'This Week' Transcript 3-10-19: White House National Security Adviser John Bolton
This is a rush transcript for "This Week" airing Sunday, March 10.
A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, March 10, 2019 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.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CO-ANCHOR, THIS WEEK: Preparing a launch.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be very disappointed if I saw testing.
RADDATZ: New reports North Korea could be reviving its missile program. Fresh images emerging just days after President Trump and Kim Jong-un failed to reach an agreement at that second summit. What does the activity at North Korean missile sites mean for negotiations and will Trump take any steps to respond? That and more with our exclusive headliner, national security adviser, John Bolton live. And --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no comments about this resolution passing?
RADDATZ: -- a freshman congresswoman's remarks about Israel spark Democratic infighting and a debate over what constitutes anti-Semitism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly am not going to be quiet when there’s anti-Semitism.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a member of Congress who is being subjected to deeply unfair scrutiny.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not about her. It's about these forms of hatred.
RADDATZ: The House has passed a resolution rejecting hate and racism, but is that enough to heal the rift within the Democratic party? And --
TRUMP: I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.
RADDATZ: Trump defends his former campaign chair and himself.
TRUMP: This had nothing to do with collusion. There was no collusion. I don't collude with Russia.
RADDATZ: It comes as Washington waits for the Mueller report. And Democrats launch a sweeping investigation of their own. We'll break it all down with our panel of experts and our powerhouse round table.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. So much to get to this morning from the latest on the investigations into President Trump to questions surrounding Paul Manafort's sentencing and that Democratic infighting. We will cover it all. But we begin with those new and alarming developments coming out of North Korea. New satellite images suggest North Korea could be preparing to revive its missile testing. Just over a week after that Hanoi summit failed to produce a deal. These images taken days before the summit but just released publicly on Friday show vehicles, cranes and rail cars near a facility outside Pyongyang where North Korea has previously assembled some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, leading some experts to believe North Korea is preparing to launch what would be its first missile or rocket in over a year.
Those images come just days after another satellite image emerged showing cranes and supplies appearing to be used to rebuild another launch site in North Korea. Despite these warning signs on Friday, President Trump appeared confident in his relationship with Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Time will tell, but I have a feeling that our relationship with North Korea -- Kim Jong-un and myself -- Chairman Kim, I think it's a very good one. I think it remains good. I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: So what to make of North Korea's latest moves and was anything gained in those face to face meetings with Kim Jong-un? For more, let's bring in our headliner, the president's national security adviser, John Bolton. Always good to see you, Ambassador Bolton. So let's get right to it. Do you believe that North Korea is about to launch a rocket, a missile, a satellite?
JOHN BOLTON, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, I’d rather not get into the specifics on that. What you’ve just shown is commercial satellite imagery to be sure. The United States government -- I’ll just put it this way -- expands a lot of resources and efforts so we don't have to rely on commercial satellite imagery. We’ve seen a lot in North Korea. We watch it constantly. I’ve been doing this since the first Bush administration, George H.W. Bush. There’s a lot of activity all the time in North Korea, but I’m not going to speculate on what that particular commercial satellite picture shows.
RADDATZ: What can you tell us? Are there railroad cars, railway cars, are there cranes? And -- and could you give us -- you’ve been doing this for years -- give us some idea whether that concerns you.
BOLTON: Well, look, the president has been very clear that he's not going to make the mistakes of prior administrations. And one mistake that prior administrations made repeatedly was assuming that the North Koreans would automatically comply when they undertake obligations. The North Koreans for example, have pledged to give up their nuclear weapons program at least five separate times, beginning in 1992 with the joint North/South de-nuclearization agreement. They -- they never seem to get around to it though. So that's one reason why we pay particular attention to what North Korea is doing all the time.
We see exactly what they’re doing now. We see it unblinkingly, and we don't have any illusions about what their capabilities are.
RADDATZ: Let me just read you a quote. When you put all that together from those satellite images, that's really what it looks like when the North Koreans are in the process of building a rocket. That’s Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project.
Do you disagree with him – he’s an expert.
BOLTON: Yes, well as I said (ph), I don’t really want to get into speculation about what they’re doing. The particular site in question has two facilities, there’s one that Kim Jong-un had told us earlier that he would dismantle.
This is the static engine test site. There’s also a launch site there that he promised to give up to Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea. So it’s actually two different parts of the same facility.
RADDATZ: And what would the consequences be if we saw another test launch?
BOLTON: Well as the president said, he’d be pretty disappointed if Kim Jong-un went ahead and did something like that, the president said repeatedly that he feels the absence of nuclear tests, the absence of ballistic missile launches is a positive sign.
And he’s – he’s used that really as part of his effort to persuade Kim Jong-un that he has to go for what the president called the big deal, complete denuclearization.
RADDATZ: Let’s listen to what the president said at his press conference in Vietnam right after negotiations broke down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There’s no more testing, and one of the things importantly that Chairman Kim promised me last night is regardless, he’s not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear – not going to do testing.
