'This Week' Transcript 8-27-17: Gov. Greg Abbott and Thomas Bossert

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are Gov. Greg Abbott and White House Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert.AP | Getty Images
Pictured (L-R) are Gov. Greg Abbott and White House Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR AUGUST 27, 2017 AND WILL BE UPDATED. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Hurricane Harvey barrels into Texas. Torrential rain, epic floods, devastating damage -- the latest from our team in the storm zone.

Plus, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the president's point man join us live.

Then, Trump unleashed...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The future belongs to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Blasting the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The media is totally dishonest. ;these are sick people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: A polarizing pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't want to cause any controversy.

Is that OK?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But Sheriff Joe can feel good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Attacks on his own party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator. Nobody knows who the hell he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's playing to his base, but at what cost?

What will this mean when Trump needs Congress come September?

How can he govern alone?

Our Powerhouse Roundtable tackles another head-spinning week in politics.

And after years of skepticism...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let's get with it. Get out of Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Trump reverses course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he succeed where other presidents have failed and win America's longest war?

We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin -- the facts that matter this week.

From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK.

Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning.

We have a lot to get to this week.

And we begin with the latest on that devastating storm.

Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded, a tropical depression now. But the damage is significant. The danger is real, especially in the city of Houston, where more than six million Americans are facing life-threatening floods.

Overnight, more than 1,000 rescues. Authorities now warning people to get out of their attics and onto their roofs.

The city's 911 system is overloaded. Citizens have been asked to call only if they are in imminent danger. And with the ground already water-logged, the storm slowing to a crawl, that danger could grow in the days ahead.

The Texas governor and President Trump's homeland security adviser are standing by live.

And we begin with ABC's senior meteorologist Rob Marciano in the storm zone -- and, Rob, no rain where you are right now, but Houston getting pounded.

ROB MARCIANO, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, everything east of the circulation, George, is where the heaviest rains are. This event just over 12 hours old and officials already saying it's a 500-year flooding event. Just incredible stuff happening, worse than the floods of Memorial Day two years ago, worse than the benchmark storm, Tropical Storm Allison, of 2001, which devastated the city of Houston.

Overnight, scary stuff happening as this rain came down. Rescues ongoing, over 1,000, as you mentioned. Folks doing what they can just to get out of the -- where their flooded areas are. And the waters continue to rise.

The National Weather Service putting out an urgent message, saying do not go up into your attics, because they don't want people to get trapped up there. They're saying go up into your room. They want to stress, persons should not go into their attics, but instead, go onto the roof. This is a Tweet. And if calling 911, stay on the line until it is answered. That is going to be stressed today and the water.

The bayous, the rivers are flooding right now. We have 48 gauges that are going into major flood stage and some of the bayous already in record stages, right through the city of Houston, Buffalo Bayou jumping 30 feet in just a few hours, since Saturday. White Oak, Braze (ph) and the Brazos River going into major flood stage, as well.

The satellite, the radar shows all that rain coming off the Gulf of Mexico. This is very high rain rates, in some cases, six, seven inches per hour. There is no way for that sort of rain rate to drain out efficiently.

And the next 12 hours, we're looking for, potentially, another 12 inches on top of the 12 inches that we've already seen -- George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Rob, what should we expect in the coming days?

MARCIANO: More rain. It's just a matter of where those rain bands set up, because the circulation of what's left of Harvey isn't really going to move all that much. It's going to stay over southeast Texas.

So we think another 12 inches on top of the 12 inches that we expect today, on top of the 12 inches that they got last night.

So potentially, over three feet of rainfall expected through Wednesday.

You know, we say time and time again, George, it is not the wind from a hurricane or a tropical system that kills people, it is the water, the inland flooding especially. That's the number one cause for tropical storm-related fatalities.

And the folks in Houston are certainly trying to prevent that from happening today -- George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Rob, thanks very much.

On this now from the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

He joins us from Austin this morning.

Governor, thank you for joining us.

We just heard Rob Marciano tell us about that devastating situation in Houston.

What more can you tell us about the situation on the ground?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Well, obviously, the water is rising. This is a situation that Houstonians have dealt with before, because Houston is an area that is prone to flood about once a year like this.

But this is one of the worst, if not the worst, that Houston has suffered.

What we're involved in, especially at the local level in Houston, is rescuing as many people as possible, understanding that our top goal is to make sure we save lives. But this is an all-out effort on search and rescue and saving people's lives in Houston right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were warning people on Friday to evacuate Houston. That didn't happen. Mistake?

ABBOTT: Well, listen, the local officials know best about this. And the reason why they made that call, I think, is because they understood that the hurricane itself was unlikely to hit Houston. And they were prepared for the flooding that is occurring right now.

So they have assets in place. Texas overnight has provided them additional assets, including our military high-level vehicles that will assist in rescuing people, as well as sending boats and perhaps helicopters to be involved in the search and rescue process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your biggest worry right now? And are you getting what you need from the federal government?

