"This Week" Transcript 12-31-17: Adm. Mike Mullen

PHOTO: Admiral Michael Mullen speaks onstage at the 2017 New York City Salute to Service Awards at Metropolitan Pavilion, April 26, 2017 in New York City. PlayNoam Galai/Getty Images, FILE
WATCH Former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen joins 'This Week'

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT THAT WILL BE UPDATED

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopolous starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA RADDATZ, CO-ANCHOR, THIS WEEK: A wild 2017 comes to a close.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: There are a lot of good things that are happening.

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RADDATZ: President Trump scoring a big political win.

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TRUMP: It's having an even bigger impact, faster than I thought.

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RADDATZ: Shaking up the political landscape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If I didn't have social media, I wouldn't be able to get the word out.

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RADDATZ: And redefining our role in the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: With every decision and every action, we are now putting America first.

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RADDATZ: Trump is touting his accomplishments this year, but how much did he really deliver? Will breaking international agreements mean breaking bonds with our allies? Former Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen and our power house round table ready to take on those debates, and more.

Plus, as we take stock of one year and look ahead to the next, we'll tackle the political fault lines here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Believe me, one way or the other, we're going to get that wall.

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RADDATZ: And across the globe...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Little rocket man...

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RADDATZ: And the countdown begins. The New York Police Department bracing for New Year's Eve. Our inside look at the unprecedented forces in place, live from Times Square.

From the White House to your house, the facts that matter this week.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: Good morning on this New Year's Eve. An incredible roller coaster of a year, 2017, just hours from becoming history. The clock has already struck midnight in Sydney, Australia as they ring in 2018. Across the Atlantic, the streets of London are preparing for tonight's festivities.

And here in the U.S., more than a million people are expected to gather in a frigid Times Square for the annual ball drop. We'll have more on the security preparations from New York and much of the later in the program, but we begin by reflecting on the past year, and anticipating the challenges ahead.

There will be celebrations across the country tonight, but in this divided nation, what we celebrate will be decidedly different. Many will cheer being one year closer to the end of President Trump's term; others looking forward to another year of Trump's unique, no-holds-barred style.

There's not much common ground among Americans these days, but it's fair to say no one could have imagined what a wild year it's been.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: I'm president. Can you believe it, right?

RADDATZ: It's been a year like no other.

TRUMP: It's a whole different attitude; a whole different way.

RADDATZ: Things got off to a rough start.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

RADDATZ: Despite multiple White House staff shake-ups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone on the president's team pictured here now gone, except for the vice president.

RADDATZ: Trump's influence on America is undeniable. His Supreme Court pick sitting on the bench.

TRUMP: And I got it done in the first 100 days. That's even nice.

RADDATZ: The biggest tax overhaul in more than three decades signed into law.

TRUMP: That's your bill.

RADDATZ: And major regulations reversed in a crusade Trump has vowed to carry on. The president also waded into culture wars.

TRUMP: Get that son of a (CENSORED AUDIO) off the field right now. Out. He's fired.

(CHEERS)

TRUMP: He's fired.

RADDATZ: Often fanning the flames of division.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides.

I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.

(LAUGHTER)

RADDATZ: He fell short on his major campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

TRUMP: We're not getting the job done. And I'm not going to blame myself. I'll be honest.

RADDATZ: An agenda often sidetracked by questions of Russian influence, and the shadow of the Muller investigation.

TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you just (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.

RADDATZ: And on the world stage, Trump let the country to look inward.

TRUMP: I'm not -- and I don't want to be -- the president of the world. I'm the president of the United States, and from now on, it's going to be America first.

RADDATZ: But the president will carry with him a number of global challenges in 2018, chief among them, North Korea.

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.

RADDATZ: Trump's tough talk backed up last week by new U.N. sanctions, a move called "an act of war" by North Korea. Another test: China. Will he continue to treat China as an ally to prevent war with North Korea, or an adversary on trade?

On Iran, Trump must decide next month whether to make good on his threat to end the Iran nuclear deal.

And the Russian threat looms. Reports out this week show Russia will continue to target the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections with online information warfare. While Trump can claim some success in the fight against the Islamic state...

TRUMP: We have dealt ISIS one devastating defeat after another.

RADDATZ: ...what's left of the insurgent force is pushing into parts of Syria and outside the Middle East. And of course, ISIS continues to inspire those lone wolves here at home and around the globe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: So how will Trump handle those challenges both domestic and abroad in the new year? Joining me now, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Admiral Mike Mullen. Good morning, Admiral Mullen. Let me ask you right away how you would characterize the Trump presidency this last year?

