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‘This Week’ Transcript 5-5-24: Sen. Tom Cotton, NYC Mayor Eric Adams & FTC Chair Lina Khan

A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, May 5, 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: All right, I’m joined now in studio by Republican Senator Tom Cotton.

So, Senator Cotton, before we get to the campus situation and 2024, I want to ask you about Ukraine. You have been a prominent and consistent supporter for U.S. support for Ukraine against Russia, but right now we are seeing a situation in the House where Speaker of the House Johnson is facing an effort to throw him out as speaker because he made it possible for the House to pass that bill.

SEN. TOM COTTON, (R) ARKANSAS & (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, first off, I want to say, I think Speaker Johnson is doing an outstanding job. I agree with President Trump on that. I agree that we need to have unity in our party right now as we face off against Joe Biden and the Democrats.

And the legislation in the House passed, and that we passed after the House, was not just about Ukraine. It was also supporting Israel and supporting Taiwan and taking actions like making sure TikTok has to – or TikTok’s parent company has to divest, new sanctions on Russia, the ability to take Russian assets to support the Ukraine war effort in the future. So, it was a vital piece of national security legislation.

A large majority of Republicans supported it, and I think you’re going to see the large majority of Republicans back Speaker Johnson next week as well.

KARL: But actually in the House a majority of Republicans voted against it and –

COTTON: Well, about two-thirds of House Republicans said that they wanted to support Ukraine in one way or another, even if they didn’t support that specific piece of legislation. It was a much smaller majority that voted to cut off aid entirely. So, Speaker Johnson has about two-thirds of his entire conference behind him on that specific issue and almost all of them behind him on the question of Israel or Taiwan, for instance. Unlike the Democrats, who are deeply divided about Israel’s war of survival against Hamas in Gaza.

KARL: And in the Senate, it was a majority – solid majority of – that supported this, but 15 Republican senators voted no. And I was struck by what Senator Mike Lee, your Republican colleague in the Senate, said about Ukraine funding, Taiwan, Israel, all – that whole package. He said it was unadulterated capitulation to vote for that bill, and that it was a bill that was a warmonger wish list. A warmonger wish list pushed through by Speaker Johnson.

I mean are – are we seeing a return, at least in some quarters, to kind of an isolationist Republican Party?

COTTON: No, I think what you see among a lot of Republicans is that they have legitimate and reasonable concerns about our defense industrial base’s ability to support our own military, much less other countries’ wars.

I share those concerns, and I think the way to do that is to invest more in that industrial base. That’s largely a practical difference about circumstances here and our defense industrial base.

The Democrats, though, they have deep philosophical divisions on Israel. That’s why you see all these little Gazas out there on campuses where you have people chanting vile antisemitic rhetoric. That is not something that’s going to go away.

KARL: Well, let me ask you about that. We saw President Biden come out. I mean, it was — I’m sure you think it was too late, but he did come out and he clearly condemned the violence.

He’s condemned the antisemitism. I assume you agree with what he did even if it was too late in your view?

(CROSSTALK)

COTTON: So, no. I think you’re mischaracterizing what he did.

Yeah, it was absolutely too late. It was two weeks after these pro-Hamas fanatics had taken over a lot of campuses, and set up these little Gazas.

Second, he didn’t specifically speak to what they’re saying and what they’re doing. They’re chanting final solution. They’re telling Jews to go back to where they came from. They’re spray-painting buildings with vile, antisemitic hate.

He said, well, we shouldn’t have antisemitism or hate speech in the abstract or Islamophobia.

Where are the encampments, Jon, on campuses spreading Islamophobia? Why is Joe Biden so equivocal? Why does he have to draw moral equivalence between thousands of students who are setting up these little Gazas all across America —

KARL: Can I — can I ask you —

COTTON: — engaged in hate speech — engaged in hate speech against Jews, assaulting Jews, disobeying the law, and some fictional encampment that’s spreading Islamophobia.

KARL: Can I ask you? You just three or four times now just used the phrase “little Gazas”. What do you mean by that?

