‘This Week’ Transcript 10-29-23: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Gen. Abe Abrams (Ret.)

1:06National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10, 2023.Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images


ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Intense attacks. Israel expands ground operations in Gaza after a barrage of air strikes.

LT. COL. PETER LERNER: We intend on dismantling their capabilities.

RADDATZ: As more leaders call for a humanitarian pause.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: I reiterate my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

RADDATZ: Families of hostages express fear for their loved ones.

And the United States hits back at Iranian proxies.

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NSC: These strikes were in self-defense for our ability to protect ourselves and our troops.

RADDATZ: This morning, we're live in Israel.

Plus, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and retired Army General Robert Abrams.

The new speaker.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): The people's house is back in business.

RADDATZ: After a three-week stalemate, House Republicans unite behind conservative Mike Johnson.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): His voting record is as extreme as the most extreme members of their conference.

RADDATZ: But is the party taking a big risk on an inexperienced leader?

Mireya Villarreal reports from his home district, and analysis from our Capitol Hill team.

Dropping out.


RADDATZ: Former Vice President Mike Pence ends his presidential run, as President Biden faces a new primary challenger.

All the week's politics with our powerhouse roundtable.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.

As we come on the air this morning, the war in Israel front and center. Israeli ground troops have now pushed into Gaza, backed by a massive bombardment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of a long and difficult road ahead. A widespread communications blackout was imposed. No internet, no phones, further isolating the coastal strip, although some has been restored this morning.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Qatar Saturday, where he renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire, expressing alarm over the deteriorating humanitarian situation for Palestinian civilians. It is a reminder of the shocking toll this three-week war has taken after the brutal terror attack by Hamas killed more than 1,400 in Israel.

The Israeli military has called up more than 300,000 reservists and launched more than 7,000 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since.

The Gaza health ministry, run by Hamas, says more than 8,000 have now been killed there, including 3,200 children. A figure the Israelis dispute.

And the Israeli military now estimates 230 hostages are still being held by Hamas.

We will speak with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about it all in a moment. But first, chief foreign correspondent Ian Pannell starts us off again from Israel.

Good morning, Ian.


Israel isn't calling this an incursion, but that's exactly what it looks like after its troops crossed into Gaza on Friday night and this morning, two days later, they're not only staying there, but advancing.


PANNELL (voice over): After three weeks of aerial attacks, Israel’s ground operation has begun. Tanks rolling across the border into Gaza after the heaviest, most relentless bombardment since the October 7th massacre in Israel. The IDF claiming it's expanding its ground operations this morning, pushing deeper into the Gaza Strip. Hamas releasing this video online it claims shows its forces attacking an Israeli military convoy inside Gaza. Amid growing concerns from Israel’s allies, not least the United States about the humanitarian situation, the IDF again urging civilians to move south.

REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: To the residents of north in Gaza and Gaza City, your window to act is closing.

PANNELL: After weeks of bombardments, and under a complete siege, the health care system there reportedly collapsing. Dr. Ghandil says he has little to offer patients.

DR. MOHAMMED GHANDIL, CRITICAL CARE, NASSER HOSPITAL, GAZA: We do have lack of medical equipment. We have lack of medical supplies. We are just giving peaceful (INAUDIBLE) for them to die.

PANNELL: Ambassador Mark Regev, adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, telling me the operation ahead will be long and challenging.

PANNELL (on camera): Are the Israeli Defense Forces up to it?

AMBASSADOR MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Ultimately, Hamas, we have no illusions. They’re a ferocious, fanatical (ph), barbaric enemy, and our soldiers are prepared.

PANNELL (voice over): As the military activity intensified, Gazans paint a bleak picture amid reports of thousands of civilian casualties.

Abood Okal, one of hundreds of Americans trapped in Gaza, able to send us this audio message.

ABOOD OKAL: The most noticeable and scariest of all is the sound of missile whistles that you could hear flying over the house.

PANNELL: This week also saw worrying sign that perhaps this conflict could spread. The U.S. military retaliating for multiple attacks on its forces in Iraq and Syria.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My warning to the ayatollah was that if they continued to move against those troops, we will respond, and he should be prepared.

PANNELL: But this morning, Iran's president warning that Israel has, quote, “crossed the red line, which may force everyone to take action.”

CROWD (chanting): Bring them home. Bring them home.

PANNELL: And while military operations expand, the families of the more than 200 hostages held in Gaza holding a vigil. And in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu asking him to explain how the ground operation does not endanger the lives of their loved ones and helps bring them home.


PANNELL: Martha, this morning, an unseemly spat breaking out over a tweet by the Israeli prime minister blaming security and intelligence for failures that led to the October 7th attack. Netanyahu then coming under fire from all sides, deleting the original tweet this morning, and then issuing a new one apologizing, saying, quote, “I made a mistake.” It's an extraordinary episode that speaks to the deep political divisions in Israel, even while the nation tries to unite around this war.


