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'This Week' Transcript: House Speaker John Boehner

ByABC News
September 28, 2014, 9:00 AM

September 28, 2014 — -- Below is the rush transcript of "This Week" on September 28th, 2014. It may contain errors.

ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on ABC's This Week, attack on ISIS. Martha Raddatz on a ship in the middle of the action with an extraordinary inside look at the round the clock U.S. war effort.

And breaking details on the new fears about terrorist sympathizers here at home.

Then on the road with House Speaker John Boehner. Will he call for American ground troops to join the ISIS fight? Plus, what he'll tell the president if Republicans take over congress.

And Bill O'Reilly on his latest page turner. His stunning take on the death of a World War II legend. Who does he think ordered a hit on an American war hero?

From ABC News, This Week with George Stephanopoulos begins now.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm Martha Raddatz, and today we're coming to you from Bahrain on the Persian Gulf, site of the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's fifth fleet where we're tracking the very latest in the fight against ISIS with the men and women carrying out the mission.

This week we got a rare look onboard a U.S. aircraft carrier and we'll bring you much more from our journey a bit later. Plus, we'll have full analysis of the U.S. strategy. Are we succeeding in this fight? And how long will it last?

But we begin with the latest developments here, the U.S. now expanding air strikes into new portions of Syria in the battle against the jihadist army.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Five days after strikes began in Syria, the U.S. and its coalition partners have opened a new front in the fight, bombing is targets surrounding the Kurdish town of Kobani. Our Terry Moran is near the Syria/Turkey border.

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We are just a few yards way from the Syrian border and this wind-swept hillside has become a front row seat to the front lines of this war. On these hills, Kurdish fighters squaring off just a few hundred yards away with ISIS. You can hear the crack of rifle fire, the thud of mortars, occasionally a jet overhead as these people bear witness to the desperate struggle for their town now in the crosshairs of ISIS.

RADDATZ: A total of seven coalition air strikes made in Syria since Friday, including on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqah, as well as three strikes in Iraq near the Kurdish capital of Irbil, part of a week of bombardment of ISIS training camps, command and control centers and mobile oil refineries, all targeted to degrade the ability of ISIS to support operations in Iraq.

The Pentagon saying Saturday the latest strikes included support from coalition forces from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE. Commanders here telling me of the importance of the role of those majority Sunni nations.

CAPTAIN DANIEL CHEEVER, COMMANDER, AIR WING EIGHT: Their integration into it from my seat was seamless.

RADDATZ: Back in Washington, Obama national security adviser Susan Rice met Friday with leaders of the moderate Syrian opposition forces, which the U.S. has agreed to begin arming and training in an effort to provide ground support for the fight.

But Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey stressed that the training effort will take time and that air strikes alone will not be enough to defeat ISIS.

MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOIN CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I am confident that we can establish their training if we do it right. We have to do it right, not fast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: And now our ABC contributor, former Marine Corps fighter pilot and State Department official, Colonel Steve Ganyard is here to help break down these new developments.

And Colonel Ganyard, give us an idea what was hit in the last week and the significance of that.

STEVE GANYARD, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It's important, Martha, to differentiate between the two types of targets that we had in Syria this week.

The first you see in the blue dots around Aleppo was this new terrorist group called Khorasan. This is totally separate from ISIS. Khorasan is a traditional al Qaeda group that was plotting to blow up targets in the west. But they are very separate from ISIS, which has been the most of the focus of the fight in both Iraq and Syria for the past couple of weeks.

In red you see some of the targets that we hit in Syria that were focused on ISIS around Raqqah, which is the headquarters essentially of ISIS, but also down towards al Qaim and the crossing down there. It's very interesting because the lifeblood of any insurgency is cash. And ISIS had been developing these modular oil refineries that allowed them to collect almost $2 million a day in oil revenues.

And so all those things that you're seeing, all those red dots are command and control, they're refurbishment, training areas that ISIS had in this safe haven in Syria. And so the administration made a decision to go in and hit those targets to help the effort in Iraq.

RADDATZ: And you said to help the effort in Iraq. Obviously we want to protect the west, we want to protect Americans, but it is right now to look after Iraq.