So, you know, I trust him and I take him at his word, I hope that’s true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The president said he would be surprised if Kim did anything that was not per our understanding. Would you be surprised?
BOLTON: You know, nothing in the proliferation game surprises me anymore. I think Kim Jong-un has a very clear idea where the president stands, what the objectives the president’s trying to achieve are, it’s why the decision to walk away in a friendly way as the president put it from the Hanoi summit was important for Kim Jong-un to understand.
The president, despite what a lot of the experts and pundits say, is not under pressure to make any deal. He wants to make the right deal and he described it to Kim Jong-un at the Hanoi meeting.
RADDATZ: Have you asked the North Koreans about these images? Has there been contact really since the Hanoi summit?
BOLTON: I’m not aware of any, it’s possibly the South Koreans have spoken to North Korea. I’m actually tomorrow morning going to be speaking with my South Korean counterpart, and I suspect this will be one of the things we discuss.
RADDATZ: And – and I want to play something else the president said at the summit in Hanoi about North Korea, which goes to something you were saying as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We know the country very well, believe it or not. We know every inch of that country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The images at the launch site were from February 22nd, those commercial satellite images. Were you aware of them when you went to Hanoi and was that something you brought up with the North Koreans?
BOLTON: Well again, that would get – get me involved in discussing intelligence, and I’d rather not do that. I’ll just say we look every day at the intelligence that’s provided to us. It’s very important that we know as much as we can about the North Koreans against the possibility that they might agree to the president’s proposal, we’d need to be in a position to verify their compliance with it.
So this is part of getting ready for that. And in any event, we want to track the potential for a threat if – if that emerges as well.
RADDATZ: And you talk about the president and the president saying he would be disappointed if there was a launch, that might be putting it mildly. Would this scuttle negotiations?
BOLTON: Well I’d rather not speculate on that either. As you heard, the president’s confident in his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un, he’s invested a lot of time in trying to develop that relationship.
He said he’s open to a third summit, none has been scheduled, and sometime they have to go by. But he’s prepared to engage again because he does think that the prospects for North Korea, which he’s been trying to persuade Kim Jong-un to accept if they denuclearized, are really quite spectacular.
RADDATZ: OK, let’s back track a bit. At the Singapore summit, North Korea committed only to, quote, "work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula". How do you define that, how do they define that?
BOLTON: Well, again, they have committed to denuclearization in a variety of forms several times in writing, solemn international agreements that they have happily violated. We define denuclearization as meaning the elimination of their nuclear weapons program, their uranium enrichment capability, their plutonium reprocessing capability.
From the beginning we’ve also included chemical and biological weapons in the elimination of their weapons of mass destruction, this is important to us because of our deployed forces in South Korea.
It’s important to South Korea and Japan. And of course we want their ballistic missile program ended as well. That is –
RADDATZ: But they didn’t sign onto that.
BOLTON: They – well they have signed on to elements of that in the 1992 joint North-South denuclearization agreement, and we’ve made it clear the president handed Kim Jong-un a piece of paper – actually two pieces of paper, one in English, one in Korean, that laid it out.
RADDATZ: That said, all of what you just said and more, can you tell us exactly what that said? And who wrote that?
BOLTON: Well, I can't tell you in Korean, but...
RADDATZ: Try with the English. We'll settle for the English.
BOLTON: I think I just did.
RADDATZ: It's just that? That's exactly what was said in that piece of paper?
BOLTON: I'm not going to tell you it was word for word, and I don't have the piece of paper in front of me to check it, but that is in the substance what it said.
RADDATZ: And who authored that proposal?
BOLTON: It was written at staff level and cleared around as usual.
RADDATZ: And Steve Biegun, the special envoy to North Korea, said in a speech in January that he hoped the two sides could move simultaneously and in parallel through a road map of concrete deliverables. That sounds like step by step, you do something, we do something. Is that how you see it?
BOLTON: Look, the president, as I mentioned before, is determined to avoid the mistakes prior presidents have made, and one of those mistakes is falling for the North Korean action for action ploy. And the reason that that doesn't work, is that what North Korea needs, and it needs it very much right now, is economic relief. I think it's very much on Kim Jong-un's mind. He wants the economic sanctions released. And to get that, he is prepared to give up some part of his nuclear program, perhaps at a declaratory level, even a substantial part.
But the marginal benefit to North Korea of economic relief is far greater than the marginal benefit to us of partial denuclearization. So that's why action for action almost inevitably in the past three administrations has worked to North Korea's benefit. And as I say, over a 25 plus year period they never seem to get to denuclearization, isn't that interesting?
RADDATZ: But you also talk about strategic patience. The president said that era was over, and yet just the other day, he said a year. Ask me in a year. You really give him a year? You yourself have said that time is on the side of the proliferator.
