'This Week' Transcript 8-11-19: Sen. Cory Booker

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker speaks about gun control at Mother Emanuel AME Church, Aug. 7, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.PlayMic Smith/AP
WATCH Trump 'contributing to the problem' of rise in white supremacy: Cory Booker

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 11, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, THIS WEEK: Justice denied.

ANNOUNCER: Jeffrey Epstein has died in an apparent suicide overnight.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The financier found dead in jail while facing charges of sex trafficking. Why wasn't Epstein in suicide watch after a previous attempt on his life? Who’s to blame for the system’s failure? Will justice be served, conspiracy theories put to rest? Our legal experts analyze it all. And the candidates demand action.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: We need universal background checks.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump and Congress under pressure.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't want guns in the hands of the wrong people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As the latest mass shootings focus new urgency in the fight against domestic terror and new scrutiny of Trump's rhetoric.

JOE BIDEN, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe everything the president says encourages white supremacy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We cover it all this morning with presidential candidate Cory Booker live from Iowa. And Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel on our powerhouse roundtable. Plus, Al Gore.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can still avoid the worst of this catastrophe.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Takes on climate change and the 2020 candidates. 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. It has been a week packed with news punctuated by the shocking revelation that Jeffrey Epstein, facing the prospect of life in prison on sex trafficking charges, was found dead in his jail cell from an apparent suicide on Saturday. The death has sparked outrage from his accusers, raised questions about how this could happen in a maximum security federal prison. It has also spawned a series of conspiracy theories online, some now circulated remarkably, if not surprisingly, by the president himself.

Our Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas tracking all the latest developments. And Pierre, as I pointed out, this is a federal prison. The A.G. responsible in the end. He's ordered an inquiry.

PIERRE THOMAS, CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: George, this is one of the most high-profile prisoners in the system. This cannot happen, this should not happen. The attorney general said he was appalled that it happened. He said it raises serious questions and we know now just how serious. The FBI immediately launched an investigation. Also, the Justice Department Inspector General has launched an investigation as well. Cannot happen, should not happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the big question is why wasn't he on suicide watch, given what happened two weeks ago.

THOMAS: George, the man was sent to the hospital with abrasions or something on his neck under suspicious circumstances. He was placed on suicide watch. Then six days later he was not on suicide watch. The question is why? How did that happen as well?

STEPHANOPOULOS: We also know that the guards didn't complete all of their rounds on -- on Friday night into Saturday morning. Supposedly security cameras are in the prison. We should know what happened, right?

THOMAS: Well by now they should know what happened. They should have been able to watch the surveillance camera footage and -- and see what happened. But we don't know yet if the footage -- what it shows.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do they suspect foul play?

THOMAS: George, right now, based on my conversations, it could be anything. And until we know more about the specifics, until they have some transparency -- and I think they need to come out relatively quickly and say yes, there's surveillance footage that shows he -- you know, that he took his own life. But they need to get some answers out relatively quickly. Again, the attorney general is demanding answers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let’s broaden out the conversation here with Tom Llamas, our chief national correspondent. Also Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, leading expert witness on human trafficking, and our Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams. And Tom, this comes on the heels -- just on Friday, massive cache of documents implicating many people in the -- in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

TOM LLAMAS, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: George, the timing is so suspicious. This comes just one day after those documents were unsealed. We’re talking about 2,000 pages of court documents that were previously sealed in a defamation case against one of Epstein’s accusers, against one of Epstein’s former associates, Ghislaine Maxwell. Now what we know is that in these documents some major boldfaced names came out. This accuser claims Epstein told her to have sex with Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Former Senator George Mitchell and Prince Andrew as well.

Now, we know all of this. These men have denied this, saying this is not true. But these names came out. She also said -- we’ve heard so much about these massages with Jeffrey Epstein. She says that was code for sex, but the pressure clearly was on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pressure is now that (ph) we’re also hearing from some of the victims, including Michelle Licata. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE LICATA, JEFFREY EPSTEIN ACCUSER: I really wanted justice. I really wanted him to take up for what he did and to be put in jail or prison and have to sit there and think about what it is he exactly did to so many people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kimberly, this is just one of many victims -- or -- and accusers, I should say, who are just outraged.

KIMBERLY MEHLMAN-OROZCO, LEADING EXPERT WITNESS ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Absolutely. And for these victims, they really wanted to see him go through the court process, they wanted to see that conviction, they wanted to see him taken to task for everything that they alleged he had done to them. And now they're not going to see that and I think that it’s one of the things that victims that do come forward, they want to see it carried out to the end and they feel like it was cut short.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And as you pointed out, including in this case many years ago, sometimes these cases are hampered because of reluctant witnesses.

MEHLMAN-OROZCO: It can be reluctant witnesses, but it also can be a victim credibility gap. One of the things that jurors often don't understand, and one of the reason why I serve as an expert witness, is because these

victims can go back to their families. They can go to school. They can act in ways that make them seem like consenting participants when all the while they've been mentally manipulated, coerced, deceived, and exploited. So, they sometimes behave like consenting participants when in fact they are true victims of sex trafficking and exploitation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dan, the U.S. attorney is making clear this case is not over.

