'This Week' Transcript 7-7-24: President Joe Biden & US Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle (2024)

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, July 7, 2024 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 VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC “THIS WEEK” ANCHOR (voice-over): Standing firm.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I’m staying in the race. I’ll beat Donald Trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden fights to save his candidacy.

BIDEN: I just had a bad night. I don't know why.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pressure mounts for him to step aside.

BIDEN: I don't think anybody is more qualified to be president or win this race than me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he reassure voters?

Would you be willing to have the independent medical evaluation?

Quell the panic in his own party?

Do you really believe you're not behind right now?

This morning, our exclusive interview with President Joe Biden.

Plus, our powerhouse roundtable.

POLICE OFFICER: We use speed, surprise and violence of action to divert, suppress and neutralize that threat.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ahead of the political conventions, Pierre Thomas looks at the efforts to secure the events.

Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle joins us live.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week”.

Here now, George Stephanopoulos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS (on camera): Good morning, and welcome to "This Week".

Three questions hanging over the Democratic Party and the country right now are simple and stark. Can President Biden effectively serve a second term? Can he defeat Donald Trump? Will he continue to be the Democratic nominee?

I put those questions to the president Friday in our exclusive interview. Here now is that entire conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thank you for doing this.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with the debate.

You and your team said -- have said you had a bad night, but your...

BIDEN: Sure did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your friend Nancy Pelosi actually framed the question that I think is on the minds of millions of Americans.

Was this a bad episode or the sign of a more serious condition?

BIDEN: It was a bad episode, no indication of any serious condition.

I was exhausted. I didn't listen to my instincts, in terms of preparing, and it was a bad night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you say you were exhausted. And I know you said that before as well, but you came -- and you did have a tough month -- but you came home from Europe about 11 or 12 days before the debate, spent six days in Camp David.

Why wasn't that enough rest time, enough recovery time?

BIDEN: Because I was sick. I was feeling terrible.

Matter of fact, the docs with me, I asked them. They did a COVID test, because they were trying to figure out what was wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn't. "You just have a really bad cold."

STEPHANOPOULOS: And did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what I'm trying -- what I want to get at is it, what were you experiencing as you were going through the debate? Did you know how badly it was going?

BIDEN: Yes, look, the whole way, I prepared -- nobody's fault, mine, nobody's fault but mine.

I prepared, what I usually would do, sitting down, as I did come back with foreign leaders or the National Security Council, for explicit detail. And I realized about partway through that all -- I think I quoted -- The New York Times had me down 10 points before the debate, nine now or whatever the hell it is.

The fact of the matter is that what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn't -- I mean, the way the debate ran, not -- my fault, no one else's fault, no one else's fault.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke.

BIDEN: Well, I just had a bad night.

You have had some bad interviews once in a while. I can't remember any, but I'm sure you did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have had plenty.

BIDEN: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess the question -- the problem is here for a lot of Americans watching is, you have said, going back to 2020, "Watch me"...

BIDEN: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... to people who are concerned about your age.

And, you know, 50 million Americans watched that debate. It seemed to confirm fears they already had.

BIDEN: Well, look, after that debate, I did 10 major events in a row, including until 2:00 in the morning after that debate.

I did events in North Carolina. I did events in Georgia, did events like this today, large crowds, overwhelming response, no -- no slipping.

And so I just had a bad night. I don't know why.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And how quickly did it come to you that you were having that bad night?

BIDEN: Well, it came to me I was having a bad night when I realized that, even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting, and I let it distract me.

I'm not blaming it on that. But I realized that I just wasn't in control.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Part of the other concern is that this seems to have fit into a pattern of decline that has been reported on recently.

"New York Times" had a headline on July 2: "Biden's Lapses Are Said to Be Increasingly Common and Worrisome."

Here's what they wrote: "People who have spent time with President Biden over the last few months or so said the lapses appear to have grown more frequent, more pronounced, and, after Thursday's debate, more worrisome. By many accounts, as evidenced by video footage, observation, and interviews, Mr. Biden is not the same today as he was even when he took office three-and-a-half years ago."

Similar reporting in "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal."

Are you the same man today that you were when you took office three-and-a-half years ago?

BIDEN: In terms of successes, yes.

I also was the guy who put together a peace plan for the Middle East that may be coming to fruition. I was also the guy that expanded NATO. I was also the guy that grew the economy.

All the individual things that were done were ideas I had or I fulfilled, I moved on.

And so, for example, well, that was true then. What has Biden done lately?

Did you just see today, just announced 200,000 new jobs? We're moving in a direction that no one's ever taken on. I know you know this from the days in the -- in the government. I took on big pharma. I beat them. No one said I could beat them.