BOLTON: Time -- the historical lesson is time is inevitably on the side of the proliferator in the long run. Right now I think it's the president's judgment, and I think it's correct, that the economic leverage that we have because of the sanctions, puts the pressure on North Korea. And it's one reason why all of the pundits and all of the experts predicting a deal in Hanoi were wrong, because the leverage is on our side right now, not on North Korea's.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn now to Syria and ISIS. President Trump said 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate in Syria has been defeated, but let me play what CENTCOM commander General Votel said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, CENTCOM COMMANDER: The fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over.
What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization, but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities in waiting for the right time to resurge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Do you agree with that assessment? I know it's very different, the caliphate, and the ideological feelings about ISIS.
BOLTON: Yeah, I don't know what the rest of General Votel's statement said, so I don't want to criticize a partial clip. It has happened to me before that a clip of four words or even a full sentence gets put on television and it doesn't convey the full sense of what I was trying to say.
The president has been I think as clear as clear can be when he talks about the defeat of the ISIS territorial caliphate. He has never said that the elimination of the territorial caliphate means the end of ISIS in total. We know that's not the case. We know right now that there are ISIS fighters scattered still around Syria and Iraq, and that ISIS itself is growing in other parts of the world. The ISIS threat will remain.
But one reason that the president has committed to keeping an American presence in Iraq and a small part of an observer force in Syria, is against the possibility that there would be a real resurgence of ISIS, and we would then have the ability to deal with that if that arose. So, I think people have to be clear.
And the importance of the territorial caliphate goes to an ideological point at the center of ISIS's theory of itself, namely that they were a caliphate because under their view of what a caliphate is, you have to control territory.
RADDATZ: Actually, I wasn't trying to argue that, I was trying to ask whether you believed a resurgence could happen. How serious that is. I know we have asked for help from the allies there. Have you gotten any firm commitments from allies to help out?
BOLTON: Yeah, well, certainly in conversations this past week with my British and French counterparts, I'm very optimistic that they're going to participate. It hasn't happened formally yet, but they're looking at it. I think it's very important that we try and get this up. It may or may not succeed. But General Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has worked extensively on this, he's had considerable success. We're still pursuing it.
The ISIS threat, the al Qaeda threat, the terrorist threat is an ideological threat worldwide and it's something that I think we have to be vigilant against for the forseeable future. That’s the reality …
RADDATZ: And that is also something, over the years. We just don’t really know how to approach the ideological threat. Have you made progress in that? Do you believe you’re where you want to be?
BOLTON: Well, I think as long as the ideology is out there it continues to be a threat. And there are different circumstances in different parts of the world but for those who’ve said, for example, that the terrorist threat from Iran – those who’ve said in the years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, 40 years now, the ideology will fade, they’ll just become normal nation again like everybody else, that hasn’t been true in Iran. They’re still in the grip of a radical theology and ISIS and Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups show no sign of that ideology abating.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn now to Venezuela. We’ve seen the mass demonstrations, trying to halt food aid into the country, Nicolas Maduro looks like he is not really going anywhere. ABC’s Tom Llamas talked to Venezuelan President Maduro a few weeks ago, who said he fears President Trump because of those around him, including you. Let’s listen.
TOM LLAMOS, WORLD NEWS TONIGHT ANCHOR: Do you fear President Trump?
NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
RADDATZ: I think you got the idea there, pointing the finger, right, at you and others. Do you want Maduro to fear the advice you’re giving to the president?
BOLTON: Let me just say I’m honored to be named by Nicolas Maduro. I add him to the list of other people who’ve criticized me over the years. I don’t wish him any ill will. I tweeted some weeks ago I hope his future consists of living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela. It’s not just Maduro though. It’s the entire regime. It’s a group of kleptocrats who have plundered Venezuela of its oil wealth, have impoverished the people. You can see that now with the collapse of their nationwide electrical grid …
RADDATZ: But do you think Maduro’s going anywhere. It’s been about six weeks since the U.S. backed Juan Guaido.
BOLTON: I think – look, I think momentum is on Guiado’s side. Reports in the press that stress the military hasn’t shifted miss the point entirely.
RADDATZ: What’s the point?
BOLTON: The point is that they have not sought to arrest Guaido and the National Assembly and the opposition. And I think one reason for that is that Maduro fears if he gave that order, it would not be obeyed. The fact is, and the media don’t know it because people don’t talk about this, there are countless conversations going on between members of the National Assembly and members of the military in Venezuela; talking about what might come, how they might move to support the opposition.
They’re not going to broadcast that …
RADDATZ: You’re pretty certain Maduro’s going to be out?
BOLTON: Well, I’m not certain of anything. But I do think momentum is on the side of Guaido. I think the overwhelming support of the population and the overwhelming support of the enlisted personnel in the military and the junior officers, the top officer corps, only a few have broken. You know, there are 2,000 admirals and generals in Venezuela which is more than all of the nations of NATO combined. That tells you who benefits from plundering the economy.
But many of them are talking as well. We’ll see what happens.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much, Ambassador Bolton. We’ll end on that note. It’s always great to have you here.
