'This Week' Transcript 6-30-24: Sen. Chris Coons, Steve Bannon & Anthony Fauci (2024)

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 30, 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Debate disaster.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, if – we finally beat Medicare.

KARL: Joe Biden stumbles on the biggest political stage of the 2024 election, fueling panic among Democrats.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really don't know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don't think he knows what he said either.

KARL: After Donald Trump’s debate full of falsehoods, he takes a victory lap.

TRUMP: Biden, you’re fired. Get out of here.

KARL: This morning, all the fallout with top Biden ally Senator Chris Coons and our powerhouse roundtable, including former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Defiant.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I'm a political prisoner. I feel great about it.

KARL: Steve Bannon set to report to prison for defying the January 6th Committee.

BANNON: I'm going to have an impact in this election from behind bars.

KARL: What Bannon is promising and threatening will come if Trump returns to the White House.

And –

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, FMR. DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE & AUTHOR, 'ON CALL: A DOCTOR’S JOURNEY IN PUBLIC SERVICE': Every day, for all of those years, I've given it everything that I have.

KARL: Dr. Anthony Fauci on his work across 40 years with seven presidents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.

KARL: Good morning. Welcome to THIS WEEK.

Even before the debate, there was a sense of dread among many Democrats. A fear that the campaign was heading towards something they consider unthinkable, a Donald Trump victory in November.

President Biden needed a strong debate to show that he has the physical and mental ability to take on and defeat Donald Trump. That's why he spent nearly a week at Camp David with an army of advisers preparing for a debate with rules and a format that his advisers designed. Few prominent Democrats are even pretending he did what he needed to do on that debate stage.

Just listen to how former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill put it on MSNBC shortly after the debate ended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), FORMER MISSOURI SENATOR: Joe Biden had one thing he had to do tonight. And he didn't do it. He had one thing he had to accomplish, and that was reassure America that he was up to the job at his age. And he failed at that tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: A chorus of Biden allies, outside of the party leadership, liberal commentators, party strategists, and former elected officials, are now publicly urging him to step aside and allow the party to choose a different nominee at the Democratic Convention in August. Privately, some elected Democratic officials are saying essentially the same thing.

Is it too late to go in another direction? Technically, no. Democrats haven't formally nominated anybody yet. But as a practical matter, the only way for the convention to choose a different candidate would be for Biden to declare he has decided not to run and to release his delegates to vote for someone else.

Will that happen? Well, there is absolutely no indication that Biden is even considering dropping out or that anybody in his inner circle is suggesting he should. But nobody knows better than Joe Biden how high the stakes are in this election. And he still has time, although not much, to revive his campaign and reassure voters that he still has what it takes.

For more on the Biden dilemma, let's bring in ABC’s senior White House correspondent Selina Wang.

SELINA WANG, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Jon.

President Biden’s team is rushing to defend the president, as are some top party leaders. They're trying to reassure those anxious voters and donors that he can do the job.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WANG (voice over): President Biden, back on the campaign trail, trying to turn the page on Thursday's debate.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I would not be running again if I didn't believe, with all my heart and soul, I can do this job. And despite factors (ph) – the stakes are too high.

WANG (voice over): The president, in North Carolina on Friday, acknowledging his rough performance, but vowing to fight on.

BIDEN: I don't speak as smoothly as I used to. I don't debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth.

And I know like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up.

WANG (voice over): His energy at that rally, a stark contrast to his struggles on the debate stage.

BIDEN: With – with – with the Covid – excuse me, with – dealing with everything we have to do with – look, if -- we finally beat Medicare.

JAKE TAPPER, MODERATOR: Thank you, President Biden.

WANG (voice over): Vice President Kamala Harris reacting to Biden’s performance.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Listen, we’ve got 130 days – I'm counting – until election day. One hundred and thirty days. And this race will not be decided by one night in June.

WANG (voice over): Some voters at that North Carolina rally telling me they're more anxious than ever about the election.

DAVID TILLEM, VOTER: Biden was not strong. I suspect that they overtrained him.

JENNY ACKERMAN, VOTER: The way that Donald Trump just, like, speaks nonsense constantly.

I mean it really felt like we didn't have somebody there who could effectively push back against that.

WANG (voice over): After the rally, voter Jenny Ackerman saying she's open to alternatives to the president.

ACKERMAN: I would love to see Biden continue to crush it. If he can't do that, like, I'm – there are a lot of people who can.

WANG (voice over): Publicly, top Democrats are standing by the president.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I – I – I would never turn my back on President Biden.

WANG (voice over): His strongest defender, First Lady Jill Biden.

JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: What you saw last night on the debate stage was Joe Biden, a president with integrity and character.

WANG (voice over): Former President Barack Obama also vowing his support, saying, “This election is still a choice between someone who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight, and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit.”

On Capitol Hill, some of Biden's top supporters admit he had a bad debate night.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): That was strike one. If this were a ballgame, he’s got two more swings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think there's a better Democrat who can communicate the Democratic platform?

CLYBURN: No. No. No.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WANG: The Biden campaign says the president dropping out of the race would only lead to weeks of chaos, infighting, and would pave the way for Donald Trump to win. Their spin is that, yes, the debate was very, very bad, but at least the polling so far shows it didn't really change the minds of voters very much.

And I'm also told, Jon, that if public pressure builds for the president to step aside, well, he may only dig in his heels more to prove them wrong.

Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Selina.

Joining me now is Delaware Senator Chris Coons, a national co-chair of the Biden-Harris campaign.

Senator Coons, thank you for joining us.

