'This Week' Transcript 10-14-18: Larry Kudlow, Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Bernie Sanders
This is a rush transcript for "This Week" airing on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2018.
A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): Campaigner in chief.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is booming. It's thriving.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump hits four states in five days, the midterms 23 days away.
TRUMP: Go. Just vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's all about the base.
JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is America. So, get up. Take it back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Control of Congress, the Trump presidency both at stake. Our new poll shows the president's approval rating on the rise, but Democrats up by double digits in the House.
We’ll analyze the brand-new results our ABC News/Washington Post poll, debate how it will play out in the homestretch of this crucial campaign on our Powerhouse Roundtable.
TRUMP: We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senators demand action from the White House after a Washington Post columnist mysteriously disappears. Turkey says he was murdered by Saudi Arabia.
So, should the U.S. impose sanctions against a key Gulf ally?
We’ll ask Trump adviser Larry Kudlow, Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Democrat Bernie Sanders.
We will break down the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter THIS WEEK.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK.
Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.
Just over three weeks from the midterms, our brand-new poll gives both parties grounds for hope and fear.
President Trump's approval rating has climbed to 41 percent, the second highest of his presidency. Republicans also hold a slight edge over Democrats on handling the economy.
And the number of Americans who say they want Democrats to control Congress as a check on Trump is slipping, but they are still a majority. And Democratic candidates for the House lead Republicans by 11 points among registered voters, fueled by a Democratic edge on key issues like health care and a wide lead among women voters.
Only 36 percent of women approval President Trump. And they prefer Democratic to Republican House candidates by 22 points. The gender gap is the widest we have ever recorded in a midterm election.
And our poll shows that voters are engaged. Seventy-six percent say they are certain to vote. That's higher than normal for a midterm. And, here, Democrats have the edge.
In Kentucky this weekend, the president previewed his closing arguments, along with one of his potential challengers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You can either vote for Democrat mob rule, or you can vote for a Republican Party that stands proudly for law and order, fairness, freedom and justice.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: The example we're showing the rest of the world is sad.
Our values are being shredded. Our democracy is under assault. A president has put his own interests before those of our ideals. The question is not who Donald Trump is. America knows who he is. The question is, who are we?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot to talk about here on our roundtable.
Joined by Chris Christie, former Republican governor of New Jersey, ally of President Trump, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, co-author of the new book "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics," our chief national correspondent, Tom Llamas, fresh off his exclusive interview with the first lady, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" Maggie Haberman, and Rich Lowry, editor of "The National Review."
Welcome to all of you.
Chris, let me begin with you.
You do see the president's approval rating climbing up there, inching up to 41 percent. Is it enough?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (R) AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Not yet, but there's three weeks to go. And I think the momentum is in the right direction for him.
The House is going to be hard. And we -- I have said that from the beginning, George. I think the House is going to be very difficult for the Republicans to maintain. But I think, given the last 10 days the president's had, now not impossible.
But, you know, with the news cycle here, you never know what's going to happen in the next 24, 48 hours, so stay tuned, but you know, a better last 10 days for the president, and the numbers reflect that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's one of the things we did see, Donna.
Republicans have consolidated in the wake of the Kavanaugh nomination. The president still in the danger zone at 41 percent, but the Democrats are holding that lead in the House.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's right.
Look, the president's underwater. And he's going to be a drag on Republicans, especially in the suburbs, and I also believe in the rural areas.
What we see in the Democratic Party is two things, energy, good-quality candidates. And for the first time, there's money. There's money, George. It's always difficult to raise money in a midterm for down-ballot candidates.
Democrats are fueling this resistance by focusing on kitchen table issues like health care.
And -- and -- and you know, I have to say this. Young people, they're showing an interest. And if young people show up...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's the question, though, if they show up.
BRAZILE: If they show up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, Rich, Donna talks about fueling the resistance. The president is now calling that mob rule.
Is that an effective closing argument?
RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think it's an effective and true argument.
I mean, these were mobs roaming the Capitol, chasing Ted and Heidi Cruz out of a restaurant. And it's really served, the whole Kavanaugh controversy, to gin up the Republican base and enthusiasm that was lacking there.
But I'm with Chris on the House. I mean, Democrats just need 23 seats. If you look at seats that both sides agree are gone, they're almost halfway there already. And it's just a question if Republicans can ring-fence enough Trump-leaning districts to just hold on by a seat or two.
The Senate looks much better, though. The chances are, Republicans will hold the Senate, and maybe pick up a few sets.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Maggie, that is -- that is a significant split.
You look at the 538 analysis, 80 percent chance Democrats take control of the House, 80 percent chance Republicans hold the Senate.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": There had been the dream amongst some Democratic strategists as recently as three weeks ago that they were going to be able to take back the Senate even by one seat.