ABRAMS: Right, so the criminal case against Jeffrey Epstein is over. But the U.S. attorney, the same office that filed the charges against Epstein, is making it clear that they're continuing to investigating the conspiracy, meaning, if you actually read the indictment of Epstein, even there it mentions three other employees who were assisting in some way, shape or form. So, it is clear they're going to continue investigating the conspiracy aspect, who else might have been helping Epstein all this time? And could still be additional charges. And we may see a lot of the facts that people are saying will never be heard or never be seen now come out in public.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Also see civil cases against the estate?

ABRAMS: Well, that's right.

So people are asking, you know, what happens to all his money, et cetera. Just because he dies doesn't mean that various people can't sue his estate.

But remember, any new cases still face statute of limitations questions, particularly in the state of Florida where some of this allegedly happened. You have got a real issue there with regard to some of the things that happened maybe in 2004, 2005, 2002. You can have real statute of limitation problems in filing new lawsuits in that state of Florida.

But civil lawsuits will definitely continue on the whole against the Epstein estate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the conspiracy the U.S. attorney is investigating. Also a lot of conspiracy theories online. One propagated by President Trump himself, he retweeting a tweet that seemed to suggest that Bill Clinton was somehow complicit in the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

It shouldn't go without remarking. Kind of stunning that the president of the United States is accusing his predecessor, one of his predecessors, of complicity in murder. And the fact is, Tom Llamas, you've spent a lot of time looking at the Jeffrey Epstein case, he had relationships with both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

LLAMAS: That's right. We really have to be very clear about this, these conspiracy theories have no proof. The logic of that tweet was Bill Clinton had a relationship with Jeffrey Epstein so he may be behind this.

President Trump also had a relationship with going back 15 years. They were friends. They socialized together. They did have a falling-out.

Bill Clinton traveled many times with Jeffrey Epstein aboard his private jet, took long trips to Asia, Europe, and Africa when he was working with the Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton said he had no idea about these terrible crimes.

I do want to make another point, though, George. We have been investigating this case for years now, Jeffrey Epstein -- the suicide may shock us, but people who know Jeffrey Epstein say he lived like a prince, right? He traveled in private jets. He had his private island. He would wear shirts only once and then discard them. They said he was going crazy, likely, in that concrete cell and probably wanted to take his life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He talks about his wealth. You know, conspiracy theories whether someone tried to do this to him or whether he engineered this himself using his money.

ABRAMS: Right. And I think that's going to be the question, right. What's going to be clear, I think, is that they're going to be some kind of assistance that he got. Does it mean someone turned away? Does it mean someone turned off a camera? Does it mean -- we don't know.

But he could not have simply just, I don't think, killed himself without any kind of assistance in some way, shape or form from someone at the jail. That doesn't mean, however, that there was a murder, that someone ordered a hit on him, assassination, et cetera.

I mean, there are two very different things. One is the possibility of just negligence at the jail, which I know people are going to find this hard to believe, there are problems in jails, even in jails like this there are issues that arise, et cetera.

But I think the notion to take that and say, oh, well, this must have been a hit? That's a totally different level.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But all the more reason for the Justice Department to get to the truth here.

THOMAS: George, at this point no one is ruling anything out. When I talked to sources yesterday -- normally people are telling me, Pierre, be conservative in this area don't jump to any conclusions. They said this could be anything precisely because this is the exact kind of man who should have had eyes on him all the time. Period. End of story. And the question is, why weren't eyes on him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But we now have this remarkable situation where the president is basically at odds with his own Justice Department. How does the Justice Department respond to the president of the United States sending this stuff around?

THOMAS: Well, they will ignore it and they move forward. But I can tell you, precisely because of the conspiracy theories that are already out there, there was interest in the Justice Department in having this man be safe and go through the process for justice.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Thank you all very much.

When we come back, the latest mass shootings transformed the campaign trail this week. We're live next from Iowa next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Our Mary Bruce is on the campaign trail at the Iowa State Fair. And Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight analyzes whether public opinion is really changing on gun control.

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the scene at the Iowa State Fair this week, the Democratic candidates there for the ritual snacking on grilled pork and fried Oreos, but, this year, a more somber tone for the soapbox speeches, in the wake of America's latest mass shootings.

Our Mary Bruce on the trail for it all, and she joins us now from the fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Good morning, Mary.

MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George.

Well, amid all the fun and fried food here at the fair, we're seeing a very real shift in this campaign. The Democratic candidates, determined to keep up the pressure, are now having a serious debate about how to tackle this rise in violence and demanding new gun reform.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE (voice-over): Descending on this key state...

JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you?

BRUCE: ... the presidential hopefuls snapping selfies, playing carnival games and flipping burgers.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I can also flip Republicans.

BRUCE: But dominating the conversation, gun violence.

HARRIS: We need reasonable gun safety laws in our country...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: ... including universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

REP. TIM RYAN (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: --We need gun reform in United States of America and we need it now.

BRUCE: And they're taking on Trump's rhetoric.

BIDEN: Let's call this what it is. This is white nationalism. This is white supremacy.

BRUCE: The candidates greeted like rock stars at a gun safety forum on the sidelines of the fair.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I come to you, I know, with these latest shootings in El Paso and Dayton, at a time of sorrow in our country, but a time of real determination. We are going to make change, we are going to pass gun safety laws in this country.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: AKs, ARs, they have no place in our neighborhoods in peacetime in the United States of America. They are for war zones.

