— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on February 12, 2017 and it will be updated.
ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, breaking overnight, North Korea launches a ballistic missile, a critical foreign policy test for President Trump.
How will the White House respond?
Plus, constitutional showdown...
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll win that battle, but we also have a lot of other options.
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ANNOUNCER: After a major setback in federal court, the president stands by his travel ban.
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TRUMP: I think it's sad. I think it's a sad day. I think our security is at risk.
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ANNOUNCER: At this pivotal moment...
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The future of "The Constitution" is at stake.
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ANNOUNCER: -- what will President Trump do next?
Plus, the Trump White House takes heat over conflicts of interest.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Go buy Ivanka's stuff.
ANNOUNCER: And contacts with Russia -- did the national security adviser break the law?
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TRUMP: I don't know about it. I haven't seen it.
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ANNOUNCER: Tough questions for the president's top policy adviser. The congressman leading the charge on White House oversight.
And the Washington attorney general who beat Trump in court.
From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK.
Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning.
Just three weeks in, the Trump presidency recognize at a breakneck pace. Each day packed with new policies, presidential Tweets, staff controversy and an increasingly vocal resistance to the president and his policies.
And as we come on the air this week, another test for this new president. North Koreas first missile launch on President Trump's attach.
The provocation came just as Trump was sitting down to dinner in Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A ballistic missile fired into the Sea of Japan.
The timing likely no accident. Hours later, the two leaders came to the cameras. Abe condemned the launch, calling it absolutely intolerable. And Trump backed Abe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: North Korea's move comes at a tense time for Trump's national security team. National Security Adviser Mike Flynn facing serious questions about his contacts with Russia before taking office. And the president just this week trying to calm relations with China, the country with the most influence over North Korea, by backing down on previous threats and affirming the U.S. one China policy.
Jonathan Karl at the White House, Bob Woodruff in Beijing -- and Bob, you have reported often from North Korea.
What more do we know about why they launched this missile now?
BOB WOODRUFF, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, we're learning more and more. You know, this mid-range missile was launched around 7:00 last time, your time, in the northern part of the country and traveled about 310 miles toward Japan before going down into the sea.
And while this type of missile has not been fully tested yet, most believe it could travel up to 2,500 miles, which means it could reach the U.S. territory in Guam.
As for why this test now?
There are several possible reasons why their leader, Kim Jong-un, launched this missile now. It could be to honor his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, because his 104th birthday will be celebrated on Friday. Some think it is simply to deliver Kim Jong-un's first message to President Trump, especially while he was meeting with Japan's prime minister right there in the United States.
No word yet from Kim Jong-un himself, though.
So the reason, really, truly, George, remains a mystery.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we saw the reaction from the Japanese prime minister.
What are we hearing from South Korea and China?
WOODRUFF: Well, China hasn't released any statement yet. But the foreign ministry from South Korea says it is a severe threat to peace and security for the people of the Korean Peninsula, adding that it, quote, "clearly shows the nature of Kim Jong-un's regime, the rationality, manically obsessed on this nuclear and ballistic missile development."
As for the people on the streets in South Korea, I need to tell you, also in Japan, they have seen these kinds of launches for years. I've been there seven times, to North Korea. They are so used to it. And no one, so far, has run for the bomb shelters -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Bob Woodruff, thanks very much.
Let's go to Jon Karl at the White House right now.
A very terse statement last night from President Trump.
What more are you hearing from White House officials overnight?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we heard the president say that the United States stands behind Japan 100 percent. One senior White House official I spoke to about this said that they have not been, they believe that this was timed to happen just as the president was sitting down with dinner with the prime minister of Japan, clearly a test not just of that missile, but a test of the new president.
Now, one -- the official told me that they see this, though, George, as a semi-provocative act, not a super-provocative act, because all indications are this was a mid-range missile, not the kind of intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the United States.
The U.S. military's Strategic Command put it bluntly in their statement overnight, saying, "This missile did not pose a threat to North America."
But back in January, Kim Jong-un was very direct in saying that his intention ultimately is to test an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States, the kind of missile that would be especially alarming if it could be married to a nuclear payload.
George, at the time, President-Elect Trump said in a tweet, quote, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen.”
So that is the red line that has been drawn by President Trump. That red line, though, was not crossed last night.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jon, this comes on the heels of that fence-mending phone call with Chinese President Xi just this Thursday.
KARL: Yes. And there's no question that China is the key to this. Now the president and his senior staff described that phone call, which was about 45 minutes long, as a very warm conversation despite all of the anti-China rhetoric that we have heard from Donald Trump over the years.
And the president offered a significant concession in that call, reaffirming the commitment of the United States, his commitment to the One China policy. Now, George, he's going to need something from the Chinese because China is truly the only country that has any real leverage with North Korea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Jon, thanks very much.