I got an e-mail from a Democratic strategist who I trust the other day, saying, "Yes, obviously, what I said several weeks ago doesn't hold anymore."
STEPHANOPOULOS: Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.
This is not a favorable map. What you have seen with Kavanaugh is, it's gone in opposite directions in terms of solidifying the Republican base, in terms of the Senate.
But in these districts in the House, there are too many retirements, I think, for Republicans to overcome it, I think the way these districts are carved up. I also think we haven't talked about one important issue in terms of Democratic voters, which is the gender gap, which is not going to favor Republicans at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all.
As we said, Tom, the high -- biggest gender gap we have ever seen in midterm elections going back to 1982.
Now, what Republicans are hoping for is that the -- the solidifying of the present support among white men will help at least forestall some losses.
TOM LLAMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These last weeks in the midterm sort of remind me the last weeks of the Trump campaign, where you saw the president out there every single day hitting multiple states.
Two data points, though, first, 2014, historic low turnout for voters in midterms. The second, 70 percent of women in our polls said this midterm election is more important than any other midterm election so far. That's not good for Republicans.
But the president has been very clear. In Springfield, Missouri, he said, get out and vote because you're voting for me in 2018.
BRAZILE: You know, George, resistance is not about mobs. It's about people who do not want their health care taken away.
It's about women who want to be heard and listened to when they feel that it is time to talk about their trauma, sexual assault. It is not about mobs. It's about...
BRAZILE: It's about -- it's about individuals who want to lobby their government.
CHRISTIE: Donna, if you were -- if you were running it, maybe that's what it would be about.
But when we listen to what Democrats who are coming on TV are talking about is, they're talking about impeaching Brett Kavanaugh, they're talking about impeaching Donald Trump.
And the resistance is taking the feel -- I agree with Rich -- of a mob. I believe they're...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can I just stop you there for a second?
I mean, yes, this has been an energized Democratic resistance. And you know, going to Ted Cruz in a restaurant makes no sense at all.
BRAZILE: I agree.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's something, coming from every single Trump rally. You have people saying "Lock her up," even including Dianne Feinstein.
CHRISTIE: By the way, George, two wrongs don't make a right.
And -- and I have certainly -- I remember speaking at the convention, giving a pretty impassioned speech against Hillary Clinton. And when people would start to chant "Lock her up," I would back away from the podium and wouldn't participate, because I think it's wrong.
But the fact is that this is what has happened to our politics right now. And I think for Donna to say this is about people losing their health care and stuff, I don't hear anybody talking about that.
What we hear them talking about is, impeach Brett Kavanaugh, impeach Donald Trump, and a personal shot against the president.
I'm telling everybody, it's not going to work, it's not going to work.
BRAZILE: A personal -- a personal shot against a president who tweets...
CHRISTIE: It didn't work in '16. It's not going to work now, Donna.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're right about what we have seen, Jerry Nadler and others talk about him looking at impeachment when they come in.
But, Maggie, Democrats may not be talking a lot about health care on the stump. We're seeing it in just about every ad.
HABERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
It is a huge issue for Democrats looking to take back the House. You have got separate tracks. Republicans would like to be talking about the economy, where the president in your poll does pretty well.
People -- voters who care more about health care are leaning Democratic. And that has been a huge source of messaging.
I think that, yes, the president is -- and I agree with you -- this reminds me very much of 2016. The president, however, is not on the ballot this time. And for all of the people who may...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he wants to be.
HABERMAN: But he wants to be. And he wants everybody to be an up-down referendum on himself.
For all of the people he energizes in favor of Republicans, he is energizing Democrats too. And that is a real risk.
LOWRY: But this is what you will very likely see, and a split result, with Democrats probably taking the House and Republicans holding the Senate, maybe picking up some seats.
It will be a further entrenchment of the geographic, class and cultural divide in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Reds get redder, blues get bluer.
HABERMAN: Yes, absolutely.
LOWRY: -- where Trump can help in the red states and the rural districts, and he's poisonous in the suburbs.
And then it's just going to be trench warfare until 2020.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trench warfare until 2020.
We're also seeing already, as Tom, you were saying, the president ramping up all of his media efforts, including bringing Kanye West into the Oval Office. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: It was something about, when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That was -- that's my favorite superhero. And you made a Superman cape.
I love this guy right here. Let me give this guy a hug right here.
WEST: I love this guy right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom, the president was smiling there at the end. You covered him for a long time during the campaign.
I actually think that, halfway through Kanye's speech, he was starting to get a little annoyed that he was losing focus.
LLAMAS: Yes. You know, this is one of the moments I've never seen the president. Usually he likes to shock and surprise, he takes the spotlight. There was a moment there when you looked at President Trump, he had no idea what was going on. And he wasn't sure if this was a good idea or a bad idea.
