'This Week' Transcript 11-5-17: Former DNC chair Donna Brazile
A rush transcript for "This Week" on November 5, 2017.
— -- ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Robert Mueller makes his move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Manafort, did you collude with Russians?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Two indictments, a secret witness. With the White House surprised by new revelations on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, the president tries to turn the table.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They should be looking at theDemocrats. A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do Mueller's first arrests say about the strength of his case and his strategy? Has President Trump crossed the line by calling for the DOJ to investigate his political opponents?
We'll tackle those questions with Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr and the U.S. attorney fired by President Trump, Preet Bharara.
TRUMP: You ought to look at Hillary Clinton. She basically bought the DNC, and she stole the election from Bernie.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Brazile here live for our exclusive interview.
Plus, Trump pushes his tax plan.
TRUMP: People are loving it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But our brand-new poll shows weak support. Big questions now about the bill's impact on Middle Class families, the deficit, as lobbyists line up to save their special breaks.
So can the GOP stick together and pass this bill? What will it mean for you? We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter, This Week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. It's the first anniversary of his election approaching this week, President Trump is in a deep hole with the American public. Our brand new poll with The Washington Post shows that more Americans disapprove of the president than ever before. 59 percent are unsatisfied with Trump's performance, only 37 percent approve, the worst numbers for any president at this point in office since polling began.
Trump is the only president since Harry Truman whose first year approval rating is underwater. Every other president has had positive number.
And as the president begins his trip across Asia, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has cast a cloud over his presidency. Nearly half of Americans think it's likely Trump committed a crime in connection with Russian attempts to influence the election. That may explain why President Trump has worked hard this week to focus his fire back on the Democrats.
And he got some ammunition with the explosive revelations in former DNC Chair Donna Brazile's new book, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House."
Brazile claims the DNC gave Hillary Clinton an unfair edge over Bernie Sanders, and reveals she considered replacing Clinton as the nominee after Clinton fainted at a 9/11 ceremony.
"The ticket I liked most," she writes, was Joe Biden and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. I felt certain that that combination would win the election."
And Donna Brazile, who has been a long time ABC contributor, joins us now. Welcome back, Donna.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER INTERIM DNC CHAIR: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get some facts on the table first.
As DNC chair, you didn't have the power on your own to replace Hillary on the ticket?
BRAZILE: No. But as you well know, the charter of the DNC as well as the convention rules say that the chairperson, shall, in consultation with the leadership in congress and others, and so I had to put in on the the table, George, because I was under tremendous pressure after Secretary Clinton fainted to have a quote, unquote, plan B.
I didn't want a plan B. Plan A was great for me. I supported Hillary and I wanted her to win. But we were under pressure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So how serious was this? You write that you got a call from Vice President Biden at the time. Did you mention this to the vice president?
BRAZILE: No, I did not.
I mean, look, everybody was called in to see, do you know anything? How is she doing? And of course my job at the time, George, was to reassure people, not just the vice president, but also reassure the Democratic Party, the members of party, that Hillary was doing fine and that she would resume her campaign the following week.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you still think that Biden and Booker would have won?
BRAZILE: Well, you know, I had a lot of other combinations. This was something you play out in your mind. But at the time, I was sitting next to Charlie Baker, who was her chief...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Clinton's campaign.
BRAZILE: That's right. And Charlie and I put down -- we had a lot of rumors coming -- I had the former chair of the DNC call me, Donald Fowler Jr. -- I mean Senior -- what are you doing?
Look, the bottom line is she -- she resumed campaigning. I went on TV to say that the campaign was back on track.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you can imagine, there's been quite a reaction to this, including this open letter from the Hillary for America 2016 team signed by about 100 people. They say they are shocked to learn that you were considering this. And they go on to say, "it is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian fueled propaganda spread by the Russians and our opponent about our candidate's health.
BRAZILE: Well, George, at the time -- like I said, I talked with Charlie Baker. But as it relates to that...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you mention this idea to him?
BRAZILE: No. I kept my own counsel. I'm the chair of the party, George, and I decided I wanted to be up front with someone inside the campaign. And Charlie was there sitting across from me.
But let me just address what my former colleagues, I wasn't a staff person. I did not work for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I was not on their daily strategy calls. I had nothing to do with their data analytics. I was the chair of Democratic National Committee. I was concerned about the entire party, not just the presidential, but the senatorial, congressional, and all of the other candidates.
STEPHANOPOULOS: From the sound of it, it sounds like you had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with the high command in Hillary's campaign. You even talk about telling them at some point I'm not patsy the slave?
BRAZILE: Oh, George, let me tell you something, I could not control the -- the purse string of the Democratic Party. And I had to figure out what was going on within the party that the chair of the party -- and remember, I wasn't just the chair, I'm also a vice chair. I was an officer for eight years, eight years under President Obama. I knew what was going on within the party.