RADDATZ: Ian Pannell, thanks so much.

Joining us now is President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Good morning to you, Jake.

Let's start with this movement into Gaza, has clearly reached a new stage with ground troops going in there. What do we know about the plan and how do you see this playing out?

JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Martha, I'll let the Israeli Defense Forces speak to their plan. And war, of course, is highly unpredictable. So, it's difficult to predict how it will play out.

But I will say this. Israel was attacked in a brutal, vicious terrorist attack. They are taking steps to go after the terrorists who struck them. They have been doing so from the air. They're now doing so on the ground. And Hamas, this brutal terrorist organization that conducted the attack, is hiding behind the civilian population, which puts an added burden on Israel to differentiate between the terrorists and innocent civilians, but it doesn't lessen their responsibility under international humanitarian law and the laws of war to do all in their power to protect the civilian population. And that's equally true moving in on the ground as it is taking strikes from the air.

So, we will continue to talk to our Israeli counterparts. We'll continue to ask hard questions about how they are thinking this through, how they are proceeding. But, ultimately, these are their decisions. This is their action, and they’re best postured to be able to answer questions about how it's proceeding.

RADDATZ: And yet the U.S. provides weapons to Israel. And there are regulations and rules about the use of those weapons. How concerned are you about that? And you talk about human shields. Obviously, Hamas using human shields, and that's a violation of international law. But this is what international law says about those who are used as human shields. And when you think about Israelis possibly targeting them, international law of war says they are still entitled to full protections under humanitarian law and any harm must be weighed against a military objective.

Are you satisfied so far with Israel's adherence to that law?

SULLIVAN: Let me be absolutely clear about the position of the United States, Martha. And President Biden has said this. Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin have said it and I've said it. Every innocent human life is sacred. And every step must be taken to protect human life. Whether that be Palestinian or Israeli or anyone else.

And there have been deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians in this conflict, and that is an absolute tragedy. Those people did not deserve to die. Those people deserved to live lives of peace and sanctity and dignity.

At the same time, it is absolutely true that Hamas is doing everything in its power to put those people in harm's way, to use them as human shields, to hide rocket infrastructure and other forms of terrorist infrastructure among civilian areas. And, yes, there is a burden, as I said before, and as the president has said, on Israel to take the necessary steps to distinguish between Hamas, who does not represent the Palestinian people, and innocent Palestinian civilians.

But it doesn't lessen their responsibility under international humanitarian law. And, yes, it is also true that what we are providing to Israel is subject to the laws of war, and to the requirements that steps be taken to protect innocent life. Those are requirements we impose any time we transfer weapons to another country.

RADDATZ: Israelis say their objective is to eliminate Hamas and have the return of the hostages.

How do they do those two objectives?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, let me speak to the hostages because there are ongoing efforts which I can't get into detail on television, including regional partners, including the Israelis, and we are engaged as well to try to get all of those hostages out — the American hostages and all the other hostages who are being held criminally and cruelly by Hamas.

We are continuing to see if there are ways to make that happen. We are prepared to support humanitarian pauses so that hostages can get out safely, and we will keep working at that every day because the president has no higher priority than the safe return of American citizens, and wants to support the return of citizens of other countries and Israelis as well.

Now, how exactly that happens? Again, I cannot predict that. All I can tell you is every effort is being undertaken right now to do that, and then from the military perspective, what Israel is trying to do is to ensure that Hamas cannot again present the kind of strategic systemic threat that it has been posing to the citizens of Israel. It is taking its military action to do that, and again, as I said before, they're going to be best postured to talk through how the objectives they have set are going to be met by the means they have set.

RADDATZ: Israel suffered the most horrendous assault imaginable by Hamas. I saw that up close, but I have also been in that region. I know there are many people there who simply don't believe it, and they look at what's happening in Gaza now.

Is Israel losing the information battle internationally?

SULLIVAN: Well, this is an issue, a longstanding issue. The situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians that has evoked strong emotions around the world, strong emotions in the region for a long time, and it's understandable because a lot of innocent people have been harmed in this. Innocent Israelis have died in the most horrific day of violence against Jews since the Holocaust. Innocent Palestinians have died in the midst of a conflict where Israel is trying to go after the terrorist masterminds and the terrorist perpetrators who conducted those gruesome massacres.

And so it is understandable that people in neighboring countries and people in the farthest corners of the world, they're looking at this as a deep, heartbreaking tragedy, because it is a deep, heartbreaking tragedy.

But the United States continues to stand behind a set of very core principles. Israel has a right, indeed a duty to defend itself against terrorists. Israel also has a responsibility to distinguish between terrorists and ordinary civilians, and the United States has a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that life-saving humanitarian assistance gets to those people who have been affected by this conflict, and we are working at that every day.

RADDATZ: And, Jake, I want to end with this. The U.S. launched retaliatory strikes this week in Syria against Iranian proxies. There was an attack the next day on American troops. There have been about 20 so far.

Is Iran really getting the message? And if they don't, what happens?

