'This Week' Transcript 11-10-19: Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Mac Thornberry, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a "Black Voices for Trump" campaign event in Atlanta, Nov. 8, 2019.PlayJonathan Ernst/Reuters
WATCH 'This is a very strong case of bribery': House Intel Democrat on Trump Ukraine call

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, November 10, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

MARTHA RADDATZ, CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Impeachment goes public.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We will begin our open hearings.

RADDATZ: President Trump defiant despite damaging testimony.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is just a continuation of the hoax. It's a disgraceful thing.

RADDATZ: Will these open hearings be a game-changer for Congress, the president and the nation? This morning we'll break down the key moments so far. Plus the perspective from both sides of the aisle. Representatives Jackie Speier and Mac Thornberry join us live. And will he or won’t he? Will billionaire Michael Bloomberg shake up the 2020 race? Insight and analysis from our powerhouse round table. Mary Bruce, Matthew Dowd, Asma Khalid, Jonathan Swan. Plus an ABC News exclusive this Veteran's Day weekend. The president's new top military adviser Chairman Mark Milley in his first interview.

RADDATZ: How important is it to keep an American presence in Syria?

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The footprint will be small, but the objective will remain the same, the enduring defeat of ISIS.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. It started with one whistle-blower. Now less than two months later, a full-blown impeachment inquiry set to reach a critical phase. The first public testimony that will likely shape public perceptions of the investigation and the future of the Trump presidency. The central questions: was it an abuse of power for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival here at home? Was he acting to further his own personal and political interests by withholding military aid from a key U.S. ally? With all of the rhetoric flying from both sides of the aisle and President Trump's own free-wheeling defense, we wanted to hit the pause button and ask: how did we get here?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution.

RADDATZ: September 24th, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally opens an impeachment inquiry after a bombshell whistle-blower complaint raised concerns over Trump's July phone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

TRUMP: The conversation was -- was perfect. My phone call was perfecto.

RADDATZ: According to a White House memo detailing that call, Trump tells the Ukrainian president, “we do a lot for Ukraine.” Zelenskiy later responds, “we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps…”, specifically buying American anti-tank missiles. Trump's response, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” He goes on to ask Zelenskiy to investigate a debunked theory about the 2016 election, and then a second request, an investigation into his Democratic rival.

SCHIFF: It goes to the core of whether the president abused his office to seek political help in his re-election campaign and did so to the detriment of our nation's security.

RADDATZ: House Democrats have issued at least 26 subpoenas and at least 15 individuals have appeared before Congress. According to witness testimony, Trump's demand was pushed by his top advisers, including his acting chief of staff and his personal attorney, in phone calls and meetings for months. Among the key testimony so far, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine who told Congress he was told “everything,” including military aid and a White House meeting was contingent on Ukraine's willingness to launch the investigation Trump requested. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., who in a stunning about-face, revised his testimony. Sondland now saying he told a top Ukrainian official Ukraine would likely not receive military aid unless Ukraine publicly agreed to investigate Trump's targets. And Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a White House national security official who was on that July phone call. Vindman recalled one meeting in particular where senior Ukrainian officials were told they had to investigate the Bidens. Colonel Vindman also testified he was told the hold on military aid came from the White House chief of staff's office. In the face of mounting evidence, the president has been unrelenting in his defense.

TRUMP: Impeachment witch hunt. It's all a hoax.

RADDATZ: Republicans largely closing ranks around the president as Democrats move forward.

SCHIFF: Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses, but also to learn firsthand about the facts of the president's misconduct.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: And joining me now to break this down further is ABC News senior national correspondent Terry Moran. And Terry I want to start with these public hearings and who the public will see testify.

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two big witnesses to lead off. William Taylor was the acting ambassador in Ukraine, and George Kent, a State Department official with responsibility over it. So you're going to get a picture from Kiev, from Ukraine, and from Washington, from two men who were very alarmed about what was going on. And at the end of the week, Marie Yovanovitch, who was the ambassador who was pushed out by Rudy Giuliani and others in the administration.

RADDATZ: And Terry really at the heart of this is a federal law that says it would be illegal to accept, receive or solicit anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. There are those who say the phone transcript itself showed that, but now we have this long line of witnesses.

MORAN: We do. A lot of election lawyers will tell you that the phone transcript does demonstrate that the president violated election laws. Some election lawyers will tell you no, because it doesn't have a determinate monetary value, and that's a debate in election law. But really this isn't about election law, it’s about the constitution. And the question, does the evidence show that the president abused his power by trying to get a foreign government to go after his political rival? Is that an impeachable offense? So, it's the constitution, really, that I think the congress and the country is going to focus on.