I become chair and I'm trying to write a check for something. I raised the the money and they're like, you have got to get signed off from Brooklyn. I said Brooklyn? This wasn't a standard joint fundraising agreement. They had a memorandum of understanding. And I needed to break that, but in order to break it, I would cause a great commotion.
So, yeah, I'm not patsy the slave because I got sick and tired of people telling me how to spend the money when all I was trying to do -- I wasn't getting a salary. I was basically volunteering my time. And what I was trying to do, George, was to increase the level of enthusiasm and passion for Hillary Clinton and the rest of the ticket all across the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They also take exception to your description of the campaign right now as an anti-septic, sterile campaign inside the headquarters. A lot of people saying that is not the campaign they knew.
BRAZILE: Well, you know what, they should take a page from Hillary's book. Take a look inside of what they did last year and then they should write their own book. Hillary wrote a book, which I enjoyed reading. It was part memoir, it was a history book. I loved reading her book. If they don't like my book, don't buy it.
But let me say this, I have every right as a former chair of the party -- next year, I'll celebrate almost 50 years in American politics. The Democratic Party is 170 years old.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I get that. But how do you respond, it's not just the Clinton campaign. There's a lot of traffic on Twitter right now. I have gotten emails from Democrats.
BRAZILE: I bet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Passionate Democrats who say they feel betrayed by all this. Any regrets?
BRAZILE: Do I regret taking on a job the second time in my life as chair of the party, cleaning up everyone's mess, taking all of the incoming, being unable to spend funds that I raised? Do I regret being on the road 100 percent of the time, being hacked by the Russians, being -- being harassed, getting death threats? Do I regret any of that? George, was worse than Hurricane Katrina in terms of the emotional toll. But do I regret stranding up for what is right, helping Hillary Clinton, helping the Democratic Party?
And let me just say this, as somebody who went through the hacking experience, being able to tell the truth about what happened with the Russians, the attack on our government do I regret any of that? No. I wish I could have done more, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you think this helps for the book to come out?
BRAZILE: Well, George, I mean this is a lesson of 2016. If I released it next year, theywould say, Donna, you're impacting our 2018. If I released it the following -- Donna, you're impacting. George, for those who are telling the me to shut up, they told Hillary that a couple of months ago. You know what I tell them, go to hell. I'm going to tell my story. I'm going the tell my story, George.
Because this is a story of a young girl who started in American politics at the age of 9, who continues to fight each and every week of her life. I went down to Virginia last week, to kick off the canvassing campaign. Nobody paid me to do that. Nobody -- I'm not on the payroll, George. I care about my country. I care about our democracy.
And I say go the hell because, why am I supposed to be the only person that is unable to tell my story?
Now, if -- I have heard a lot of people tell me various things as well. But here's what they don't know. They don't know what it was like to be over at the DNC during this hacking. They don't know what it's like to bury a child. I did, Seth Rich. They don't know what it's like to protect a staff from further harassment. They don't know what it's like because they're -- the high command of Brooklyn. The people who were making the decisions, even for the DNC, they didn't come and work with us. They told us to shut up and basically let them win the election. And when we tried to intervene, we had to spend money we raised to try to help them win. And that was my job as chair of the party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pretty clear you have no regrets at all right there.
You mentioned Seth Rich who, of course, was killed during the campaign. Did you feel under threat?
BRAZILE: Every day, especially when Donald Trump -- especially when Donald Trump would go out there and tweet.
You know, look, I have worked on campaigns all my adult life. I have been called some of the the worst things in America. But when Donald Trump would go out there and attack me, I got the threats were just unbearable. My house right now is -- I got every different kind of security device. I had to get my home swept. I had to get the DNC swept twice. It was horrible.
STEPHANOPULOS: As you know, he's tweeting again, based on your book.
Just the other day he put out, "the real story on collusion is in Donna B's new book. Crooked Hillary bought the DNC and stole the Democratic primary from Crazy Bernie."
BRAZILE: Well, Donald Trump likes to distract. I mean, what Donald Trump should be focusing on right now is protecting our country from being hacked again. He should be working with congress to ensure that the American people will feel confident that we are going to have a good election season in 2017, 2018. Donald Trump loves to distract us and divide us. I'm not playing his game.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He wants an investigation at the Department of Justice.
BRAZILE: Well, I think he needs to look at his own house before he tries to clean up someone else's house.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think this joint fundraising agreement was anything illegal at all?
BRAZILE: If I said at the time, George, I didn't like the fact that there was an additional memorandum that spelled out what the Clinton campaign could do in exchange for bailing the Democratic Party out. I give Secretary Clinton credit for bailing the Democratic Party out, because we were in debt.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I have seen the email traffic. And it appears from at least one email that the Sanders campaign was offered the exact same term. They could also negotiate an agreement of their own if they raised more money. They chose not to.
BRAZILE: The Sanders campaign set up a joint fund-raising account as well, but they chose not to put money in it.
