— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on June 11, 2017 and it will be updated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Starting right now on THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS...
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Comey v. Trump -- the FBI director fired by President Trump fires back in a history-making hearing. The most surprising revelation, Comey leaked his conversations with Trump to get a special counsel appointed. Now, the president's fate in Robert Mueller's hands.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
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STEPHANOPOULOS: In vivid testimony, Comey questioned Trump's character and honest.
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JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Those were lies, plain and simple.
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion, no obstruction. He's a leaker.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: But will the president's story stand up to scrutiny from the special counsel?
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JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And what about those tapes?
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COMEY: I've seen the Tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
KARL: You seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations.
TRUMP: I'm not hinting at anything. I'll tell you about it over a very short period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The key question, did Trump pressure Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn?
Was it obstruction of justice?
We'll ask Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor also fired by the president in his first TV interview since the firing, a THIS WEEK exclusive.
Responding to the president, new Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, only on THIS WEEK.
Key senators from the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees are here for what's next in the Congressional investigations.
Plus, insights and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
Everything you need to know on the showdown that's put the Trump presidency on a perilous new course.
From ABC News, THIS WEEK starts right now with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning.
The hype was big and the hearing delivered. It was a blockbuster, reaching 89 million on Facebook, 19 million more on TV.
What they saw, like so much in this young Trump presidency, something that's never happened before.
An FBI director fired by the president under oath accusing the White House of lying and strongly suggesting that the president himself committed an impeachable offense.
Comey also confirmed that he told the president three times that the president was not personally being investigated for colluding with Russia.
Trump took that as vindication in an early Friday morning Tweet.
But in the Rose Garden that afternoon, the president dismissed Comey's damning claims, saying he never directed Comey to drop the Michael Flynn investigation and never asked for a pledge of loyalty.
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TRUMP: I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance.
Who would do that?
Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath?
I mean think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. No, I didn't say that and I didn't say the other.
KARL: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that, you would...
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Two very different men, two very different stories.
Who is telling the truth?
Whether the president committed a crime now something, as Comey said, for Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to sort out.
And our first guest is a former prosecutor who's worked with both Comey and Mueller, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York until March, when he was fired by President Trump.
Now he's a distinguished scholar at NYU.
And this is his first television interview since the firing.
Welcome to THIS WEEK.
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So I want to ask you about your encounters with President Trump later, but let's begin with that hearing.
You were in the hearing room...
BHARARA: I was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- on Thursday. We have a picture of you right behind James Comey right there. And you've heard the president since coming out and saying -- claiming vindication from James Comey, essentially, though, saying that James Comey lied under oath.
BHARARA: It doesn't appear that way. I mean you've got someone who has a reputation for probity, someone who has a reputation for telling the truth, someone who has contemporaneous notes of what happened in these meetings and in these conversations.
On the other hand, I think a lot of people will tell you that the president himself sometimes makes accusations that turn out not to be true. I think he seems to have done that in a Tweet this morning.
And when it comes down to who's telling the truth and who's not, I think most people would side reasonably with James Comey.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked about the Tweets. The president did put out a Tweet this morning. I want to put it up on the screen right now. "I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal. Very cowardly."
What's the lie there?
BHARARA: There's a -- there's speculation and an accusation that there are other leaks and that's going to come out at some point in the future. I think there have been other accusations that are made in a haphazard and unsubstantiated way by the president, including that his office was tapped or wiretapped and no evidence of that has ever materialized.
He suggested on at least one occasion that maybe he had recorded conversations, refuses to answer questions about whether or not that is true.
But I think the point is that accusations made in the heat of the moment in 140 characters on Twitter, based on the track record and history, are not to be taken very seriously.
STEPHANOPOULOS: His whole team is doubling down on this idea that the leak that James Comey admitted to could be illegal. Corey Lewandowski told me on Friday on "GMA" that it's possible that he could be prosecuted for this.
Anything illegal in that leak to "The New York Times?"
BHARARA: Yes. So I'm not in the business of making legal pronouncements on what is -- what's legal or what's criminal anymore. But I will say, it sounds like more of a distraction.
First of all, I think nothing that was in the memo or in the conversations that he had with his friend at Columbia Law School was classified.
Second, I don't understand what the privilege argument is. You know, the president's team fully was aware that the memo was going to be discussed and the conversations were going to be discussed at the hearing and had the opportunity, when many reporters asked if they would invoke executive power to try to prevent some of that from being talked about and they declined that opportunity.
So I think the main point that people should be focusing on, from what I can see, is that you have -- you have uncontroverted from someone who was under oath that on at least one occasion, the president of the United States cleared a room of his vice president and his attorney general, and told his director of the FBI that he should essentially drop a case against his former national security adviser.
And whether or not that is impeachable or that's indictable, that's a very serious thing. And I'm not sure that people, you know, fully get that the standard is not just whether something is a crime or not, but there should -- you know, whether or not it can be charged as a crime or Congress will impeach, it's a very serious thing. And there's a lot to be frightened about and a lot to be outraged about if you have a president who, A, may have done it, although I know he denies it, but he hasn't done it under oath yet. And, B, he seems to suggest that even if he had done it or said words to that effect, there's nothing wrong with that.
And you have other people who seem to be excusing it.