I assume you have spoken to the president since that debate. What is he telling you about his performance?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE & BIDEN-HARRIS CAMPAIGN NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD CO-CHAIR: It’s great to be on with you this morning, John.

And as that clip just showed, he was comfortable, he was proud that he gave a strong speech at a campaign event in North Carolina. He gave a strong speech in New York. He’s had a great few days, and it’s building on a great few years. No one has been a stronger and more consequential president in my lifetime than Joe Biden.

And, Jonathan, as you’ve seen over many years, it is always a bad bet to bet against Joe Biden. I was with him when he announced in Philadelphia in 2019, and most of my colleagues said, oh, he’s too centrist, he’s too white, he’s too moderate. And I was with him in New Hampshire when folks counted him out in the primaries. And I was with him when he was sworn in as president. And he gave a stirring speech, trying to call us together after the three crises he inherited from Donald Trump. A crisis of a pandemic that was mishandled, an economy that was heading straight down and, frankly, the assault on the Capitol on January 6th, which led to a crisis of democracy.

And I was with him when he got done the big bipartisan things he said he would do, signing into law an infrastructure bill, signing into law an investment in manufacturing, signing into law a bill to bring down prescription drugs and to combat climate change. Joe Biden has an incredible record, and he knows, as the American people do, that when you get knocked down, you get back up and you fight harder. That’s what he’s planning to do.

KARL: But – but, Senator, as – as you have obviously seen, there is a loud course of people that agree with a lot of what you just said, who were so alarmed by Biden's debate performance that they say it’s time for him to drop out of the race.

I want to read you just three from the pages of “The New York Times” editorial page. Tom Friedman said, “To give America the greatest shot possible of deterring the Trump threat in November, the president has to come forward and declare that he will not be running for re-election and is releasing all of his delegates for the Democratic National Convention.” “The New York Times” editorial board, “To make a call for a new Democratic nominee this late in the campaign is a decision not taken lightly, but it reflects the scale and the seriousness of Mr. Trump’s challenge to the values and institutions of this country and the inadequacy of Mr. Biden to confront them.” And Maureen Dowd, another columnist, “He,” Biden, “is jeopardizing the democracy he says he wants to save.”

Now, these are all people who want to stop Donald Trump. Not stop Joe Biden. Is the president listening whatsoever to what these people, who have supported him, are saying?

COONS: Look, Jon, the most important swing state is Pennsylvania. That’s where I campaigned all day yesterday. And the most important newspaper in Pennsylvania is “The Philadelphia Inquirer.” And they said after that campaign debate, the folks, the leaders of a political party who ought to be going to their nominee and saying, you have no business running for president is Republicans who should be telling Donald Trump to drop out of this race after the torrent of lies and vengeance and anger that he unleashed on that debate stage.

I think the “The Philadelphia Inquirer” got it right and “The New York Times” got it wrong.

KARL: But I'm not asking you who got it right or wrong. I'm asking you, is President Biden at all listening to, considering what these people are writing? Again, allies of him in the past who were pleading with him to step out of the race. Is he -- is he -- does he hear it? How’s he reacting to that?

COONS: Well, the folks that you’re citing there, Jonathan, are “The New York Times” editorial page.

KARL: Well, you know it’s not limited to “The New York Times”.

COONS: There is not one single senior Democrat, there’s not a single governor, there’s not a single senator, there’s not obviously his vice president who endorses him and supports him.

I'll remind you, Donald Trump’s biggest distinction from Joe Biden is the views of those closest to him. Don’t take my word for it. Donald Trump’s own vice president, chief of staff, secretary of defense, and national security adviser all refuse to support him and have said he is unfit to serve as president again.

The stakes of this race couldn’t be higher. And the only Democrat who’s ever beaten Donald Trump is Joe Biden.

KARL: Well, let me --

COONS: He is our candidate for November. And he has the best shot to beat him.

KARL: Well, let me ask, you don’t think that Joe Biden is the only Democrat that can beat Donald Trump, do you?

COONS: I think he’s the only Democrat who can beat Donald Trump.

KARL: Really?

COONS: And let me tell you, he had the single best day of grassroots fundraising after the debate. The first poll that we saw after the debate showed Joe Biden gaining ground on Donald Trump.

I understand there’s a lot of hand wringing and concern and pearl clutching amongst the commentariat. That’s great. That’s expected, frankly.

I remember the 2022 midterms. Every editorial page was saying we were going to hit a red wave. It was going to be a bloodbath. We’d lose four or five seats in the Senate.

I went and met with Joe Biden to express my concerns that his focus on democracy, his focus on the threats to democracy by the Republicans running for Senate and secretary of state were too great. He said, Chris, have confidence in the American people. They’re seeing this clearly.

He was right. I was wrong.

KARL: Do -- do they --

COONS: We won those midterms decisively and added to our majority in the Senate.

KARL: Do the president’s advisers -- his political advisers, the campaign, do they bear any responsibility for what happened Thursday? They, obviously, had six days to prepare the president. They designed these rules, these rules that were -- that were asked for by the campaign and -- and accepted by -- by the Trump campaign without change, do -- do those advisers bear some responsibility?

This was, and I think you would acknowledge, this was a bad night for Biden. Do they bear responsibility?

COONS: Look, I think it was a weak debate performance by President Biden. He had a scratchy, roughy voice. Excuse me, scratchy, rough voice. He answered a few questions in ways that were not the most forceful.

But I think, side by side, Donald Trump had a horrifying debate performance where, yes, he spoke plainly, but what he said was lie after lie after lie that left most of those who watched either confirmed in their opinion to vote for Joe Biden or alarmed at the prospect of Donald Trump.

The polling I've seen after the debate has actually moved in the direction of Joe Biden.

