'This Week' Transcript 4-14-24: White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby, Gov. Chris Sununu & Sen. Tina Smith (2024)

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, April 14, 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in the president’s top communications adviser on national security, John Kirby.

John, thanks for joining us this morning.

What's your assessment of the situation right now?

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Well, obviously, an extraordinary night with extraordinary results. An unprecedented attack on Israel, met with an unprecedent sense of resolve and determination and military capability. But not only by Israel, but by the United States and other partner nations. Truly a successful night. And due to a lot of skill, a lot of professionalism, and a lot of coordination across the board, I mean the Israel – Israel succeeded in defending itself and the United States certainly made good our commitment to help them do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe the conflict has been contained?

KIRBY: That's going to – I think we're going to have – we’ll know a little bit more in coming days. As the president has made clear, we – everything he's been doing since October 7th has been to try to keep this from becoming a wider regional war. And he prepositioned forces, even in the last few days, destroyers and fighter squadrons into the region to help Israel defend itself, to keep it from becoming a wider war, to keep it from escalating further.

So, we'll, obviously, be vigilant to any threat coming forward, and – and making sure that – that we're meeting that need.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also called on Iran not to retaliate, but they did anyway. What does that tell you?

KIRBY: Well, again, what it tells me – as I looked at it last night, what it tell mess is that we can make good on our commitment to defend Israel. It tells me that Israel does have superior military capability. Just think about the hardware that Iran threw into the sky and how little damage that caused. I mean that’s a real testament to how strong the IDF is.

It also tells me, and it should tell everybody else, that Israel’s not alone. That this was a coalition put together to help Israel defend itself. Iran is just increasingly further isolated in the region.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But walk us through the president's conversations with Netanyahu. Is he still warning him against escalation in Gaza? And what was his direct message on this proposed retaliation from Iran?

KIRBY: The main message was, we're with you. You know, he congratulated the prime minister on anextraordinary achievement and success last night, but also to reiterate that the United States is going to continue to help Israel defend itself. That's a commitment going back many, many administrations and the president believes wholeheartedly in it.

And obviously the president was interested in getting the prime minister’s perspectives on what happened. I won't get ahead of what the prime minister and the war cabinet will or won't do, but the president and the prime minister had a good discussion largely about the extraordinary success of last night.

Again, look, as I said earlier, the president has been very clear, publicly so. We don't seek a war with Iran. We don't seek an escalated re -- tensions in the region. We don't seek a wider conflict, and everything he's been doing literally since the 7th of October has been designed to that outcome.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Last night, former President Trump called President Biden a demented tyrant, adding that Israel wouldn't have been attacked on his watch.

Your response?

KIRBY: I won't get into the comments from the campaign trail, George. You know I can’t do that.

But think about this, the commander-in-chief, President Biden, the first one to go to war in the midst of the war, just after October 7th, on the ground, while Israel was still reeling with the effects of October 7th, on the ground there. And this president ordered U.S. forces actively to participate in the defense of Israel, actively shooting down missiles and drones from the sea and from the air.

I mean, that's extraordinary. That's leadership. That's leadership not just in the world, but it shows the power of American leadership around the world.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what's the latest on the negotiations for hostage release and possible ceasefire?

KIRBY: Still ongoing -- well, actually, the negotiations, they wrapped up a week or so in Cairo. What I meant ongoing, what I meant is the exchange of information is still ongoing.

There is a proposal on the table that was arrived at with very careful diplomacy with our Israeli counterparts, led by the CIA Director Bill Burns. It's on the table.

Hamas needs to take that table. It’s a good deal. It will get those hostages out, at least the first tranche, elderly, sick, women. And it ill give us what will be about a six-week ceasefire to allow for an increase in humanitarian assistance.

It's time now to move that forward. It's up to Hamas. We want them to take that deal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: John Kirby, thanks very much.

KIRBY: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota.

Thank you for joining us this morning, Senator.

