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‘This Week’ Transcript 9-4-22: White House Senior Adviser Keisha Lance Bottoms, Rep. Michael McCaul, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba & Dr. Richard Besser


A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, September 4, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST (voiceover): On the attack.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.

RADDATZ: President Biden issues a dire warning that Donald Trump and his followers pose a dangerous threat to American democracy. Setting the stage for the midterm elections.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Joe Biden is right, democracy is on the ballot in November.

RADDATZ: As the detailed inventory of Trump’s classified Mar-a-Lago records raises the potential of missing or misplaced intelligence documents.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Biden administration invaded the home of their chief political opponent.

RADDATZ: His former attorney general issues a blistering condemnation.

BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: People say this was unprecedented, well it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put it in a country club.

RADDATZ: The latest this morning with White House Senior Advisor Keisha Lance Bottoms. A GOP response from Congressman Michael McCaul. Plus our Powerhouse Roundtable.

Urgent crisis.

MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA, (D), JACKSON, MS: We are in a constant state of emergency.

RADDATZ: More than 150,000 in Mississippi’s Capital without access to safe drinking water. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on the ongoing emergency.

And —

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR: I’m looking forward to getting the updated BA.5 variant vaccine.

RADDATZ: The CDC recommends updated COVID boosters to fight Omicron, former CDC director Dr. Richard Besser with what you need to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s “This Week.” Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ (on camera): Good morning and welcome to “This Week.” Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the unofficial kickoff of campaign season, but President Biden got a head start Thursday. In a primetime address in Philadelphia, he not only took on former President Trump but his supporters as well, warning that the upcoming elections will be a stark choice between extremism and democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law, they do not recognize the will of the people.

RADDATZ (voiceover): In his harshest criticism yet, President Biden directly confronting Donald Trump and his MAGA supporters, calling them a real and dangerous threat to American democracy. Saying November’s midterm elections will be nothing less than a battle for the soul of this nation.

BIDEN: The Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.

RADDATZ: It’s a sharp turn from the healing and unity Biden promised after taking office, Republicans now argue that it’s President Biden fanning the flames of division.

MCCARTHY: President Biden has chosen to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans. Why? Simply because they disagree with his policies.

RADDATZ: House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy also accusing Biden of politicizing the Department of Justice after last month’s FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago. But a newly released inventory of the items seized in the FBI’s search providing the most detailed look yet at the trove of government records seized by the FBI. More than 11,000 documents in all, some at the highest levels of security clearance, many comingled with unclassified material. Still under active investigation who may have had access to that material and whether more is still missing. Trump’s own attorney general now calling out his former boss.

BARR: It is clearly foolish what happened, inexplicable. They may well be able to make a case out here —

RADDATZ: The Justice Department also revealed President Trump’s team had concealed documents and blocked several previous attempts to retrieve all of the classified material, raising the potential for obstruction of justice charges. Trump last night using the raid to rile up support for a potential 2024 bid.

TRUMP: The shameful raid and break-in of my home, Mar-a-Lago, was a travesty of justice. The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters.

RADDATZ: While Biden has seen his poll numbers improve in recent weeks, his midterm strategy now focuses squarely on making the election a rematch of 2020, whether that will succeed is up to the voters in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ (on camera): And let’s bring in President Biden’s senior adviser and the former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Good morning, Mayor.

Ahead of the president’s speech, The White House was insistent the speech would be optimistic, was about bringing people together yet in it, Biden said President Trump’s MAGA supporters are a danger to democracy. How is that a unifying message?

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, PRESIDENT BIDEN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, what the president did was that he reminded the American people of who we are as a country. We are a democracy that’s been built on the rule of law. We are a democracy that values the peaceful transition of power. We are a democracy that values the right of people to go and vote safely and in peace.

And so, what the president has done as our commander-in-chief is he’s remind — he has reminded us that democracies are fragile. You know this. You’ve been across the globe. And if we are not intentional about preserving who we are as a country, if we are not intentional about reminding ourselves that there is a rule of law in this country, then we will be in danger.

So, the president spoke optimistically about who we are as Americans. We are the greatest nation in the world. But also a reminder that we have to be intentional about being the greatest nation in the world and that we have to call out hatred. We have to call out this balance and that if we don’t, our democracy is in danger.

RADDATZ: Whatever you said, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which tracks hate speech, said after the Biden speech, there was a surge online in conversations that said Biden’s remarks singling out MAGA Republicans were interpreted as a declaration of war against conservatives and all the Trump voters.

BOTTOMS: Well, what I would say to that is that this is what this MAGA agenda has been all about. It’s been about distorting the truth. It’s been about misleading people. It’s been about putting out information that inflames (ph) people.