GANYARD: Right. The effect on ISIS to help the fight in Iraq, and what was happening in Syria, it was that the ISIS had the ability to go back into safe havens and to rearm and regroup. But if you look at these strikes that were done later in the week and yesterday included, you can see they're focused around places like Kirkuk and Erbil and a bit worryingly you see all those strikes around Baghdad. You look at that, all that range that ISIS is able to affect, that's almost 8 million people that now come under the 30,000 to 50,000 men that ISIS has in uniform.

And so you can see why the administration was concerned about taking away their safe area and degrading them in Syria so that they couldn't affect Iraq.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much, Colonel Ganyard.

Now an inside look at one of the aircraft carriers at the heart of the U.S. mission against ISIS -- the USS George H.W. Bush where fighter jets are launched, precision bombs are assembled, American service members running an incredible operation at sea that never stops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Towering some 20 stories above the waters of the Persian Gulf, the USS George H.W. Bush is at the center of this air war, its flight deck nearly as long as the empire state building is tall and bristling with the most ferocious warplanes in the navy, each loaded with thousands of pounds of bombs and missiles, the F-18 fighters launched on missions to Syria and Iraq any time night or day.

This ship left Norfolk, Virginia in the middle of February for a nine-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. Never did they imagine that six months into the deployment they'd be dropping bombs on a group called ISIS.

CHEEVER: We watch your news. We watch what's going on and we quickly started putting together, hey, this is getting worse. This is getting bad.

RADDATZ: The ship had been conducting missions over Afghanistan, but with ISIS forces quickly taking over territory in Iraq, the aircraft carrier was ordered to change course.

CAPTAIN ANDREW LOISELLE, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS GEORGE HW BUSH: 30 hours after they told us to go, literally we're departing the Afghanistan theater, and 30 hours later we're flying combat sorties over Iraq.

RADDATZ: Many of the fighter pilots had done multiple tours here in the past.

It is not just the pilots, it takes 4,500 sailors to keep this air campaign going. They do everything from maintaining the aircraft to moving the paperwork, shifts are long, days off don't exist, temperatures hovering over more than 100 degrees.

The little spare time one gets maybe means time for a quick workout, a rare chance to send an e-mail home or get a haircut. Meals are one of the only times to relax and catch up. 18,000 meals are prepared here each day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Work out here every day runs into the next one, so you're kind of just going over and over again.

RADDATZ: But these sailors understand their jobs are critical. We watched these men and women assemble bombs, putting together a 500-pound precision-guided weapon capable of leveling a building, and above them, the bombs were loaded onto aircraft bound for the war zone.

The deck of an aircraft carrier is an incredibly dynamic place. Once they get all these fighter jets back on deck, they maintain them, go over them, make sure they don't need any repairs. When they're all set to go, they're right back on another mission.

The air bosses in the ship's tower oversee it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Best seat in the house.

RADDATZ: And one of the most important -- the tower landing jets every 55 seconds and launching them every 3 minutes.

To take off from this short runway, one-thirtieth the size of a regular runway, the plane's front wheels are connected to a catapult, the pilot keeps the engines at full power, and then when the catapult is fired, the jet goes from a dead stop to speeds up to 184 miles per hour in just 2 seconds.

But throughout this deployment there has not been a single serious mishap, and well over 250 missiles and bombs have been dropped on Iraq and Syria.

The strike group commander who is also an D-18 pilot who's been flying missions told us the ISIS targets could become harder to find.

REAR ADMIRAL DEWOLF H. MILLER III, COMMANDER, CARRIER STRIKE GROUP TWO: They are a learning organization, so we know that they will adapt and that may make our job more difficult. but this is a long-term effort, so the strength of the coalition and our presence here will be here for quite some time.

RADDATZ: And what is next? With our warplanes now attacking in Syria?

REAR ADM. MILLER: I don't want to talk about what we're doing right now or would do in the future. Once it's past and behind us, then we can talk about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There goes one now?

REAR ADM. MILLER: And there goes one right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: And we are now back on land, and joining us now is Vice Admiral John Miller, who is the commander of U.S. naval forces for Central Command and the commander of Fifth Fleet here in Bahrain. Admiral Miller, let's start with what you really have accomplished with those air strikes.