RADDATZ: And the whistle-blower. A lot of attention obviously on the whistle-blower. It doesn't sound like that whistle-blower will be appearing. Do you think it's important?

MORAN: Well, not from an evidentiary standpoint. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said other witnesses in sworn testimony have borne out what the whistle-blower complaint says. So, he is not -- or she -- is not necessary in testimony. That’s probably true from evidence. And federal law protects this whistle-blower from any kind of retaliation. And there is a concern that the inflammatory language might endanger the whistle-blower. But I covered jury trials for a long time. Juries like to eyeball witnesses. And we're talking about overturning a presidential election. There will be Americans for whom the impeachment evidence is less persuasive, is diminished because they can't see and know the person who started it, their motivations and intent.

RADDATZ: And Terry, I know you covered the Clinton impeachment. You obviously followed the Nixon impeachment as a little kid. But what are the possible outcomes here?

MORAN: Well, the president could be removed from office. I think there's some confusion about the word impeachment. Impeachment is the indictment. It is going to go to the floor of the House of Representatives, almost certainly, and it looks as if the president will be impeached. There will be a trial in the Senate. And if 67 senators, or two-thirds of the Senators present vote, the president will be removed from office. But I think, ultimately, what we're looking at, is the final verdict will come from American people on election day about this conduct, about whether or not we want a presidency that goes to other governments for assistance in going after political rivals, and that the election day, now less than a year away, will be the ultimate verdict on all of this.

RADDATZ: Thanks, as always, Terry.

MORAN: Thanks, Martha.

RADDATZ: So, let's bring in Democratic Representative Jackie Speier, a member of the intelligence committee, which will conduct those public hearings this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Let me ask you, Robert Mueller's public testimony earlier this year did not galvanize public opinion on the findings of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And while this is obviously a different allegation, how do you make a stronger public case this time?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D-CA): I think for a number of reasons. First of all, Bob Mueller's report was 400 pages long, had a lot of legalese. This is a very simple, straightforward act. The president broke the law. He went on a telephone call with the president of Ukraine and said “I have a favor, though,” and then proceeded to ask for an investigation of his rival. And this is a very strong case of bribery, because you have an elected official, the president, demanding action of a foreign country in this case, and providing something of value, which is the investigation, and he is withholding aid, which is that official act. And the constitution is very clear: treason, bribery or acts of omission. In this case, it's clearly one of those.

RADDATZ: Obviously Republicans would disagree with you on a lot of that. Republicans sent their list of witnesses that they want to call as part of the intelligence committee's public impeachment hearings yesterday. It included the whistle-blower, and Hunter Biden. But this is what Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement last night, “this inquiry is not and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigation into the Bidens or 2016.” And in the letter to Republicans, Schiff calling the whistle-blower's testimony "redundant and unnecessary and would only place their personal safety at grave risk." It doesn't sound like the chairman will allow Biden or the whistle-blower to testify, as the Republicans have requested. If you're able to guarantee his or her safety, why shouldn't the whistle-blower testify?

SPEIER: Well, the whistle-blower actually provided a document. He was third hand. We have Colonel Vindman, who was actually on the call, who will be in a position, I think, to testify. And so you have a much more direct person to speak to about the events. And you have the actual transcript that the president himself provided that is corroboration. So you have -- what we have to prove, though, is corrupt intent. And we prove corrupt intent by showing, first of all, the money was withheld. Secondly, there was concealment. There's concealment, by virtue of having that transcript put into a special server. You have concealment because you have persons within the administration who are prevented from testifying. You then go further and you have this diversion by the president by trying to focus on the whistle-blower, who legally has a right not to be coming forward.

RADDATZ: But, Congresswoman, even though -- even though there may...

SPEIER: And, then finally, you have the shadow government.

RADDATZ: Even though there may be a legal right, our Terry Moran was just saying, it's someone the people might want to hear from. For political benefit, is that something you should consider, having the whistle-blower come forward, because Republicans have made such an issue of this?

SPEIER: I think the Republicans are making an issue of anything that they think will give them some gravitas. The only thing that the whistle-blower can say is that he was told by other peoples about the phone call. We have the other people coming forward to actually testify. So you have direct evidence, not indirect evidence. And the whistle-blower has great risk associated with his life right now. And he also has the right under the law, under the whistle-blower statute, to have his whistle-blower complaint filed and for him to be anonymous.