But at the end of the day everyone was talking about it. He was there holding court, watching this unfold in front of him. And he was loving every minute of it.
HABERMAN: I don't think he loved every minute of it. I think he loved some minutes of it.
CHRISTIE: This is one of the things that makes him a unique and almost impossible to understand political force. I mean, if I had told you...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a fair statement.
CHRISTIE: … a year ago, yes, wait, we're going to be on a Sunday talking about Kanye West...
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the Oval.
CHRISTIE: … in the Oval with a Make America Great Again hat, who was talking so much that he kept both Donald Trump and Jim Brown quiet, I mean, that's really a wild thing. And I think people look at that and it makes Donald Trump more accessible, more normal than some other presidents we've had.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he is ubiquitous. Donna, this is an interesting thing, and maybe Trump is bucking this trend. You've seen other presidents who people get tired of looking at them. They got tired of looking at Clinton. They got tired of looking at Obama. They certainly got tired of George W. Bush. Will they get tired of watching President Trump?
BRAZILE: Absolutely. You've already -- I mean, the other night C-SPAN, C-SPAN stopped covering the rally. You're seeing that...
HABERMAN: All the networks did.
BRAZILE: Look, the president is self-absorbed, and I thought it was like another episode of "The Kardashians" featuring Donald Trump. It was embarrassing. That's the best I'm going to say. And look, it's not about a black man sitting in the Oval Office hugging a white man. It's about a black man who did not know his history, who went out there and repeated bad stereotypes about black people.
I was embarrassed. Kanye needs help. I love Kanye West. He's a genius.
LOWRY: If you had an opportunity to have every camera in the country in the Oval Office with a world famous black celebrity saying nice things about you, you're going to take that. And, you know, I don't know whether Kanye means much, but I do think that Trump does have potential to appeal to working class black men that few Republicans do.
And if he works at that, he can actually make (INAUDIBLE)
CHRISTIE: The problem with those young voters though, too, George, and I have a few of them in my house, they love Kanye West. And when they see Kanye West with Trump, it doesn't mean they're going to vote for Trump but they look at Trump differently that he's willing to welcome Kanye West into -- I don't think Barack Obama would have had Kanye West into the -- into the Oval.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I can only imagine what the National Review would write if he did.
LOWRY: Let’s not go check the archives.
BRAZILE: But you know what, George? This week in my household people were talking about Taylor Swift and energizing young people...
STEPHANOPOULOS: To register to vote.
BRAZILE: … to register to vote. So while you can keep your Kanye, I got Taylor.
STEPHANOPOULOS: While Kanye West was in the Oval Office, a new hint from President Trump that James Mattis, the defense secretary, may be on his way out. Here he is on "60 Minutes" tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLIE STAHL, CBS NEWS: What about General Mattis? Is he going to leave?
TRUMP: Well, I don't know. He hasn't told me that.
STAHL: Do you want him to?
TRUMP: I have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point everybody leaves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sort of a good guy, but a Democrat. Maggie Haberman, of course, we also saw Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, announce her resignation this week. There is going to be, whatever happens in the midterms, wholesale change in the Trump administration...
STEPHANOPOULOS: … the day after the elections.
HABERMAN: Absolutely. I mean, we can look at a number of cabinet posts where you're going to see change. Nikki Haley was obviously the earliest that we have seen somebody try to get out and set their own tone for leaving.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Get out while the getting is good?
HABERMAN: Well, get out while the getting is good and make clear that I'm not doing this in abandoning ship a few weeks or days after what is likely to be a brutal midterm, at least in terms of the House losses. She sort of hijacked his week, which a lot of people in the West Wing were not so happy about, because it had been a good week previously in terms of Brett Kavanaugh and getting him across.
But I do think you are potentially going to see, you know, a change in the attorney general. You are going to see...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Almost certainly.
HABERMAN: Almost certainly. You're going to see a change in defense secretary. The president is looking at a number of changes. And I think he actually hasn't talked about most of them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Tom, we saw in that, you know, that little dig about the Democrat right there, the president now increasingly suspicious of everyone around him. You got that sense from your interview with the first lady as well.
LLAMAS: That's right. She told me that there are still people in the White House that she does not trust, and she lets her husband know that. And then he went on FOX News and he agreed with her, saying, yes, we still have some bad people, we'll weed them out.
I don't know if they're talking about Secretary Mattis there, but there's clearly people he still doesn't trust.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there a fix for this?
CHRISTIE: No. I mean, listen, at the end of the day this is the way the president manages. And I think what he was doing there was sending Jim Mattis a message which he were to be saying...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Get out?