ABBOTT: I tell you what, we could not be more appreciative of what the federal government has done, from the president on down, because, everything we have asked for, they have given us. The most important thing was that I made a disaster declaration that the president granted very swiftly.

And what that does is it triggers FEMA's involvement. FEMA has been very actively involved and engaged in this whole process long before the hurricane even hit ground. And because of their assistance, it means that Texas will be able to begin the rebuilding process very swiftly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Expect to be coming back to the federal government for emergency funds to help with that?

ABBOTT: Well, the emergency funds will be coming through FEMA. But what we will be doing is we will be expanding the number of counties that are included in the disaster declaration. Obviously Harris County now is going to be added to this.

But we are very thankful for the swift and effective action and support that we have received from the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The White House has said the president is expecting to visit Texas this week. Does that make sense right now or will that risk diverting resources away from the relief effort?

ABBOTT: Well, it depends. As you know, we had a hurricane hit around the Corpus Christi area that is now moving northeast, and is over closer to the Houston area. And it depends on where he goes. We are already, for example, involved in the cleanup process in Corpus Christi. If the president were to visit there, it wouldn't hinder any efforts.

We'll just have to wait and see where the storm goes, understanding that this entire storm has been very unpredictable in its movement. And I couldn't tell you right now where it will be in two days.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Abbott, good luck. Thanks for your time this morning.

ABBOTT: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the president's point-man on the storm, the Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert.

Tom, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard that praise from Governor Abbott for the federal response. What is your focus as we head into the next phase?

TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me on the program.

So the president's focus and mine remains on supporting the governor. And it's very nice to hear the governor give us that praise. And I think it's a mutual feeling. President Trump right now is giving all the latitude of the federal government that he can possibly give it.

And Brock Long, who is our FEMA administrator, is taking those reins and coordinating efforts. And people focus on coordinating federal efforts, but what Brock is doing is is really pretty special, because what he's doing is coordinating federal efforts across different departments and agencies. But he's also coordinating volunteers and workers and professionals from other states as well.

And so we have talked a lot this morning about the search and rescue efforts that are under way, life-saving and life-sustaining is our priority right now. But you'll see some of those search and rescue teams have come from different states all around the country. And that really does make us special at this point, it's kind of a unifying feeling.

There's a lot of effort under way. And what Brock has to do, and what the president has to remain focused on, and what I try to help him focus on is unity of that effort. So unifying all those different things, George, is what we'll focus on for the next 24 to 48 hours.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has just tweeted that he's only going to visit when he's sure the trip can be done with causing disruption. Any sense of when that's going to be, where he's going to go?

BOSSERT: Well, I think that's the key there. We'll go where we can without getting in the way of the operators. We certainly won't go into a place where we would prevent life-saving activities from taking place.

The president wants to go to show his support. He doesn't want to go to get in the way. And he has been very clear about that. So I think we'll let the details of where he goes play out. But he'll get there as soon as he can.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard the governor say he's expanding the the number of areas that need emergency funding. Is the president prepared to ask Congress for more funds?

BOSSERT: Sure. So I think here's how this works in a way that maybe people would understand. What the president did was he gave all the authority necessary to the federal government, to the FEMA administrator to do what he has to do.

And now, what the FEMA administrator has to do is work with the governor and figure out where exactly to apply those resources. So we'll have some number of counties right now where we'll focus our efforts. And if additional counties require assistance, he doesn't have to come back to the president. He has already been given that authority.

Now, in terms of money, I think we have got over $3 billion in the disaster relief fund right now. That's money that can be spent on future efforts and current efforts. And it's even money that's spent on the open disasters of which there are 30 around the country right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As the hurricane was taking shape, the president on Friday night around 10:00 announced by Twitter that he was pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio down in Arizona.

As you know, that sheriff has been convicted for defying a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos. And the president's action has been met by a course of opposition. The Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, both Arizona senators both Republican Arizona senators. And this morning, a blast from the former Vice President Joe Biden. I want to read it here.

He's saying the president's contempt for the U.S. constitution and willingness to divide this nation knows no bounds. Now he's pardoned a law enforcement official who terrorized the Latino community, violated its constitutional rights, defied a federal court order to stop and ran a prison system so rife with torture and abuse he himself called it a concentration camp. Your response?

BOSSERT: Well, Vice President Biden is both loved and known for his hyperbole. I think that's another example of it. I think it's pretty straightforward what the president did. I think there is some disproportionate coverage of it right now as I remain focused on the -- as Governor Abbott focuses on the 4.6 million people in the greater Houston area.

I think the Arpaio pardon is pretty straightforward. And, George, as you know, the president you worked for and just about every modern president ends up with some controversial pardons. But I think the president has been pretty clear on it. And I certainly don't think it's fair to characterize him as not caring about the rule of law.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that characterization came, also, Senator McCain, it also came from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, as well.

And you're absolutely right, presidents have absolute pardon power. President Clinton got criticized for his pardon of Mark Rich. But this is somewhat different. President Trump here said that Arpaio was convicted for, quote, doing his job. How is defying a court order protecting constitutional rights doing his job?