VICE ADM. JOHN MILLER, COMMANDER OF U.S. NAVAL FORCES, CENTCOM: Well, good morning. Let's look at it in the framework of the president's strategy and what he's asked us to do -- degrade and destroy ISIL, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces, reduce ISIL's funding, and provide humanitarian assistance.

So what have we done? We have a U.S.-led coalition air force. We have Iraqi security forces on the ground and Peshmerga security forces. What's been accomplished so far? They've retaken Mosul dam. They've reinforced the area around Haditha dam. They've reinforced their position around Baghdad. They've provided relief at Sinjar mountain, which was a potential humanitarian disaster. They provided relief around the city of Amerli, another potential humanitarian disaster.

RADDATZ: So they've really slowed down ISIS but haven't halted them.

MILLER: No, they haven't halted them, but there's been progress being made.

RADDATZ: But they've moved forward south.

MILLER: Well, they were -- there was some risk in the southern part of Baghdad, and the Iraqi security forces have been able to reinforce their position there, so they're more secure now than they were previously.

RADDATZ: And the targeting now, we talked to Rear Admiral Miller on the ship, and he said it may get a little more difficult. I saw lots of fighter jets returning to the ship with their bombs still attached. I know that's normal sometimes, but is there a chance you kind of run out of targets because ISIS starts spreading out?

MILLER: Well, they're an adaptive force, and we've seen them adapt to the air strikes that we're doing. But really, bad news for them. We're the most adaptive force in the world, and so as they adapt, we'll adapt.

RADDATZ: But air power has limits. I'm sure you would be the first to admit that. So what do you do? You don't have military ground controllers to help pick targets, and you don't have a U.S. ground force there.

MILLER: No, we don't, but we have a ground force on the ground. The Iraqi security forces, the Peshmerga forces, as well.

RADDATZ: And we know they didn't perform so well, and that's why we're there.

MILLER: And that's why we have the advise and assist mission to help them get better at what they do, and there's lots of work going on in that regard.

RADDATZ: Paint a picture for the American public of what you think this campaign will look like in the next six months, in the next year. Will we see bombing all the time? Just give us a sense of what that would be like.

MILLER: Well, I'm not sure that we know what it's going to be like, because it is an adaptive campaign and it's going to develop over time. We have a broad strategic framework from which to work from, and that's helpful to us. And we'll have to see how it's going to develop over time.

RADDATZ: Okay, thanks very much, Vice Admiral, for joining us this morning and thanks to all your sailors for welcoming up.

Coming up, much more from Bahrain. What terror groups could be planning attacks on Americans back home? We'll have the latest on the new warnings, plus George's exclusive interview with House Speaker John Boehner. What's the move he says the president should be making in the fight against ISIS? We'll be back in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: Back now in Bahrain with our closer look at urgent warnings that terror groups in this part of the world could be planning attacks in the U.S. Overnight, the group Khorasan posted on social media that a U.S. air strike killed one of its commanders, but U.S. law enforcement officials say the dangers that group and others still pose is very real. ABC's senior Justice Department correspondent Pierre Thomas walks us through the threats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC SR. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: As air strikes continue this morning in Syria and Iraq, law enforcement officials say it's injected more uncertainty into an already volatile threat environment here at home. The top threat, according to the FBI, the Khorasan. The new al Qaeda affiliate that is plotting to attack commercial aircraft with undetectable bombs.

LT. GEN. MIKE BARBERO, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It really is frightening and really is something that we should be concerned about.

THOMAS: FBI Director James Comey told me and a small group of reporters that the Khorasan was at the top of his list of threats and that he was not certain that its leaders or the plot had been stopped by this week's air strikes in Syria. He said the group's plan could serve as, quote, tomorrow. Here's how the attorney general described the threat in July.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general.

THOMAS: Perhaps the next most urgent threat, so-called homegrown radicals. A new FBI homeland security bulletin suggests the military strikes could fuel the anger of ISIS sympathizers in the U.S., possibly motivating homeland attacks. The fear, that the images of air strikes and the beheadings by ISIS might spur angry and deranged individuals here at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have someone attacking someone in the building. We can hear a lot of screaming.