CHRISTIE: No, no. What he was saying to him was, if you want to get out, now's the time, if you don't, stay til 2020. I think that's the message he was sending to Mattis. I like him, I think he's a good guy, we get along great, we have lunch, all the positive things, might be a Democrat, maybe he is going to leave, everybody’s going to leave.
That's the way the president manages, George. And that's the way he managed the Trump Organization, that's the way he has managed his White House for two years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you look at a post-election environment, if you have openings for cabinet secretaries, you're going to need confirmation hearings. That could be much tougher after the midterms.
LOWRY: Yes, well, this is why it's really important to hold the Senate for Republicans, and maybe pick up some seats, because it gives you some give where it can actually confirm people. If Democrats were to take the Senate, no one will be confirmed for anything.
And I think Trump on Mattis was a little wrong-footed by his nickname. He thought, here’s this mad dog, this killer and his is a killer, but he’s highly cautious, highly buttoned-up, not a Trump Republican at all. And he has managed to sort of stay out of Trump's line of fire in part by never being -- never doing TV interviews.
But this is -- this is a very -- what will prick up his ears.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. We've got to take a quick break. You guys will be back later in the program.
Up next, the president's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, plus senators Jeff Flake and Bernie Sanders. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There’s a lot at stake and maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.
But when we take away $110 billion of purchases from our country, that hurts our workers, that hurts our factories, that hurts all of our companies. You know, you’re talking about 500,000 jobs. So we do that, we’re really hurting our country a lot more than we’re hurting Saudi Arabia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump under pressure to deal with the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suspected of being murdered by the Saudi -- under the orders of Saudi Arabian government. Want to bring in Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council this morning. Larry, thank you for joining us again this morning. We just heard the president say there that Saudi Arabia should face some severe punishment if it’s shown that they are indeed behind the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.
Ruling out, though, taking away the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, so what sanctions are being considered?
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: George, I don’t want to get too -- you know, too deep in it, I don’t want to get ahead of the president on this. All I would say is with respect to the Khashoggi story, which is a tragedy for Khashoggi among other people, believe what the president says when he says we will take very tough action if the allegations of Saudi interference prove to be the case. There’s a litany of possibilities here --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any other explanation?
KUDLOW: -- I don’t want to go into those details. Beg your pardon?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any other explanation for the disappearance really?
KUDLOW: Look, I’m not an expert on these things. I don’t know if anybody knows at this point. The president has called for a swift and transparent investigation. I think he’s talking about this week in particular. So we will see what that brings.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your colleague, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is under some pressure as well. He’s planning to attend this investor conference in Saudi Arabia. Many leading CEOs are pulling out of it to protest this action. Is it appropriate for him to be going to that investor conference?
KUDLOW: Well by the way, it’s actually a conference about terrorist financing and how to stop it, so it’s a very important subject. Regarding Secretary Mnuchin, spoke to him last evening. At the moment, he is intending to go because of the importance of the issue of ending terrorist financing. But again, along with the president and the general investigation, Mr. Mnuchin will make up his mind as the week progresses and as new information surfaces.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We had a rocky week in the stock market, as you know, on the heels of rising interest rates. That caused the president on Thursday to talk about the Fed. He didn’t seem too happy about the Fed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The problem that I have is with the Fed. The Fed is going wild. I mean, I don’t know what their problem is, but they’re raising interest rates and it’s ridiculous. The Fed is going loco and there’s no reason for them to do it. And I’m not happy about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President said he’s not happy about it. He also said the Fed is out of control, so what’s he going to do about it?
KUDLOW: Well I don’t -- look, he’s expressing his opinion, George. He’s a very successful businessman and investor. He’s raising an important topic. Lot of people on Wall Street and academia and elsewhere in the press are talking about interest rates, the speed of the increase and whether it will impact the economy. It’s a legitimate subject.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe the Fed is out of control?
KUDLOW: I do want to add, however, quickly -- look, I don’t, personally, and the president respects the independence of the Fed. Let me make that very clear. He said as much during these comments. He is not telling them or mandating them to change their strategy, he’s not telling them to change their policy, he’s just raising a very important issue. Which, by the way, everybody else in the world is also raising. I do think -- I want to say this -- pretty much everybody believes that we want this economic boom, which virtually no one expected, we want this boom to continue.
Everybody believes that. The Fed believes that, the president believes that, investors, businessmen and women all believe that. We’re running for the same objective. There are issues and discussions within that. But president -- again, let me say this -- has never interfered with Fed independence and he has said so.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is the biggest threat, though, to that continued economic growth? A lot of people have been citing the president’s focus on tariffs, particularly with the Chinese as something that could stall this economic momentum right now.
KUDLOW: Well I think the trade issue – let me just add one point, though, to me the biggest threat to this economic boom, which in my view is going to go on for several more years, is efforts by the Congress to overturn it.
