A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: I am done with the lying. I'm done being loyal to President Trump.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Cohen targets Trump.
COHEN: He knows the truth. I know the truth. Many people know the truth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Accusing the president of orchestrating the campaign finance felonies that are sending Cohen to prison.
In that first interview since his sentencing, Trump's former lawyer adds that prosecutors have evidence to corroborate his charges. And he flatly states that the president is lying about Russia as multiple investigations confront Trump. Here to respond live, the president's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If don't have border security, we'll shut down the government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bracing for a shutdown after that Oval Office showdown.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: We shouldn't shut down the government over a dispute and you want to shut it down.
TRUMP: I am not -- no, no, no -- the last time, Chuck, you shut it down.
SCHUMER: No, no, no.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the president make good on his threat? Will his party back him up?
And with Nancy Pelosi expected to lead a Democratic House, is this a preview of what's to come?
TRUMP: It was a big ruling. It's a great ruling for our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The latest blow to Obamacare. A federal judge strikes down the law just hours before the deadline to sign up. Staggering uncertainty with higher courts yet to weigh in. What will it mean for the millions who rely on Obamacare? How will congress and the White House respond? We talk to key senators from both parties, Democrat Dick Durbin, Republican Susan Collins, plus insights and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter This Week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to This Week.
When Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination back in 2016, he famously declared ‘I alone can fix it.’ And as he closes out the second year of his presidency, Trump is increasingly alone in the White House, acting on his own instincts. But the system he promised to fix is closing in on him.
The Washington Post notes this morning nearly every organization the president has led in the past decade is now under investigation: his business, his foundation, his campaign, his inaugural, his White House face lawsuits, criminal investigations and in just a few weeks, intense congressional oversight.
So many of his closest friends and associates now cooperating with those prosecutors, none more outspoken than Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen.
Fresh off his sentencing to three years in prison on Wednesday, Cohen told me that the campaign finance felonies he committed were ordered by Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's saying very clearly that he never directed you to do anything wrong. Is that true?
COHEN: I don't think there's anybody that believes that. First of all, nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me, as I said in my allocution and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters, including the one with McDougal, which was really between him and David Pecker and then David Pecker's counsel.
I just reviewed the documents, again, in order to protect him.
I gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was trying to hide what you were doing, correct?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he knew it was wrong?
COHEN: Of course.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he was doing that to help his election?
COHEN: You have to remember at what point in time that this matter came about, two weeks or so before the election, post the Billy Bush comments.
So, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To help his campaign?
COHEN: To help him and the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by President Trump's current attorney Rudy Giuliani. Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning.
You just saw Michael Cohen right there. He says the president directed him to arrange the payments. The president knew it was wrong and he was trying to help his campaign. Your response?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: Pathetic. The man is pathetic. That's a lawyer you were interviewing and he says he -- oh, he directed me to do it and, oh my goodness, he directed me. He's a lawyer. He's the guy you depend on to determine whether or not you should do it this way or that way, whether you're Donald Trump or you are me or you, I have...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's saying the president knew it was wrong and directed him to do it anyway.
GIULIANI: Well, the president said that's false. And he said it was false under oath. He said it was false in his tape recorded conversation with Chris Cuomo. He said it was false on five other tape recorded conversations. He said on those tape recorded conversations that he did it on his own to start and then he brought it to the president and then the president reimbursed him.
Clear as a bell under oath, must have said it 10 times.
OK, now he says the opposite. You're going to tell me which is the truth? I think I know what the truth is. But unless you're god, this man you will never know what the truth is. He lies to fit the situation he's in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Southern District seems to be backing him up. I want to up on the screen a sentence from the sentencing memo. They write, with respect to both payments, Cohen acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one. That’s in their own words. Of course individual one, the president.
GIULIANI: Yes, but there’d be no way they would know that other than taking Cohen’s word for it. I mean, the conversations they had, even that tape recorded conversation that we listened to is just the two of them. So --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they wouldn’t write that if they didn’t have corroborating evidence, would they?
GIULIANI: They don't have corroborating evidence. I’m sure. They don’t have corroborating evidence. Plus, they didn’t let Cohen plead guilty to a conspiracy. I ran that office. I know what they do. If I’m going to use a cooperator, I make them plead guilty to a conspiracy. Because then when he goes on the witness stand, I’m able to say this -- this is who we fill in as the co-conspirator. He pleads guilty to an individual crime, that isn't even a crime, he's going to be ripped apart on the witness stand. Can you imagine what would happen on the witness stand?
This is a guy who stood up in court and said I’m fiercely -- I was fiercely loyal to Donald Trump, that’s why I did it, I was fiercely loyal to him. No he wasn't. He was taping him surreptitiously, lying to him. His client. That’s outrageous. Can you imagine how a jury’s going to react to that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that's not the only evidence they have, though. The other evidence they have, of course, they’ve also cut a deal with David Pecker and AMI. And from the statement of facts on that deal, they talk about an August 2015 meeting between David Pecker, Michael Cohen and an individual from the campaign believed to be President Trump. Here's what they say.
At the meeting, Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationship with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories. So it’s not just Michael Cohen, it’s David Pecker, it’s AMI.
