Asiri, who is a specialist in that cartridge bomb, underwear bombs, these surgically-implanted bombs. And so he is the number one target.

He is what the fear is about. And I wouldn't be surprised if his name emerges in the coming days as the guy who we're most worried about in this particular set of circumstances.

RADDATZ: And the idea that it's so much more dangerous now in so many ways. That's because we really don't -- we can't track all these people. I mean, I think we had three drone strikes in Yemen just this week. We're still hitting Pakistan.

But if they splinter, they really are harder to track, correct?

CHERTOFF: Well, and that's why you begin to see operations really in very many parts of the world because we now have to track more people and we have to incapacitate them. And, unfortunately, this problem is not going to go away.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much. Thanks to both of you.

Still to come, our powerhouse "Roundtable." Their take on the high-profile Republican rift between Chris Christie and Rand Paul. Plus, our exclusive with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. Does he know where Edward Snowden is? Could Snowden's secret already be in the hands of the Russians or Chinese?




SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D) NEW YORK: Russia has stabbed us in the back. And each day that Snowden is allowed to roam free, is another twist in the knife.


RADDATZ: Tough talk from Senator Chuck Schumer after Russia granted asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden this week, one of many challenges facing our next guest, General Martin Dempsey, President Obama's top military adviser, who is in the room for every national security decision the commander-in-chief makes.

Our exclusive interview happening as he enters his second term and perhaps most intense period as Joint Chiefs chairman with violence flaring across the Mid East.

But we started off with what the U.S. should do about Edward Snowden.


RADDATZ: Do you know where he is?

DEMPSEY: No, I don't.

RADDATZ: How serious is this that Russia has done this?

DEMPSEY: Well, you've heard it characterized as disappointing. You know, that has been the first word that comes to mind.

Snowden's not a guy that's doing these things for honorable and noble purpose. You know, he's not doing this to make some kind of statement or spur a debate.

He has caused us some considerable damage to our intelligence architecture. Our adversaries are changing the way that they communicate. My job is to protect the country. So I am very concerned about this.

RADDATZ: Do you know how much classified material he has right now?

DEMPSEY: No, I do not. I do not, although it's obviously significant.

RADDATZ: Is there a way for the Russians or the Chinese to get that information without physically grabbing his computer?

DEMPSEY: Well, I don't know. I mean, that's one of those technical means that would exceed my knowledge. But I'd certainly be concerned about that.

RADDATZ: Would that surprise you?

DEMPSEY: No, it wouldn't surprise me.

RADDATZ: It wouldn't surprise you that they might have already gotten that information?

DEMPSEY: No, it wouldn't surprise me.

RADDATZ: Another challenge on Dempsey's radar, the growing crisis in Egypt where we saw firsthand recently the passion of protesters determined to get ousted President Mohamed Morsy back into office.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to see democracy in Egypt. We went to the ballot. And we wanted democracy, but we didn't see democracy.


RADDATZ: In a highly controversial statement this week, Secretary of State John Kerry described the overthrow of Morsy this way.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: To run the country, there's a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy.


RADDATZ: Do you agree with that statement?

DEMPSEY: I actually have been asked what I feel it is at this point. And my answer has typically been I don't know yet because back to my point that I made to my counterpart this will only be apparent as we see what the transitional government intends to do.

RADDATZ: He was a democratically elected president. How can you call it restoring democracy?

DEMPSEY: Well, that's why I didn't sign up for that characterization when you just asked me. I think, frankly, that we will know that it is soon, but it may not be apparent--

RADDATZ: So Kerry may have misspoken there?

DEMPSEY: I don't know. I'm not going to speak for the secretary of state. He's the leading diplomat of our nation.

RADDATZ: I want to move on to Syria. This week we saw video of Bashar al-Assad just outside Damascus, a place that was previously held by the rebels, now retaken by Syrian government troops. Is he winning?

DEMPSEY: This kind of conflict, an internal civil war insurgency, always (inaudible). He appears to be gaining momentum.

But I don't think it'll be sustainable.

RADDATZ: What happens next?

DEMPSEY: Well, what happens next is the source of continuing discussions about our strategy and whether we should become directly involved or become involved through support to the opposition, building partners in the region, humanitarian relief.

You know, we're doing quite a bit. The one thing we're not doing is becoming engaged directly.

RADDATZ: Let me talk about Iraq.