SULLIVAN: Well, the president has been very straightforward on this. If American troops are attacked by Iran and its proxies, we will respond. We did respond. If attacks continue, we will respond.

And I think the Iranians understand our message, and we, of course, are taking every measure necessary to protect our forces, to increase our vigilance, and to work with other countries in the region to try to keep this conflict that is currently in Israel and Gaza from spinning out into a regional conflict. But the risk is real and therefore, vigilance is high, and the steps we are taking to deter that and prevent that are serious, systematic, and ongoing.

RADDATZ: Thanks so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

RADDATZ: Joining us now is retired Army General Robert Abe Abrams. He’s commanded troops around the world in his decades-long career, including Afghanistan and Iraq — in both places seeing sustained, direct combat. That was especially true in Iraq where I first met him in Sadr City in 2004, a densely populated urban environment where hundreds of U.S. soldiers lost their lives.

So, General Abrams, you know a lot about this kind of warfare from your own experience. So, let’s start with what I asked Jake Sullivan. The stated Israeli objective is to eliminate Hamas, protect civilians and release the hostages. Can that happen?

GEN. ROBERT ABRAMS (RET.), FORMER U.S. FORCES KOREA COMMANDER & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Martha, this is going to be a very difficult task for the Israeli Defense Forces. The — the defense that Hamas will put up in that very — very dense urban terrain, unlike anything that we’ve seen in recent years, is going to require some very fierce fighting. And, simultaneously, trying to ensure that the Israelis do not target unwittingly the locations of the hostages, this is going to prove to be a very difficult task and we’ll just have to see how their plan plays out here over the coming days.

RADDATZ: Is this an impossible mission?

ABRAMS: I think it’s going to be what – what I would consider nearly impossible, to destroy Hamas, to eliminate their capability to do harm to Israel and the Israeli people, while simultaneously protecting what some people have estimated as to be a million Palestinians who are in harm’s way. And they can’t get out of harm’s way.

And having lived this and seeing this myself in a very dense, urban environment, as you’ve mentioned, it requires extraordinary discipline, precision and you — in some cases, you have to not fight to ensure that you have prevented injury to noncombatants. It’s a very difficult task.

RADDATZ: From what you have seen, are the laws of war being followed?

ABRAMS: I think every effort is being made to follow the laws of armed conflict. But each and every time you’re going to fire a round, drop a bomb, shoot a rocket, you have to make a military determination with regards to the military necessity behind dropping that bomb and the proportionality associated with what comes from it. And each and every one of those requires that sort of very deliberate decision-making to ensure that everyone remains alive with the laws of armed conflict.

But the images that we are all seeing, Martha, they’re – they’re horrific. I – I can’t — it’s hard to put words to it. And we can only hope that the military necessity had the — that bar for military necessity, that it’s been met to – to — for us to accept what we’re seeing play out on TV.

RADDATZ: The losses in Gaza have been immense. Of course, they were immense in Israel. But going forward, they could be even higher, not only on the side in – in Gaza, but for Israeli soldiers as well.

ABRAMS: Yes, I mean, this is going to be, you know, you know, intense block-by-block fighting. It’s going to come from all directions. There’s a lot of high-rise buildings. So, it’s three-dimensional. You haven’t mentioned it yet, but there is a – a very large subterranean component of this very difficult urban fight.

RADDATZ: The tunnels?

ABRAMS: And so it’s going to be slow, methodical. Yes, the tunnels. They’re going to be — it’s – it’s going to, you know, be very difficult. And it’s going to be really, you know, slow-going.

We heard the prime minister recently say this is going to take a long time. And he’s right, it’s going to take a long time.

RADDATZ: And when you say a long time, I think of Iraq. I think of Afghanistan. After 20 years, we lost that war. Iraq, we’re still there.

When you think a long time and you look at Gaza and you look at that urban area, are we talking months, years? And how does it end?

ABRAMS: Well, we’re certainly talking months, right? So, it’s not an exact comparison. But the battle for Mosul was about six months in duration. Now, it’s — they’re not exactly the same. But it gives people sort of an idea.

But, fundamentally, at the end of this, Martha, there — we still have to answer the question, what about — what is the future? What — you know, Hamas was created as a result of a lack of a separate Palestinian state. A two-state solution, as many people have talked about. That has to be somewhere when you asked, how does this end? That has to be part of the equation.

RADDATZ: And what about escalation? You saw the strikes in Syria, the retaliatory strikes. Do you see the spreading? Should the U.S. be doing more?

ABRAMS: I think the U.S. is taking all the appropriate actions to defend our troops that are forward deployed there in the region. And I have great confidence that they — they’ve got a fairly lengthy target list and they’re capable of taking all actions necessary to defend themselves.

We can only hope that Iran and its proxies don't take this to a much higher level and continue to escalate that sort of portion of this protection of our troops. Because, as the national security advisor just said, the military, the U.S. military, will take all actions necessary to defend their troops.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks so much. It's good to see you, General Abrams, again. Thanks for coming in.