I took on all the things we said we got done, we were told we couldn't get done. And part of it is what I said when I ran was, I wanted to do three things, restore some decency to the office, restore some support for the middle class, instead of trickle-down economics, both from the middle out and the bottom up -- that way, the wealthy still do fine, everyone does better -- and unite the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what has all that work over the last three-and-a-half years cost you physically, mentally, emotionally?

BIDEN: Well, I -- I just think it cost me a really bad night, a bad run.

But I -- George, I have -- I'm optimistic about this country. I don't think we're a country of losers that he points out. I don't think America's in tough shape. I think America's on a cusp of breaking through on so many incredible opportunities.

In this next term, I'm going to make sure -- we have got to straighten out the tax system. I'm going to make sure we're in a situation where we have health care for all people, where we're in a position where we have -- have childcare and eldercare, free up -- and all these things.

The one thing I'm proudest of is, remember, when my economic plan was put forward, a lot of the mainstream economists said it's not going to work. Well, guess what? We now have 16 Nobel laureates, 16 of them in economics, saying that Biden's next term would be -- based on what he wants to do, an enormous success.

Trump's plan would cause a recession, which is going be -- increase inflation. I have made great progress. And that's what I plan on doing. And we can do this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. And I'm not disputing that.

What I'm asking you is about your personal situation. Do you dispute that there have been more lapses, especially in the last several months?

BIDEN: Can I run the 100 in 10 flat? No. But I'm still in good shape.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you more frail?

BIDEN: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you spoke...

BIDEN: Come see my (ph) schedule.

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you spoke with your doctor after the debate. What did he say?

BIDEN: He said -- he just looked at me. He said: "You're exhausted."

I said -- I have medical doctors traveling everywhere. Every president does, as you know. Medical doctors, some of the best in the world, travel with me everywhere I go. I have an ongoing assessment of what I'm doing. And they don't hesitate to tell me if they think there's something wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you said you have an ongoing assessment. Have you had a full neurological and cognitive evaluation?

BIDEN: I have -- I get a full neurological test every day with me. And I have had a full physical. I had -- I mean, I'm -- I have been to Walter Reed for my physicals.

I mean, yes. The answer is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know your doctor said he consulted with a neurologist.

I guess I'm asking a slightly different question. Have you had the specific cognitive tests? And have you had a neurologist, a specialist, do an examination?

BIDEN: No. No one said I had to. No one said -- they said I'm good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you be willing to undergo an independent medical evaluation that included neurological and cognitive -- cognitive tests and release the results to the American people?

BIDEN: Look, I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day, I have that test, everything I do.

Not only am I campaigning, but I'm running the world. And that's not -- that sounds like hyperbole. But we are the essential nation in the world. Madeleine Albright was right.

And every single day -- for example, today, before I come out here, I'm on the phone with the prime minister of -- oh, I know I shouldn't get into the detail, but with Netanyahu. I'm on the phone with the new prime minister of England. I'm working on what we're doing with regard to -- in Europe with regard to expansion of NATO and whether it's going to stick.

I'm taking on Putin. I mean, every day -- there's no day I go through there are not those decisions I have to make every single day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you have been doing that, and the American people who have been watching. Yet their concerns about your age and your health are growing.

So that's why I'm asking, could -- to reassure them, would you be willing to have the independent medical evaluation?

BIDEN: Watch me between -- there's a lot of time left in this campaign. It's over 125 days.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the answer...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: ... decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The right -- answer right now is, no, you -- you don't want to do that right now?

BIDEN: Well, I have already done it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked a lot about your successes in the -- at the beginning of this interview, and I don't want to dispute that. I don't want to debate that.

But, as you know, elections are about the future, not the past. They're about tomorrow, not yesterday. And the question on so many people's minds right now is, can you serve effectively for the next four years?

BIDEN: George, I'm the guy that put NATO together, the future. No one thought I could expand it.

I'm the guy that shut Putin down. No one thought it could happen. I'm the guy that put together a South Pacific initiative with AUKUS. I'm the guy that got 50 nations out -- not only in Europe, outside of Europe as well, to help Ukraine. I'm the guy that got the Japanese to expand their budget.

I'm the guy -- so, I mean, these -- for example, when I decided -- we used to have 40 percent of the computer chip, and we invented the chip, that little chip from -- the computer chip. It's in everything from a cell phone to weapons.

And so we used to have 40 percent of it. And we're down to virtually nothing. So I get in a plane, against the advice of everybody, and I fly to South Korea. I convinced them to invest in the United States billions of dollars. Now we have tens of billions of dollars being invested in the United States, making us back in a position where we're going to own that industry again.

We have -- I mean, I just -- anyway, I'm not -- I don't want to take too much credit. I have a great staff.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But all the -- I guess my point is, all that takes a toll.