So, I do think it’s for Joe Biden to make any decision about his campaign, his debate prep, his path forward. But I was reassured that the next day we would see the Joe Biden who I've seen day in and day out on the world stage, who gave a compelling, strong speech on the beaches of Normandy, who was in command of the room at the G-7 in Italy.

KARL: OK.

COONS: And on that campaign stage in North Carolina, I saw a forceful, engaged and capable Joe Biden.

KARL: All right.

COONS: That’s the president I've served with. That’s the candidate who’s going to carry us to victory in November.

KARL: Thank you, Senator Coons.

Up next, the powerhouse roundtable, including someone who planned to vote for Biden, who now says he should step aside.

And later, my interview with Trump confidant Steve Bannon. He’s set to report to federal prison tomorrow. Find out what he says about Trump’s plans for retribution.

We’re back in just two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Welcome back.

And now our powerhouse roundtable.

Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, former RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, editor at large for “The Bulwark” Bill Kristol, and MSNBC host and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, out with a new book, "Say More: Lessons From Work, the White House, and the World."

Bill, I want to start with you.

You, I think we can classify, as a never-Trump Republican. Maybe still Republican, but a never-Trumper.

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR AT LARGE & DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER DIRECTOR: Never Trump ex-Republican.

KARL: Ex-Republican, who strongly had endorsed – said you support Joe Biden. This debate has changed your mind. Why?

KRISTOL: Well, no, I'll still vote for Biden if I – if that's the choice against Trump in November.

KARL: OK.

KRISTOL: But he shouldn't be the nominee. You can't look at that debate. You can’t unsee what we've seen. And it was not just a bad debate. He – you know, he's older. He has a health problem. I'm going to put it that way. And I’m sympathetic to him. He's been a good president. We owe him a lot for what he did in 2020 in defeating Donald Trump, and we owe him a lot for being a good president for three and a half years. We don't owe him another four years in the White House. And he should step aside and the Democratic – all of his delegates can have a nice debate among themselves and people can run and they can select a better nominee.

And what’s really striking in your interview with Chris Coons is – is that now the official line of the Democratic Party, that no other Democrat can beat Donald Trump.

KARL: That’s what he said.

KRISTOL: That Vice President Harris wouldn't have a chance. That Governor Shapiro wouldn’t have a chance. That Governor Whitmer wouldn't have a chance. That's ridiculous. They're no polling evidence for that. They poll exactly the same right now as Joe Biden and they’re not as well-known. And the sad evidence of that debate hasn’t sunk in yet.

KARL: Donna.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR & CONTRIBUTOR: But, look, over the last 72 hours people have been calling me. My phone was blowing up. At one point I thought I was just going to drop it in the Potomac. But, hell, I can’t pay for a replacement.

The fact is, people are nervous. There – there – there’s a lot of anxiety. But among those of us who were delegates, those of us who know Joe Biden, yes, we can say two things simultaneously, he had a bad night, but he also is a good man, a strong president, and Democrats still believe that this race is winnable. That's why they're sticking with Joe Biden. People are saying everything out in – behind your heads. I mean, I'm sorry, Jen, I'm sure you got a couple of calls. You’re an anchor lady –

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, MSNBC ANCHOR & AUTHOR, 'SAY MORE: LESSONS FROM WORK, THE WHITE HOUSE, & THE WORLD': I'm going to throw my phone in the Potomac with yours.

BRAZILE: Throw it. Throw it. But, look, let's make sure we can get some catfish out of it.

Joe Biden had a bad night. But you know what, I looked at Donald Trump too, and I said to myself, if that's the best you can give me on the Republican side, somebody who's a serial liar, somebody who's still defending the rioters of January 6th, if that's the best you're going to give me, Joe Biden is the best we're giving to the country.

PSAKI: Can I just add – I mean Bill raised the open convention alternative option, which, I think, is like what would happen in "The West Wing" episode, if there was a “West Wing” episode about this.

KARL: Yes. Yes. We could do a debate on – on –

(CROSS TALK)

PSAKI: Everybody would just convene. The president would endorse someone.

KARL: Yes.

PSAKI: And everybody would just line up behind them and the public would be happy.

KARL: Yes.

PSAKI: That is not how it would work. And I think this is the piece that's completely underestimated.

Joe Biden had a terrible debate night, terrible performance. I worked for him for a year and a half, as you know, and I don't think anybody should tell you otherwise. But an open convention means you have an amazing bench of potential 2028 candidates. A lot of the people we saw out on Thursday night. You have the vice president of the United States. You have them competing against each other. You have a group of inside Democrats, not the American public, by the way, who nominated Joe Biden, who decided to nominate Joe Biden, selecting who the nominee is.

And then, after that process, somebody is spit out of that process. And a lot of people are angry; they're disappointed; they don't -- maybe they don't like who the -- the person is. And then you have a person who is untested, even if they're great and they have enormous potential, which we have a lot of 2028 Democrats who do, who's untested, with low name ID and a party that's divided and upset.

That's the potential outcome of an open convention.

KRISTOL: The party would unite, Jen, between -- behind whoever came out of that convention. Would the party be upset if it were Harris or Shapiro or Whitmer?

No, of course not. And the debate would be healthy. Let them compete. And the delegates are representative. The delegates got elected.

KRISTOL: The -- Bill, the delegates are not the American public writ large. And I think this is sometimes what's lost with these editorials, right?

We don't know what the polling's going to say in a week. I think one of the lines in the Jen O’Malley Dillon memo that was pretty telling was predicting maybe there's going to be a drop in the poll to set the expectations of that.

