'This Week' Transcript 12-2-18: James Baker, Colin Powell, Rep. Adam Schiff and Roger Stone
This is a rush transcript for "This Week" on Dec. 2, 2018.
A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Dec. 2, 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: George H.W. Bush.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want a kinder, and gentler nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: America's 41st president dies at 94.
BUSH: There's a higher purpose to life beyond one's self. I speak of duty, honor, country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those words defined his life. A man of courage, decency, and accomplishment. From World War II fighter pilot to Gulf War commander-in-chief, a lifetime of service leavened with humor and humility.
This morning, General Colin Powell and Secretary James Baker remember the president they called friend as we mark the end of an era, celebrate a life well lived.
Plus, bombshell revelations.
COHEN’S ATTORNEY: Mr. Cohen has cooperated. Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump's long-time fixer reaches a plea deal with Robert Mueller, confessing he lied to Congress to protect Trump, cornering the president.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a weak person. He's lying, very simply to get a reduced sentence.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cohen questioned for 70 hours by Mueller's team on contacts with Russia and obstruction of justice. Once Trump's most fierce defender, now his most serious threat. We'll analyze the fallout with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and our powerhouse roundtable.
Plus, our exclusive interview with Trump ally in Mueller's crosshair for ties to WikiLeaks. Roger Stone joins us live.
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.
Late Friday night, America lost the last president of the greatest generation, George H.W. Bush, America's 41st president. His final words, I love you, too, for America's 43rd president, his son, George W. His lifetime of service capped by a single term as president. That loss, which hit so hard in the moment, redeemed by grace in defeat and wisdom revealed by history.
The 20-year-old fighter pilot shot down in World War II, executed a soft landing of the Cold War as president, a singular achievement of a remarkable man.
America will remember and celebrate President Bush all this week with the civic rituals he revered at the Capitol, the National Cathedral, then a last journey home to Texas.
And we begin this morning with his closest friend, the tennis partner who went on to manage all of George Bush's campaigns, became his White House chief of staff and secretary of state. James Baker, welcome to This Week.
Mr. Secretary, I know you had the privilege of sharing those final days and hours with President Bush. What can you share about that?
JAMES BAKER, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AND FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, the president had a very gentle and peaceful passing, but -- he surprised us. He kept surprising us throughout his illness, because he would-- he would get sick, they would put him in the hospital, he would bounce back. That happened for five or six years, I think. He had a form of Parkinsonism that prevented him from getting rid of a lot of fluids and they would build up and they would impact his lungs adversely.
So, he went through a lot of that. And then -- but he really wanted to live long enough to get back to his summer home in Kennebunkport this last summer, which he did. And then he wanted to live long enough to get back to his home here in Houston, which he did. But he began to go downhill a little bit and rather rapidly after that. He hadn't eaten for three or four days last Friday, by last Friday. And I live fairly close to him and I go over there a fair amount, so I went over Friday morning at 7:15. He hadn't eaten for three days.
And one of his aides said, Mr. President, Secretary Baker is here. Well, he bounced -- he bounced-- he perked up. He opened his eyes. He looked at me, he says, hey, Bake. He said where are we going?
So, he kept his spirit and he kept his sense of humor right to the very end, but his passing, George, was very gentle and very peaceful. And he had members of his family there. And Susan and I were there, and others, Jean Becker, he's chief of staff, and the doctors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a blessing. And I guess you also had the blessing of friendship with him for so long. Have you ever imagined how different both your lives would have been had you not met?
BAKER: Well, I've certainly imagined how different my life would have been had he not been my friend.
You know, I never intended to get into politics or public service, George. And I was a lawyer in Houston, Texas. I was content to continue that. Then I lost my wife to cancer at the age of 38 and Barbara and George were the last people to come see her other than family before she died. And, George wanted -- George came to me and said, you know, you need to take your mind off your grief, how about helping me run for the Senate here in -- in Texas?