RADDATZ: I have seen you, been with you numerous times in Iraq and through the years, I think the first time we met was right after the initial invasion. How do you view Iraq today?

I think July was the most violent month in five years, 1,000 civilians

DEMPSEY: When I look back at the sacrifices we made in Iraq, we did, in fact, provide them with an -- with an historic opportunity to be what they want to be.

Now I'm not suggesting they're where they need -- where they want to be, where we would like them to be, because, again, this regional -- this kind of unleashing of what probably is centuries-old animosities, is going to take a while for them to get through.

RADDATZ: How much of what you learned from Iraq are you applying to Syria?

DEMPSEY: It has branded in me the idea that the use of military power must be part of an overall strategic solution that includes international partners and a whole of government and that simply the application of force rarely produces -- and, in fact, maybe never produces the outcome that we seek.

RADDATZ: Meanwhile, back home, a serious challenge within the military's own ranks. A disturbing increase in sexual assaults, an estimated 26,000 just last year. The debate, whether commanders should be involved in the decision to prosecute offenders.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wants to take it out of the chain of command. Why should it not be so, if about half of women do not want to go their commanders to report this?

DEMPSEY: A victim doesn't have to go to the commander. There are at least nine other places where a victim can go.

And by the way, we're doing other things other than trying to help the senators that are interested in legislative changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There's things we can do ourselves. We can, as the Air Force has done, we can accept a program for special victims councils. There's at least...

RADDATZ: You're looking at all sorts of things.

DEMPSEY: We're looking at every possible way and open-minded to every single option.

RADDATZ: OK. Wrapping up right now, you had a grandchild, the eighth grandchild this week, right?


RADDATZ: And your job was to do what?

DEMPSEY: Well, my job was to babysit the newest grandsons 2-year-old twin brothers, which actually was a -- probably the most difficult thing I've done since I've been chairman.

RADDATZ: You were telling me that one of the things your grandsons and all your grandkids love is you singing the National Anthem at Nationals Park. How did that come about?


DEMPSEY: This is the true story. I'd gone to throw out a pitch. And right before the pitch, someone had performed the National Anthem. It wasn't very good. And I think that -- no, it wasn't. And I take the National Anthem really seriously, that won't surprise you.

And I said to one of the owners, I said, you couldn't do any better than that? And he, kiddingly, said, "You think you can do better?" And I said, yes. And so he said, OK. We'll set a date. And we set the 4th of July.

RADDATZ: You chose that, right?

DEMPSEY: I chose the 4th of July. And you also notice, lest you think I'm a brave man, I brought four of the best singers I could find from the Army Corps.


DEMPSEY: And together we sang the National Anthem. It was really moving, actually.

RADDATZ: It was a beautiful performance. And I've seen many others of your performances of singing.

Anything you want to sing right now?



RADDATZ: I knew you were going to say that.

DEMPSEY: And I knew you were going to ask.

RADDATZ: Yes, you did. You were prepared for it. And I can't sing, either, so thanks very much for joining us, General Dempsey.

DEMPSEY: Thank you, Martha. Good to see you again.


RADDATZ: Coming up, Soledad O'Brien joins our powerhouse roundtable. So much to take on this morning, including Anthony Weiner's latest attempt at damage control, a possible boycott of the Russian Olympics, and that Republican family feud between Chris Christie and Rand Paul.




RADDATZ: Anthony Weiner still in the spotlight, showing no sign of dropping out of the New York City mayor's race, insisting this weekend he and his wife are having fun on the campaign trail.

Our powerhouse roundtable is here to dive into all of that.

But first ABC's Linsey Davis joins us with the latest.

Good morning, Linsey.

LINSEY DAVIS, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Martha. It's been another rough week for Anthony Weiner, but he believes he can rebound. It's been nearly two weeks since his bombshell admission, but he's still answering more questions about his sexting than his city's ideas for New York.


DAVIS (voice-over): Anthony Weiner finished out the week with a massive local media push.

ANTHONY WEINER, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN FROM N.Y.: I get embarrassed by things in my background.

DAVIS (voice-over): Sitting down with interviews with the local New York networks, coming clean and insisting he is 100 percent not sexting right now.

WEINER: These things are behind me 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not any kind of online relationship now?

WEINER: Nothing now.

DAVIS (voice-over): The embattled politician has slid from first place in the polls for mayor of New York City to fourth. Despite Weiner's efforts to get his campaign back on message, the former congressman continues to be confronted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lied to the people of New York.