That's an incredibly serious thing if people think that the president of the United States can tell heads of law enforcement agencies, based on his own whim or his own personal preferences or friendships, that they should or should not pursue particular criminal cases against individuals.
That's not how America works.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to dig into that more in a minute.
But let me just stay on this leak for just a second.
Even if the going to a friend at "The New York Times" wasn't illegal, was it a violation of FBI regulations, which would, in some cases, people say, require -- before that revelation -- getting advanced authorization from the FBI?
BHARARA: Yes, you know, I don't know. It doesn't seem to be. You know, one could make the argument that it was not the best way to go about trying to bring this story into the open. I mean obviously, Jim Comey was comfortable, after being called to testify, to testify about the memos and about the conversations. And it was just his recollection.
So, you know, I don't really see what the major issue is. It may be that there was a better way to bring the information out, like he did in the hearing ultimately.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other things the president's supporters have said is that James Comey, if he really thought something was wrong in that meeting you just referred to, that Oval Office meeting where everybody else was kicked out, he should have said no to the president right there or he should have reported this evidence of a crime back to the FBI or the Justice Department.
BHARARA: Yes, but the -- but -- as I understand it, he did say no. And the no that he said was that -- to himself and to his people that we were not going to do what the president had asked. He wasn't going to drop the investigation.
So I think, you know, he decided in his own mind he wasn't going to follow the direction of the president. And he says he took it as a direction and that was that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One other thing on James Comey. He talked about that encounter with Loretta Lynch and the email investigation. She wanted it described as a "matter." He wanted it described as an investigation.
He said that made him queasy.
Does that make you queasy, too?
BHARARA: Well, it wasn't said to me. I think if you're -- if it's true and you're listening to it as a third party, it's not the greatest instruction in the world.
But if I could just say one other point on this issue of whether or not Donald Trump knew what he was doing, and I saw, I think, over the weekend, that Paul Ryan, who is, I think, in line to be president of the United States -- he's in the succession line -- has been trying to excuse this behavior -- again, putting aside whether it's obstruction or impeachable -- that the president of the United States is new to this and he's new to protocols makes very, very little sense when the president became the president, in part, by campaigning at rally after rally after rally that I saw and Americans saw, on the issue of whether or not it was appropriate for the former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to have a meeting on a tarmac with Bill Clinton.
So he very well knew what the optics of that were and what the protocols were. And even though there is no evidence and no one has come forward to say anything untoward was discussed on that airplane at the tarmac, when an ongoing investigation was underway with respect to Hillary Clinton, he nevertheless said this is a reason why you should vote for me and not for that person.
And for people to turn around and say now that there is evidence that the president of the United States himself had a private conversation, after kicking other high officials out of the room and told his FBI director confidentiality to do something about a criminal case that's pending, I think that's a big deal. And it can't be excused as simply being a novice or new.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's defenders, like Alan Dershowitz, say there's no grounds for obstruction. You talked about that. And he, in fact, says that presidents have the constitutional right to fire FBI directors and investigations as much as they want.
One of the president's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, is coming up next. He says there's no there there, no basis for obstruction.
You are a former prosecutor. Is there evidence there that -- to begin a case for obstruction?
BHARARA: I think there's absolutely evidence to begin a case. I think it's very important for all sorts of armchair speculators in the law to be clear that no one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction. It's also true I think from based on what I see as a third party and out of government that there's no basis to say there's no obstruction.
And this point on whether or not the president has legal authority to fire or to direct an investigation, I don't really get it. It's a little silly to me. The fact that you have authority to remove someone from office doesn't automatically immunize that act from criminal responsibility.
And I'll give you an example of something from a different context. If it were to be true, and this is all made up for the sake of argument, if it were to be true that Michael Flynn offered a million dollars to Donald Trump and said I'm going to give you this million dollars and I'm giving it to you because I want you to fire Jim Comey and then Donald Trump fired Jim Comey, which everyone agrees he has the absolute authorization and authority to do, that would be an open and shut federal criminal case. It's a quid pro quo and he be could charged (inaudible) president of the Unitd States.
So this argument that you keep hearing on the TV shows that the mere fact that the president can fire an official at will doesn't solve the problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the end, though, as a prosecutor, what gets this beyond a he said/he said case?
BHARARA: I don't know if there's other evidence. I mean, we are heard people talk about tapes and there's a lot of cute game playing about whether or not there are tapes. That could prove it. But you have this in court all the time. And look at the surrounding circumstances and the indicia of truthfulness and those things include contemporaneous statements to other people. They include the track record of the witness. They include whether or not one of the hes in the he said/he said has a track record for lying or not both on the air and in legal proceedings like depositions, and I believe there is such a track record with respect to one of the parties.
So you make your arguments as you can. And it may be the case, like I've said, that no ultimate actual legal proceeding can be brought. I think people should keep an open mind about that.
And I'm the first to say it, and the only people, and we've going to make that decision, are the team that Bob Mueller is assembling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, are you pretty confident now that there's no question that President Trump will be investigating for obstruction by Bob Mueller?