BRUCE: The day's emotions coming to the surface.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have six and three year-old boy and I was imagining -- I was imagining it was one of them that got shot.

BRUCE: Back in Washington under increasing pressure, the president is publicly pushing for stricter background checks.

TRUMP: There’s been no president that feels more strongly about the Second Amendment than I do. However, we need meaningful background checks so that sick people don't get guns.

BRUCE: And he says he can get Republicans and even the gun lobby on board. But in Iowa, the candidates are skeptical, quick to note that Trump has made these calls before only to backtrack days later.

BRUCE: Do you believe the president when he says he wants to see some kind of meaningful reforms?

BIDEN: I find that fascinating when he says he's going to check with the NRA.

BRUCE: Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling he’s open to at least considering new legislation. But he isn’t calling Congress back to Washington to tackle this.

BRUCE: Do you get any sense that this time around things are different?

WARREN: I think what -- I think what you’re saying is Mitch McConnell is starting to feel the heat, democracy is starting to show a little muscle out there and I think Mitch McConnell’s getting a little bit worried. My view is, he ought to be a lot worried.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE: Now, voters we’ve talked to here tell us they want to see action on this issue. Even some Trump supporters say it is time for a change. The challenge now for these Democratic candidates and for these voters is going to be keeping this conversation in the spotlight, keeping up the pressure. Because of course Congress is not back in session for another month. George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Mary Bruce, thanks very much. So the Democratic candidates are united for more action. And new polls show growing numbers of Americans, even gun owners supporting expanding background checks and other measures. So does this mean the country is reaching a tipping point on gun control? We asked FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, do you buy that?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATE SILVER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So historically the pattern had been that support for stricter laws temporarily rises after a mass shooting but then falls back to where it had been previously. That was the case after Columbine, for example. But since Sandy Hook in 2012, there’s been an overall upward trajectory. Earlier this year, for example, Gallup found 61 percent of Americans favoring stricter gun laws. That’s down from the recent peak of 67 percent, just after the Parkland shooting last February, but it’s from 43 percent in the last poll before Newtown.

Although if you want to be frank, that might be because these tragic mass shootings are never that far from the news this days. Since December 2015, there have 10 incidents that killed 10 or more people. That’s more than there was in 30 years between 1982 and 2011. And five of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern American history have all happened in the last five years. At the same time, how much the party's prioritized gun policy has shifted. Classically it was an issue that was supposed to motivate Republican turnout. But in the 2018 midterms, Democratic voters were more likely to describe gun control as an important issue than were Republicans.

And among voters in the national exit poll who ranked guns as their number one issue, 70 percent voted Democratic for the House. But while the public overall might want more gun control, it’ll be tough to get major changes passed in the Senate, where those big rural rectangular states have outsized influence. States that rank in the top 30 in gun ownership represent only 36 percent of the U.S. population but they’re 60 percent of seats in the U.S. Senate. So do I buy that public opinion has shifted on gun policy? There are some signs of, yes, but I don't know we can be sure about the long-term trajectory. And increased public support might not translate into action in Congress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Nate. Up next, Cory Booker joins us live from Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, 2020 candidate Cory Booker joins us live from Iowa. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a referendum on one guy and one office. This is a referendum on us and who are we going to be to each other.

This is one of those moral moments in our nation...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: ... that's going to define the character of our country.

And this is a week where I will not let the slaughter of our fellow citizens just disappear within the next media cycle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cory Booker in Iowa Friday night. He joins us live from Dubuque this morning. Senator Booker, thank you for joining us this morning.

You have been pretty clear all week long that this issue a matter of morality, not politics.

But I guess the big question is, how do you transform a moral moment into practical action? You know, President Obama spoke in moral terms after Newtown. He sang "Amazing Grace" after the massacre in South Carolina.

But Washington didn't act in a meaningful way. How can you succeed where President Obama failed?

BOOKER: Well, it can't be a me. It has to be a we.

We have a nation right now where people are feeling the fear penetrating our culture, from talking to even Latino leaders in the media telling me about how family members are afraid to speak Spanish in public now.

I have had teachers telling me about what kind of surrender is it in our society where we tell our children, basically, we can't protect you, so we're going to teach you in school how to duck and cover and shelter in place?

More and more Americans are seeing that this is a matter of freedom in this country. Will we be a nation free from fear, free from violence, free from a culture where mass shootings happen almost with a regularity where it's happening every day?

And so I think this is the time to lead and take responsibility, to be a lot bolder than just small steps towards safety and security. And I think that I can be a leader, with Americans activating and engaging on this issue, to actually pass meaningful, commonsense gun safety that makes our children, our families, our churches, mosques, our shopping centers safe.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say boldness is the answer. You want to call for gun licensing, nationwide gun licensing. But how can you pass that, when even background checks, which 90 percent of gun owners, according to some polls, support, can't get through the United States Senate?

BOOKER: Well, again, I think it's a matter of leadership, presidential leadership.

I hear a lot of the pundits say that, if Donald Trump actually took responsibility for this moment and stepped forward and said, this is something we should do, that it would move Mitch McConnell and a lot of other folks.