GIULIANI: And that's why David Pecker got immunity. And that’s why Corsi doesn’t get immunity, because Corsi won’t say what they want him to say. So I don't know. I don't know how true that is.
So you’ve got a -- you’ve got a serial liar who taped his own client and lied about it and deceived him and taped about 10 reporters and lied to them and deceived them and you got a guy who’s been given complete immunity --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you just said you ran that office. You know how the Southern District is run. You know exactly how the Southern District is run.
GIULIANI: No, I don’t know -- actually, I don’t know how the Southern District --
STEPHANOPOULOS: They wouldn’t have put that in the statement of fact if they didn’t believe --
GIULIANI: I’m disgusted with the Southern District. I’m going to tell you another thing. You see what we’re talking about? It’s not a crime. It’s not a crime, George. Paying -- paying $130,000 to Stormy whatever and paying $130,000 to the other one is not a crime. The Edwards case determined that. She was paid a million one to be a no-show in his campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Mayor, the Edwards case is actually quite different. The judge in that case said that if --
GIULIANI: (Inaudible) --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- payment --
GIULIANI: George, it’s not the judge, it’s the FEC. The FEC ruled on the Edwards case before they prosecuted it. The FEC ruled it’s no violation of the campaign finance law. The Justice Department went ahead and prosecuted it anyway and they were embarrassed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the judge said that if it was in part to help the campaign, that would be illegal. You're right that the jury did not convict John Edwards --
GIULIANI: No. No. No. No. No.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but the evidence in this case is actually quite different.
GIULIANI: Wrong, wrong, wrong instruction. It has to be for the sole purpose. If there's another purpose, it's no longer a campaign contribution. If there’s a personal purpose. Now think about this. Suppose he tried to use his campaign funds to pay off Stormy Daniels. It would be totally illegal. If it’s not a campaign expense, it can’t be a campaign contribution. These are not campaign contributions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the corporate -- the corporate contribution from AMI would be clearly illegal.
GIULIANI: No -- no it would not be. It's not a contribution. It's not a contribution. If it’s intended for a purpose in addition to the campaign purpose. In the case of Rio Hunter, right, the payment of $1.1 million was intended to shut her up and was intended to avoid embarrassment with his wife and with his children. Now, which is worse?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but what --
GIULIANI: The campaign problem or the wife and children.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what you did -- that’s -- that’s that case. Let’s talk about the president’s case.
GIULIANI: Same thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it’s not the same thing.
GIULIANI: Yes it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In this case you have contemporaneous witnesses saying it was for the campaign, you have a statement of facts saying the president met -- Donald Trump met with David Pecker a year before -- right after the campaign --
GIULIANI: And I -- and I can produce -- I can produce an enormous number of witnesses that say the president was very concerned about how this was going to affect his children, his marriage, not just this one but similar -- all those women came forward at that point in time, that -- that tape with Billy Bush and all of that. It's all part of the same thing. And I know what he was concerned about and I can produce 20 witnesses to tell you what he was concerned about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Two weeks before the campaign?
GIULIANI: Damn right. And he was -- he was concerned about all of it. How do you think that --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he ever make any payments like that in the past?
GIULIANI: Nobody else asked for -- in the past, I can't speak to. I wasn’t his lawyer in the past. But at that point, these were the only two that were asking for money. And the amount of money is consistent with harassment, not truth. I have been involved in cases like this. When it’s true and you have the kind of money the president had, it's a $1 million settlement. When it's not true, when it’s a harassment settlement and it’s not true, you give them $130,000, $150,000. They went away for so little money that it indicates their case was very, very weak.
And look, Stormy Daniels now has to pay the president legal fees. I mean, it’s -- this is ridiculous.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is --
GIULIANI: And they’re -- and they’re going around with this -- and you’re talking about all these other investigations. I’m telling you, George, they’re going to go try to look for unpaid parking tickets and see if they can nail him for unpaid parking tickets.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the Southern District said this is far more serious than an unpaid parking ticket. They said this strikes at the heart of our democratic system …
GIULIANI: Oh – oh, right. A campaign finance violation? Give me a break. Obama paid, what, $2 million in fines for campaign – this is a $200 payment. How come Obama wasn’t treated the same way …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those were reporting violations but why didn’t …
GIULIANI: No, they weren’t.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some false …
GIULIANI: No, they were not reporting violations. He has people who donated to him that don’t exist. They do not exist. They’re not human beings.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Here’s the question I have for you. Why do you have so much trouble with the southern district? The southern district’s being run – this case being run by Robert Khuzami, a Republican appointed by the Trump administration, spoke at the Republican …
GIULIANI: His interpretation of the campaign finance law is completely erroneous. And to be – even if – and even if you want to make some argument that there’s some validity to it, you do not pursue a president of the United States for a questionable interpretation of the statute. That is completely wrong, it’s harassment. This is – this special prosecutor was there for collusion. Then he went to obstruction. Campaign finance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This isn’t the special prosecutor, this is the southern district of …
GIULIANI: I know but where did it come from? It is refer – and who is on top? Rosenstein’s on top. He’s on top of both. So these things are connected. Why were they both in court? They’re passing the guy back and forth. Cohen is trying to figure out – now that he got the three years where he got slammed by the southern district …
STEPHANOPOULOS: He did.