Let’s get the White House response now from senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. You might remember seeing him on the campaign trail as a warm-up act for Trump. Now the young aide is right at the heart of
White House policymaking, greeting this morning by dueling profiles in "The New York Times” and "The Washington Post.”
Mr. Miller, thank you for joining us this morning your first time on THIS WEEK. And let's begin with that breaking news. You heard Jon Karl’s report right there.
Do you agree that this North Korean missile test did not yet cross President Trump's red line?
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Well, I did not hear Jonathan Karl’s report. And good to be here this morning, George.
But what you saw last night from the President of the United States was an important show of solidarity between the United States and Japan, a powerful symbol to the world as the prime minister of Japan and the president of America stood side by side and shoulder to shoulder and expressed the strength and enduring nature of our vital alliance. And that is a message that will be lost on no one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did the North Korean missile test cross President Trump's red line?
MILLER: George, the president's comments on this are clear. The message we're sending to the world right now is a message of strength and solidarity. We stand with Japan and we stand with our allies in the region to address the North Korean menace.
And the important point is that we're inheriting a situation around the world that is as challenging as any we have ever seen in our lives. The situation in North Korea. The situation in Syria. The situation in Yemen.
These are complex and difficult challenges. And that's why President Trump is displaying the strength of America to the whole world and it's why we're going to begin a process of rebuilding our depleted defense capabilities on a scale we have not seen in generations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the travel ban. You saw that action by the 9th Circuit panel late this week.
Is the administration going to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court?
MILLER: Well, as you know, we have multiple options and we're considering all of them. We can appeal the emergency stay to the Supreme Court. We can take our case on bond for the 9th Circuit. We can continue the appeal with the panel. Or we can return to the district court and have a trial on the merits.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which are you going to do?
MILLER: -- we can pursue further executive actions. All options are on the table. The point I want to make to you, George, and the point I want to make your listeners is that we have equal branches of government in this country. The judiciary is not supreme.
A district judge in Seattle cannot force the President of the United States to change our laws and our Constitution because of their own personal views. The president has the power, under the INA, section 212(f)[8 U.S.C. 1182], to suspend the entry of aliens when it's in the national interest.
He has that same power under the Article II powers to conduct the foreign affairs of our country. And we will do whatever we need to do consistent with the law to keep this country safe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you hope to prevail. But you haven't prevailed yet. And a lot of your allies think the best move would be to replace the current executive order with a new one that exempts legal permanent residents and visa holders have already been admitted to the country.
Are you thinking along these lines?
MILLER: Well, the existing order does exempt legal permanent residents. An legal permanent residents were not subject to the travel restrictions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that was the guidance put out by the White House counsel. It wasn't -- it wasn't formally --
MILLER: Well, it was the guidance put out by the White House counsel because that was the meaning of the executive order. And that was the same fact that caused the Boston judge to issue the positive ruling that they issued.
The reality is, is that this is not a disagreement about the law and the Constitution. There is no constitutional right for a citizen in a foreign country, who has no status in America, to demand entry into our country. Such a right cannot exist. Such a right will never exist.
This is an ideological disagreement between those who believe we should have borders and should have controls and those who believe there should be no borders and no controls. That's the essence of this debate.
And the bottom line is the president's powers, in this area, represent the apex of executive authority. And we have multiple tools across multiple fronts to ensure that we are preventing terrorist infiltration of our country and to ensure that those who enter our country share our values and support our people, something supported overwhelmingly by the vast majority of the American public.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ideological disagreement, personal opinion of the judge, those are your words right here. It sounds like you're calling into question the legitimacy of this judge.
MILLER: I'm calling into question the accuracy of the ruling. For instance, the district judge
in Seattle said that there was no indication of terrorism from these seventh countries and our country. That is a factually false statement. We know there's at least several dozen, perhaps many more than that, cases of terrorism from these countries that have happened in the United States in terms of
terroristic plots, terroristic activity, material support for terrorism, supporting terrorism overseas, all different kinds of terroristic activity that's been interdicted in the United States tracing back to these seven countries.
STEPHANOPOULOS; I would point out, your Justice Department lawyer wasn't able to provide that evidence to the court.
But I want to move right now. We're seeing resistance and -- demonstrations across the
country right now to these new deportation actions from the ICE.
And President Trump put out a tweet this morning saying the crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise – gang members, drug dealers, and others are being removed.
You have got several cases where those who are not gang members, drug dealers, being removed. And a lot of the protesters right now believe that the new executive order from the president says that any undocumented immigrant is now subject to deportation. Isn't that true?
MILLER: Well, first of all, I think we should keep in mind that the president does not make the law, congress makes the law of the United States. And if you, George, or anyone else, wishes to change those laws, there's a mechanism for doing so.
Secondly, the executive order gives ICE officers the power to prevent crime before it happens by removing people who pose a threat to public safety and a threat to national security.
I was on the phone last night with someone from DHS. They removed a wife beater at 4:00 in the morning, they arrested them. That person had been on their radar screen for awhile, but they were not deemed a priority by the previous administration because they didn't have the right kinds of convictions. That action will probably end up saving American lives or saving the well being and physical safety of American residents.
