'This Week' Transcript 3-3-24: Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Mike Rounds & Chef José Andrés

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, March 3.

ByABC News
March 3, 2024, 9:10 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, March 3, 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.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: And that’s where we begin this morning with Senator Chris Murphy, one of the group of bipartisan senators who negotiated a border security deal that failed to get Republicans support to move forward.

Senator Murphy, thank you for being here.

I -- I want to start with the -- with the trip to the border by Trump and Biden.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yeah.

KARL: With Congress deadlocked on the issue that you worked so hard on, we’ve heard that the president is considering executive action of some kind. Can you give us a sense of what is under consideration, what he’ll -- he may do?

MURPHY: Well, first, I was very glad to see the president go to the border. I think Democrats need to go on the offense on this question of controlling the border. The fact of the matter is, we did achieve a bipartisan compromise. It will give the president new powers to get the border under control, and Donald Trump killed it. Donald Trump and the Republicans decided that they want the border to be chaotic. It helps them politically, and polls show that if Democrats just tell that story, if the president tells that story, Republicans’ political advantage on the border is erased.

Now, the reality is President Biden needs that legislation because it is just not true that he has the existing authority to issue executive actions that get the border under control.

KARL: So, we’re going to see to him -- I mean, he did, as we understand it, when the National Governors Association was in town, he told the governors he was considering executive action so that you -- that there’s nothing he’s going to do except talk about the bill that the Republicans balked.

MURPHY: I -- listen, I can’t tell you whether President Biden is going to move forward on executive action. What I can tell you is that the bipartisan bill had $20 billion of new resources. He can’t conjure $20 billion with an executive order that that bill gave him to shut down the border in between the ports of entry. I don’t think he can do that by executive action. So, Republicans --

KARL: What about citing (ph) the asylum laws, making it tougher to --

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: Those are statutes.

KARL: Right.

MURPHY: The president can’t modify those statutes with executive orders. And Republicans know this.

So, Republicans blocked the bill because they knew only the legislation would be effective in controlling the border.

KARL: Yeah.

MURPHY: They want the border to be out of control because it helps him politically. And they know the president has limits to what he can do through executive order.

KARL: But let me ask you, this is obviously three years in. I know you spent several months negotiating this. But why did it take so long for the president to address this crisis of the border in terms of the flow of migrants?

MURPHY: Well, I don’t know that that’s fair. In the first week that the president was in office, he sent to Congress a comprehensive immigration and border reform.

KARL: But wait a minute, that bill was to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented citizens, residents here in the country. It was not a border security bill. It was a --

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: No, it was also an asylum reform bill, right? And reforming the asylum --

KARL: It didn’t -- it didn’t tighten the asylum rules the way yours did, did it?

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: It changes the calculus of (INAUDIBLE) coming to the country. And the president instituted a very tough new regulation that does stop people at the border, does the asylum calculation. It, as expected, was blocked by the courts because he needs, he needs legislative action. And Republicans have made it very clear that they have no interest in coming to the table in the immigration and border reform, and frankly, had we had this conversation a year ago, the calculation would have been no different. Republicans have made it absolutely crystal clear, they want the border to be a mess. Donald Trump has told them so.

KARL: But you know that -- you’ve seen poll after poll. I could cite the latest Quinnipiac, but there’s been poll after poll showing an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of how President Biden has handled the border and we’ve also seen the flow over the border dramatically increased under the president.

MURPHY: What we also know is that under Donald Trump’s presidency, crossings at the border were at 10-year high, and this is exactly why. I think the president and Democrats should go on the offense because the vast majority of the country believes that we should have robust legal immigration, but they want tighter control of the border. And right now, there’s only one party that can deliver that. Only the Democrats support pathways to citizenship, support expanding legal pathways into the country, and a tough border law.

Republicans used the issue the immigration to try and divide us from each other, and now, on the record, opposing the toughest border reform bill, the toughest border security bill in decades.