GIULIANI: … For not cooperating, which means he’s lying. So he’s – they believe him on this and he’s lying about that. That doesn’t work that way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Special counsel …
GIULIANI: I guarantee you this man never gets in front of a jury. Never. And that’s why he didn’t plead guilty to conspiracy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel does believe him. And I asked Michael Cohen …
GIULIANI: Of course. He believes anybody that tells him something about the president. They told Corsi – they wrote out a statement for him, a three-page statement, implicating the president. And they said, if you – if you recite this – if you recite this, you get probation. Go free. This is your jail free card. Of course, he said go to hell. And he …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think Jerome Corsi’s your best witness? He’s the guy who questioned whether 9/11 was an inside job.
GIULIANI: He’s not my witness. I don’t even know Jerome Corsi. Never met him. I’m just telling what they did to him. That’s a setup. They setup Flynn. Look what they did with Flynn. At the direction of Comey, who says he wouldn’t have gotten away with it if it was an experienced administration, meaning he wouldn’t have gotten away with unethical behavior. He tells them to not – don’t tell him he has to have a lawyer, or he should have a lawyer.
They put Flynn through questioning and he says something wrong and they got a document there that contradicts it. If they were searching for the truth, they’d show him the document and they’d say, General, does this refresh your recollection? Tell us the rest of it now. But they weren’t. They hid it so they could jam him for perjury. And now you’ve got the FBI saying he told the truth and you’ve got …
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what the FBI says. The FBI says that he didn’t have the characteristics of somebody who was deceiving even though they believed he was deceiving.
GIULIANI: No. Just the opposite. Strzok. Strzok – Peter Strzok wrote in one of his texts that he didn’t seem to be – he didn’t seem to be lying, wasn’t acting like a person …
STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn’t show the characteristics and body language of someone who lied …
GIULIANI: He didn’t--.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … Even though they believed he was lying.
GIULIANI: And Comey reported at the time that they didn’t believe that he was lying, way back when it was going on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He disagrees with that.
GIULIANI: And then – so – so we have not lying, we have prosecution were lying, and we have no explanation. We have no explanation in the middle. But we do have a guy that was deprived of counsel, we do have a guy that was not shown a document that could have refreshed his recollection because they had it hidden under the table so they could come back and jam him. That’s what I talk about when I say perjury trap. And actually had to be very careful with unethical process …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk a little bit …
GIULIANI: And they’re doing that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk a little bit more about the special counsel. I want to show what Michael Cohen said about Russia and the special counsel.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel did say you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER TO DONALD TRUMP: No.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, the special counsel went on to say that they found Cohen credible, provided valuable information about Russia-related matters for its investigation, also that his contacts with persons connected to the White House in 2017 and 2018, they seem to be getting at, there, both collusion and obstruction.
GIULIANI: Isn’t that prosecution by innuendo? I have no idea what they’re talking about. Beyond what you just said, I have no idea what they’re talking about …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me ask you a few specifics.
GIULIANI: I have no – I have no idea – I know that collusion is not a crime. It was over with by the time of the election. I don’t know what evidence …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me ask you specifically – let me ask you a few specific questions, then …
GIULIANI: If it didn’t happen, I can’t imagine how (inaudible) …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did the president – did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump Tower in Moscow into the summer of 2016?
GIULIANI: According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to – covered up to November, 2016. Said he had conversations with him but the president didn’t hide this. They know …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Earlier they had said those conversations stopped in January, 2016.
GIULIANI: I don’t -- I mean, the date -- I mean, until you actually sit down and you look at the questions, and you go back and you look at the papers and you look at the -- the -- you’re not going to know what happened. That’s why -- that’s why lawyers, you know, prepare for those answers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Then let me ask a second -- a second question, did the president know about Don Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with the Russians at the time?
GIULIANI: No. That is -- that is definitely he didn’t know about it and I think that’s consistent testimony, even Cohen. At one time, Lanny Davis went out saying that Cohen could be able to contradict that. They had to withdraw that in an embarrassing faux pas.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And did Roger Stone ever give the president a heads-up on WikiLeaks’ leaks -- leaks concerning Hillary Clinton, the DNC?
GIULIANI: No, he didn’t.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all?
GIULIANI: No. I don’t believe so. But again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks’ leaks, that’s not a crime. It would be like giving him a heads-up that the Times is going to print something. One the -- the crime -- this is why this thing is so weird, strange -- the crime is conspiracy to hack; collusion is not a crime, it doesn’t exist.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No. Conspiracy to defraud the government, you’re right, conspiracy to hack that is the crime. We don’t know whether …
GIULIANI: Yes. Did Donald Trump engage in a conspiracy to hack with the Russians? They’ve been going at it. The counterintelligence investigation came to the conclusion no evidence. They are grasping for straws now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, they’re also looking at obstruction. Did anyone connected to the president ever suggest in any way to Michael Cohen that he would get a pardon if he stayed on the team?
GIULIANI: I had this specific conversation with his lawyers and that liar can say what he wants, I told his lawyers there will be no discussion of a pardon. That doesn’t mean the president doesn’t have the -- nobody’s giving away any power, but do not consider it in your thinking now. It has nothing about what you should decide about yourself. I think that’s one of the reasons why he double-crossed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: CNN and The New York Times reporting this week that you’re still in discussions with Robert Mueller about whether the -- about an interview with the president, are those discussions still going on?