BHARARA: I don't know. I'm not part of that team, but it seems - it seems reasonable that if Bob Mueller is looking at everything that you would expect him to look at, and good prosecutors look at everything. And this would seem to be one of those things that he was looking at.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How far does the scope of a special prosecutor go in a situation like this? How far beyond the questions, the underlying collusion charges with Russia, the question of obstruction, is this something that could eventually get into the Trump Corporation businesses? Does the special counsel have that kind of leeway?
BHARARA: I don't know where he'll go. I think that Bob Mueller by reputation is - proceeds with caution and doesn't get over his skis ever, so I think he'll have confidence that there will be a responsible investigation that goes where it needs to go and not beyond.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we heard the president say he wanted to testify, or willing to testify under oath. Any doubt that Bob Mueller would take him up on that.
MUELLER: No, I think the way you do any kind of investigation that involves somebody who is a high official is you gather all the other evidence. We did investigations like this of high officials in New York State all the time. And what you do is you painfully and painstakingly gather evidence from as many witnesses as possible and documents and everything else and at the end of that typically, then, you interview the principal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You had several encounters with President-elect Trump before you were fired by President Trump back in March starting at the -- during the transition he invited to you Trump Tower, asked you to stay on as U.S. attorney.
BHARARA: He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then he followed that up with two phone calls as president-elect.
BHARARA: He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What happened in those phone calls?
BHARARA: So they're unusual phone calls and it sort of - when I've been reading the stories of how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, felt a little bit like deja vu. And I'm not the FBI director, but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York.
The number of times that President Obama called me in seven-and-a-half years was zero. The number of types I would have been expected to be called by the president of the United States would be zero because there has to be some kind of arm's length relationship given the jurisdiction that various people had.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he say?
BHARARA: So he called me in December, ostensibly just to shoot the breeze and asked me how I was doing and wanted to make sure I was OK. It was similar to what Jim Comey testified to with respect to a call he got when he was getting on the helicopter. I didn't say anything at the time to him. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but he was not the president, he was only the president-elect.
He called me again two days before the inauguration, again seemingly to check in and shoot the breeze and then he called me a third time when he -- after he became president and I refused to return the call.
STEPHANOPOULOS; That you didn't take because he was president.
But on those other phone calls James Comey talked about the president trying to develop what he called a patronage relationship. Is that what you think was happening with you?
BHARARA: That's not the word I use. I was in discussions with my own folks, and in reporting the phone call to the chief of staff to the attorney general I said, it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship.
And it may be hard for viewers of yours to understand if you're a layperson and not in the Justice Department, you know, what's wrong with that. The CEO of a company wants to call a field manager somewhere in the country because he thinks he's an up-and-comer, what's wrong with that?
The problem is the Justice Department is different. And for the same reasons that Donald Trump emphasized how it looked when there was that tarmac incident and you had a private conversation between someone who had an interest in an investigation and the person who was responsible for, you know, advancing or ending that investigation, it's a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump Corporation based in New York.
BHARARA: Hypothetically there is the authority to investigate all sorts of interests relating to a president which is why there are strict guidelines in place about what can or cannot be talked about.
Now I'm not saying that he was going to ask me about a case, although there was some evidence in the record now that after a period of time, given the Jim Comey testimony, there's some evidence that Donald Trump didn't think anything of asking a high level law enforcement official to take a particular action that he wanted for himself on a criminal case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then when you were actual -- when he was actually president, you refused to take the call and I guess the next day you were fired.
BHARARA: So the call came in. I got a message. We deliberated over it, thought it was inappropriate to return the call. And 22 hours later I was asked to resign along with 45 other people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And some Democrats, notably Elizabeth Warren, connecting that to the fact that you did have jurisdiction over Trump Tower. Do you think there's any connection?
BHARARA: I'm not drawing the connection. I've lived long enough to know that anything is possible and we're seeing a lot of things going on now with respect to accusations that Jim Comey made under oath in a congressional hearing. So I don't know.
To this day i have no idea why I was fired. You know, it doesn't bother me. I'm living a great good life, and very happily. But I have no idea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Preet Bharara, thanks for coming in today.
BHARARA: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Going to get a response now from a member of President Trump's legal team, Jay Sekulow, joins us now from Washington.
Jay, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard Preet Bharara right there suggesting that he thought -- had a feeling of deja vu when he was watching James Comey's testimony because of the phone calls he received during the transition.
Do you believe the president was trying to cultivate a relationship with the then-U.S. Attorney?
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER OF TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: I have no idea what the context of that call was or was going to be. And I can't speculate on that. But I would say at the outset, George, and you raised this, the issue of the leak from James Comey to his friend at Columbia Law School, that was ultimately leaked to The New York Times, is unprecedented.
I mean, I want everyone to be thinking about this. The current -- then current FBI director took contemporaneous notes, put them on a form, used government facilities to do that. If an FBI agent does that, they usually fill out a form 302.
Could you imagine what would happen if an FBI agent then leaked that form 302 out to The New York Times, what the allegations would be? So this was an unprecedented move. And Preet mentioned the issue of executive privilege. The president and the administration wasn't -- they did not invoke executive privilege on this hearing, but on these documents they didn't know what the contents were.
It may well -- I would assert I'm sure it was executive privilege. But James Comey never gave anyone the opportunity to determine if that was going to be the case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But didn't the president waive any...
SEKULOW: They were not known and they were leaked.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... privilege once he talked about the meetings? That's what the tweet about the tapes was about.