BOSSERT: Well, I don't know the particulars of the court order, but as I understand it, it was a contempt order and not an issue of -- of his job or not his job. I really don't know the details of it. But I do know the president has been pretty clear about his defense of it and his decision.

I'm pretty certain, too, George that this is not something that is going to threaten our constitutional order.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, that is being disputed by the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, by Senator John McCain as well.

And the president, you say he's been clear in defending the Sheriff Arpaio and his pardon. He called him a patriot who kept us safe, also praised his admirable service. This is a man who held inmates in brutal conditions, humiliated them, promoted the birther lie about President Obama. How is that admirable service?

BOSSERT: Well, I'm sure those are all assertions that you're much more familiar with than me, but I'm right now focused on not the only the 4.6 million people in the Houston area, but the millions of people around the country who are trying to bring together outside of these divisive political questions, their effects and their prayers to help those people who are in need.

So, my guess is that not too many people care about this one guy right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But wait. Wait a second, Tom. I understand that. And you have been praised for the work you're doing on the the flood. But you're also the adviser of homeland security. Sheriff Arpaio's actions come within the realm of homeland security. I'm asking, how can you call the actions laid out by Sheriff Arpaio contempt of court, a man is something he's shone no remorse for, admirable service?

BOSSERT: Well, I didn't -- what I think you're doing is asking me what the merits of the pardon are. I think there's a clemency argument that can be made for the long history of service both in the United States military and in law enforcement for the sheriff. I think the president's been pretty clear, it's pretty straightforward that he believes that that long history of service merits this clemency and he's acted accordingly. And so I suspect that what you're doing is disagreeing with that. And I understand that disagreement and I respect it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking whether or not you agree with it.

Let's move on to the border wall, also comes in your responsibility. The president in Phoenix threatening to shut down government funding for the wall. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall.

TRUMP: Build that wall. Now, the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, the president promised repeatedly during the campaign that Mexico is going to pay for that wall. So why should the government shut down over a wall that Mexico is supposed to pay for?

BOSSERT: Yeah, I think the key here is that the funding for the wall that has to come now, the immediate funding for this capital project has to come through this appropriations process. The means and mechanisms for reimbursing our (inaudible) and to making some agreement with the Mexicans can come through other forms. I think the president has alluded to that in a number of occasions.

But I think what's important here is that the wall works. I recently said that words matter and walls work. And I said that for a reason.

And just before that speech that you played, George, we had visited the Huma Sector, where a wall was built and a barrier was constructed in 2006, I believe, or starting then.

And the results have been pretty undisputable in terms of the reduced number of border crossings and the length of that 370 or so mile region of responsibility for that sector was really not patrollable without some barrier assistance and some wall.

And I think the president has recognized that, as well.

And so from my perspective, the wall is something that works. The wall is something that's a relatively small investment for the return that we receive. And the president has asked for it in a responsible budget package that carries out the responsibilities of the entire federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's also...

BOSSERT: And so I think the responsibility now does fall back to the Democrats and others in Congress to decide whether that priority is something that they would like to shut the government down over or whether they're -- they'd like to carry out the president's budget and his responsibility...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well...

BOSSERT: -- to protect the border.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it's the president who threatened to shut the government down and it's the president who said that Mexico was going to pay for it.

You're the one who said that words matter. The president has known since January, from the Mexicans, from a phone call himself, that the Mexicans aren't going to pay for it.

The secretary of State hasn't even brought it up in his meetings with the Mexicans. Neither has the secretary of Treasury.

So can you concede now, the Mexicans are not going to pay for that wall, which is why you're asking Congress to pay for it?

BOSSERT: No. So as I said just a moment ago, what we'll do here is go through the mechanism of getting the original initial money that we need for that capital project from Congress through an appropriations process and we'll responsibly construct the barrier on the border.

As we work with the Mexicans in other policies and trade policies and such, we'll determine ways for us to make that right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you've had no indication from the Mexicans they're going to pay for it.

So is the president

So is the president now saying he's going to veto any funding bill that doesn't include wall funding?

BOSSERT: Well, we'll let that play out. I have every confidence right now that Congress is going to meet the president's budget request. I think it's a responsible one that puts us on a path to solvency and it puts us on a path to better national security.

So I don't know why I would speculate on vetoing that. I think we're going to get a good bill from Congress and if we don't, we'll end up in a continuing resolution and the American people will see that there's obstruction from Congress and they'll be continued in their frustrations.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Democrats and many Republicans have made it clear they're not going to have that wall funding. We'll see what happens.

Finally, the president also talked a lot about Charlottesville in his comments, when he was in Phoenix this week. And late in the week, Gary Cohn, your colleague in the White House, head of The National Economic Council, spoke out to "The Financial Times."

He said that citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK. This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups."

Do you believe the administration can and must do better?

BOSSERT: I believe that the administration has condemned those groups. I know I've gone on the record and done it, as well, a number of times. And so I would like to say it again and in clear, unequivocal terms.