GIULIANI: I’m actually not allowed to -- to say that. But -- but the agreement we had did contemplate that there’d be a period of time after the questions that we would have a discussion about whether there should be any further questions. So I’m not saying we are or we aren’t, but that’s in the agreement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and -- and President Trump isn’t that secret person who was discussed in court on Friday?
GIULIANI: No, absolutely not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he’s not received a subpoena?
GIULIANI: No, if they’re -- if -- if he is then we’ve got some outrageous violation of legal ethics. We’ve got to be served with papers if they’re -- now, we might be under seal but we’re not. We’re not under seal on anything.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So is it -- is it still possible the president’s going to talk to Robert Mueller?
GIULIANI: All I can tell you is the agreement contemplates our having discussions if there are any further follow-ups or questions, and there’s been no change in that agreement. And when it’s concluded, we’ll -- we’ll tell you. I have to say, quite honestly, watching some of the things they’re doing like letting Cohen get up and say he was fiercely loyal to Donald Trump, even though at the very time he was fiercely loyal to him he was taping him and lying to him, something a lawyer never does, he was never fiercely loyal to Donald Trump. He’s fiercely loyal to him -- to himself and excused …
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was in the past.
GIULIANI: … Oh, he -- I have a client and I’m fiercely loyal to him, and I tape him, and I hide it and I don’t tell him? That’s not fiercely loyal. That’s called fiercely disloyal. He’s the opposite. It shows all I’m thinking about is me, my own skin. And the Southern District says you can get out of jail if you do this, you’ve got three years now. There’s a real motivation to sing like crazy. He’s got to do a lot of singing to get out of the three years and he will say whatever he has to say. He’s changed his story four or five times.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So has the president.
GIULIANI: The president’s not under oath. And the president tried to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world. And I can’t -- I was with him most of that time, I can’t remember a lot of the stuff that goes on there. But …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question …
GIULIANI: … But boy, if it’s -- same way, if I go under oath, then I really think about it and I really say -- you know, I can’t remember that. I -- I was wrong about who was with me on September 11th. I always thought the Fire Commissioner was with me in the building we were trapped in. Turns out later, he tells me, I met you after. That happens when you’re in the middle of difficult events; you know that from experiencing it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I do know that from my time in the White House. Final question: Mueller almost done?
GIULIANI: He is done. I don't know what else -- I told you. No, the only thing left are the parking tickets and jaywalking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. Thanks for your time this morning.
Up next, a federal judge strikes down Obamacare. Can the health care law survive? What will it mean for the millions who rely on it? Democratic Senator Dick Durbin weighs in and we’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: The Supreme Court has passed arguably the most important vote in a generation on health care affecting every single American. And George, it is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is President Obama's signature legislation and the Supreme Court has upheld the requirement that every American buy health insurance.
All through this fight for health care, the White House was insisting that this mandate was not a tax, then they went into the courts and argued that it was, and now it has been upheld because the court has decided it, indeed, is a tax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS; That was June 2012 when the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate for Obamacare. But now a federal judge in Texas has ruled that that mandate is it's unconstitutional, striking down the whole law, creating uncertainty for millions, and a course of condemnation from Democrats, including our next guest, the Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, thank you for joining us this morning.
And I want to get to that health care ruling. But, first, your reaction to Mayor Giuliani. You just heard him say that even if the president authorized these payment to Stormy Daniels, to Karen McDougal, that it wouldn't be a crime. Your response?
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: I can just tell you this, George, I think the responsibility of Congress is very clear: park yourselves on the sidelines and let Mueller complete this investigation. Don't interfere in any way, shape, or form. There's a law -- at least a bill pending, a bipartisan bill, that would guarantee that, that Senator McConnell does not want to call.
The second thing I'll tell you, at the end of the day when Mueller's investigation is complete, whenever that may be, it should be disclosed to the American public. They ought to see it in detail, understand everything that's transpired.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's talk about the Obamacare ruling. What did the judge get wrong here in your view?
DURBIN: Well, I think the judge, the Republican attorneys general who brought this lawsuit, didn't do the Republican Party any favor. The largest issue in the last election, November 6 election, that moved 40 seats from the Republican column to the Democratic column in the House, the biggest single issue was the Affordable Care Act and whether it would cover people with pre-existing conditions. These Republican attorneys general have set out to abolish this law and to end the protection for people with a medical history.
And now this the issue is alive and well again. The Republicans have no alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and they've been refusing, up until this point, to even sit down us...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president says he wants to sit down with you and talk about it.
DURBIN: Well, of course, we would be happy to do that. But you have to look at the history of this president. For two years, he's done everything in his power to put an end to the protections included, now he’s found a judge in Texas who agrees with him on that position. It has to be appealed for sure. But in the meantime, the Republicans will once again face the question, do you believe we should have health insurance, accessible, affordable, and cover those with pre-existing conditions? That was the issue, the issue that decided, I believe more than any other issue, this last election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the higher courts will uphold the ruling of this federal judge?
DURBIN: I don't know. It's hard to say. You know, Chief Justice Roberts found an argument which was salient to him the last time it came before the Supreme Court, if it reaches that level. It, of course, goes up now to the circuit level, whether they agree with this judge or not it remains to be seen.