KARL: We saw New York Mayor Adams call for drastic changes to New York City’s sanctuary policies. Has the whole sanctuary city movement, did it go too far? Have we seen a rollback of that? Should there be a rollback of that?

MURPHY: Well, you know, we treat immigrations compassionately in Connecticut as well. And, listen, I think that speaks to the best of this country. Ultimately, the solution has to be on the border and in the countries that people are fleeing. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of this country to push immigrants into the shadows once they are here. So, to me, the focus has to be on the border.

KARL: Okay, I want to turn to what we saw in Michigan, where over 100,000 Democrats went to the polls and voted non-committed, obviously a protest vote to the president’s handling of the situation in Gaza. How concerned, as a political matter, should Democrats be?

MURPHY: I don’t think we should be concerned about this as a political matter because this is such a critical issue relative to America’s national security and the security of the Middle East. I would hope that the president doesn’t make decisions about what to do in Gaza or the Middle East based upon how the votes lined up.

Listen, I think it is time for the president to use all the levers that he has to get a long term ceasefire. I think if that ceasefire doesn’t come in, it’s in Israel’s interest for them to pause military activity to solve the humanitarian crisis. But to the extent the president is using additional leverage on Israel, he should do that for national security reasons, not for political reasons. These issues are too important to be dictated by the polls.

KARL: Is he not doing enough to pressure Israel on this?

MURPHY: No, I think you see him stepping up and using more and more pressure. But I think this is a critical moment where social order is unraveling inside Gaza. And I have both publicly and privately counseled the president to use whatever leverage he has to try to get this long-term ceasefire, that he has to happen tomorrow.

KARL: And I want to ask you about a trip that Vice President Harris made to Michigan on the issue of reproductive rights. But she went -- it was a closed event, closed press event, and only nine people she was addressing. “The New York Times” describes as a political bubble wrap that the vice president and the president are trying to avoid I guess protest or something, on the Gaza issue.

But don’t they need to be out there more?

MURPHY: Oh, I think you will see the president out there and you will see the vice president out there talking about choice, talking about border security, talking about a foreign policy frankly that has renewed the world’s respect for the United States.

Listen, I think the president is an incredibly compelling figure, and I would hope that the White House will send out him all over the country to just be who he is, right? He comes across as Scranton Joe Biden when he is -- when he is engaging with voters and I hope he does more of that. I think he will.

KARL: All right. Senator Chris Murphy, thank you for joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: I know the politics within my party, at this particular moment in time, have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Senator Mitch McConnell announcing this week he’ll step down in November as the leader of the Senate GOP after 17 years as leader.

I'm joined now by Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

I want to start there with Senator McConnell. You know, the – the McConnell-led Senate was one of the last kind of bastions in the Republican Party of – of a Trump skeptical, you know, GOP. What – what’s your sense? What happens after he leaves?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, I think we’ll have continued good leadership. John Thune, I think, is kind of leading the race right now. He’s my stablemate out here, also from South Dakota. Solid. And he understands politics as well.

We also know that we need leadership changes in the White House. And we’re prepared for that. Whoever the Republican nominee is, we’re going to get behind them and we’re going to make sure that this thing happens where we get back to actually building this economy again and getting some of the folks in this part of the world that are just angry as all get out right now because of the cost of living and so forth back – back feeling like we’re trying to fix things.

KARL: So, Senator Thune, you know, expected to be a – maybe even the leading candidate, but as you know, he’s clashed mightily with Donald Trump. Trump tried to recruit somebody to run against him. Failed in that effort, but tried to recruit somebody to run against him in the Republican primary out there. He’s called Thune a RINO, Mitch’s boy, a few other things that I don’t want to get into.

The -- what – what – how much of a role do you think Trump is going to be --- have in – in this election of – of the Republican leader?