The round table is coming up. Plus, just who is Congressman Mike Johnson? We visited his home district in Louisiana to learn more about the little-known new speaker of the House. That's next.



REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R-NC), HOUSE SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE: The Honorable Mike Johnson of the State of Louisiana, having received a majority of the votes cast, is duly elected speaker of the House of Representatives…


MCHENRY: … for the 118th Congress.



RADDATZ: That is Congressman Mike Johnson elected as speaker of the House after three weeks of Hill chaos. With only seven years in the House, Johnson became the speaker with the least experience in 140 years. If you had never heard of this staunchly conservative congressman, it is not surprising.

So we sent our Mireya Villarreal to Johnson's home district to find out more about the man now second in line to the presidency.

MIREYA VILLARREAL, ABC NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nestled in the northwest corner of the deep red Louisiana, along the banks of the Red River, is Shreveport, Louisiana, the place newly elected speaker of the House Mike Johnson calls home. First elected to Congress just seven years ago, his isn't exactly a household name.

Even here at a local barbershop in Haughton, Louisiana, his own district.

MATTHEW WHITE, LOUISIANA BARBERSHOP OWNER: So what's y'all's take on Mike Johnson?

(UNKNOWN): Who's that?

(UNKNOWN): On Mike Johnson, our speaker of the House?

(UNKNOWN): I ain't even — I ain't even paid no attention to him.

VILLARREAL: But owner Matthew White is familiar with Johnson and proud to see a Louisiana native on the big stage.

WHITE: Well, it puts us at the forefront, and everybody's eyes are on us at this moment. I think it's a good spotlight for Louisiana.

VILLARREAL: Johnson's district spans nearly the whole western length of the state. Shreveport Mayor Tom Arcenaux has been friends with the now speaker for more than 25 years.

MAYOR TOM ARCENEAUX, (R) SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA: I think that they must have been looking for somebody who could bridge that civility gap, bridge that respect gap with other people, and Mike is perfect for that.

VILLARREAL: And if you want to know how Johnson might work to bridge the many divisions in Congress, Arceneaux says to look no further than one of his first acts as a young representative.

ARCENEAUX: He proposed a civility code for members of the House, and he asked every member of the House to sign it. I don't know how many did.

VILLARREAL: In neighboring Bossier City, Lisa Johnson is president of the Chamber of Commerce and close friends with the new speaker, his wife and four kids.

LISA JOHNSON, BOSSIER CITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PRESIDENT: They are a piece of the fabric of the community.

VILLAREAL: As an evangelical Christian, she says, he doesn't shy away from leaning on his faith.

L. JOHNSON: You know, he's been asked the question, where do you get the guidance from? Where — who's going to be guiding you through this process? And he's going to tell you every time, he's going to turn to the Bible. He's going to turn to the Holy Bible, and to his Lord of Lords, and that's where it's written of what to do.

VILLAREAL: In fact, Johnson's religion is the cornerstone of his politics.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOIUSE: Go pick up on Bible off your shelf and read it. That's — that’s my world view.

VILLAREAL: In a Facebook post just last year, Johnson argued biblical beliefs couldn't be separated from public affairs — a sentiment he's long championed.

REP. JOHNSON: Our generation has been convinced that there's a separation of church and state, right? We hear that term all the time and most people think that's part of the Constitution, but it's not.

VILLAREAL: In the early 2000s, he worked as an attorney for what is now the Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based advocacy group. He argued against decriminalizing same-sex sexual activity, calling homosexuality a dangerous lifestyle in a 2004 "Shreveport Times" editorial. He’s also supported the idea of a nationwide abortion ban and was strongly against Roe v. Wade.

REP. JOHNSON: Roe v. Wade gave constitutional cover to the elective killing of unborn children in America.

VILLAREAL: And back in 2021, he voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election after repeatedly pushing false claims of voter fraud.

REP. JOHNSON: When you have, you know, a software system that is used around the country that is suspect because it came from Hugo Chavez's Venezuela —

VILLAREAL: While sticking to some of his extreme conservative convictions will be challenging, Louisiana political reporter Greg Hilburn believes Johnson's bigger test is uniting his own party.

GREG HILBURN, USA TODAY NETWORK OF LOUISIANA REPORTER: If he can keep them united, it just takes such a small number to, you know, throw things off the rail now because it's such a razor-thin majority.

VILLAREAL: For “This Week”, Mireya Villarreal, ABC News, Shreveport, Louisiana.


RADDATZ: Our thanks to Mireya for that.

Let's get some analysis now from our two Rachels who cover Capitol Hill, senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott, and “Politico Playbook” co-author and ABC News contributor, Rachael Bade.

Rachel in — Rachel Scott, I’m going to start with you. As Mireya pointed out, most people had really never heard of Mike Johnson. You said in the end, he became speaker partly because no one had any idea who he was and absolute exhaustion on Capitol Hill.

RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, I asked one Republican and they said, show me the person with the fewest enemies and I’ll show you the next speaker of the House. And in this case, that was Congressman Mike Johnson.

So, his lack of experience, lack of time in office, being relatively unknown ultimately helped him.

I mean, one other Republican told me that he's kind. He has no baggage, no real legacy which was somewhat odd because that's sort of what you look for in the next speaker of the House, right?

But also you just had this general fatigue on Capitol Hill. We went through 14 candidates, four nominees, three weeks, and you had a lot of Republicans that were just ready to get on with it.

RADDATZ: And, Rachael Bade, he is the least experienced speaker of the House in 140 years. He also as that piece pointed out — religion is his motivator. Religion is his core. So what does that mean?

RACHAEL BADE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. I mean, in terms of experience — I mean, typically when you see somebody become speaker, they have been sort of in the outer peripheral of leadership already for decades at least. I mean, serving as House majority whip, House majority leader, conference chair, running the campaign arm of the Republican or Democratic, you know, campaign committee.

Johnson has none of that. He didn't — he has never run a committee. He's never been at the leadership table, never really taken a lead in terms of helping people negotiate a big deal, whether between Republicans — Republicans and Democrats, and that's going to really be a challenge for him.

And in terms of, you know, his conservative credentials, Johnson is as conservative as any member of the House. That's something we need to keep in mind. I mean, as conservative as Jim Jordan who tried to become speaker and didn't get the job.

The difference for him is that ever since he was elected, he has tried to sort of strategically strike this balance, being with conservatives ideologically in how he votes, but not with him in how he sort of approaches his colleagues. He was never a conservative who was saying, I’m going to oust so-and-so as speaker, or I’m going to take down a Republican bill.

And because of that, he's able to sort of bridge this divide and he has friends with — you know, he's friends with moderates, conservative or more traditional Republicans, but also has the respect of conservatives. And that's why he was able to sort of ascend like he has.

RADDATZ: And, Rachel Scott, I want to play a bit of tape of you questioning Mike Johnson the night before he was elected speaker.


SCOTT: Mr. Johnson, you helped lead the efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Do you stand by the vote?


SCOTT: Do you support additional aid to Ukraine (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You answer the question. Go away.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're not doing policy tonight. Any questions?


RADDATZ: He could be a tough guy to cover. But does he stand by that vote? The first question you asked?

SCOTT: Yes, he does. And you I tried asking him repeatedly this week again, whether or not you know, he will acknowledge the fact that Donald Trump lost the election. And he didn't answer my question then either. So, it doesn't seem to be an issue that he really wants to talk about at this point. But even when you're trying to talk about forward looking issues like this matter of additional funding to Ukraine, after he won the nomination, he didn't really want to talk about policy. Well, that is going to be at the forefront now. That's really one of the first orders of business in addition to funding the government. And he didn't really appear to want to take questions on it.

That is going to be key, though, because you have a growing number of Republicans that are skeptical of additional funding to Ukraine. Johnson wants these issues to be completely separate when it comes to the President's supplemental requests for Israel and Ukraine. He wants them to be considered completely separately here. That's going to be a big challenge for the White House and Democrats.

RADDATZ: It sure will be, Rachael Bade. And he sent his speech last night as a Christian, I know and we believe the Bible teaches very clearly that we're to stand with Israel. So that kind of puts Ukraine over on the side.

RACHAEL BADE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it's pretty telling that he spent his first weekend as Speaker, his first trip is speaker going to the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas first resolution on the floor. He's a, he's a staunch supporter of Israel. And he, he's going to sort of try to break that up, you know, as, as Rachel Scott was just saying, in terms of like moving Israel, but saying no to Ukraine.

I do think it's interesting that he, he's tried to say that his election is sort of a fresh start for Republicans. He's hoping that that means the infighting is going to be put aside, but there are so many issues that they're going to be facing in the coming days. And we're already seeing that honeymoon is sort of wearing off as Republicans are already going at each other behind the scenes.

RADDATZ: As honeymoons tend to do to Capitol Hill. Thanks very much for both of you coming in this morning.

And coming up, former Vice President Mike Pence is out of the Republican primary as President Biden gets us on last minute challenger. The roundtable weighs in, next.


RADDATZ: Our roundtable is here ready to go.

We'll be right back.



MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Traveling across the country over the past six months, I came here to say it's become clear to me, this is not my time. So, after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.


RADDATZ: Former Vice President Mike Pence, the first major candidate to drop out of the 2024 Republican primary field.

Let's bring in the roundtable. Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, “The Dispatch” senior editor Sarah Isgur, ABC political director Rick Klein, and “Politico” head of news Alex Burns.

Welcome to all of you this morning. And, Rick, let's – let’s get right to it and Mike Pence. He's dropping out. His poll numbers were pretty abysmal. But a surprise.