There is no room in this country for racial violence or bigotry or neo-Nazi groups at all, period. I can't be clearer. I think the administration has been clearer.

Now, for me, I'm focused right now on four or five million people, probably 23 million people at the end of the day, in the direct path of this storm that are suffering. And I hope that Gary Cohn is focused on the 300 million people who need tax relief. I know Donald Trump is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the president also said that there were very fine people marching with the white supremacists.

Who did he have in mind?

BOSSERT: Well, I think you'll have to ask the president how he wanted to parse the groups of people. But I suspect from being around him at that time that you will find some reason to believe that there are two groups that were there, and multiple groups that were there not creating any moral equivalency between them, but there were also citizens from Charlottesville, not the outside protester groups.

So I'd ask you to ask the president for clarification, but that's my suspicion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- but just once you see it -- and even Speaker Ryan has spoken about this -- once you see the torches, hear the chants, how can you be a very fine person and continue to march?

BOSSERT: No, I don't think anybody chanting those things is a very fine person. Period.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Bossert, thanks for joining us this morning.

BOSSERT: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our roundtable up next, taking on another week where President Trump demonstrated he's going to do things his way, whatever the consequences.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You're a great example for our country right now. It's got some problems, you know it and i know it. It's got problems that we don't have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Defense Secretary James Mattis there praising the military's role in unifying the country. Our roundtable is here ready to take on another week in politics right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The very dishonest media, those people right up there with all the cameras.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news. These are sick people. You would think they would want to make our country great again. And I honestly believe they don't.

I'm really doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are, and they're bad people. And I really think they don't like our country. I really believe that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump not holding back Tuesday night in Phoenix, even had a little shoutout for me. Good thing I was sleeping through it.

Let's talk about the president on our roundndtable now. Joined by our chief political analyst Matthew Dowd; Julie Pace, the Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press; Roland Martin the host and managing editor of NewsOne Now; Christopher Ruddy who is the CEO of NewsMax Media, a long-time friend of President Trump; and Jen Psaki, communications director for President Obama now with CNN.

And, boy, a lot to get to this week, Matt, including the late-night pardon on Friday night as the hurricane was taking hold of Sheriff Arpaio.

You heard Tom Bossert on that right now, but the president meeting some real fierce opposition here.

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I noticed first, my love and prayers to fellow Texans and what they're going through today, I notice Bossert's -- one of his main points was let's focus on what's going on in Texas and I don't want to focus on this. Well, the president is one that caused us to be focused on, because he did a late night pardon on Friday in the midst -- while the hurricane was going on.

To me it reminds -- what Donald Trump has done and said over the course of his presidency, including the Arpaio pardon, is -- it reminds me of an Emerson quote, which is "your actions speak so loudly I can't hear what you say." So this is somebody that constantly has talked about healing, healing, healing, but almost every single one of his actions as president has been the exact opposite.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Chris Ruddy, pretty clear here the president was determined to do this no matter what. The Washington Post reporting last night that he'd actually asked early in the administration, the attorney general, if he could stop the prosecution of Joe Arpaio. It doesn't appear that he cares what the reaction is.

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I think he sees the situation on an individual basis. He knows Joe Arpaio, 85-year-old guy, has some health conditions, served the country for 50 years. We all cover people where they have been government agencies, or heads of agencies, haven't followed government orders. The Justice Department will fine them. They'll sanction them. Rarely do they ever go to jail.

So, a lol of people look at this case and they say this is political vindictiveness coming out of the Obama Justice Department. The president says, you know what, Obama pardoned and commuted a record number of 1,700 people. We never talk about any of those people. And some of them were murders, some of them were murders. So, we're being very selective on how we're discussing the pardons.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the differences here right now. He waited a couple of years. We went through the Justice Department process, which includes people showing remorse. There's no remorse from Sheriff Arpaio.

But to your point about Sheriff Arpaio's record, the president explicitly in his statement praised the service of Arpaio. We went through his record right there. And I don't think there has ever been a case like this before where you saw a pardon for someone who was defying a court in order to pursue racist ends.

RUDDY: I personally don't like what Sheriff Arpaio did with the racial profiling. The president actually never said that he endorsed any of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he kept Arizona safe. He said he had admirable service.

RUDDY: Well, and I think, you know, look, the guy was elected how many times in Phoenix? I mean, he has a long record. 50 years of public service. And I think, you know, the president looked at this and said, wait a minute, let give this guy a pardon. And there's -- you know, the process for a pardon is very easy. The constitution says the president can give a pardon. That's all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No question he has power.

JEN PSAKI, FRM. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think this was about one thing, and that's Trump's base. And he's clearly nervous about his base. The fact is that's not his biggest problem, though. His biggest problem are the Arpaio pardon feeds into this is that he has moderate Republicans who are dropping off. He has leaders in congress who are questioning whether they want to be with him and be partners. And he's also spent the last few weeks alienating large swaths of the population.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie Pace, you even saw -- one second -- you even saw the speaker of the House come out pretty quickly to oppose this. That's been a rare move by the speaker.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It has. Paul Ryan has tried to kind of split the difference here on these types of issues where he will condemn sometimes the outcome, but not the president himself. This was more forceful.