SEKULOW: Those two don't actually relate. The executive privilege follows on any conversation the president had in deliberate process. So, again, there was only -- you know, neither you nor I nor Preet are privy to that conversation.
But you have to say -- I think anybody looking at this case honestly, has to say there were three things that took place here. One, it was made very clear from the FBI director on multiple occasions that the president had not been and was not under investigation for obstruction of justice.
He made that very clear in his written testimony, which is by the way part of the record. And number two, and I think, again, the unprecedented nature of this, that there were no evidence, and you've had other people on this program, including senators, members of the intelligence community, said there has been no evidence of collusion.
So you look at the issue and say then what is the role of the special counsel here? And the special counsel allowed James Comey to testify. James Comey said he reviewed his testimony with the special counsel. And you wonder if -- it's unusual to me and I've done a lot of cases for 40 years of practicing law almost, and at the highest levels including the Supreme Court, that you have a situation, I think this is unprecedented, where the testimony was reviewed. It was then discussed. And then it was -- part of that testimony, a large part was based on leaked information.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you suggesting there -- are you suggesting there that you and the president and the president's legal team don't have confidence in Robert Mueller to conduct a fair investigation?
SEKULOW: No, what we're saying is this, look, I mean, Marc Kasowitz is the lead lawyer in this case and is in charge of the legal team, has said clearly that he is putting forward a legal team and a legal defense that will address all of the issues.
But I think that the unusual situation here, this is unprecedented in our history, is that the former executive -- the former FBI director was the source of a leak. I mean, George, you know, we've all been concerned about leaks and here he was the source of that leak.
And I mean, I think Dianne Feinstein was a bit shocked on this. I think others were. This was not a partisan issue. This was a...
SEKULOW: ... of information.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Preet Bharara say that it might not have been the best way to do that, but let's go to underlying...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... that he said, you're cherry-picking. One on the one hand, you say you believe James Comey when he talks about telling the president that he's not under investigation, but the president is denying that James Comey is telling the truth about the Oval Office meeting on February 14th, about his dinner with the president.
The president saying he's not telling the truth there. So do you believe -- remember, James Comey was under oath. Do you believe that the DoJ should pursue perjury charges against James Comey?
SEKULOW: I think that what -- James Comey has made misstatements to the House and Senate on multiple times during the investigation into Secretary Clinton where he had to go back -- and you know this, George, and had to go back and correct his testimony.
In this very last hearing, he was asked a question regarding the recusal of the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions. He made a statement that he was not aware of any memorandums explaining that addressed to him. And the Department of Justice released that on March 2nd, I believe the date was, that in fact a memorandum was sent to the FBI director explaining the basis of the recusal.
So, I mean, I'm going to lay it on as I would look at it as a lawyer if I was preparing a Supreme Court case. And I think that James Comey's credibility has been brought into question on multiple occasions during the Clinton investigation and here.
Look, that's ultimately the special counsel has to weigh that as he makes -- does his investigation, but I think it raises serious issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president could clear this all up if he released the tapes. Does he have them? Will he release them?
SEKULOW: The president said he is going to address the issue of the tapes, whether the tapes exist or not, next week. That's a decision that the president will make in consultation with his chief lawyer Marc Kasowitz, and that the president said he'll address it next week.
But here's the one thing that's clear, right now what do you have? A leaked memo that was leaked to The Washington Post, allegedly because he read in The New York Times or he read the tweet, but yet, you know, what's also interesting is, much of the content of what appeared to be in that memorandum was actually in The New York Times the day before.
And then James Comey made this statement, which I find also troubling. He said he issued the release or the disclosure, or I would say, leak of the information through his friend, not even directly, through his friend in order to draw a special counsel. And the next day he got one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A couple of quick questions...
SEKULOW: I think the thing, as we say in the law, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A couple of quick questions before we go. The president said he was willing to testify under oath. Do you expect him to testify under oath to Robert Mueller?
SEKULOW: Well, the president made that very clear. He has made the statement of what he would do as far as testimony if that's necessary. I find it ironic that people are questioning the president when he said he would do that, yet Secretary Clinton, when she was under investigation by James Comey, was not put under oath. I find that ironic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, will the president promise not to interfere, not attempt at any time to order the deputy attorney general to fire Robert Mueller?
SEKULOW: Look, the president of the United States, as we all know, is a unitary executive. But the president is going to seek the advice of his counsel and inside the government as well as outside. And I'm not going to speculate on what he will or will not do.
But right now the role of the president is to govern the United States of America. He's going to do that. He's going to leave anything else to the lawyers. But I can't imagine that that issue is going to arise. But that again is an issue that the president with his advisers would discuss if there was a basis.
I mean, George, if there was a basis upon which there was a question raised that raised the kind of issues that are serious, as in the situation with James Comey, the president has authority to take action. Whether he would do it is ultimately a decision the president makes.
I think that's complete conjecture and speculation. The Constitution, it's a unitary executive. You know that, you worked for a president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jay Sekulow, thanks very much for your time this morning.