But keep in mind, during this entire period of time, this issue is roiling. It once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot. If you're going to take away the Affordable Care Act, how will you protect the millions of people currently using it for health insurance for their family?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about that Oval Office showdown this week between Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi and the president. It did seem after that meeting that we're headed for a shutdown over this issue of the wall. Do you agree?
DURBIN: I think it's entirely in the hands of President Donald Trump, and he bragged that this was his decision. I'll shut it down, he said, you know, if I don't believe I can get my wall, my $5 billion sea to shining sea wall. And you can just see that this president has really fixated on this issue. If we are talking about border security, George, we ought to pay attention to something else that came out last week, the Center for Disease Control said the most deadly narcotic in America today if fentanyl. Fentanyl is flowing across that border from Mexico into the United States and killing thousands of innocent people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president says that's why we need a wall.
DURBIN: What will the wall do to stop it? Virtually nothing? Pardon me?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's as I said, the president says that's why we need a wall.
DURBIN: 80 percent of the narcotics coming in to the United States are coming through ports of entry, official openings in the so-called barrier or wall between the United States and Mexico. What we could do came out in testimony this week. We could be scanning the vehicles coming into the United States to see if they contain contraband, narcotics, firearms, even victims of human trafficking. Fewer than 1 out of 5 vehicles are being scanned now.
I asked the people at Customs and Border Protection what would it cost to have scanner scan all the vehicles coming in? They said $300 million. That's a far cry from $5 billion, and a much more effective way to have a secure border.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Would it be worth to give the president some sort of down payment on the wall in order to keep the government open?
DURBIN: What we're trying to give the administration and the experts at the Department of Homeland Security the resources they need. They tell us they need technology and personnel. We put in $1.3 billion on the table for barriers, if they are necessary, and we define them in the way so we aren't building some medieval wall, but using them in a smart fashion.
It's up to the president to accept this. I don't think he will, but for the good of this country I hope he does.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It does seem like there's a glimmer of bipartisanship this week, the possibility of passing this bipartisan criminal justice reform, the first step back. I know that leader McConnell has been resistant to that, but you think it will get done?
DURBIN: Well, it depends on Leader McConnell. Again, if he will set up a floor process, which is fair to both sides, I think it can be achieved in a few days. In fact, we're going to start the debate on it Monday night. But he can't just turn to the Republican senators who oppose it -- and there are about four or five who do -- and say you get amendments and no one else can. I think we’ve got to be able to respond to amendments from the other side. I hope that Senator McConnell will be even-handed in his approach.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Durbin, thanks for your time this morning.
DURBIN: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Republican Susan Collins is up next and later, our powerhouse roundtable. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Susan Collins standing by and all week long you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back with the Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning.
SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: My pleasure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about health care. You heard Senator Durbin say that this judge's ruling is a real problem for Republicans now. What's your reaction to the judge's ruling?
COLLINS: The judge's ruling was far too sweeping. He could have taken a much more surgical approach and just struck down the individual mandate and kept the rest of the law intact. I believe that it will be overturned.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it’s going to be overturned. He based his ruling, as you said, on last year's tax bill which brought the tax penalty for violating that mandate down to zero and then he said that invalidated the whole law. Any second thoughts on your vote for that bill because of this?
COLLINS: Not at all. I think it's important to keep in mind what the impact of the individual mandate was. Eighty percent of those who paid the penalty under the individual mandate earned less than $50,000 a year. So this disproportionately affected lower and middle income families. In addition, not one Democratic senator offered an amendment to strike the repeal of the individual mandate, although they had the opportunity to do so.
And that’s because it was probably the most unpopular and unfair provision of the Affordable Care Act. There are many good provisions of the law. Those should be retained.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you voted for this after being promised for more funding for lower premiums but that never happened. So what needs to happen with Obamacare now?
COLLINS: Actually, we did bring a bill to the floor that would have reduced premiums in the individual marketplace by as much as 40% over the past two years. That came to the floor in early March and regrettably was blocked, much to my surprise, by a member of the Democratic leadership. It's something we should still pursue because affordability is a real problem for so many Americans who do not receive the subsidies under the Affordable Care Act because they make just a little more than 400 percent of the poverty rate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure seems like we're only about five days away from a partial government shutdown. We heard the president this week say he needs wall funding, wants that $5 billion for the wall. We just heard Senator Durbin say the Democrats aren’t going to help provide that. Is there any way to thread this needle and keep the government open?
COLLINS: There is and we should. There's absolutely no excuse to shut down government on this issue or any other issue. I have suggested that we revisit a compromise proposal that we brought forth earlier this year. I helped craft it, it was offered by Senators King and Rounds and it provided $2.5 billion this year and over the next ten years to fully fund the border security initiative. That includes not only physical barriers like fences and walls, but also technology, more border patrol agents, more roads to get into these remote areas.
It was a comprehensive package that was put together by the experts at the Department of Homeland Security. Forty-six out of 49 Democrats voted for this package and I think that that's a possible avenue for a compromise.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it good enough for the president? He wants that concrete wall.