But to have the speaker, to have the two senators from Arizona, several other Republicans come out pretty quickly and oppose this action in this climate where Jen is talking about where you have seen Republicans moving away on other issues from the president, it makes him turn to his base, it makes him want to get the love from his base that he's so used to on the campaign trail. But that is not the weak spot for him right now.

ROLAND MARTIN, NEWSONE NOW: I do not want us to forget what Arpaio did. He racially profiled individuals. I'm not dealing with the politics. He defied a court order. That's what he did. What Trump has been doing has been pushing the racial resentment buttons of white Americans from the elections to the present day. He was also in line with the birther that was racist and shameful, his attacks on President Obama.

Trump and Arpaio have yet to apologize for that. And what is even more shameful on these conservative Evangelicals who stand with Trump, who have not condemned the inhumane treatment by Arpaio, and that's Paula White, that's Jerry Fallwell Jr., that's Ralph Reed, they are more focused on the p-r-o-f-i-t of the faith, not the p-r-o-p-h-e-t. Be prophetic voices who lead.

RUDDY: This guy can't win.

Trump can't win, right?

He's either a racist, he...

MARTIN: No, no, I didn't call him a racist. What I simply said is...

RUDDY: Well, he's...

MARTIN: -- he has...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- racial...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, no, no. When he...

RUDDY: Anyone that's known the guy -- and I've known him for a lot of -- a long time -- many, many people who have known him, no one has ever heard him ever engage in any racial anything.

MARTIN: Here's my point.

RUDDY: Look, let's talk about black...

MARTIN: Sheriff Arpaio was racially profiling...

RUDDY: How was he racially profiling?

MARTIN: The court said it. That's why he was held in contempt.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what he was convicted of.

MARTIN: That's the point -- the reason we're having this conversation and the reason he got pardoned is because he racially profiled.

How can you ignore that?

RUDDY: I haven't studied the whole case, but...

MARTIN: I have.

RUDDY: -- I wonder...

MARTIN: The federal judge did.

RUDDY: Look, this -- I think we're going into a period where it's not fake news, it's very selective news (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: No, it's factual news.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- we wouldn't actually be talking about this if President Trump did not issue...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the Tweet and the pardon...

RUDDY: Let's go to (INAUDIBLE)...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Friday night at 10:00.

RUDDY: -- in 1967, when Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty, blacks had 3 percent of GDP, 12 percent of the population. Fifty years later, they have 12 percent of the population...

MARTIN: Chris (INAUDIBLE)...

RUDDY: -- 3 percent of GDP...

MARTIN: Chris, we're not chasing that down the rabbit hole.

RUDDY: So Trump is coming and saying hey, let's improve black empowerment by...

MARTIN: No, no (INAUDIBLE)...

RUDDY: -- economic...

MARTIN: No, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I think (INAUDIBLE) are some problems with what you're saying...

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: -- is that actions speak louder than words, as the old saying goes. And when you're president of the United States, you have no more power than to act to help people.

The large swaths of the African-American population in this country feel completely alienated after Charlottesville.

MARTIN: Jen...

PSAKI: -- large...

MARTIN: -- I'm not going to chase this rabbit hole...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: No, no, no. Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: -- go after Charlottesville...

MARTIN: Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- Chris, Chris...

RUDDY: -- that blacks...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: One at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- I'm not going to shift the story, which is what you're trying to do. He pardoned a man who racially profiled and was sanctioned by a federal court. He could have allowed him to also appeal.

You mentioned President Obama and commutations. Those are people who were sentenced, who were in jail.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Arpaio wasn't...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: So what he did is he actually got a...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Chris...

RUDDY: (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: -- Chris, you can try to shift the story, but he racially profiled.

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: My big concern...

MARTIN: Nice try.

DOWD: -- just to drop back a bit -- a little bit on this -- is Donald Trump, in his desire to destabilize the status quo, which he -- which needs reform and all that, has gone out of his way to decimate the common standards and the attributes of our country and the institutions of our country, where the last two weeks have demonstrated how much we need the institutions of our government.

Charlottesville was a demonstration of how much we need a president that can heal, that can bring the country together, can unify and not benefit by racial divisions and this.

The hurricane that we're in is a demonstration of how important the institutions of the government are. And as Donald Trump, one after another after another, decimates those institutions, we have an inability, as a country, to unify and fix it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other ways he's taking on the institutions and he's taking on his own party right now, pretty remarkable this week, a series of Tweets from the president, also talking in Phoenix, where he takes on all of the leaders of the party, from Paul Ryan to Mitch McConnell to Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John McCain, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski. It's (INAUDIBLE)something.

It's -- we've never seen anything like this, either the president heading into September, where he's got to keep the government open, get the debt limit passed, try to pass a tax reform bill and he's saving his fire for his own party.

PACE: For the exact people that he needs to make progress on all of those things that you talked about. And in talking to Republican operatives who are working on 2018 races the last couple of weeks, it's driving them crazy that he's targeting these Republicans instead of some of the Democrats that are up in 2018 in these really tough races.