BOLTON: Thank you.
RADDATZ: Up next, the roundtable takes on the debate (ph) over freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s remarks on Israel. Was the Democratic backlash justified? Could it compromise the party’s agenda? That discussion when we come back.
RADDATZ: Last fall, Ilhan Omar became one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, one of the new faces of the Democratic House majority. But with that spotlight has come intense scrutiny as comments by Omar about Israel in recent weeks have been perceived as anti-Semitic, sparking a debate dividing the Democratic party over what constitutes anti-Semitism and what is legitimate political speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman, Speaker Pelosi says it's up to you if you want to explain your comments at all.
RADDATZ: It started with a February tweet in response to a story about the House Republican leader threatening action over Omar's criticism of Israel. It's all about the benjamins, baby, she declared. She soon apologized for using age-old stereotypes of Jews using money to buy influence. But then more controversy after Omar questioned the loyalties of American Jews who support pro-Israel lobbying groups.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: I want to talk about political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.
RADDATZ: Her fellow Democrats reacting harshly, including freshman Congresswoman Elaine Luria, who is Jewish and a Navy veteran.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D), VIRGINIA: When I entered the United States Naval Academy, I first took the oath to support and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Is that not enough to prove my loyalty to our nation?
RADDATZ: Democratic Minnesota state Senator Ron Latz told NPR he talked to Omar about how she should discuss Israel even before she was elected.
SEN. RON LATZ (D), MINNESOTA: Unfortunately, she keeps repeating the mistakes. So I’m troubled by what appears to be a pattern reflecting an attitude at least toward Israel, if not toward Jews.
RADDATZ: But Omar's defenders say she is facing unfair scrutiny.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: I just want to make sure that we are protecting also the right for the first Muslim woman to be in Congress and to question legitimately foreign policy towards Israel.
RADDATZ: Omar herself has been the target of intolerance. Just last week this poster in the West Virginia capital at a GOP day connected Omar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion to reconsider is laid on the table.
RADDATZ: The debate over Omar's words sparking a House resolution this week, but broadened to condemn not just anti-Semitism, but also Islamaphobia and white supremacy.
RADDATZ: That resolution passed the House unanimously among Democrats with just 23 no votes from Republicans who said Omar should have been directly named in the resolution. Let's bring in the round table to discuss all of this now. Alex Castellanos, an ABC News contributor and Republican strategist, Democratic strategist, Stefanie Brown James, co-founder of Collective PAC, Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief for The Associated Press, and ABC News’ Cokie Roberts. Good morning to you all. And Stefanie, I want to start with you. You heard Congresswoman Omar's comments, you were part of a group that helped elect her. What would you say to her about those comments?
STEFANIE BROWN JAMES, CO-FOUNDER, COLLECTIVE PAC: I would say this is your megaphone moment that I’m not sure she was ready to embrace. That through a tweet, this has now caused quite frankly a firestorm. But what's important to understand is that the resolution that came out was ultimately good. We should be condemning acts of hatred and bigotry, but at the same time, my advice to her at this moment would be, focus on your agenda, what you told your constituents you wanted to do for them, and now quite frankly that's going to be a little bit up in the air as so much attention is now on her comments.
RADDATZ: Alex, you're shaking your head. You shook your head when you said, ultimately this came out good.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think it came out well. I don't think it came out well for the Democrats overall. It's -- it’s -- you know -- she -- Congresswoman Omar got mud on her white dress that she wore to the State of the Union. Anti-Semitic mud. And instead of apologizing it and washing it off, what -- she hid in a crowd not a cage. Well let's put other people on the stage with me and get mud on them. And Republicans were reluctant to help -- to help the Democrats I think hide their anti-Semitism in a crowd like that. And rightly so. How toothless --
RADDATZ: Those 23 Republicans who voted against it?
CASTELLANOS: Yes. And how toothless was this? Well, the Congresswoman herself not only voted for it but celebrated it as saying, oh, this is great because it's -- it’s the first time Congress has voted against Islamaphobia. So -- by the way, this tells us something else too. How much power Nancy Pelosi does not have over Democrats in Congress now. The young Turks are running the show.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Well, she -- she has to -- she has to balance it. I mean, she’s got these young people who’ve come in with a tremendous amount of energy and -- and followings. This is what's different. This is what we’ve never seen before. We’ve never seen freshman members of Congress have, in the case of AOC, millions of followers and in the case of Congresswoman Omar, thousands, all independent. It has nothing to do with party, it has nothing to do with -- with following even their own constituents, it is a completely independent power abyss.
RADDATZ: So -- so how do you handle that, and should they be trying to handle that, really?
ROBERTS: Sure they need to handle that because they need to have a party that they can take to the electorate in 2020 and say, here's who we are, in a voice that the electorate can recognize and vote for --
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Which is one of the challenges for Pelosi, is that yes, she has some of these freshman members who have quite a following, they are quite active on social media, they have big platforms, but they’re not actually the ones that got Democrats the House majority back.