COLLINS: I hope it would be good enough for the president because keep in mind that the president's budget this year had $1.6 billion for the wall and the broader security package was $2.5 billion that we worked out with Homeland Security to meet the other parts of border security, which are at least equally important. There's a compromise and people will come to the table in good faith on both sides. We have to prevent a government shutdown.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me -- let me ask you about your work on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Adam Schiff, who’s going to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee going forward told The New Yorker just this week that he wants to investigate, when he’s in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, whether President Trump shaped policy to expand his fortune, look at Russia, Saudi Arabia’s business interests, other nations in the Middle East and he went on to say the American people have the right to know that their president is working on their behalf, not his family's financial interests.
Right now I don't think any of us can have the confidence that that's the case. Do you have that confidence?
COLLINS: Well that's why the special counsel's report is -- and investigation are so important. And the special counsel must be allowed to complete his work unimpeded with no interference. We on the Senate Intelligence Committee are pursuing the counterintelligence investigation. It's been a very bipartisan investigation. More than 200 witnesses have been interviewed. And I think that will wrap up early next year. And we too will produce a report on the counterintelligence aspects. That's different, obviously, from the criminal prosecutions and the investigation that the special counsel is undertaking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, thanks for your time this morning.
COLLINS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next. We’re back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, CHIEF OF STAFF, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Do I like Donald Trump? No. Is he a role model for my sons? Absolutely not. We have perhaps two of the most flawed human beings running for president in the history of the country. Yes I’m supporting Donald Trump. I’m doing so as enthusiastically as I can given the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being but the choice on the other side is just as bad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s something I think we haven’t seen before. That’s Mick Mulvaney back in November 2016, now the president's acting chief of staff but he was weighing in on candidate Trump back in November 2016. Let's talk about this on our roundtable. Joined by Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, Roland Martin, host and the managing editor of Roland Martin Unfiltered, Molly Ball, national political correspondent for Time Magazine and Peter Baker, New York Times chief White House correspondent, also co-author of “Impeachment: An American History”.
And Peter, let me begin with you. We just learned Friday night Mick Mulvaney is going to be the acting chief of staff after the president was rebuffed by Nick Ayers, rebuffed it appears by Chris Christie as well. What is -- you think is going on here and why acting?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it’s a great question, right, because Mick Mulvaney actually had wanted the job at one point early in the year but I think there’s been some reluctance, as you say, to move in at this point. Mulvaney makes some sense, right? He’d been a member of Congress for a number of years. And I think what the president is heading into now is two years of pretty fierce open partisan warfare and he probably could use somebody in that position who understands what that’s going to be like, helps him figure out how to cope with it because some of these other folks who were being talked about didn’t have the experience that Mick Mulvaney had.
But here’s the problem, he’s still head of the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget …
STEPHANOPOULOS: He wanted to keep that?
BAKER: … He wanted to keep that, not ready to give that up. The problem is that’s a Senate confirmed job. That means that the House and the Senate can pull him up to the Hill to testify in a way that most chiefs of staff don’t testify, as you know, because they’re the president’s personal aides.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. And this is an issue, Matt Schlapp, I’m -- I’m trying to figure out -- and maybe you know, you have connections to the White House -- was the acting at the request of Mick Mulvaney or at the president? Is he really serious about trying to get a full-time chief of staff?
MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION CHAIR: Well, first of all remember, every chief of staff is acting because …
SCHLAPP: … you don’t have the job for that long. It’s about 18 months. Obama had five. It’s not unusual to have …
STEPHANOPOULOS: But three in two years is …
SCHLAPP: … It’s pretty quick, I will admit that. As far as Mick Mulvaney being reluctant and everything else, I think he’s going to jump into this job enthusiastically. He’s actually a perfect fit in many ways. He’s a former congressman, he’s tight with the conservatives on the Hill which is an important relationship for the president, he’s a lawyer -- in these times that’s incredibly important -- and as far as him being able to wear these two hats, he’s been pretty good at wearing multiple hats throughout this process.
And I think when you go to the Hill, even in these times, that idea that you have that executive privilege of someone who’s non-confirmed, the Democrats are going to test that. And we had Bush administration officials that eventually had to go up to the Hill as well. So I think we’re …
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the (ph) administration officials did as well, as one of them …
SCHLAPP: … Yes, I don’t think they’re going to get off easy on anything.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Molly Ball, the -- the chief of staff is an impossible position and basically White House, especially here.
MOLLY BALL, TIME NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, and there can many degrees of impossible. And that’s why despite the president’s protestations, there were people who have a lot of experience with this president and who knew how difficult this would be, who knew how difficult the job was for Reince Priebus, knew how difficult it was for John Kelly.
And so the president, you see him over and over shuffling people around in the cabinet or in the administration because he needs to feel that comfort level with people. He needs to feel that -- that somebody understands him. And yet a lot of the times, the people who understand him the best are the people who are least willing to be in these positions where they’re going to be some kind of gatekeeper, going to have to do some form of trying to organize this president’s processes because that’s a really hard thing to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Roland, that did seem to be on Chris Christie’s mind as he put out that statement on Friday saying thanks, but no thanks.
ROLAND MARTIN, HOST AND MANAGING EDITOR OF #ROLANDMARTINUNFILTERED: He shouldn’t have even remotely been thinking about going to work for Donald Trump. Look, Mulvaney, I hope he’s a praying man because he is about to walk into a firestorm. If you look at what’s happening what’s happening with the Mueller investigation, now Democrats are taking over the House, it is going to be nothing but drama over the next year. And so my suggestion, be prayed-up. Get some -- get some healing oil …
BAKER?: He is a praying man.