All over the country right now, we're engaging in action to prevent the unthinkable from happening. During the campaign, President Trump stood side by side with mothers who have lost their
children, mothers like Michelle Root, an individual, an unaccompanied minor, showed up on the border. To authorities, they didn't seem like a priority for removal. That person subsequently killed
a young person named Sara Root. We don't want to be cleaning up this mess on the back end.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think everyone being removed right now is a threat to national security?
MILLER: I think, first of all, that it would be improper, unethical, and wrong for me and
the White House to pick up the phone and call an ICE officer and say, well, we know you have encountered someone who is here illegally, and we know they have a final order of removal, and we also know that they're a convicted felon, but we would like you to ignore all of those laws. What would you, George, if I picked up the phone and called an FBI agent and said, I know you're investigating a tax evasion case, and I know the person you're investigated is a convicted felon. And I know they've absconded from justice, burn I want you to pretend none of that happened, burn the file, go back to your desk, don't do anything. Would that be ethical and appropriate action for me to take?
We're going to follow the laws of the United States, and in following those law, we will prioritize the removal of people who have criminal records in this country. And if we remove ten criminal aliens and we end up saving as a result one or two or three or four American lives, then that is
something that is magnificent because somewhere across this country today there is some young child facing some unknown danger and that danger will be eliminated because of some enforcement action that we're going the take in the coming days. And that is something we should celebrate, not criticize.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the executive order, just to be clear, puts as a priority – goes
beyond those who have committed crimes. It basically says that anyone subject to a deportation order now can be removed.
I do want to move on as well, because we've got this report at the DHS right now saying that the cost of the wall is likely to be above $20 billion. It's almost three times what the president said on the campaign trail.
One, how much is the wall going to cost? The president says he's going to bring the cost down. And can you guarantee that Mexico will pay.
MILLER: Well, he can bring the cost of the wall down and he will. And there are many, many ways that we can obtain payment for the wall from our friends to the south.
But the more important point about what you're asking, and I'm so glad you have brought this up, the media has done story, after story, after story about the cost of building a security wall on the southern border. I can't remember a time, George, and correct me if I'm wrong, that anyone has ever done a story of the cost of amnesty, about the cost of not enforcing our laws, or the cost of illegal immigration. This is quite
remarkable. It's estimated that illegal immigration costs our country, state, local and federal benefits, about $100 billion a year.
Stopping new illegal immigration, preventing the affects that will have on our schools, on our hospitals, on our welfare system, on our wage earners, will save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. This wall will pay for itself many, many, many times over.
And it's just astonishing to me that the media is so interested in how much it costs to secure our border and has no interest in the cost of refusing to secure our border.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course. And I meant $21 billion, not $21 million. And, of course those stories have been done, as well. But this is a very simple thing.
How are you going to guarantee that Mexico is going to pay for this wall?
They have said absolutely not, they will not pay for it.
MILLER: There's all kinds of things we can do. I'm not going to make news today by announcing what our strategy is going to be. That's one thing that's different between this president and past presidents is we don't lay out all of our cards for everybody to see.
I also do want to address brief the points you made about final orders of removal. This is such a great point.
We've been lectured all week long about respecting the religious of the judiciary. And yet, in the last 24 hours, we're being asked about whether or not we should respect the religious of judiciary after final orders of removal have been issued, after all the immigration appeals boards have had their say, after the immigration lawyers and immigration judges have had their say.
Then they're saying well, there's a million people in our country who have final orders of removal and we, as the White House, should ignore that judicial proceeding.
You can't have it both ways. You either respect the religious of the court of you don't.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to the troubles facing the new national security adviser, General Flynn, right now. "The Washington Post" reported, of course, that he did have contacts with the Russians where he discussed sanctions, which is contrary to what Vice President Mike Pence said back in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL RICHARD PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to General Flynn yesterday and the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, "The Washington Post" reports after talking to nine intelligence officials, said that he did discuss the sanctions and General Flynn has changed his response before he denied it. Now he's saying he doesn't remember.
Number one, did he mislead the vice president and how do you respond to Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who say that General Flynn's security clearance should be revoked until the FBI I guess his contacts?
MILLER: Well, I don't have any news to make you today on this point. That's a great question for our chief of staff, that's a great question for the office of the vice president. I think that don't have any...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then why are you coming on if...
MILLER: I don't have any...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- can't answer the questions being posed about the White House?
MILLER: I don't have any information, George, to change anything that has previously already been said by the White House on this matter. General Flynn has served this country admirable and with distinction. He is a three star general. He served in the Defense Intelligence Agency.
There's no information that I have, as a policy director for this White House, to contribute any new information to this story this morning.
And I'm sorry to disappoint you, but that's just where things stand.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you think he can continue to serve as national security adviser after misleading the vice president?
