A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 14, 2023 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: Border mess.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The lifting of the Title 42 does not mean our border is open.
KARL: The end of pandemic immigration restrictions brings more migrants to the southern border.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Record crossings, record carelessness, record chaos.
KARL: Facilities overwhelmed. Multiple cities declare a state of emergency, as the Biden administration scrambles to contain the fallout.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re doing all we can. It's going to be chaotic for a while.
KARL: We’re live at the border this morning.
Plus, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Texas Congressman Michael McCaul.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If they don't give you massive cuts, you’re going to have to do a default.
KARL: Donald Trump fires off a litany of false claims and extreme positions after a jury finds he sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll.
E. JEAN CARROLL: But I felt strong because I knew I was telling the truth.
KARL: We'll cover it all with the powerhouse roundtable.
Did you feel your life was in danger?
BILL GATES: We certainly had evenings, days, where we felt that way.
KARL: Facing violent threats and false allegations from fellow Republicans, one Arizona official opens up about the mental toll of upholding his constitutional duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.
This week we saw the clearest indication yet just how strange and difficult and deeply divisive the upcoming presidential campaign will be. After Donald Trump took the stage at CNN's town hall this week in New Hampshire, many commentators said he showed he hadn't changed, that he’s the same guy who lied compulsively and inspired an insurrection as president.
But that’s not quite true. Trump demonstrated this week that after leaving the White House more than two years ago, he has become more extreme and less restrained in attacking the system that made it possible for him to be elected in the first place. He endorsed a U.S. government default. He hailed January 6th as a special day. And he said he’d likely pardon most of those who attacked the Capitol. He embraced his old policy of separating children at the border, a policy that as president he ultimately rescinded. And he was applauded by a mostly Republican audience when he attacked a woman who this week a jury found he had sexually abused.
It would be tempting to ignore a display like that, but Donald Trump is, as of this moment anyway, the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He can't be ignored, and neither can be the deeply challenging issues confronting the country. Issues that demand a more serious debate and a more serious discussion than Donald Trump offered on that stage in New Hampshire.
So, we'll get to 2024, but we begin today at the southern border where thousands of migrants continue to cross into the United States from Mexico amid the end of Title 42 pandemic era immigration restrictions. We’ll talk shortly with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas after this report from ABC's Will Carr at the border in Brownsville, Texas.
Good morning, Will.
WILL CARR, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jon.
A lot of people were predicting chaos here at the border after Title 42 expired. So far that hadn't happened. Authorities say they are still bracing for a surge. And it comes as a large group of migrants just across the border in Mexico are trying to figure out what to do next.
CARR (voice over): This morning, migrants along the southwest border are again able to claim asylum after more than three years of being turned away. Over the last week, an average of just over 9,000 apprehended each day as Title 42 came to an end. That number expected to jump to as many as 14,000 a day in the coming weeks.
CARR (on camera): A number of migrants are getting off this bus right now. They have been processed. They’re getting off this federal bus and they are going into this makeshift welcoming center that is here in Brownsville.
CARR (voice over): We met Betty, with her blue processing bag, waiting for a bus to New York. She says the trip from Ecuador was terrifying.
Help us please, she says, asking U.S. politicians to give documents to migrants coming because they are coming to move ahead with their families.
This comes just after Title 42 was lifted. The pandemic era public health policy was used more than 2.8 million times to rapidly expel migrants. But DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stressing that the policy change is not an invitation.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Our borders are not open. People who cross our border unlawfully and without a legal basis to remain will be promptly processed and removed.
CARR: While the federal government is predicting a post-Title 42 surge, it hasn't happened yet. We went to Mexico to find out why, walking to a massive migrant camp in Matamoros.
CARR (on camera): Many people have been living here for months in squalid conditions. There are quite literally piles of garbage here. You can smell it. There’s smoke in the air. They’re burning, they’re cooking, they’re doing everything they can to try to sustain themselves here before trying to make it into the United States.
CARR (voice over): The majority are choosing to stay at the makeshift camp as they try to get an interview to claim asylum using an app that’s been plagued with problems. This woman from Honduras says for now she has faith in the system.
Because I believe in God, she tells me, but the Biden administration is now making it harder for migrants like her to make their asylum claims. Non-Mexican migrants must first be denied protection in a country they pass through on the way to the border. And migrants must secure an appointment at a port of entry using the Customs and Border Protection app. Failure to follow these rules likely to result in deportation and a five-year ban on entering the country. The stricter requirements sparking legal action from the ACLU, who compared them to Trump era policies they successfully sued to stop. The new rules still unsatisfactory to the president's critics.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This is an invasion and they want the numbers to go up.
CARR: And not just Republicans.
SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): The Biden administration had two years to prepare for this and did not do so.
CARR: But House Democrats stood united against a GOP border security bill passed on the day Title 42 expired. That bill, opposed by the White House and dead on arrival in the Senate, leaving Congress still deadlocked over how to fix a decade's long dilemma with no end in sight.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It’s going to be chaotic for a while.