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Right. I think it's been incredibly disruptive, certainly unpredictable in many, many ways. And what you talked about globally, Martha, certainly from those who is have been our friends for many years, ask questions about our commitments to them, to the region, to the leadership that we have exhibited over the last seven years and the institutions that we care about, and our enemies. Those that would do us ill seem to be able to take advantage of the uncertainty as well, and you mentioned both Russia and China, and my expectations that will continue to be the case for them as well as Iran and North Korea.

RADDATZ: Well, let me tell you what they said from the White House. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who you know well, says he has been moved out of his comfort zone, as well as others in the White House, yet his advisers, according to The New York Times, argue he has blown the cobwebs off decades of foreign policy doctrine and as he approaches his first anniversary that he has learned the realities of the world in which the United States must operate.

Do you see that happening at all?

MULLEN: Well, certainly, I would say he's -- he's been incredibly disruptive with respect to the institutions, the commitments, the leadership, where we have been for the last 70 years. And I think a big question for us as the American people is whether we continue to support those institutions and all they represent in a world that is pretty chaotic, as you pointed out in your opening. And that becomes a fundamental question. And clearly, the president has chosen to try to disrupt and break those up as much as possible, create a great uncertainty. And in my view, an incredibly dangerous climate exists out there in that uncertainty with how this all ends up in -- and one in particular that is -- top of the list is North Korea.

We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been. And I just don't see how -- I don't see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.

RADDATZ: I want to drill down on North Korea in just a few minutes, but I want to go back to a month ago when you were on the show. You said you had some concerns with so many generals in the White House and elsewhere in the administration, but that they were seen as providing stability, calmness and reasoned views for the future. Given what you just said as well, do you think President Trump is stable?

MULLEN: Yeah, I don't question the stability. I just think it's the view. And I think that I have watched Secretary Mattis and General McMaster and General Kelly on the national security issues over time I think get the president to a point where he makes a decision that may be counter to his instincts. My concern is how long that actually lasts.

And in particular, that the peninsula in North Korea and will he follow through on his rhetoric? Or will we actually be able to get to a situation where it could be solved peacefully? And I'm just more inclined to see over time that the rhetoric seems to be where the president is, and that will limit the constraining ability that both Jim Mattis and H.R. McMaster and John Kelly have.

RADDATZ: And let me talk about Iran, because that's in the news this morning. There are protesters out on the street. President Trump is tweeting this morning about those protests in Iran. Big protests in Iran, the people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations.

Is that the right response from President Trump as far as you're concerned?

MULLEN: Well, I think the focus there is incredibly important. Many of us have spoken for years about the oppression that occurs in the Middle East by many, many governments, and certainly, we have great disagreements with Iran who still supports terrorism, obviously oppresses their own people. They're struggling right now with the growth in their economy that they were promised once the sanctions were lifted and so I think that's the real struggle.

What isn't very clear to me at this point is how much of a backlash this will create from those who are -- who really run that government -- the Supreme Leader as well as the IRGC, and how hard they'll come down on their people.

We certainly should be on guard for human rights violations. And I think we should be supportive of more freedoms in that country.

RADDATZ: And that didn't work in 2009. Might it work this time? What would be different?

MULLEN: Well, I think that the 2009 timeframe is very instructive. I think we chose to not be as supportive as we could have been then. And I hope we can be right now so that Iran can continue to evolve.

They have an incredibly young population. They look to a future that they cannot see. They've been promised change and a healthier economy by the current government. And I think the protests represent the inability to deliver that so far.

So, I think support of them and their people is absolutely the right thing to do.

RADDATZ: And if the nuclear deal is scrapped, President Trump faces another deadline this month, or next month, rather.

MULLEN: Well, I mean, I worry greatly about the fact that the Iranians will bring forward a nuclear weapon capability in that part of the country. They were very close when the deal was struck. They can redevelop it, I think, very rapidly. And, if that -- if we get nuclear weapons proliferated in that region, not unlike the Pacific region, if North Korea is able to sustain its nuclear capability, the proliferation of those incredibly deadly weapons will endanger not just the region, but the globe, and Iran is another example of that.

RADDATZ: I want to turn again to North Korea and drill down on that a little bit. I have been out on some of the carriers over there. We see the show of force. That never seems to work with them. What is the point of the show of force?