We need a president that is willing to drive forward on this issue and hold people accountable. I think that we can make this an issue really in our nation where people who have sworn an oath, really, helped to be a part of a government that primary responsibility is to keep people safe, that we can begin to hold them accountable.

And if they fail to be accountable, we can begin to win seats, flip. In the same way the NRA in the past has been able to make such a big difference in elections, so much so that many Republicans are afraid of them, we can flip that around and make them afraid of the overwhelming majorities of Americans that will hold them accountable.

That's the kind of tough leadership we need right now that's going to make sure that people who do not step up to protect this nation pay a price for that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that gun control is part of the answer, also taking the on the rhetoric of hate.

And here's a part of how you do -- how you talked about that this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER: Because if the answer to the question do racism and white supremacy exist is yes, then the real question isn't, who is or isn't a racist, but who is and isn't doing something about it?

There's no neutrality in this fight. You are either an agent of justice or you are contributing to the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have made it pretty clear you think President Trump is on the wrong side of the -- of this fight.

Does that hold for his supporters too? And I guess my question is, how do you call out President Trump on the issue of white supremacy and racism without alienating his supporters?

BOOKER: Well, that's, I guess, really what I’ve been trying to say.

This impotent simplicity of who is and who isn't a racist is really not the question. If we have racism in our country and we're all in this together and we believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, what are you doing about that injustice? If you -- it’s not enough to say I’m not a racist in America. If racism exists, you need to be anti-racist. Same with anti-Semitism. I can’t sit idly by if my Jewish brothers and sisters are facing that kind of violence and that kind of evil. We are all in this together. And so if these issues exist --

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you’re -- if you’re -- if someone is supporting President Trump they're not anti-racist?

BOOKER: No, I’m not -- I'm not saying that. And again, this is the kind of slicing and dicing that often tries to pit us against each other. If we have a nation where someone doesn't feel comfortable, where someone is -- could be a victim of a violent attack -- and remember, white supremacy and white supremacist attacks are on the rise. The majority of our terrorist attacks in this country since 9/11 have been white -- right-wing extremist groups or white supremacist groups. And so if this kind of strains exist in our society, we all -- all Americans should say this is not who we are and we have something to do about it.

Remember, King said more eloquently to me -- he said what you have to repent for in this day and age is not just the vitriolic words and violent actions of the bad people, it's the appalling silence and inaction of the good people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does the government need more --

BOOKER: That’s my point.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does the government need more tools to take this on as well?

BOOKER: Absolutely. I mean, look at what we did in response to radical -- as -- as -- as the president says, radical Islamic terrorism. We have moved hundreds of billions of dollars to deal with those terrorist threats coming from abroad. And now we see that, as I said, the majority of our terrorist threats coming -- homegrown right-wing extremist, white supremacists. Are we doing that same thing to deal with this? We -- we have a lot more to do at Homeland Security, FBI, a lot more resources we need to bring to bear to make our synagogues safe, to make our nightclubs safe, to make our -- our shopping centers and Wal-Marts safe from this kind of active terrorism.

And the problem we have is in the White House is not somebody who’s stepping up and saying we’re going to deal with this, put the resources, energy -- we have somebody who is actually adding to it, who is contributing to this kind of divisiveness and these kind of dark forces in our nation through his own rhetoric, through the way he talks about Americans, through the bigotry that passes through his lips that incites white supremacists to literally use his language in their chat rooms to further activate this kind of hate.

We have so much work to do in a -- in this nation on these issues and we have a president who is failing us through everything he's doing and worse than that, he's contributing to the problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're in Iowa. Most of the Democratic candidates are there this week. Got to ask you a political question. The latest poll coming out shows you're down to one percent in Iowa from three percent back in April, according the Monmouth poll. How do you break out of the bottom of the pack? Is the clock ticking for you?

BOOKER: Well, I’m -- I'm actually surprised that these small polls where the margin of error is so high is capturing so much attention when history shows that the polls aren't predictive. The kind of things that are predictive is where (ph) we're leading -- we’re leading on endorsements from Iowa state legislatures, we're leading on endorsements from mayors and city council people. More than that, we're building an organization that folks around here, from Des Moines register to others say the best organizations on the ground are mine and Senator Warren's.

You know this from past polls and people like John Kerry won -- he was polling at four percent and won Iowa. So we are very confident in how we're doing. We're getting big crowds at our events. We’re getting tons of people to sign commitment to caucus cards and we still have six months to go. This is still a long way out. As a guy who used to play football, I call this is August double days before we even get to preseason games. This is a long way to go before we get to the -- the -- the game time, so to speak. Now we're doing the work to build a winning campaign here in Iowa and I believe we will win.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We will be watching as you head to game time. Senator Cory Booker, thanks very much for your time this morning.

BOOKER: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next. We're back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president a white supremacist?

BETO O'ROURKE, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is. He's also made that very clear.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D-MA) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He can't be trying to stir this up, give aid and comfort, be embraced by the white supremacists, and then say, oh, but not me.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is someone who gives -- who empowers white supremacists and who condones their behavior.