SEKULOW: George, thanks for having me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, the "Roundtable" weighs in. And later, key senators from the Intelligence to Judiciary committees on where the congressional investigations go next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: "Roundtable" all here, ready to debate another stunning week in politics and we'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are back with the "Roundtable." And here with our chief political analyst Matthew Dowd, Republican strategist Sara Fagen, also a CNBC contributor, Congressman Keith Ellison, deputy chair of the DNC, Republican strategist, ABC news contributor Alex Castellanos, and our longtime contributor Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.
Of course, you ran the DNC last year when it came under attack, was hacked for emails, and it became part of the investigation, good to have you back. Donna, let's -- of course, there's one big subject to talk about this week, the hearing, James Comey.
Pretty direct assault on the president's character, Matthew Dowd, how much blood did he draw?
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, how many times have we sat here and said, wow, what a week in politics, what a week, it's unprecedented. Another one we have in the course of this.
I think Preet, the former district attorney, made a very good point which is, is no side should draw conclusions and say what fundamentally this is about. Let the facts show where they are. Don't draw a conclusion that there is obstruction of justice, but don't draw a conclusion yet that there is (ph) obstruction of justice.
To me, this is a lot like -- as we look at the scale of this, it's a lot like when you clean out your garage, right? And we're at the stage of where you just pulled your car out and you're just starting to unload, and now you're going to start seeing what's in there and what the mess is, and you might find a rat in the corner or you might find cockroaches.
We are in that point in time where they are just now cleaning out the garage. And Robert Mueller has a lot of weight on his shoulders because fundamentally, I mean, House committee and Senate committee are going to do their job. But fundamentally this is going to fall on him.
And what I don't get in the course of this is why Donald Trump, the president, and people associated with him have gone on the attack of Comey which -- who they have to know is best friends with Robert Mueller.
SARA FAGEN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This is a really excellent point. I don't understand the logic of going after him so aggressively. What the...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, change the subject.
FAGEN: It changes the subject in the direction that they don't want to go in. What they need to do is change the subject back to their agenda.
Look, I was a senior White House official in 2006 when Democrats took control of the Congress.
They think life is hard now?
Let me just tell you how tough it will be if Republicans lose the House of Representatives on the folks in the West Wing.
They need to get some stuff passed in Congress so they have an agenda to run on in 2018.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alex Castellanos, they say here in this, this is not the beginning of the end, it's the end of the beginning.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Ground hog day all over and over again.
But interesting things happened today in that interview, George.
The defense of Comey as leaking information was not that strong from Preet Bharara.
And the question becomes, wait a minute, are we setting a precedent here?
Are we saying it's OK for anybody who worked at the FBI to lead their work product?
What about other places in the government?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Here's what -- I mean I get the idea...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- of questioning James Comey to some degree. But Donna Brazile, let me bring this question to you.
Here's what I don't get. James Comey said he leaked this information to get a special counsel. A special counsel is the worst nightmare for Donald Trump. He got what he wanted.
So in the end, isn't that more dangerous for the president?
CASTELLANOS: Well, I think this tells you where we are. No, not if Donald Trump did not collude with the Russians.
Assume, for a moment, this heretical idea -- what if Donald Trump didn't do it?
What if the campaign didn't do it?
I think there's proof that Donald Trump and the campaign didn't collude with the Russians. They had no campaign.
CASTELLANOS: There was no organization...
CASTELLANOS: -- no forward...
CASTELLANOS: It was Donald Trump...
DOWD: The problem...
CASTELLANOS: -- giving speeches.
DOWD: -- the problem is that Richard Nixon didn't commit the Watergate burglary, right?
Donald Trump -- it doesn't matter if, fundamentally...
CASTELLANOS: Oh, come on.
DOWD: -- they're going to investigate and all that...
DOWD: -- but in the end, what catches presidents and what catches people is not the actual crime or the criminal thing, it is what happens...
CASTELLANOS: That's different.
BRAZILE: Director Comey is now a private citizen. He's no longer a government employee or a public servant in that case.
CASTELLANOS: -- he was when he created these materials.
BRAZILE: Absolutely. And there's -- I don't think there's any criminality of him providing his side, especially when the president of the United States called him a "nut job." That's all over the national newspapers. He shared it with his contemporary -- or friend at the law school.
But look, George, people watched the hearing as if this was the Super Bowl. I think it's just the beginning of a kick-off in a larger game. And as Director Comey said in the hearing, I think the most part of the hearing was that he said this is not about Republicans and Democrats, this is about our American democracy being attacked.
And I think the sooner we can get back -- you talk about a distinction?
I think the pivot should be we should focus on what we do to prevent this from happening again?
And the president has not expressed any outrage.
BRAZILE: He has not expressed...
BRAZILE: -- any outrage about what happened...
BRAZILE: -- last year.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN), DEPUTY CHAIR, DNC: -- all over this country are focused on this and watching it. You know, we need -- we are concerned in my district that we were going to have a community meeting in the district adjoining mine and in two days, we ended up with 250 people in the room. And they weren't just talking about health care, although they were talking about health care.
They were talking about whether they could trust their president. And so there is a lot of outrage. On June 3, there was a march against truth, literally all kinds of people really focused on...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's one of the questions I wanted to bring to Sara, because one of the things you saw with the Republicans on the committee, many tried to put the best face possible...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- on the president's actions. But also, to a person, they seemed to vouch for the credibility of James Comey. In the long run, that's got to hurt the president.