MULLEN: Well, I think -- actually I think it is important to continue to remind the north that we're there, that we will support our allies in the region, South Korea and Japan. And that show of force demonstrates a -- a backdrop, if you will, of commitment to the region. And it's a very strong way to message the leadership in Pyongyang. How much he'll respond, I'm not really sure at this particular point. But I wouldn't want to give him any room by not presenting that, Martha. I think it's important to ensure that he knows we're out there and very committed to the stability in that region, and in fact committed to getting to a point where he -- where we denuclearize that peninsula.

The key to that, and you mentioned that early -- the key to that is will China -- will China actually really force the resolution of the issue on that peninsula?

RADDATZ: Exactly what I was going to ask you about. President Trump was also tweeting about China. "Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korean problem if this continues to happen."

Does this tell you that China isn't helping as much as they should?

MULLEN: Well, I think President Trump has made China move more than they have in the past. Whether they will continue to do that to help resolve this is the open question.

And I think a real measure of how this all comes out is whether China is going to commit to a peaceful resolution here. If they don't, then I worry a great deal that it's much more likely there will be conflict than a peaceful resolution.

RADDATZ: OK. On that, we have to say good-bye and happy new year. Admiral Mullen, thanks for joining us.

MULLEN: Thanks, Martha.

RADDATZ: Coming up, President Trump managed to end the year delivering on a big campaign promise with his tax plan. Now he's setting his sights on another major promise, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. When we come back, we're on the ground and in the air with Texas Governor Greg Abbott over the border. We'll separate fact from fiction on this major 2018 priority, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: Time and again in 2017, President Trump changed the conversation with his Twitter feed. And a new analysis shows just how much the president dominated the social media universe. President Trump, who is, by far, the most talked-about political figure on Twitter this year, with over 900 million mentions, more than five times former President Obama. And the most discussed news stories of 2017, nearly all revolved around the president as well.

The top news story on Twitter, the Russian investigation, followed by the health care debate, immigration, those devastating hurricanes, and James Comey.

The powerhouse "Roundtable" will dive into the topics they think will dominate the 2018 conversation later in the program. But up next, our closer look at the president's border wall promise.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: When Congress heads back to Washington after the New Year, they’re going to have to take up the thorny issue of immigration reform. And President Trump is drawing a line in the sand, tweeting this Friday, "The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border."

Translation, there will be no help for young people who were brought here illegally as children, the so called dreamers, unless Congress pays for the wall. In September, President Trump said he would end the DACA program the protected dreamers, and gave Congress until March 2018 to come up with a fix.

His tweet this week highlights a big political battle over immigration coming in the new year, and it underscores the President’s failure so far to live up to that campaign promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.

RADDATZ: It’s been a signature promise since day one, and a campaign hallmark.

TRUMP: We are going to build the wall.

RADDATZ: Back in 2016, he had this crowd in Texas fired up. Texas owns the longest stretch of the Southwest border, and it’s where many make the crossing from Mexico to the U.S.

That’s Mexico right there?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TX: Yes.

RADDATZ: So I traveled there earlier this year to get a first hand look with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, getting a bird’s eye view of the Rio Grande.

ABBOTT: Look right here, and you’ll how it snakes around here, and keeps going on around. So it’s one big constant S shape.

RADDATZ: The U.S. Southern border stretches 18,027 miles, broken up by rivers, deserts, mountains, and canyons. Looking out of that helicopter at the dizzying terrain, we could see some of the barriers already in place.

ABBOTT: You see the wall, there’s a gate part of it straight down over here.

RADDATZ: But the wall Trump is proposing could look very different. Early on, he seemed to waffle on what form it might take.

TRUMP: The fence will be – yes, it could be – yes it could be some fencing.

RADDATZ: And more recently…

TRUMP: So you need to have a great wall, but it has to be – has to be see through. We’re looking at different examples already of see through walls, and I think also, to be honest with you, a see through wall would look better.

RADDATZ: What does a see through wall look like? Maybe like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, it allows for the officer to have visibility as to what may be posed or situated on the southern – on the Mexican side of the boarder.

RADDATZ: Customs and boarder protection has already started testing several prototypes, looking at how easy it is to scale, breach, or tunnel under.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a daily threat along the Southwest border. Whether it’s illegal migration, narcotics, or the potential importation of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction, there is a threat that exists here every day.

RADDATZ: But in 2017, border apprehensions were at the lowest point in more than 40 years. The administration says tougher deportation enforcement may be deterring illegal border crossings.

THOMAS HOMAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATIONS AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: This president, like him or love him, is doing the right thing. 45 year low on boarder crossing, that’s not a coincidence, that’s based on this president and his belief of letting the men working (ph) of ICE and border patrol do their job.