I said, well, George, that's great idea except for two things. Number one, I don't know anything about politics. I was sort of apolitical. And number two, I’m a Democrat. He said, well, he said, we can -- we can cure that latter problem. And -- and we did. I -- and I -- I changed parties and helped him in that Senate race. And from there on out, it was an extraordinarily warm and close friendship. And as you’ve said, I think in your introduction, I did -- I did lead all of his campaigns for president.
We became extraordinarily close and then he -- he gave me the privilege of serving as Secretary of State of this wonderful country of ours at a time of fundamental change. At a -- his presidency from a foreign policy standpoint, George, was such a consequential presidency. I mean, I can go back and -- and check off all the things that happened, but it was a time of fundamental and radical change in the world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And there’s no question he will be remembered and you will be remembered for how you managed that situation. I know that in a conversation with Jon Meacham the president said that -- very matter-of-factly that he’s just going to be an asterisk in history.
BAKER: No, no. I don't -- I don’t agree with that. Yes, he's a one-term president, but -- thanks to you guys involuntarily retiring us from public service. But he is going to be and was a very consequential one-term president. And I would argue far and away the best one-term president we’ve ever had. And such a good one that he was, in my view, one of the very best presidents of all time. And he really got a lot done, A, and he did it with great skill and he knew foreign policy, he understood it, he managed the end of the Cold War peacefully. It ended with a whimper, not a bang, and then he did all of his other things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Historians are coming around to that view. Which single memory of President Bush will you cherish the most?
BAKER: I suppose one of the most vivid memories I have is -- is sitting in his suite at the 1980 Republican Convention when it looked like Governor Reagan, who had -- who was going to get the nomination, was going to pick Gerry Ford, my old boss. I had -- I had been Ford's chairman in the campaign against Carter in '76. Looked like he was going to come back, maybe as vice president for Governor Reagan -- for President Reagan. And we were sitting there. But we’re the only -- we were the only opponent of Governor Reagan in that primary that had any delegates. And we had -- we had a fairly substantial number of delegates. And the phone rang and a voice said, is Ambassador Bush there for Governor Reagan. And I answered the phone and that was -- that was the moment that I think that -- had that not happened, I really -- I really am convinced there would never have been a Bush 41 presidency. And if that hadn’t happened, there probably would never have been a Bush 43 president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Changed the course of history. Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us this morning.
BAKER: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by another secretary of state, General Colin Powell, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush 41. General -- Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us this morning. I saw you call President Bush the perfect American. Explain what you meant by that.
COLIN, POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I thought he was a perfect American in terms how he served the country in so many capacities -- in Congress, as the envoy to China, in business. All the things he did throughout his life to include being CIA director. You name it, he did it and then he became vice president for eight years and then president of the United States. But throughout that entire period he never forgot who he was. He never let it all go to his head. He was a man of great humility. He was humble.
My experience with him for a total of six years, really -- two years as national security adviser to he and President Reagan and then four years as his chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. He was always kind, he was always contained within himself. He didn't let emotions get on top of him. And frankly, he was a -- he was a product of his parents, who told him, you know, don't show off, George, just always remember, you're humble, you work for people, you serve people. So I think he was a perfect president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He -- he --
POWELL: Now, he didn't win -- he didn’t win a second time, but that was another -- that’s the subject of another discussion, not the guy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was also --
POWELL: As Jim Baker just -- he will -- he will be seen as one of the best ones. I agree with Jim Baker on that one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was also the last president to serve in combat. How did that shape his work as Commander in Chief?
POWELL: He knew what combat was all about. He knew that combat meant the death of people, people on your side and people on the other side. And so, he wanted to avoid a war.
People think about Desert Storm but you have to remember that throughout that period when we were building up the force in Desert Shield getting ready for Desert Storm, he was doing everything, him and -- he and Jim Baker were doing everything to see if we could avoid a war by getting the Iraqis just to leave Kuwait. And at the last minute Jim, of course, went to meet with Tariq Aziz, the Prime Minister of Iraq, and he wouldn’t agree to it and then the war came. And he had organized that war in a way that was straightforward and direct. We had a specific mission: kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, restore the government of Kuwait and then don’t stay there, come on out.