CARR: With that in mind, border facilities are already crowded and it could get worse. It comes after a federal judge in Florida ruled that migrants cannot be released without a formal notice to appear in court. The DOJ requested a temporary restraining order on that ruling, which the court denied. The DOJ is now expected to appeal to the 11th Circuit for an emergency stay.
KARL: Thank you, Will.
Secretary Mayorkas joins us now.
So, Mr. Secretary, we’re a couple days from the expiration of Title 42. What’s your assessment of the situation at the border? It looks like the surge that you and many others had anticipated hasn’t quite happened yet.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Jon, good morning.
In fact, over the past two days, the United States border patrol has seen an approximately 50 percent drop in the number of people encountered at our southern border as compared to the numbers earlier this week before Title 42 came to an end midnight on Thursday.
KARL: So, why is that?
MAYORKAS: Jon, we have been preparing for this transition for months and months, and we’ve been executing on our plan accordingly. And our plan is very straightforward, there is a safe, lawful and orderly way to reach the United States and seek humanitarian relief, and that is through the lawful pathways that we have expanded under President Biden’s leadership.
And then there is a dangerous way to arrive at our southern border in the hands of ruthless smugglers. We have to incentivize the use of the lawful pathways and disincentivize placing people’s lives in the hands of smugglers, and we are doing that.
KARL: And so you – so you’ve said that you’re going to impose penalties on those who cross the border illegally. How are you doing that? And is that happening yet?
MAYORKAS: It certainly is. As a matter of fact, we’ve already removed thousands of people who have arrived at our southern border. We have – we are enforcing our traditional immigration enforcement authorities under Title 8 of the United States code. And we’ve also issued a rule that provides that if one arrives at the southern border without either accessing the lawful pathways we’ve made available to them or seeking relief in one of the countries through which they have traveled, then they will have a higher threshold to meet to make a successful asylum claim.
KARL: Well – well -- well, you’ve said that they’re going to – they’re going to be penalized. There will be a five-year ban for many of applying for asylum again.
MAYORKAS: That is what the law provides.
KARL: They could face – they could face criminal prosecution. Are we seeing that yet? I mean have you imposed any of these five-year bans yet? Have you started any criminal prosecution of those who cross illegally?
MAYORKAS: Well, no. So, the sequence is as follows. We have already removed thousands of people.
MAYORKAS: If they try again, then they are met with the five-year ban and potential criminal prosecution.
KARL: Now, as you know, over the week, just late yesterday, we saw a Florida judge knock down your policy of releasing some of these migrants due to overcrowding without a court date, a court take to reappear. Are you complying with that -- with that ruling?
MAYORKAS: We are. We have an obligation to comply with that ruling. We respectfully disagree with the -- with the judge. We think it’s a very harmful ruling when, in fact, our border patrol stations become overcrowded, it is a matter of the safety and security of people, including our own personnel, not just the vulnerable migrants, to be able to release them. And this is something that administration after administration has done.
KARL: Do you have numbers? I mean, how many have been released without a mandated court date?
MAYORKAS: So, we released a number because of the surge that we experienced before Title 42 came --
MAYORKAS: -- came to an end.
Now with the 50 percent drop in the number of encounters at our southern border, we are executing our consequence regime exactly as planned.
KARL: Now, you say you respectfully disagree with the judge.
The White House accused him of sabotaging your efforts to control the border. That was something we heard from the press secretary. He responded to that in his ruling quite harshly. This is Judge T. Kent Wetherell, took issue with that -- with that characterization.
And he said, quote: This ignorant and dangerous rhetoric ignores the fact that the evidence presented in this case shows that the chaos that the president acknowledged has been going on at the southern border for a number of years, is largely a problem of the defendants’, the administration’s, own making. If it is sabotage for a federal court to tell the federal government it must comply with the law, then so be it.
So, what do you say to Judge Wetherell?
MAYORKAS: We respectfully disagree with the judge’s interpretation of the law, his characterization of our actions. And we intend to litigate the matter. And I defer to the Department of Justice in that regard.
KARL: Well, you’re also, of course, getting hit from the other side, those that are saying you’re being too harsh on the border, requiring that migrants seek asylum in a -- in a third country first. That these penalties for those who cross illegally.
The ACLU is suing to challenge that, and I want to read what one of the lead lawyers for the ACLU said.
The Biden administration’s new ban places vulnerable asylum seekers in grave danger and violates U.S. asylum laws. We’ve been down this road before with Trump. The asylum bans were cruel and illegal then, and nothing has changed now.
So, they’re saying that this is effectively Trump policy.
MAYORKAS: Absolutely and correct. Disagree with every aspect of that statement.
This is not an asylum ban. We have a humanitarian obligation, as well as a matter of security, to cut the ruthless smugglers out. That is -- that is a responsibility of government. And we are doing that. And it is not --
KARL: But at what --
MAYORKAS: And, Jon, it is not a ban at all.
KARL: Well, in one critical sense it -- it is the same as the Trump policy, right?
MAYORKAS: Absolutely not.