Do you have the mental and physical capacity to do it for another four years?

BIDEN: I believe so. I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I did.

Look, I'm running again because I think I understand best what has to be done to take this nation to a completely new -- new level. We're on our way. We're on our way.

And, look, the decision recently made by the Supreme Court on immunity, you know, the next president of the United States, it's not just about whether he or she knows what they're doing. It's -- it's not about a conglomerate of people making decisions. It's about the character of the president.

The character of the president is going to determine whether or not this Constitution is employed the right way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a tougher, more personal question.

Are you sure you're being honest with yourself when you say you have the mental and physical capacity to serve another four years?

BIDEN: Yes, I am, because, George, the last thing I want to do is not be able to meet that.

I think, as some of the senior economists and senior foreign policy specialists say, if I stop now, I would go down in history as a pretty successful president. No one thought I could get done what we got done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But are you being with -- honest with yourself as well about your ability to defeat Donald Trump right now?

BIDEN: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that, and let me challenge you.

BIDEN: Sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Because you were close, but behind going into the debate. You're further behind now, by any measure.

It's been a two-man race for several months. Inflation has come down. In those last few months, he's become a convicted felon, yet you're still falling further behind.

BIDEN: You guys keep saying that. George, do you -- look, you know polling better than anybody. Do you think polling data is as accurate as it used to be?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so, but I think, when you look at all the polling data right now, it shows that he's certainly ahead in the popular vote, probably even more ahead in the battleground states.

And one of the other key factors there is, it shows that, in many of the battleground states, the Democrats who are running for Senate and the House are doing better than you are.

BIDEN: Well, that's not unusual in some states. But I carried an awful lot of the Democrats the last time I ran in 2020.

Look, I remember them telling me the same thing in 2020: I can't win. The polls show I can't win.

Remember 2024 -- 2020, the red wave was coming. Before the vote, I said that's not going to happen. We're going to win. We did better in an off year than almost any incumbent president ever has done.

They said, in 2023, all the tough races we're not going to win. I went into all those areas, all those -- all those districts, and we won.

STEPHANOPOULOS: All that is true. But 2020 was a close race. And your approval rating has dropped significantly since then. I think the last poll I saw, it was at about 36 percent. The number of Americans who think you're too old to serve has doubled since 2020.

Wouldn't a clear-eyed political calculus tell you that it's going to be much tougher to win in 2024?

BIDEN: Not when you're running against a pathological liar, not when he hasn't been challenged in a way that he's about to be challenged, not when people...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have had months to challenge him.

BIDEN: Oh, sure, I had months, but I was also doing a hell of a lot of other things, like wars around the world, like keeping NATO together, like working -- anyway.

But, look...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you really believe you're not behind right now?

BIDEN: I think it's -- all the pollsters I talk to tell me it's a toss-up. It's a toss-up.

And when I'm behind -- there's only one poll I'm really far behind, CBS poll and NBC -- I mean -- excuse me -- and...

STEPHANOPOULOS: "New York Times" and NBC both have you about six points behind in the popular vote.

BIDEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: That's exactly right.

"New York Times" had me behind before anything having to do with this race, had me behind 10 points. 10 points, they had me behind. Nothing's changed substantially since the debate in "The New York Times" poll.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Just, when you look at the reality, though, Mr. President, I mean, you won the popular vote in 2020, but it was still deadly close in the Electoral College.

BIDEN: By seven million votes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but you're behind now in the popular vote.

BIDEN: I don't -- I don't buy that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it worth the risk?

BIDEN: I don't think anybody's more qualified to be president or win this race than me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the heart of your case against Donald Trump is that he's only out for himself, putting his personal interests ahead of the national interest.

How do you respond to critics who say that, by staying in the race, you're doing the same thing?

BIDEN: Oh, come on. Well, I don't think those critics know what they're talking about.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They're just wrong?

BIDEN: They're just wrong.

Look, Trump is a pathological liar. Trump is -- he is -- have you ever seen anything Trump did that benefited somebody else, not him? You can't answer, I know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have questioned him and his allies as persistently as any journalist has.

BIDEN: Well, I know you have. I'm not being critical.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. Yes.

BIDEN: I'm not being critical.

But, look, I mean, the man is a congenital liar. As I said, they pointed out in that debate, he lied 27, 28 times, the times -- or whatever number, over 20 times. Talk about how his -- good his economy was, how he brought down inflation, and how -- this is the guy who, unlike -- only other president other than him is Hoover who lost more jobs than he created.

This is the guy who told us to put bleach in our arms to deal with COVID, when a million -- over a million people died. This is the guy who talks about wanting to get rid of the health care provision we put in place. This is the guy who wants to give the power back to big pharma, to be able to charge exorbitant prices for drugs.