And I think that’s an election year thing. We do not want to overturn the reduction in tax rates for individuals and small businesses and so forth. We do not want to overturn all the across the board deregulation, which has unlocked and released the animal spirits.
The new Trump economy is about blue collar workers. It’s also about men and women who own their own small businesses. The president has ended the war against businesses’ success.
My biggest concern is that political issues or congressional issues could overturn these important pro-growth measures. That to me is the biggest issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things you predicted, you talk about the pro-growth measures including the tax cut, you predicted before the tax cut was passed, it was going to bring down the deficit.
In fact, the deficit’s been going up. Our debt is higher than ever.
KUDLOW: Well actually, you know, we just got the new numbers on the deficit for 2018. It came in over $100 billion below estimate according to the Congressional Budget Office.
STEPHANOPOLOUS: Except it’s still climbing.
KUDLOW: $100 billion, I believe George it was about 3.9 percent of GDP which is a manageable number. Now, look, short run there are going to be some deficit issues. Medium term, and I think the medium term’s coming on, faster economic growth which will bring in more people working, more revenues, faster economic growth.
That’s going to really lower the budget deficit and its burden on the economy. I think that’s absolutely the key point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to talk about climate change. We saw that new report from the U.N. saying that if action isn’t taken right now, you’re going to have irreversible damage much, much sooner in the next 20 years.
And of course it comes against the backdrop of that horrific hurricane we just saw, Hurricane Michael. You can’t tie any single weather event to climate change. But there’s little question among scientists that it’s increased in the – the probability of more intense weather events, warmer water leads to more intense weather.
Is the president going to do anything about it?
KUDLOW: Well look, we’re always studying these things. I mean you had I guess Bill Nordhaus from Yale got a Nobel Prize on his own economic work with respect to climate change.
I respect that, he’s a really brilliant guy. The issue here though is magnitudes and timing. Personally I think the U.N. study is – is over – way, way too difficult. I won’t say it’s a scare tactic, but I think they overestimate.
These models have not been very successful in the last 20 years and we have to be cognizant of the work that needs to be done. I’m not denying any climate change issues, George.
I’m just saying do we know precisely and I mean worth modeling things like how much of it is manmade, how much of it is solar, how much of it is oceanic, how much of it is rainforest and other issues.
I think we’re still exploring all of that. I don’t think we should panic. I don’t think there’s a, you know, imminent catastrophe coming. But I think we should look at this in a level headed and analytic way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the New York Times is reporting this morning that Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law, White House aide, likely paid no income taxes from 2009 to 2016, despite real estate profits that have fueled a net worth of more than $300 million.
And of course that comes on the heel of the other New York Times report that showed how the president’s family, his father shielded his estate from taxes, fueled President Trump’s fortune including, they say, through outright deception and possible fraud.
So do Americans have a right to be concerned that President Trump and his family are gaming the system for their own benefit?
KUDLOW: You know, the most recent Times story, George, about my colleague Jared Kushner, who by the way is a – is a – is a brilliant guy and has enormous integrity, that story itself said he didn’t break any laws.
I mean he’s a successful businessman, there’s no law against that, I respect that. I think Americans respect success. I just don’t think these stories have anything to them. I thought the President Trump story a couple weeks ago was just full of holes and hot air and whatnot to playing by the rules is a good thing, not a bad thing, both gentlemen have done so.
And as I said, in the Jared Kushner story out yesterday, the Times story itself said he’s done nothing wrong at any time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Larry Kudlow, thanks for your time this morning.
KUDLOW: Thank you, George. Appreciate it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Senators Jeff Flake and Bernie Sanders. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senators Jeff Flake and Bernie Sanders, standing by.
And all week long, you can get the latest on politics and breaking news alerts on the ABC News app.
We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I do hope that somebody does run in the primary against the president. I think the Republicans need to be reminded of what conservatism really is and what it means to be decent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Republican Senator Jeff Flake retiring from the Senate this year. Will he be a candidate in 2020? We’re going to talk about that in a bit. Want to introduce him now. Senator Flake, thanks for joining us this morning. I do want to get to that but let’s begin with the news of the day, Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who has disappeared in the Turkish embassy. You heard Larry Kudlow right there saying the president saying he’s going to take severe action. What should be done?
FLAKE: Well, severe action needs to be taken and I think the Congress will take it upon themselves to take that action if it turns out, as the press reporting seems to indicate, that Saudi Arabia was involved.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what -- but when you say they’re going to take some kind of action, the president has ruled out -- it appears -- stopping the arms sales to Saudi Arabia. I know you were -- you were against stopping the arms sales in the past. Does this kind of a -- of a violation, if indeed the Saudis were behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, should that stop U.S. arms sales?