KARL: Well, the Trump policy was that you had to first apply for asylum in a third -- in another country if you were coming from south of Mexico. That’s exactly what you’re doing.
MAYORKAS: No, that is -- that is -- that is not actually.
MAYORKAS: Yes. So, first of all, President Biden has led the greatest expansions of lawful pathways ever. What our rule provides is that an individual must access those lawful pathways that we have made available to them. If they have not, then they must have sought relief in one of the countries through which they have traveled and been denied.
And if they haven’t done either, it’s not a ban on asylum, but they have a higher threshold of proof that they have to meet. That is a resumption of ineligibility that can be overcome. It is not a ban.
And so, I disagree with that in every regard.
KARL: So, I also want to ask you, the -- it was back in -- two years ago, more than two years ago, that the president put Vice President Kamala Harris in -- playing a critical role in terms of trying to stop the flow of migrants across the border.
Where has Vice President Harris been on this? Are you in regular contact with her? When was the last time you spoke to her?
MAYORKAS: I -- Vice President Biden -- Vice President Harris reached out to me earlier this week. That effort is a years-long effort and Vice President Harris has led the investment of more than $3 billion in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
KARL: Well, I mean, it’s years-long, but it’s already been going on. I mean, she was – more than two years ago she got this responsibility. Are we --
MAYORKAS: Absolutely. You know, that effort began in the Obama/Biden administration. It was terribly taken down during the Trump administration. And Vice President Harris has led an extraordinary effort to address the root causes of why people flee their homes in the first instance.
MAYORKAS: Violence, poverty, corruption, authoritarian regimes, extreme weather events, persecution and the like.
KARL: All right, Secretary Mayorkas, thank you for joining us this morning.
MAYORKAS: Thank you, Jon.
KARL: Let’s turn to Republican Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
REP MICHAEL MCCAUL, CHAIR, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE & (R) TEXAS: Yes, thanks for having me.
KARL: So, you heard Secretary Mayorkas there. The – the – the surge at the border following the end of Title 42 is not as bigly (ph) so far as was anticipated, including you. I mean many people thought it was going to be much bigger. Why is that? Has the – has the message gotten through that the border is not open?
MCCAUL: I don’t – I don’t think so. I – I – I do think there are caravans going up. I think they still want to get in. My governor of my home state has put Texas National Guard and DHS, CBP troops on the border to stop the influx.
But, yes, the fact is, the last two and a half years speak for themselves. We’ve had five million people enter this country illegally, 1.5 get-a-ways. It’s unsustainable. And I really enjoyed – you know, the federal judge, they’re usually fairly objective, saying that this was the defendant, in this case the United States of America –
MCCAUL: Of its own making, this crisis.
KARL: I – I mean it – the – they are doing some things. I mean Mayorkas tried to distance himself from the Trump policy but – but they’re – you know, they are imposing penalties, or saying they will impose penalties for those who cross illegally. You have to come through a legal process.
Do you support that?
MCCAUL: Why did it take him so long? I mean I told him from day one, you can call it whatever you want, but the migrant protection protocols, Remain in Mexico, were working. Why? Because political asylum has been abused by the cartels. And when they get into the United States, whether they have legitimate claims or not, they’re released into our society. And then you have 5 million people without any legal status. A lot of them go to stash houses. They’re trafficked. They get into criminal enterprises here in the United States.
And it’s interesting that two and a half years later, they’re now walking this back and trying to implement something, you know, MPP like, but not exactly. We passed a border security bill this week in Congress. And my portion was to codify and authorize into law the Migrant Protection Protocols.
KARL: So, you passed that bill. It was entirely party lines. Is there any – I mean, obviously, the solution here everybody is saying, and has been saying it for years, is you need to have Congress do another immigration reform bill. Is there – is there any – are you having any negotiations on the other side of the aisle on this with the White House?
MCCAUL: Yes, and I chaired a Homeland Security Committee. We did a lot of border bills, bipartisan. I think there’s room for that. I think this was kind of our big, bold blueprint, if you will, that if we got the Senate and the White House, this is what Republicans would pass.
I'm still hopeful that there are rational Democrats out there who will work with us on some of these provisions. I don’t think the whole bill is going to pass, you know, Schumer. I'm not, you know, I'm not disillusioned by that. I mean, I – but I do think there are some things we can do bipartisan.
KARL: All right, I also need to ask you about the – the debt ceiling showdown. We heard from President Trump saying -- basically endorsing -- not basically, but endorsing the idea of default. What – how concerned are you that we are headed towards a default?
MCCAUL: Well, this is always a game we play, every Congress, you know, in daring each other to jump off the cliff. It’s a dangerous game. I think defaulting on our full faith and credit, any financial person would tell you, that’s very catastrophic. So, I – you know, what I think is going to happen, I think Republicans have given at least, you know, again, like with the border, we have a plan. They said we couldn’t govern. We got a border bill passed. We’ve got a debt ceiling bill.
KARL: But, as you know, that plan is dead on arrival with – with Democrats.
MCCAUL: I think it’s –
KARL: And I – and, look, like you voted for debt ceiling increases under President Trump, was it three times? And he -- historically high deficits under Donald Trump. I mean this guy’s not somebody who cut spending.