MARTIN: … Well, no -- no, see -- but he’s going to need some Lazarus-type praying. That’s what he’s going to need.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That gets back-- and that’s gets back to the point that we talked about at the top of the program, Peter. This constellation of investigations …
STEPHANOPOULOS: … is really unprecedented. Every single aspect of the president’s life is now under investigation, so hard for any White House to be prepared for that.
BAKER: Absolutely, and so you’re fighting on multiple fronts, right? And up until now he at least had the defense of a Republican Congress -- a Republican Senate and Republican House that wasn’t going to make his life more difficult than he was already facing with Mueller, and other agencies and prosecutors. Now you have on top of that Democrats who have subpoena power, who are frustrated at what they see as the failure of the past Congress to investigate properly, who are eager -- maybe go too far, that’s the worry that they have, but are going to be really bombarding this administration with all sorts of investigations of their own.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. And Molly Ball, getting very, very personal, I saw Senator Susan Collins did not want to bite on what Adam Schiff was telling The New Yorker, that they’re going straight at the president’s businesses and whether he’s shaping policy to help his business. That has, as we know, always been a red line for the president.
BALL: Well, and the -- and the business is the family too, which is even more of the red line, right? Because the Trump organization really is and has been the Trump family, there hasn’t been any separation between him, and his children and his whole operation. And so the Democrats don’t see any of this as off limits.
And as Peter said, there is a fear on the part of some Democrats that they may go too far and appear to be only on a partisan crusade. But the Democratic leadership is doing a lot right now to make plans to try to organize between the different committees to try and decide, you know, which hearings come first, which investigations proceed first, who handles what, because they are very concerned to try to create an image that what they are doing is, in fact, accountability, and not, as the Republicans see it, quote, unquote, "presidential harassment."
MARTIN: But, George, the biggest issue for Mulvaney and for his party, you have a liar in the Oval Office. You have a man who lies about lying. I’m laughing this week at them attacking Cohen saying, oh my god, he’s a liar – it’s a little like John Gotti saying, oh my god, you can’t believe Sammy the Bull, because believe me. No, both of you are murderers. And so Donald Trump has to deal with …
SCHLAPP: Deal with a--
MARTIN: … Has been a lying president. And that’s what he is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you heard the – you heard the-- the distinction that Rudy Giuliani tried to draw today, said – said it’s not the same – as long as it’s not under oath.
MARTIN: But the previous-- he previously – remember, he previously told us that that was …
SCHLAPP: I know we have …
MARTIN: … that they have the payments.
SCHLAPP: I know we have a big, raucous political disagreement in the country. And I know that people want to get right to every aspect of Donald Trump. But it’s important to remember, and I think it came out in your interview, that all of these – all these investigations are offshoots over this question about whether or not the president did something wrong with colluding with Putin …
MARTIN: That’s not true, Matt. It’s just not true. Matt …
SCHLAPP: It is true. No, George, it is true …
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just lost my microphone.
MARTIN: First of all, remember, this is the president saying he knew nothing about the payments and now he does …
SCHLAPP: Last time I – last time I checked, I was talking. So all of these …
MARTIN: Yeah, but also don’t-- don’t …
SCHLAPP: All – all of these …
MARTIN: … Lie like Trump lies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on, go ahead.
SCHLAPP: All of these investigations – the root of it is a special counsel that, what it appears has happened, is the scope has broadened, whether or not they hand something off to the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, whether or not there are people talking with legal officials in the State of New York, the idea that every aspect of Donald Trump’s life is under investigation is not an accident. It’s being done on purpose.
It is everything they can possibly do to politically weaken the man. And if …
MARTIN: George, anyone else …
SCHLAPP: … The American people – if they can’t prove collusion then what that American people who are fair, will say, this is nothing but politics.
MARTIN: George, you just had a former U.S. attorney was sitting here. Anybody knows that when the federal government is investigating you, when they walk in looking for something and then they discover something else and then something else, and then something else, then they – that’s what they do. This is not new. This is what …
SCHLAPP: You don’t like – you don’t like …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me – let me bring that to Peter (ph) …
MARTIN: Guess what, I’m not going to lie, I’m not going to collude …
SCHLAPP: You don’t like it …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on, guys …
MARTIN: … I’m not going to pay porn stars.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring that to Peter Baker. You’ve covered either three or four White Houses.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think every White House is subject to investigation. Just this morning, we’re learning from NBC News that 60 percent of the public say that Trump isn’t telling the truth in the Russia Probe.
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, yeah. That’s a real problem for him because one of the things that President Clinton, who obviously went through the last impeachment 20 years ago, was sustained partly because he kept popular support. His numbers always actually stayed high. People didn’t think he was much of a husband and they didn’t approve his behavior but they thought he was a pretty decent president. And they were – his popularity numbers were in the 60s.
That’s not the case here. So Trump doesn’t have that kind of, you know, sustaining support. If we get to an impeachment battle, the question is going to be, can he keep Republicans with him? So far, he is, right?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s all before a report or before new legal action.