ROUNDS: Look – look, he – he’s the Republican frontrunner. He’s going to have, you know, a voice in it. We recognize that. And I think as Mitch says, you know, we understand politics. And that’s a part of the political scene. But we also know that in the Senate we’ve got a lot of independent thinkers as well. The former president will have, you know, the opportunity to influence a number of my – my colleagues, but we also want to be able to have a good working relationship with him if he becomes the next president of the United States. We’ve got things we’ve got to get done.

You know, you’ve already talked a little bit today about the border. It has to be fixed. We also know that like right here in South Dakota and, you know, South Dakota’s right here in the middle of the entire country. Most folks will tell you right now that, you know, the cost of living has gone up about $10,000 a year since Joe Biden took office. They’re feeling that. They want change. When you talk about energy and what Joe Biden did on the very first day where he shut down a pipeline that was a $2 billion project, they’re still remembering that. And when you think about Afghanistan and the fact that he pulled out on a date certain, which was a terrible message to all of our allies, a lot of people here in the United States were saying that was wrong as well.

So, for us, in the Senate, we’re looking forward to a change in leadership. We’re prepared to work with whoever the next president is. But I think you’re going to find that a lot of folks in the Senate will take their own time in terms of how they work through and, you know, the vote – on a vote by vote basis when they’re going to support the president and when they’re not.

KARL: By the way, I should point out that the former president’s had some choice words for you as – as you no doubt know. I think he called you – or questioned whether or not you were crazy or just stupid, a jerk, a RINO, a weak – anyway, we could go on. But – but how important is it for whoever the Senate leader is to have some degree of independence from – from Donald Trump? I mean I understand you say everybody needs to be on board in the general election, but how important is it to do what McConnell did, which is be willing to stand up to Trump?

ROUNDS: Well, that’s what I'm looking for in a leader. I want someone who will work with a president, but who also will stand his own ground. That’s one of the reasons why I very publicly and openly supported John Thune and I supported Mitch McConnell. I think John Thune will bring some – you know, a fresh breath. That always happens when you have a change in leadership.

And -- and, once again, you know, we’ve got some other folks that are going to take a look at it. They are good people. It’s not a matter of having a bad choice out there for those of us in the Senate, but we’ve got some really good choices. I just happen to think John Thune is the right guy at the right time. Great moral character. He’s the right kind of a guy. And I think he will be independent enough to where he will look out also, just like Mitch did, for the institution of the Senate itself. So, I'm optimistic. It’s the reason why I'm supporting him.

But as a Senate, our obligation is to look long term. We’re elected from every single state and we want to take care of our individual states, but we’ve also got the bigger picture of constitutionally what is right and also, in terms of national defense, we’ve always got to be looking at national defense as our primary responsibility.

So, yes, we’ve got some – some other alternatives, but it’s very similar to what a president should have.

KARL: So, I want to ask you about something that Donald Trump has been claiming in court. The Supreme Court is going to take up this issue. But do you – do you agree with this notion that a president has absolute immunity for actions taken while he or she is president? Effectively above the law?

ROUNDS: I – I do not. And, in fact, I was of the same opinion that Senate McConnell expressed, which was an impeachment process is designed as a civil action, not as a criminal action, and that if a person is no longer in office, that an impeachment would be inappropriate.

In the impeachment process that had occurred, I voted not to impeach. And there was a couple of different items that had to be considered. One of which, and the first to be considered is, whether or not it was appropriate to impeach a former president.

KARL: Yes.

ROUNDS: Once we start going down that path, there is no end. And it – that means in that every single new group will be coming in, every single new House will come in and look at previous presidents, previous individuals in office and so forth. And that was one thing our founding fathers made it very clear, that they did not want that to happen.

KARL: All right, Senator Rounds, thank you for joining us on THIS WEEK.

Up next, world-renowned chef, Jose Andres, is just back from the Middle East. He joins us with an update on his efforts to feed the hungry in Gaza as the humanitarian crisis there nears a tipping point. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: I'm joined now with Chef Jose Andres of World Central Kitchen, who recently returned from a trip to Jordan, Israel, and Cypress. World Central Kitchen and its partners have served more than 30 million meals in Gaza and just carried out the first food airdrops.