DAVIS (voice-over): To the pundits and politicians who insist he should drop out of the race, he responded with this online ad.

WEINER: You don't know New York. Certainly you don't me. Quit isn't the way we roll in New York City.

DAVIS (voice-over): Friday Weiner announced the campaign manager, who quit in the wake of the sexting scandal, would be replaced by this woman, Camille Joseph, formerly the campaign's political director.

As for his communications director, Barbara Morgan, who went on a curse-filled rant to a reporter about a tell-all article in a newspaper by a former Weiner intern, she made headlines of her own with this tweet of a swear jar stuffed with hundred dollar bills, the photo captioned, "Should have known better, been better, gotta pay up."


DAVIS: His wife, Huma, has taken extended vacation from her job with Hillary Clinton, but Weiner promises we will see her back by his side again on the campaign trail between now and primary day, which is September 10th.


RADDATZ: Thanks to you, Linsey.

The roundtable is here now to weigh in. George Will; CEO of Starfish Media Soledad O'Brien; ABC's senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny; Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and ABC's own Matthew Dowd.

And George Will, I'm going to start with you on Anthony Weiner.

Why are we -- and maybe I shouldn't say we -- still following this so closely?

GEORGE WILL, ABC POLITICAL ANALYST: In what I hope are the last words I'm ever required to utter about this man, say this, in his brief but not brief enough congressional career, he was 1/435 of one half of one of our three branches of government, during which tenure he made no discernible mark on the national life. We're doing this because he's peculiar and because it's August.

RADDATZ: And because it's like a car wreck, I think you told me --


WILL: Exactly.

RADDATZ: -- you can't take your eyes off it.

WILL: It's a guilty pleasure.

RADDATZ: Jeff Zeleny, how does he stay in?

We hear over and over, he's staying in. It's all behind him.

JEFF ZELENY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He stays in because he has nothing else to do. He is trying to sort of rehabilitate his career, trying to rehabilitate his public life here, but George is right. I mean, we are not going to be talking about Anthony Weiner for that much longer. The primary is September 10th, so he'll stay in till then probably but he's out of money.

That ad we saw is online, Internet only. He is no longer or soon to be no longer a serious major candidate for the mayor of New York. The other people in the race actually have benefited from him.

RADDATZ: And Huma is going on vacation. I know you're a friend of Huma's. What does that tell us, if anything?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I don't think it tells us very much. I mean, Huma is a friend of mine, but I think really Jeff is right. This race is -- in a few weeks it's going to be over soon. New Yorkers are very discerning. They're going to be able to tell, you know, they're going to kick the tires on the mayoral candidacy. And I don't expect much to change over the next couple of weeks.

RADDATZ: Soledad, and any hope --


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, STARFISH MEDIA GROUP: Conversation is missing, though. We're all talking about Anthony Weiner and Sydney Leathers and this conversation is here and all these issues that actually had not really been debated in New York politics for a long time -- because Bloomberg has been sort of the front-runner in election after election.

We could be talking about school choice. We could be talking about some of the charter schools that are actually failing in New York City -- children. We could be talking about this massive income gap in New York City. We could be talking about the damage from Sandy and the damage from Irene, all those --


RADDATZ: Actually you and George Will should get together and talk about all those issues.

O'BRIEN: We'll be the only two. Everyone else wants to hear what Sydney Leathers is tweeting and it's unfortunate because I think it actually has had an effect on those other candidates. They've had to talk about their personal lives instead of talking about policy. So as a voter in New York, I'm kind of disappointed that the --

RADDATZ: And none of this could be good for the Clintons.

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's ultimately, ultimately where this falls back on. I think that's going to be somewhat problematic, because people are going to get through this. The good news about this is Anthony Weiner is in fourth place, falling fast.

And however big of a narcissist he is and wants to stay in this race because of his own sense he needs to serve his own self, why he sexts, why he did what he did In Congress, which is basically go on television all the time.

Anthony Weiner was basically on television all the time or on the computer most of the time in the course of this.

And so I do actually think it's a good thing that a narcissist of his level is not going to be mayor of New York anymore. Though politics has a tendency to draw them. I do think -- and other people can speak to this -- I do think it is problematic for a Clinton emergence in 2016, because I think the country always does -- it smells something. It may not attach itself to Hillary Clinton at all, but they don't like the smell of something. And if they think this is going to be a throwback to all the conversation --

RADDATZ: And (inaudible) --

DOWD: -- back in the '90s, it's a problem.