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, look, you have heard him say it, it was not his time. And it may never have been his time. But it became evident to him, and to a lot of people watching, that the only person whose time it is right now in the Republican primary is Donald Trump. Nothing has moved his numbers. And I think this was an acknowledgment of that. Even though Pence, I think, had some warning shots about what it means to follow Trump, this campaign is still going to be defined by Trump. And even if the other candidates all dropped out, it isn't clear that Donald Trump can be stopped right now. The only thing that’s going to matter is when the voting starts.

I do think this is going to be the first of – of a couple of major dropouts that we’re going to see on the earlier side, maybe before Iowa, because, frankly speaking, the only way that Donald Trump is going to be stopped is if he's stopped in those early states. And that is going to mean more of a head-to-head matchup. You hear it from donors. And I think this was, yes, acknowledging the reality he wasn’t going to make a debate and it wasn't going to happen.

RADDATZ: And, Mike Pence, Sarah, was – was in sort of this strange in-between world of – of Trump lovers and because of January 6th he obviously was in a tough spot.

SARAH ISGUR, FORMER TRUMP JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON & THE DISPATCH' SENIOR EDITOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: In a lot of ways Mike Pence represented the sort of OG Reagan Republican Party. And the repudiation of Mike Pence by voters is a fascinating moment as the Republican Party shifts.

You know, I talked to folks on Pence's team last night, and they say we picked the right fights. No regrets.

But you know what they'll also point out? That these super PACs combined — the non-Trump super PACs, have spent $175 million. That's a lot of money. And it hasn't moved the needle at all. And so, to Rick's point, money isn't going to be the answer here. You're going to have to do something to change this dynamic before Iowa, if you even can.

RADDATZ: And, Donna, I just want to stay on — on Mike Pence, for a moment, and January 6th. That did not resonate with voters. What does that tell you, going forward?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: This is a MAGA party. It's a movement. It's a movement that is…

RADDATZ: And a big week for MAGA?

BRAZILE: A huge week. They just got a speaker, after all, MAGA Mike, as Donald Trump has — has now branded him.

Look, Mike Pence tried to change the dynamics of the Republican Party. It's not changing. It is now behind Donald Trump, come trial or tribulations. The fact that you have a former sitting vice president who's unable to get traction, unable to raise some money, unable to part the waters, so to speak, to distinguish himself from the craziness of the MAGA moment, to say that this is a party that needs to stand for something; this is a party that just cannot stand behind a populist. It — it wasn't his time.

RADDATZ: And — and Rick touched on this, Alex, but what does it mean for the remaining field? Does anyone other than Donald Trump benefit from this?

ALEX BURNS, POLITICO HEAD OF NEWS: Well, I think everyone other than Donald Trump at least has the opportunity to benefit from it. But Mike pence was such an asterisk…


BURNS: … in the polls — such an asterisk in the polls, if you divide up 3 percent, 4 percent, that doesn't leave a lot to go around the table.

The bigger opportunity for someone like Nikki Haley, probably above all, perhaps Ron DeSantis, would be if you did have this succession of dropouts that Rick was alluding to, that if you did have a couple of these, sort of, middle-tier candidates exit the field, and somebody emerged not just as the beneficiary by default, but if Nikki Haley were to have a really powerful debate in early November, if Ron DeSantis were to suddenly — you see his polling numbers pop up in Iowa. I think it is notable that Donald Trump is advertising against Ron DeSantis again on television. That suggests that they're not totally content that the race is over and done with.

But the bottom line, Martha, is back in 2016, the other Republican candidates could tell themselves, "Donald Trump only has a plurality. A majority of voters want somebody else. If only we could coalesce behind Ted Cruz or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, the anti-Trump majority is there."

Right now, a majority of Republican primary voters are with Donald Trump. So you have a much harder job. You have to consolidate all the other voters, and then you have to change some minds, which is awfully difficult, as many Trump critics have found, when you're dealing with the former president.

RADDATZ: Exactly. Now, I want to talk about the Democrats. The DNC has, of course, fully thrown their support around Joe Biden. But Congressman Dean Phillips from Minnesota threw his hat into the ring. Is this any part of a problem for Joe Biden?

KLEIN: First of all, he's not even competing in a contest right now that has delegates at stake because the New Hampshire primary, because they're out of compliance, we'll see if he actually gets on the ballot in places where he can do real damage. It might just be an attempt to, kind of, signal to people that there's — that there's anti-Biden energy in the party. And that, to me, is where the problem is.

RADDATZ: As if they maybe didn't know that?

KLEIN: Well, here's the…


KLEIN: Yeah, that's — he is now saying out loud what a lot of Democrats have been whispering about for a long time, is that Joe Biden is very old and is perceived as such. He is not very popular even inside his own party, the real weaknesses and real concerns they have.

I don't think Dean Phillips is the ideal vehicle for this, and I think, if he actually wanted to win the nomination, he would have gotten into the race a couple of months ago. But I think, at the very least, it gives Democrats another option, someone else to think about. We know about Bobby Kennedy's candidacy, Cornell West's candidacy, the independents, No Labels. Now you've got someone inside the party who's going to be out there making the case. He's — he's personally wealthy himself. He can make the case as he likes.