ROBERTS: That’s right.
PACE: Those are freshmen who came from swing districts, who were able to defeat --
ROBERTS: Not even swing districts, very Republican districts.
PACE: Very Republican districts in some case were able to -- to push Republican lawmakers out. Some of these freshmen come from safe Democratic seats. So Pelosi's real challenge is she knows that the energy of the party is there, she knows that she’s going to have to contend with these lawmakers, but she actually needs to save and help re-elect a whole different crowd of lawmakers. That is a real challenge for her over the next two years.
ROBERST: And they don't understand that. They think -- they think that because they won, in some cases defeating other Democrats, big in Democratic districts, that that's where the party is. And it is where the energy is, but it's not where the voters are.
RADDATZ: I want to go back to these -- these remarks that Omar made again, and -- and -- and what that means. She -- she says she's being unfairly labeled anti-Semitic for those comments, but you heard Congressman Luria there, Eliot Engel has talked about it, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch also called the comments wrong and hurtful. So do you think her comments are sparking a healthy conversation about how you can talk about Israel or just shutting it down?
JAMES: I think it is creating a healthy conversation. I mean, you can be critical of Israel, like you can of any country that does not equate to being anti-Semitic. She did come back and apologize to say she recognized why people felt this way, but I think it's a debate that we quite frankly have kind of behind closed doors. We need to bring this -- this conversation really to the forefront, because it is an issue for a number of people.
CASTELLANOS: Well, the point of resolution was not to have it focus on anti-Semitism, which was the original offense, it was to dilute it, to hide it, and oh, let's go to a safe place, let's talk about hate speech in all --
JAMES: Dilute is a hard word.
ROBERTS: But there’s nothing wrong with talking about hate speech.
CASTELLANOS: -- which is fine, but that's not the offense. So, no, you can't have a debate about anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party right now.
RADDATZ: We did bring up that poster that was -- had Omar in front of the towers.
ROBERTS: I mean, Alex, you remember this, this is of allegiance to a foreign power. It was used against Catholics for many generations, you know, that they were allegiant to The Vatican.
So there is this notion that if you are part of a religion that has some other country involved that you are not fully American, and that is really what that was all harking back to.
RADDATZ: And we mentioned that NPR interview with the state senator who said he had spent hours with her before the election on how to talk about this issue, and stereotypes. Did she not listen or understand? Or is she pushing?
PACE: Right, we have had similar reporting from our colleagues in Minnesota who say that before, when she was running, before she took office, that there was some concern, among Jewish leaders, in particular, some of her constituents, that she just wasn't talking about these issues in the right way.
That, actually, you know, to a point Stephanie was making, that there could be a legitimate debate, and has been a legitimate debate, over U.S. policy toward Israel. But if that's what she's trying to advocate for, she's actually hurting that cause...
CASTELLANOS: The problem is for Democrats is they won in 2018 and picked up a lot of seats running moderate-looking candidates who had AR-15s and American flags in their commercials. Now they’ve been elected and we see where the passion and the energy is in the Democratic Party. And if the face of the Democratic Party is -- is anti-semitic, proto-socialist, gee, that's going to be a pretty good election for Republicans.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about one of the Republicans who defended the president's comments after Charlottesville is one who voted against this. Is that a double standard?
CASTELLANOS: Well, he was wrong to do that, to defend that, but right now if the two wrongs make a right argument is not exactly going to work. I think for the Democrats here, they did it too. The point is an anti-Semitic barrage of comments. I mean, she apologized and then doubled down on this, and the Democratic Party can't clean its own house.
When Steve King did something like this, what happened? He got kicked off his committee.
JAMES: 13 years later though.
CASTELLANOS: He got kicked off his committee -- well, that's...
PACE: Republicans have lived with Steve King and have gotten his endorsements in Iowa for quite some time.
ROBERTS: The number of things that he has said over the decades is really quite remarkable
CASTELLANOS: ...you want to keep an anti-Semite as a face of the Democratic Party for 13 years, good luck for that.
JAMES: But she's not the face of the Democratic Party.
RADDATZ: I want to play what President Trump, how President Trump responded to this. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They have become an anti-Jewish party, and I thought that vote was a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Kind of a highly dubious statement there, but we are seeing this pattern about Immigration, socialism, putting these extreme labels on everything the Democrats do, clearly a strategy for 2020.
PACE: This is a re-election strategy for the president.
Look, he knows he has a base that's going to be with him, but he also is well aware that there is a segment of the Republican Party that could be looking for another option if Democrats nominate a more moderate candidate. What he's trying to do is paint the entire Democratic Party as far left.
ROBERTS: And it's a smart technique.
RADDATZ: His base may love it, but how about those moderate Republicans who he will need?