RADDATZ: And you...

SPEIER: We feel very strongly about whistle-blower protection.

RADDATZ: And you have said the rules driving the impeachment process are very equal. And yet Chairman Schiff can turn down those GOP witnesses. And the White House lawyers are not allowed to participate in public hearing before the House Intelligence Committee. How is that very equal?

SPEIER: Well, there are other witnesses the Republicans have requested that I would think that the chairman is going to make available to testify. Tim Morrison is one. Kurt Volker is another. We want to stay focused on the Ukraine call. And having Hunter Biden come in is unrelated to the Ukraine call. And so that becomes irrelevant. The whistle-blower, again, has protection. As it relates to having the witnesses be questioned by someone within the White House, that can, in fact, happen. The president can have a conclusion that he can reach at the end of the actual Judiciary Committee hearing. And all we're asking for is that we receive what we are rightly deserving, which is the documentation from State Department, all of which has been withheld, and then primary people like Mulvaney, who is the chief of staff, who took direct orders from the president, of course is using this phony argument of absolute immunity, which doesn't exist in the law.

RADDATZ: OK. We thank you for joining us this morning, Congresswoman Speier. We’ll have the Republican response when we come back. And, later, the powerhouse roundtable takes on impeachment and whether billionaire Michael Bloomberg may shake up the 2020 race. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

915 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: There are perfectly appropriate quid pro quos and there are inappropriate quid pro quos.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Anytime that anyone talks to the president, he has been very clear. There is no linkage, there is no quid pro quo.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Just some of the Republican defense of the president this week. Sop let's bring in Congressman Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. And Congressman Thornberry, you just heard Congresswoman Speier lay out the Democratic strategy for these public hearings. Republicans have criticized the process of this inquiry up to now. What's the Republican strategy to combat the substance of these allegations?

REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): Well, you started out, Martha, by saying “how did we get here?” And let me add a couple things to that, because I think it is important to remember, shortly after President Trump was inaugurated there were Democrats who were calling for him to be impeached, because they were so surprised at the results of the last election. We literally had two and a half years of investigations, subpoenas, the Mueller report, all of that. And then all of a sudden in September the whistle-blower comes forward and says, oh, but there's this conversation that I worried about. All of that two-and-a-half years of investigation gets swept aside, and now the Democrats put all of their eggs in this one basket. The problem is they started this basket not with the Nixon and Clinton precedents, as far as making sure there was appropriate transparency and due process, they have made it one-sided from the beginning, very partisan. So, I think whatever happens now, there will be a taint to this one-sided, partisan approach to impeachment that is different than has been used before. And so I think there will be intense skepticism about whatever they come up with. Again, they don't like...

RADDATZ: Congressman, I -- we...

THORNBERRY: ...they don't let the witnesses come -- it has been one-sided from the beginning.

RADDATZ: Congressman, you're again talking about process. The process. I asked you about substance. How do you fend against the substance?

THORNBERRY: Well, as you know -- maybe you know, Martha -- I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. Now that leads to a question, if there's a political rival with a family member who’s involved in questionable activity, what do you do? Just let them alone. But set that aside. I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable. And process -- you know, you all always want to say substance, not process. There's a reason we let murderers and robbers and rapists go free when their due process rights have been violated. We believe the integrity of the system, the integrity of the constitution, the integrity of the processes under our legal system, is more important than the outcome of one particular case. So, I don't think you can sweep process under the rug, because it is part of an impeachment decision, which has a constitutional requirement: bribery, treason, high crimes and misdemeanors, but also a political element about whether it's good for the country to pursue it under these circumstances.

RADDATZ: Why is what you have seen not a clear abuse of power? I know you've said it's inappropriate, his remarks, but not impeachable. Why is what you've seen thus far, and the transcript of that phone call, which we discussed, not a clear abuse of power or bribery as the constitution lays out?

THORNBERRY: Yeah, you're right, the constitution is very specific -- bribery, treason, high crimes and misdemeanors, which basically means felonies. So, that's what you have to prove as a threshold question. The second question is, under the circumstances, do you believe that it's good for the country to proceed with impeachment. I would suggest a couple of circumstances are relevant here, number one, there's not anything that the president said in that phone call that's different than he says in public all the time. So, is there some sort of abuse of power that rises to that threshold that is different than the American people have been hearing for three years? I don't hear that. But secondly we do have an election coming up. So, doing it at this time -- and make no mistake, the Democrats are rushing this through by Christmas so they don't interfere with their candidates being in Iowa and New Hampshire and so forth next year. Let the American -- put everything they've got out there, fine...