RADDATZ: Back in January, just days into his administration, Trump signed executive orders calling for more ICE officers and border patrol agents, but overall this year, there were fewer border patrol agents on the job, and hiring for Trump’s executive orders won’t fully kick in until at least next year.

And as the calendar flips to 2018, Trump seems to be ramping up his border wall push.

TRUMP: And we’re calling on Congress to fund the border wall which we’re getting very close to.

RADDATZ: But how close are we really? Trump will first need to get Congress on board, likely a tough sell with democrats.

SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: I made it so, so clear to the president that there is not going to be a wall in the appropriations process or in others, at one point he said to me, go easy on the wall, I said no.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: So, can President Trump and Congress find a way to make a deal, and will the wall be Trump’s signature move in 2018 or another campaign promise shot down by Congress.

Let’s bring in our power house round table, ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page, FiveThirtyEight Senior Political Writer Perry Bacon Jr. and the Washington Post Pulitzer Prize Winning Reporter, Mary Jordan. Welcome to you all. Happy New Year. I’m going to start with you, Matt. Is it going to be a happy New Year for the president? The border wall was one of his biggest campaign promises, as we heard. Can he really get bipartisan support on this? You heard Chuck Schumer talking tough there.

MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Well, I -- I’m going to go along with what the admiral had said earlier, which is he’s been very disruptive and unpredictable and that is likely to be the case in 2018. So I have a hard time predicting in an unpredictable world. But here’s a couple of problems he has. First is, as you noted, the Democrats.

There’s no incentive for the Democrats to make a deal on this. They’re in a midterm election year, their base can’t stand Donald Trump, they want to do -- him to do everything possible to fight him at every point in the way. And then the other problem is the Republicans. In the Republican…

RADDATZ: But there’s no deal on the DREAMers.

DOWD: I don’t think there’s a deal on the DREAMers if it means give up the walls. And then the Republicans on the other hand have basically busted the budget with the tax bill, the ability to find the extra funds to do that. And they’d have to compromise on DACA, which is very much against what their base wants in this. So I think in an unpredictable year, I think it’s very hard to cut the deal.

RADDATZ: And Susan, do you agree with Matt? Or the admiral, let’s say.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, definitely President Trump faces a lot of pressure to deliver on the wall. He’s been talking about it for two and a half years. But Democrats also face a lot of pressure to do something about the DREAMers. You know, President Obama, in his first election, promised to do something on immigration reform. He was never able to deliver on that legislatively.

A lot of Hispanic leaders were (ph) very upset when this year ended without any action -- any long term action to protect the DREAMers. So the one way in which you might find a deal is if those two imperatives come together.

RADDATZ: And Mary, you’ve been doing these wonderful pieces, talking to Trump voters, Trump supporters. Do you think they really care about the wall or expect it to be built?

MARY JORDAN, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I think it’s very interesting that many of the people that voted for Donald Trump -- you know, I was at the rallies and they would be all energized when he’d say build that beautiful wall. Then you’d talk to them and they say well, it’s not a real wall, it’s not a physical wall, it’s more of a figurative wall. And he has already delivered for them.

I was just recently back down at Texas and they were saying look, he’s accelerating deportations, he’s stopped refugees coming in, we actually already kind of have a wall around the United States. People don’t want to come here. And -- and so he’s kind of already delivered. He doesn’t necessarily have to deliver it in -- you know, a very impractical, very expensive physical wall.

RADDATZ: And so let’s just quickly go around the table. I think I know your answer. Will we have a wall at the end of his term?

DOWD: Not as he defines it. But if he redefines it (ph) as a fence, he may have a fence, but he won’t have a wall.

RADDATZ: If a wall’s a wall, no.

PERRY BACON JR., SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: What Matthew said. Essentially, something that is wall-like, is a way you’d define (ph) a wall as, but not the wall he campaigned on, but something that’s more fencing and more border security. (Inaudible) for sure.

JORDAN: He’ll build something but there’s no way you’re going to build something through that, what you saw. (ph)

RADDATZ: Oh boy. That -- that -- yes, that…

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: There we go. And they’ll move on. And speaking of victory, we got the tax reform, we got the tax cuts, but when you look ahead, Perry, to 2018, their legislative agenda is pretty incredible. Immigration and DACA, government funding, Obamacare fix, children’s health insurance, disaster relief. How much harder will it be to get an agreement on any of those? And we already talked about DACA, but it -- given what he did with tax reform?