And I just encourage people, go to The White House website, WhiteHouse.gov, and read the speech for yourself.

I’ve read it multiple times and what I see in the speech, I see words of encouragement. I see optimism. I see a commander-in-chief who was calling out to all of us, no matter our political affiliation.

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: All of us? He wasn’t calling out to the MAGA supporters certainly. He mentioned them more than a dozen times and — as a threat to democracy.

Has the president essentially given up on those MAGA Republicans, some 70 million people?

BOTTOMS: Well, what the president has done is said that he will continue to work with mainstream Republicans, that he will work with Democrats, that he will work with Independents, to get things done in our country.

But this MAGA Republican agenda, this hate-fueled agenda, this MAGA Republican agenda that we saw incite violence on our nation’s Capitol has no place in a democracy. And if we are not intentional about calling it out, which is what the president did, then our country — everything that our country is built upon is in danger.

RADDATZ: How has President Biden bridged the divide? What has he done really to unify this country?

The latest Quinnipiac poll has some really remarkable numbers, 69 percent of both Democrats and Republicans believe democracy is in danger of collapse, but the Republicans blame Joe Biden and the Democrats blame Donald Trump.

Again, how has Joe Biden helped bridge that divide?

BOTTOMS: Well, we saw this summer when the president was able to work in a bipartisan way to get gun legislation passed. The president has always stood on the fact that he can work with mainstream Republicans to get things done on behalf of the American people. But it’s also going to take for all of us to stand up to hatred and what the president again continues to say it’s this MAGA agenda.

The president has not called out all Republicans. He’s been very specific about this MAGA agenda.

And I’ll just remind you the words from Martin Luther King Jr., when he said that it’s not the words of our enemies that we will remember, it’s the silence of our friends.

And what the president has said is that mainstream Republicans, Independents, Democrats can all come together. We’ve seen us come together to do what’s right on behalf of the American people. But if people are silent, then the very core of who we are as a country is in danger.

RADDATZ: The president criticized MAGA Republicans for electing election deniers, yet Democrats are promoting far right candidates in GOP primaries. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tweeted in response, if President Biden is truly serious about threats to democracy, then he would condemn the tens of millions of Democratic groups who have spent money promoting extremists threatening democracy. Obviously in the end, they hope that Democrats will win. That’s why they’re spending that money.

But should the president speak out against members of his party who have boosted these so-called extreme candidates?

BOTTOMS: I think what the president will continue to do is encourage people to go out and vote their conscience, whatever their conscience maybe. And what the president will continue to do is what we saw him do just this week, is to remind people of who we are as a country, who we are a nation. We are a nation that —

RADDATZ: So, does he support that? Does he support supporting those extreme candidates?

BOTTOMS: I cannot speak to what the president support. I can speak to what he has said publicly. And what he has said publicly is that we are a nation that values the rule of law, that we are nation of peace, that we are a nation that values a peaceful transition of power and this MAGA agenda has no place in our democracy.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

RADDATZ: Now let’s get the GOP response from the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul.

Thanks for joining us this morning, Congressman.

In response to the president’s speech, you immediately tweeted that attacking half of America will only further divide our country. When you look at those polls showing 60 to 70 percent of Republicans believe Joe Biden is not the legitimate president, what is Biden supposed to do when the country cannot even decide what democracy means?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Well, look, I mean, democracy is messy but it’s better than all the other forms of government. I think that if this was a speech to unify the American people, it had just the opposite effect. It basically condemned all Republicans who supported Donald Trump in the last election. That’s over 70 million people.

And, you know, saying that Republicans are a threat to democracy is really a slap in the face and I — you know — you know my vote on certification and my position on that. I took an oath to the Constitution but having said that, you don’t come out to unify the nation. This was not a presidential address, by the way. It was a political speech that wasn’t even carried by your network or the other two major networks because it was so political, it was a campaign speech before the midterm elections, and that’s basically how I see it.

RADDATZ: And how much should Donald Trump be blamed for the division in this country? You heard him say last night Biden is an enemy of the state. He has called the left wing fascists in the past.

MCCAUL: We know the rhetoric on both sides has been heightened. I don’t think — you know, people in mainstream America that particularly like the divisive rhetoric. I think — I wish the president could have been more like Abraham Lincoln who really did — he did not condemn the Democrats in the South in that time. He actually brought them into the tent. And I think that would be the mission I would advise for the president.

I think he failed to do that in this speech that he gave.