MCCAUL: Well, but –
KARL: So why not –
MCCAUL: But the point is, we’ve come forward with our plan. Now let’s – the president’s got to come back with – with what his plan is. I – I think we were reasonable to say, we’re willing to raise the debt ceiling, but we want meaningful spending cuts and capping spending at 2022 levels.
KARL: I want to play something that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about how the world is looking at this – this debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: China, right now, describes us, in their open speeches, et cetera, as a declining power. Defaulting on the debt will only reinforce that thought and embolden China and increase risk to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: All right, you worry -- I mean, you're chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Are you worried about the national security --
MCCAUL: Sure, right, our adversaries look at this very closely. They look at when we're divided, too, as a nation. I think they would love nothing more, particularly China, to see us default, you know, on our full faith and credit under the Constitution. I -- I – to -- took an oath to the Constitution. I think defaulting is not the right path to go down.
So I'm the eternal optimist --
KARL: I mean, it's not the right path; it's disastrous.
MCCAUL: Well, I -- I think it would be. And I think any financial investor will tell you that. I think any economist will tell you that. And I agree with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs that our adversaries are looking at this, and we have to be very careful what we do. I -- I'm optimistic we will get to a place where we can avoid that situation.
KARL: OK, you've been a staunch ally of Ukraine and fending off this -- the Russian aggression. I want to play something that Donald Trump had to say at his town hall meeting this morning about it -- I mean this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN TOWN HALL MODERATOR: Do you want Ukraine to win this war?
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: I don't think in terms of winning and losing. I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.
COLLINS: Can you say if you want Ukraine or Russia to win this war?
TRUMP: I want everybody to stop dying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: I mean, what do you say to that? He's your Republican front-runner right now.
MCCAUL: Well, and -- and I think Donald Trump --
KARL: And he can't say whether or not he wants Ukraine to win against Russian aggression.
MCCAUL: I think he always thinks in terms of winning and losing. I -- I will say this. I think what he is thinking is that this counter-offensive, which is happening soon, will be so successful that we can have a cease-fire and maybe get to a negotiating phrase.
Do I want Ukraine to win? Of course. That's why I wanted the administration to put everything they had into this conflict so they could win. And thank God the Brits stepped it up when this administration wouldn't put the longer-range artillery to Crimea. Our administration has put Crimea as a red line. And a victory in Ukraine is also a victory against the Chinese Communist Party in Taiwan.
I just came back from the region. Every Asian leader told me what happens in Ukraine has a direct impact on Taiwan.
KARL: OK, two quick questions before we go. One, Secretary Blinken, you've said you would hold him in contempt of -- hold him in contempt of Congress for not turning over the dissent cable on -- on Afghanistan. That has not been turned over. Are you going to hold Blinken in contempt?
MCCAUL: Well, you know, it's not -- it's not my choice; it's his. I mean, we have a legitimate subpoena. There's no executive privilege. A dissenting cable of 23 employees out of the embassy before Afghanistan fell, stating why they dissented to the administration's policy is very relevant to congressional oversight.
We're trying to work with them. They just sent another letter trying to delay this contempt proceeding. But if we don't get that cable -- you know, they offered --
KARL: So not yet? So not yet? You're not --
MCCAUL: They offered a filtered summary. They've offered another sort of peace offering, if you will. I think it's a delay tactic. But I am prepared to move forward to contempt proceedings. But I take it very seriously, Jonathan. I mean, this would be the first time a secretary of state's ever been held in contempt by Congress, and it's criminal contempt. So I don't take it lightly.
KARL: I mean --
KARL: He could -- there could be prison for this, I mean, if he's found --
MCCAUL: Well, it would go to the Justice --
KARL: Yeah, I mean -- OK, all right. Chairman McCaul, thank you very much.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Jonathan.
KARL: Coming up, the powerhouse roundtable on all the week's politics and the fallout from Trump's return to CNN.
Plus, Ron DeSantis tries retail politics in Iowa. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN MODERATOR: You once said that using the -- that using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge just could not happen. You said that when you were in the Oval Office.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: That’s when I was president.
COLLINS: So why is it different now that you're out of office?
TRUMP: Because now I’m not president.
COLLINS: I would like you to answer the question.
TRUMP: Okay, it’s very simple to answer.
COLLINS: That’s why I asked it.
TRUMP: It’s very simple, that you’re a nasty person, okay?
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Governing is not about entertaining. Governing is not about building a brand or talking on social media and virtue signaling. It’s ultimately about winning and about producing results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So you saw there just a few of the many strange moments from Donald Trump's CNN town hall and the reaction from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in Iowa on Saturday.
Let's bring in the roundtable. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former DNC chair, Donna Brazile, former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York.
So, Governor Christie, have to start with you.
No secret you are thinking about running for president. How would potential and real candidates against Donald Trump view that performance at CNN, and also the reaction of that applauding Republican crowd in New Hampshire?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Look, it depends on who the candidate is, right? Now, we’ve watched a number of declared candidates, and almost declared candidates now who all seem to really not know what to do with him. They kind of cozy up to him. They hope that he implodes, and that if they are nice to him, that they'll inherit his voters.