MILLER: I don't accept that what your question is saying is accurate. I don't have any information one way or another to add anything to this conversation. I understand it's an important matter. I understand it's a sensitive matter. And I'm sure you'll have an opportunity in the near future to interview someone from the vice president's office or to interview the chief of staff, who can elucidate further on this very sensitive issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I should actually say that we did invite the chief of staff to join us this morning and the White House refused to put him out, perhaps, because you guys don't want to answer that question.
A separate question on Kellyanne Conway.
MILLER: I don't know that -- I don't know that that's true, George. But I think that they wanted to put me out here so that we could discuss the very important issue facing our national security and the problem of open borders and the threat of terrorism.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is true that we asked for the White House chief of staff.
Also, on Kellyanne Conway, Congressman Chaffetz, Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee and his Democratic counterpart, Elijah Cummins, have asked the head of the Office of Government Ethics to recommended disciplinary action against Conway for her comments promoting Ivanka Trump's products.
Will the president accept that recommendation?
MILLER: I think people are blowing this thing way out of preparation, if I'm being honest with you, George.
I think that what you have is a situation where you had the president of the United States sticking up for a member of his family. And you had a counselor to the president who was making a light-hearted comment in defense of someone who had been treated very unfairly.
I think that the media has taken this to a level it does not merit. And I think anyone watching that interview would understand that it was a light-hearted comment made in defense of somebody who had been treated unfairly and there really, I think, has been an undue amount of attention given to this issue, especially in light of everything that's happening in the world right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it was the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, who said she crossed the line in that statement. It wasn't just the media. That is the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee.
And on that point, because it gets to a deeper issue, Sean Spicer, from the podium, said the decision by Nordstrom to pull those products of Ivanka Trump was a direct attack on the president's policies.
Sears and K-Mart this week have decided to pull Mr. Trump's home furnishing lines from their Web sites.
Is that a direct attack on the president's policies, as well?
MILLER: I’m not going make a comment on that. I don’t have any information on it. I do want to say that Sean Spicer, as always, is 100 percent correct and that what he said is true and important. And I agree with it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So then you are making a comment on it?
MILLER: I’m not going to make any new comment. I’m going to stand by the White House press secretary and his comments. And I’m also going to call for sanity in discussing this issue.
You had a case where somebody was treated unfairly. The president stuck up for a member of his family. And the White House counselor made a light-hearted, flippant comment that nobody would interpret as being what has been cast as right now by you and the media and others.
And I think that everybody has taken this to a degree and to a level it does not merit. And I really hope, George, we can move on to discussing things that the American people care about, like their jobs, like their wages, like their security, like the fact that we have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that no one questioned; it was questioned by the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz. So that is hardly no one.
Let me move on, though, to the question of voter fraud as well. President Trump again this week suggested in a meeting with senators that thousands of illegal voters were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and that’s what caused his defeat in the state of New Hampshire, also the defeat of Senator Kelly Ayotte.
That has provoked a response from a member of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, who says, “I call upon the president to immediately share New Hampshire voter fraud evidence so that his allegations may be investigated promptly.”
Do have that evidence?
MILLER: I have actually haven't worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire. I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It's very real. It’s very serious. This morning, on this show, is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence.
But I can tell you this, voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. You have millions of people who are registered in two states or who are dead who are registered to vote. And you have 14 percent of non-citizens, according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You can't make a -- hold on a second. You just claimed again that there was illegal voting in New Hampshire, people bused in from the state of Massachusetts.
Do you have any evidence to back that up?
MILLER: I’m saying anybody -- George, go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire with respect to --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m asking you as the White House senior -- hold on a second. I’m asking use as the White House senior policy adviser. The president made a statement, saying he was the victim of voter fraud, people are being bused from --
MILLER: And the president -- the president -- the president was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any evidence?
MILLER: -- issue -- if this is an issue that interests you, then we can talk about it more in the future. And we now have our government is beginning to get stood up. But we have a Department of Justice and we have more officials.
An issue of voter fraud is something we're going to be looking at very seriously and very hard.
But the reality is, is that we know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country. Nobody disputes that. And many, many highly qualified people, like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, have looked deeply into this issue and have confirmed it to be true and have put together evidence.
And I suggest you invite Kris Kobach onto your show and he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have -- you have --
MILLER: -- in greater detail.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- just for the record, you have provided absolutely no evidence. The president's made a statement.
MILLER: The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud, with respect to people being registered in more than one state, dead people voting, non-citizens being registered to vote. George, it is a fact and you will not deny it, that there are massive numbers of non-citizens in this country, who are registered to vote. That is a scandal.
We should stop the presses. And as a country, we should be aghast about the fact that you have people who have no right to vote in this country, registered to vote, canceling out the franchise of lawful citizens of this country.