This is the guy who wants to undo every single thing I have done, every single -- every single thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that, and I understand that's why you want to stay in the race. But have you convinced yourself that only you can defeat him?

BIDEN: I have convinced myself of two things. I'm the most qualified person to beat him, and I know how to get things done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you can be convinced that you cannot defeat Donald Trump, will you stand down?

BIDEN: It depends if -- I mean, if the lord almighty comes out and tells me that, I might do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the -- I mean, on a more practical level, "The Washington Post" just reported in the last hour that Senator Mark Warner is assembling a group of senators together to try and convince you to stand down because they don't think you can win.

BIDEN: Well, Mark is a good man. We have never had the -- he also tried to get the nomination too.

Mark's not -- Mark and I have a different perspective. I respect him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi come down and say, "We're worried that, if you stay in the race, we're going to lose the House and the Senate," how will you respond?

BIDEN: I -- I would go into detail with them.

I have spoken to all of them in detail, including Jim Clyburn, every one of them. They all said I should stay in the race, stay in the race. No one said -- none of the people said I should leave the race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they do?

BIDEN: Well, it's like...

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: They're not going to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You sure?

BIDEN: Well, yes, I'm sure.

Look, I mean, if the lord almighty came out and said, "Joe, get out of the race," I would get out of the race. The lord almighty is not coming down.

I mean, these hypotheticals, George, if -- I mean, if all...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's -- it's not that hypothetical anymore. I grant that they have not requested the meeting, but it's been...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Well, they -- I have met with them. I have met with a lot of these people.

I have talked with them regularly. I had an hour conversation with Hakeem. I had more time than that with Jim Clyburn. I spent time with -- many hours off and on the last little bit with Chuck Schumer.

It's not like -- I had all the governors, all the governors.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I agree that the lord almighty is not going to come down.

But if -- if -- if you are told reliably from your allies, from your friends and supporters in the Democratic Party, in the House and the Senate, that they're concerned you're going to lose the House and the Senate if you stay in, what will you do?

BIDEN: I'm not going to answer that question. It's not going to happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your plan to turn the campaign around?

BIDEN: You saw it today.

How many -- many people draw crowds like I drew today? Can you find many more enthusiastic than today, huh?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, I -- I don't think you want to play the crowd game. Donald Trump can draw big crowds. There's no question about that.

BIDEN: He can draw a big crowd, but what does he say? Who does he have?

I'm the guy supposedly in trouble. We raised $38 million within four days after this -- over -- we have over a million individual contributors, individual contributors, less than 200 bucks. We have -- I mean, I've not seen what you're -- you're proposing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You haven't seen the fall-off in the polls? You haven't seen the reports of discontent in the Democratic Party, House Democrats, Senate Democrats?

BIDEN: I've seen it from the press.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, I've heard from dozens of your supporters over the last few days, and a variety of views, I grant you that.

But the prevailing sentiment is this. They love you, and they will be forever grateful to you for defeating Donald Trump in 2020. They think you've done a great job as president, a lot of success, as you outlined.

But they are worried about you and the country. And they don't think you can win. They want you to go with grace, and they will cheer you if you do.

What do you say to that?

BIDEN: I say the vast majority are not where that -- those folks are. I don't doubt there's some folks there.

Have you ever seen a group -- a time when elected officials running for office aren't a little worried? Have you ever seen that? I've not. Same thing happened in 2020. "Oh, Biden, I don't know, man. What is he going to do? He may bring me down. He may."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, I've never seen a president at 36 percent approval get re-elected.

BIDEN: Well, I don't believe that's my approval rating. That's not what our polls show.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you stay in, and Trump is elected, and everything you're warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

BIDEN: I'll feel, as long as I gave it my all, and I did the -- good as job as I know I can do -- that's what this is about.

Look, George, think of it this way. You've heard me say this before. I think the United States and the world is at an inflection point. And the things that happen in the next several years are going to determine what the next six, seven decades look like.

And who's going to be able to hold NATO together like me? Who's going to be able to be in a position where I'm able to keep the Pacific Basin in a position where we're at least checkmating China now? Who's going to -- who's going to do that? Who has that reach? Who has -- who knows all these people?

We're going to have -- I guess a good way to judge me is, you're going to have now the NATO conference here in the United States next week. Come listen. See what they say.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thanks for your time.

BIDEN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our thanks to the president for his time. ABC News also offered an interview to Donald Trump. He declined our invitation.