But they also chose to allow the DNC to control what little funds they did put in it.
This was a separate. What this was was an additional memorandum.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they were offered that same thing. Here's the email. If you're raising significantly more than the amount to cover the voter file for the DNC, DNC would be happy to chat with the Sanders team and come to an understanding about the best way to use those funds to prepare for the general election at the DNC. So, they were offered a similar chance.
BRAZILE: George, when I went, when I found out, the reason why the chair of the party, the chair of the Democratic National Committee could not spend the funds, I found the agreement myself. This is the agreement they put out. This is the agreement I found.
And what I tried to do, George, was to work within the parameters of this agreement so that I could hire staff, so that I could spend money, money that we raised, and so that I could help Hillary and Tim Kaine and all the other Democrats win.
As for any agreements or side agreements they had with Senator Sanders, I have never seen that before, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree with Elizabeth Warren that the primaries were rigged?
BRAZILE: I don't think she meant the word rigged, because what I said, George, as you well know, after I left this show back on July 24th, I said I would get to the bottom of everything. And that's what I did. And I called Senator Sanders to say, you know, I wanted to make sure there was no rigging of the process. I'm on the rule and bylaws committee. I found no evidence, none whatsoever.
The thing -- the only thing I found, which I said, I found the cancer, but I'm not killing the patient, was this memorandum that prevented the DNC from running its own operation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also write about that email where you appear to share questions with the Clinton campaign.
BRAZILE: Yes, I did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're showing it up on the screen right now. And in the past, you said sending those emails was a mistake you'll forever regret. But in the book, it seems you're still not sure you sent this email.
BRAZILE: Well, George, I mean, when you're hacked. I mean, look, I have seven email accounts, maybe more. When you're hacked and you don't know -- I'm the only person in America that had to go and look and say, where is it, where is it?
I knew I sent emails. Of course, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're not denying that you sent this email?
BRAZILE: I -- first of all, I said, straight up, I said, look, if this was sent, I know why I sent it. I apologize. I spent the entire month of August apologizing for the leaked hacked emails, which is a crime.
And so far, no one has been charged with a crime.
But I've apologized. I said I'm sorry.
But here's what I also say in the book that I thought was very helpful to the reader, and that is to tell people during this time when we were under pressure to add more debates to the schedule, I went out to get more debates. Well, CNN was the beneficiary of those debates, but I wanted more diversity. I wanted more diverse voices. And, yes, I wanted issues that people cared about.
People were, as you recall, Black Lives Matter, they were marching in the streets. They wanted us to address criminal justice reform. And, yes, when CNN agreed to go to Flint, Michigan, we wanted to have a conversation about the water crisis. All of that is in the memo. All of that is in the book.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you ever share questions with the Sanders campaign?
BRAZILE: I shared. Let me tell you something, George -- and I also have in the book that even on occasions when I knew the topics on ABC, I ever talked to the Republicans about what the topics will be.
I shared with everybody, because you know what I wanted the best information possible.
The second thing is, I didn't want the candidates shocked by the nature of the questions. For the first time, we were going to go beyond, you know, talking about the usual issues that animate Democratic primaries, and we were going to talk about issues that concerned Black Lives Matter.
STEPHANPOULOS: You have tough words for the leaders of your party in here -- in the book as well. And here's what you write, "we've had three Democratic Parties, the party of Barack Obama, the party of Hillary Clinton, and the weak little vestige of a party led by Debbie that was doing a very poor job getting people who were not president elected. These three titanic egos -- Barack, Hillary, and Debbie -- have stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes."
BRAZILE: Well, over 1,000 state legislative seats -- and by the way I take responsibility, too, George. I'm a Democrat. We've lost thousands of state legislative seats. We've lost gubernatorial seats.
But we have an opportunity on Tuesday in New Jersey and Virginia to fight back, to regain some of the lost ground over the last 10 years. And that's what I'm hoping will happen.
Every voter should know out there that their vote counts, their voice must be heard. I encourage them to get out and vote next week in Virginia, New Jersey, and later on in Alabama -- well, I'll be in Alabama by the end of the month.
It's important that everybody votes.
Yes, I take a hard, hard hit at people within the party because I love my party. I love my country. And I'm going to continue the fight for it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Continue the fight for it. And are you confident now that the Democratic Party can be fixed? And what's the most important thing it needs to do?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I am very confident that Tom Perez is leading in the right direction. We have a unity commission that is going to examine all of the things that I raised about the primary contest and the caucus system. We have Keith Ellison and others who are energizing the grass roots. The party is making a substantial investment in the states.
And, George, one of the things that bothered me -- especially in the patsy the slave chapter, I got some controversial chapters, I understand, but anybody from Louisiana knows that I'm going to put hot sauce on every page. And if it's not dripping with something that's hot and spicy, it's not me.
But, George, what I'm most confident of is that we now have a party that is invested in all 50 states.