You know, we just heard what’s happening in Arizona based on this Comstock law. You’re leading an effort in the House to repeal it. Any prospects for success?

SEN. TINA SMITH, (D) MINNESOTA: Well, you know, first of all, I just want to say, George, that American women are not going to be conned by Donald Trump and his comments about abortion. We know that he is the one who is responsible for what's going on in Arizona and all over the country. So, that's the bottom line, I think, as we think about the election coming up.

With regard to the Comstock Act, OK, so this is a 150-year-old law that has been long relegated to the dust bin of history, and yet we can see Trump judges, and even the United States Supreme Court, raising this up as a reason why people shouldn't be able to get medication abortion through the mail. So, we have to pay attention to this and make sure that we are doing everything that we can to protect people's rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there anything more that President Biden could be doing now with executive action to protect those rights?

SMITH: I'm really grateful that the president has done everything that he possibly can to protect people's rights. And he is fighting right now to make sure that the FDA's authority to make decisions about whether medications like Mifepristone are -- that their decision-making is what rules and not the decision of some Trump judge from Texas, which is what's happening before the Supreme Court right now.

So I think that they're doing everything that they can. What we need to do is to win these elections so that we can put the protections of Roe in law.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that the American people will not be conned by Donald Trump, but his position now is relatively clear, isn't it, saying this should be a state by state issue?

SMITH: Well, so think about what that means exactly. First of all, he said that he is the person who is proudly responsible for overturning Roe. That is what has caused all of this chaos and cruelty to the one in three American women who live in states where abortion is now basically banned.

The other thing he said just a couple of days ago is that these state bans are working the way they should. So ask a woman in Arizona or Texas whether she thinks this is working for her. Because, for her, this isn't a political discussion. This is about her personal life and her decisions that she can make for herself about her own life.

So I think that his position is totally clear. He is responsible for these abortion bans, and I think he's going to be held accountable for that come the election in November.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Given what you think is the power of this issue and everything else we've seen over the course of this election, how do you explain the fact that Donald Trump is either tied or ahead of President Biden in most polls?

SMITH: Well, you know, there's so much talk about these polls right now. I've been working -- you know, I started out in politics working as an organizer and going door to door, talking to my community. And so I know that what matters is the choice that people are faced with when they actually cast their vote. And that is what's going to make all the difference in the world.

And on this issue, on the issue of abortion rights, the choice couldn't be more clear, right? You have Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who are fighting to protect people's freedom, and Donald Trump, who's responsible for taking it away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Smith, thank you for your time this morning.

SMITH: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're joined now by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who worked against Donald Trump during the primaries, has now endorsed the former president.

Governor, thank you for joining us this morning.


STEPHANOPOULOS: History being made tomorrow, that criminal trial. Will your support for Donald Trump continue even if he's convicted in Manhattan?

SUNUNU: Yeah, look, this -- this trial is not going to have major political ramifications that a lot of people, I think, think it may have. And when it comes to these issues, people see it more as reality TV at this point. They really do. And so, you know, whether it's a conviction or what that conviction looks like, a lot of folks, they conflate all four of these different trials that he's in.

I don't think it's good that he's going to be in the court, have to be in there probably three days a week, you know, for a number of weeks. That takes him off the campaign trail. He'll probably go back on the campaign trail and almost, like, rehash what's going on. He'll try to victimize it. And that has worked for him, right? I mean, this has been going on for over a year, and his poll numbers never seem to go down because of the issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, yeah, you're going to politics, though. I'm asking you about right and wrong. You think it's -- you're comfortable with the idea of supporting someone who's convicted of a federal crime as president?

SUNUNU: Oh, no. No -- I don't think any American is comfortable with any of this. They don't like any of this, of course. But, I mean, when it comes to actually, you know, looking at each of these trials, as they, kind of, take place whether it's this year or next year, or as they, kind of, line up, right now this is about an election, right? This is about politics. That's what people are judging this on. And the ultimate, you know, decision will be -- will be in November, to see where people are.