They understand why he does it, because he doesn't see himself, necessarily, as part of this party. This is a pure marriage of convenience here.

But whether they like it or not, the Republican Party and the president are linked together, at least for the next 18 months.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: This is manna from heaven. If you're a Democrat, you're saying, please keep Tweeting, because you're simply riding my...

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: It's not good for the country, though.

MARTIN: Well, no, no, no, no, no. I understand that.

DOWD: Politically, it might benefit the Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Well, no. But what I'm saying is, every time he attacks one of the Republican senators, he is literally writing the commercial of their Democratic opponent.

RUDDY: George, I think he should rethink the attacks on Senator McConnell. I think he's a strong conservative. He's -- ;look, the president's biggest accomplishment, if you look back, is Neil Gorsuch, and it was Senator McConnell that pushed that through.

He's got very strong support in the Senate. Paul Ryan gave the president a very damaged bill of goods with the health care and I think there's a lot of angst over that.

But I think the president should -- and I've urged him privately and publicly to reach out, create a bipartisan consensus like President Bush did, get legislation through.

This is a guy that can...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: (INAUDIBLE) listening to. You.

RUDDY: Well, it's...

(LAUGHTER)

RUDDY: Yes, but it's -- the reason is people (INAUDIBLE) why isn't the president (INAUDIBLE)?

He has been under such attack by the press. No president has ever sustained this attack. There are people like Maxine Waters calling for his impeachment before he even took the oath of office.

It's horrific what's going on...

(CROSSTALK)

But there's a difference between...

RUDDY: So if you're a -- that's...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: -- he's in campaign mode all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: He's dumping a bucket of water on his head and complaining of being wet.

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: He constantly...

RUDDY: I would say that you and everybody else in the major media is dumping the bucket, not...

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: Wait a second, how many of Donald Trump's wounds over the last seven months have been self-inflicted, seriously?

PSAKI: The majority.

RUDDY: Well, I wouldn't say they're self-inflicted, but I would say that he should rise above and not punch down and go to a higher road and try to reach out to even some of his enemies, which...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: … that's exactly what happens. He goes to the VFW on Wednesday, all talks about unity, but that was after the barn-burner on Tuesday night.

One chorus, Jen Psaki, that is endorsing, it seems, what the president is doing right now, taking on Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, those who left the White House, Steve Bannon and Seb Gorka, who are now pretty determined sort of reinforce the president's strategy by attacking those allies in Congress and also those inside the White House who they think aren't conservative enough.

PSAKI: Right. And they've made clear that some of their enemies are in the White House, right, and people that they're going to continue to attack. Now the problem with this is that Donald Trump won with not a huge overwhelming sweeping victory. He has a little bit of wiggle room, not a ton of wiggle room.

And so when he and people on the outside attack people like Mitch McConnell, people who he needs to be partners, these are not people that will be as popular as Donald Trump around the country, but they are people who will be his street fighters in getting stuff done.

And he has no legacy-building accomplishments.

MARTIN: The first lady of the United States said she wanted to go -- a campaign against bullying. She might want to start with the president. He thinks he can bully Congress. Look, those are the folks you need. You might want to play nice with them. But that doesn't exist with him. He is used to being a bully. We're seeing the "bully-in-chief." That's the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: He's a tough negotiator.

MARTIN: No, that's bull.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't he going to have to back down in September? There's no way Democrats are going to approve any money for a border wall.

DOWD: You'll never see those words come out of his mouth or say this is what I did. He'll basically shift it like he has every other time he has done this, he has shifted it.

I am struck -- first of all, I hope Donald Trump, in the course of the next five days, brings the immense power of the government and the relationships he had to deal with this...

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: When he's not hawking a book by somebody else in the morning while people in Houston are underwater. If he would just get off of that and focus on that.

I'm struck by George W. Bush, who I worked for, was elected in very questionable circumstances, as we remember, in 2000.

MARTIN: Just a little bit.

DOWD: George W. Bush, in his first steps, reached across the aisle on the tax bill with Max Baucus, a Democratic senator, reached across the aisle to Ted Kennedy on the education. In all of those circumstances, he understood that he didn't win the popular vote. He was under -- he was questioned as a legitimate president, and sought to figure out how -- a way to get through that. in Donald Trump has decided do the exact opposite strategy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure seems, Julie, that he's more interested in securing his base right now than in expanding it into a governing coalition. And now you cover the White House every day, I wonder what your sense is of what kind of atmosphere that is causing inside the White House right now?

We saw Gary Cohn speak out. You heard Tom Bossert there as well. A loft churning inside, but also a lot of relief that General Kelly is there.

PACE: Absolutely, the stretch after Charlottesville was one of the most extraordinary stretches I've seen in any White House that I have covered in terms of how the staff was responding to that. You had people that were really on edge.

Now none of them have left, so you can't give people too much credit for the things they're saying privately and trying to push the media behind the scenes, but there's a lot of tension about the future of this administration, whether the president can get this on-track.