TRUMP: They call anybody a racist when they run out of cards. I'm winning in the polls. They're desperate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That was the debate this week. Let's talk about it on our roundtable. I'm joined by Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, also an ABC News contributor; Rahm Emanuel, an ABC News contributor, former mayor of Chicago, White House chief of staff under President Obama; Republican strategist, White House political affairs director under George W. Bush Sara Fagen, also an ABC News contributor; Patrick Gaspard, I think we have to hire you, you're president of the Open Society Foundation, you're also political director in the Obama White House.

And Rahm, let me begin with you, and let me try to get to the question I was trying to get at with Senator Booker earlier, are we in a new moment on the issue of guns, on the issue of violence, on the issue of domestic terror, or are we going to see the same ritual again as we have seen before? Spike in interest, it recedes?

RAHM EMANUEL, (D) FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR: I think we are in a new moment, going back to also the Brady bill and the assault weapon ban that we passed in the 90s as a point person for President Clinton. One is I would suggest focus on the people that use it, not just the weapons. That was key to both passing the Brady Bill and assault weapon ban. Two, I don't think Democrats should go so quick to go right to background checks and red flag. I would put an assault weapon ban clearly on the table, and I'd also be demanding also...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before background checks?

EMANUEL: As part of the whole package. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity -- there hasn't been gun legislation since Bill Clinton in '94 passed the assault weapons ban as part of the crime bill.

And so I think this is an important moment. They're trying to narrow the debate. The last thing you should do right now is change it. And I think President Trump was very revealing when he said the NRA is weak. This is the opportunity.

Now the question is, does he, as he has said before, want to focus on the suburban vote. And I this is the opportunity, he has to make a decision. This goes to one person, because he can give every Republican the cover -- t his is not a Democratic problem, this is a problem on the Republican side and he can give cover to that both.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring that to Chris Christie and then Sara, because doesn't the president have to choose here? He said on the one hand the NRA weak, on the other hand he wants to work with them. Doesn't he have to choose between the NRA and getting something done?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: I don't think he has to choose that, I think what he's got to decide, George, and I think he has to decided, that he wants to see expanded background checks.

The real question is going to be, you know, Rahm is an expert at legislative negotiations. But in the end, Democrats have to decide whether they're going to be willing to take a deal, because I think there's a deal to be made on red flag and on expanded background checks. And I think the president has made that really clear. And I think he will do it. I believe he would be willing to make that deal.

Now are Democrats going to be willing to give him that win? You know, you hear all the time Democrats saying they don't want to make a deal with the president, because they don't want to give him a win. Well, if you really care about this issue then take what you get now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So - - but a real background check bill, Sara Fagan, is opposed by the NRA as recently opposed as Friday night. Again, are you saying -- I heard you say right to Chris Christie. You think Mitch McConnell, Republican majority in the senate, is ready to forsake the NRA?

SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTO: I think there is an increasing will among Republicans to do something, including many gun owners in America. The question is what and how it's put together and how background checks go. And can family members pass guns down from generation to generation, and all these questions need to be ironed out.

You know, as it relates to Democrats, you know, Rahm brings up the assault weapons ban, which I don't think there's will to get down in the U.S. Senate, but we hear on the campaign trail is Beto O'Rourke he is for mandatory buyback programs. That's another word for confiscation. Democrats on the trail are going to go too far and potentially risk an opportunity to do something on this issue.

PATRICK GASPARD, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS PRESIDENT: What does it mean to go too far here, Sara? I think that Rahm is spot on...

FAGAN: Confiscation is way too far.

GASPARD: But Rahm is spot on about the assault weapons ban. Let's look at the stats that we've seen through this whole week. In the years from 1949 to the assault weapons ban being passed in 1994, there were 10 mass shootings in America. In the 10 years when it was active, there were 2 mass shootings. In the years since Republicans did not allow it to continue, there have been 29 mass shootings in this country.

Right now, today, there are 400 million guns that are in the hands of civilians in the United State of America. So, I think that the question of universal background checks is probably low hanging fruit now where there are 90 percent support in this country...

CHRISTIE: Wait a second, but it hasn't been low hanging fruit before that. So Patrick, listen, I worked...

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: But, Governor -- Governor...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: You got your thing in there. Let's go. We move it around here, babe.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Eight years, I worked with a Democratic legislature.

And every time, in a Democratic state, I had to decide, was I going to take a deal that was there and that would move the ball down the field, or was I not?

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: And if Democrats don't want to do that, then they're going to leave universal background checks on the table.

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: Patrick said I was right, so let him finish.

(LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: Go ahead, Patrick.

GASPARD: Well, treat this like the Iowa State Fair, Governor, and bring it back over here.

CHRISTIE: I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.

GASPARD: Let's remember when Rahm and Democrats and some Republicans passed the ban in 1994, it had 77 percent support in America, and yet it still took the active lobbying of former Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan all coming together with President Clinton to get this darn thing done.

I think that President Trump is inconsistent, at best, and actually schizophrenic on policy. We don't know what he will say tomorrow. And I think that Democrats are right to continue to press the case on assault weapons ban...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me push this -- let me push this back...

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: ... to force the president to be as...

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: ... as possible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me push this back to Rahm and press the question that Chris is asking.

If the president is for a real background check bill -- I think that's an open question right now.