RADDATZ: So let’s talk about the investigation. Last night Donald Trump called the investigation into classified material stored at his house shameful, a travesty of justice, saying the FBI and the Department of Justice have become, as he said, vicious monsters.

Your reaction to that?

MCCAUL: Well, look, I think there’s a legal side of this, as a former federal prosecutor, and there’s the perception in the optics. I think the perception is what a lot of Republicans I know see on the heels of the Russian investigation, the Steele dossier. There’s a certain distrust but verify attitude with — when it comes to the Department of Justice and the FBI, and it, frankly, saddens me because as an alumni of DOJ, I hate to see people’s faith in our institutions being weakened.

I have a lot of questions. Why didn’t they enforce the subpoena before they did this unprecedented search warrant on a former president of the United States? This will all, obviously, come out factually as this case moves forward.

RADDATZ: Do you see any reason that he should have taken those documents, those classified — highly classified documents to Mar-a-Lago?

MCCAUL: Well, look, I — you know, I have lived in the classified world most of my professional career, I personally wouldn’t do that. But I’m not the President of the United States.

But he has a different set of rules that apply to him. The president can declassify a document on a moment’s notice. And we don’t have all the facts. I know they were taken out of the White House while he was president and whether or not he declassified those documents remains to be seen. He says he did. I don’t have all the facts there.

RADDATZ: Bill Barr…

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: … basically said if he…

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: If he stood over documents and said, these are all declassified, it was — it’s an absurd idea. You think that’s what happened?

MCCAUL: There is a process for declassification. But again, the president’s in a very different position then most of us in the national security space. And if this was such a national security threat, for God’s sakes, why didn’t they brief the Gang of Eight on this? You know, we — the relevant committees on the Hill have asked for briefings on this to find out what was so important here from a national security standpoint that would merit such an extreme measure to have a search warrant on a former president of the United States.

RADDATZ: OK, I want to turn to foreign affairs here. You are on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the top Republican. And the war in Ukraine, the Biden administration is asking Congress for nearly $14 billion more in aid of the war effort. Is that something you could support?

MCCAUL: I support the Ukraine. And we need to support, you know, these freedom fighters who have really amazed the world and inspired the world for freedom and democracy against a brutal dictator, and that is Vladimir Putin.

Going back to your first question, you know, Republicans aren’t a threat to our democracy. I see the threat to our democracy being Putin, President Xi — Chairman Xi in China, the ayatollah in Iran who he’s currently negotiating with to have an Iran deal, and Kim Jong-un of North Korea. Those are the major threats to democracy.

But with respect to Ukraine, Congress will review this package. It’s about $11 billion. As you know, we appropriated a $40 billion package. We want to make sure we’ve got the right weapons going in. But also, Martha, you know my view, we should have done this a year ago, well before the invasion and given the Ukraine people the weapons they need to win this fight, which they are. They have a counter-offensive now in Kherson going into Crimea.

So, you know, the weapons need to go in. They should have gone in a long time ago.

RADDATZ: And I — very quickly, if you will, and you mentioned Iran, would you support a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities if they got close to building a bomb?

MCCAUL: I think only as a last resort. But I do think instead of — you know, I met with the IAEA’s director general in Vienna, he said there are three undisclosed sites that they didn’t report that have uranium. That means they’re in complete violation of this agreement. You can’t trust them.

I would say, if I were president for the day, that, you know, a nuclear Iran is not acceptable. That is the policy of the United States. And now they will understand what that means, but we also have to get our coalition partners and our allies behind that.

I would only — that’s only warranted — and I’ve been briefed on the plan, by the way. That’s only warranted as a last option only. But it has to be an option on the table that the Ayatollah understands.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for joining us this morning, Congressman.

The “Roundtable” weighs in next. Plus, Nate Silver analyzes the high-stakes races playing out in Pennsylvania. We’re back in just 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEHMET OZ, (R) PENNSYLVANIA SENATE NOMINEE: Lots of folks are curious about where John Fetterman is, period. He’s not answering any of my challenges to a debate.

JOHN FETTERMAN, (D) PENNSYLVANIA SENATE NOMINEE: Nobody really knows what Dr. Oz believes. I don’t even think Dr. Oz knows what he believes.

JOSH SHAPIRO, (D) PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: We have a unique responsibility to defend our democracy. Our democracy was born here in Pennsylvania.

DOUG MASTRIANO, (R) PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: They call us the extremists. Are you freaking kidding me? They don’t want to talk about the businesses they looted. They don’t want to talk about the criminals they released.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Two of November’s biggest races are unfolding in Pennsylvania, with the gubernatorial contest pitting a Republican election-denying candidate against the state’s attorney general and an open Senate seat that could determine control of the chamber next year.