BACON JR.: Those are all really hard, because the Republicans in the -- on the Hill really wanted to get taxes done. That’s something their donors care about, something their base cares about. Look at those idea, though (ph) (inaudible) Obamacare fix. How many House Republicans came to Congress to fix Obamacare in any way possible? I think you’re looking at a lot of issues -- they punted all the issues (ph) that are really hard for the party, where the party is divided and it’s going to be really hard to get those done, particularly in an election year.

RADDATZ: And Susan, just quickly, do you -- in addition to all that, ABC NEWS has learned that they’re going to have this big infrastructure package. President Trump has said that’s the easiest thing of all. Will that be easy?

PAGE: It’s not going to be easy because there’s no agreement across party lines on how to fund it.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much. We’ve got much more round table coming up, breaking down the biggest moments from 2017 and looking ahead to what’s in store in the New Year. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARAMUCCI: I made a mistake. I'm accountable for the mistake. I paid the consequences of that mistake and I was honorably dismissed and I took it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDITZ: Anthony Scaramucci, on This Week. Earlier this year the short-tenured White House Communications Director was just one of the high-profile departures from President Trump's senior staff in 2017, which saw turnover like no other in recent history.

Among those who resigned or were shown the door: Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Tom Price and Omarosa. The Brookings Institution says at least one third of the president's senior staff has resigned, been fired or reassigned since Inauguration Day.

And ABC News has learned another West Wing staff restructuring is planned for the coming weeks. The powerhouse roundtable takes on the year that was and looks ahead to 2018 when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: And we are back now with our roundtable. And we're going to get a little reflective here, we're going to look back, look forward. And I want to go around the table and ask you as you look back on the last year, Matthew, what was the most pivotal moment in the Trump presidency in your mind?

DOWD: You know, we reflect on a lot. There were so many. I thought Charlottesville was important and all of these moments along the way, but I have to say I think the most -- the moment that defined the year was the inauguration of the president, because I think after a crazy 2016 presidential race, many people thought the presidency would be different, it could change Donald Trump, and he would actually be a different kind of person. We learned on that day and in that speech, he wasn't going to be, and from that point on, everything I think has flown from that and how he's acted in the oval office and the world as the world reflects him.

So, to me, it is defined -- 2017 is defined by Donald Trump's presidency would start on January 20.

PAGE: January 20, a pivotal day, January 21, a pivotal day as well, 500,000 people showed up for the Women's March on Washington. That has signaled a new kind of political activism and engagement on the part of women, especially college educated women that we have seen in the special elections, in the gubernatorial elections this year. And that we've seen not only in women as voters, but women as prospective candidates.

Emily's List says that in the previous two years, 900 women contacted them expressing interest in running for office. Since Donald Trump was elected president, 25,000 women have contacted Emily's List and expressed interest in running for political office. They won't all run, but a fair number of them will. And that's going to change things.

RADDATZ: And Perry?

BACON: The Comey firing. I think it showed two things. One, that Trump would violate -- would violate norms other presidents would not violate. And the second reason, because it has really ramped up that whole controversy. He made it look like he had something to hide, it lead to the Mueller appointment. It really defined the year in a lot of ways.

JORDAN: And I guess I would say the 48 hours in January that the inauguration address, where he signaled to the world, America first. And, the whole world, it was a reverberation where he started talking about buy American and hire American. And people said, wow, it is going to be a different presidency.

He had defeated the woman that was supposed to be the first woman president. And just the next morning you had that amazing women's march and so there you had a whole year of women running for office. And so who knew that that 48 hours in Washington really would have set the agenda, both for the Trump presidency and women's rising voice and sexual harassment in the work place.

RADDATZ: I was going to say, the #metoo also reverberated around the country.

And when we look -- and it was such an incredible year of trying to cover the news, of just every day it was snapping to someone else. What do you think was under covered this rear?

DOWD: To me, broadly categorize it as the moral authority of the United States, and then specifically defined in the religious right, which has lost, I think, much of its moral authority. But our moral authority in the world has been drastically diminished. And even our ability, with the protests that have gone on in the last 24, 48 hours in Iran.

RADDATZ: Also, what Admiral Mullen was trying to say. You guys are right...

DOWD: We're right.

Our ability to even engage in that conversation with how we have acted as a country and as the president has acted has diminished our ability to communicate on any of this. How can we don't talk about what is going on in Iran, when we don't talk about what goes on in Russia. We don't talk about what goes on in Turkey. We don't talk about what goes on in Saudi Arabia, and all the places where human rights violations, and the way we act within the United States.