But for months, and even over a year, we've heard that these are the things that are going to bring Donald Trump down. It's not. And to think that the American public is going to be massively swayed by this, politically or otherwise, that's -- that's not going to happen. If anything --


STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m asking whether you’re going to be swayed by it.

SUNUNU: Yeah --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, you're a governor.

SUNUNU: No, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're an elected official. I’m asking whether you're going to be swayed by it.

SUNUNU: Yeah. Look, nobody should be shocked that the Republican governor is supporting the Republican president.

Do you know what the real story is? The average American that has gone from Biden back to Trump, the average American that is feeling inflation and all these other issues that says, look, do all this -- whether there's a conviction or not, we want a culture change in Washington, D.C., and we'll continue to support the former -- former President Trump.

That's the real story, right? That Trump is leading in the polls across America in a lot of these different polls.

So, no one should be surprised by my support. What -- I think the real discussion is, you know, America's moving away from Biden. That's how bad Biden has become as president. There's just no doubt about it, right?

You can't ignore inflation. You can't ignore the border and say that these issues in the courthouse are going to be the one thing that brings Biden back into office. It's not going to happen that way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you mentioned, this is one of only several indictments the former president is facing. Perhaps the most consequential one, of course, related to January 6th.

Right after that January 6 attack, I want to put this up on the screen, you said: It is clear that President Trump's rhetoric and actions contributed to the insurrection. The domestic terrorists who attacked the United States Capitol must be held accountable and prosecuted.

Do you stand by that statement?

SUNUNU: A hundred percent, of course. They have to be prosecuted, and they are being prosecuted. That's good.

I think he -- his actions absolutely contributed to that. There's no question about that. I hate the election denialism of 2020. Nobody wants to be talking about that in 2024.

I think all of that was absolutely terrible, but what people are going to be voting for, what I -- what -- the reason I’m supporting not just the president, but the Republican administration. That's what this is.

They want a culture of change in Washington, all the rules and policies that pound down on the American people. All the wokeness, right? The fact that folks in Washington, liberal elites in Washington want to stand on the shoulders of hardworking American families that built this country, defended this country and tell them how to live their lives.

They're angry. They're upset. That's the culture change that people want to see.

People are upset by January 6th. They're upset by the election denial. They have every right to be -- I am -- but at the end of the day, they need a culture change to get America back on track.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- but wait a second right there. Your words were very, very clear on January 11th, 2021. You said that President Trump’s rhetoric and actions contributed to the insurrection.

No other president in American history --


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- has contributed to an insurrection.

So, please explain, given the fact that you believe he contributed to an insurrection, how you can say we should have him back in the Oval Office?

SUNUNU: It's not -- because for me, it's not about him as much as it is having a Republican administration -- Republican secretaries, Republican rules, a sense where states' rights come first, individual rights come first, parents’ rights come first.

We’re going to have a pro-business economy. We’re not going to have a cancel culture that has really infiltrated all across America.

It's not about Trump with me. It’s about bringing those more live free or die --


STEPHANOPOULOS: But he will be the president. You’re saying --

SUNUNU: I’m the governor of the live free or die state, bringing that mentality back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That doesn't make any sense to me, Governor. I’m sorry. You're saying it's not about Trump. You’re saying -- he would be the president, and you’ve said he’s an insu -- somebody who’s contributed to an insurrection.

SUNUNU: I understand it doesn't make sense to you, George, but look at the polls. What you’re telling me is you don't understand why 51 percent of this country is supporting Donald Trump.

They're not crazy. They're not MAGA conservatives. They're not extremists. They want culture change. So, I appreciate --


STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor, I’m not talking -- I’m not talking --

SUNUNU: The bigger issue is --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m not talking about polls. I’m asking you a very simple question. You believe Donald Trump contributed to an insurrection. That's correct, right?

SUNUNU: I stand by the statement.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You stand by the statement that he contributed to an insurrection.