That’s the story we should be talking about. And I’m prepared to go on any show, anywhere, anytime, and repeat it and say the President of the United States is correct 100 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you just repeated, though, you just made those declarations. But, for the record, you have provided zero evidence that the president was the victim of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire. You provided zero evidence --
MILLER: Anyone who’s worked --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- hold on.
MILLER: -- politics is familiar --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have provided zero evidence that the president's claim that he would have won the general -- the popular vote if 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants hadn’t voted, zero evidence for either one of those claims.
MILLER: Well, it’s --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks a lot for joining us this morning.
MILLER: -- that non-citizen voting issues, pervasive and widespread, and we are going to protect our country from voter fraud. We’re going to protect our borders from terrorism. And we’re going to protect innocent men, women and children from violent criminal illegal immigrants that need to be removed from this country.
And our country will create jobs, safety, prosperity and security, particularly for disenfranchised working people of every background, faith and ethnicity in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You can start by providing evidence to back up your claims. Thanks for joining us this morning.
MILLER: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, two Democrats take on the Trump administration in Congress and the courts.
Plus angry protests at the Republican town halls, unprecedented White House leaks and a viral rally around Elizabeth Warren. Our roundtable weighs in on all the week's politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back with the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning. A lot to get to this morning.
You heard Stephen Miller from the White House, let's begin with Kellyanne Conway. You wrote the letter, along with Congressman Chaffetz, to the head of the office of government ethics, asking for them to recommend disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway. Stephen Miller says it was a lighthearted flippant response being blown way out of proportion by the media.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: No, that's absolutely incorrect. As a matter of fact, George, this was a textbook case of a violation of the law. You cannot go out there as an employee of the government and advertise for Ivanka Trump or anyone else, their products. You can't do that. And anybody else would be subject to a minimum probably of a reprimand, or they could literally lose their job over this. In any other department.
So that's just absolutely not true. It was not flippant. As a matter of fact, she said, she made it clear, I am going to give some free advertisement today for Ivanka Trump. That's just not right. It was wrong. When there's a violation of the law, it is up to us in the Oversight Committee to take a look at it. And that's what we're doing.
And you're right, after I asked Chairman Chaffetz to join me in looking at this, he agreed that we should send a letter to the ethics group and so we did that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What disciplinary action do you think should take place?
CUMMINGS: Well, I don't know. That's why we want them to take a thorough look, the Office of Government Ethics, to take a look a thorough look at this and see how blatant it was. I personally think it was very blatant. I thing it was intentional.
And so now, they then make a recommendation. The problem here, George, is that the person who will mete out the punishment, if you will, will be the president. And it seems as if this may not be a big deal to him. But it is a big deal to me and it is a big deal to Chairman Chaffetz.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It also appears Mr. Miller didn't want to take questions about General Flynn, who's under criticism for those contacts with the Russian ambassador, perhaps misleading the vice president as well. Do you agree with the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, that his security clearance should be revoked, pending the completion of the investigation?
CUMMINGS: Yes, think that's an appropriate action. But, George, there's something else that needs to be asked. That is -- did the president instruct General Flynn to talk to the ambassador? And did he know about it? If he knew about this conversation, when did he know it? That, to me, that is the key question. And we need to find out what that answer is.
Now, keep in mind, that he really -- that is General Flynn, put the vice president in a very awkward and a very sad position. To have him go out on national media and say that these were just some casual conversations that had nothing to do with the sanctions, and then for General Flynn to be walking that back, that's not good enough. He is the National Security Adviser. He is supposed to be the one to make sure that these kinds of things don't happen. And here he is, embroiled in all of this.
So I think we've got -- I think it's going to be very interesting to see what happens over the next week. I would be very interested to know how the vice president feels after he was basically thrown under the bus?
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will try to find out the answer to that as well.
Finally, on the issue of voter fraud, you heard Mr. Miller there as well. Did not provide evidence to back up the president's claims about New Hampshire or the popular vote overall. But he does say improper registrations is now a scandal of outrageous proportions. Do you intend to take a look at it?
CUMMINGS: Yes, come on, George. We know that this voter fraud thing is almost minuscule. And my argument has always been, look, we've North Carolina for example, surgically, according to the court, tried to stop African-Americans and others from voting. And we look at a state like Arizona, people standing in line five hours after the polls close. Intentionally, these local parties and state parties are doing this.
Again, there are millions of people, I'm sure, who have not been able to vote that should be able to vote. Take a look at that. If you're going to do anything on voter fraud and anything about rigging the election, take a look at that. That's what I've been saying and I hope the president will do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Cummings, thank you for joining us this morning.
I want to move on now to the attorney general for the state of Washington, Bob Ferguson. Of course he brought that case against the president's travel ban in federal court in Washington.
You heard Mr. Miller, as well, Mr. Attorney General, right there. He says the decision by that judge was an ideological decision, not a decision based on law.
BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Look, the administration, the president, simply refused to recognize what everybody else can recognize. Four federal judges have looked at this case, two appointed by Republican presidents, two appointed by Democrats. All four have complete and utterly rejected the president's arguments in this case, and we anticipate winning as we move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You anticipate winning. There's also some talk, and it appears the administration is going to be coming forward with a new executive order. We don't know whether they're going to revoke the old one and simply issue a new one. But if they come forward with one that excludes an exemption for legal permanent residents and those who are returning on a visa, would you still fight?
FERGUSON: We'll fight if whatever they come up with violates the Constitution and is unlawful, which the current executive order most certainly is. That’s my job, is to make sure that everybody in our country, even the president, upholds the Constitution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn't this a case where, you know, Stephen Miller cited the law. And we were going to put the law up right now, 8 U.S. Code, which talks about the suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by the president.
And it says that whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may, by proclamation, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants as he may deem appropriate.
The law is pretty clear right there. And this is one of those cases where the statutory basis for the president being able to regulate illegal immigration and his national security responsibilities are -- put him in a very strong position, isn't it?
FERGUSON: Absolutely. And we recognize that. But there's another document that the president is not reading from and that's the Constitution. Folks have rights of due process, for example, George.
And, of course, there's broad discretion for the president. But nobody is above the law. An executive order is still -- must be consistent with our Constitution. And that’s the problem that the president keeps running into with federal judges out here in the 9th Circuit.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the Constitution -- of course, you have the establishment clause and freedom of religion. A big part of your case was bringing up comments made by the president and his allies during the campaign, before he was president, about the Muslim ban.
He now denies that this is a Muslim ban.
And is there really any precedent for using campaign statements to establish impermissible motive?
FERGUSON: What there is precedent for, George, in courts is if you're looking for an improper motive, which we're certainly asserting, is you can look behind an executive order. That includes statements made by the principals who put that executive order into place.
So we will absolutely continue to use those statements. And when this case goes back to Judge Robart, the trial court judge appointed by George W. Bush, who ruled in our favor, we'll have a chance to have
discovery. And for those who are not lawyers, as you know, that means we can seek depositions from administration officials. We can ask for documents and emails to get behind what truly motivated that executive order.
I absolutely intend to use those tools to continue with this case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going depose the president, try to?
FERGUSON: I won't -- I won't announce that on national TV. But I can assure you of this: I want to be crystal clear with your viewers. My job as attorney general is to uphold the rule of law in this country. And I’ll use every tool that I have as attorney general to make sure that the president follows that Constitution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Attorney General, thanks for joining us this morning.
FERGUSON: Thanks a lot, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And up next, the powerhouse roundtable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: All right, any other questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, uh, just mentally, though, are you OK?
MCCARTHY: Are you kidding me? Are you actually -- are you kidding me? You better run, all of you. You better run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Melissa McCarthy back on "Saturday Night Live" as Sean Spicer after another turbulent week. Let's talk about it now on our roundtable with Cokie Roberts; the President of the Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist; Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons; editor of "The National Review", Rich Lowry; and the editor and publisher of "The Nation", Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
Hard to know where to begin, so much happen in a single week.
Cokie Roberts, let's talk about the travel ban struck down at least the temporary restraining order upheld, now by the Ninth Circuit panel.
You saw there from Steve Miller, it look like the White House is going to fight on two fronts. They will continue appealing in the Ninth Circuit, but also come out with some kind of revised executive order.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Because it's all in the context of Neil Gorsuch on the Hill trying to be confirmed as the Supreme Court justice, so they don't want to it go to the Supreme Court while it's still a 4-4 court. So, they need to keep playing out other options so they can eventually, if it does get to the Supreme Court, they'll have a 5-4 court.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that the best case?
RICH LOWRY, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Yeah, look, I think this is a flatly political ruling. You put up the statute that's in black and white that gives the president the authority to do this. It's not even mentioned in the Ninth Circuit decision. But this is a legal box canyon for the administration, this current
path, there's no good result coming from where they are now. So they have the whip hand still. They can unilaterally rewrite the order. They should make it clear it doesn't apply to green card.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But again why not just do it – sounds like they weren't going to do that. Why not just pull back the order, moot out the current issue and come back with one that's more airtight?
LOWRY: I think that's exactly what they should do.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, "THE NATION": You know this is a week the president has discovered the limits of his power. No president is above the law.
But I think, George, it shouldn't go unmarked. These are unprecedented times, the interview you just did with Stephen Miller, there was a calculated strategy to delegitimize the institutions which would hold this administration accountable.
The judiciary is obviously one. And the media -- and the media -- a media that will not just be self-interested but a media that will hold power accountable and a media that will expose this administration for failing to fulfill its campaign promises to hold Wall Street accountable and stand with working people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Grover, on the issue of delegitimization, you saw the president -- you saw his pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch, come out this week and say -- tell senators he was disheartened, dismayed.
It seemed for 12 hours that the White House strategy was to allow Judge Gorsuch to do that. And then the president wakes up the next morning and calls it into question.
GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Well, look, the president’s picked a Supreme Court justice. He’s going to get through whether the Democrats give him 60 votes or if they filibuster, then they'll go nuclear. So he’s going to be the next Supreme Court justice.
I think it is wise for the president to have people who clearly are independent thinkers as well as moving the general direction he wants to. You certainly see that in the cabinet picks that he’s had, who have stepped away from some of the particular positions the president’s had during a campaign.
You know, you're going to govern the country, you're going to do it with a lot of different people. Not everybody agrees with you on 100 key issues. I think it speaks well for the president's judgment and his willingness to -- because you have to trust a Supreme Court judge. They’re going to be making a whole bunch of decisions and you're not in the room.
ROBERTS: For decades, for decades to come.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: George, I have to say the thing about this all that is so concerning to me is that the president is undermining all of these American institutions. He’s going after the press, he’s going after the judiciary, things that we're talking about.
It's starting to make it seem a little bit also like America first is really white America first because if you look at what he's doing, he's going after immigrants. Even in his administration, the reason we know who Colin Powell and Condi Rice are because Republican presidents appointed them to significant jobs.
This president doesn't even have any African Americans or Latinos in unusual jobs in his cabinet. There are, you know, this is something that I think we all have to sort of worry about because the United States of America, as we've been moving a direction for about 30 or 40 years, where everybody gets to participate.
We have been teaching our children that. And the reason why you see so many Democrats and progressives and not just Democrats and progressives but also independents on the streets is because the president is moving us away from the direction --
ROBERTS: But I think there's a lot of truth to that. And it’s interesting because the president himself keeps undermining the possibility of anything seeming normal.
So, for instance, yesterday, when there were all of these roundups of undocumented people in the country, the ICE people were saying, look, we're just doing exactly what happened in the Obama administration. It's not anything unusual, all that.
And then the president tweets, I’m keeping my campaign promises. I’m getting all these people out of here.
And those tweets are very damaging. What Katrina said is absolutely right. Today, again, he tweeted against the courts.
If you start undermining the court system and constantly undermining the media, the Congress isn’t going to stop this president. So you really try to get --
ROBERTS: -- any check on him.
LOWRY: only one branch of government in this case that has clearly overstepped its bounds. And that's the courts. They -- this is a ruling that ignores the black letter of the law, where Congress gave the president the authority to do this clearly and obviously.
And I don’t like the Judge Robart tweet, calling “the so-called judge.” But it's OK for a president to criticize the court and court rulings.
LOWRY: -- accept Citizens United?
ROBERTS: No --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- distinction. I think you're exactly right. Lots and lots of presidents have disagreed with court rulings without calling into question the legitimacy of the judge making the ruling.
LOWRY: He shouldn't have done that. But, look, what was his tweet on -- right after the 9th Circuit ruling?
“See you in court.”
Even if that's in all capital letters, that is not a threat to our system or to our --
VANDEN HEUVEL: I also think we should stop the hyper-coverage of his tweets. He’s winning the morning and distracting us from some real news.
But, listen, we're seeing resistance in the streets. And, as a progressive, I believe the people are leading the politicians right now in the -- but I also think you need that resistance to now go from protests to politics. And I think we will witness. We see at the rallies, people energized.
I've been following this; thousands of people want to run for office. We need to have -- I don’t like the analogy but a Tea Party of values, a Tea Party of progressives. Thousands of people running at the local level for school boards, for city councils. And that is happening. And it’s --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring that question to Grover right here, because you are seeing now a lot of demonstrations at town meetings on a variety of issues, immigration, demonstrations in the streets. It seems like a lot of the energy at these town meetings is around Obamacare.
Do you believe it's reaching a point where it actually might affect the decisions of Republican members of Congress?
NORQUIST: No, because not only did we just have an election, and a lot of folks in the press and on the left look at the president and say, oh, the president won, everything has changed. They missed the last four elections. The Republicans have swept the state legislatures, the governorships, the Senate, the House and only recently the presidency. This is not new. This has been going on for four elections now, where we have two-thirds of all the state legislative bodies are Republican. Twenty-five states have a Republican governor and both houses Republican. Four states are all Democrats. Meaning the Democrats have the governorship and both houses of the legislature.
Half the country lives in a red state. What made the Tea Party important was these were demonstrations and people coming out inside districts held by Democrats that used to be Republican, and they flipped back to the Republicans. You can have as many demonstrators or mobs as you want in completely blue areas --
NORQUIST: They don't change things.
SIMMONS: Here's the danger, though, Grover. The danger is when you get 2 to 3 million women on the street like we did a couple of weeks ago --
SIMMONS: Those are people's wives, sisters, daughters, who have to go home and they have people they talk to. And I think that you're going to start to see people show up, like they did in Jason Chaffetz's district, who are going to hold them accountable and want the Republicans to say something and do something to pushback on this president.