KARL: But suggesting it would be the media's fault?

PSAKI: Well, I didn't think that was a wise part of that line, but -- predicting that -- but we don't know yet what the public thinks. And there's a lot of editorials. There's a lot of, yes, hand-wringing, speculation, but I think it's important to also have a conversation about what the alternative looks like and what the potential consequences of that are, too.

KARL: Reince, I think you're enjoying just sitting there watching this, right?

(LAUGHTER)

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER RNC CHAIR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF & POLITICAL ANALYST: I was, like, I'll just let them go.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: You don't need to say anything.

But -- but you -- you've run a convention, been a party chairman. Is Jen -- Jen's right, I mean, this would be a messy process?

PRIEBUS: Well, it would be -- it would be messy, but if -- if the Democrats -- you know, we had this potential of an open convention in 2016. You can -- you can poll the delegates. Biden could say, "I want my delegates to vote this way." The party would set up an infrastructure. I think they could get it done.

But, look, this is where -- this is just all downside for Joe Biden. This isn't going up. This can get worse. This is not a bad debate night. This was an incoherent, almost impossible mess.

And I think that journalists and voters should demand an answer. You all need to demand an answer why.

PSAKI: Answer -- answer to what?

(LAUGHTER)

Scottie Scheffler shot 120 this afternoon. Someone wouldn't say he had a cold and a bad day. Something is up. Something happened. And -- and people need to find out what it is.

PSAKI: Like what, though?

PRIEBUS: Wait -- no...

PSAKI: I mean, you sound, a little bit, conspiracy theorist.

PRIEBUS: But the next thing -- the next thing's going to happen. Because it wasn't a cold. This guy didn't just have a cold. He was preparing for five days in Camp David. He came out in the first 30 seconds and ran flat, and it was immediate; something isn't right.

Now, secondly...

BRAZILE: Well, Dr. Priebus.

KARL: No, go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: The money is going to dry up next.

BRAZILE: You're -- look, no. Dr. Priebus, I know you're -- I know you are trying to psychoanalyze the moment, but the moment is what it was.

PRIEBUS: No.

BRAZILE: It was a terrible debate. But, look, if you want to ask -- you want to put us on the couch, I want to put your entire party on the couch.

PRIEBUS: No, no.

BRAZILE: I mean, come on. I mean, that is the choice we have in this. This -- what's at stake is the future of our democracy, the future of elections. President -- former President Trump could not even say, again, that he would accept the results of this election.

PRIEBUS: He's not going to get better, Donna. It's not going to happen.

KARL: But is there -- I mean, this is on Biden, but isn't there some malpractice from the campaign?

I mean, they designed these rules. It was their rules. The rules forced Trump to behave himself.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: They forced Trump to be restrained, two minutes at a time, nobody can -- I mean...

KRISTOL: Well, they forced Trump -- they gave Trump two minutes to be a demagogue. And I saw -- and that's one of the few things I've gotten right in the last few years, I've got to say. I thought these rules were good for Trump. You can't give him 120 seconds unchallenged. Either you have to have a situation where the moderators, who are very able, could challenge him, but CNN didn't want that and the campaigns presumably didn't want that.

KARL: And -- and this was...

KRISTOL: Or you have to...

KARL: These were Biden's advisers who designed the...

KRISTOL: ... you have to have an opponent who can challenge him.

And you -- I dislike Trump as much or more than the three -- than Jen and Donna. But you can't blame -- I mean, Biden's the one who didn't challenge Trump in real time, and that tells you an awful lot -- didn't successfully challenge.

PRIEBUS: President Trump let Biden talk. He stuck to the economy and immigration, over and over again. He talked about gas and groceries. Biden lied -- Biden lied over and over again. No servicemembers were killed under his watch? I'm sorry. There's a lot of Gold Star families that might disagree with that. That billionaires pay 8 percent in tax, that the Border Patrol endorsed him. I mean, he was stumbling and bumbling and lying throughout the entire.

BRAZILE: And overturning Roe v. Wade was something that we should celebrate?

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I have to say, I feel like we're -- were, like, whistling past...

PRIEBUS: The graveyard. You're whistling past the graveyard.

PSAKI: No, no. No, no, no. The craziest part of the debate may have been Donald Trump's answers on January 6th and the future of our democracy. That is ultimately part of what this -- a big part of what this election is about.

And it was, kind of, lost in the coverage because the bigger story was the president having aterrible performance and not being energetic and not doing what he needed to do, but those -- those statements in the last 20 and 30 minutes scared people who watched. You look at focus groups. You talk to Democrats. They were scared by that, too.

KARL: But you're saying specifically -- specifically what?

PSAKI: Specifically Donald Trump's answers on how he would par -- still pardon January 6 defendants. I mean, he came across as an authoritarian dictator in the last 30 minutes of that debate. That is something that was not lost to people watching.

KARL: All right. We've got to take a quick break. We will be back with the roundtable for more.

But up next, my interview with Steve Bannon who heads to prison tomorrow. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Only two other men in the history of this republic, General Washington in the revolution and the foundation, and Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War, have the personal fate and destiny of an individual be inextricably linked to the fate and destiny of this republic. Donald John Trump is the third person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Steve Bannon was an architect of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. He’s chief strategist in the White House and later of the effort to overturn the 2020 election on January 6. He is going to prison tomorrow to serve four months for contempt of Congress.

We decided to go see him in the basem*nt of his Capitol Hill townhouse, the place where he broadcasts for four hours a day a show called "War Room" that has a large following among hardcore Trump supporters.

Why did we decide to interview Steve Bannon? We did so because Bannon has a direct line to Donald Trump. He is perhaps Trump's most important outside adviser.