RADDATZ: Let me ask you quickly, sir.

THORNBERRY: ...let the American people decide this in less than a year.

RADDATZ: Let me ask you quickly, do you believe the whistle-blower should testify? And do you believe Hunter Biden should testify?

THORNBERRY: I have not been in the room for all -- like most members of congress, I've not been in the room for all of these hearings and secret proceedings. So, I don't really know who the proper witnesses ought to be. I mean I think what Jackie Speier said is right, the whistle-blower basically has third-hand information.

RADDATZ: So not necessary?

THORNBERRY: I don't know to what extent -- I don't know to what extent he or she may have information that relates to other people's information. So, I can't make that call. I think it's got to be the people in the room who make the call. But, again, there has to be a fair way to arbitrate, to decide who the witnesses are. We have had none of that so far.

RADDATZ: OK. Thanks very much for joining us this morning, Congressman Thornberry. Up next: my exclusive interview with the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley is up next. And all week long, you can get the latest on politics on the ABC News app. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLEY: Thank you, Mr. President, for the trust and confidence that you have placed in me. You can rest assured that I will always provide you informed, candid, impartial military advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: That was General Mark Milley taking on his new role as the 20th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff a little over a month ago, the principal military advisor to the president. I first met Milley nearly 15 years ago on his first deployment to Iraq on a night patrol in 2005 in Baghdad and again on a deployment to Afghanistan 10 years ago. This time I travelled to the Pentagon ahead of Veteran’s Day tomorrow, where we talked about the meaning of service, but I started by asking him about current troop levels in Syria after President Trump's recent call to withdraw forces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: If I do my math and I look at the new troops going in and those going out, it could be more than 700 who remain.

MILLEY: Well, I -- there will be less than 1,000 for sure. And -- and probably in the 500-ish frame. Maybe 600. But it's in that -- it’s in that area. But we're not going to go into specific numbers because we’re still going through the analysis right now.

RADDATZ: How important is it to keep an American presence in Syria?

MILLEY: There are still ISIS fighters in the region and unless pressure is maintained, unless attention is maintained on -- on that group, then there's a very real possibility that conditions could be set for a reemergence of ISIS. So we’re committed to do that. The -- the footprint will be small, but the objective will remain the same, the enduring defeat of ISIS.

RADDATZ: We've now killed Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, they’ve named a new leader. Tell us what you know about that new leader and -- and what effect, really, will the death of Baghdadi have on ISIS?

MILLEY: His death will have a very significant disruptive effect on the organization as a whole. They have apparently replaced him with another leader. We do have a considerable amount of information on that individual. And we'll see in the days ahead, in the weeks ahead, the months ahead if he's able to piece together his -- his organization or not. We'll pay close attention to him and where opportunities arise, we'll go after him as well.

RADDATZ: Iran announced this week it would begin injecting uranium gas into centrifuges. They keep pushing this, making more provocative moves with their nuclear program. Where does this end?

MILLEY: Iran’s been a challenge for the United States, you know, since the revolution in 1979. We hope diplomatic efforts will resolve the nuclear issue, the development of nuclear weapons with Iran. And we place our faith in the diplomatic efforts. But at the same time, we'll -- we’ll make sure that we maintain appropriate levels of military capabilities in the region to defend American interests if required.

RADDATZ: The U.S. says that Iran was responsible for attacking those tankers, that they're responsible for shooting down a highly sophisticated, very expensive American drone, and yet there haven't been significant consequences.

MILLEY: Well, there's been consequences. Our government has chosen not to react militarily at this time, but we have the capability to, and we've added some capability just as recently as last month. And we'll see. It depends on the scope, scale and nature of any kind of provocation that Iran does or any kind of threat they do against U.S. forces in particular, or against U.S. interests or our friends and allies in the region.

RADDATZ[a]: I want to move to Afghanistan. We have been in Afghanistan more than 18 years. What would you say to someone who is 18-years-old who, male or female, may end up serving in a war that began before they were born?

MILLEY: Well, I think we have to go back to the original reason why we are in Afghanistan to begin with, which is 9/11. So, we went there to order to make sure that Afghanistan never again would be a haven, a safe haven for terrorists that would attack the United States. That mission is not yet complete. In order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces, are going to have to be able to sustain their own internal security to prevent terrorists from using their territory to attack other countries, especially the United States. That effort is ongoing. It's been ongoing for 18 consecutive years. I suspect it will be ongoing into the future for several more years.