It’s all this like political science classroom theory that they are engaged in, which I think is a losing proposition for any of those candidates, including what Governor DeSantis said.
KARL: DeSantis didn't mention his name, to be clear. I mean, he didn't say the words Donald Trump.
CHRISTIE: You can't beat Donald Trump by playing bumper pool. And hitting it off three cushions and hope it goes in -- it goes in the hole. It’s -- that's not the way it works, Jon. And I think they are all making a marked mistake.
As to the audience reaction, let's face it, CNN went in the tank to get Trump on there. They allowed him to negotiate who was going to be in that audience, and those were all Trump supporters, I don't care how they introduced them. Those -- I know a lot of those people in that audience. I spent a lot of time in New Hampshire years ago, and a lot of those are the same faces that I saw eight years ago.
You pay no attention to audience reaction. Those were all people who in the main 80 percent or so were Trump supporters. So, that was a negotiation deal that Trump did with CNN and I think CNN was wrong for doing it.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it was entertaining.
KARL: As a former CNN contributor.
BRAZILE: Well, I will say now what I --
CHRISTIE: She’s been everywhere. You can’t even tag that on her.
BRAZILE: I’m still -- still (ph) with Fox, okay? Be careful.
Look, it was entertaining, it was disgusting, at the same time, because this is a guy who continues to repeat the same lie after lie, somehow believing that it's going to become true that the election was rigged. It was even more devastating to hear that he might consider pardoning the people who attacked the citadel of our democracy, the Proud Boys.
KARL: And he made clear, most of them, not just a few here or there.
BRAZILE: Yeah. I mean, but, you know, but that was vintage Donald Trump. He want to stick it to us. He want to -- you know, make us pay for our sins but Donald Trump is the perfect candidate.
Look, I don't know, Governor, if hitting Donald Trump will somehow or another, you know, deflate his base. He seems to have an appetite for this moment. He seems to know what he's doing in terms of projecting that he is the guy to beat.
Ultimately, the Republicans will have to decide if they want to repeat the past or go ahead and start focusing on the future.
KARL: But, I mean, it's not just the audience, Governor Hogan. I mean, the guy has widened his lead.
LARRY HOGAN, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: Yeah, I think that's the thing that's really most concerning, is that he packed the audience certainly and CNN allowed him to do which probably should question CNN for how that happened. It's not just them. I mean, he has got 50-some percent of the Republican base and that's what we've -- Governor Christie and I are trying to make the case that we have got to move in a different direction, that we've got to move on from Trump. And we just got to see some candidates step up and get out there and make the case about why we've got to do that.
You talked about Ron DeSantis coming in, I mean he has been trying to out Trump and that is not going to work. I mean it's like, why would you settle for Robin when you can have Batman? It's like, you know, you've got to take Trump on and not just being a younger, smarter version of Trump.
KARL: And Congressman Torres, we had a speech also yesterday, a commencement speech from Joe Biden, Howard University, made what seemed to be some -- a pretty grave tone, talking about there are those who demonize and pit people against one another and there are those that will do anything and everything, no matter how desperate or immoral, to hold on to power. I mean, how do you look at the threat of Trump second time around, third time around?
REP. RITCHIE TORRES, (D) NEW YORK: Donald Trump is the Freudian head of the Republican Party. He represents what is worst about American politics, and the person we saw at the Town Hall is exactly who Trump is, always has been and always will be. And so, we should stop being surprised of the vulgar and crude snake-oil salesmanship of Donald Trump. What I found notable is that, even though he loves name calling, he conspicuously refused to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal.
He conspicuously refused to say whether he wants Ukraine to win in the war. So, here you have a likely Republican presidential nominee whose moral campus is so broken that he is more offended by a CNN host than a war criminal like Vladimir Putin.
KARL: And he actually said he doesn't like to talk about winning or losing.
And you know what, I think the congressman is right in the sense that people are talking about kind of the show -- the Trump show and how offensive that was. What I think is even more offensive about what I saw at that Town Hall was what he was saying about the important issues that are facing the country right now. You know, certainly your point on Ukraine, I think, is extraordinarily important. But also, that he would allow default unless there were serious cuts.
Where were the serious cuts in the four years of the Trump Administration? In the four years of Trump Administration, he left with the biggest budget deficit of any president in American history. He added more to the debt at that time than any president in American history. This is a guy who says one thing and does another.
But I remember back to 2016, Jon, and you will remember this too. He said he was the king of debt.
CHRISTIE: Now, all of a sudden, he wants to be the king of budget cuts. It doesn't make sense. But, Governor Hogan is right. Until somebody is out there and taking it to him, this is all being done in a vacuum.
KARL: So, is that going to be you?
CHRISTIE: I don't know. But I'll tell you this, someone better do it.
HOGAN: I have been taking it to him for six years. But we've got to get some people in this presidential election.