CASTELLANOS: It's going to play play pretty well, because 2018 was a referendum on him, right. Does Donald Trump need a brake pedal? Yes. Let's send some Democrats up there. I mean, this man tweets at night. He's a reckless and wild and disruptive president. 2020 is not going to be a referendum on Trump, it's going to be a choice. And if the choice is between Donald Trump and the return of a Democratic Washington establishment that can't condemn anti-Semitism when it emerges in its own party, and that is running, you know, the energy is with a socialist agenda -- the Green New Deal.
I mean, if the Democrats decide to have their convention in Venezuela, it’s not going to go well for them.
RADDATZ: You’re all in on this, Alex. I can tell – I can tell. We’re going to have much more on that when we come back. But coming up next, did former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s sentence fit the crime, and how imminent is Robert Mueller’s report?
ABC’s Terry Moran and Pierre Thomas weigh in when we come back.
RADDATZ: Pierre and Terry are here to break down Paul Manafort’s prison sentence and the latest in the Mueller investigation, and all week long you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Were you shocked that he only got 47 months?
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), N.J.: No, I’m this – this criminal justice, you can’t surprise me anymore.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIF: People commit white collar crimes, they should be prepared to bring their toothbrush and spend as much time behind bars as anybody else.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MN: You just can’t treat people differently, not just based on race but also based on the types of crimes that they commit, that’s wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: The reaction from President Trump and some of the 2020 Democratic field to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort who was sentenced to less than four years in federal prison this week.
The Special Counsel's office had recommended a longer prison term up to 25 years. And while Manafort will be back in court on Wednesday for another sentencing hearing that could put him behind bars for years or longer, did his sentence fit the crime?
Let’s bring in ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, who has covered the Special Counsel's investigation from the start and our own Terry Moran, Senior National Correspondent who covers the president and also the Supreme Court. Good morning.
A lot of factors, Pierre, go into deciding this. The judge looks at a lot of different things. So what stood out to you in this case, especially with so many people complaining that the sentence was just too light.
PIERRE THOMAS, CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Martha, as you can see, this has turned into a very intense debate about fairness in terms of the criminal justice system.
The prosecutors had argued basically that Manafort is a straight up criminal that he had 30 overseas bank accounts with more than $55 million in it and that he did not pay taxes on $6 million of it.
They wanted him to get a significant prison term for that, the defense and Manafort himself made the case that, look, he’s an older man, he’s not in good health, and they believed that the sentence should be less.
The judge said the sentencing guidelines which called for 19 to 24 years in prison, the judge said excessive, too much.
RADDATZ: And just what Pierre has laid out there, Terry, and then we have the judge saying this – this stood out, that Manafort lived an otherwise blameless life. That’s clearly at odds with what Pierre just said.
TERRY MORAN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: With that and with a career that brought influence peddling to a level of intensity and disgrace in some ways that hangs over Washington.
This is the guy who represented the dictator of Ukraine when he was slaughtering people in the streets of Kiev. This is the guy who took money from people like Jonas Savimbi and other gangsters around the world. Millions upon millions of dollars, stashed then in Cyprus and then engaged in tax evasion on an industrial scale and faces sentencing on these other crimes.
That is not an otherwise blameless life. Look, it’s good that judges have discretion to look at the human being in front of them, outside the guidelines and try to do justice, but that discretion tells us something about our system and about the individual judge.
RADDATZ: Exactly, Pierre, and I want to talk about that. Because several Democrats say the sentence reflects a criminal justice system that more harshly punishes people of color. One former federal prosecutor wrote, "The system isn’t broken because Manafort got 4 years rather than the 19-year recommendation that the sentencing guidelines spat out. The system is broken because other people get the long sentence because they’re poor and often darker people don’t get the same chances."
THOMAS.: Martha, let’s take the emotion out of it and let’s talk facts. There was a recent Justice Department – excuse me, Sentencing Commission report that found African American males got a sentence of 19 percent higher time in prison than their white counterparts for the same crime. So this is a real issue. And the other thing I would just say about Manafort is this; the context. He was in jail during trial because he had been accused of, and found by another judge, of witness tampering. In jail for witness tampering.
Also, the context of a person who made a deal with the prosecutors and then was caught lying. So this notion of an otherwise blameless life was, you know, contradiction to recent facts, many people would argue.
RADDATZ: So the lighter expected in – sentence in this case, but he’s got more sentencing this week. What do you expect there?
MORAN: Well, I expect an answer in some ways from the judge in the District of Columbia. Look, this is – this is something that strikes at the heart of confidence in our justice system and that will not be lost on the next judge who sees the "otherwise blameless" Paul Manafort sentenced.
RADDATZ: But – but that judge – will that judge look and say "Hey, he didn’t get enough time?" I mean, it’s certainly supposed to be separate.
MORAN: It is and will be separate. But the assessment of these crimes that this judge will sentence Manafort on in the context of a life, which now includes this sentence, is fair. And I don’t see how any judge across the country, with the incarceration rates, the incarceration crisis in this country, which, in part, is a crisis about racism, can turn her head away from those issues.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn to the Mueller probe here quickly, Pierre. We’ve all heard that the investigation may be coming to an end. I feel like we’ve heard that before. So what can you tell us about that?