FLAKE: I do think that arms sales will be affected. Certainly our involvement in Yemen with Saudi Arabia will be affected. That barely -- that involvement barely survived in the last go-round with the National Defense Authorization Act. It certainly won’t survive with -- with this kind of accusation, if it is true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say if it is true. Jamal Khashoggi was seen going into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was never seen coming out. That was over a week ago now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any other explanation at this point?
FLAKE: There sure doesn’t seem to be. The Saudi Arabia government has been asked, the ambassador has been asked directly to bring information back. They haven’t done so. Their explanation that their closed-circuit television just streamed and didn’t record just isn’t plausible. There’s just no good explanation and I think they know it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear different explanations coming out of the Saudi government very soon. Explanations that frankly won’t make much sense, that it was done by lower level folks and that, you know, MBS didn’t have any involvement. That’s what I would expect to come next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about President Trump. We’ve seen him out on the campaign trail pretty consistently over the last week. One of the issues he started to raise again is the return of the family separation policy. Let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Now everybody wants to come in and they come in illegally and they use children -- in many cases the children aren’t theirs. They grab them and they want to come in with the children. So we are, we’re looking at a lot of different things having to do with illegal immigration. I will say this. If they feel there will be separation, they don’t come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president’s talking about bringing that policy back in some form. It comes as we have this new poll out this morning showing Democrats now have a huge edge on immigration over Republicans. Is the president making a mistake here?
FLAKE: Yes, he is. We shouldn’t bring that policy back. That -- that simply is un-American and I think everybody recognized that. The president seemed to. Certainly the first lady and others spoke directly against it.
So I hope that we don’t return to that policy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Justice Kavanaugh. You – you ended up voting for Justice Kavanaugh confirmation on the Supreme Court. He took his seat on the court, but now in our new poll, 50 percent of Americans say the Judiciary Committee you sat on didn’t do enough to investigate.
More than 50 percent support more investigation by the new Congress. Are you concerned that Americans see this whole confirmation process and perhaps the court itself now tainted?
FLAKE: Well that was my concern when we finished the process and were about to vote in the Judiciary Committee, and that’s why I requested or basically demanded that we have an FBI investigation to look further into this.
We had that, I know a lot of people wanted it to be more broad. I would have liked to have started it earlier and had it more broad, but it was a good investigation. And I think we’re in a better place than we would have been.
And I don’t think that we should move forward, the Congress certainly, with – with additional investigations either into the leak that – that occurred that allowed, you know, a lot of the – a lot of the, you know, back and forth to go before – between Democrats and Republicans or certainly trying to remove Justice Kavanaugh from the court, as some of the Democrats have – have said that they would do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s your counsel to Congress. How about your counsel to Justice Kavanaugh? How should he handle himself on the bench going forward?
FLAKE: Well he – he gave a very gracious and magnanimous speech at the White House after he was confirmed. And he’s, you know, he – if you look at his record on the circuit court, everyone on the circuit court, those who worked with him, clerks, his colleagues said that he was courteous and there was nothing but good decorum and temperament during that entire time.
And I think that that’s how he will act on the court. So I think we can move on, it was a – it was an awful process, frankly, for all of us. Nobody want to go some – through something like this again.
But it was nice to see everyone from the court, those appointed by Republicans, those appointed by Democrats, all there to welcome him on the court and that’s a good thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just saw Larry Kudlow downplay the U.N.’s findings on climate change. We’ve seen dramatic shifts in how Republicans think about climate change over the last several years.
Are they going in the wrong direction?
FLAKE: I think so. I think that we’ve got – I mean there’s been more recognition among Republicans, the administration hasn’t taken the view of the some of us that this is something we really need to deal with.
I hope that we can move along with the rest of the world and – and address this. It’s – it’s going to be challenging. Obviously that report that came out is – is pretty dire, but there are things that we can do and should do and I think Republicans need to be at the forefront if we want to keep – keep our place and keep our seats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you talk about keeping your seats, let’s talk about the – the midterm elections. We showed you talking about your hope for a primary challenge to President Trump is – as a way to bolster conservative values.
So I wonder what you make of the argument of George Will, good conservative, who said conservatives should actually vote for Democrats in the midterms as a check on President Trump.
FLAKE: Well I hope that Republicans certainly in the Senate who are concerned about the investigation, making sure that it continues, the House Republicans have taken a little different position publicly.
But the Senate, gratefully, the Senate Intel Committee has acted in a bipartisan fashion to make sure that we move forward, that Bob Mueller concludes his investigation on his timing, not ours.
So I think that Republicans need to provide that check and that’s what our system of government does and I hope that they can without a change in who controls Congress. But I think that that may be coming if you believe the conventional wisdom, and I kind of do, the House will likely flip, the Senate will remain in Republican hands.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jeff Flake, thanks for your time this morning.