CHRISTIE: Get into the ring. You got to get in the ring and do it.
CHRISTIE: You have to get in the ring and do it, and take the risk that goes along with that.
KARL: So what's holding you back?
CHRISTIE: You know, Jon, these are tough decisions. And if you want to run for president, you can't just --
KARL: Hey, let's --
HOGAN: Let's get it done. Let's get this done.
BRAZILE: Yeah. (Inaudible).
HOGAN: We want to see you in that ring.
KARL: You can make this happen (Inaudible).
CHRISTIE: I know. Jon, you know, I could (inaudible) as persuasive as you are. I will take a pass at the moment.
BRAZILE: Put the pressure on, right now. 40,000 -- can you get 40,000 donors?
Can you get the approval rating up to one percent, so that you can debate? You just did several Facebook ads attacking Donald Trump for saying he refuses to debate. Now, the question is, if you are ready to debate Donald Trump then you should be prepared to run against him right now.
TORRES: But here is the dilemma --
KARL: OK, maybe not me, Donna [ph] understood it.
HOGAN: You know, I think it is interesting that Donald Trump refuses to debate the Republican challengers and that President Biden refuses to debate the Democratic challengers. You know, when will we see the two top candidates --
TORRES: But here is the dilemma, the more crowded the Republican field, the more advantageous to Donald Trump because there is a significant segment of the Republican electorate --
TORRES: -- who is unwaveringly loyal to Donald Trump. He is the God that they worship.
HOGAN: Which is the point that I made when I decided not to run, that I didn't want to see a multi-car pileup, that we have too many candidates and do the same thing we did in 2016. But I don't think too many people are following that advice, looks like a lot of folks are going to be jumping in.
KARL: But we are a long way from voting, so I mean, people can drop out before Iowa, before New Hampshire. HOGAN: But it's far too early.
HOGAN: I mean, if you think back to 2016, a year before the election, all we were talking about was Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. And Donald Trump wasn't on the horizon. So, everybody is talking now about Trump and DeSantis, but it can change. I mean somebody is going to rise up and it's a long way from the election.
CHRISTIE: Look, Jon, the other thing -- Donna will remember this back to 2007. In May of 2007, Barrack Obama was 42 points behind Hillary Clinton. 42 points behind Hillary Clinton. Campaigns matter. And all this stuff we’re talking about, about Donald Trump right now, and even Ron DeSantis to an extent, is all theoretical. It’s all classroom stuff. When a campaign starts, things happen. People start talking and interacting with each other. Mistakes get made or, in fact, there’s an MRI of somebody's real soul. Look, the --
KARL: But do you think he doesn’t debate though? Do you think he – I mean he said that he had no reason to debate.
CHRISTIE: His ego won’t – his ego will not permit him not to be on that stage.
CHRISTIE: He – there cannot be a TV camera on that’s –
KARL: He’s already skipped one debate. I remember back in 2016, in Iowa, he skipped the Fox debate.
CHRISTIE: He – he prevalently (ph) skipped one debate, yes.
CHRISTIE: And, in the end, though, he was at every other debate because he believes, I can tell you this from being the guy who prepped him for debates in ‘16 and in ‘20, he believes he will win every debate he’s in. And that ego part of him will prevent him from skipping.
KARL: And we – we’ve got to take a break, so – but Congressman, to Governor Hogan's point, I mean there -- there are two challengers to – to Joe Biden right now. Maybe – maybe not considered with either one, Robert Kennedy Junior and Marianne Williamson. Do you think we’ll see more? I mean are we – you know, Biden is -- looks historically weak in polls anyway.
TORRES: I think President Biden’s going to overwhelmingly dominate the Democratic primary. And we feel that he’s had one of the most productive and productively bipartisan presidencies in recent history. So, he has a smooth path. We’re a much more functional party than the alternative.
HOGAN: Well, you know, I would say that the likely nominees in both parties, about – nearly 70 percent of the people in America do not want to see a rematch and they do not want Joe Biden or Donald Trump to be president.
CHRISTIE: And there will be 160 (ph) years old on Election Day.
KARL: All right, we will – we’ve got to take a break. We’ll have more with the roundtable later.
But first, election lies and malicious conspiracy theories aren't just damaging American democracy, they’re also tearing down the people who helped make it work. More on that after the break.
Stay with us.
KARL: Coming up next, my conversation with the Arizona Republican whose fight to protect the 2020 election results led to a personal struggle with PTSD.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL GATES, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: We are very focused on the threat of elections workers and voters being intimidated. Unfortunately, there are people out there who, again, think it is in their best interest to intimidate folks. But if people are going to go, as our election workers leave, after 16, 18 hour days defending democracy, counting the votes and have their picture taken and their license -- a picture of their license plates taken, that is unacceptable, and it has to stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That was Bill Gates, the former chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, outlining threats to midterm election workers last fall in Arizona. It wasn't the first time that he dealt with such threats. He was repeatedly harassed by supporters of Donald Trump and even received death threats for refusing to delay the certification of the 2020 election results.