EMANUEL: Sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If he's for a real background check bill and a real red flag bill, should the Democrats take that deal?

EMANUEL: Yes.

First of all, I think, in the first -- right now, it's way to quick to say that. That -- and there's a mismatch. Let's be honest what we're talking about. There's the policy that Patrick talked about, which is the assault ban, worked.

It expired under in 2005 George Bush. And there was no real push to keep it going.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some question about definitions.

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: ... just finish.

Second is, what is doable in the legislative branch? Part of being in leadership is matching policy and politics together.

Does it mean that you narrow down this quickly? I would not. And I would also add to the issue it's very clear that there's a lot of holes as it relates to domestic violence abuse in relationship to guns.

And before we go to background checks, which has a lot of details, red flags, I would say there are two other issues that should be part of this discussion. And we're not going to let the discussion, not only from the policy standpoint, be narrowed, but from the politics.

That is, you're going to -- there's a lot of issues that -- and Republicans, they just want to get this issue as quickly as possible off the table.

And my view is, this is a moment to fundamentally change for the safety of the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: I agree. This is a moment. And either you're going to take a deal or you're not going to take a deal.

And you got to...

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: Chris, that also applies both ways. You're either going to take and make progress or you're not.

CHRISTIE: Well, that's right.

And if the president is ready to make progress on things like background checks and red flag laws, if Democrats won't put politics ahead of policy, if they want put politics ahead of policy...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: ... deal.

FAGEN: But here's the thing. We can talk about an assault weapons ban or banning certain types of guns.

EMANUEL: We can.

FAGEN: This is such a multifaceted problem, though.

And it is important to note this, because part of the reason for the rise of these incidents is the feedback loop that is being created on the Internet, where people who are vulnerable go online, feel validated.

This has to be solved through technology. There's mental health issues that need to be addressed. And, yes, there are some things that need to be done relative to access to guns by mentally unstable people.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: What you didn't mention there is also the rhetoric inspired from the top on this as well.

FAGEN: And I think that's -- I think that's fair.

GASPARD: And the research shows there's no real causal relationship between the mental health issues and these mass shootings.

FAGEN: Oh, that's not true. That's not true.

GASPARD: Well, but the rhetoric from the top matters here.

And the -- a president of the United States has to understand that a moment like this is not an I moment in history; it's a we moment in history.

And, instead, we have a president who's creating photo-ops, who is holding a baby who's the survivor of a shooting, giving a thumbs up, who's attacking Democrats, and politicizing this moment through the lens of an election.

We don't have leadership right now that...

CHRISTIE: Please.

If we want to talk about politicizing this moment...

GASPARD: Governor -- Governor -- Governor...

FAGEN: Right.

CHRISTIE: ... Beto O'Rourke -- Beto O'Rourke in the last week, Patrick, has politicized this moment in an attempt to...

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: Beto O'Rourke is not the president of the United States of the United States.

CHRISTIE: I sat and listened -- I sat and listened to you, Patrick. Let me finish.

GASPARD: Beto O'Rourke is not the president of the United States of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: No, Beto O'Rourke wants to be president of the United States.

GASPARD: This is a moment of crisis.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: And the media is giving him time to do this. And he has politicized this moment in a way -- what he should be doing is being a lot more thoughtful, like we just heard Senator Booker do.

GASPARD: Governor...

CHRISTIE: Now, I don't always agree with everything that Senator Booker does, but he's thoughtful on this issue.

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: He is.

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: But I can -- some of us are old enough to remember that when we had a president of United States named Barack Obama, and he dared to put his feet up on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, Conservatives and Republican leaders lost their hair and said that he was debasing the office.

Now we have a president who, in this moment, has retweeted white supremacists, who has expressed sympathy for those who are espousing violent hatred in this country, and who has been inconsistent on leading on this legislation.

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: ... focus there, Governor.

EMANUEL: Patrick is 100 percent right.

A president of the United States has a responsibility with the office that comes in. Once you win that office and seek it, you have a responsibility to lead this country at every moment, from the Challenger, 9/11, Oklahoma, to the Baptist church in Charleston, to speak to the better angels of this country, that

EMANUEL: -- this president, who was at one time of a symptom of the problem is now the cause of the problem. And he has, in my view -- it’s an incredible time here -- he has a chance to raise his -- and use the presidential not only soapbox but the voice and moral voice and he has abdicated the responsibility because he is stirring and actually giving voice to the dark forces. He was once a symptom, he is now a cause of the problem.

FAGEN: But -- I agree the president should use different rhetoric often in these -- in these debates --

EMANUEL: George Bush did it in 9/11 (ph) (inaudible) --

FAGEN: George Bush was very, very --

EMANUEL: As President Clinton --

FAGEN: -- was the model for it.

EMANUEL: Well --

FAGEN: -- and -- and President Clinton, others as well. But it’s also important to note you have a president calling for background checks, which is against where his party has been, which is against where other Republican presidents have been.

EMANUEL: Sarah.

FAGEN: That is real progress. And -- and --

EMANUEL: Sarah, I agree (ph).

FAGEN: -- we have to give him credit.