And I just think that moral authority, tied directly to the president's actions, but I think enabled by a religious right that has always has felt it had a moral authority. It no longer has a moral authority in the United States.

RADDATZ: And really torn right now -- Susan.

PAGE: You know, President Trump has been so transfixing, it's like you can't look away. He's demanded so much attention and so much of our resources. And I worry that we are not covering sufficiently what is happening in all these federal agencies, especially in terms of regulations repealed and new rules set, that will have huge consequences in education and the environment, and agriculture and other staffing these places, right?

RADDATZ: And who is staffing these places, right?

PAGE: He's not staffing them, but I think journalism also has had trouble staffing some of the things we used to cover routinely because the White House has just commanded so much of our attention.

BACON: You mentioned the top a little bit, but the decline of ISIS is a really big story. You had three years ago, ISIS was on the front pages. They have had the killings that were on TV a lot, and now you have they've lost a lot of their territory, the idea of a caliphate is kind of eliminated. And I'm not saying ISIS has evaporated or done, but it certainly, a victory for both Obama and Trump that they had a strategy that basically worked to shrink ISIS's territory a lot in Syria and Iraq.

RADDATZ: And Afghanistan, they’ve moved on to areas outside of the Mid-East. You’ve got the Yemen crisis, I would say -- I would say that, to me, is one of the most under covered stories. Just a catastrophic humanitarian condition there. Mary.

JORDAN: I think the shrinking middle class. I think the rich are getting uber rich and the income divide in this country that used to -- you know, be the characteristic of developing countries is coming fast to America. And when you talk to people all around the country, the same feeling that my parents had when they came from Ireland in the late -- in the late 1950s, that there was economic and social mobility is not there in the way it was in the ‘50s.

And I think that this has huge consequences for the hollowing out of the middle class.

DOWD: I want to add onto something Mary just said, which I totally agree about what happened in the middle class when it was basically a growth a country from post-World War II all the way up until the late ‘70s. And from then on, it’s been diminished -- the middle class has been diminished. Is -- there is no longer -- the way the public views the economy is no longer related to the factors that we all talk about.

The growth of the GDP, the unemployment rate, the inflation rate. There is no perception of those are the factors that they use to judge how the economy is doing. Obviously, they judge their own salary, which is why this year, we’ve had this tremendous stock market rise, we’ve had a better GDP than people expected, unemployment is basically at it’s lowest level in 20 years.

But the president is viewed lower than any other president has been viewed after a first year. And two-thirds of the country think we’re on the wrong track. So I think we have to come up with a new way and a new metrics how we cover the economy, because it’s no longer the way the public views it.

RADDATZ: And Susan, I want to -- I want to expand to the first amendment. I -- I sort of don’t like to talk about the media and -- and it’s all about us. But there was an attack on the media, on the first amendment that we have not seen before, really, in this country. And -- and the profound effect that can have. This is a president, as you know well, who likes attention from the media. On the other hand, he calls us fake news. What do you think the lasting effect of this is?

PAGE: Well, I’m very concerned as a citizen that a lot of Americans no longer trust the mainstream news media to be telling them the truth. Because we can disagree on what policies make sense, but we need to agree on what we think is actually happening. And I also think something to watch in 2018 are Justice Department investigations into leaks and whether that goes further than just rhetoric in terms of having a chilling effect on journalism’s ability to hold to accountable people in power.

RADDATZ: And Mary, you’ve spent a good deal of time -- one second, Perry. You’ve spent a good deal of time (inaudible) traveling around the world, being based around the world. The rest of the world viewing fake news.

JORDAN: I think the global effect of the president of the United States talking about fake news of -- when stories that he doesn’t like is dangerous. There are 262 journalists in jail around the world now by despots and authoritarian figures. The crime, for some, fake news. So when in Egypt and China and Myanmar and in other countries, leaders don’t like stories about corruption, about extrajudicial killings, what do they do? They jail them.

We used to be the moral authority. The first amendment, that democracy rests on a free press. And it is just -- he’s just made it easy now to damp down one of the pillars of democracy.

RADDATZ: And the people you’ve talked to. I mean, they don’t trust us, correct?

JORDAN: Oh, my job got exponentially harder, I would say there, I just want to stay with you, listen to you and tell your point of view. And they would say Washington Post, the president says run, don’t talk to you. Is that really what we want to do when everybody is silo-ed, that we’re all supposed to be trying to learn what’s on the minds of other people. It’s really, I think, more dangerous than we realize.