Gates has now revealed that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and we sat down with him to discuss the personal toll of protecting America's democracy.
KARL: When you refused to overturn the results, or to throw out the results, what -- what happened? How did they come after you?
GATES: All my colleagues received death threats. And those Republicans who we had stood beside for years, others whose campaigns we had worked on, they fell silent, and they didn't defend us, as we were all accused of having rigged the election.
KARL: What did that feel like to suddenly not just be criticized but have people threatening your life, bringing your family into this?
GATES: I felt betrayed. I really did. The death threats were coming towards me, awful things being said about our daughters on social media. And these people remained silent. And as time went on, I was -- I had a job to do, but I was also getting angrier all the time and feeling more betrayed.
KARL: What -- what was it that really drove your anger?
GATES: What drove my anger was that these folks, my fellow Republicans, were not standing up, not having the courage to tell these people that what they were saying was lies. They were going along with it. They were allowing these folks to attack us.
KARL: When you say people stood silent, rank-and-file Republican elected officials?
KARL: Who didn't agree with what Trump was saying, but they were afraid to criticize him?
GATES: Well, that's right. That's the thing, is so many of these people, they've come up to me; they've come up to my colleagues over the last couple of years and said, "We're with ya; keep doing what you're doing; stand strong." You know, that's what they would whisper in our ears, but they've not been willing to say that publicly.
KARL: Did you feel your life was in danger?
GATES: We -- we certainly had different evenings, days, where we felt that way. Our address was -- was put out there on the Internet so people knew where we lived. We had had situations where folks put leaflets in our -- our mailbox and our neighbors' mailboxes saying, you know, "Bill Gates is your -- is your neighbor here and he is -- you know, he's a bad person," essentially.
KARL: What did your wife say about that?
GATES: She saw what was going on with me personally. She saw how angry I was becoming. I'm generally a pretty mild-mannered guy. I was becoming angrier. I was becoming distracted. And I wasn't the husband and father that I once was, quite frankly.
KARL: And you finally sought treatment?
GATES: So, in early 2022, I was attending a funeral for our county attorney. She had passed away. And I saw a lot of the folks there at this funeral who I felt, you know, had lost their way, had not supported us on the board, and I -- I became very angry. There had been a couple other events where I was having problems controlling my anger at public events. My wife was with me. And she said, "You've gotta stop this. You need to get help." And that's when I decided to go in therapy, and it made all the difference in the world for me.
KARL: And your therapist said that you were showing signs of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder?
GATES: She was. And I've got to tell you, it embarrasses me to use that term because, to me, that's, you know, someone who is a first responder who dealt with a tragic event, or a soldier has PTSD. I don't feel like what I have dealt with deserves that label, but that's -- that's what I've been told. I've dealt with trauma, something that you don't expect in elected office.
And here's the thing. This isn't about me; it's about all the elections officials, hundreds, thousands across the country who are dealing with these death threats.
KARL: What do you think national leaders of the Republican Party should do about the conspiracy theories, about the threats that people like you and election officials all across the country have faced?
GATES: I think that, if they raised their voices and said, "Look, we can have disagreements within the party; this is a big tent; that's fine. But death threats are out of the -- you know, they're not allowed. Those are out of bounds -- or questioning people saying that they're treasonous or that they're rigging elections. There's no evidence of that."
These elections, in Maricopa County in particular, in 2020 and 2022, were the most scrutinized, I would argue, probably in the history of the world. And there was no "there" there. So it's time to move on. It's time to focus on '24 and the future of this -- this country.
KARL: Our thanks to Bill Gates for sharing his story with us. Up next, criminal charges against Congressman George Santos. More with the roundtable, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why would you apply for unemployment benefits when you had a job making $120,000 a year?
REP. GEORGE SANTOS, (R) NEW YORK: Rachel, this is part of our defense. This is inaccurate information, and I will get to clear my name.
SCOTT: Are you planning on running for re-election?
SANTOS: Yes, I am. I will prove myself (inaudible) and we'll move from there. And re-election is a (inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That was our Rachel Scott questioning George Santos after his arrest this week. The congressman is as defiant as ever in pledging and pleading not guilty of 13 charges including wire fraud, money laundering, stealing public funds, and lying to Congress.
The Roundtable is back. So, Congressman Torres, you are a fellow congressman from New York. Is Santos going to make it through this? Is it going to be expelled? What is going to happen?
REP. RITCHIE TORRES, (D) NEW YORK: He should be expelled. As a politician, he has done more law breaking than law making and he should be in prison rather than in Congress. But for me, George Santos is not only a scandal on to himself, he is a symptom of a diseased Republican Party that has become a cesspool of conspiracy theorists like Marjorie Taylor Greene and clowns like Lauren Boebert, and charlatans like Donald Trump, and crooks like George Santos. And the Republicans who refuse to expel him are enabling him.
KARL: Governor Christie?
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know that I agree with all of that.
But what I would say is that George Santos doesn't belong in Congress. He didn't belong there in the first place. And then when you find out all the lies, all the rest that he has done and the shifty maneuvers and illegal contact as alleged by the indictment, look, I am not ready to say he needs to go to jail because I think everybody --
KARL: He has got the right to defend himself.