If you really want to understand what a Trump return to the White House would look like, listen to what Steve Bannon is saying.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: So I saw recently while you were on the air doing your show, Donald Trump called.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: Hey, Mr. President. I’m live on TV. Can I call you back? I’ll call you back, sir. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: How often are you talking to him?

BANNON: I don't want to talk details, but we keep -- we keep in pretty good contact. A lot of the things we talk about end up in his speeches. So, we talk frequently enough.

KARL (voice-over): Steve Bannon's worldview echoes loudly in Trump's speeches, retribution, central theme of Bannon's war room, a cornerstone of the Trump campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In 2016, I declared I am your voice. Today I add, I am your warrior, I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution. I am your retribution.

(CROWD CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Some of those who served Trump and crossed him say they're worried. Stephanie Grisham who was the communications director, the press secretary, communications director for -- chief of staff for the first lady.

BANNON: I do not (ph) talk about people like that. That's ridiculous.

KARL: She says that she's worried about being charged with treason. That she could be disappeared (ph).

BANNON: That's absurd. I'm talking about people in positions of authority. For instance --

KARL: Andrew McCabe, the Former Deputy of FBI -- he says he's going to have to leave the country.

BANNON: He ought to be worried. He is definitely going to be investigated, so is Comey, so is Esper, I believe Milley will. People of -- look at what happened in -- look what happened --

KARL: Milley, the Chairman of Joint Chief -- Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

BANNON: Yes, because look at the -- we don't know what conversations he had outside the military chain of command when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, when he talked to the Chinese, when he talked to Nancy Pelosi. We have to investigate all of that. If you haven't done anything, you shouldn't worry.

KARL: Well, they're worried because Trump and you are talking about retribution. You are talking about --

BANNON: It's not retribution at all. First off --

KARL: Wait, wait, wait. Those were his words, not my words. I'm your (ph) retribution.

BANNON: And what he says by retribution, he said -- like he said last night on the debate stage, his retribution is a very successful, more successful second term. What we're saying is we want justice. We want to have full investigations, and then if criminal charges come up, then criminal charges come up.

KARL: I mean, you've made a promise on your show, said that the attorney general will be in prison. So --

BANNON: 100 percent.

KARL: So you are not just talking about investigation.

BANNON: OK.

KARL: Is Bill Barr on the retribution list?

BANNON: I think Bill Barr has to be investigated. Not retribution. Keep (inaudible) retribution. Why is --

KARL: Because Trump said retribution and you said retribution.

BANNON: It's justice. And I think Bill Barr --

KARL: So Bill Barr needs to be investigated?

BANNON: Bill Barr needs to be --

KARL: Bill Barr needs to be in prison with Merrick Garland?

BANNON: I didn't say that.

KARL: Well, I'm asking you.

BANNON: I didn't say that. We have to see -- I am not going to prejudge somebody. We have to see.

KARL: So, Bill Barr could be going to prison as part of this retribution campaign?

BANNON: It's not retribution. It's justice.

KARL: Just days after the 2020 election, Twitter suspended Bannon's podcast. The episode also yanked from YouTube after he seemed to imply that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: I would actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England, I'd put their heads on pikes, right? I would put them at two corners of the White House, as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you're gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: A couple of days before, I was talking about the execution of Thomas Moore when metaphorically they put it on the pike. That is a metaphor. In this town, Jonathan, and it's beneath you to bring that up.

KARL: No, it's not beneath me to bring it up because --

BANNON: No, no, hang on -- hang on for a second. In this town, a thousand times a day, people go we got to put their heads on pike. We have put his head on a pike. It was a metaphor.

KARL: You're saying at a time when Anthony Fauci and his family are facing death threats, when Christopher Wray and FBI agents, all the way down, are facing death threats and you're talking about putting their heads on pikes.

BANNON: It's a total metaphor. Anybody understands that. That's your -- by the way, they banned us I think on Twitter. They banned us on Facebook for that. And guess what? The show got even bigger. So not that we care -- I am backing off (inaudible).

KARL: Are you concerned about those death threats though?

BANNON: That's not a death -- what do you mean death threats? Do you think I don't get death threats and have security all the time? That comes when you play at the highest levels. It just comes.

KARL: Bannon, who served as CEO of Trump's 2016 campaign is adamant that come November, Trump will win.

BANNON: Right now, he is going to win by a landslide. It's going to be 340 or 350 (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: OK, so this will be easy. Will you appeal right now, a message to all of Trump's supporters, to respect the poll results, win or lose?

BANNON: Are you going to pull this (ph)? Is this your question?

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: (Inaudible) there will be no violence?

BANNON: Have you asked a Democrat this question? Yes or no? The answer is no. Have you asked a Democrat that question?

KARL: I haven't seen Democrats storm the Capitol to try to stop an election.

BANNON: Have you heard Jamie Raskin? What Jamie Raskin was saying about January 6th? He would not insult (ph) the court --

KARL: I have no problem asking Democrats (inaudible).

BANNON: Then why don't do that? You got no problem doing that.

KARL: I have no problem doing that. I have no problem doing that.

BANNON: The only reason you are going to have -- we put a pitch fork to your back, and (inaudible) say, why don't ask Democrats. Ask some Democrats. Here's the bottom line. When this is adjudicated and reviewed, if they are certifiable, chain of custody, ballots and votes from American citizens, then hey, whatever that outcome is, it is totally fair. Until the time that we get that, all bets are off.

KARL: And I'm talking about violence. Will you say no matter what, no more violence?

BANNON: Who talks about violence?