COTTON: Well, they call themselves the Gaza encamp — solidarity encampment. They’re little. They’re little Gazas.

KARL: I mean, are you — it seems like you’re mocking the situation in Gaza.

COTTON: Well, a lot of — a lot of people do deserve — these people do deserve to be mocked.

KARL: Well, no, no, Gaza. I’m talking about Gaza —

COTTON: No, on college —

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: We had — the World Food Programme has just now said that there is an outright famine in parts of Gaza. Tens of thousands of people have died. You’re using this phrase little Gazas —

COTTON: Which is 100 percent the fault of Hamas, just like every civilian casualty in Gaza is 100 percent the fault of Hamas.

Yet Joe Biden, for seven months, has leaned on Israel, has pressured Benjamin Netanyahu, has told him to stand down when they get attacked by Iran, has said they can’t go into the last holdout where Hamas has its final terrorist battalions.

But, no, these students on campuses, they deserved our contempt. They also deserved our mockery. I mean, they’re out there in their N95 masks in open air, with their — with their gluten allergies, demanding that Uber Eats gets delivered to them.

They should not have been allowed to fester on campus for two weeks when these liberal administrators and liberal politicians refused to send in the police to clear them out the very first day they set up their tents.

KARL: I mean, look, it’s clear there’s been vile stuff going on in some of these protests. It’s also clear there are some people exercising their right to protest.

COTTON: Well, you can protest —

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: I assume we can agree that that’s okay.

COTTON: You can protest all you want. If you want to make a fool of yourself and support a terrorist group, you can do that.

Now, if you’re a foreigner, you can’t. And where — where’s Joe Biden’s administration demanding that universities turn over the names of any foreign students here on a visa, revoking those visas and deporting them? That’s something that Joe Biden can do today.

But you are not allowed to violate campus rules and policies and break the law. Where were the liberal administrators and liberal politicians sending in the police on the very first day? We should not have tolerated this for a moment.

I mean, you have Jewish students who’ve been assaulted on campus. Jewish students have been told, it’s not safe for you to come, go back home.

Just blocks from here, just blocks from here, Jon, you have one of the biggest little Gazas left at George Washington University. Yesterday, they called for a guillotine, for the beheading of university administrators.

KARL: So, I mean —

COTTON: Is that — is that non-violent? They defaced —

KARL: No, I mean, I said there’s no doubt there’s plenty of vile stuff — lots of vile things going on. There’s no doubt there’s also some people legitimately protesting Israeli policy.

(CROSSTALK)

COTTON: What’s underneath this all, what’s underneath it, it is antisemitic and anti-Israeli.

KARL: So, let me —

COTTON: But what’s underneath it all, Jon — what’s underneath it all is a hatred for this country. That’s why you find fliers once they get — once they get cleared out that says “death to America”.

And we’re just blocks from where we sit right now, these fanatics have defaced a statue of George Washington. They spray-painted it, calling him a genocidal warmonger. They put a terrorist headdress — they put a terrorist headdress on George Washington.

KARL: That’s — that — that’s indefensible. But let me move on —

COTTON: But that’s the kind of thing that Joe Biden and Democrats are tolerating.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: You made your views abundantly clear, but let — let me move on to 2024. You’ve been mentioned as a possible Trump running mate. Is that — is that talk real?

COTTON: Well, first off, Jon, like, what we’re talking about is 2024.

KARL: OK.

COTTON: The reason why Donald Trump — one of the many reasons why Donald Trump is going to win this election is you’ve got Democratic protesters out there putting a terrorist headdress on a statue of George Washington.

KARL: I mean, I don’t know who is a Democrat or not. A lot of people are very upset with Joe Biden.

COTTON: Meanwhile, you have —

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: But about you, are you — are you — is that real, this talk of you as a running mate?

COTTON: You have patriots like these frat boys at UNC and around the country who are defending the American flag and Joe — and Joe Biden refused for two weeks to come out and denounce it. That’s — that is the 2024 election.

Now, as far as your question was concerned, I know that you and everyone else loves to speculate in this parlor game about who’s going to be vice president, who’s going to be in the cabinet. I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to Donald Trump. I don’t think that it’s good to be out there campaigning and putting yourself forward for the job.