But as both Democratic candidates open up big polling leads, can their opponents still turn things around? FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver analyzes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Pennsylvania is about as middle-of-the-road as it gets, so you might expect it to be a toss-up. But that’s not what the polls show right now. Instead Democrat John Fetterman leads by eight points in the FiveThirtyEight polling average against his Republican opponent for the Senate, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

And in the governor’s race, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democrat, leads by seven against Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano. Again, the fundamentals in Pennsylvania would project a closer race.

According to our Partisan Lean index, the Keystone State is actually three points more Republican than the country as a whole. Keep in mind that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by only one point there in 2020, less than his national margin of 4.5 points.

But, and this is a theme you’re starting to hear a lot, the Republican candidates are problematic. Let’s start with Mastriano. Among other issues, he attended Trump’s January 6th rally/insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. And he has called the separation of church and state a “myth.”

With Oz, the issue may be more one an experience of making gaffes, such as a video of him buying ingredients for crudite, not exactly the most relatable halftime snack, or his campaign attributing Fetterman’s recent stroke to his lack of vegetable consumption, this in the state famous for the Philly cheese steak.

The FiveThirtyEight model thinks these races will tighten but not enough to make them toss-ups. We have Fetterman as about a 75 percent favorite in the Senate race and Shapiro as around an 85 percent favorite for governor.

So I’m buying this one. Although it’s far from a sure thing, we have enough information to say the Democrats are favored.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Our thanks to Nate for that.

So let’s bring in the roundtable, ABC News political director Rick Klein; USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page; New York Times national political reporter, host of “The Run Up” podcast, Astead Herndon; and Politico national political correspondent Meridith McGraw.

Welcome to all of you.

And, Rick, what a week, what a week. That speech, the president, who had themes of unity and compromise — why the big change?

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This is a speech that the president felt strongly about delivering. It’s not necessarily a speech that Democrats, particularly those running in close races right now, were keen on hearing him say.

I have been struck by the split that this has — this has brought about. It’s not just Republicans who are criticizing this. You’ve got a lot of Democrats — well, some are saying, “Look, about time. Why haven’t you said this earlier, President Biden?”

But you’ve got a lot that are running in some states like Pennsylvania that are basically silent on this because they’re running their own races. And the idea of coming out against unity in some sense, it feels to them almost like Trump. And that’s — that’s not the way you win, almost by definition. If you are Josh Shapiro; if you are John Fetterman, you’re going to need Trump voters to vote for you this fall. And they recognize that. They are running races that are a little bit different than that.

And this is a message that, look, this is a — it’s a bold play, and it’s something that a lot of people in the base thought was overdue. But whether this is actually the message that prevails, I think, is very much an open question.

RADDATZ: And, Susan, did he reach the soul of the nation with that speech, in your opinion?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I guess I don’t know if it turns out to be a political benefit or not. But I do think that, if the president thinks this is true, maybe he has to say it out loud, even if there is blowback to it.

I’d also note that he didn’t do this on Labor Day and in the final weeks of the sprint to the election. He did it at the end of the week leading up to Labor Day. And I don’t — I guess I do not think this is the theme that the White House is going to be striking from now up to the next — the next seven weeks.

RADDATZ: And, Astead, it — it also seemed clear the White House believes, just from what Keisha Lance Bottoms was saying as well, that they’re, kind of, beyond trying to unify…

(LAUGHTER)

RADDATZ: … any of the MAGA Republicans into the fold?

ASTEAD HERNDON, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER & ‘THE RUN UP’ PODCAST HOST: Yeah, they’re using “soul of a nation” as through line through their campaign, but it’s different, the level of — the version of unity they’re pitching right now. The unity of Joe Biden’s campaign was, if you remove Donald Trump, the country will come back together. The unity of the inauguration was, “Oh, this — this January 6th thing has happened, well, now people will definitely come to this side.”

I think what we’re hearing as of last week is trying to unite people against that MAGA wing (ph). So even if The White House is continuing that theme of the soul of the nation, I think they should acknowledge that this version of unity and coming together is certainly a different tone and tenor then the one he started this campaign with.

RADDATZ: And Meridith, Rick touched on this, obviously, but are both parties content to let the midterms be just Trump v. Biden?