THOMAS: Well, based on our sourcing, Mueller is nearing the end of his work. And we expect that in the coming days he will turn over his confidential report to Attorney General Bill Barr and then Barr will have one of the most momentous decisions that any attorney general has had in 30-some years, which is, how much of that report is made public and turned over to Congress?
RADDATZ: And do you have a sense of that?
THOMAS: You know, Barr has said during his confirmation hearing that he will – he wants to be transparent, but he will abide by the standards of the Justice Department. That typically says where people aren’t charged with crimes, that you don’t do much talking about them. But there’s so much in this investigation about the number of contacts between people associated with Trump and Russians that people will want to know and how Mueller chose to deal with these issues.
RADDATZ: And the big topic, of course, Terry, collusion. The president said there was no collusion, there was no collusion. There are hints that that’s certainly what Mueller may have been looking at. How big a deal is it if they don’t find collusion for the president?
MORAN: Huge. He’s cleared. If Robert Mueller comes back – Mueller became a folk hero in the United States. Robert DeNiro…
RADDATZ: Even if he finds all sorts of things?
MORAN: Sure. No, but the central and most serious question in this investigation, the reason Robert Mueller started it is, did the current president of the United States assist the Kremlin in an attack on our democracy? And if Mueller, after two years, comes back and says "I don’t have the evidence to support that charge," that’s a reckoning. That’s a reckoning for progressives and Democrats who hoped that Mueller would essentially erase the 2016 election, it’s a reckoning for the media, it’s a reckoning around the country if, in fact, after all this time, there was no collusion.
THOMAS: Well, the fact is, if you look at all the charges so far, no one Mueller has charged so far has been charged with directly conspiring with the Russians. That’s a fact. But the Mueller Report is shrouded in secrecy. There’s just a lot we don’t know and there’s certain facts that Mueller has hinted to throughout the case. Like the fact that Paul Manafort allegedly gave polling data to a suspected Russian intelligence officer. Roger Stone, a confidant of the president, communicating with one of the Russian hackers.
So, again, stay tuned. We have to see what the report says.
RADDATZ: And – and Terry, even if there’s nothing there, the Hill will start several investigations into all kinds of things.
MORAN: That’s right. There are certainly other investigations about the Trump businesses, about Trump Tower Moscow which – which may draw the interest of prosecutors and congressional investigators, and certainly these issues need to be brought to light. But that …
RADDATZ: And how about the attention of the American public? If – if the Mueller – that’s a question.
MORAN: It is a question. In fact, Democrats have to worry that they don’t look like they’re just throwing anything against the wall that’ll – and hope it’ll stick and get back to the old kind of politics. If they want to beat Donald Trump, beat him. Beat him on the issues, beat him in politics, don't beat him with investigations.
RADDATZ: It's great to have your perspective this morning. Thanks for coming in, guys.
Up next, who is leading the Democratic field in the brand new Des Moines register poll? The roundtable takes on 2020 when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER STARBUCKS CEO: Beto, Biden, Hickenlooper, let's see what happens, but it really appears to me the Democratic Party has decided that the way to beat Donald Trump is a far left, socialistic agenda, that I think is a bad strategy, not only for defeating Trump, but worse than that, a terrible, terrible position to put the American people in, and I think the American people are going to reject it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And we're back with the roundtable right now. We'll get to that in a second, but I want to go to the latest poll from the Des Moines register/CNN/Mediacom that shows Joe Biden in Iowa, 27 percent, Bernie Sanders just behind him at 25 percent, and then everyone falls off a cliff - Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, 1 percent. Kirsten Gillibrand didn't even get 1 percent.
I know it's really, really early, but what does that tell you, Cokie?
ROBERTS: Name recognition is what that tells me. The people have heard of Joe Biden andBernie Sanders, and they haven't heard of the others, it's really at this point, that's what we're talking about.
CASTELLANOS: Well, I think that's right. Joe Biden's best day is before the campaign really starts.
Look, the worst thing in politics is when you are completely well known and you have no room to grow, and that's still not enough to put it away. I think Joe Biden's a parking lot where people are just sitting and waiting for a new, fresh, Democratic face to come along. And there are two primaries here, there's the old money primary, go raise a bunch of money from big donors, and then there is the online money primary, and the candidates who can go there like Beto and Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders, and raise a bunch of cash on the internet like that, watch out for them, they're going to zoom.
RADDATZ: Our Democratic strategist here, how do you see this? I mean, obviously it's early. Obviously everything changes, but for somebody like Biden and Sanders particularly, what does that say?
JAMES: Biden has curried a lot of favor?
RADDATZ: And has not announced.
JAMES: He has not announced, but a lot of people like him. They believe him. They trust him. And this is...
ROBERTS: He's a likeable guy.
JAMES: This goes across demographics, across geography. And so I think to pay -- this showed me that the Democratic field is strong. I actually believe that. I think that it shows that we have breadth and depth of ideas and candidates who actually can represent all Americans.