BACON: Not just the media. Also, he’s attacked the FBI, he’s attacked the DOJ, he’s attacked lots of other institutions. Our country’s not just run by two parties, it’s also run by institutions that are (ph) ABC News, the New York Times, those things do matter over time. Also, you’ve seen foreign leaders now, where they don’t like a story, in their own papers, they say it’s fake news. And they’ve learned from Donald Trump.

RADDATZ: And they cite Donald Trump. Yes.

BACON: And that’s a really -- so he’s setting a new norm that’s going to last beyond him. You’re also seeing -- I can’t remember if the governor of Kentucky -- he’s been saying every story is fake news he doesn’t like, too. So you’re seeing that in local politics, too. Trump is really changing how people view institutions in very worrisome ways.

RADDATZ: And it may be obvious, but why is he doing this?

DOWD: Well, he’s obviously doing it because he -- he doesn’t want -- the truth is his enemy in all of this, and which is why he confronts fake news. I think the recovery from this hangover, this hangover that -- that Donald Trump is now instigated is sincere -- it makes our democracy in serious peril. Because democracies depend on the common good. And the common good depends on the ability to all share a common set of facts. We can have a dispute if we agree on a common set of facts.

We -- from -- from this day forward, and from the inauguration forward, the ability to get together and settle on a common set of facts in order to get to the common good is in serious jeopardy, and that's what I worry about in the hangover and the aftermath of this.

RADDATZ: And -- and this leads to the Russia investigation, when we talk about fake news, and he said, "no collusion. It's all fake." Whatever we talk about with Russia, you saw the story in the New York Times, I'm sure, overnight, with Papadopoulos meeting in a London bar. Just your take on that story, and what that means. It's clearly how this all got started.

PAGE: So if the New York Times story is correct, it is enormously consequential because it means that this investigation is sparked not by a dossier that was created with Democratic and other funding. It was created by the boasting of someone who was in -- on Team Trump to Australian diplomats, who then reported it back to the United States. So that's hugely consequential.

And you know, we don't know yet whether there was collusion, or whether there was obstruction of justice. But a year from today, we'll know. We'll have much more information about what actually happened to our democracy in 2016, and that, I think, will be the big story, the defining story of the year to come.

RADDATZ: And -- and Perry, I want to talk a little bit about the -- about the midterms. What do you see happening? What effect does all this have on those midterms, the tax cuts?

BACON: His approval ratings are so low right now, and that -- and that's a great -- that's usually a great predictor for who wins the midterm. So right now, if you looked at it, it looks like the Democrats have a great chance of winning the House, a (inaudible) win in the Senate. We may see the kind of wave we saw in 2014, and 2010, and 2006, based on just how unpopular Trump is.

And it's hard to see him getting more popular, because he's a -- principle (ph) is not really based on policy. It's based on the fact that people don't like him, and don't like he (sic) leads the country. It's hard to see -- they can pass more bills. If you notice, the tax bill just passed. His numbers have not really moved that much, and that should worry Republicans a lot.

RADDATZ: And -- and...

DOWD: And -- and the tax bill was the least popular tax bill ever passed by a Congress, pushed by an unpopular president, passed through an unpopular Congress, enabled by unpopular Republican leaders. It's not going to be an asset next year.

PAGE: And who knew cutting taxes could be unpopular?

DOWD: Yeah. It was -- it's more unpopular than it was -- one -- than tax increases.

RADDATZ: So -- so what do Republicans have to do to really beat back the Democrats?

DOWD: I think they have to -- I mean, if -- they won't follow this advice, but I'm going to give it to them, which is, is they have to take on the president in a more concerted, strong way. They have to define themselves differently than just the party of the president. They have to define themselves on certain Republican principles that they've walked away from. They won't do it, because they've enabled this president all year long. But if they want to save themselves in any way in these elections, they've got to take president on.

RADDATZ: OK, we have about one minute here, and I want to quickly say, if you -- any of you had any influence over Donald Trump, what would you tell him his New Year's resolution should be? Mary?

JORDAN: Keep your eye on the big stuff. And there's too many big issues that we face for any kind of this reckless distraction that we've been seeing.

BACON.: Stop insulting people on Twitter. He really won't do that, but to stop (inaudible).

RADDATZ: So -- so you'd just say it anyway, (inaudible).

BACON: (inaudible).

PAGE: I’d say think -- think long term, not short term.

RADDATZ: And Matt, you get to wax poetic for about...

DOWD: I would say I would give the same advice that I gave my five-year-old on every New Year's Eve, is just to grow up and start respecting other people, and act in a dignified manner.