And as a result of that policy statement, he was able to get the U.N. onboard, almost every nation in the world joined in the coalition, either with troops on the ground or with political support. We even had Gorbachev, then the head of the Soviet Union which still existed, to be part of that political coalition. And because he made it a precise conflict defined in terms of space and time, he got the support he needed.
And we were able to say to him, Mr. President, we guarantee the success of this operation; because he gave us everything we needed, everything Gen. Schwarzkopf asked for. Everything that I took to the president, he would listen carefully, he would ask questions, he knew what war’s all about, and he would -- he would give us what we needed and we did what we said we would do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned Gorbachev. The temptation to crow when the Berlin Wall was falling must have been so great.
POWELL: Not -- not for George Herbert Walker Bush because, as I said a few moments ago, it was -- it was -- it’s in his DNA not to gloat, not to be a braggart. What -- it didn’t mean he wasn’t competitive. He was very competitive, especially with horseshoes and other sports. But in matters like this, he felt it was his place to do the right thing and not gloat, not -- not, you know, shout over somebody’s grave.
And I still remember, not only with the end of the Cold War, and his treatment of Gorbachev and working on the unification of Germany, but after the Desert Storm, which was very successful and the American people loved it. They never thought their armed forces really could be this good, and we were. But when we started having the parades, especially when they decided to have a parade in New York, Ticker Tape Parade up Broadway, the traditional Ticker Tape New York Parade President Bush said I won’t be there. You won’t be there, why not? It’s a parade for troops -- General Schwarzkopf, the troops, the chairman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary Cheney -- I will not attend. This is for them, not for me. And then, he attended the one in Washington.
But I -- I can think of very few people that I have known in senior positions who would have passed up an opportunity like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What -- what do you hope that Americans take today from his life?
POWELL: A life of quality, a life of honor, a life of honesty, a life of total concern for the American people. Everything he thought of, everything he did in public life, was always directed to helping the American people. He was a patriot; he demonstrated that in war, he demonstrated that in peace.
He was the most qualified person with respect to foreign policy ever to serve as President of the United States of America and he was able to demonstrate that for the four years of his service, and it was my privilege to be his chairman for those four years, but also to have served with he and President Reagan for two years -- the last two years of the administration. And frankly, that’s --that’s what set me up to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time this morning.
POWELL: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Later in the program, our roundtable will share their reflections on President Bush. But up next, it was a momentous week for the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller tightening the screws and his next target appears to be our next guest. Roger Stone joins us live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: I don’t believe that I will be charged in any crime that relates to Russian collusion or WikiLeaks collaboration. I’m certainly guilty of bluffing and posturing and punking the Democrats.
Unless they pass some law against (expletive deleted) and I missed it, I’m engaging in trade craft. It’s politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was Roger Stone back in October, but since then a series of reports suggest he may be the next target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There you see the headlines right there.
ABC, “Robert Mueller appears laser-focused on Roger Stone, Wall Street Journal, “Mueller Bores Into Trump Adviser Roger Stone’s Ties to WikiLeaks”. The Washington Post, “Trump’s night-owl phone calls to Roger Stone draw scrutiny”. New York Times, “Roger Stone Sought WikiLeaks’ Plans Amid 2016 Campaign”.
Roger Stone is here with us right now, welcome to “This Week”. It does appear that – that Robert Mueller is developing a case that you are a key part of this whole Russia investigation.
Russia funnels the hacked emails to WikiLeaks, you’re the conduit between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. Are you still confident you won’t be indicted?
STONE: Well none of that is true, of course, and there’s no evidence to support that supposition. It is now two years in, $30 million. I think few Americans could withstand the kind of legal proctological examination that Mr. Mueller has put me under. According to the New York Times, I was under surveillance by the Obama administration in 2016. They wrote that on January 20, 2017. And today there is still no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion between the Russian state and the Trump campaign involving WikiLeaks or not involving WikiLeaks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say no evidence, but I want to just put up -- we know that Mueller has talked to about a dozen of your associates. We know he's asked President Trump about your contacts. And we want to share some of the evidence that has just come out and then have you respond to it.