So I don't think it's going to — he's not going to win the nomination, I don't think. And I don't think he's going to maybe even win any delegates, but that's going to be a pretty powerful message to a lot of Democrats who are worried about Biden.

RADDATZ: And — and one of the things he has said, Phillips, is he wants to encourage others, exactly, to challenge Biden?

BRAZILE: This is 2023, and the last time I looked at the calendar, there are at least six states that you have to be on the ballot by the end of next month, 22 states before the end of the year. The race for delegates is not a popularity contest. It is a race where you have to actually go out and identify, recruit people.

So I don't know what the end game is for Mr. Phillips, but I can tell you this much. Democrats are going to coalesce, stand behind and support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And the reason why is simple. It's because not only has he achieved a lot in office, people know Joe Biden; they know he's wise; they know that he is capable and competent. And they're not going to run from Biden.

So good luck, Mr. Phillips. Have fun out there. But guess what? I will not be seeing him in Chicago unless he's an automatic superdelegate.


RADDATZ: Is that message resonating, Alex?

BURNS: Well, look, I think Donna does a — does a far better job than most in the Democratic Party of making the case for — for Joe Biden and his accomplishments and his ticket.

You know, I will say I think — I think Rick really hit it on the head that, if you look at — if the question is, can Dean Phillips beat Joe Biden for the nomination, then Donna's right. The answer is very, very likely that he cannot. But if the question is, does this reflect weakness on the part of the president? The answer I think is yes, it does. You don't — you would not see a promising up and coming third-term member of Congress filing in this kind of steeply, steeply uphill campaign if the president was a highly, highly popular man who people in the party were desperate to see as president for another four years.

I do think there's been this tension in the Democratic response to Dean Phillips where on the one hand, you have people saying this is a hopeless vanity campaign, midlife crisis, et cetera, et cetera. I don't even know what he's doing. And on the other side, you have people saying this is a dangerous thing that he's doing you could undermine the president and helped Donald Trump, you kind of got to pick one. It can't be a hopeless, pointless endeavor and also threat to the president.

RADDATZ: And Sarah, Republicans a.k.a. Donald Trump have got to be loving it.

ISGUR: Of course, I mean, there has been so much talk about the chaos on the Republican side and having a relatively brutal primary on the Republican side. I think that the Dean Phillips thing not only highlights the weakness of Joe Biden sort of writ large, but also in a more concrete way, this idea that a lot of don't think Joe Biden is going to make it through the primaries. And so, Dean Phillips will be there waiting in the wings just in case. I mean, this Kamala Harris, whatever that may look like, if he is not the Democratic Party's nominee come a year from now, you're seeing people do more than whisper, is really what Dean Phillips means. You're seeing them put their stakes on the table.

DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER DNC CHAIR: But, Martha, I have been in practically every meeting. Not that I want to. There are sometimes when I even have to buy liquor just to get the meeting over with, so Democrats can (inaudible).



ISGUR: You, Donna?

BRAZILE: Yeah. I have been known to pull out some dollars just to stop the conversation. The fact is that we know who Joe Biden is. We've known Joe Biden for over 40 years. Joe Biden is someone we like. I don't sit up here and say Joe Biden because I can read his legislative accomplishments and know a lot about what he's thinking and doing every day. He is a good…

ISGUR: Joe Biden of four months ago looks different than Joe Biden today, and people are seeing that and they're starting to react to it.

BRAZILE: So do you because you have had a baby, and you look good too. I mean, look, it is not about looks. It is about competence. It is about is he doing the job each and every day on behalf of the American people? We haven't talked about the Q3 numbers. I mean, all of a sudden, we woke up, 4.9 percent growth. We keep talking about Joe Biden's age and we're not talking about his experience, his wisdom, especially now when the world needs somebody with steady hands.

RADDATZ: OK. Let's talk about the Speaker of the House. We have talked about Joe Biden. And Rick, I want to go to you on this. We heard the Rachels talk about this. But it was a good week for Donald Trump.

KLEIN: Yeah.

RADDATZ: I mean, he's taking credit for Johnson, he's taking credit for getting rid of Emmer. What do you see?

KLEIN: Yeah. He had veto power over who the Speaker of the House was. Now, he didn't quite support Johnson. He didn't have an idea of who Johnson was going into this, lot of the country has gotten to know him, probably Trump included, but he was able to basically say, no, not that guy to Tom Emmer this week and just exert that influence from afar. It didn't even take very much. It didn't take him to actually endorse — he was again able to show what his power is.

Of course, it has potential consequences. I mean, we know a lot of what we learned about Johnson in the last couple of days is support for that brief that would have had the Supreme Court intervene. The House of Representatives is trying to get them to do it on behalf of Trump to overthrow the election potentially. That's a big deal if you are Speaker of the House. And I think Johnson, as we learn a lot more about him, he's going to be defined by a lot more than his MAGA credentials. But that is a big piece of it.