CASTELLANOS: Just like the Republican field when we had 17 candidates.
RADDATZ: Want to get that in there, don't you?
You know, Julie, there were several Democrats this week who bowed out. Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Eric Holder, Mike Bloomberg have all now...
ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton.
RADDATZ: Yeah, Hillary Clinton. Why are so many bowing out?
PACE: Well, for a couple of different reasons. I think for someone like a Mike Bloomberg,he's a very data-driven person and in talking to his team this week, they looked at their polling, they determined that there was room in the field for a moderate to win the Democratic nomination, but not if more than one moderate wins. And there are signs from Joe Biden's camp or that Biden is going to get in, and they did not think that a moderate could pull out if both Biden and Bloomberg were winning.
Bloomberg has a lot of money to be able to do a lot more in this race.
Look, for someone like a Sherrod Brown, I think some of it is -- ultimately, I think his heart wasn't in it, and running for president is really grueling on you personally, on your family. If you are not all in, and you don't think you can give pretty much everything you have, it's really not worth doing.
I think for Joe Biden, though, and looking at those numbers, his team knows those numbers are not real at this point. They are well aware that the second he gets in the race some of the realities of Joe Biden, good and bad, will become clear and they are also worried about money. He is going to have to grind this out in an old fashioned big donor way. That’s hard at times.
ROBERTS: And he doesn't like it.
PACE: And he doesn't like it.
CASTELLANOS: Yes. And what can Joe Biden become that he’s not already now?
ROBERTS: Well --
CASTELLANOS: Can he grow? Can he become the new and improved? That's going to be tough.
ROBERTS: Well, no, but what he can be is the voice of the middle of the country and the working people, and that's the voice he has provided throughout his political career.
ROBERTS: And that could be a very important voice for the Democratic party.
CASTELLANOS: In a general election --
ROBERTS: It’s also true --
CASTELLANOS: -- not in a primary.
ROBERTS: Well, but it's also true that he does have a lot of African-American support on the -- on the theory that Barack Obama turned to him when he was looking for a vice president, and that he --
CASTELLANOS: But not when he was looking for a successor.
ROBERTS: -- he had Obama’s back. Well, that's true.
RADDATZ: Cokie, I want to go to you also about the Howard Schultz and what Howard Schultz just said. We’ve been talking about this a lot this morning, progressives versus moderates.
ROBERTS: Well it's a real problem because you look at that last Wall Street Journal poll, 74 percent of both independents and moderates said that socialism was something that made them extremely uncomfortable. And --
RADDATZ: That's why you are going to hear Donald Trump talking about it over and over.
ROBERTS: Not just Donald Trump, every Republican is going to say socialist, socialist, socialist.
CASTELLANOS: Isn’t it unfortunate when it’s true?
ROBERTS: And it’s -- it’s going to be a problem for the Democrats.
RADDATZ: So -- so what do the Democrats do?
BROWN JAMES: Well here’s the thing. In my community, I don't know a lot of people who have been polled. And I know that that sounds very immature. But I do believe that at the end of the day, this is about the base of the Democratic party coming out to support the candidate that they think will speak for them. I don't think people are looking at it in buckets of socialists and -- and moderate, they are looking at it as can this person represent my interests and can they beat Donald Trump? And I think that --
ROBERTS: Well those are two different -- those are two different things.
BROWN JAMES: Yes, they are, but I think that those two things resonate with the people who are going to come out to vote to actually move the Democratic party forward and I think that’s -- that’s black people, Latino people and young people.
ROBERTS: But representing my interests might mean they can't beat Donald Trump.
PACE: Right. In talking to -- to voters in some of these early states, the desire to beat Donald Trump trumps whether you support the Green New Deal, Medicare for All -- people want to hear your views on those positions. Ultimately what a lot of voters I’ve talked to say, is they just want to be able to look at someone and think, how will they stack up with Trump on a debate stage?
RADDATZ: And so issues -- I’ve seen the exact same thing where issues start taking a backseat.
Alex, I want to end here with you. Let’s talk about the president's own re-election prospects, which he’s staked a large part on a strong part on economy. We saw some troubling figures out this week. The trade deficit hitting a record $891 billion and slow job growth. Will that hurt him?
CASTELLANOS: Well, every silver lining has a dark cloud, but overall, things are still going pretty well. More Americans are working than ever before, wages are finally going up, Republicans are very happy, and even independents about the Supreme Court, America's feared and respected in the world if not, loved. And by the way, a -- a downturn in the economy may not hurt Trump. It may make him more indispensable. You don't change captains in stormy seas and Donald Trump is still the only alternative to what? Even worse management of Washington from a Democratic party that is going rabidly left because it’s anti-Trump.
ROBERTS: ’92 we changed captains in a stormy sea.
RADDATZ: OK, we're going to have to end it there. Much, much more to come over the coming months. Thanks to all of you. And that's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT and have a great day.
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