FAGEN: Look, I think going after Jim Comey is the wrong strategy. Alex is right. You know, there appears to be no evidence the president colluded with Russia. The president...
ELLISON: No, I wouldn't say that.
FAGEN: Well, the president, you know, didn't...
ELLISON: (INAUDIBLE) said he didn't. (INAUDIBLE).
FAGEN: -- didn't obstruct justice...
FAGEN: -- at least James Comey said so in his testimony.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, he said he couldn't reach that conclusion.
FAGEN: He couldn't...
FAGEN: But at that point there was no strong evidence that he obstructed justice. But every day we talk about James Comey means we're not talking about tax reform, health care.
So my issue is strategically, this is an undisciplined president. And if he doesn't get disciplined...
FAGEN: -- he's going to be in much...
ELLISON: When we talk about obstruction for a minute?
FAGEN: -- much worse situation.
ELLISON: Can we talk about obstruction for a minute?
ELLISON: Obstruction, basically, is whether you corruptly influence, obstruct or impede the administration of justice. You tell a chief law enforcement officer get, you know, back off my friend -- or I hope you back off my friend and then when he doesn't, you fire him, clearly, that isn't -- that is -- fits the behavior of obstruction.
The question of whether or not you can prosecute the president is open.
ELLISON: But the behavior...
ELLISON: -- is obstruction.
CASTELLANOS: George, remember why...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But here's...
CASTELLANOS: -- Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, to spare the nation, because there are bigger issues here.
ELLISON: That's a separate question.
CASTELLANOS: If Donald Trump...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
CASTELLANOS: -- didn't do it, if there was...
CASTELLANOS: -- no collusion...
CASTELLANOS: -- if Donald Trump -- if there's no collusion, he wasn't obstructing justice, he was trying to accelerate justice. He said to Comey, look, it would be great if people found out if there were satellite people involved here in this.
Assume for a moment that the fundamental basis of this is what if Donald Trump didn't do this?
What if there wasn't collusion?
You want the cloud removed from your presidency. You have all authority...
ELLISON: You've made more of a cloud...
CASTELLANOS: -- to fire this...
CASTELLANOS: I agree.
DOWD: There's a lot of things that Richard Nixon didn't do a lot of things but the things he did do was to obstruct an investigation that was going on...
DOWD: -- and then covered it up in the course of that.
But I think Preet made two good points.
One, he made news today, which, second, I think.
But the first point he made is, listen, the problem for Donald Trump and the administration and Corey Lewandowski and all that, if this is a question of he said/he said, which is what they keep to making, you have, on one side, somebody that we know, even his best friends, demonstrate that he is an habitual non-teller of truth.
Donald Trump versus somebody...
DOWD: There is another word for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that's generous.
DOWD: You can use the L word. And then there's the -- the other side is somebody that has habitually told the truth and offended Democrats. He offended the Clinton folks. He offended the Democrats.
ELLISON: He flubbed through (INAUDIBLE).
DOWD: And he's offended Republicans but in the end -- and he's made mistakes -- but in the end, this guy, James Comey, habitually tells the truth and stands up for that.
The second thing...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- well, actually, you could argue, even when he told that story about leaking to "The New York Times."..
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that didn't make him look good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Right.
DOWD: But the second part of this is...
DOWD: -- Preet said -- Preet related what happened with his relationship with Donald Trump. And it's eerily familiar to what happened...
DOWD: -- James Comey.
DOWD: And when he said, after he said we talked among our staff, when he got a call -- after getting calls when he was president-elect, he got a call as president, they decided it was not appropriate, he wasn't going to return the phone call. He was fired 22 hours later.
FAGEN: This is why the political graveyard is littered with businessmen, because, you know, the...
FAGEN: -- the -- he doesn't seem to know the rules of the road when serving in the White House relative to the Justice Department. And, you know, I realize he's been criticized for that defense, the ignorance defense, but -- and it's not going to help him if he ends up, you know, in a legal situation, but I do think there's truth to it, which is that...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, except Preet made the point...
FAGEN: -- because it...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that he knew full well like just from a...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- protocol when he was attacking Hillary Clinton.
FAGEN: But in the -- in business, you build relationships across the spectrum. And what he's doing is building relationships. And he didn't seem to understand...
DOWD: To utilize for his benefit.
CASTELLANOS: Look, the...
FAGEN: -- but didn't seem to understand...
ELLISON: Look, Donald Trump...
FAGEN: -- why that was inappropriate.
ELLISON: -- is no snowflake. He's no naive person. He's been around the block. He knows what he's doing.
But, George, I question whether the use of the term leak is appropriate. I see Comey as a whistleblower. I see him as revealing information. He's admitting it. He's stepping up to the plate and said I wrote the memo, yes, it was me, I'm the one who made sure it got out.
And he was just making sure that as he is being defamed, and his department was, too, that there's another alternative story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We got another Tweet from the president this morning coming with this right after the Comey one. He said, "The Democrats have no message, not in economics, not on taxes, not on jobs, not on failing ObamaCare. They are only obstructionists," all caps.
Is there a danger of this...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- obstructionists.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- becoming the Democratic agenda?
BRAZILE: First of all, I don't think the Democrats are over-reaching. I mean this is about the integrity of our democracy -- democratic process. It's about what happened in 2016.