RADDATZ: And Donna, I got to go back to you on this because you're from Louisiana.

BRAZILE: I am smiling. Well, let me tell you why I'm smiling.

RADDATZ: Two top Republicans in the House of Representatives.

BRAZILE: Two LSU graduates. OK, that's saying something about me too, all right? I mean, what a wonderful school that produced two of the top House Republican leaders. No, he's going to be tested. He is a very nice Louisianan. By all accounts, he's somebody that, you know, likes to get along with people. But, you know what? This is really a difficult period to have on-the-job training. The government shutdown is looming. Israel, aid for Ukraine, the flood insurance, something that Louisianans care about.

RADDATZ: And Sarah, I want to talk to you about what President Obama's Former Advisor Dan Pfeiffer said, Democrats should thank Republicans for choosing a guy with Paul Ryan's economic policies, Mike Pence's position on abortion and marriage, and Donald Trump's views on the 2020 election. Your response, quickly?

ISGUR: This is why Republicans seem to act like they want to be in the minority, because if Congress isn't actually moving legislation, no one thinks comprehensive immigration reform is happening in the near future. Then it's not really about legislating, it's about having the reality TV of the House of Representatives. If everything's getting done in the Executive Branch, that's going to the courts, where is Congress? I don't think that's going to change regardless of who the Speaker is.

RADDATZ: And we're going to watch that for a very, very long time to come. Thanks to all of you. Always great to see you.

Up next, a look back at the life of America's longest-serving black congressional staffer. It's an inspiring story, you won't want to miss. Stay with us.


RADDATZ: As we leave you this morning, we want to note the passing of a remarkable and impossibly modest man, 92-year-old Bertie Bowman, the son of sharecroppers a runaway who would mentor future presidents befriend both Democrats and Republicans and make history in the process.


RADDATZ (voice-over): In a city filled with ambition and influence, Bertie Bowman seemed out of place. But in his more than six decades on Capitol Hill, the quiet political aide rose from poverty to prominence, and befriended some of Washington's most powerful figures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bowman, the firmer clerk of these, of this committee for 500 years.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Herbert "Bertie" Bowman, the son of South Carolina sharecroppers ran away from home at 13 after a chance encounter with his senator, Burnet Maybank, who was campaigning for re-election.

HERBERT "BERTIE" BOWMAN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER: At the end of his speech, he was saying that if you ever in Washington, come by and see me. I asked him if I come to Washington if that meant me too. And he said, yes, my boy.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Bowman arrived in Washington in 1944, a decade before the Civil Rights Movement began when Blacks were forced to segregate in classrooms, lunch rooms, and restrooms, facing discrimination in nearly every facet of life.

His first job in Washington, sweeping the steps of the Capitol. But in 1966, he began the job that wouldmake history. Hired as a clerk on the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he would work until he was 90, eventually becoming the longest-serving black congressional staffer ever.

RICHARD LUGAR, (R) FORMER INDIANA SENATOR: Mr. Bowman, he has outlasted all of us on this Committee.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Along the way, he earned the admiration and trust of both Democrats and Republicans.

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIR MARYLAND: Everybody knew Bertie. He was just loved by everyone. He served under 16 Chairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Maryland Senator Ben Cardin Chairs that Committee now. He says Bowman was a consummate professional.

CARDIN: He arranged all of our hearings, but everything was always perfect and everybody paid him a great deal of respect for what he did.

RADDATZ (voice-over): One year after starting with the Committee, a college student named Bill Clinton took a messenger job there, and an unlikely friendship formed. Author David Maraniss recounted the details in his biography of Clinton. They would talk all the time and sing duets together in the back room while they were working. Sometimes they would be walking down the hall together, running errands, singing "Blue Suede Shoes" or "Return to Sender" in harmony. Clinton told CBS News, Bowman was an ideal mentor.

BILL CLINTON, (D) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He was exactly the kind of person you would want to take you under his wing if you were a 20-year-old student just working in your first job in Washington.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Bowman also grew close with segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond who helped Bowman get into Harvard University. Bowman telling NPR in 2008, their relationship transcended politics.

BERTIE BOWMAN, LONGTIME CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER: I would be telling you a lie if I said some things he said didn't hurt me, if that's what you want to hear. He'd done so much — the good outweighed the bad, is the way I look at it.

RADDATZ (voice-over): After his death Wednesday at 92, tributes poured in from across the political spectrum, celebrating the remarkable career of a remarkable man.

BOWMAN: This is the American dream here, I guess, living the American dream that I'm right here, you know. Senator Helms also always had a say, you know what? Neither one of us made it through college, but here we are.

RADDATZ (voice-over): Bertie Bowman, a man to be remembered. We'll be right back.



RADDATZ (voice-over): That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us, and have a great day.


Sourse: abcnews.go.com

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