KARL: Would you serve as his running mate if asked?

COTTON: But, Jon – Jon, it’s not helpful.

KARL: OK.

COTTON: What Donald Trump is focused on is winning this election. What I’m focused on is helping him win and making sure Republicans win the Congress. When he’s ready to make his decision about vice president, he will. Afterwards, the election he’ll – he’ll make his decision about the cabinet. Until then, anyone out campaigning for the job or pushing for the job is not helpful to what we should all be focused on, which is winning the election.

KARL: You remember what happened to the last vice president, Mike Pence. Did he – did Pence do the right thing by not doing what Trump asked him to do on January 6th?

COTTON: Look, I think the Constitution was clear that neither the Congress nor the vice president had the ability to reject those electors. It’s also clear that it wasn’t going to work because Nancy Pelosi controlled the House.

KARL: So, let me ask, you were very clear and unequivocal in what you said on January 6th, and in the aftermath. I want to pull up a quote of a specific line you said on that day. “It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence.”

More than three years later, Trump has still not accepted the results. He is still misleading the American people.

COTTON: Jon, he – Jon, he did it – he did it that very day. He put out videos and he put out statements on social media telling those rioters to stand down. Just like he had said in a speech that day, to protest peace – to protest peacefully.

KARL: No, no, you said it’s past time for the president to accept the results. He still –

COTTON: To protest peacefully, Jon.

KARL: He still hasn’t accepted the result of the election. I mean –

COTTON: Jon, he says, and I agree, that the election was not fair, and it was rigged in many ways with Democratic states and cities changing election law and election practices up to the last minute, with the media, to include your network, and 51 Democratic intelligence operatives saying the Hunter Biden laptop was Russian disinformation and social media then censoring all those things. Those were all deeply unfair.

Now, I – now, I –

KARL: I mean he was talking about rigged voting machines and everything else, you know –

COTTON: No, I – no, I never – I never –

KARL: Yes.

COTTON: And Donald Trump has not – like, we never said, like, you know, I don’t know, crazy conspiracies about the Venezuela rigging the voting machines.

KARL: Yes.

COTTON: But, look –

KARL: Just this one – one last thing in this. He’s also calling the people that attacked the Capitol hostages. And he’s suggesting that he would – may pardon all of them. I mean, I assume you don’t agree with that.

COTTON: He said – he said that he would consider pardons. And some of them probably –

KARL: And he called them hostages.

COTTON: Some of them probably deserve – Jon, some of them have been held in pre-trial detention longer than the crimes for which they are –

KARL: So, you agree, these are hostages?

COTTON: Some of them have been held in pre-trial detention longer than the sentences for the crimes with which they are charged.

Now, anyone who assaulted a police officer or damaged public property, that’s different. For people who were wondered into the Capitol that they thought was open or was on the grounds, and where – where is the charges –

KARL: I mean it was like wandering. This wasn’t a tourist visit.

COTTON: Where – where is all –

KARL: I mean you – you haven’t said this –

COTTON: Where is all the – no, I’ve said for a long time that the DOJ is using investigative techniques and tactics that they didn’t use, for instance, when you had a left-wing street militia threatening to assassinate Supreme Court justices. They’re not using to clear out this little –

KARL: But for the record, you’re not in favor for pardoning people that attacked police officers or broke into the Capitol Building?

COTTON: No, people who were involved in that riot, who assaulted police officers, or who defaced and damaged public property should face the legal consequences, but we shouldn’t be using the kind of investment –

KARL: Isn’t it – isn’t it odd that the Republican nominee doesn’t – or doesn’t agree with that?

COTTON: No, he’s said – that – he does agree with that, Jon. What – what shouldn’t be used is every grandma who had a red MAGA hat that was within a country mile of the Capitol on January 6th shouldn’t be sitting in pre-trial detention for a longer time than the crimes for which they might face a sentence.

KARL: All right, Senator Cotton, thank you very much for joining us here this morning.

COTTON: Thank you.