MERIDITH MCGRAW, POLITICO NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the Biden White House wanted the president to make this speech for months and he really felt a sense of urgency just with the past few weeks with threats to the FBI and with sort of this rallying around Donald Trump that we have seen. But the Biden administration really thinks that this is going to be a winning message for them, pitting the midterms against Biden and Trump, but really the question is, whether Biden’s talk of a threat to a democracy being a priority for voters, is that going to outweigh voter concerns about inflation and about economy that really are top of mind right now.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: — want it to be about Trump. And the Trump people want it to be — I mean, the Republicans want it to be about Biden —

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: — Democrats want it to be about Trump. And so which prevails? I mean, at the minimum, The White House succeeds in making this less of a referendum on Joe Biden, which is the tradition of these first term — midterms.

Every time Trump’s name is out there, look at how uncomfortable it made Congressman McCaul. He criticized Biden. He did not defend Trump in the interview you just did —

RADDATZ: And he is not an election denier.

PAGE: He’s not an election denier but he clearly did not want to talk about Trump. So you see, the two parties want this to be a referendum but on the other guy’s president.

RADDATZ: And the Republicans really just can’t talk about that as much in any way.

Astead, we talked about that Quinnipiac poll that shows two — this is astonishing, two-thirds of the country believe democracy is in danger but they have very different views of that. Of course, the Republicans think Biden and the Democrats think Trump.

So — and I asked her about that, Keisha Lance Bottoms, how do you lead? How do you lead a country and what has Joe Biden done to try to bridge that divide?

HERNDON: Right, it’s interesting. In the answer she talks about the bipartisan legislation, the gun legislation they were able to pass, infrastructure reaching across the aisle, but I think there has to be a recognition that those things were really secondary to the promise that Joe Biden was giving to voters.

His pitch was about unity, about bringing folks — about bringing folks together, and so even if there have been legislative accomplishments that The White House is trying to tout, that we’ll see midterm candidates tout, down ballot, I do think you’re seeing some voters kind of question The White House because that foremost promise has not been fulfilled. This country is not, quote/unquote, unified. But I do think that Biden has had a tough task here, because it goes beyond the bully pulpit, it’s really a political system itself that is, I think, struggling with that partisanship, with that polarization.

RADDATZ: Meridith, you’ve been out in the country, you talk to voters, I know you do, we all talk to voters, the MAGA Republicans aren’t changing their minds about anything, so, is this the right approach?

MCGRAW: The MAGA Republicans have certainly dug in their heels and I think even more so in the past few weeks but I don’t think President Biden’s address was focused at them, he made great pains to say he wasn’t addressing all Republicans but look, I think he’s really trying to win over Independents, Republicans who feel alienated by their own party, and Democrats he thinks he can really drive out to vote in midterms.

RADDATZ: And Rick, “The Washington Post” reporting this weekend that many Democrats are now quietly getting used to the idea that Joe Biden might be the nominee. What does that mean? What about those who were hoping they might have a chance.

KLEIN: Well, a couple things are going to happen in the next few months that I think will shape 2024 on both sides of the aisle.

First, you’ve got to have the midterm elections and whether this rebound that we’ve seen with Democrats recently, if that actually means that they can hold onto the Senate, maybe add a seat or two, and maybe even hold the House, although I think that’s a stretch, that changes, I think, how you look at Joe Biden as a political actor.

Another big factor in this is Trump. The biggest argument that any Democrats might have about why Biden should run again, he’s the one guy that beat Trump last time. If Trump looks like more a threat, less of a threat, that changes it.

I don’t think we’re going to see 2024 positioning on the Democratic side until after the midterms anyway. I think this recent upswing in polls kind of delays it a little bit more, it gives Biden maybe a little bit more place to keep his own role in the party, the speech this past week and whatever he does on the campaign trail over the next couple of months. If that’s successful, I think that changes where the future of the party might head.

RADDATZ: And Susan, I got to go back to another question that I asked Keisha Lance Bottoms and that is, the funding of extreme candidates by the Democrats. How much does that hurt them and should Biden speak out and say, wait a minute? I mean, again, the Democrats are hoping if they fund these extreme candidates they’ll run against those extreme candidates and they’ll win. But the look is not good.

PAGE: She — what about the look she gave you? She didn’t want to answer —

RADDATZ: She did not want to answer that question.

PAGE: The question — she didn’t defend this practice of trying to boost the most extreme candidate on the other side in the hopes of an easier general election. But the risk is, sometimes the other candidate might get actually elected. And you have helped elect put in office an election denier.

It also cedes the high ground. The Democrats — the cases where the Democrats have done it, they have ceded the political high ground and I think that — I think — I would like to hear President Biden answer a direct question about this.

HERNDON: But I also think, anything we’ve learned from the last couple of years some of these democracy questions go beyond just the ballot box, too, in promoting some of these candidates and their messages. That also helps to take root even if it’s just among that MAGA Republican base, certainly January 6th was an example of people refusing to accept what we saw from those lawful and legal elections.