KARL: Well, let's just look at some of your language, your language. You said --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: There is no coming together just like in the revolution, the civil war. One side is going to win and one side is going to lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: So, how is that violent?

KARL: Just like the revolution and the civil war, that's war.

(CROSSTALK)

BANNON: No, no, what you're talking about -- you are talking about the two great historical moments in our history.

KARL: Which include a lot of bloodshed and violence.

BANNON: You're talking about – you’re talking about – nobody can derive that we're calling for violence. We’re calling –

KARL: OK, how about this?

BANNON: Well, hold it – hold it – hold it, Donald Trump –

KARL: Oh, no, no, how about this –

BANNON: We're winning at the ballot box here. You know why? Over 50 percent of the American people right now, including 80 percent of Republicans, believe the 2020 election was illegitimate. That Joe Biden's illegitimate because of problems with the 2020 election, OK?

KARL: Well, they believe at least a lot of people have lied about it, quite frankly. You also said it's victory or death.

BANNON: It's very simple, victory or death!

Victory or death. I did. Scipio– Scipio –

KARL: Victory or death.

BANNON: Hang on. Scipio Africanus, Nelson, Travis at the Alamo, it’s a famous saying for when you want people to say, hey, we’ve got to win. You got to put ultimate effort.

Do you know why we're winning now? Do you see why we're winning? Because people are inspired by that. They're volunteering. Hundreds of thousands. And an army of the awakened. That's what Biden's going to meet come October and November when voting starts.

KARL: Well, I saw an army of protesters attack the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

KARL (voice over): The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on January 6th, Bannon told his podcast listeners –

BANNON: All hell is going to break loose.

KARL (voice over): For weeks he had been predicting a revolution.

BANNON: Listen, the point that it’s all converging and now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack, right? The point of attack tomorrow.

And all I can say is, strap in. The war room. A posse. You have made this happen. And tomorrow it's game day.

KARL: You spoke to Donald Trump on the morning of January 6th. What – what did you talk about?

BANNON: I don't remember, but it was something – I'm sure in the normal course of business. Remember, let's go back to January 6th of what you guys, I'm sure you –

KARL: Normal course of business on January 6th?

BANNON: No, no. No, no, I'm sure you're going to cut – I'm sure you’re going to cut it to where I said all hell’s going to break loose. Look what I said as the predicate. That day, what was supposed to happen – what was supposed to happen is those states, we were going to have, I think, 12 hours – there were seven – six states, two hours per state, seven states, 14 hours per House to debate the actual receipts.

KARL (voice over): Trump rarely gets specific about what his second term would look like, but Bannon does, pointing to the work of Trump allies, like Project 2025 of the Heritage Foundation, which outlines a plan for replacing career civil servants with Trump loyalists throughout the government.

KARL: If Trump wins –

BANNON: OK. When.

KARL: What does it look like? How is this different from the last?

BANNON: President Trump hasn't signed off on this, but look, here's what's going to happen, I believe. Three verticals. First vertical is seal the border and the mass deportations. The second vertical is about the finances.

KARL: Yes.

BANNON: So, Trump’s going to have to deal with a budget of $2 trillion of deficits. He’s going to have to look at the – getting the tax cuts back. And the third is to stop these endless forever wars, in Ukraine, in Israel, and around the South China Sea and Taiwan. That's the program of what he's going to drive to say, we have to accomplish this.

So, I think a whole big part of Project 2025 is actually going into the apparatus, the – the post-constitutional leviathan, and starting to take apart the administrative state brick by brick.

KARL: No, I understand that.

BANNON: Jonathan, I have 900 pages right here of just what – this is just Project 2025.

KARL: Yes.

BANNON: This is just – this is just the – the – the – Kevin (ph) – this is just Heritage. You've got the other groups –

KARL: Because – because – because you would say that the deep state had thwarted Trump over and over again in the first round.

BANNON: One hundred percent.

KARL (voice over): When I interviewed Bannon back in 2018, he predicted an astounding victory for Republicans, saying they would run the tables in the House. Instead, Democrats picked up 40 seats.

And in 2022, he predicted a massive blowout for Republicans. Instead, they lost most of the competitive races across the country.

BANNON: The 2022 did not come out anywhere near what we thought.

KARL: I mean all your guys lost. I mean you – you – you – you had, you know, people like Kari Lake and – and Masters –

BANNON: OK. Can I say something?

KARL: And Mastriano. I mean these guys –

BANNON: Let me – let me – let me make sure ABC News understands this.

KARL: OK.

BANNON: This is a populist, nationalist revolution. It's a process. We’re not going to win every election. We’re not –

KARL: So you may not lose – so you may not win in November?

BANNON: I happen to think, if you look at the numbers today, in particular, if you look –

KARL: Well, certainly if you look at the numbers today, I would – I would consider that. Yes.

BANNON: Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Not just that you look at the fiasco.

KARL: Yes.

BANNON: We have to do two things, just real briefly. We have two tracks they have to go down, right? One is for the country.

KARL: Yes.

BANNON: This national security crisis we have with the commander in chief that's clearly not up to the job, and a constitutional crisis going to come with the 25th Amendment before that. That is something that has to go down this track.

They also have a political situation over there. They're going to try to change Biden out (ph).

KARL: So are you worried that Democrats will replace Biden with somebody that will be harder to beat?

BANNON: I was not a fan of doing this debate at this time because I said you’re giving him a free option. President Trump should debate who the Democratic Party nominee is, not a guy named Joe Biden. If it's Biden, do it. If it's Gretchen Whitmer, do it. If it's Gavin Newsom, Michelle Obama, you pick it, the Democrats should pick it. That's their choice.