THOMAS: Just this week, this man in Moore, Oklahoma, who police say had recently been trying to convert fellow employees to Islam, allegedly beheaded a co-worker after he was fired.

SGT. JEREMY LEWIS, MOORE, OK PD: Due to the manner of death and initial statements of co-workers, we requested the assistance of the FBI.

THOMAS: Authorities want to know if this was workplace anger or something more.

Also of concern, the 100 Americans who have gone or tried to go to Syria. This new ISIS propaganda video brings home the threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the end. This is the end that they face.

THOMAS: The FBI director said they were speaking with what he believes to be, quote, North American accents. This morning, a witch's brew of threats keeping U.S. law enforcement on edge. For "This Week," Pierre Thomas, ABC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Thanks, Pierre. Let's take this on now with John Cohen, who until July was counterterrorism coordinator for the Department of Homeland Security, and Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who's tracked al Qaeda for years, leading the investigation into the attack on the USS Cole, and also investigating the events surrounding 9/11.

Thanks for joining us. I want to start with you, John Cohen. Khorasan, you were at Homeland Security in July. You had to have known about this group. What more can you tell us about it and what was done to try to counter any type of attack?

JOHN COHEN, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATOR, HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, the Khorasan group is a group of hardened, experienced individuals, who have been associated with other members of al Qaeda, but I think what is most important with regard to the story here is that it reflects what the real danger is in Syria, where for years we have had extremists from all over the world all going to Syria, and they've worked together. They've planned together. They've plotted together. They've trained together. They've become more experienced together, and this is going to be one of the main challenges the United States is going to have to confront in the years ahead.

RADDATZ: Ali Soufan, you've been quite critical of the approach to combating al Qaeda. You recently said that there was too much focus on Osama bin Laden and not on the bin Ladenism he spawned. What do you mean by that and what do you think we should be doing better?

ALI SOUFAN, CEO, THE SOUFAN GROUP: I think since 9/11, our tactics has been just tactics.

We have been, you know, dealing with al Qaeda, with the threat al Qaeda brings. We have been successful in diminishing some of the threat in the short term, but we never dealt with the ideology. Today after trillions of dollars that's been spent, after thousands of lives around the world that have been lost, we have more people adhere to the ideology of Osama bin Laden in 2014 than we had in 2001. So that gives you an idea that the threat is not a group. The threat is in the ideology. There are different groups, sometimes we call them ISIS, sometimes we call them al Qaeda, now people are calling Khorasan a new group. However, we never dealt with ideology, and that is a problem.

RADDATZ: And I know we're trying to do that now. I know the State Department has many programs, but quickly from you both, how confident are you that you really can destroy ISIS, and these al Qaeda splinter groups? Let's start with you, John Cohen.

COHEN: Well, I think the main question here, Martha, is why is the rhetoric, why is the narrative from these groups resonating and resonating with people in the United States in particular? Because that is one of the most disturbing elements of this problem is that these --

RADDATZ: But tell me how confident you are that we can beat them.

COHEN: I think we've taken some good first steps. The work of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and others have been somewhat productive in developing community-based efforts that might make our communities a little bit safer in resisting these types of issues, but we have a lot more work to do.

RADDATZ: Ali Soufan, very, very quickly, please, how confident are you?

SOUFAN: Well, first, before I answer this question, we have to know our enemy. I mean, Sung Tzu said a long time ago, if you know your enemy and know yourself, you will win 100 times in 100 battles. Look for example about the Khorasan group. Khorasan is a region in central Asia that includes part of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They refer -- al Qaeda refers to the leadership in northern Pakistan as Khorasan. So for them saying the brothers in Khorasan is like them -- is like us saying headquarters or the headquarters in Washington, D.C., so it's not a new affiliate. It's not a new group. It is simply al Qaeda as we know it and as we always knew it.

So first, we have to learn about our enemy. We have to identify the enemy. And if we don't do this with ISIS and if we don't target the incubating factors that are making ISIS popular among thousands of youth around the world, then I think we're going to have a lot of difficulties in dismantling it and defeating it.

RADDATZ: Okay. Thanks to you both. We'll have much more from Bahrain later in the show. But for now, let's go to Washington and my colleague, Jon Karl. Jon.

KARL: Thanks, Martha. Coming up, George's exclusive interview with House Speaker John Boehner. Find out why he says he is ready to call Congress back into session to debate the war on ISIS. Plus, what he says Republicans and Democrats could agree to get done right now.

And later, who replaces Attorney General Eric Holder? First the powerhouse roundtable's big winners of the week, back in just two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And now Jon's pick. Derek Jeter is Jon's big winner of the week.

Trending right now, our Facebook find of the week. What's burning up news feeds? House Speaker John Boehner, could he face a challenge to his speakership?

According to "The Hill" newspaper, clusters of conservative lawmakers have been secretly huddling, trying to orchestrate a coup against the Ohio Republican. But, wait, the "Wall Street Journal" has another big headline. They declare a powerful Speaker Boehner is now back on top. House leadership has already been rocked by Eric Cantor's stunning primary loss.

KARL: You certainly looked stunned. Did this completely shock you?

CANTOR: Absolutely, Jon. We're going to be able to look back at this, and what seemed really bad at the time may turn out to be really good.

KARL: So could there be another shake-up, or is Speaker Boehner in his strongest position yet? It's our Facebook find of the week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: The speaker shot down that story about a coup during our exclusive interview, and he certainly seemed as confident as ever as he hit the campaign trail for GOP candidates this week in some surprising places. George was right there with him.

(Begin Video Tape)

STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s an aggressive swing through deep blue territory—

BOEHNER: We've got 41 more days and we're going to get it finished.

STEPHANOPOULOS: House Speaker John Boehner campaigning in New Hampshire, New York and Maine. We caught up with him on the road in Portland.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's gotta be a good sign for your party, I believe, that you're campaigning in New England in late September.

BOEHNER: We can gain seats in this election. And we've got great prospects all over the country.

I don't think you can be a national party if you just ignore one part of the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: Fix our regulatory issues, fix our legal problems and find a way to educate more of our kids.It's not going to happen if we don't elect Bruce to the United States Congress. (APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: We've got great candidates here in the Northeast.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How many House Republicans next year?

BOEHNER: More than we have today.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Think you're gonna have a Republican Senate?

BOEHNER: I do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Speaker confident the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: I’m glad you’re here for Elise. She’s a great candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But has much less faith in the president’s war plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: If the goal is to destroy ISIS, as the president says it is, I don't believe the strategy that he outlined will accomplish that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?

BOEHNER: At the end of the day, I think it's gonna take more than air strikes to drive them outta there.

At some point somebody's boots have to be on the ground… That's the whole point-

STEPHANOPOULOS: American?

BOEHNER: Listen, the president doesn't want to do that.

If I were the president, I probably wouldn't have talked about what I wouldn't do. And maybe we can get enough of these forces trained to get ‘em on the battlefield. But somebody's boots have to be there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if no one else will step up, would you recommend putting American boots on the ground?

BOEHNER: We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us. And if we don't destroy them first, we're gonna pay the price.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you've said that - assuming you're speaker next year - you'd want to have a vote on a resolution - why not now?

BOEHNER: I'd be happy to.

The president typically in a situation like this would call for an authorization vote and go sell that to the American people and send a resolution to the Hill. The president has not done that. He believes he has authority under existing resolutions to do what he's done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't agree?

BOEHNER: I think he does have the authority to do it. But the point I'm making is this is a proposal that the Congress ought to consider.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our reporter Jeff Zeleny has talked to a couple sources on Capitol Hill - said you and other leaders actually warned that if it came up now it would splinter both parties and might not pass.

BOEHNER: I did not suggest that to anybody in my caucus, or to the president for that matter.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So to be clear - if the president put a resolution forward now, you'd call Congress back?

BOEHNER: I'd bring the Congress back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what else will a Republican Congress do? Karl Rove wrote this week that GOP candidates must lay out a specific agenda.