RADDATZ: (Inaudible) this week, we saw him.

Let's go to this picture of Hillary Clinton. This was the week when Hillary Clinton came to Washington to see and had a casual lunch with President Obama, a lovely lunch outside. She met with Vice President Biden. I think we're creeping pretty fast to 2016.

TANDEN: Yes, and I would say, look, this election is three years away. And Hillary has done a fantastic job. I did work for Hillary -- I should say that. I should say I think she did a fantastic job. I don't think people are going to make any connection between the mayor's race now and 2016, 2015. It's a lifetime in politics.

And I actually think this week's demonstrated how much unity there is on the Democratic side versus the Republican side. She was able to come here. There's strong support for her. She's able to have lunch with the president, vice president, colleagues of hers, you know, I think she has a lot of strength going forward.

RADDATZ: Do you think Republicans will forget about the Anthony Weiner scandal and how Hillary Clinton may or may not tie into that with Huma?

WILL: I gather the theory is not that Republicans might not forget but that this reminds the country -- I love the word -- reminds the country of the seamier side of the Clinton presidency. American may have attention deficit disorder; it does not have amnesia and doesn't need Weiner to remind them.

RADDATZ: And nothing goes away in three years, I don't think. Nothing goes away.

Let's turn to those Republicans. This week we saw a rift forming between two pillars of the Republican Party, Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: -- that he cared about protecting this country, maybe he wouldn't be in this gimme, gimme, gimme. Give me all the money you have in Washington.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: Maybe he should start look at cutting the pork barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky, but I doubt he would, because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon.

WILL: This is the king of bacon talking about bacon. If we can sit down, I'm inviting him for a beer.

CHRISTIE: I don't really have time for that at the moment.


RADDATZ: Good for the Republican Party?

WILL: Well, actually there is a rising libertarian stream that Chris Christie has said is a very dangerous thought. So let's be clear about what libertarianism is and what it isn't.

It is not anarchism. It has a role for government. But what libertarianism says, it comes in many flavors and many degrees of severity, it basically says before the government bridges the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have, A, a compelling reason and, B, a constitutional warrant for doing so.

Now if Mr. Christie thinks that's a dangerous thought, a number of people are going to say Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.

RADDATZ: Jeff Zeleny.

ZELENY: I think that Governor Christie actually emerges at least a short-term winner from this fight. He is one of the few Republicans who's willing to take on Rand Paul.

Around Capitol Hill there's so many Republicans who are afraid to say anything against Senator Paul or his father, Ron Paul, because they're sort of worried about all these followers they have. And they have a lot of supporters.

But Governor Christie first and foremost is running for re-election of the governor of New Jersey. He's likely to win in November. So this is good for him now.

Long-term, it gives him somewhat of a brand of that he's not afraid of Rand Paul. But George is right. There's this growing libertarian strain that is going to absolutely be front and center in the 2016 primary and it is going to define who Republicans put forward.

RADDATZ: OK, a fight over --


DOWD: Well, the Republican leadership and the establishment has to be very careful about attacking libertarians, I think, in this country. Generally -- and Republicans specifically -- this is not just a libertarian movement in a country that started in the last 10 years. I was out at Walden and it was -- the past week, sort of re-read Thoreau, who's basically the father of libertarianism in this country at a time of great change.

Libertarianism has existed in this country. Ronald Reagan described libertarianism as the heart of the conservative movement in this country. I think you have to be careful, you have to be compassionate, you have to have some sense of limited government.

But I think in the end who benefits the most from this is Rand Paul, because he represents a very strong rising movement in country in the Republicans. I think he benefits (inaudible).


RADDATZ: The Democrats.

TANDEN: See, I think that libertarianism this week has demonstrated a lot of problems. When you see the strain in Congress, what's really happening is it's nihilism. It's taking on -- the libertarian wing of the Republican Party is what's driving these debates, which are ensuring that the Congress can't act. Boehner is being defeated again and again within his party.

The unique moment we're in is that there is so many ruptures, national security issues, what the role of government is, food stamps, a whole slew of issues over the last weeks, where we've seen Republicans actually unable to govern because the basic form -- the basis of their party, the Tea Party, is really driving them to be able to say no to everything.