The roundtable's up next. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Like a lot of people, I was pretty horrified. I think people want to make sure this is a campaign that's ready go and win, that the president and his team are being candid with us about his condition, that this was a real anomaly and not just the way he is these days.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Coming home to Texas this weekend, I would say that the input from my constituents has been 10-1 in favor of replacing President Biden on the ticket.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): I say, Mr. President, your legacy is set. We owe you the greatest debt of gratitude. The only thing that you can do now to cement that for all time and prevent utter catastrophe is to step down and let someone else do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Reactions from Democrats to the president's debate performance and our interview on Friday night. One of the things we're going to talk about here on the round table.

Joined by former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, former Trump Justice Department spokesperson, “Dispatch:” senior editor, Sarah Isgur, “USA Today” Washington bureau chief, Susan Page, and "Washington Post" congressional reporter, Mariana Sotomayor.

Thank you all for joining us this morning.

Let me begin with you, Donna. Just -- set the table here. Where do you think things stand inside the Democratic Party for President Biden right now?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & CONTRIBUTOR: Well, George, this is a critical time for the country. It's a very challenging time for the Democratic Party. Perhaps a sad and difficult moment for the Biden family.

We know the stakes are very high. We know what's on the line. Keeping control of the United States Senate, taking back the United States House, but at the same time, we also have to reassure, and the president is going to have to do it as well as those of us in the party, reassure the country, but more importantly, the delegates.

In two weeks -- I’m on the credentials committee. I know many of you think I’m past my prime, but let me just tell you, I got more to do. But the credentials committee will have to send ballots to all 4,000-plus delegates, automatic delegates, which I am one, we're no longer super. We lost that ability to vote on the first ballot.

Those delegates who have by and large been supportive of the president, they have pledged to the president, they will submit their ballots, hopefully within one week. And we will probably ascertain better than any pollster, better than any pundit, better than any strategist just where the president stands with his own delegates because once the delegates nominate him, then the president will have to go to the convention and either release those delegates by making an announcement or the Democratic Party will have to decide the day after the convention where do we go from here?

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that means the clock is ticking.

Susan Page, coming out of the debate and in the interview on Friday night, it appears the general consensus is that President Biden did not do as badly as in the debate, but may not have done enough to reassure at least all Democrats.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yeah. For some Democrats, this was the worst of all worlds because he was better than he was in the debate. On the other hand, how could he not be? And on the other hand, he wasn't as compelling and crisp and clear as he would need to be to settle the issue of his questions about his mental acuity, and he refused to agree to independent medical tests to determine whether there's some medical condition going on here that Americans would have a right to know about if they were going to re-elect him as president.

So, it was -- this was more of a holding action than determining, I think, which course is ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Many would argue that President Trump -- former President Trump should have to submit to the same kind --

PAGE: Absolutely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- of testing.

Sarah Isgur, the former president has been uncharacteristically quiet over the last several days.

SARAH ISGUR, FORMER TRUMP JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON & CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I don't know. On social media, he's been pretty loud in his normal bombastic self. I just think this has overwhelmed a lot of that coverage. He’s not on Twitter anymore. He's not doing the sort of public events, you know, and interviews that might step on the Democratic message, but, you know, obviously when you see your opponent struggling like this, the correct political strategy is to let it happen and get out of the way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Marianna, probably the most critical audience right now are Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate. Let's walk through what's going to be happening over the next several hours. We've seen a handful of House Democrats still a small minority, come out and say that the president should step aside, but there's going to be a key meeting today on Zoom held by Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Leader in the House.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. He's going to be speaking to the ranking members on committees to be able to talk through what these members are hearing, how they're feeling. It's also a type of meeting that happens weekly on Wednesdays, but they've moved it up because they know how unpredictable this week is going to be. This is the first week that both Senators and members of the House will be together since the debate, since the fallout, since they have heard from the campaign and the White House.

Many democrats are so angry and have lost trust to the point where many have told me, it's completely irreparable because the White House and campaign are just spinning them. They're saying, no, Biden is going to be fine. It's just a bad night. Everyone on Capitol Hill saw what many Americans saw.

They're hearing it from constituents, and I have to say it really is, as many Democrats have pointed out to me, a very painful moment for them. It's a somber moment. They know that they're going to go into these meetings behind closed doors with members. It's going to be very emotional, and there are a number of House Democrats and Senators who are still behind Biden, who are in those group texts saying, no, we need to stick with the president.