It's July 25, 2016, email from you to Jerome Corsi where you say "get to Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and get the pending WikiLeaks email." You have another July 31st email to Corsi where you talk about a British man named Ted Malloch. You say "Malloch," you tell him "should go see Assange."
Corsi emails back to you on August 2, "word is our friend in the embassy," that must be Assange, "plans two more dumps, one shortly after I'm back, second in October, impact planned to be very damaging."
You had another email to another associate of yours, Sam Nunberg, on August 4, "I dined with my new pal, Julian Assange, last night."
And then August 8, you actually said this to a group of Republicans down in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STONE: I actually have a -- communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: But now you say you never communicated with Assange at all despite all of that documentary...
STONE: Well, first of all, let's take them backwards, I clarified that last one a dozen times. I identified that I had a source, a progressive New York City radio host, who told me in late July that whatever WikiLeaks had, whatever Assange had alluded to quite openly on CNN in June and again on Fox in August was devastating, was a bombshell, and that it would come in October.
I identified that source. I was ridiculed in the media repeatedly. Last week I produced text messages that proved indisputably that he was my source and that his source was a woman attorney working for WikiLeaks.
You won't find that in The New York Times, or The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal.
Let's go back to those emails, because I think they're mischaracterized and they need some context.
The same day I got an email that was forwarded to me from James Rosen of Fox News saying that he had had a tip that the WikiLeaks disclosures pertained to the Clinton Foundation. Yes, I contacted Jerry Corsi because, at some point, Ted Malloch, who I had met once, had dropped Assange's name. And like every politico in America, like every political reporter, I was interested in knowing what exactly they had.
But there was no response to that.
I mean, if I send you an email saying, George, let's -- you should rob a bank, but you don't rob a bank...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You are saying you never spoke to Julian Assange, never contacted WikiLeaks, never spoke to any of that to President Trump?
STONE: That is absolutely correct. I turned over one direct message to the House Intelligence Committee between the flak for WikiLeaks and I, in which he essentially brushed me off. That immediately leaked to Atlantic magazine who then edited the context and published it.
No, I had no contact with Assange. Assange himself has said ‘Roger Stone is a brilliant spinmaster, we have had no communication with him whatsoever.’
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if Robert Mueller develops evidence, says that he can show that you did talk to WikiLeaks, did communicate with WikiLeaks and then did communicate with President Trump?
STONE: That's all speculation, George, there is no such evidence. And in fact going back to the email, I think those have been mischaracterized, saying that these dumps are coming turns out to be completely incorrect. They don't come in early August as predicted by Mr. Corsi.
And there's no reference in that email to John Podesta's emails either. It simply says Podesta will be exposed to the American people, whatever that means. It's not as if those things had not been widely published in early August.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you had any contact with Robert Mueller or his prosecutors?
STONE: We have not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: None at all?
STONE: That is correct.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Doesn't that suggest to you that you actually are a target? Usually they speak to the witnesses first?
STONE: Well, it suggests nothing at all. Again, where is the crime? I engaged in politics. My purpose was to take a tip, which I thought to be solid, and then, after that, to follow the WikiLeaks Twitter feed and set a Google News alert for Julian Assange and use Twitter to hype as much voter and media attention to the disclosures when they came as politics.
You were in this business once, that's called politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're proud of your work as a dirty trickster. Did you do any dirty tricks during the Trump campaign?
STONE: The characterization of me as a dirty trickster comes from Democrats. It will probably be on my epitaph.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's self-proclaimed. You've bragged about it as well.
STONE: Actually – find me the quote where I’ve self-proclaimed it. It kind of goes with the territory at this point. But I’ve never done anything in politics that was outside the norms of my colleagues and my contemporaries. And I’ve always made it clear that so-called dirty tricks but do not cross the line into illegality.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did anyone in the Trump campaign cross the line?