RADDATZ: And when you say that, that we're going to be there that long, that makes me think we'll be there that long in Iraq, in Syria, wherever the Islamic State is.

MILLEY: I think it's not just the Islamic State, it's other groups. But I think that we will be there for a significant amount of time, because it's in our national interests to be there to help out.

RADDATZ: I want to ask you about Ukraine. Ukraine obviously has been a very hot topic of late. How important is the military aid to Ukraine, especially with Russia there on its border?

MILLEY: Well, here we are on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And since that time, Russia has aggressively acted against Ukraine. And the United States chose to help Ukraine with money, with advisory aid, with training and manning and equipping through two administrations. And we're continuing to do that. So, I think it's important to continue to help Ukraine maintain its free and sovereign status.

RADDATZ: And I want to ask you about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman who has been testifying on the Hill. Do you have any questions about his loyalty? Do you know Lieutenant Colonel Vindman?

MILLEY: I don't personally know Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, but I will say what I have learned over the years as an active duty military officer is not to comment on active investigations. And I do know that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is a witness to an active investigation being conducted by congress right now. So, it would be inappropriate for me to make any public comments on one of the witnesses.

RADDATZ: It is Veteran's Day on Monday. And as I look at you and so many other veterans, I see especially those bars, those stripes on your right sleeve, each one of those means six months in a combat zone. You've got ten of those, five years. So many others have sacrificed so much, and the ultimate sacrifice as well. Veteran's Day is to honor all our veterans.

And, first of all, who do you think about?

MILLEY: Well, I mean, the first veterans I met were my mother and father, both veterans of World War II. And my dad was in the Fourth Marine Division as a Navy Corpsman in the Fourth Marine Division - - made the assault landings at Kwajalein and Saipan, Kenian (ph), Iwo Jima. Saw some very horrendous combat. And then my mother served in the navy. She was a medical orderly at a hospital out of Seattle taking care of the wounded. They clearly put a sense of service and gave me a sense of how lucky I was to be an American, how lucky I was to grow up in a country where we have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion and a wide variety of other privileges and rights that are not well-known around the world in many, many places. I've had about 242 soldiers that have been killed under my command in one way or another since 9/11. And I think of them a lot at all kinds of times of the day and at 2:00 in the morning and your eyes pop open and you start thinking about what those young men and women have done for this country. And the freedoms we have, Martha, are not free. They're paid for in the blood of all those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have been fighting for it for two-and-a-half centuries.

RADDATZ: Fewer than 1 percent serve in the military in this country. You went to Princeton, played hockey, instead of West Point. What is it that you could explain to those Americans who don't serve?

MILLEY: When I went to Princeton, I met the hockey coach. And he was a Marine captain from Vietnam. And he introduced me to ROTC. He said, "That's an opportunity here, if that's on your mind." So I thought I'd do that and serve my country for four years and then get out. But here I am 40 years later. So, I have not looked back. I've never regretted it. And I think service to the country and service to the nation is a very, very important calling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Our thanks to the chairman and all of our veterans. Up next: FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver's latest take on the 2020 race and the powerhouse roundtable on Michael Bloomberg potentially joining the 2020 race. We're back in 60 seconds.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the story. If you win, they're going to make it like ho-hum. And if you lose, they're going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: You can't let that happen to me.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: That was President Trump campaigning in Kentucky Monday ahead of the state's closely watched governor's race this week. The results still too close to call, but the Democratic candidate in the lead there, in a state President Trump won by 30 points in 2016. In nearby Mississippi, the GOP candidate managed a close win, while polls in Louisiana have the Democratic incumbent governor ahead going into a run-off this Saturday. So, just how bad of a sign are these governor's races for the GOP? And is it a potential sign of trouble for Republicans in 2020? We asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, do you buy that?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATE SILVER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: So, Republicans did not have a great night on Tuesday. And I don't really buy any White House spin that this was a good set of results for Trump.

Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, these are really red states, places where the GOP usually wins easily.

But I also don't buy that this is any major reason for Trump to panic. Here's why. Governor's races are quirky, and local factors often matter more than national partisanship.

That's how you can end up with Republican governors in states like Massachusetts, Maryland, and even Vermont, and Democratic ones in places like Montana and Kansas.

And if you go back to Kentucky, all the other Republicans running statewide won on Tuesday night.

Also, the track record of these states in predicting the next year's presidential election is checkered at best.