And they feel like the best way that he can do that is to have some accomplishments, actual tangible accomplishments on the legislative front in September.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Which may be why Gary Cohn stayed.

PACE: Which may be why someone like a Gary Cohn stays, to actually try to push tax reform forward, or at least a tax cut, which is what we're talking about right now.

But even that is going to be really difficult.

DOWD: It's "Profiles in Almost Courage." That's all this is. They want to get credit for taking a moral stand without taking an actual moral stand. And that's my problem with this.

If Gary Cohn actually believed what he said, and it wasn't just a way to sort of say -- give a wink to people and say, oh, I really disagree with this but I'm going to stay here, if he really believed it, then he should have taken a real stand.

MARTIN: And, George, the crazy thing is, you have Democrats who probably would be there on tax reform. But if you have made no effort, if you trash them all day, and you have made no effort to even talk to them, and then they're watching you trash your people, they're saying, you know what, I'm good. I'm going to stay right here because I'm not wasting my time going to the White House visiting you.

RUDDY: I think a Donald Trump criticism is not a normal political criticism. Everybody knows it's a little bit theatrical. I would take it with a grain of salt, some of his attacks on the press. And he's creating these negotiating...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: You're laughing because you know it's true, George. He's creating...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: He's the type of guy, though, he can't love you until he hates. So, you know, he will reach out. You know, the nice thing about him is he'll criticize Mika and Joe, but he's not going to call the IRS to do an audit of Mika and Joe.

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: … and just lets it hang out. People sort of like it.

MARTIN: He's such a blessing.

RUDDY: And look, we voted for it. The country...

MARTIN: Actually, 94 percent of black women didn't.

RUDDY: It was a big electoral college victory. So, I think the president has some support. And I think he will reach out. I think he's just creating a negotiating position.

MARTIN: Well, thank you he didn't call the IRS. We appreciate that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, one thing people will wonder...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You see a lot of Democrats saying in the wake of this Arpaio pardon what that really was was a signal to anyone who might be a target of Robert Mueller's investigation, I've got your back.

PSAKI: Well, yes. And here's why, the process piece of this that should be concerning to people is one, that he sought out his attorney general to see if he could get rid of this nasty piece of legal business against his political friend. And two, the Department of Justice was not remotely involved in the pardon, which they have said that. That is what is very different from past presidents.

So, it just furthers this belief that he lives above the law, that he doesn't think that he is all powerful, that the checks and balances that have been in place for decades, hundreds of years, don't apply to him, and that's concerning to people because people suspect there could be a need for more pardons to come for other political allies.

DOWD: He ran on this law and order candidate, and has done his very best to try to dent the law and order of our country and the rule of law.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word today. Thank you all very much.

Up next, the debate over President Trump's new strategy in Afghanistan with top advisers from Presidents Bush and Obama. Is the goal achieving victory or simply avoiding defeat?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, President Trump's new policy for Afghanistan. Is it a winning strategy for America's longest war? That debate is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we have a clear and focused goal -- to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same -- we will defeat you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them and we will defeat them handily.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Sixteen years in Afghanistan. You see the president is right there.

And we are joined now by two of America's foremost experts on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as America's ambassador to Afghanistan and the United Nations under President Bush; and retired General Douglas Lute, who advised both Presidents Bush and Obama on Afghan policy and served as U.S. ambassador to NATO.

And gentlemen, welcome to both of you.

And first to Khalilzad, let me begin with you.

You've applauded the president's speech.

But aside from taking away the time line on withdrawal, what exactly is new here and why will it work when other approaches haven't?

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Well, I think what is new -- and I endorse it -- is the sharp focus on Pakistan. I don't think either President Bush or President Obama focused as sharply, as clearly, that the sanctuary issue, Pakistan's both role as a facilitator of and a help to Afghanistan and as a sanctuary for those who fight us and in exchange, receive a lot of assistance is not the number.

This has been, in my judgment, the single most important factor, the Pakistan problem, for prolonging the war...

(CROSSTALK)

KHALILZAD: -- the sanctuary issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that, in part, because we have precious little leverage over Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons?

KHALILZAD: Well, we do have leverage. We haven't exercised it, in my view. We have the leverage of cutting off assistance. We have the leverage of going after the sanctuaries. We have the leverage of putting those individuals, as we do it in the case of the Soviet -- Russia -- or we do it in the case of Iran, to put individuals who support groups such as the Taliban, terrorist groups like Haqqani, on a black list.

You know, we could put Pakistan on the list of state-sponsored terror. So, the fact that they have nuclear weapons should not prevent us from taking protecting our interests or taking the steps that are necessary to shape Pakistani calculation.

I think Pakistan feels comfortable with doing both. We need to get them out of that zone of comfort.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will that make the difference?

LUTE: i don't think so. i'm actually skeptical that we have sufficient leverage against Pakistan to change their strategic calculus.

I think very important to start from Pakistan's perspective and try to understand this problem from their perspective looking out. We don't have to accept their perspective, but understanding it is the start point.