STONE: Not that I’m aware of. Again, I still – I see some confusion in the public between low-key Russian meddling – ineffective, $100,000 worth of poorly written Facebook ads, and Russian collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian state, which to this day there is no evidence of and no proof of.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you’re always going to be loyal to President Trump. If you’re indicted or convicted, do you expect that he’ll pardon you?
STONE: First of all, generally speaking in politics, you avoid hypothetical questions. That said, there’s no circumstance under which I would testify against the president because I’d have to bear false witness against him. I’d have to make things up and I’m not going to do that. I’ve had no discussion regarding a pardon. The only person I’d push for a pardon for is Marcus Garvey, who I think should be pardoned posthumously and I wrote the president about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not Paul Manafort?
STONE: I’ve had no such discussions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he says it’s not on the table right now, any pardon of Paul Manafort. You’ve had no discussions with the president, with anyone in his team about any of this?
STONE: That is correct.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roger Stone, thanks for your time this morning.
STONE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, is going to weigh in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. We are coming on the air now with major breaking news in the Russia investigation. Michael Cohen, President Trump's former attorney, long-time fixer, has reached a new plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is appearing in federal court in Manhattan at any moment, expected to plead guilty for false statements to Congress after dozens of hours of testimony to Mueller’s team centered on the key issues of collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice by President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was the scene on Thursday morning. The latest move by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, we’re going to talk about it now with Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us again this morning. I want to get to the implications of that Cohen plea deal. But first, your response to Roger Stone there. You see he's denying any contact with Wikileaks, any contact with the Trump campaign over Wikileaks. Did you find his answers credible?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: No, I didn't. Not at all. And, in fact, the emails that you read to him, those exchanges with Corsi, which I think he provided to the press, the substance of those emails are inconsistent with his testimony before our committee. The mere existence of those emails are inconsistent with his testimony before our committee. But nonetheless, his testimony was delivered with the same conviction that he made his statements to you this morning.
That testimony really needs to be provided to the special counsel for consideration of whether perjury charges are warranted. So no, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in what you heard this morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re saying based on what he told your committee that setting aside the underlying question of whether or not he was a conduit between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, you believe he’s vulnerable to charges of lying to Congress?
SCHIFF: I do, and what’s more, if the allegations in that criminal information, the draft information that Mr. Corsi I guess was considering pleading to. If the substance of those allegations, and – and Mr. Corsi has only denied trying to mislead the Special Counsel, he hasn’t denied having those conversations with Roger Stone, if that substance is correct it also looks like Mr. Stone was attempting to enlist Mr. Corsi’s help in covering for false testimony.
So I think the testimony alone is reason for great exposure for Mr. Stone.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course it was Michael Cohen who pled guilty this week to false statements to Congress, that admission he lied about working on the Trump Tower in Moscow to protect President Trump.
What does that tell you, what does that agreement and what you’ve learned about it tell you about Mueller’s core areas of focus, collusion with Russia, possible obstruction of justice by President Trump?
SCHIFF: Well it tell me a couple things, it tells me that he wanted to lock in Michael Cohen. There was no reason for that plea, for that additional count. It’s not going to materially affect his sentence.
But it does have the benefit of making sure that nothing changes down the road, that there’s no pardon that causes this witness to go south. I think the likelihood of that was very remote, but nonetheless as a prosecutor, you don’t like to take chances.
It also tells me that he wanted to put all this on the record, he wanted this out in the public domain. And that raises a concern for me, why does Bob Mueller feel it necessary to do that?
Is it that he fears that Mr. Whitaker will shut him down or prevent him from telling the country what happened? So that’s some of the – I think the procedural significance, but the very broad significance here, George, is that there is now testimony, there is now a witness who confirms that in the same way Michael Flynn was compromised, that the president and his business are compromised.