Louisiana, for instance, has often pointed in the wrong direction. A double-digit win for Democrats in the gubernatorial race there in 2015 obviously did not predict a great year for Democrats in 2016, for example.

And, look, I get it. It's always good to see people actually voting, but these results mostly told us things we already knew from previous elections and from the polls.

It's not a surprise that affluent suburbs are moving toward Democrats or that rural areas are becoming redder, for instance. That's been perhaps the most important and, frankly, obvious, if you look at the map, political trend of the past decade.

Polls also tell us that elections right now are a little bit of an uphill battle for Republicans. Trump's approval rating remains well underwater, and Republicans trail by five or six points in polls that ask people which party they'd rather see control Congress.

As the midterms taught us last year, Trump will win and lose his fair share of races, but he doesn't defy political gravity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: And our thanks to Nate. So, let's bring in the powerhouse roundtable, ABC News senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce, ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid, and Axios national political reporter Jonathan Swan. Welcome to all of you. And, Mary, I'm going to start with you, since you basically live on Capitol Hill.

(LAUGHTER)

RADDATZ: How do you see these public hearings playing out? You heard, I’m sure, Congresswoman Speier and Thornberry. What are you looking at?

MARY BRUCE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well look, this is all about persuasion at this point. We know what these witnesses are going to testify to, we’ve read these transcripts, now Democrats have to sell this to the American public. They know that they have got to build a compelling case about why they feel the president abused his power and why that rises to the level of how the Constitution describes bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. Democrats are going to try and stay laser-focused on the president's actions here, on his actions to pressure Ukraine. They feel, as Congresswoman Speier said, that this is a cut and dry case and easier to sell to the American public but they are acutely aware that they have muddied up the messaging in the past. They’re going to have to cut through the noise. That is not always easy.

RADDATZ: Exactly. And -- and I know -- and she said this again, it's so simple, but it really -- even this seems to have been muddied up in the last few weeks. So -- so what do you think the Democrats have to do differently, Matt?

MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: I think they have to continue to present their case that they’ve presented over the last month in a clear and concise way. If anybody thinks the public's numbers are going to move dramatically different post-hearing, it’s delusional because the public is already -- a majority or a plurality is all for impeachment and removal. Almost at the height level that it was for Richard Nixon at the end before he resigned. So it’s not going to move that much. I think what they’re going to try to do is present such a compelling case to put unbelievable pressure on the senators and the Republican senators in the Senate when it goes over there after I think they’ll vote on impeachment. I think this has all been muddied up. I think one of the things -- and you were asking this earlier about the whistle-blower. I think that whole thing is a distraction. The whistle-blower is basically the person that pulled the fire alarm, and then everybody showed up and said there is a fire and there is an arsonist there and the arsonist now has admitted to starting the fire, now what do we do about that. So the whistle-blower or the person that pulled the fire alarm has nothing to do with where we are today.

RADDATZ: But -- but the Republicans are using that -- it looks like -- as a distraction, Asma. And so what else can they do? I know they've moved Jim Jordan to the Intelligence Committee --

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes, I mean --

RADDATZ: -- presumably to defend the president.

KHALID: I mean, he’s a very loyal defender of the president, and so that is part of the strategy. I think what I will be very curious to watch this week is how we see the Republicans ever-evolving defense. Because I think what happened, if you look back to the Mueller investigation is in some ways there was a pretty steady line of defense from the president. It was no collusion, no collusion. I think in this situation Democrats are -- are going to have to present a really air-tight case because we're already beginning to hearing from some Republicans, you know, maybe this was -- and I don't want to say a quid pro quo, but maybe some folks are acknowledging that that is a possibility but was it really an impeachable offense? I mean, there’s sort of an ever-evolving defense from Republicans and that’s why we’re beginning to see -- I mean, they added to their witness list Hunter Biden, who, you know, Democrats would argue is irrelevant to this particular case.

RADDATZ: And there's probably no way you'll see Hunter Biden on Capitol Hill.

KHALID: Yes, exactly.

RADDATZ: No, no, no way. And -- and Jonathan, the president seems to be using the same kind of strategy -- witch hunt, witch hunt, witch hunt , witch hunt part two, witch hunt 2.0. So is there a new strategy as we go into these public hearings, other than -- I mean, even Mac Thornberry was -- was pretty much talking about process.