FLAKE: Thanks for having me on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in Senator Bernie Sanders now from Vermont this morning, Senator Sanders, thanks for joining us. We just heard Senator Flake talk about the midterm elections right there, I think he – thinks he wants Republicans to provide the check on President Trump.
You’re going to be out on the campaign trail in these final 22, 23 days. What’s you’re closing message?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VT: My closing message is that we have to end one party rule in Washington. Right now you have a president, you have leadership in the House and the Senate working overtime to the needs of the wealthiest people in this country, turning their backs on working families.
Look, you have a Congress that came within one vote led by President Trump of throwing 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they have. You have a Congress led by the president that voted to give over $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top one percent at a time of massive income and wealth inequality and drive the deficit way up. You got a president who introduced a budget that would have cut Medicaid by -- over a 10 year period by $1 trillion, Medicare by $500 billion, Social Security disability fund by $72 billion. That’s got to change.
And by the way, you raise the issue, George, of climate change. And the comments a moment ago that Larry Kudlow made are so irresponsible, so dangerous that it’s just hard to believe that a leading government official could make them. What the inter-governmental panel on climate change said is that we have 12 years -- 12 years to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere or this planet, our country, the rest of the world, is going to suffer irreversible damage.
We are in crisis mode and you have an administration that virtually does not even recognize the reality of climate change and their policies, working with the fossil fuel industry, are making a bad situation worse.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned right at the top that you -- you say we should get rid of one party rule in Washington. The president has said that it’s going to be replaced by mob rule. That’s been backed up by an ad the Republicans are now running. Want to take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: When they low, we kick them.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SENATOR, NEW YORK: You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Get up and -- please get up in the face of some Congress people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The left, he calls it an unhinged mob. Are worried that Democrats -- you heard those quotes right there -- are falling into a trap laid by President Trump?
SANDES: Look, I mean I think one of the problems that we have is that there is very little civil discourse going on in politics today. And you have a president, who I think most people recognize, is a pathological liar. The Republicans have very little to say that they can defend, so a lot of the ads they’re running are very personal, very deceptive, very dishonest. They’re running all over the country. Look, the issue is not quote-unquote mobs. In my view what this whole election will come down to is whether we can mobilize people to come out and vote.
Four years ago, as you’ll recall, George, when the Republicans won landslide victories all over this country, we had the lowest voter turnout since World War II. So if people are sick and tired of working longer hours for low wages, not able to afford their prescription drugs, not able to afford to send their kids to college, tired of tax breaks for billionaires, you got to come out and vote, you got to stand up and say enough is enough, we don’t need one party -- right wing party controlling the House, the Senate and the White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President saying that if -- if the Democrats get control, people like you -- he calls you crazy Bernie -- are going to take over and try to turn the United States into Venezuela.
SANDERS: Ha. Right. Well, you know, what can we say about a president who literally does not go a day without saying massive lies. So let’s talk about what Bernie would do. Yes, Bernie would like to end a situation in which we remain the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people and Bernie wants to expand and improve the Medicare program so that seniors now have dental care and have hearing aids and now have vision care that they don’t have right now. Bernie wants to end the absurdity of hundreds of thousands of bright young kids not being able to afford to go to college and millions leaving school deeply in debt.
He thinks -- Bernie thinks it’s more important to invest in the needs of our infrastructure and our working families rather than giving tax breaks to billionaires and large, profitable corporations. Bernie thinks that we should raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour and are proud of the work that many of us did in helping to raise that wage at Amazon, 350,000 workers now are going to be making at least $15 bucks an hour. So what Bernie wants to do is to have a government that represents all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors.
Now Trump may not like that, but I think most Americans want to see us move in that direction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does Bernie think that President Trump should be impeached if Democrats take control?
SANDERS: Bernie thinks that right now we got three weeks to go and we should not be deflected from our mission. And what our mission now is to rally the American people, make sure that people come out and vote so that we can recapture the House and hopefully the Senate as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Before we go, what should the United States do about Saudi Arabia and the -- and the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi?
SANDERS: Well I was glad to hear Senator Flake make a point about ending the war in Yemen. I introduced a resolution with Senator Lee, a conservative Republican, that said that the Saudi-led war in Yemen, of which the United States is supporting, is unconstitutional, there was no authorization for it, it is a humanitarian disaster. So probably the most significant thing we should do is to end our involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round table’s next. We’re back in just 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM LLAMAS, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Let’s talk about the jacket.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY, UNITED STATES: The jacket.
LLAMAS: Why did you wear it?
TRUMP: It’s obvious I didn’t wear the jacket for the children. I wore the jacket to go on the plane and off the plane. And it was for the people and for the left wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.