To suggest, as Donald Trump constantly put out, that somewhere or a no, this is sour grapes, this is not sour grapes. This is about the country being attacked by a hostile foreign government and Donald Trump basically only caring about himself.
The Democrats, I think, look, we have an election in a couple of days in Georgia, Georgia's Sixth.
CASTELLANOS: Sure do.
BRAZILE: The candidate there, Jon Osoff, is doing really good. Democrats have been outperforming Republicans and outperforming Hillary Clinton by 11 percent in the last six elections that we've had these special elections.
I think the party is on message now, the party gets what we need to do in the future and I'm thankful for your leadership...
STEPHANOPOULOS: All right, you get the last word...
ELLISON: -- some are going on...
ELLISON: -- we are moving out...
CASTELLANOS: -- I would advise...
ELLISON: -- over the country.
CASTELLANOS: I would advise...
ELLISON: We're back in New York.
CASTELLANOS: -- my friend, Donna...
BRAZILE: That's good.
CASTELLANOS: -- to beware. I've been a member of the party of no. Look where it got us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all we have time for today.
When we come back, where do the Congressional investigations go next?
Mike Lee from the Judiciary Committee, Joe Manchin from the Senate Intelligence Committee, are up next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senators Mike Lee and Joe Manchin standing by to take on what Congress is going to do next, after James Comey's testimony.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: The fact is, we have been asked to settle. We've been asked to settle time and time again with our government and we've been asked to settle on matters of great principal with our candidate for president of the United States.
This can't continue. It's time for us not to settle. It's time for us to expect more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: There was Republican Senator Mike Lee back in October, calling on Candidate Trump to get out of the race after that "Access Hollywood" tape was made public.
He is now a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be investigating the president's actions.
Also, the author of a new book, "Written Out of History" -- you see it right there.
Senator Lee, thank you for joining us this morning.
You've also called yourself a big fan of James Comey, you said you've had great respect for him ever since you served together at the Department of Justice.
Do you believe that James Comey would lie under oath?
LEE: No, he doesn't strike me as someone who lie under oath. Nonetheless, I'm not wild about the fact that he had these memos leaked -- leaked specifically with the intent of prompting the appointment of a special prosecutor. That doesn't seem to me to be the kind of thing we want out of an FBI director, an FBI director whose example will affect everyone else in a department -- in a Bureau where leaking seems to be a problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think that should be investigated now?
Do you think he committed a crime?
LEE: I don't know whether it's a crime. There are those who have suggested that it was. It does, at least, to me, to have been -- it appears to have been inappropriate. I don't think he should have done it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But now we have two very different stories emerging from the hearings. You've had the story of President Trump saying he never asked for that pledge of loyalty, saying he never asked James Comey to let the Flynn investigation go.
You have a very different story from James Comey.
You know, during the campaign, you were very critical of Candidate Trump for suggesting that the father of your friend, Senator Ted Cruz, was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK. You said he did that without a scintilla of evidence.
Senator Cruz himself called Donald Trump a pathological liar.
So if it's the word of James Comey versus the word of Donald Trump, who gets the benefit of the doubt?
LEE: Look, in this circumstance, if he's got evidence of collusion, bring it forward. If he's got evidence of corruption, of obstruction, bring it forward.
I have yet to see anything, even a scintilla.
And so it's time to wrap this up and it's time to move on.
I don't see any evidence of anything happening here and as a result, I think it's time to move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're saying that even if what James Comey is saying is true, you don't see the evidence?
LEE: Yes. I don't see that that amounts to obstruction. I don't see any evidence of intent to obstruct. I don't see any indication that there was even the potential for corruption here or for obstruction of justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The actions of Attorney General Sessions also came up during that hearing, and whether or not he should have recused himself from the whole decision to fire James Comey.
You're a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. You all have oversight over the Justice Department.
Do you still have confidence in Attorney General Sessions?
LEE: I do. Jeff Sessions is a close personal friend of mine. He's someone in whom I have a lot of confidence.
I don't know what exactly happened or what meetings he had. I'm confident that Jeff Sessions would never intentionally mislead another or intentionally misstate the truth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then, on the broader question, the underlying issue of our relationship with Russia and the fact that Russia, according to our 17 intelligence agencies, interfered in our campaign, James Comey was unequivocal on that point.
I want to play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Director Comey also testified that the president never asked him about that underlying issue.
Do you believe the administration is taking that threat from Russia seriously enough?
LEE: Look, the fact that the Russian government made some effort to have an impact on our election is not, to my knowledge, contested. It's not disputed.
There is, however, no evidence whatsoever of any collusion between the Russian government and any presidential campaign.
And so the dispute of the underlying effort by the government is not in dispute -- by the Russian government.
What impact it has is uncertain. But one thing of which we are certain, there is no evidence of any collusion between the Russian government and any presidential campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if Robert Mueller develops that evidence, what would that mean?
LEE: Well, look, if Robert Mueller or anyone else investigating this uncovers evidence suggesting something else, then I'm sure that will be pursued. But we have to deal with the facts as we have them now with evidence that has been brought forward so far. And I don't see it. It's just not there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, before I let you go, I want to ask a question on another subject.You're part of that Senate working group on health care to come up with an alternative to the House repeal of Obamacare. Are you closing in on a draft? And is it something you can support?