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes, well, you -- I think you’re going to see -- well, not I think, I know from reporting that you're going to see two things overall this week from the White House and from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Number one is they're going to be emphasizing that none of the witnesses have firsthand knowledge, they’re not the people in the room talking to the president, so you'll see a lot of Republican questions to people like Bill Taylor, so who did you hear this from and who did they hear this from, and try to emphasize the degrees of separations. The other thing that they’re going to do is, particularly with George Kent, the second State Department witness, they are going to try and make this about Hunter Biden, because he admitted to raising concerns about Hunter Biden back in 2015, so I expect the Republican questioning in that particular hearing will be to try and to create that as a sort of alternative parallel narrative to what -- the -- the substance of the conversation.

RADDATZ: And we’ve -- we talk about people in the room or not in the room at the White House, we've heard from John Bolton's lawyer that he has some rather tantalizing details we haven't heard. He is clearly not going to go up there unless a court tells him to go up there. What do you think the likelihood is and do you really need someone like Bolton?

SWAN: So I think the likelihood is almost zero because Democrats -- I’ve been talking to House leadership and other Democrats involved over the last two days. They are not inclined to get in to litigate this, to have a court fight, even though the courts did signal they’re willing to do it pretty quickly. I think people do, though, misunderstand John Bolton. The assumption, from some of the coverage I saw, that he was a Trump quisling, you know, doing this out of loyalty. I actually don’t believe that to be the case. I believe that him and Chuck Cooper, his lawyer, who go back decades, actually do kind of care about the separation of powers thing. If he’s a Trump quisling, he’s doing a pretty good job of hiding it because he signed a book deal with James Comey’s book agents. He's criticized Trump on North Korea. And I think at some point, actually, we will hear some damaging things from John Bolton, I just don't think it will be...

RADDATZ: Maybe not next week. And how important is it that there is someone like John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney, the president's acting Chief of Staff?

BRUCE: Well, Republicans will argue that you need that person, right, to draw that direct link. I mean, would Democrats like to talk to him? Sure. Do they feel they absolutely need to to make a compelling case? No. Democrats would not be moving into this public phase, into public hearings, if they did not feel that they already have the goods, essentially, that they already have have enough evidence to move forward. And they are quick to point out that every time a Bolton or a Mulvaney refuses their requests that they feel that that's further evidence that the president and the White House is obstructing.

RADDATZ: And I want to turn quickly to the 2020 race. Big news this week with the possibility that Michael Bloomberg might join the race. Here's how some of the candidates responded in the Democratic field.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNIE SANDERS, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want to run for president, that's fine. Don't think you can simply buy an election by spending millions of dollars.

AMY KLOBUCHAR, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a strong field. I'm not sure we need someone else in it.

JOE BIDEN, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And in terms of he's running because of me -- last polls I looked at I'm pretty far ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: OK, then. But Bloomberg said back in March he wasn't going to run. So, why run now?

KHALID: The sense is that there's nervousness amongst establishment Democrats and Democratic high-dollar donors about the current state of the race. I think there's nervousness about Joe Biden as a primary candidate, and then there's nervousness about Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as potential general election candidate. Now, I would argue if you talk to Democratic voters, which I do a lot of time, they're really happy with this field. About like three-quarters of Democrats, when you look at the polling, are satisfied with their options. But it's some of the more establishment voices.

DOWD: As the establishment Democratic Party always gets nervous in an election they absolutely want to win and they think they need to win in the course of this. I think one of the things I think we do badly in the media, and oftentimes in the politics, is that we think an eternity is like three years, or two months, or two weeks, or whatever. To me this race looks like a lot like -- when I look back at all the races, interestingly enough, in the aftermath of Watergate, is 1976. In 1976, there were 17 candidates ran, the most diverse field at that point in time to run. U.S. Senators, former governors, people that were vice presidential candidates, in all of that field. And who emerged? Somebody that was at 2 percent in the polls for most of the time, Jimmy Carter, who wasn't even an elected official at the time. And there was this constant thing...

RADDATZ: I think Bloomberg polled at about 4 percent, interestingly, right?

DOWD: Today. And so I think there are today seven or eight candidates in the field, or could be in the field, if Bloomberg gets in, that have the potential to be the Democratic nominee. This is going to have lots of twists and turns. It's not Joe Biden's race is done. It's not Elizabeth Warren's race. It's not Bernie Sanders' race. I think this race could twist and turn throughout the primary process going forward from Iowa.

SWAN: I was just going to say, it's fine to pull out 1976 and say this rare thing has happened before, it's actually would have to be more rare than that. Because what Bloomberg is saying is I'm basically going to ignore you Iowa and New Hampshire.

KHALID: And South Carolina.

SWAN: Forget you guys, I'm going to do this massive TV campaign...