But President Trump, I believe -- my belief, as I said on the show, that he did it for the country, to show -- because he took all the CNN rules, which I thought were crazy -- he took the cut mic; he took the no audience, the rules --

KARL: He took -- you mean it helped him.

BANNON: The rules seemed to help him. He took the -- took the two breaks. Let's say this. He -- he performed magnificently.

But that was for the country. Now, as they try to change -- first of all, he should never get on a debate stage with Joe Biden again. Been there, done that. But he won't be around. As they try to -- my point is we have a 100 percent certainty we could beat Biden and beat him big, take the Senate and pick up seats in the House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Bannon reports to a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut tomorrow. He told us he does not regret his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena, and he says he considers himself a political prisoner, despite his conviction in federal court and his loss of multiple appeals.

We'll be back with more from the roundtable.

And later, one of the key figures Bannon has attacked relentlessly, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: All right. We're back with the powerhouse roundtable.

Bill, I think watching Steve Bannon, the important thing to take away -- I'd like to have your take on this -- is that Trump back in the White House is going to look a lot different than the first Trump presidency.

KRISTOL: No, they have a real authoritarian plan, and there will be no one responsible in the White House or in the government, no Reince Priebus and no Jim Mattis and no McMaster and no nothing, no Sessions recusing himself when he should do that as attorney general. And they'll -- they'll implement the plan to fire a ton of civil servants. Unbelievably dangerous.

I hope Joe Biden watched this -- that interview you did. It was an excellent interview with Steve Bannon. And I hope he's -- I say this honestly. I hope he seriously thinks about the obligation to prevent Donald Trump from having a second term and whether he is now the best person to do that, because I don't think you can unsee what we saw Thursday night. And so I hope he steps aside for the sake of the country.

KARL: What do you make of listening to that?

PSAKI: I mean, first of all, he is a brain-bending communicator. And I -- what I mean by that is you watch it, and I was sitting there thinking, "Wow, he's suggesting that they're going to work within the system to go after enemies, right," which makes it sound almost rational. And that, to me, is very scary.

When he mentioned Project 2025 and held up the entire binder of that, the biggest thing about Project 2025 is taking over the Department of Justice and basically taking away all of its power, so that Trump can go after political enemies, prosecute them, do whatever he wants. That is what the big plan is.

And -- and, you know, it's all interesting because tomorrow the Supreme Court, of course, is going to rule on immunity. This is a guy -- he talks to him all the time. Donald Trump is a guy who is out there every day, running on the notion that he is immune essentially, that he can do whatever he wants.

KARL: That is an amazing thing. I mean, he says that a president must have absolute immunity. He is saying that a president doesn't need to comply by the law. Whatever the Supreme Court does, they're not going to go that far, but Trump is.

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER RNC CHAIR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF & POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a tricky question, and I think you're going to see tomorrow that what I would guess is that the Supreme Court is going to split the baby. They're going to send it back to the lower court to decide whether or not these decisions fell under official acts, but --

PSAKI: That's not splitting the baby. That's a win for Trump -- a dirty win for Trump.

PRIEBUS: The reason why President Trump is beating Joe Biden on the question that voters are given as to who will protect democracy, Biden is losing. You know why? He's losing because people believe that it's the Biden Administration that is weaponizing the Department of Justice. That's -- and he's -- and he's letting the border go wild and not protecting the sovereignty of the United States. So, you can debate this stuff all day long, but America first --

KARL: Donna, jump in here.

PRIEBUS: What he's capturing is how angry people are in this country because they have been left behind.

KARL: Donna.

PRIEBUS: They've been spending their money and they get nothing in return.

BRAZILE: You know, it's true that there are millions of our fellow citizens who find themselves on the outskirts of hope, and they want someone, perhaps their government to bring them into the circle of opportunity. But listening to Steve Bannon and watching and witnessing Donald Trump four years, he's not the one. His policies will not bring us closest to freedom, and that is what we need.

KARL: OK. That's the last word for now. We'll be back after a short break with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Among other things we want to ask him, is his take on the concerns about President Biden's age and health.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY FAUCI, FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: A true cure in the classic sense will be extremely problematic with HIV because of the unusual nature of the virus.

Did they get infected from a mail, a piece of mail that went to their home? That is being intensively investigated right now.

There is no specific treatment for the Ebola virus, so we are giving her the best possible care on a symptomatic and systemic basis.

There may be some setbacks. I mean, let’s face it, this -- this is unchartered waters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Dr. Anthony Fauci served as a director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for nearly four decades before he stepped down at the end of 2022. He's worked with seven presidents and steered the U.S. response to countless crises from HIV to Ebola and, of course, COVID. He’s out with a new bestselling memoir entitled “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service."

Dr. Fauci, thank you for being here with us.

Before we get to the book, I have to ask you about all this talk about -- about Biden’s health. You've worked with seven presidents. You know what the job entails. Why would someone in their 80s want to do another four years of this?

FAUCI: I think it’s really a very individual thing, Jon. I’m 83. I’m going to be 84. I...

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: But you’re not running for president.

FAUCI: I’m not running for president.

(LAUGHTER)

FAUCI: You know, I think it’s just an individual choice, and you really can’t generalize. You have to take each individual person, you know, how they feel, what they feel they can do, you know, what their passion is, what their energy is. Those are the kind of things.

KARL: Were you surprised? I mean, you -- you worked with him. You worked closely with him...

FAUCI: Yeah.

KARL: ... until you stepped down at the end of -- about a year and a half ago. Were you surprised by what you saw in that debate?