BAKER: That’s right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s also facing – as Molly, as you were talking about, this new reality of the Democrats in the House. Want to show a little bit more of that meeting, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer this week.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, Nancy is in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now. And I understand that. And I fully understand that. We’re going to have a good discussion and we’re going to see what happens …
NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President – Mr. President…
TRUMP: … And we have to have border security.
PELOSI: Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Extraordinary moment there, Molly, and a real window into the next two years.
BALL: It was a perfect vignette, a perfect metaphor for exactly what divided government is going to be like. Because you have a president who, for the last two years, has been able to hold that meeting with the House and Senate leadership with only Republicans. And now, all of a sudden, the Democrats get to be in the room. And when he says something, he’s used to being able to just say it and not be challenged. They’re right there to say "No, we disagree. No, you’re wrong."
And then – and I think Mike Pence also is a nice metaphor for the rest of the Republican Party, sitting there trying not to be part of any of the discussion …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and I think – Matt, I wonder if this is going to mean that the president is going to have to adjust his communication strategy. He came to like this idea that you bring the cameras in when you’ve got these meetings going on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was fine when he had all the cabinet saying yes sir, yes sir, we honor you. Not the same when you’ve got the Democratic leaders …
SCHLAPP: I do think it’s a good vignette, I agree with Molly. But let’s remember; Republicans don’t have a super majority in the Senate. The only thing Congress does – I hope it does criminal justice reform, which we can agree on …
STEPHANOPOULOS: That might get done this week …
SCHLAPP: … But the only thing it really does do, as you know, is pass a funding vehicle for the government. And when it gets to that, they’ve got to have Democratic votes. So all along the way in this presidency, he’s had to deal with this super majority question in the Senate. Now it’s just shifted. We have actually more Republicans and more conservatives in the Senate, so actually his standing is better there in the House.
You’re right. It’s going to be – they’re going to do everything they can to drag him down.
MARTIN: For a man who loves reality television, I do not advise him to bring cameras in, because he's going to get owned every single time. That image when Obama went to the Republican conference and said I'll take your questions, Trump would never do that. And so, Pelosi tried to save him. She said we should talk in private. He should have listened to the woman in the sitting there who is going to lead the Democrats in the House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the thing I was wondering, Peter, is it seemed like the door seems to have closed right now. It seemed like four or five months ago, the president could have declared victory, taken some border security funding and called it the wall. He could have kept the government open. Apparently, he's not going to do that. Can he get out of this now?
BAKER: Yeah, that's the question, right, because you-- the solution, obviously, as you just said it is call it border security. The Democrats will say they didn't vote for the wall. He will use some of the money for-- for the wall, if it would have been ambiguously written.
Now, they're really at-- against the wall, so to speak. They have to decide by the end of this week whether they're going to cave, which side is going to cave in. But we're likely to have a shutdown of some sort heading into the Christmas season again.
The president has already said I'm willing to do it. I'm proud to do it. That's-- that’s satisfying to his base. This is the most important promise he ever made on the campaign trail and he repeated again and again this fall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But yeah, to answer the question, Molly, it does appear that the president seems convinced that this is going to help him politically.
BALL: Well, he was convinced also that campaigning on this was going to help Republicans in the lead up to the midterms talking about immigration when they would have preferred to talk about the economy or something else. And that didn't work out so well so his political instincts--
SCHLAPP: In the Senate, it sure did.
BALL: In the Senate, it absolutely tilted.
SCHLAPP: We added two great new -- a net of two Senators. And this issue, actually, is a very tricky issue. It is very...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you take the trade?
SCHLAPP: What did you say?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wouldn't you take the trade?
SCHLAPP: Would I come up with an agreement on the budget? Absolutely.
MARTIN: Hold on, this is now--
BALL: Well but look, well but look, this is not--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Take a seat less in return for not losing the house?
SCHLAPP: It depends on are we going to have another Supreme Court opening? If there is impeachment in the House, do they have to convict in the Senate?
The idea that the Senate is unimportant…
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s an interesting point.
BAKER: That’s a big point.
MARTIN: You lost 40 seats in the House, you also lost nearly 400 seats locally as well across the country, to include governor's mansions, so the loss is broader than Washington, D.C.
BALL: But look when Republicans had both houses of Congress, and Trump had already promised the wall way back in the campaign and they didn't give it to him, because really neither the Republicans or the Democrats in the House and Senate are that -- are as preoccupied as the president is with funding this wall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he of course also said Mexico would pay for it.
MARTIN: Well, that was a lie.
BALL: They were able to keep the government funded by basically ignoring that promise and Trump has gone along with it until now. So, if he is going to force the issue, it is going to make his own party pretty uncomfortable, and it may force a shutdown that I think neither party really wants.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Here is the problem with the shutdown, Peter, let's say there is a shutdown, Democrats take the House on January 3, the first order of business will be the continuing resolution to open up the government and the Republicans are back up against the wall again.
BAKER: Absolutely. I mean, the idea that -- I don't think it would go from Christmas all the way through January. I have to imagine that they're going to some way before the end of the year to figure out how to keep this open. It may be a temporary punt the solution down a few months -- what the Democrats would love is to punt this for a year. That's probably not going to happen.
MARTIN: Shocking, D.C. punting. Shocking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word today. Thank you very much.
That's 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.