RADDATZ: Forget fundraising.

SWAN: Yeah. I'm just going to spend an absolute gobsmacking sum of money on Super Tuesday across -- blanketing the country with TV advertising. We've never seen anything like this before. And, you know, Iowa and New Hampshire do not take kindly to being ignored. And if he gets crushed in those two states...

DOWD: But there is evidence a Democratic nominee can emerge who didn't win Iowa, who didn't win New Hampshire.

SWAN: You're going to say Bill Clinton, but he came back and he had a huge...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Let's go back. I want to talk about the current...

DOWD: Every article we look at when we see this is we're in a very disruptive time. And the idea that you can run a traditional race and win this is gone.

BRUCE: And we do know the polls show there's plenty of room for wiggle room here, right. There is a lot of potential movement. But it does create a problem for Joe Biden. Look, Bloomberg, if he does get in, is going into Biden's lane. And he's coming with a ton of cash. And the fact that we know that Bloomberg is thinking about making this step in part because he's concerned that Biden is fading and it underscores the anxiety out there among Democrats about whether Biden can pull this off, just that alone, those optics aren't great for Biden.

RADDATZ: And Jonathan and Asma, who are the people out there, no matter how much money you spend, are saying, yes, Michael Bloomberg is finally getting in the race?

SWAN: So, it's funny, like Asma will probably have a better view of this than me, but Dan Balz from The Washington Post, sort of , you know, heroically tried to find a Bloomberg voter in New Hampshire, or someone craving Mike Bloomberg. When I talk to donors, it's really the donors who are craving a Mike Bloomberg. And I wonder whether it's him and his ecosystem with the feedback he gets you must run, Mike. You're the savior. I just don't know how many voters in Iowa or New Hampshire feel like that.

KHALID: I mean, it takes a lot of gumption to be a 77-year-old thinking that you're going to change the sort of baby boomer dynamics of this race.

(LAUGHTER)

KHALID: I mean, at this point, I would say I have met here and there somebody who's been excited about a Michael Bloomberg candidacy, but I would argue he's kind of get through a Democratic primary. And, right now, part of Joe Biden's strength is his support amongst African-American voters. Michael Bloomberg is somebody who has a pretty contentious past when it comes to issues around policing, even some of his skepticism around the MeToo movement. Those are going to be stumbling blocks in a Democratic primary.

RADDATZ: And does this create a great talking point for Warren and Sanders? It already has, by the way, with Bernie Sanders just this morning...

(CROSSTALK)

BRUCE: To talk about billionaires.

RADDATZ: Yes. Yes. Yes.

BRUCE: Yes, this gives him another one to rail against. They were very quick, both Warren and Sanders, to come out and talk about why they don't think this is a good thing. I think some moderates may be wondering if Bloomberg entering the race may just hand Warren a little bit of a boost.

DOWD: But it also gives an opportunity -- to me, I mean, we focus on, yes, it does help them post up against -- both -- against Michael Bloomberg. It does give people like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg an opportunity to prove out their progressive mantle by saying, like, this is not what we want in the field. Again, I'm going to emphasize this. This is a race that is undecided at this point, with 75 percent of the people saying they're satisfied with the race. You have 75 percent of the people that say they're not solid in their choice yet in this race.

RADDATZ: And, Asma, I want to look at the elections this week. You heard Nate Silver talk about the meaning of those elections, the -- still too close to call in Kentucky, but big wins in Virginia. What do you read into that?

KHALID: So, I am really cautious about overinterpreting the results as being a positive for Democrats. And I say that in part because, if you look at some of the Gallup polling that's come out recently just asking voters, Democrats and Republicans, are you enthusiastic about the race, usually, the party that is out of power is more enthusiastic? In this case, that should be the Democrats. What we saw is Republicans and Democrats about equally enthusiastic. And I don't think that that's a great sign for Democrats.

RADDATZ: And, Mary, just quickly, and you.

BRUCE: Well, I think what I find interesting about the races this week was the impeachment factor, so many Republicans thinking that they could run on impeachment, that there would be this backlash to all of it. That didn't turn out to be the case, especially in Kentucky. If anything, we saw that impeachment was firing up Democrats, not necessarily moving Republicans to stand firmly with the Republican candidate.

RADDATZ: And we will see if they continue to be fired up after this next week and many beyond. Thanks to all of you for joining us today. And that's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." And be sure to tune in Wednesday for ABC's live coverage of the impeachment inquiry public testimony. That's this Wednesday starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Have a great day, and remember our veterans.