And, you know, imagine you're the chair of the party. I'm from Louisiana. I am from the south. And I cannot get one poster outside of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, to go home to Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama. I can't send any resources to those states? I'm the chair of the party.
And by the way, I didn't ask to be chair, George. When I left that show -- when I left your show on July 24, I thought I was getting ready to go out and have a nice brunch, instead I was called to say, Donna, we need you to step up again. And I did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It has been some year. Donna Brazile, thanks very much.
BRAZILE: It's always a pleasure, George.
STEPHANPOULOS: When we come back, our legal experts take on what this week's indictments mean for the Russia investigation. Ken Starr, Preet Bharara and Dan Abrams join us live.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: We're coming on the air right now because ABC News has just learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed his first charges in the Russia investigation.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: That first dramatic move from Mueller on Monday morning targeting former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Both men plead not guilty to the 12 count indictment, which includes charges of money laundering and tax fraud.
Even more surprising Mueller revealed his first secret witness, George Padopoulos. A foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, who admitted lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians and others in the Trump campaign. Among the details, conversations about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, thousands of emails months before the emails were released by WikiLeaks.
Let's analyze all the fallout now with independent counsel who investigated Bill Clinton, Ken Starr; he also served as solicitor general for the U.S; Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney here in New York, fired by President Trump, now with NYU Law School and a senior legal analyst for CNN; and our own chief legal analyst Dan Abrams.
And Preet, let me begin with you. You've been in the trenches. You've prosecuted a lot of big cases. What message did Robert Mueller send on Monday about where he's going, where he's heading? The strength of his case?
PREET BHARARA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: So I say all along I don't think he's in this business to send message. I think he's doing the job that he was appointed to do, which is to follow the facts, find out the truth, and hold people accountable if they've crossed over the line into criminal conduct.
But a by-product of his action is, you know, something that other people are hearing as a message, and that is, among other things, that the charges against George Padopoulos, and the fact that he almost certainly he has flipped and cooperating with the government to provide substantial assistance with respect to someone else higher up in the food chain, means you're going to see more charges coming.
And the second thing I would say is, the fact that the Mueller team takes very seriously being lied to. The FBI agents don't like that. It undermines their ability to get the truth out and to hold people accountable. Lying to the FBI is a form of obstruction.
So, to the extent people are wondering how they feel about obstruction, they clearly feel very seriously about it. And some people should be worried.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Professor Starr, do you agree that in some way that Papadopoulos plea agreement is the most significant thing we saw on Monday?
KEN STARR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: In some ways. I think the Manafort indictment, though, tells us that there is a real power and force in what Bob Mueller doing -- and I have great respect for Bob Mueller -- in terms of draining the swamp.
That indictment, of course, does not speak to anything with respect to Russian collusion, but it does talks about essentially corruption, corruption on K Street. And so I think that's very significant.
I have read the Papadopoulos indictment with some care. And it seems to me that a fair reading of that is, yes, some of the dirt was going to come to him. He was interested in that. But he was really seeking to be a policymaker guy who could arrange a meeting with Vladimir Putin, with the Russian ambassador to the UK and so forth. So, he was a real wannabe.
But the point that reaches me that is so powerful, don't lie to the FBI. And I think that is the message that Bob Mueller chose to send on this particular day that it's not just about Paul Manafort, it's about the integrity of the investigation. Just tell the truth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Dan, George Papadopoulos may have been a wannabe, may have been tangential to the campaign, though he was a foreign policy adviser, in meetings with President Trump. But when you learn from his agreement that he had lots of conversations, email traffic inside the campaign about Russian contacts which has been denied by the Trump and his White House all along.
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS: And that becomes the key now is assessing who were the people he was talking to? Why were they encouraging him to continue speaking with the Russians? And most importantly, in the context of this investigation, what happened between the time he was arrested in July and until October 5?
So you have got a period there, where he likely was helping. He may have even been wearing a wire for all we know. In terms of getting information, which could lead to additional charges on other people, with regard to some of the same things we're talking about, which is potentially lying.
And the question remains, why did Papadapoulos lie? Why, in this context, was he covering up?
Now, the answer may be he didn't want to admit it. He didn't want to come clean. He didn't want to talk what about he was doing. But there's a bigger question that has to be answered.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to bring that question to Preet. What does all this tell you about a possible obstruction case against the president and the associates?
BHARARA: Well, I think the charges against George Padopoulos don't tell us that much about a possible obstruction case, but as I said a couple of minutes ago it means they take this stuff very seriously. You know, throwing sand in the eyes of the umpire is frowned upon, and not only is it frowned upon, it's chargeable.
ABRAMS: They've said specifically in court in the Papadopoulos plea that this is a small part of a larger investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Just the beginning.
You have also seen, Professor Starr, something you're familiar with, people criticizing the actions of the special counsel. Already you have got some members of congress saying Robert Mueller should step down because he was the head of the FBI when that uranium one deal was approved by nine agencies under the Obama administration. What do you make of those attempts to say he is compromised by this?