So, there’s another risk too that the threats to democracy aren’t just going to be at the ballot box, but that the Democrats promoting some of these candidates, they actually further entrench something that strikes at democracy’s core.

RADDATZ: And, Meridith, on the midterms, Democrat Mary Peltola won a special House election in Alaska this week defeating Trump-backed Sarah Palin.

What does this say about the Democrats’ chances? And this was a little bit of an unusual race as well.

MCGRAW: Yeah, it was an unusual race. They used ranked-choice ballots here. But the conventional wisdom really has been that we’re going to see this red wave come November. But really what we’re seeing is it could be more of a ripple now. And a big part of that really is the Roe decision and the motivation Democrats have had to come out and vote.

And in the case of Alaska, I think Sarah Palin’s own popularity in is the state which isn’t so great these days played a big role. But Democrats are really seeing some winds at their backs in the wake of Roe and also I think with some of these legislative wins that they’ve been able to get with Biden.

RADDATTZ: And Peltola really didn’t go after Palin. They became friends when they were both pregnant.

MCGRAW: Right. Right.

RADDATZ: And Palin didn’t really go after her specifically.

MCGRAW: No, and you know, this was a special elections. Democrats have fared fairly particularly well in some of these special elections, especially after Roe. But we are going to see Palin go up against her again in the general election, this was just to take that seat until January.

KLEIN: She does have another shot, but the ceiling that it might represent for MAGA candidates is real. The fact that Palin was the first choice of so many but not the second or third choice, that’s allowed the Democrats to sneak into this seat.

RADDATZ: And, Susan, it does seem clear the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe has really dramatically altered the political dynamics here. How much of an issue will that be in midterms, do you think?

PAGE: I think it is the number one reason we have seen these midterms turn on a dime in the space of a month or two. This is not the midterm election that either Democrats or Republicans thought we were going to see, and there are a couple of reasons for that but the number one reason is the mobilization of people who support access to abortion and especially women to register to vote, to turn out to vote in these special elections and to vote for Democrats and against Republicans who have basically had a free ride on abortion for so long they could stand up against access to abortion. But the Roe v. Wade decision provided that kind of safety net. Abortion rights supporters did not see that right as threatened. Now, they’ve seen that overturned and that has changed entirely.

RADDATZ: And, Rick, a bit about the Senate race, more about the Senate race, you have the GOP campaign speech Rick Scott lashing out at Mitch McConnell, seemingly already pointing fingers over who or who may not win.

KLEIN: Yes, I talked to a Republican strategist that’s close to these races this past week. And he said, look, no one is going to remember this fight the Republicans win the Senate if they don’t, they will, because this question of candidate quality, which was got started — McConnell has been critical of, quote-unquote, candidate quality and you look at people like Dr. Oz, you look at Herschel Walker, you look at — you look at J.D. Vance in Ohio, you start to wondering, wait a second, are these the best people out there?

And Rick Scott’s kind of hands off approach driven in part by Trump to let these primaries play out, and now, Republicans are stuck with some candidates that they’re going to have to salvage or maybe lose opportunities around. So I think it matters greatly for the future of Republican leadership in the Senate but I think this question about Trump’s influence is still being felt. He was very successful in the primaries. That’s not the same as getting someone who can actually win a general election.

RADDATZ: Which leads me right back to the investigation of Mar-a-Lago, Astead. Have the revelations this week, especially those photos, changed not only politics but legally, I know you’re not a lawyer, but is it more likely?

HERNDON: I’ll speak to the politics. I mean, I definitely — I think we definitely have seen that since Trump and his lawyers have pushed for more information to come out, that it has actually reversed onto them. We are getting more and more details that make clear the level of obstruction and not working with the Department of Justice that we have seen from the Trump campaign. They have also not answered the core question of why, right? The question that you asked to the congressman about why were there such classified — highly classified documents at Mar-a-Lago? That is something now that Bill Barr, Trump’s own attorney general, to your point, is speaking out against on FOX News. The facts aren’t in Donald Trump’s direction.

What they are going to try to do is put the politics in their direction, to say that this is culmination of long-term Democratic efforts to not see him as legitimate, wrap it up in Ukraine, wrap it up in the Steele dossier, wrap it up in saying that it was the Democrats who committed the first sin in Trump’s administration. And that — the problem for Democrats though is Republican House can — or a Republican House can come to a majority driven by that MAGA wing and still not be a majority of the electorate at large.

Democrats have a problem where they have to — they have to overcome a high structural barrier to really maintain the House, otherwise that MAGA wing will be coming for them in the House of Representatives.