But almost everyone that I have spoken to, especially on the House side say, you know, at some point this week, the collective already is that many Democrats want Biden to step aside and the interview on Friday when he said, you know, it was through the -- we've only heard concerns through the press. That has only emboldened Democrats to more than likely go public this week.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to broaden the conversation now. But before we move on, let's talk about the Senate as well, because you saw, I asked the -- I asked President Biden about this move by Senator Mark Warner to organize Senate Democrats, some kind of a letter by Senate Democrats. Why does that stand right now?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, you know, a lot of Senators were willing to hear out Senator Warner, but they were waiting to see how Biden performed on Friday, and really the movement of this letter or --it was going to be either a letter or to go to the White House at some point this week. I mean, those conversations are still ongoing. I think there is something to say too about the Senate. Biden, former Senator, the White House has done so much to try and keep that coalition together. The fact that we are seeing fractures there is more surprising (inaudible).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, the one question that President Biden would not answer in that 22-minute interview is what he would do if Hakeem Jeffries and Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democrats -- Senate Democratic Leader came down -- Chuck Schumer came down to the White House and said, we're going to lose the House and the Senate if you don't go. He would not answer that question. Where do you think things stand inside the House and the Senate right now?

BRAZILE: I agree. There's a lot of frustration. Look. I like to pick up the phone and call members. I like to talk to them. I have been talking to as many as possible along with state party chairs and delegation leaders to say, the delegates are in charge of this process. I recognize members of Congress as they have a lot of power. They can speak to the media, but the delegates are in charge of this process. Democrats are not going to overturn the will of the people, but if delegates get this sense that we're going to lose it all, that becomes a problem for the president. The president still has time. I mentioned two weeks from now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How much time -- how much time does he really have? Is it really two weeks?

BRAZILE: Well, that'd be 121 weeks, George. Can I do -- Can I put back the campaign in 121 days? Hell yeah, but it will not be the campaign you saw before that debate, and it will not be the campaign that I've seen after the debate. Stop -- you know what, one of my neighbors told me, and I live in a liberal neighborhood. Don't move to my neighborhood, Sarah.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: One of my neighbors said don't gaslight us. I mean, people are furious. They are angry, but they are angry on both sides. I've also heard people (inaudible) who were saying, why are you doing this to my president? Not me personally. Why are guys questioning him? What about the other guy? You're comparing him to the almighty, not the alternative. That's what we're hearing from Democrats. There is a lot of anger, a lot of emotion, but at the end of the day, I want to calm the waters.

I want to say, there's a process, and this process starts with the fact that Joe Biden secured the nomination by getting the votes for the delegates. That's the process. I may sound like I'm talking about numbers, but I'm talking about how Democrats will have to move in the coming days.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan Page, one of the things we're seeing here and it's in pretty stark relief, is the differences between the modern Democratic Party and the modern Republican Party. Donald Trump convicted of a felony, indicted for trying to overturn an election, lying about the last election, yet they close ranks.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yeah. No question about who'sgoing to be the Republican nominee. A big question about who’s going to be the Democratic nominee.

But you’re not going to change the Democratic nominee unless Joe Biden agrees to do it. You’re not going to be able to convince delegates, almost all of whom are committed to him, although not legally committed, but pledged to him and who were elect -- chosen because they were Biden loyalists, that they’re going to move away from Biden unless he says to them, I’ve decided, it's the right thing to do to step down, and here's the way we move forward to have a chance to win in November.

And that's why in the opening he left with a congressional delegation coming to him was so important because he didn't say he wouldn't listen to them. He said, they won't do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They won't come.

PAGE: So, let's see this week because time is running out. Let's see this week if they do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump wants to run against Joe Biden.

ISGUR: I think that's right at this point. And, you know, you mentioned that the difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party I think compared to the Republican Party in 2016 particularly after the "Access Hollywood" tape, there was a lot of conversation among Republicans about replacing Donald Trump all the way to the highest levels of the RNC. Of course, it was after the convention at that point.

Ask yourself whether Democrats would be having the same conversation today if Joe Biden were leading Donald Trump. It's the reason why Republicans aren't talking about replacing Donald Trump, he looks like he's going to win handily at this point. From an Electoral College standpoint, it could be one of the largest victories we've seen in a long time.

So yes, they want to run against Donald -- Joe Biden at this moment, but they see Harris as vulnerable as well. It's a win-win right now for Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, it's all hypothetical, but let's talk about the possibilities if President Biden does indeed decide to step aside. Foregone conclusion that Kamala Harris gets the nomination?

BRAZILE: It would be very difficult to replace somebody who's been vetted, who knows the job and has done a tremendous -- I think she's done a tremendous job and to ask the delegates elected to the convention, who are Biden-Harris supporters to bypass Kamala Harris because some Republicans and a few others may not like her, it would be political malpractice.

As I tell everyone, Kamala Harris has earned the right to be considered if -- I mean, we got a lot of what-if scenarios, but she's strong. She's down in Louisiana. She was able to -- she had a rally last night with 60,000 people.

I’ve heard from so many folks including my family. They say she's fired up and ready to go. And they're not going to replace her.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan Page, you got -- you got some Democrats like James Zogby, James Carville, calling for a slightly different process, maybe a series of town meetings, maybe a series of debates leading into a convention. Is that realistic?