CHRISTIE: -- until proven guilty. And having done this for seven years, the government needs to prove their case.
CHRISTIE: But that's different than whether or not he should be sitting as a representative in Congress.
KARL: Should we vote to expel him?
CHRISTIE: Look, I would certainly expel him -- if I am a member of Congress, I would vote that way. You know, problem with leadership is going to have to decide how they want to do that and politics is going to get involved in this, Jon, with as a narrow a margin as they have. They'll probably let the process play out. So, I think you can divide the two of them. I don't know if he is a criminal, but he is certainly a liar. If he turns out to be criminal, then he belongs going to jail.
KARL: He pled guilty to that (ph).
BRAZILE: He just pleaded guilty.
KARL: Yes, yes, he plead --
BRAZILE: He just pleaded guilty in the country named after my family, Brazil. OK? He pleaded guilty.
CHRISTIE: I didn't know that.
BRAZILE: Yeah, well, you know, you should check us out sometimes.
Look, he pleaded get guilty. He has lied about his mother, he has lied about his wealth, he has lied about his job, his color (ph) -- I mean the list goes on.
CHRISTIE: He lied about volleyball.
BRAZILE: Who lies about volleyball, Chris?
CHRISTIE: Donna, I'm not defending George Santos. All I'm saying is that, our Constitution applies to everybody. So he doesn't belong in Congress, I'll be clear about that. But we also need to let the process play out, let him have his opportunity to defend himself. Even he got it wrong on the tape, I was kidding with the congressman, he said I will prove myself innocent. No, George.
BRAZILE: That's right.
CHRISTIE: You are presumed innocent.
CHRISTIE: -- because we have to prove you guilty. If they prove him guilty, he belongs to go into jail.
BRAZILE: He will pretend to be a lawyer, a number one graduate from Harvard, you never know what is going to happen. I said it once and I'll say it again, he is a stain in the United States Congress, and he should be expelled. But since that will not happen, I do believe the law will have to take its course and once again, he will continue to lie. He has taken the worse chapter from the former disgraced president of the United States, and calling this a witch hunt. Now, this is -- these are serious charges that he has been accused of.
KARL: Governor Hogan, he also voted 15 times for Kevin McCarthy to be Speaker, and on that 15th time, he was the deciding vote as anybody who voted for him was, because of one-vote margin.
HOGAN: Well, that is probably not a crime.
KARL: But, what I mean, there is that -- I mean, McCarthy has to think twice before, I mean, he hasn't called on him to resign. He has said he wouldn't endorse him for re-election. He has taken him off his committees.
HOGAN: Right. I mean, there is no question this is -- the guy is a clown and he is, obviously, got all these criminal potential charges out there. I agree with Governor Christie, he has got a right to prove himself in a court of law and they have got to prove him guilty.
But if I were in Congress, I would say we got to get this guy out of here. He doesn't -- he shouldn't be in Congress. But you know, somebody's going to replace him in that district even if they did remove him. So, Kevin McCarthy would likely still have that vote. It's not going to impact that.
KARL: Do you -- well --
TORRES: I disagree with that.
KARL: Yeah, he would probably identify the replacement.
TORRES: I think -- clearly, the decision to protect George Santos is driven not by principle but by politics. Kevin McCarthy needs every vote that he can get and he needs George Santos. George Santos was the decisive vote on the Republican Bill to default on America. And what I find hypocritical is the Republicans ran on a platform --
KARL: They would call that the bill where they raised the debt ceiling.
TORRES: Yes. But I find it hypocritical that Republicans ran on a platform of draining the swamp, yet are insisting on protecting George Santos.
CHRISTIE: Well, let's remember that --
CHRISTIE: The only -- the only party who has already passed a bill saying they would raise the debt ceiling is the Republican Party. The Democrats in the Senate can do the very same thing. Chuck Schumer has not done it. He has refused to do it. And so, and Joe Biden has, you know, he is off to Rehoboth, Delaware this weekend. I mean, he should be it at the White House --
CHRISTIE: -- negotiating with Kevin McCarthy and Republicans to get a raise to the debt ceiling. Instead, for I don't know how many times now he has been to Delaware, he seems like he has spent more time in Delaware than in Washington.
BRAZILE: Let's be honest. Delaware is a beautiful state. It's a beautiful state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) he is not negotiating. I went to college there.
KARL: Donna, almost out of time. Last (inaudible).
BRAZILE: But there is this path (ph), they are negotiating.
CHRISTIE: Where is Joe?
BRAZILE: He was at Howard University yesterday.
CHRISTIE: Where is Joe?
BRAZILE: They are negotiating, and I do believe America will pay its bill. We will not default.
CHRISTIE: Where is Joe?
TORRES: But it's not a normal negotiation, it's an extortion.
KARL: All right. We are out of time.
Thanks again to the Roundtable, we will be right back.
KARL: That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight. And mom, Happy Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day, Maria, and to all the mothers out there. Thank you for watching.