STARR: Oh, I think that's silly. He certainly needs to step aside in terms of any investigation, I think, with respect to that, but that can the handled. There's no reason for investigation to include that. There are also inspectors general and the like, so there are other mechanisms to hold folks accountable for what may have been done in that sense.
But criticism goes with the territory. And if you don't have the facts, then argue the law. If you don't have the facts in law, then attack the prosecutor. Every defendant is likely to do that.
But what I think is very significant is even though the president's is obviously very frustrated and lashes out, he appears to be following the advice of his lawyers. And his lawyers are saying the right thing. As far as we know, they're doing the right thing. They're cooperating with the investigation instead of stonewalling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And saying they're not talking about firing Rober Mueller right now.
Meantime, the president, as you point out, is active on Twitter, criticizing his own Justice Department. I want to show up the tweet right there. "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department and the FBI isn't looking into all the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary and the Dems."
And right after that, our Jon Karl asked the president about it.
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JON KARL, ABC NEWS: Will you fire Jeff Sessions if the Justice Department doesn't take action against Hillary Clinton?
TRUMP: I don't know. I'm really not involved with the Justice Department. I'd like to let it run itself. But honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pretty extraordinary the president taking on his own Justice Department like that, Preet. And is he crossing a line?
BHARARA: He's crossed the line a number of times. It is a terrible thing for a president in this country to tell his Justice Department who to investigate, who to prosecute, and who to keep their hands off of. And we have evidence of that, too, on the flip side of the coin.
We have evidence that he told Jim Comey to back off on Mike Flynn and that he asked Jeff Sessions potentially to back off on Joe Arpaio. And both of those things, I think, are terrible for the rule of law in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned Mike Flynn. General Flynn, you have got to believe that he has similar kinds of issues as Paul Manafort -- I'm not mentioning money laundering, but we know reporting of his foreign lobbying activity. It has already been revealed that he didn't properly report that. Is he next?
ABRAMS: Well, the question is what is he doing right now? Is he cooperating? I mean, months ago, he seemed to be publicly offering up his cooperation in exchange for a deal. So, I don't think we know exactly what is happening with Flynn.
But I think with regard to the president's public comments. There are separate questions of crossing the line in terms of protocol, in terms of morality and ethics, and law, right? I think that it doesn't cross the line yet. And people are asking, isn't this obstruction, what the president is doing already? And isn't he improperly speaking out?
And the answer is that, improper, I think that's pretty clear. But, when it comes to the -- the implications for the Justice Department, I think it would have to be an order or a directive for it to really become a real legal issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ken Starr, you get the last word, is the president getting close to the line?
STARR: No. He's just spouting off. But until he does exactly what Preet said, until he issues a direct, directly or indirectly, he's expressing this frustration, but it's not crossing the line into criminality.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much.
Coming up, our Roundtable takes on the fallout from the Mueller indictments and Donna Brazile's bombshells. And we'll check in live on President Trump's Asia trip with our chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
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TRUMP: No one, no dictator, no regime and no nation, should underestimate, ever, American resolve. Every once in awhile in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it? It was not pleasant.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump with the troops in Japan this morning. The start of his longest foreign trip yet. The threat from North Korea front and center. And our chief White House correspondent Jon Karl will be with the president at every stop. Good morning, Jon.
KARL: Good morning, George.
It is an ambitious and high stakes trip. The president will be in Asia for nearly two full weeks. Of course, the threat posed by North Korea is issue number one.
The trip begins here in Japan, America's closest ally in the region. And the president seems to have a genuinely warm relationship with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two met here in Tokyo at Japan's most celebrated golf course. The president was presented by Shinzo Abe with custom-made hats that read, Donald & Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.
The two then played a round of golf. They were joined by Japan's top professional golfer.
Next up, the president heads to South Korea, followed by China, and then summit meetings in Vietnam and in the Philippines. In Vietnam, the president says he expects to meet on the sidelines of the summit with Vladimir Putin. Asked about the meeting on Air Force One, the president said, quote, "we want Putin's help on North Korea."
STEPHANOPOULOS: That will be a big meeting, but probably the centerpiece of this trip, that meeting meeting with President Xi of China.
KARL: No question about it, that is the key relations here, both in terms of isolating and pressures North Korea and in terms of the trade issues the president has on his mind.
And Xi comes into the meeting having expanded his control over the Chinese government, becoming solidified as the most powerful leader, ruler of China, in at least a generation. The president was asked about that also on Air Force One. And he said that he, too, is coming into this as a -- at a position of strength. He pointed to the stock market's success, to the low unemployment rate. And then he had this to say about the stock market, quote, "the reason our stock market is so successful is because of me. I have always been great with money. I've always been great with jobs. That's what I do" -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a shy president. Jon Karl, thanks very much.