FAUCI: Well, you know, I don’t want to comment on anything that would have any political implications. You know me, over many years. But the one thing I can say and feel comfortable about is I have dealt with President Biden, and in my dealings with him, it’s been really very positive. He asks probing questions. He’s right on point on things. So my personal experience has been quite positive with him.

KARL: One of the more, frankly, infuriating things that I saw as a -- as a journalist covering COVID was the way you became this lighting rod and you were vilified by conspiracy theorists and by the far right.

You vividly describe in your book the scene when you opened up a very threatening letter and had white powder fall out on your desk, which fortunately turned out not to be anthrax or anything else but could have been.

You heard what Bannon said. I mean, you know, Bannon, you know, who talked about essentially beheading you and Christopher Wray, and he said, "Oh, it was just a figure of speech, figure of speech."

FAUCI: Yeah.

KARL: But that stuff matters.

FAUCI: Yeah, that’s nonsense, "figure of speech." Words matter, and he thinks it’s a figure of speech. And then you have, maybe, one out of 500 out there who’s a wacko, who doesn’t think it’s a figure of speech and thinks it’s a mandate to go ahead and do something.

And so these people that say they can say anything they want, that it’s a figure of speech, don’t buy that. That’s nonsense. Words matter.

KARL: And -- and you still face threats, even at this time.

FAUCI: I do. Yeah.

I mean, every time someone gets up and says something outlandish -- I mean, we had that hearing the other -- about a week, two weeks ago, and Marjorie Taylor Greene get up --

KARL: Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to put you in prison. What -- what's going on?

FAUCI: I don’t know. I mean, that’s bizarre, and that bizarreness leads to other crazies threatening and saying things that are also inappropriate.

KARL: I want to ask you. You know, the social media company -- you talk in your book about the dangers of misinformation, and Lord knows there was a lot of -- still is -- a lot of misinformation about COVID and about vaccines.

Do you agree, looking back -- it wasn’t your call, obviously -- but the social media companies censoring some of that, taking it down, was that the right thing to do, or did it really only further fuel the conspiracies?

FAUCI: Yeah, I mean, I think we always have to be very careful about First Amendment issues. And you know, there's a lot of court cases about that right now. I think the best way to counter false information, mis- and disinformation, is to flood the system with correct data and evidence-based information.

The only trouble is that people that flood the system with disinformation seem to be very energetic about it, almost as if they don’t have a day job and do only that.

KARL: Well, and you -- you described very vividly the scene inside the Trump White House. Trump really seemed to like you most of the time...

FAUCI: Yeah.

KARL: ... but then would get very angry at you. I want you to just very briefly describe what, to me, is one of the most bizarre scenes. You’re in -- literally in the Situation Room working on the response to COVID when Peter Navarro, who is a trade advisor, comes in and says what?

FAUCI: He says "These papers show that hydroxychloroquine works. You have blood on your hands. It works and you’re telling people not to use it." And he just walks into the Situation Room, like, uninvited.

KARL: He is a doctor, a Ph.D. in economics.

FAUCI: Yeah.

KARL: I mean, what -- that’s inside -- disinformation inside the White House.

FAUCI: Yeah.

KARL: By the way -- and hydroxychloroquine -- there’s been time to look; there was never any evidence.

FAUCI: No, there’s never any evidence that it works.

KARL: Still to this day.

FAUCI: And it can harm you. In fact, there's some indication that it does. It was really -- in fact, it shocked Vice President Pence. He was sort of like, Peter, what are you -- what are you doing here? You know, Marc Short looked at him like he was crazy. It was a very weird scene.

KARL: You also write that some people close to you, including your wife, suggested you should consider resigning --

FAUCI: Yeah.

KARL: -- with some of the craziness. Why did you never consider doing that?

FAUCI: You know, Jon, I just felt that we have to have somebody there who is actually getting the correct information to the American public. I have felt and still do a very strong responsibility to the American public, not to any administration or any person, but to the American public. And I was afraid that despite the pressures and all the somewhat unusual things that were going on, if I did walk away from it, there would be very little opportunity to get the correct, potentially life-saving information to the American public.

KARL: Well, it was a good thing you didn't. I want to ask you, finally, before you go, you -- this is not in your book. It's something that came up later about the six-foot rule that social distancing --

FAUCI: Right.

KARL: -- which you said sort of just appeared. So, was social distancing just kind of like a made up thing?

FAUCI: No, again, it came from the CDC.

KARL: Yeah.

FAUCI: And the reason they said six-foot was based on an assumption that the viruses spread through droplets.

KARL: Yeah.

FAUCI: And there's evidence that droplets that are heavy will fall to the ground before it gets to six feet. As it turns out, in reality, that was not the case because a lot of the spread is by aerosol, which means it lingers up there and the six-foot --

KARL: Won't protect you.

FAUCI: -- rule won't protect you.

KARL: So, it should have been longer or wider?

FAUCI: Well, see, that's it. What the six-foot rule, you know, it's always irrelevant. What you need to do is have good ventilation and mask wearing. So, that's what the knowledge that we were dealing with something that was spread by aerosol, that completely just discredited this idea about droplets falling in front of you before six feet.

KARL: All right. Dr. Anthony Fauci, we are out of time. Once again, the book "On Call", excellent read. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.

FAUCI: Good to be with you. Thanks a lot, Jon.

KARL: All right. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: A programming note, be sure to tune into ABC News Live and Hulu starting at 11:00 a.m. Eastern today, for "Pride Across America" covering some of the biggest pride events across the country. That's all for us today. Have a great 4th of July.

'This Week' Transcript 6-30-24: Sen. Chris Coons, Steve Bannon & Anthony Fauci (2024)
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