EMANUEL: That’s about policy (ph). We’re talking about -- OK, great. But there's a moral component to this. Give you juxtapositions side by side on the camera. In Hong Kong he is silent where he need to raise his voice. Here at home he is using a megaphone where he should be silent. And here, what is happening to the anguish -- this country used to assimilate people. Today we alienate people. And that is a major crisis and he is abdicating his responsibility that comes with being president.

CHRISTIE: And let’s talk about how the president’s responded to the crisis in the last week. The way he’s responded to it has been to visit El Paso, to visit Dayton, and to call -- against the wishes of the NRA, a Republican president has called for universal background checks and a red-flag law. Now that's leadership, too, Rahm. And you can -- listen -- wait a second. You can say --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: -- and I have been critical -- and I have been -- Patrick, please. I’ve been critical --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: -- I’ve been critical of the president's rhetoric at times, as you know, sitting at this table and I’ve been critical to him personally at times about his rhetoric. But this week he has moved further than George W. Bush ever moved on this issue, than previous Republican president before George W. Bush ever moved on this issue. So if we're going to criticize the president of the times, as we do at this table, rightfully, then we need to give him credit this week for the fact that he's in fact trying to move the Republican party in a different direction than it’s been done before.

GASPARD: The president visited those communities and used the opportunity to attack and take on political opponents and to launch a campaign-style video about himself. Let's be honest about what happened. Now on background checks, governor, you're spot-on that the president has indeed said this, but this is the same president who an hour from now is probably sending another valentine to the dictator of North Korea. We don't know where he will be on this policy, but let's see whether he’s prepared to use his --

STEPHANOPOULOS: He has come out for background checks in the past.

GASPARD: He has. He has. And then faded quickly --

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: -- let’s see if he’ll use this moment --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: -- it’s a different moment now and I think -- and I can tell you that the president --

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: Different from when (ph) children were killed in their classrooms?

CHRISTIE: -- that the president -- that the president has decided that he wants to move in this direction. And -- and against not only the NRA but also people like Senator Barrasso who’s come out and said he didn’t want to do it. The -- but the question’s still going to come down to Democrats, George.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Are they willing to make a deal with the president?

GAPSARD: -- should ask Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back from recess to start moving on these bills.

EMANUEL: President Trump looked like (ph) the soldier in Hanoi who was saying on thing and his eyes were blinking in Morse code a total different thing. Does he deserve political credit for taking on the NRA and moving the ball? Yes. Check. Is there a moral component to the office of the president? Yes. Has he used that position? You can say in 9/11 they will hear our voice. In Oklahoma, we'll be here as many tomorrows. In Charleston, South Carolina, Amazing Grace. Here, there is no rhetoric or line that speaks to the what out of many is one. And we have Americans that are hurting and he has not found that voice or spoken to that and --

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: -- what he does is speak to the worst forces in the American creed (ph) right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I want to -- I want to pick up on the point that Chris was making. Do you buy the idea, Sarah, that if the president cuts ties with the NRA, continues to push on the background checks, that Mitch McConnell, John Barrasso, 60 votes in the Senate will fall in line?

FAGEN: I think if the background check bill accounts for concerns that many who are pro-Second Amendment supporters are concerned about, you figure out how to pass guns from family and so forth, yes. Look, the thing about this president is he has a 95 percent approval rating among his base. If he’s for it, his base is likely to follow. And the NRA will have --

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's why it's such an opportunity.

FAGEN: That’s why it’s an opportunity. And the NRA, you know -- look, the NRA came out and supported bump stock legislation, which has passed. You know, they will move on issues when they understand --

STEPHANOPOULOS: It was actually executive action, wasn’t it?

FAGEN: Yes, excuse me. It was -- you're right, it was executive action. But they supported it and they endorsed it. And you know, so he can also move the NRA if he chooses to.

EMANUEL: This is a -- (inaudible). The stars have lined up. You have a weaken NRA, you have a president with incredible political support about (ph) Republicans, you don't have to worry about a Democratic vote. The question is, will he use his political capital to move the Senate and Senate Republicans specifically on specific legislation? And --

CHRISTIE: You do have to worry about a Democratic vote. You have a Democratic House.

EMANUEL: The House already passed...

GASPARD: The House has already passed the background checks.

EMANUEL: We'll update your political...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: We're going to see what bill the senate passes. And it's not going to be the identical bill and...

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: Only eight Republicans...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on, guys.

GASPARD: Sorry...

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: George, when we did the assault weapon ban it passed in the House by one vote. I remember all the phone calls all until 3:00 in the morning, I told President Clinton at 3:00 in the morning people are sleeping and you can't call. He kept calling. We passed it by one vote.

What he decides will determine how many Republicans will go on in the senate? You don't have to worry about the House, you don't have to worry about the Democratic caucus. And...

CHRISTIE: You have to worry about the conference.

EMANUEL: I would not go...

(CROSSTALK)

GASPARD: ...need only eight Republicans.

EMANUEL: ...the background checks and red flags.

GASPARD: Only eight Republicans in the House supported background checks.

EMANUEL: ...history of domestic violence -- and you know this as a governor, I know this as a mayor. And we know the correlation between domestic violence and what else happens. And there's a red flag when somebody does that.

And my view is, focus on the people that use the gun, which is how we did Brady Bill and assault weapon ban, and not just the weapons themselves...