And that start point begins with their view that their tension, that their competition with India is existential and everything flows through that lens. So, I think if you look at it from that perspective, if you look at the internal stability, or potential for instability in Pakistan, with their Pashtun population, with their Baloch population, you begin to understand better why Pakistan has perhaps played this dual game.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other big questions here is what does victory look like? Is it, in fact, possible? And the president and secretary of state seemed to have different messages on that this week. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. We will defeat them and we will defeat them handily.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So simply, it seems like the secretary of state is simply saying there we want to get to a stalemate where the Taliban feel they have to negotiate.

I guess one of the questions is can you do that -- if 100,000 troops didn't work, how are 8,000 more going work?

LUTE: Well, if your goal is stalemate, we have achieved it. I mean, we have not only a stalemate on the security situation, but in my view a three-fold stalemate on the political front. We have a political stalemate in Kabul. We have a political stalemate in the region. And we have a political stalemate with regards to trying to enter talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

So, the politics of this are just as stalemated. And I think more important than the security situation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is going to make the Taliban come around?

KHALILZAD: Well, I think when they have two conditions. One that they believe they cannot win. And I think -- I disagree with on this because I think that the stalemate has been shifting in favor of the Taliban in recent weeks and months.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They have been gaining ground?

KHALILZAD: They have been gaining ground. So why should they negotiate for peace if they think they're going to win the war? And a key factor that would influence it is not only to blunt that progress on their part, but to also affect the calculation of their sponsor of their supporter, particularly Pakistan. And therefore I think we have to see the details -- more details of how the president wants to proceed in terms of details details of what he will do to affect the calculus of the Talibs and of Pakistan.

But I think that's the only way...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But can't they always wait us out. I mean, you hear the cliche they think in generations, centuries. We think in election cycles.

KHALILZAD: Right.

Well, I mean, that is a cliche, but I think they are also practical people if they believe, especially if they're sponsors comes to a judgment because of their national interests, Pakistan, that they are in a position, in my view, to bring them to the negotiating table.

And I think that -- the Pakistani military believes that we will abandon Afghanistan, and therefore, they will have the opportunity to have Taliban come back to power. And I hope that this strategy, assume it is implemented effectively, that we persist and assume that the Afghan government does what it should do, and this is maybe their last chance, that this shift in their calculations could occur.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That means nation building?

LUTE: Well, I'm not sure. I mean, the president said it does not mean nation building. But I think it goes to Zal's point about we have the outline, or the sketch of a strategy, but we don't really have the details.

As a practitioner, I've learned over the years that strategy has three parts. What it is you want to accomplish. How you're going to do it and then the resources required.

Last Monday, we heard a lot about what it is we want to accomplish -- win and so forth, durable solution and so forth. We heard very little on how. And we heard almost nothing on the resources required.

So, until you have that whole three-part package, it's very hard to critique something that is only an outline.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to take a real diplomatic push.

KHALILZAD: A significant diplomatic push. This has to be in the service, this military effort, of a diplomatic effort. And the president needs to appoint someone that he has confidence in that can lead the overall effort, especially the diplomatic effort. It can't be done by the regular bureaucracy at some low level, it needs to be done by someone that the president knows and has confidence in.

LUTE: And, George, this diplomatic effort has got to be beyond Kabul and it's got to be beyond Kabul and Islamabad, it's got to be a regional approach to include some regional players who are very important to us and other areas, other arenas -- Iran, Russia, China, all have a hand in this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Better both be careful, you might end up with new jobs.

We're going to be right back with more on Hurricane Harvey live from Houston, Texas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We do want to go back to Houston, Texas right now. The situation is getting worse. Officials warning residents to stay off the streets, get out of their attics, get on to their roofs. And our own reporter, Victor Oquendo is there on the scene, been in some trouble himself -- Victor.

VICTOR OQUENDO, ABC NEWS: George, this is an area that normally doesn't flood. Police officers thought this location would be OK for us, but things just wept from bad to worse very quickly all across Houston. And the water is much deeper than this across this whole parking lot.

Just take a look down that way. That black car submerged. And beyond that, it is even worse. We're talking about waist-deep waters. Roads are turned into rivers. The highway, it's right is behind me, cars are stalled out all over the place. The latest numbers, 24 inches of rain in the Houston area, and more than 1,000 rescues.

We're actually one of those rescues. Take a look as we continue to walk around here. All of our cars are now being moved up on to the sidewalk here. That is a constable's SUV that's up there on that high water rescue unit -- the flat bed of that tow truck there.

Right now, for us, our game plan is to stay safe. We're getting a break from one of those stronger bands right now. As soon as the water recedes a little bit, we'll likely move to a safer location, be moving up to higher ground.

Things are bad across the Houston area right now. And unfortunately it looks like it's going to be this way for a few days -- George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Victor Oquendo in Houston, thanks very much.

We'll be right back after this from our ABC stations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. You can get the latest on Hurricane Harvey from the ABC News app and World News tonight. I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.

END

Comments