SUNUNU: Look, his words -- he -- his words --


STEPHANOPOULOS: And you believe that someone -- you believe that a president who contributed to an insurrection should be president again?

SUNUNU: As does 51 percent of America, George. I mean, really.

I understand you're part of the media. I understand you’re in this New York City bubble or whatever it is, but you’ve got to look around what's happening across this country. They’re not -- it's not about just supporting Trump. It’s getting rid of what we have today.

It's about understanding inflation is crushing families. It's understanding that this border issue is not a Texas issue. It's a 50-state issue, right, that has to be brought under control.

It's about that type of elitism that the average American is just sick and tired of. And it's a culture change. That's what I’m supporting. That's what most of America right now is looking to support, and wants to change there.

That’s -- so, again, I know you're shocked that the Republican governor is supporting a Republican president and the Republican ticket, but it's about the ticket. It's about up and down the ballot, right?

I want Republican governors and senators and congressmen, and that type of culture, if you will. I keep going back to that because that's exactly what it is. That's the change America is looking for.


SUNUNU: And they’re not relitigating January 6th. It's not a top issue.

If you ask the average American, is January 6 a top issue and you go on the ballot box, not even in the top five. It doesn't mean it’s not -- it wasn’t a significant point, doesn’t mean we weren't extremely disappointed by his words and actions, doesn’t mean we -- you know, that we tap into this election denialism, which I believe very -- very -- I think it's terrible what he's done on the election denial.

But again, it's not a top issue. People are voting on what's happening in their homes, what's happening with inflation, what's happening on the border, right? That's real, and that's what they're going to vote for, so --

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're against the election denialism which the president -- former president repeated last night. You believe he contributed to the insurrection on January 6th. You believe it doesn't matter if he's convicted in the Manhattan case.

He's also facing another indictment over classified documents. Previously, you've said these charges are serious and Trump should drop out of the race if he's convicted. Do you still believe that?

SUNUNU: Well, look, in a primary -- look, we fought hard in the primary. We got behind Nikki. This is the chaos that Nikki Haley and I and others warned about was going to follow Trump. That it's just a complete distraction. I would rather have Republicans on the campaign trail talking about real issues than, you know, having to talk about this stuff. It's a complete distraction.

It doesn't mean he's going to lose and it doesn't people aren't going to support the Republican ticket because, right now, it looks like they are. But, that's the distraction we're all trying to avoid.


STEPHANOPOULOS: But, I'm asking you a different question. I'm asking you a different question. I'm asking you a different question because you said in the past that he should drop out if he's convicted in the classified documents case. Do you still believe that?

SUNUNU: No. No. No. He's going to drop out after being the nominee? Of course, not. You know, that's not to be expected at all. All of these cases, by the way, the average American, it's on conflated, right? We watched this stuff. We watch the details. The average American sees it more as a reality TV. I am not saying it's not -- there not real issues to bear there, of course there are. But, there's clearly politics to bear in some of these cases, that is undeniable.

The average American just thinks it's more reality TV and prosecution of him at this point. He plays that victim card very, very well. His poll numbers only go up with this stuff. So to think that this is some sort of deal breaker, again, I'll go back to where I started where people are going to say, yep, if he's convicted I'm walking away. That's just not going to happen. At the end of the day, they want that culture change of the Republican Party, and if we have Trump as the standard bearer -- and the voters decided that's what they wanted, not what I wanted, but what the voters -- what the Republican voters wanted, he's going to be the standard bearer that we'll it take it if we have to. That's how badly America wants a culture change.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So just to sum up, you would support him for president even if he is convicted in classified documents. You would support him for president even though you believe he contributed to an insurrection. You would support him for president even though you believe he's lying about the last election. You would support him for president even if he's convicted in the Manhattan case. I just want to say, the answer to that is yes, correct?

SUNUNU: Yes, me and 51 percent of America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor, thanks for your time this morning.

'This Week' Transcript 4-14-24:  White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby, Gov. Chris Sununu & Sen. Tina Smith (2024)
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