Up next, can Republicans stick together on their tax plan? I'm going to talk to two key members of the House and our Roundtable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now, we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
In the month of October, six service members died overseas in Niger, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are back with the GOP's big push on tax cuts. President Trump and House Republicans launched their bill this week, a 400-page rewrite on the tax code.
Senators on a permanent cut in the corporate tax rate, plus new cuts and credits for individuals and families that will increase the the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over ten years, and should cut income taxes for most Americans. But the bill eliminates many popular deductions. And five years out, many middle class families will actually see their taxes go up as credits expire.
Most of the benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, but the bill's supporters argue that economic growth sparked by the tax cuts will be a big boon to every American.
The big question now, can the GOP hang together to pass the bill by Christmas. And we're joined now by two House Republicans with different views of the plan. House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Congressman Peter King of New York.
And Congressman King, let me begin with you. You have been an outspoken critic of the bill's doing away with tax deduction for state and local income taxes. Does that mean you are a no vote?
REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: As of now, I would have to. Let me make it clear, I'm a Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp Republican when it comes to tax cuts. I believe in tax cuts. I believe they worked under John Kennedy, they worked under Ronald Reagan. But this particular tax bill, by taking away the state and local tax deduction has a particularly devastating effect on New York and New Jersey. We already get treated unfairly. New York gets back only 79 cents on the dollar that's sent to Washington, $48 billion deficit on money we have as far as money that we send to Washington that we don't get back.
And since 1913, it's been a principle not to have a tax on a tax.
And one other policy suggestion here is Republican Party has always stood for federalism, encouraging local and state governments to do all that they can as opposed to the federal government. Well, now we're being penalized for that.
So, it's strong. And it would have an extremely damaging effect on my constituents who are middle, in some cases upper middle, but mostly middle income. It's a district that went for Barack Obama by 4 points and 5 points, Ronald Reagaon -- excuse me, Donald Trump carried it by nine. That's a 14-point turn around. And the main objection I'm getting in my district are from Trump voters.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that's one no vote right there.
Congressman Meadows, let me bring it to you. You know you've been a long outspoken -- you and fellow Freedom Caucus members, have been deficit hawks. But this bill is going to increase the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. A lot of independent analysts say it could be far more than that. So, can you vote for this bill?
REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: We can. I can tell you right now it's a work in progress. Obviously, Peter King is advocating real hard on behalf of his constituents. I appreciate that. Peter and I actually were on the House floor just the other day. And, as we were talking about, what it does for his constituents, what it does for mine. I can tell you, on the deficit side of things, even though we're looking at a $1.5 trillion increase in that deficit in the short run, preliminary numbers really look very good in terms of economic growth. So, over a longer period of time, some 10 to 15 years, we believe that the economic growth will outweigh any short-term deficit increase that we see.
And so, Peter and I are going to have to continue to work together to hopefully get this right. We're going to start the markup on Monday in the House. The Senate will be rolling out their bill in the next few days.
But, at the end of the day, we -- you know, failure is not an option.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're willing to vote to increase the deficit over ten years?
MEADOWS: I am. I mean, we have looked this. Of course, I'm a numbers guy, George. As I have looked that particular bill, it appears that we should be able to get hopefully a 3.5 to 3.6 GDP growth bump. When we do, that actually means higher wages, you know, a stronger economy. And as you look at a longer budge window, what it does is, even though we're looking at increasing the deficit in the short run, over a 15-year period, it appears we could have these tax cuts paid for because of economic growth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman King, President Trump added a wrinkle when he said congress should repeal the Obamacare mandate to buy health insurance in this bill. Can you go along with that?
KING: No. I think we should confine this to tax cuts and tax reform. I agree with Mark. I hope we can find a way to work this out.
But again, right now, it would be -- as I looked at for my district and my state that you would have my voters, my constituents, subsidizing other states in the country. And as it is, New York does subsidize the rest of the country already. So, I just want to find a way to work this right now. Again, if it's worked out, I'd support almost everything else that's in the bill. I agree with Mark. I think it is going the bring about growth for the country. I just don't want the rest of the country to be growing and more and more people either have to move out of New York or have to lose their homes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Meadows, one other issue that's come up, the joint committee on taxation from the congress has said that when these tax credits expire, which is five years from now, 2023, there is actually going to be on average a tax increase for families earning $20,000 to $40,000 a year, and for families $200,000 to $500,000. Can you go along with that?
MEADOWS: You know, here's where we are. And it's interesting, Peter was talking about that individual mandate. One of the things that I have been advocating for is actually to include a repeal of the individual mandate in this tax bill. And the reason for that, and it gives us probably close to $400 billion more to not only extend those tax credits that you're talking about, George, but also to hopefully adjust and be able to adjust that state and local tax issue that Peter is seeing, and Lee Zeldin and others in New Jersey are seeing.
And so we're advocating on behalf of that.