ROBERTS: And this business of women feeling marginalized is real. And in the middle of all of that for Mitch McConnell to basically tell Elizabeth Warren to sit down and shut up --
VANDEN HEUVAL: Yes.
ROBERTS: -- was just something --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It was a gift to Elizabeth Warren.
ROBERTS: The idea that she persisted is how women have made progress.
VANDEN HEUVAL: And there are now --
ROBERTS: T-shirts of course, she persisted.
SIMMONS: And Sally Yates -- Sally Yates started that in the Justice Department when she was fired by Donald Trump for telling everyone not to enforce the ban --
LOWRY: She did, but she sort of had (INAUDIBLE).
VANDEN HEUVAL: Grover is right. Grover is right to a certain extent. One has to be realistic. The Democratic Party at the state level has been decimated. It will be a struggle. It will be a generational struggle to rebuild. But there is now -- there is nothing like a Trump to concentrate the minds. And (INAUDIBLE) concentrates the minds.
NORQUEST: Decimate is 1 out of 10. At the state legislative level, they lost about 25 percent.
VANDEN HEUVAL: Yes, but you know, as my -- as someone I know, Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York. And the attorneys general are going to play a big role. We're going to see cities and states around this country provide sanctuary, provide alternative policies of important kinds. He says, when they go low, we go local.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring another question to you. And every new White House faces this, but you've seen the poor drafting of the executive order. You see the hot water for Kellyanne Conway this week. The serious questions about General Flynn. Sean Spicer, you know, sort of battling it out every day at that podium.
Is this White House staff ready for prime time, organized for prime time?
LOWRY: Well, I don't think anyone is really ready for this responsibility. And you have a lot of people who haven't operated at this level of government before at the same time.
ROBERTS: Or any level of government.
LOWRY: The Cabinet nominations have been slow-walked by Senate Democrats. So you're going to have a certain amount of chaos. And certainly the shambolic rollout of the executive order hurt.
The Flynn thing, though, I don't understand why it's illegal or inappropriate for the incoming National Security Adviser to talk to a foreign official. But --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then why not tell the truth to the vice president about it?
ROBERTS: The cover-up is worse.
LOWRY: If he wasn't truthful to the vice president about it, one, that's going to poison that relationship. Two, the backdrop here is what appears to be a revolt of a certain element of the intelligence community against the administration. And that never ends well.
SIMMONS: That's because they're picking fights with everyone. The press, the intelligence, and the judiciary.
ROBERTS: But it is -- it is a remarkably inexperienced group of people. Usually you can bring in people from a past administration. The combination, in fact is that they didn't have those people or that they're too old.
VANDEN HEUVAL: But that's why he -- that's why Trump won. The disruption.
But I think it's important to step back also on the Kellyanne Conway and the Nordstroms. Stephen Miller tried to dismiss that. It is the case you want to address what'd happening in this country, what's happening to working people. But do those people, did those people want their taxpayer money to go to White House staff shilling for the president's business? I mean it's a deeper problem.
LOWRY: It's also (INAUDIBLE).
VANDEN HEUVAL: I mean, it's a deeper problem. You said slow-walked confirmation. Well, a lot of those people who are up for agencies never went through the independent office of ethics adequately. And the most important thing is they want to dismantle the very agencies they're going to run. It's -- you know, is that governing?
NORQUIST: Guys, newspaper and Sunday shows watch traffic accidents and miss the traffic that's flowing. What's happening now? They're preparing the abolition of Obamacare. They have Price is up -- is now running HHS, Dr. Price. And he can, through executive orders and decisions, dis -- deconstruct much of the damage done. It's a trillion dollars of tax increases.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that something the Republicans are going to support?
ROBERTS: I think you're going to have a lot of privatizing Medicare.
VANDEN HEUVAL: Right.
NORQUIEST: The answer is, yes, it will pass. And, it will pass with not -- with a replacement that actually empowers customers.
ROBERTS: Well, nobody has been able to figure out what that replacement is or how the pay for it.
NORQUIST: It's written down and they're having meetings on it every day. You guys are chasing after Spicer and Kellyanne. And you're missing that the House and the White House --
ROBERTS: No, we're not.
VANDEN HUEVAL: We're not missing it.
LOWRY: Listen, I think they should react to this protest at the town halls, not by backing off on repeal, but doubling down and being more committed on replacement. Because you don't want CBO score saying 18 million people are going to lose their insurance, you need an answer to that question.
And there are a bunch of wonks who have worked on this, but the party...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Grover, the very communities who elected Trump -- the very communities which elected Trump in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, ravaged by the opioid epidemic, they will be the first hit. Lives will be lost, lives are in the balance. As you said, you know, families have sisters, mothers, you know, who will be hit hard. I think it becomes the issue in 2018. And I think it could be a galvanizing...
STEPHANOPOULOS; I wish we had more time. We will come back to this I'm sure. Thank you all very much. Great discussion. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT". And I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA".