'This Week' Transcript: Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Eliot Engel

Two key Congressional voices discuss the violence in Egypt.

ByABC News
August 16, 2013, 6:47 PM
PHOTO: Bob Corker
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks at a Rotary Club meeting in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013.
Erik Schelzig/AP Photo

New York, August 18, 2013— -- A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday morning, August 18, 2013 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. All excerpts must be attributed to ABC News "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.

A country in crisis: a new crackdown in Egypt. Could civil war be next for this key U.S. ally? Is there anything America can do to stop it? We're on the ground with breaking details.

Republican family feud.


NEWT GINGRICH, FRM. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Welcome to politics. It's a tough business.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Politico calls this the GOP's eve of destruction. This morning the party chair is here.

And the uproar over stop and frisk. Have police gone too far, or is it keeping cities safe? New York's top cop weighs in.

Plus the powerhouse roundtable on the week's politics right here this Sunday morning.

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

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. We have grand new developments right now from Egypt after a week that's killed hundreds, injured thousands. The military government now considering a dramatic move, outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood. But with Brotherhood supporters vowing to keep their protests going, this could push Egypt right to the edge of civil war.

ABC's Muhammad Lila is in Cairo with all the latest. Good morning, Muhammad.


The mood on the streets is tense. There are police, there are soldiers, there are armored personnel carriers on nearly every major street as this city braces for at least nine more protest marches set to begin within the next hour.

Now despite the recent very bloody crackdown, the Muslim Brotherhood is showing its defiance, showing and proving in many recent cases that they are willing to fight to the death if it means bringing back their ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So Muhammad, is there a sign that either side is willing to back away from this precipice and negotiate a solution?

LILA: Well, George that's a very good question. And this is where it gets very dangerous. Both sides see this as an existential conflict. In other words, they see themselves as fighting for their very survival.

The government and the military say they are now fighting terrorists, Islamic extremist who are hell bent on bringing this country to its knees. The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, says they are still the legitimate representatives of the people of this country because they won the last election, albeit by a very slim majority.

So both sides don't seem to have any middle ground, and many are predicting that things will get far worse before they get better if they even get better at all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Muhammad, thanks very much. I'm joined now by ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz.

And Martha, this has been -- this crisis unfolding for months, and it's been kind of a case-study in U.S. impotence. When the Brotherhood is in, the United States tries to press them to open up. They don't. The military comes in. The president condemns the crackdown. That makes no difference either.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We seem to have absolutely no leverage in Egypt. We have seen no change. Everything the U.S. asks for, nothing happens. And that's what's happened over the last few weeks.

Military to military, they're trying to influence them. Back off, don't go in to those camps, they go in and they do it. The president has not taken away, made any indication that he will take away that $1.3 billion in military aid. And I don't think you'll see the president ever try to take that away.

They're trying to get a plan together before congress comes back, what do we do. But right now there is no plan, there is no leverage except for military equipment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you are seeing more calls, Senators McCain and Graham, both saying it's time to suspend aid right now. And if the military continues with this crackdown, won't the U.S. be forced into that position?

RADDATZ: Well, that's the big question. Where is the red line for the U.S? Where is it? There was never really a red line in Syria, and you see tens of thousands of people killed. What they -- they've lost 900 people now in Egypt. There still seems to be no red line.

So we don't know what the U.S. will do next.

I have talked to several officials, and they say perhaps repair parts for some of the military equipment, perhaps Apache helicopters, will that make a difference? They have got all kinds of money coming in from elsewhere.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Martha, stand by. We're going to have more from you in just a minute.

But right now, let's bring those questions to two of the men responsible for making U.S. policy.. The senior Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee Bob Corker, and the senior Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee Eliot Engel.

And Senator Corker, let me begin with you. You've resisted calls to suspend U.S. aid to the military, saying the U.S. has to be a voice of calm. But can you justify continuing U.S. aid in the face of not only a coup, but this crackdown?

CORKER: Well, look, I think the actions of the last week, no doubt, are going to cause us to suspend aid. And I think it's at the same time a time for us to recalibrate and look at what is our national interest. There's no question that we overestimated what our leverage was, and we've underestimated the leverage that Saudi Arabia and UAE has had on this government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, let me just stop you right there. You now -- you've switched your position, you now believe it's necessary to suspend the aid?


But let me talk about that. I think we need to look at the tiers of our aid. Let's face it, most of the aid has gone out the door this year. So what we're really talking about, George, is a debate that will take place this fall as we look forward to next year. And again, I think this whole discussion has been a little bit naive and to me very shallow.

The fact is that we need to be looking at what is in our national interest. And is it in our national interest to have jihadis in northeastern Sinai that maybe threaten the security of Tennesseans and Americans? Is it in our national interest when we have 4.5 percent of the population and 22 percent of the world's economic output to ensure that we have priority passage in the Suez Canal and that we continue to have good jobs for Tennesseans and Americans.

So I hope this debate will shift, it'll shift to a place where we're pushing, obviously, for the government to act responsibly.

Look, I condemn what's happened with the military, but I also condemn what in essence was a political coup by the Muslim Brotherhood. And we need to move this debate along. And this fall hopefully, again, focus on what is our national interests. And there still are things within Egypt that are very much in our national interest. And we need to keep the lines of communication open.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's why it's been such a difficult balancing act for the administration and for all U.S. policy-makers.

But Congressman Engel, let me bring that to you. Do you agree that now is the time to begin to suspend U.S. military aid to Egypt?

ENGEL: No, I don't. I think it's a time to see what the next step should be. Obviously, we cannot let what's been happening just happen, but I think we have to be careful and not cut off our nose to spite our face. These are very, very difficult choices. I'm very unhappy, obviously, with the crackdown.

But we essentially have two choices in Egypt. And that's a military government, which hopefully will transition as quickly as possible to civilian government, or the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't think the Muslim Brotherhood is a choice.

Now it's very disconcerting that the generals, the military, have not listened to us, but I think we need to keep it up. I think we need to talk to them, we need to try to influence them, and while it's true that we may have less influence over them than we had before, we still have substantial influence over them. They use our military equipment. I don't believe they want to below up the relationship. It's a little bit bizarre to understand why they're doing what they're doing, but I don't think you throw the baby out with the bath water.

Egypt's an important country. And I think we have to be very careful before we willy nilly just cut off aid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: At the same time, Senator Corker, it seems like the entire region is in crisis right now. I know you're just back from Syrian border in Turkey, back from Jordan, back from Iraq. You have got conflicts in every one of those countries right now. And at the same time, it seems as if Secretary Kerry is investing a great deal of time in the Israeli-Palestinian process, which often seems like Groundhog Day.

So, does the administration in your view have its priorities straight here?

CORKER: Let me just say one thing quickly, George. I hope we will continue to have an aid relationship with Egypt. We've already -- most of the money is out the door this year. It's time for usto recalibrate. Our relationship has been very, very static for the last 35 years. So, I don't want to cut off our relations. And I do expect that we will have aid forthcoming in a way that really directly focuses on our national interests.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you want to cut back, but not cut off?

CORKER: Look -- well, look, I just think we need to tier it. There are certain things that obviously should not flow. There are certain things that are in our national interest that continue to need to flow. I mean, we want their cooperation in northeast Sinai. We want their cooperation with the Suez canal.

So again, let's look at what is in our national interest.

I think aid will continue to flow after we have this debate this fall. The money's out the door anyway for this year.

So I think a suspension, but a re-calibration. And I don't want to cut our nose off to spite our face either.

Back to the bigger regional issue, there's no question, George, that we are not focusing on very important things. In Iraq, the country is devolving. We have a leader there, candidly, who's done some of the same things the Muslim Brotherhood has done, and is concentrating power to himself, breaking down democracy. That's creating sectarian violence.

And then you look at the regional sectarian violence that's happening in Syria. We have all kind of proxies weighing in there. That is destabilizing the region. It's happening in Lebanon and Jordan. 25 percent of their population is going to be Syrian refugees in the short future.

So I do think that we have a lot of our national interests there that are not being focused on , especially, especially it's so apparent in Iraq where it's as if we wished that problem to go away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Congressman Engel, what do we do right now?

ENGEL: Well, I think so the president's approach was appropriate. I think cutting off the maneuvers next month with the Egyptian military was an appropriate response. I know there are people say it's not enough, but the president is really caught between a rock and a hard place. Egypt is a very, very important country. Our policy for the past 35 years has made Egypt a staple of security in the Middle East. And we really need to continue that.

And while it may feel good to say, OK, just cut them loose, they're not listening to us. They're cracking down and murdering people, which is horrific, I hope that behind the scenes diplomacy will prevail. They have to let up a bit, but I think severing aid is not the right thing to do right now.

We have to take each country based on the situation on the ground. And if you -- again, if you look at the military and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, I don't really believe long-range we can be allies and partners with the Muslim Brotherhood. Let's hope that we can continue to talk with the military. Let's hope we can get them to pull back.

It's not in the best interest of other countries to have them continue the crackdown, either, not Saudi Arabia or some of the other countries. So I think diplomacy should try to be prevailed. And again I think that a cutoff of aid at this moment would be the wrong thing to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, gentlemen, thank you both for your time. Thanks very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in our panel right now, Martha Raddatz joining us again, along with Bill Kristol, editor of the "Weekly Standard". It's been a long time since you have been on the roundtable. Welcome back.

Congressman Keith Ellison and chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House.

Congressman, let me begin with you to pick up on the conversation we just had, because I take it you saw both the senator and the congressman laid out the dilemma facing U.S. policy, not quite willing to cut off U.S. aid. Yet you are?

ELLISON: Yes, I am. I would cut off aid, but engage in intense diplomacy in Egypt and in the region to try to say, look, we will restore aid when you stop the bloodshed in the street and set up a path towards democracy that you were on before.

In my mind, there's no way to say that this was not a coup. It is. We should say so. And then follow our own law, which says we cannot fund the coup leaders. The African Union has said this, the Europeans have said this, we can say this, too. And we shouldn't look at this just in the short-term. We should look at our long-term integrity in the region.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Bill Kristol, one country that has not said that is Israel. Israel, ironically, actually wants to keep the aid flowing.

BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, I think they prefer the military rule to the Muslim Brotherhood ruling, and I think an awful lot of people in the region prefer that. An awful lot of the Arab governments prefer it.

It's not clear to me that we shouldn't prefer it. So I'm a little -- most of my friends in the foreign policy world are for cutting off aid. I'm much more uncertain about this at this point. I mean, this is a trigger you can only pull once. Right, you can only cut off the aid once. And what's the point of that?

What would happen concretely? What better thing is going to happen in Egypt or in the region if tomorrow morning the president got on TV and said we're cutting off the aid? I'm very doubtful about that. And I think there's a lot we can do with our relationship with the Egyptian military that will be harder to do once we cut off the aid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha, White House officials I talk to say that they haven't ruled out this step. And they make Bill's point as well. It would create a fundamentally new relationship with a long-time ally.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It definitely would. And you've got to remember that this aid came about after the Camp David accords.

I think one thing that could happen is that they monitor that aid more closely, making sure it goes into that funnel, making sure it goes to help with the Camp David accords.

Israel definitely doesn't want this aid to stop, they definitely don't want to see that go away because, as Bill says, they don't want the Muslim Brotherhood around, either.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Where is this going in the Congress?

ELLISON: Well, I hope that it's going towards we're going to suspend aid until they establish some democratic protocols and stop the violence. But there's a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans, who are feeling the same way that I am, and others.

And so I think that there was actually an amendment earlier this year to suspend aid to Egypt. And I don't think it's going to cut aid -- I think it's really more a matter of saying we will not fund this coup and this bloodshed. If you get your act together, we can reestablish the relationship. So it's not like it's a done deal, it is a iterative process which I hope results in the cessation of this violence.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Bill's created a series difficult headlines for the administration. I'm going to put some of them up there right now.

"Egypt's Blood, America's Complicity"; "Obama's Greatest Failure"; "The passive president"; "Spineless on Egypt" -- you know, I think this is kind of an existential problem. I think this would likely be happening to almost any president, given our relative decline in power.

But is there something the administration could have done earlier to change the course of these events?

KRISTOL: Well, I think so. We have been withdrawing in the Middle East. It's very clear. We didn't leave troops in Iraq. We said Assad must go in Syria, and then Assad stayed.

And then -- this is big -- almost exactly a year ago -- I think it was August 20th, 2012, the president said we have a red line in Syria. The Assad regime has used chemical weapons. We didn't enforce that red line.

And everyone I've talked from the region says you now look weak. You cannot say you have a red line and then do nothing about it. And at this point, we tried to persuade Defense Secretary Hagel's big, what, 17 phone calls to the Egyptian military, to try to tell them don't do this, don't do this. And they just think we will not enforce -- we can't be taken -- we're not taking this as seriously as we should be.

So in the context of U.S. withdrawal and weakness, we get a Syrian war with 100,000 dead, we get the Muslim Brotherhood and the military fighting in the streets of Cairo. It's not good.

RADDATZ: And you got to remember what happens afterwards. It's not like any other place. You've got 900, a thousand dead in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood pushed out of power. What happens to them afterwards and the region because of what happened there?

Radicalized. And this is a generational problem. People who were killed have children, grandchildren. This will go on for decades.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Got to stop and leave it right there. Thank you all very much.

Coming up, powerhouse roundtable on all the week's politics. The GOP's biggest stars firing at each other. Can the party make peace?

Plus New York police commissioner Ray Kelly defends stop and frisk.

RAY KELLY, N.Y. POLICE COMMISSIONER: If stop and frisk is changed significantly, lives will be lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think that's a reasonable conclusion.



STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable up next, including more with Bill Kristol, there's his last appearance on THIS WEEK, 14 years ago. He hasn't changed at all. He'll join our debate about the GOP's future and the fall's big showdowns, next.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Strategy for taking back the White House amid a series of family feuds. Our roundtable and GOP chair Reince Priebus here to analyze and debate what's next for the GOP and those false (ph) showdowns with the White House.

First, some background from ABC's senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's start the "Family Feud."

JEFF ZELENY, ABC NEWS SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Republicans, it seemed like a summer right out of an old game show, with policy feuds pitting some of the party's top stars against each other. Take Chris Christie versus Rand Paul on national security.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: This strain of libertarianism, I think, is a very dangerous thought.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: I'm the one trying to grow the party, and attacking me isn't helping.

ZELENY (voice-over): And Mitch McConnell versus Ted Cruz on the wisdom of shutting the government down on overfunding health care.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, MINORITY LEADER: The problem is the bill that would shut down the government wouldn't shut down ObamaCare.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom in Washington that all the shutdown was a political disaster for Republicans is not borne out by the data.

ZELENY (voice-over): Republicans are still split over whether to join President Obama on immigration reform.

Is it bad blood as the party tries to define itself before 2016? Or a healthy debate?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It's going to be hard for the Libertarian to make the establishment happy and it's going to be hard for the establishment to make the Libertarian happy. Welcome to politics. It's a tough business.

ZELENY (voice-over): There's no shortage of prospective Republican candidates, and that makes it even more challenging for the party to resolve its ideological divide.

For THIS WEEK, Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, Washington.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the man who's got the job of bringing the GOP together, party chair Reince Priebus.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us this morning.

I want to start off by showing this big story that appeared in "Politico" this week, called "Eve of Destruction;" ominous headline right there.

Went on to say, "It is almost impossible to find an establishment Republican in town who's not downright morose about the 2013 that has been and about to be. Most dance around it in public, but they see this year as a disaster in the making, even if most elected Republicans don't know it or admit it."

Your response?

PRIEBUS: Well, first of all, kali (ph) mera (ph) George --


STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm glad you got the Greek in, OK.


PRIEBUS: Hey, listen, and if you saw the next few "Politico" articles, you saw articles just yesterday about the peace and actually detente on the Republican National Committee between those Libertarians and the RNC.

I actually think, George, look, you know what, a healthy family debate is not a bad thing at all. I really believe that.

I don't think at a time when we just came off of a presidential election that having a party that's just dull and boring is not good just for our party, but for this country. I think that these debates are good. I was there in Boston.

Obviously I would appear to be someone that would be claiming that everything is hunky dory, but actually we had a very positive meeting, and there was peace and there was debate, and everyone left energized about the future of a party that is drastically changing its approach to politics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I think you got a standing ovation when you called for this resolution saying that there would not be any Republican debates on CNN and NBC if they continue to go forward with these documentaries and films about Hillary Clinton.

One notable dissent came from Mitt Romney's former senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom; he had this tweet right here.

He says, "It's bad optics for the RNC to block CNN and NBC from sponsoring presidential debates. Attacking the media is a loser's game."

PRIEBUS: Well, I don't know if that's just sketches on tilt, George. I'm not really taking advice from Eric Fehrnstrom right now. I'm trying to build a party that's year-round. I'm trying to fix a data and digital operation, I'm trying to get a hold of a primary process and a debate debacle that, as you know, I've called a traveling circus.

The fact of the matter is I've got to protect this party and our nominees. We don't want a whole lot of 23 debate rounds like we've had before. And I would just say that entities like NBC and CNN that are moving forward with four-part miniseries about Hillary Clinton are not going to take part in our debates.

Look, if you're not going to have 23 debates, these guys are making it a lot easier for us to pare that down to a reasonable number in front of people and entities that actually give a darn about the future of the Republican Party.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were also willing to call out the Romney campaign for Mitt Romney's comments about immigration, saying self-deportation was horrific.

But do you believe that your party is really ready to do, to reach out in a way that it needs to to win and bring in greater numbers of women, Hispanics, blacks and gays?

PRIEBUS: Well, look. I mean, we're deploying the biggest field operation we have ever done in the history of our party, George. What we're doing is something no national party has done in an off-year. Since our April meeting back in Los Angeles, we've hired 157 people already, full-time, across the country, we're probably going to double that number by the end of the year.

In an off year, coming off the heels of an election loss, to have that many field people in Hispanic, Asian, African-American communities, it's unheard of. And my point is this: look, if you're going to get the sale, you've got to show up and ask for the order. And my point about our party has been you can't be a national party that shows up five months before an election and expects to move mountains. So this is a big, cultural shift in our party as far as our field operation, our data operation.

And obviously I think we've got some infrastructure issues in regard to our primaries. That's what I'm working on. I've got to control the world that I live in. And that's the world of party mechanics and operations. And I think that if you look at the press that came out of Boston, as a whole, you'll see very positive stories from "The Wall Street Journal" to "Politico" to even ABC.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us this morning.

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