RADDATZ: So in the end do the Democrats win out of this?

O'BRIEN: No, they both win. They're basically, hey, everybody, I'm running in 2016 and this is the kind of Republican I will be. And they're laying out the difference.

And I think what you're going to see is this range, right, with Chris Christie on one side, Rand Paul on the other and whatever candidates are in between, who are also taking their sides.

And that's -- the challenge, I think, is going to be when you look back at the GOP autopsy, right, is which Republican Party are we going to be? Can you get through a primary and get through -- ?


RADDATZ: Do we know? Do we know, George?

WILL: If the indictment of libertarianism is that it prevented the passage of an execrable farm bill, the libertarians can live with that?

TANDEN: OK. Right? It also said -- the position of the Republican Party now is that we're going to double cuts to people who are hungry. We're going to say we're going to double cuts on food stamps because we want to give money to ag subsidies. That, I think, is the real challenge that --


ZELENY: I talked to Senator McCain this week, and he said all this is a moot point if Republicans do not sort of go for it on immigration reform. It will not matter who they support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's another thing.

ZELENY: That autopsy you're talking about.

DOWD: The huge benefit to this right now with -- among Republicans, in my view, is social issues aren't part of the conversation right now.

And I think in the end, if Republicans can keep social issues off the debate going into 2016 and it's about finances, about the role of government, Republicans will benefit from that.

If social issues --


DOWD: Between Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be next week.

RADDATZ: At this moment.


RADDATZ: We're all riled up about this rift.

I want to ask you very quickly, Jeff, this week we saw President Obama make another attempt at a grand bargain this week.

Where does that go?

ZELENY: It is a tough thing. It's a good thing that Congress is out for the month of August because they really think that a few constructive leaders can come together and work out some framework of something, but that is the key showdown in September. October 1st, you know, the new budget year is looming.

TANDEN: And I think on this issue what we've seen over the last week is that we have really poor growth. We have growth, but it's pretty anemic and what's really upsetting about where we are is that Washington is inflicting the growth through sequestration.


DOWD: There's no economic mobility in this country and everybody realizes that and both parties are not addressing that issue.


Thanks to all of you. Thanks to all of you. Thanks, everyone.

Coming up, Russia's controversial laws against homosexuality. Will they spark an Olympic boycott?

Plus, baseball's steroids scandal. The latest on Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, under suspicion and firing back.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES: There's more than one party that benefits from me not ever stepping back on the field, and that's not my teammates and it's not the Yankee fans.


RADDATZ: Coming up, the cloud still hanging over baseball, plus that touching tribute on Twitter this week. NPR's Scott Simon says goodbye to his mom. He joins us next.



JOHNNY WEIR, OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER: I'll take proper precautions. But at the same time I won't stop being myself. I won't stop being Johnny Weir, the gay fabulous ice skater person walking down the street.


RADDATZ: That is openly gay American figure skater Johnny Weir, who says he won't boycott the Olympic Games in Russia, despite that country's controversial law against homosexuality.

George is back to talk about that and more, and we're joined by Christine Brennan from "USA Today," and LZ Granderson from "ESPN," the magazine.

Christine, I want to start with you. Do you think the Olympic committee is really missing an opportunity here?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, "USA TODAY": I do. I think the international Olympic committee could basically say to the Russian government you must change this law and here's why. It is a great gift and it's a great bargaining chip to have the Olympic Games given to a country, Russia.

Putin wanted these Olympics more than anything. He himself lobbied for the Olympic Games several years ago.

So just as the opportunity was missed in China with dissidents being thrown in jail because the Olympics were held in China, the IOC missed an opportunity there to demand human rights change for generations. The same thing --

RADDATZ: And it's quite extraordinary what's going on in Russia, even if they say they won't arrest anybody, you have got people attacking pro-gay rallies, all sorts of things going on.

BRENNAN: Well, exactly. And at the Olympics, the -- at the end of the day, Martha, the Olympics is about inclusion. This is all about having athletes of the world show up and come; obviously there's commercialism, et cetera, but the bottom line is this is a chance for the Olympics to tell Russia this is not acceptable for generations.

RADDATZ: LZ, is the Obama administration missing an opportunity here?

What do you think should happen?

LZ GRANDERSON, "ESPN": Well, absolutely, not necessarily the Obama administration but certainly his secretary of state. You know, in 2011 Hillary Clinton gave, you know, arguably one of her most historical speeches in U.N. history when she talked about gay rights being human rights.