But really when you look at those tax credits expiring, I think most of what we're seeing is is as we start to reconcile with the Senate, they will be permanent tax decreases for not only middle income Americans, but across the spectrum that will be permanent for a 10 year period.
And so looking at the detailed numbers, I think that the analysis that perhaps some naysayers have right now is not going to be meted out in the coming days. You know, I'm hopeful that we vote on this by November 16 in the House, and certainly by the first part of December in the Senate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sounds like you have got a lot to work through this week. Thanks very much for your time.
And we will be right back with the Roundtable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We have great hopes that it wraps up. It is very distracting to the president, as it would be to any citizen, to be investigated for something while at the same time trying to carry the weight of what being president of the United States means.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: General Kelly after those indictments came out on Monday.
Let's talk about this all on our Roundtable now with the Washington bureau chief for the AP Julie Pace; Sara Fagen, Republican strategist and CNBC contributor; Marc Lotter, former press secretary to Vice President Pence; and Charles Blow, the columnist for The New York Times.
And I do want to get to the Russia investigation. But let's start -- Charles, I want to start wtih you. Boy, no regrets, no backing down at all from Donna Brazile. She says her critics can go to hell.
CHARLES BLOW, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. OK, so full disclosure. I know Donna. I've known her for a very long time. We're both from Louisiana. And I saw her this summer. She had this manuscript in her hand. She let me read the first page. I knew it was going to be disruptive. And I got from that conversation with her that she felt like her story had not been told fully. She wanted to tell it herself.
I think everybody has the right to do that. It's a political memoir.
That said, it's horrible for the Democratic Party because it confirms a lot of what people who were kind of cleaving apart from the party believed already. That it's -- that it -- that it's -- didn't function well. That there was some, you know, weirdness about treatment of Bernie Sanders.
And if you talk to young liberals now, there's incredible energy. They're -- there's a lot of direct democracy kind of work, people getting into the streets, people running for office, people showing up to rallies. They're almost completely separate from the Democratic Party apparatus.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You do see a real division inside the Democratic Party and that two days ahead of a big election in the state of Virginia for governor.
SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. You think Donald Trump's challenges in his favorability, a depressed Northern Virginia, you know, population of moderate Republicans.
But Ed Gillespie is tied. And if a Republican is tied going in to an election like this, a mid-term election, in Virginia, there's a good chance he's going to win.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that would be a huge blow, Julie Pace, to the Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It absolutely -- I mean, Democrats haven't had a lot to cheer about this year. They've lost most of the special elections that have come up. But they look at Virginia and they see a state that they increasingly look at as less of a swing state and more of a blue state. So, to lose a gubernatorial race at this point where they've been able to really focus in. They've been able to put resources, all of the party stars, Barack Obama has been down there, to lose this would just be a huge blow. And it would underscore that this year for Democrats has been a wasted year in terms of figuring out the direction that the party goes in after the shocking loss that they had in 2016.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Marc Lotter, President Trump treated this book like the best news he got all week.
MARC LOTTER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: And I'll tell you one of the most surprising things was the reaction from Hillary's campaign when they signed the letter to Donna Brazile and basically brought back Russia again.
I mean, it's almost like them with a child with a blankie that everything they do is now revolving around Russia, and not really being the critical look at the party apparatus and what they were -- and need to do to change things around.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie, they want to talk about Russia. They're not the only ones, this week. Of course, the week began with that big news from Robert Mueller.
And I know you cover the White House. You cover Washington every single day. The White House was braced for the Manafort indictments. They did not see this Papadopoulos thing coming.
PACE: For as much attention as Manafort and Gates got, I think we do need to be focusing more on Papadopoulos.
One, because it was a total surprise to the White House that this was someone who would face charges.
Two, if you talk about Mueller sending a message, the recall message is through Padopoulos, that he's going to go from the bottom of this campaign to the top of this campaign. And that he is going to take lying to his prosecutor as a criminal offense. And you have to put this in the context of what's happening right now.
You have multiple people who have worked in this Trump administration currently -- and who left in the first couple of months, who are now having their own interviews.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of them, Sam Clovis, Sara Fagan, Iowa political operative who is actually working in the White House. If you go through the indictments and the plea agreements it turns out he is the campaign staffer who told -- said it was OK in an email for Papadopoulos to go to Russia. The day after this comes out, he pulls back from his nomination for the Agriculture Department.
FAGAN: That's right.
There is going to be consequences I think across the board here because of this. And, look to me, there's no -- evidence yet that there's any collusion, there' no evidence yet that the president or anybody in the current White House had conducted themselves in any way improper.
But, this does get to a wider judgment question, particularly in the early days of the campaign formation. It's just that that too many of his staffers had no idea that engaging in this kind of behavior was wrong and inappropriate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Marc Lotter, one of the things it clearly shows, you know, for the last year we have heard President Trump, his entire team, talk about there was no contact with Russia at all during the campaign. I mean, these indictments and this -- especially the Papadopoulos plea agreement shows that is simply not even close to true.