LEE: We're trying. We're working hard.
Look, at the end of the day, if we are asked to vote on something that repeals Obamacare and that does so in a way that brings down the cost of health care for the American people, then that's something I can probably vote for. If we bring forward something that doesn't repeal Obamacare and doesn't bring down the health of health care that's probably something I won't be able to vote for.
It's not yet clear what it is going to look like at the end of the day. I have some grave concerns about what we're doing so far, concerns that if we don't get in the right direction, if we don't pull back this massive regulatory burden that has caused health care to become the most expensive single cost that the American people have, I'm going to be very worried about what it will do to our economy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lee, thanks for joining us this morning.
LEE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now joined by a member of the Senate intelligence committee, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, thank you for joining us this morning.
You were in that room on Thursday for all three hours. You questioned James Comey. Was he a credible witness?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. He did a good job and I think everyone there, Democrats and Republicans alike, thought he did a good job. And he was forthcoming. He offered to come to the committee not only in an open session, he came to a closed session also, George, and that was pretty special because when you heard him say I'm sorry I can't answer that and speak about that in this setting, that was of a higher classified and we went into a classified hearing afterwards, he answered everybody's questions. So we were very appreciative of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS; Do you agree with this conclusion that the president has reached that there was no evidence of collusion?
MANCHIN: You know, we haven't seen any of that whatsoever, George. We've been looking and showing everything they possibly have. That has not led to that. We have ultimate -- all of us have the utmost respect for Bob Mueller, both on the Democrat and Republican side. I believe he's going to do his job thoroughly. We will accept his recommendation and pathway forward and I think that's extremely important that we all agree this is the right person, the right time to do this type of work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw the president's lawyer earlier in the program, Jay Sekulow, would not rule out the possibility that the president might in the future take action against Robert Mueller.
MANCHIN: That would be a mistake. I don't know why you would take action against one of the most well thought of law enforcement persons we ever had serving in an unprecedented 10 year -- I mean 12 years. He's gone beyond his term, even stayed longer with the unanimous consent, unanimous vote in the Senate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've heard...
MANCHIN: so you have a person that everyone everyone respects and knows that he's above reproach.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've also heard from the president and his allies really taking after James Comey on the idea that he leaked that information to The New York Times through a friend. Do you have any problem with that?
MANCHIN: Well, that's concerning. That was concerning when we heard that, you know. But I looked at it as self-preservation. I mean, we're in an unprecedented era, if you will, kind of unorthodox approaches to governing. and with that it looks like that he took whatever action he thought for self-preservation and we'll see if that rises to a level of greater concern or of any type of action that needs to be taken. And I think Bob Mueller will do an open, fair and honest job on that also.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your committee also had a hearing this week with the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the head of the NSA General Mike Rogers and they were questioned about this report in The Washington Post. I want to put it up on the screen right now where it said "Trump sought aid in pressuring FBI, asked officials to intervene with Comey." Here's the quote, the first graph, "the nation's top intelligence officials told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then FBI director James Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials."
When you all questioned Director Coats about that, he refused to answer the questions. You said that brought him to the brink of contempt. Are you confident that he will answer those questions in closed hearings? And if the report in The Washington Post is correct, what does that tell you?
MANCHIN: Well, Secretary Coats, Dan Coats, is somebody we serve with and I was very troubled by their appearance and their lack of forthcoming on their answers, both Admiral Rogers who we've worked with for many years and also Secretary Coats. So I came back and asked the follow-up question would you answer the questions that we have in a closed hearing in the skiff (ph). And they both said, yes.
So we're looking forward to that as quickly as we can get that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, James Comey, was also asked about the possibility it's been reported that Jared Kushner had this meeting with Ambassador Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, where they discussed the possible back channel. Here's what Comey said about that hypothetical.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: The risk is - primary risk is obvious. You spare the Russians the cost and effort of having to break into our communications channels by using theirs. And so you make it a whole lot easier for them to capture all of your conversations and then to use those to the benefit of Russia against the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULS: You've asked Mr. Kushner to come before your committee to answer questions, as well. If he asked the Russians to set up a back channel, what would that mean?
MANCHIN: Well, we'd want to know what the purpose of the back channel was and why he couldn't go through normal channels, as far as what we already have established.
George, there's no mistake that this is troubling as far as the Russians. The Russians were more aggressive than ever before in this last election. We have proof of that. It's been shown to us on our committee and there's no doubt from a Democrat or a Republican that Russia did everything they could and intervened in every way possible. And their ability to continue to do so and maybe not just in the United States elections, but all around the world to disrupt democracies wherever they see them. And people lose confidence and faith in their government and the elected process and the legitimacy. That's quite absolutely disturbing to all of us and should be a concern.
So we were concerned about that. The president wasn't -- it's showed that either he wasn't inquisitive enough or he already knew what he knew and didn't have to hear any more. But they said that, you know, he did not inquire or go into detail inquiring exactly what the Russians had accomplished and what they were trying to accomplish.
We have gone into detail on that in our committee. And we're very concerned about that. And we're going to make sure we shut this down one way or another.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Manchin, thanks for your time this morning.
MANCHIN: Thanks for being with you, George. It's good to be with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right back after this from our ABC stations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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.