RADDATZ: OK, now let's just quickly say, how many of you think he would follow any advice next year?

DOWD: Zero chance of that.

RADDATZ: Zero chance.

PAGE: I think there's not -- the history would say there is that he follows his own advice.

DOWD: He's a 71-year-old man.

RADDATZ: Next year, he's going to be 72. There -- there goes the advice.

DOWD: With his name on buildings all over.

RADDATZ: With his name on buildings all over the place. So will next year be different, Mary, you think?

JORDAN: He is a competitor, and there is an election, and he's shown to be a very good campaigner. I think he's going to pull out a few more tricks next year, and we'll see something that (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: No candidate who's a Republican in a close race should have him come to -- campaign for him. He is unpopular. He should not help. He would...

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks to all of you, and Happy New Year.

DOWD: Happy New Year.

RADDATZ: A reminder: You can get the latest on politics and President Trump by downloading the ABC News app, and signing up for breaking news alerts. We'll be right back with a live report from Times Square on the security preparations as we ring in the New Year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: That’s the scene in Times Square this morning, where over one million revelers are expected to brave sub freezing temperatures to celebrate the New Year tonight.

But after two terror attacks in New York City in recent months, officials are taking no chances, ramping up security preparations for the evening’s festivities. ABC News’ Marcus Moore is live in Times Square with the details. Good morning, Marcus.

MARCUS MOORE, CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Martha, good morning to you. This is what Times Square looks like this morning, very little foot traffic, because the security perimeter here continues to expand.

These barricades have been set up, and really as far as the eye can see, there are barricades as officials try to secure Times Square ahead of tonight’s event here, or New Years Eve.

And this is really an unprecedented security effort, one that includes thousands of police officers in the subways, on the streets of New York, and also in the air. And for the very first time, Martha, the police will be screening guests at the various hotels and restaurants, all if (ph) they work to secure this area ahead of the event tonight.

And they will be blocking off 22 city blocks, they have never had a perimeter that large for New Years Eve here, certainly a massive effort underway, as more than a million people are expected to pack Times Square tonight, Martha.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Marcus. For more on the unprecedented security precautions in New York and across the country, let’s bring in former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Brad Garrett, and former New York City Police Commissioner and ABC News contributor Ray Kelly.

Commissioner Kelly, I want to start with you, we have seen those two terrorist incidents in New York, there were no credible threats at the time. Law enforcement says no credible threats right now, but there will be that greater security presence.

So what should people celebrating in Times Square and other public places expect tonight?

RAYMOND KELLY, FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: As Marcus said, this is really unprecedented, and I think the department – the police department has done more preparation, more planning for this event than any that I can remember, perhaps since the Republican National Convention some 14 years ago.

Obvious that you’re going to see a lot of uniform police officers, as been said, the counter sniper teams have been increased, actually they have response teams in each of the hotels along the card (ph), and you know there are many, many hotels there.

They even have the ability to control elevators to make certain resources get into the hotel as quickly as possible. So you see the department has it’s hands full, but I think they’re very capable of handling it at all.

RADDATZ: It certainly sounds like a big presence, let me ask you Brad, on a larger scale, nationwide, after this last year and after Las Vegas, what lessons have we learned?

BRAD GARRETT, FORMER FBI AGENT: That you really have to target harden every location, for example, Las Vegas are placing snipers on the roofs of hotels and other locations.

You basically have to drive away anybody that could potentially hurt someone, because you’re dealing with lone actors, you’re dealing with people who aren’t connected to organizations, they just decided on today I’m going to go hurt somebody.

And you have to make it just too difficult for them to do that.

RADDATZ: And Commissioner, back to you. What advice would give people celebrating this evening?

KELLY: Well listen to direction of police officers, there’s something untoward does happen, those officers have been trained to focus on life safety. Each of the officers assigned to those pens will have megaphones, they are able to clip the wires of those pens so people can get out quickly.

Listen to those directions, their training has been going on all week, and again, I think they’re well positioned to handle an emergency.

RADDATZ: And Brad Garrett, just a final word from you. What advice would you give people as we go into 2018, we don’t want to unduly scare people.

GARRETT: Of course not, people should live their lives, they should go to New Years, they should go to football games, but just be vigilant.

RADDATZ: Ok, thanks very much to both of you, and Happy New Year to both of you. That’s all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Before we go, a big thank you to everyone who works so hard behind the scenes to bring you, this week, every week.

We leave you now with a performance from the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage by the U.S. Army Blues. Have a healthy and Happy New Year.

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