GASPARD: We're all rooting here for Sara to be actually spot on and right with her forecasts.

EMANUEL: We're going to stay here and argue for another hour.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys stay. We're out of time. Coming right up, Al Gore on the climate crisis, 2020, and President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: There were stark reminders this week on the threat of climate change. Coming off the hottest July on record, federal agencies confirmed that the last five years are the warmest ever recorded. In a new report from the UN warns that the world's food supply is now at risk.

Our chief White House correspondent Jon Karl recently spoke with Al Gore about the challenges ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: There's both bad news and good news. The problem is getting worse faster than we are mobilizing to solve it. However, there is also good news. We now have an upsurge in climate activism at the grassroots in all 50 states here in this country and in every country in the world.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What do you say to those that say that even if the United States gets to zero carbon emissions, it can only have a limited impact if China, India, and the developing world doesn't change, it’s not going to address the problem.

GORE: Well, first of all, it's certainly true that it's a global crisis that requires a global response with every nation being involved. But secondly, we are still in an era of history where the United States of America, and only the United States of America, can provide the necessary leadership to rally nations around the world to do the right thing.

KARL: You know the argument, because you've heard it many times, of conservatives who say look, why should the United States bear the brunt of this?

GORE: A word like brunt implies that it's a painful and costly transition...

KARL: Right.

GORE: When in fact, this is the best way to create millions of new jobs.

This is where the economic growth of the future is to be found. So, it's not as if we are taking on this huge burden. We're doing things that are benefiting us in other ways anyway.

KARL: You said back in 2006 that the world would reach the point of no return if drastic measures weren't taken to reduce greenhouse gases by 2016. So here we are. We already -- is it already too late?

GORE: Well, some changes unfortunately have already been locked in place. Sea level increases are going to continue no matter what we do now, but we can prevent much larger sea level increases, much more rapid increases in temperatures.

The heatwave was in Europe, now it's in the Arctic, and we're seeing huge melting of the ice there. So the warnings of the scientists 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago unfortunately were -- were accurate.

Here's the good news, Jonathan, in the Democratic contest for the presidential nomination this year, virtually all of the candidates are agreed that this is either the top issue or one of the top two issues.

KARL: Are you satisfied with the way they're talking about climate change?

GORE: I would always like to see more time devoted to it. But I have to say, yes, I think that it's great that there are so many of these candidates who are really making it their top priority and who are really focusing on introducing bold plans. I'm really encouraged by that.

KARL: Do agree with those who say Jay Inslee's put out the gold standard plan?

GORE: I'm not going to get into parsing the different plans. I will tell you, Jay is a great friend of mine. I'm really proud of what he's doing, and I think he's put forward a fantastic plan.

KARL: Governor Inslee said that Joe Biden has -- quote -- "a middling plan" that's not going to save us."

Is Biden's plan a middling plan?

GORE: I'm not going to...

KARL: He would get to zero emissions by 2050. Is that enough?

GORE: Well, I -- look, again, I'm not going to critique the specifics in each candidate's plans.

KARL: I don't know if there's anybody in political life who knows Biden as well as you do or knows his situation as well as you do, a vice president running for president. You served in the Senate together.

So, what is your advice to Joe Biden running as a -- as a former vice president?

GORE: Well, several of the candidates have called to ask for advice, and I give it privately when they ask. I'm not going to get into public advice to any of these candidates.

KARL: But you dealt with exactly the same situation, which is, you get to run on or get attacked for everything that the president -- you were vice president for -- did. How do you deal with it? How did you deal with that?

GORE: That sounds surprisingly similar to the question you asked me just before this one.

And...

KARL: It's not -- it's a little different. It's about your experience.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: You ran as a vice president.

GORE: Well...

KARL: And you had a president that was -- that you were -- it was complicated.

GORE: I'm not saying it's not a great question. I'm just saying that I'm going to dodge your question.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: You're going to -- you're just going to dodge it.

GORE: Well, I just don't want to get into, you know, picking each individual candidate and laying out advice for him.

KARL: So, before we go, a couple of things about -- about Donald Trump.

You obviously met with him during the transition.

GORE: Yes, yes, and had conversations with him after he went into the Oval Office as well.

KARL: Did you think you could get through to him?

GORE: I thought it was worth trying.

I did think at the time that there was a chance he might change on climate when presented with the -- the facts.

I was clearly wrong about that. I think it was worth the effort to see. But -- but I was wrong. He doesn't want to change on it.

KARL: Would you talk to him again?

GORE: Oh, gosh.

Look, if -- if a sitting president United States calls you and wants to talk about an issue, I think the answer has to be yes. But I would do so without any expectation of reasonableness or responsiveness.

KARL: You saw impeachment up close, very close.

GORE: Yes.

KARL: What do you make of those who say it's time to begin impeachment proceedings?

GORE: My own view is that not seeking accountability for what appear to be credible allegations that crimes were committed, meaningful crimes, runs the risk of normalizing that behavior.

I think that what's going on now with Chairman Nadler is the right course of action, and that is to gather evidence and begin an inquiry to see what other evidence is available, and then make that a decision to go forward when the time comes.

KARL: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much, appreciate your time.

GORE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Al Gore and Jon Karl.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

I will see you next week.