LLAMAS: So you were sending a message with the jacket?
TRUMP: It -- it was kind of a message, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: First Lady Melania Trump with our chief national correspondent Tom Llamas there in Africa. Tom is joining us on the roundtable this morning. So -- so -- so right there you saw the first lady echo the president’s message about the -- that -- that jacket. She did break with him on that issue of family separation.
LLAMAS: That’s right. One thing we learned from this interview is that Melania Trump in a lot of ways is just like her husband, in a lot of ways she is the polar opposite of her husband. On issues like immigration and the role of U.S. aid all around the world, she’ not in line with her husband. She says she tells him at home and that he agrees with her but when he goes out in those rallies, he says a completely different story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Very different. You cover the -- Maggie, you cover the White House every single day. What is, from what you can tell, the relationship like inside the White House? Not necessarily the personal relationship but how do you compare Melania’s influence to the influence of other first ladies?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that it’s slim and I think part of it is because she has not chosen to exercise the way we have seen other first ladies do it. I think that she is very focused -- and I think Tom really captured this -- on her coverage. She’s focused on her media coverage. I think she tries to influence her husband where she can but I do think that there has been this belief by some of his critics that she’s some kind of, you know, secret resistance fighter. That’s not who she is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the -- that is the sense I’ve gotten as well. And this is something you see with -- with both the president and the first lady. They read everything.
HABERMAN: Oh, everything. She really pays incredible attention to her coverage. She is aware of tweets, she is aware of stories, you saw it, frankly, with what she said about the jacket. An answer, by the way, that I don’t entirely believe. I don’t -- I think that what they said at the time was much closer to the truth, and which --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which is?
HABERMAN: -- which was, you know, that this was not intended as some kind of a message to anyone, that this whatever. I don’t believe it was aimed at the left-wing critics, which is what --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You believe it was aimed at someone else?
HABERMAN: Someone else.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, CONTRIBUTOR, ABC NEWS: What I will tell you though, George, is that during the campaign, almost after every rally he would call her and ask her what she thought. And she was watching and he cares deeply about what she thinks about the way he comes across, about the way he expresses himself. So I would agree with you on policy --
HABERMAN: It’s true and that’s a good point.
CHRISTIE: -- on policy she picks her spots.
CHRISTIE: But on the day-to-day how is he coming across, she -- he cares --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the president’s method, though, isn’t it (ph)? Not just -- not just the first lady. After almost every event, he starts, he starts rolling calls.
CHRISTIE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And -- and -- and, you know, talk to his many people and from different parts of his orbit. Not just political people, business people, Hollywood people, all different folks that are in his orbit from one time or another. He gathers that information and he listens. And people don’t think he listens. He listens. He doesn’t always take the advice. Believe me, I can tell you firsthand, but he -- but he listens.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But her campaign on bullying is very important. But I also think that she comes across sometimes as being reticent, that she doesn’t really want to push it too far. I think it’s a very important campaign and a very timely campaign to talk about the impact of bullying in our society.
But going back to this wardrobe issue, nobody really cares what she – what she’s trying to say, but she was going down to Texas to meet with children who have been separated from their families and it distracted from her message.
And I think that’s what people were concerned about.
LLAMAS: I think all these points are sort of connected because I did ask her what compelled you to wear that jacket? You had just been with children. She said she doesn’t read Twitter. She clearly does because she said that she feels that you could say she’s the most bullied person on the planet.
All of this coverage since the campaign started up until now definitely has affected her most.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The most bullied person on the planet. Thank you all very much, that’s all we have time for today. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And before we go, wanted to share a special moment for our friend and colleague Martha Raddatz. This week the Association of the U.S. Army awarded her its prestigious Marshall Medal for sustained commitment to the men and women of America’s armed forces.
In her keynote, Martha honored those service members and their families.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABS NEWS: In the country where fewer than one percent serve, it is vital for Americans to understand not only what we are fighting for, but who is in the fight.
And who is back home in military communities that have suffered unimaginable loss, who are still supporting their loved ones day after day, deployment after deployment. I have had – I have had a front row seat for all of this.
I have heard howls of pain from the wounded in combat zones, seen the sunrise over Kabul through the shadow of sandbags, flown home on an Easter morning with flag draped coffins at my fingertips and been serenaded at dusk by the crew of an Army Black Hawk who thought singing "You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling" while we swooped across the Tigress River would cheer me up after an especially difficult day.
And every one of those days and nights I thought how fortunate I was to be with those American soldiers to witness their courage and test my own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And how fortunate we are for Martha’s commitment and her coverage. And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice. In the month of September, two service members died overseas supporting operations in Afghanistan.
That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and I’ll see you tomorrow on "GMA".