And this was John Kerry's opportunity to follow up with that, to show some consistency. The fact that we haven't really heard from him, from his office regarding this issue, the fact that we had to have 83 lawmakers send a letter to him, asking him to come out and say something, his support of gay Olympians, I think is really, really a poor sign of consistency from the secretary of state about gay rights being human rights.

And I'll tell you one other thing, I'm more concerned about the gay people who are -- and LGBT people who are still going to be in Russia once the Olympics leave. That's the importance of the secretary of state saying something, because it's not just about what happens to the people who visit, but it's about the people who live there and call Russia home.

RADDATZ: Thanks, LZ.

I want to move to baseball and steroids and A-Rod and what happens this week and he's basically said, I'm in. I'm staying. George?

GEORGE WILL, ABC POLITICAL ANALYST: "The New York Times" this morning reports that his lawyers are preparing for a lawsuit that could draw Major League Baseball into potentially embarrassing testimony.

Who does he think is going to be embarrassed? The implication of that is that A-Rod is holding Major League Baseball hostage. He's taken himself hostage and is threatening to shoot himself. All the evidence -- and there's a mountain of it that Major League Baseball has gathered -- is in the possession of the players association and A-Rod himself. He knows what he's looking at and I think he'll settle.

RADDATZ: Christine?

BRENNAN: Well, and when you look at what happened with Ryan Braun last week, you know, he had been adamant that he had not done anything and then he took the 65-game suspension.

This is mountains of evidence that Major League Baseball has against all these baseball players, apparently 10 of them in all. This is -- these are records, these are documents. This is not your grandmother's or grandfather's drug test anymore. This is as if you were trying to get evidence in a criminal trial. Major League Baseball has the goods on these guys and A-Rod is in big trouble.

RADDATZ: Thank you very much.

And thanks to you, LZ, for joining us.

Now our "Sunday Spotlight," shining this week on popular NPR host Scott Simon and his unique tribute to his mom, Patricia, a tribute in tweets sent from her hospital room before she died at age 84. Scott was by her side for five days with his BlackBerry, sharing pain, charm and humor.


RADDATZ (voice-over): For Scott's over 1 million followers, the tweets touched a chord. Some thought it was a little too personal. But so many more were moved by his respect and adoration for his mom, all captured in no more than 140 characters.

Some examples: "I know and might be near as this is only day of my adulthood I've seen my mother and she hasn't asked, 'Why that shirt?'"

"I tell my mother, you'll never stop teaching me. She said, 'Well, don't blame me for everything.'"

"I love holding my mother's hand. Haven't held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap."

SCOTT SIMON, NPR HOST: I just thought there was something in there that needed to be shared.

I would sit there at her bedside and I would hold her hand, things would occur to me. And it was also a way of me taking notes. It was also a way of me keeping this experience, I think --


RADDATZ: And honoring --

SIMON: -- for me, and honoring her.

RADDATZ: You had a record for the world. And I couldn't stop reading them. And I think part of it was we could all relate to that.


Dying is really the one universal experience. It's something we're all going to have.

She said to me at one point, you know, "You and I can get through this, Baby. The hard part is going to be for you later."

And she's right. That's -- she's absolutely right.

RADDATZ: I think what struck me, too, and probably everybody else, was the humor in your tweets.

SIMON: I think it's a way of getting through. We were up, continually, I guess, about 48 hours before she died. And I would tell her she needed to rest; she said at one point, "No, I don't."


SIMON: Stating the obvious.

RADDATZ: I want to read the tweet that got to me the most.

"The heavens over Chicago have opened and Patricia Lyons Simon Newman has stepped onstage."

SIMON: My mother was an old showgirl. She was the John James Hair Spray girl.

And it occurred to me at some point in the middle of all this my mother was giving me one last great performance. She was making it easier for us to live with what was coming. And she didn't want to burden us with her pain.

And I am utterly convinced that when the heavens over Chicago parted and she stepped there, there was an enormous round of applause and an ovation from everyone, from Shakespeare to Billy Rose, congratulating her.


RADDATZ: Our thanks to Scott Simon.

And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.


RADDATZ (voice-over): This week, the Pentagon released the names of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS" with David Muir tonight. George is back next week. And we hope you will be, too. Good morning.

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