Thank you very much, Chef Jose, for joining us.

You – you saw that report. That -- that catastrophic scene with 100 people killed. I mean, accounts differ as to what actually happened, but there's no disputing that this situation is out of control.

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF & RESTAURATEUR & WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN FOUNDER: This is the perfect example that shows you that really people are in need of food and water. They are desperate. Mothers, fathers, they want to feed their children. So, what you say there is exactly the example of their desperation. That is why the solution is fairly simple. Let's open more places around Palestine that we can access with trucks and very quickly we can stop that famine, immediately, in – in two, three days, but it has to be daily, constant, and massive.

KARL: World Central Kitchen is providing more food aid than any other non-government organization. How are you actually operating under those conditions?

ANDRES: Well –

KARL: How do you ensure the safety of your people?

ANDRES: The men and women of World Central Kitchen, they don't follow a plan, they always adapt. We are doing at times more than 350,000 hot meals a day. We had more than 62, 63 kitchens functioning every day. Each one with its bakery, making bread from scratch. We’ve been able to bring thousands of kitchens that allow us to cook without the need to be cutting trees. It’s just simple logistics. We have a very big warehouse, obviously in Cairo, that we are able to keep sending 20, 30, 40 trucks every single day north. It takes almost over two weeks to get any one of those trucks to reach inside Gaza. And then we need to get to our warehouses. We have four, five warehouses. Again, the 61 kitchens. And we distribute the food from the warehouses to those kitchens. And right now, we have hundreds, if not thousands of people, of volunteers, that help us. Not only the infrastructure of bringing the food into Gaza, but the cooking of the food and the delivery person to person, tent to tent, so everybody in our camps is able to receive food.

KARL: And you – you’ve been on the ground in Gaza, just like – just like you’ve been on the ground multiple times in Ukraine, but – but I saw you say this is the most difficult situation of any you've faced. And you’ve been to a lot of tough places.

ANDRES: Well, it's a difficult situation because the people of Palestine are surrounded by the sea and by three big walls. They have nowhere to go. Bombs falling down, can be shootings happening anywhere. People are (INAUDIBLE) makes the delivery of food complicated. That's why we do free delivery. Meaning, if sometimes our trucks are stopped, we don't fight it. We don't try to press the, you know, the guys (ph).

KARL: Right.

ANDRES: We stop. We put on a smile and we start delivering right there. We are working all over the communities in every route. So, the same communities are the same ones that protect us so we can reach the north in places, hospitals and other – that they are in desperate need.

The north is where the main need is right now, even all of Gaza needs aid.

KARL: I want to ask you about the airdrops, because there's been some in the humanitarian aid community who have questioned them. Oxfam put out a statement just -- just recently, saying "Oxfam does not support U.S. airdrops to Gaza, which would mostly serve" -- again, the Oxfam statement says -- "to relieve the guilty consciences of senior U.S. officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and the risk of famine in Gaza."

ANDRES: Yeah, this is probably written by somebody that doesn't have -- who has a lot of time on his hands. Listen, we need to bring food into Gaza any way we can. If the airdrops are happening, Jordan began -- the king of Jordan has been in some of those drops. They were doing it to bring food to their hospital. It's great that then they increased to four planes, seven planes, so the countries join, more massive. Then the U.S. follows suit.

We should be bringing it by the sea, maritime. We should be putting boats in front of Gaza. I hope it's going to happen soon, where we can be bringing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of meals.

Why are we doing the air? Why are people doing, thinking about coming by -- by the sea? Because the political situation is not allowing to bring safely enough trucks. Therefore we need to be bold. I don't think we need to be criticizing that Jordan, America are doing airdrops. If anything, we should be applauding any initiative that brings food into Gaza.

KARL: All right. Chef Jose Andres, thank you very much for joining us. And thank you for the work you do.

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