RADDATZ: Meridith, we have about 20 seconds. How do you view how this investigation will affect things?

MCGRAW: You know, the former president has really tried to use this all to his political advantage, but I would look to how so many Republicans have answered questions about this. It really does seem like there’s a mood shift here and a real sense that the former president could be in much more trouble than he’s letting on.

RADDATZ: OK, thanks. Great to see all of you. Have a wonderful Labor Day.

Up next, tens of thousands of Mississippi’s capital city are still without access to safe drinking water. We’ll talk with Jackson’s mayor about the dire situation and urgent efforts to restore the water supply. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: Jackson, Mississippi’s mayor is standing by. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIRLEY HARRINGTON, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: It’s like playing Russian roulette that you don’t know if you’re going to wake up with water. You don’t know if you’ve got water. You don’t know what condition the water is in.

MALCOLM WHITE, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: We have employees to take care of and families to feed. I mean, if I close, people don’t get paid.

DAVID JONES, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: We can’t drink it. We can’t cook in it. I’m scared to bathe in it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: More than 150,000 Jackson, Mississippi, residents are nearing one week without access to clean tap water after torrential rains overwhelmed the city’s main treatment plant. Residents had already been under a boil water notice since the end of July. The city’s mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, has warned about the failing water system for years, and he joins us now.

Good morning, Mayor. Give us an update on how things stand this morning. How many people are still trying to get safe drinking water?

MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA, (D), JACKSON, MS: Well, first and foremost, good morning, Martha. Thank you for having me. And thank you for lifting up this challenge.

As of today, we have seen some gains within the system. The hardworking men and women at our water treatment facility have been optimistic about the progress that has been taking place. However, we are still in an emergency — will be in an emergency, even as the water is restored to every home and even as the boil water notice is lifted, because that is the fragile state of our water treatment facility.

There are still operations at various points of the city that are delivering bottled water because, you know, while I believe that a good majority, or a certain growing majority of our residents do have water pressure now, they are still under a boil water threat and unable to consume the water. And that makes it difficult with just the quality of life and the daily tasks that we become accustomed to.

RADDATZ: And at this point, how much longer do you estimate it will take before everyone has safe drinkable water?

LUMUMBA: Yeah. Well, safe, drinkable, reliable, sustainable, and an equitable water treatment facility is a much longer road ahead. In terms of, you know, having water that will be approved by the Department of Health as having tested and, you know, is fit for consumption, I think that we’re a matter of days, not weeks, away from that. But as I have always warned, you know, even when the pressure’s restored, even when we are not under a boil water notice, it’s not a matter of if these systems will fail but when these systems will fail.

There are so many points of failure. We’re talking about a set of accumulated challenges that have taken place over the better part of 30 years. I remind people that I moved to Jackson as a little boy in 1988. I distinctly remember in 1989 when this system crashed after a winter storm.

And so we’re seeing not only the age and the wear and tear on our system, but we’re seeing the effects of climate change. We have colder winters, hotter summers, and more annual precipitation. All of that is taking a toll on our water infrastructure.

RADDATZ: As you say, you have been warning about this for years and have been pointing the finger at Republican Governor Tate Reeves and GOP-controlled legislature. This is what the governor says, it will take time for this to come to fruition but we are here in times of crisis for anyone in the state who needs it. That’s my responsibility as governor and it is what everyone in my administration is committed to ensuring. Do you believe that?

LUMUMBA: Well, let me say this, I’ve been lifting up this circumstance, amongst many individuals that are in leadership and have influence, over a fix and a solution. And so I don’t want to put it squarely in one person’s lap. But as I — I think that there is a well-defined record as (ph) me lifting that up. But, you know, I’m less focused on that portion of it, and more focused on the immediate and near-term of resolving this challenge.

And so there has been a coalition built. The state did join me early last week and had a discussion about supporting us. And so while they’re at the table, while they’re on the ground with the hardworking men and women of our water treatment facility, I don’t think that it profits me or the residents of Jackson for me to take jabs at them.

And so I will say that thus far within that coalition and thus far with the people working on the ground, whether it be state officials, federal officials, or what have you, there hasn’t been much stepping of toes of the actual people executing the responsibility of getting water restored.

And so I have to be optimistic. I have to make certain that we don’t let anybody off the hook and we continue to see this into its conclusion. And its conclusion won’t be even after water is restored this week and even after the boil water notice is lifted. This conclusion won’t take place until we can look the residents of Jackson in the face and say, you know, we have a greater sense of reliability, that we believe in this system, and we believe in the equity of this system and that certain portions of our city won’t be disproportionately affected by this week in and week out.