LOTTER: Well, you're seeing a young guy who is trying to build a portfolio for himself. And as was pointed out earlier on the show, whether it was dealing with increasing -- getting dirt or whether it was trying to build a relationship with, you know, from a foreign policy standpoint. That's what we were looking at.
But really where we stand right now is that the only proof where we have got of actually a campaign organization working in collusion with the Russians is on the Clinton side And through the hiring of Fusion GPS and getting into the Russian dossier.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How can you say that? They hired a British agent who then interviewed Russians? And one of the things we have seen, Charles Blow, in this agreement right here is Padopoulos talking to a Russian about gaining dirt on Hillary Clinton? Papadopoulos sharing it with higher ups in the Clinton (sic) campaign? Padopoulos being encouraged at one point in an email to go to Russia. And this is all before you even consider the June 2016 meeting that Don Jr. was at with Russians.
And see that's the thing. Like you have the buy into the concept that there was an epidemic of amnesia. Like that everybody forgot all of these contacts that they were having with Russians and came out, constantly saying there were no contacts whatsoever. Everybody you talked to said the same things. There are no contacts whatsoever.
And now what we're finding is that one after another, these were all lies. And maybe they all forgot. If you believe that, as a journalist -- you know, I've been in journalism for 25 years. I can't believe that. There's to way that happens.
FAGAN: There may not be any collusion or any criminality.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The collusion is not a legal term.
FAGAN: True, it's not a legal term, but we are using it. But it appears that this isn't going to be the last perjury charge we see out of this investigation.
STEPHANOPUOLOS: You do -- how worried are the people you talk to inside the White House?
PACE: They're pretty worried. You have staffers who are having to pay pretty high-priced lawyers right now, who are having to go in, talk to Mueller's prosecutors. And talking to folks who worked in the Clinton administration when they were facing similar situations.
Part of the problem is that people don't know who to trust right now. They know that day after day their colleagues who they've been sitting in meetings with are going in to talk about what they know.
FAGAN: I lived through this in the Bush White House. And that's exactly the challenge, which is that once everybody lawyers up, no one is allowed to speak to anyone else about what conversation I they may or may not be having with whom and it does, it has a dampening effect. And in most White Houses, this happens late. This happens in the second term. We are nine months in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We had a little bit of it in the first term in the Clinton administration as well, as someone who also lived through it. Not only do you not know what you're colleagues are saying, you don't know what the grand jury, what the prosecutors have. And I think that is one of the biggest lessons we take away from Robert Mueller this week in revealing what George Padopoulos had, he showed he has a lot more information than any of us knew.
BROW: But if you just tell the truth, it doesn't matter, right?
FAGAN: No, that's fair.
BLOW: My mother used to always say, if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said. If you tell the truth, none of this...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Unless the truth is damning.
BLOW: Well, then -- but that's the problem. If it's damning, that's one thing. But when you're having sympathy for somebody because they have to hire lawyers, that's because they are getting caught up in something and they didn't do something wrong. If you're telling the truth, if you're telling the truth, that should not matter.
LOTTER: The one thing -- and I was in the White House earlier in week talking to the communications team, this is very focusing. They are focused on the president's trip to Asia. They're very focused on tax reform. This has the opportunity of making sure you are focused on the things that you...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think they compartmentalized the Russia questions outside the day-to-day operations?
LOTTER: It is not coming up in the day-to-day operations. Everything -- and I was again I was there earlier this week. It was all focused on tax reform, the president's trip to Asia.
PACE: Well, that's not entirely true, Mar, because you know that the president himself is quite focused on that. So while you may have staffers that are trying to compartmentalize, the person at the very top of the operation, we were reporting earlier this week that he was spending hours in the residence on Monday morning when he could have been focused on the Asia trip, when he could have been focused on tax reform, he was actually focused on the Russia investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Read the Twitter feed.
Let's talk taxes, quickly, Sara, right now.
You just heard the two congressmen right there. We were just reporting also this morning Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma saying he can't vote for a tax increase that increases the deficit, increases the the debt.
Is this bill on track to pass by Christmas or more trouble than that?
FAGAN: WEll, I think it is going to be tough to get it passed by Christmas, but I think it is going to ultimately pass. I mean, this is a once in a generation opportunity for Republicans. There's an understanding across the board that, that if Republicans blow this opportunity, it's going to be an ugly November 2018.
And, most importantly, though, you know, I have worked around politics in the advocacy community now for almost 20 years. I have never seen Washington as organized in terms of people moving in one direction. There are some groups, real estate groups that certainly are opposed to this. But the business community, the broader conservative movement, I think is coming together in a way I have not seen in decades.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we had more time, but of course we're going to have a lot more time to debate this in the days and weeks ahead.
Thank you all very much.
And that is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight. And I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.
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