PAGE: No. I don't think it is. I mean, I think that ship has sailed. We don’t have much time. The Democrats don't have much time before -- even before their convention, their virtual roll call that we expect them to have by August 7th.

So, I think if President Biden decides to step back, the likely scenario, not guaranteed -- the likely scenario is he endorses Kamala Harris. The debate becomes who's her running mate, and you -- the hope is --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I should add one other possibility. I’m not saying this is going to happen, but at least it's another possibility. Some would argue that the best thing for the president would do if he is reaching that decision is to actually resign the office so that Kamala Harris can run as incumbent.

PAGE: You know, hard enough to get Joe Biden to agree not to run for a second term, to make him limit his first term which has been by many accounts incredibly successful and consequential, I think that is a bridge too far. I think that's unlikely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mariana, one of the things we’ve also seen this week, you talk about the situation in the House and the Senate. That seemed to be somewhat different from at least some of the message the president got when the governors came down to the White House. I think it was on Wednesday, on Wednesday night.

In some respect, the reason for that is perhaps that a lot of these governors were looking ahead to 2028, and they know that if he got out now, they would likely be foreclosed from that if Kamala Harris were indeed the nominee this time around.

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah, you know, and it's interesting. Many Democrats are considering when discussing this, the next couple of years, something that I hear from Capitol Hill is, he likely is -- could affect these down ballot candidates.

But let's think about the midterms. That is where a lot of House Democrats in particular are extremely worried because yes, let's say if Biden were to win, how is he going to be as president in the next couple of years? What if he does diminish more, and especially right before the midterms?

That could really hurt the chances of let's say, House Democrats, if they win back the majority, they could lose it again in a couple of years. There's a lot of those conversations and what-ifs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Sarah, to flip the question around, there’s a -- there's a pretty significant difference between if Donald Trump wins, between Donald Trump winning and carrying the House and the Senate with him, and Donald Trump winning and either losing the House and/or the Senate.

ISGUR: Well, the last several presidencies, of course, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, have all carried the House and Senate with them heading into their terms. So they've had those first two years to really pursue a legislative agenda, to appoint judges, for instance, with the Senate. It would be a huge difference for Democrats to have a Donald Trump pinned in by Democrat -- Democratic House or Senate, frankly, and one in which Donald Trump sweeps all of those.

But, again, the math is looking dire for Democrats across the board, at the Senate level, at the House level, and of course in the swing states that Joe Biden won in 2020.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We only have 30 seconds left. I'm going to go around the table and put you all on the spot.

Joe Biden going to be the Democratic nominee?

ISGUR: Status quo wins in D.C., yes.

SOTOMAYOR: To be determined this week on Capitol Hill.

PAGE: You got me.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: He's the nominee of the Democratic Party and leader of the free world.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, one week from the GOP convention in Milwaukee, we'll take you inside the security preparations and speak with the director of the Secret Service.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pierre Thomas with an exclusive look at how the Secret Service is preparing for security threats ahead of this summer's conventions. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: This summer's conventions in Milwaukee and Chicago are sure to draw significant protests and security threats, the secret service that supervises security for both conventions. Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas got an exclusive look at how they're working with local law enforcement to keep the conventions safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The unmistakable smell of burning rubber as we witnessed firsthand secret service training that will be critical to the security of President Joe Biden and former President Trump during their upcoming party conventions. It's how agents must drive if a motorcade were attacked. The ability to approach 90 miles per hour on narrow streets, navigate tight corners, stop on a dime, reverse course, and not leave a trace of damage.

THOMAS: No cones knocked over, I see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir. That's the key.

THOMAS (voice-over): A short distance away, agents training for one of many potential worst-case scenarios. Secret Service counterassault team jumps out, moving toward would-be terrorists firing away.

SHAUN MILTIER, ASSISTANT TO THE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: We have to train from the lone wolf gunman all the way up to possibly state-sponsored terrorist attacks.

THOMAS (voice-over): The point, to have lethal force at the ready.

KYLE KUHN, SPECIAL AGENT, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: We use speed, surprise, and violence of action.

THOMAS: But the stakes couldn't be higher, right?

KUHN: Absolutely. It's a no-fail mission.

THOMAS (voice-over): With the Republican Convention only about a week away, the Secret Service and an army of federal, state and local agencies are working around the clock for any threat in a deeply divided country, in what the FBI director has suggested is perhaps the most challenging environment since 9/11. Security package here in Milwaukee for the RNC Convention more than a year in the making. ABC News inside the secured joint command center at a secret location.

AUDREY GIBSON-CICCHINO, U.S. SECRET SERVICE RNC COORDINATOR: I moved to Milwaukee full-time in August of 2023. This has been any exclusive role within the Secret Service, is to coordinate the security planned for this event.