RADDATZ: Okay, we hope that comes soon. Mayor, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

Coming up, the CDC has approved new COVID boosters to fight the dominant Omicron variant. Will it help avoid a winter surge? Dr. Richard Besser joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This an important moment, a landmark moment in our fight against COVID. These updated boosters are actually targeted against the most, the dominant circulating variant called the BA.5 variant right now. What we’re doing with this vaccine is we’re updating to evolve as the virus evolves. That’s what we should be doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: That’s Dr. Vivek Murthy talking about the updated COVID booster that should be available soon, targeting the latest omicron subvariants.

Joining us to discuss is Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting director of the CDC.

Always great to see you, Dr. Besser.

This is the first major upgrade to booster shots that could be available in just a few days. It’s not been tested on humans. Are you confident it will work?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: I am confident. You know, what we — what we’ve seen throughout this pandemic is that these vaccines, these mRNA vaccines are extremely effective against COVID. In making this change, it’s a pretty small to the vaccine, is going to allow this vaccine to target the strain that’s in our communities right now.

We need to make sure that everyone who wants that type (ph) of vaccine has the ability to get that, and that’s going to take a lot of work.

RADDATZ: But how much more effective is it’s supposed to be? There were so many breakthrough cases before, even people who were vaccinated and boosted. And is it coming out just in time for the next variant?

BESSER: Well, you know, we’ll have to see. But one of things I think that’s really important to keep in mind is that the vaccines were developed to save lives and prevent severe infection, and they remain very effective at that. They aren’t as good — you’re right, they’re not as good at preventing mild infection. They’re not as good as preventing those illnesses that are really inconvenient.

But in terms of saving lives, they’re highly effective. And in terms of the new strain, what we know some of the data from both of the companies is that when they made another — another vaccine that had two strains of COVID and one of them targeted omicron, the level of protective factors in the flood were much, my higher. And we think that having higher levels of protective factors will prevent more severe infections.

RADDATZ: And who should get them and when?

BESSER: Yes, so, you know, this is something everyone has to decide for themselves. I encourage people to talk to their healthcare provider. People who are at the highest risk for severe infection and death — so people who are elderly, people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk, certain people with disabilities that increase their risks, I think they’re the ones who should be getting these right away. But get your questions answered so that you’re comfortable.

There are a lot of people I think who are going to line up, roll up their sleeves right away, and there are people who are going to want to wait and see what happens when they’re given to a lot of people. But this pandemic continues more than 400 deaths every single day, so there will be time to get this during the fall, during the winter, to increase your level of protections.

RADDATZ: And this fall is supposed to be a pretty nasty flu season, according to Dr. Fauci. Should people get this vaccine and the flu shot together or should they wait for the flu vaccine?

BESSER: You should get them together. The flu vaccine should be available. You know, if your doctor has one but not the other, get whichever one is available and then go back. I do expect it will a severe flu season for a couple of reasons. One is, as Dr. Fauci was saying, what we’re seeing in the Southern Hemisphere, which gets flu sooner, is severe flu. The other is that if you remember last year there was almost no flu because everyone was hunkered down at home. And I think that there are a lot of people who don’t have that — that increased level of protection against flu that they get by being exposed by small amounts each winter.

RADDATZ: And I want to talk about Paxlovid. It seems the rebound rate with that drug is far higher than 5 percent. Why is that? There’s also a study out of Israel saying it helps people over 65 to avoid hospitalization and death but not people under 65.

BESSER: Yes, you know, I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions. You know, clearly from the data it saves lives, it keeps people out of the hospital. There are unanswered questions in terms of, does the treatment need to be longer? What does it mean that it comes back after — after people have finished their course? But if you’re someone who’s at high risk of severe infection, I wouldn’t let the fact that it may come back after you stop dissuade you from taking it, because, as you see in those reports, when it it’s coming back it’s not coming back in the severe forms that — the severe forms that we’re so concerned about.

RADDATZ: And, Dr. Besser, just quickly if you could, on monkeypox, the other virus that’s going around, cases are falling, but they are also — a growing number cases that have no recent history of male to male sexual contact. What does that signal?

BESSER: Well, what it signals is — is virus has moved throughout communities. So while the vast majority of people who are getting monkeypox are men who have sex with men. Men who have sex have sex with women. Some do. Men who have sex with men have contact with other people in the community. They have contact with children. And this virus is transmitted through contact in general through very close intimate contact but not always. So I expect we are going to start to see more monkeypox spreading in communities in ways do not involve sexual contact.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for joining us this morning, Dr. Besser.

We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: And that’s all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “World News Tonight.” And have a very happy Labor Day.



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