THOMAS (voice-over): Everything must be protected, even vast Lake Michigan.

JEFFREY NORMAN, MILWAUKEE POLICE DEPARTMENT CHIEF: This is an accessible area for getting onto the property, and this needs to be, again, monitored. There is a level of surveillance and there are restrictions.

THOMAS (voice-over): Helicopters and airplanes will patrol the skies, and the Secret Service has a team to counter a new and potentially lethal threat, drones. To get the job done, the Secret Service has its own quadry (ph) of drones which can save lives in many ways.

MATTHEW MALONE, ASSISTANT TO THE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: If we get a report of a medical situation, we can use the drone to actually go over there, help identify the medical situation, and direct our first responders to that area.

THOMAS (voice-over): In Chicago, we met with a secret service agent overseeing security for the Democratic National Convention in August.

JEFF BURNSIDE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE DNC COORDINATOR: It is very serious. We're not only here to ensure the safety of the attendees of the convention, but there's almost 2.7 million residents at the city of Chicago that live and work here every day.

THOMAS (voice-over): Chicago's police plan to put hundreds of officers on bikes for crowd control.

DUANE DEVRIES, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF: The bikes are able to get around through traffic, through the side streets, around the venues. We can move them at any time quickly. We'll be able to mobilize them.

THOMAS (voice-over): City's top cop mindful not only of the threat of terror, but how crowds themselves can become a security threat. No one has forgotten the violence of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, or the recent tense situations involving war protests over the Israeli-Hamas war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who are showing up to have their voices heard, we want to protect those rights, but we're also preparing and training for when things can't be de-escalated and they go off scale.

THOMAS (voice-over): It's a deadly, serious moment. For "This Week," Pierre Thomas, ABC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Pierre for that. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back. We're joined now by Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle.

Thank you for coming in today, Madam Director. And let's just start with the overall threat environment. How would you describe it right now?

KIMBERLY CHEATLE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: Absolutely. Thank you for having me today.

You know, I think the overall threat environment has constantly been evolving, as we've gone through the past conventions in -- in numerous years. We have been planning this now for the past year and a half, in both Milwaukee and in Chicago. Our folks are working together with the Milwaukee Police Department and Chicago Police Department, to make sure that we are prepared and we're ready to mitigate any potential threat.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And is the greater threat now home-grown terrorists or foreign terrorism?

CHEATLE: I think it's probably a little bit of both. I think we have to make sure that we are assessing the risk for both of those, as well as any other type of threat that may come at us, whether it's a lone gunman, you know, an organized attack or an organized group. So we try to cover off on that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and how does the -- the current divisions in the country, the extreme political polarization, how does that feed into the threat environment?

CHEATLE: I think it plays into it. I think that the environment that we're dealing with today is certainly different than it was four years ago. I'm sure we'll see an evolution in the next four years as well. But it is definitely something that we take into consideration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are there any specific and credible threats out there right now?

CHEATLE: So there's nothing specific and nothing credible out there right now, but we are tracking all threat streams and we certainly work with our partners at the FBI and other intelligence agencies that supply that information to us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other things you have to deal with right now is balancing out the right to protest with the need to keep the convention secure. Talk about that a little bit.

CHEATLE: Absolutely. The Secret Service as well as Milwaukee Police Department and Chicago Police Department, obviously, respect the right for anybody to be able to express their First Amendment rights. Where we have concerns is if those potential demonstrations turn violent, and then appropriate action would be taken. But we certainly welcome people to come out and be able to express their First Amendment rights.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And are there particular, you know, as we talk about the comparison between Milwaukee and Chicago, are you preparing for them in different ways? Are there different kinds of threats?

CHEATLE: Not different types of threats, but we're definitely preparing in different ways. Each city is different; each convention is different. The venues are different. The departments that we're working with are different, and the assets and resources that we bring are different. So those are the differences that we have with them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident that you can -- the convention is going to go without a major incident?

CHEATLE: I'm absolutely confident in the plans that we have put together in both Chicago and Milwaukee, yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, before I let you go, we're facing an unusual situation. The Senate saying decisions for former President Trump has been delayed now until September, but I know you have to be planning for at least the possibility that a former president is going to have to spend time in jail. Is there a plan in place? How exactly would it work?

CHEATLE: So, the Secret Service has a responsibility of protecting all of our protectees no matter where they are. So, we would come up with an appropriate plan should that situation arise.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it possible to protect a former president in jail?

CHEATLE: I think that we have the responsibility of protecting our folks no matter where they are, and so we will figure out how to strike that balance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible), thanks for coming in today.

CHEATLE: Thank you for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

'This Week' Transcript 7-7-24: President Joe Biden & US Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle (2024)

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