And that is the national security – former national security advisor Michael Flynn was compromised because he was saying things – things publicly that were not true about discussions with the Russians over sanctions.
And now we have Michael Cohen saying that what the president was saying, what Michael Cohen was saying and others were saying about when this business deal ended was not true.
And what’s more, the Russians knew it wasn’t true, that at the same time that Donald Trump was the presumptive nominee of the GOP, and arguing in favor of doing away with sanctions, he was working on a deal that would require doing away with sanctions for him to make money in Russia.
That is a real problem, it means that the compromise is far broader than we thought.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw what the president had to say, he said first of all he thinks Michael Cohen is – is lying, but then he had a backup argument as well, basically saying that there will be nothing wrong if I were pursuing this tower.
Here’s what he said on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
As he also put in a tweet, this was very legal and very cool. Your response?
SCHIFF: Well whether it was legal or not remains to be seen. It certainly wasn’t very cool. More than that, it was very compromising of our country. In order for this Trump Tower deal to go through, sanctions had to be lifted on a Russian state bank.
At the same time, Donald Trump is out there pushing to lift sanctions on Russia and this bank. There’s no way to describe that as cool or ethical or in the national interest. It means that the president, whether he won or lost, was hoping to make money from Russia, was seeking at the same time to enlist the support of the Kremlin to make that money.
And once more, when this came to light, the Kremlin intervened, Mr. Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin intervened to help Donald Trump and his business in the cover up.
That is so deeply compromising and we have to remember what the – the Mueller investigation began as the Comey investigation was a counterintelligence investigation. That is an investigation into whether Donald Trump and his organization were compromised.
And now, via Michael Cohen, we find out that yes, there was compromise and that puts our country at risk.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Based on what we’ve learned from Cohen’s plea deal so far, do you think others in Trump’s orbit lied to Congress about this as well, for example the president’s son Don Junior?
SCHIFF: We are going through the transcripts of their testimony and all of these transcripts really need to be provided to Bob Mueller so he can make those decisions. Bob Mueller has the advantage of I think far more information than we do, that would allow him to vet whether what these witnesses told our committee was true or not.
It’s a pretty high bar to prove perjury, you have to prove there was a knowing intent to deceive, you have to prove it was not some failure of recollection. Now there are certain people I’m confident have met and exceeded that bar, but – but I will leave those determinations to Bob Mueller.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bob Mueller has also determined that Paul Manafort lied to him as he was supposed to be cooperating with the special counsel. We learned, also, that he was sticking with the joint defense agreement, talking to President Trump's attorneys while ostensibly cooperating with prosecutors. What's the significance of that?
SCHIFF: Well, it means that Paul Manafort was double dealing. Basically, he was going through the pretense of cooperating, but he was really in an underhanded way supplying information to Trump legal defense team. And of course the president continues to dangle a pardon for Paul Manafort, which only adds to the growing body of evidence that the president is engaged in obstructioning justice, that I think is the ultimate significance here.
But I think has a practical matter, the special counsel is going to have to throw the book at Paul Manafort as well as Mr. Corsi. You cannot have people who are essentially in discussions with you flaunt that process, deceive you, if you want to telegraph to other witnesses that you darned well better be true when you say you are going to cooperate with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Go back and look at the paper that Michael Cohen wrote before he testified in the House and/or Senate. It talked about his position. He's a weak person and not a very smart person. He's got himself a big prison sentence. And he's trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up a story.
Now, here's the thing, even if he was right, it doesn't matter, because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump on that plea deal on Thursday. We're going to talk about it on our Roundtable joined by Cokie Roberts, also our chief political analyst Matthew Dowd, co-host of The View Meghan McCain, former New Jersey Governor, ABC News contributor Chris Christie, and Democratic strategist, former DNC Chair Donna Brazile.
Chris, let me begin with you. We just heard Adam Schiff talking about the president's explanation right there. Let's -- let’s take a step back, though, it does appear that Robert Mueller is methodically building a case that has the president right at the center.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, listen, what I've said all along is that Bob Mueller is a -- is a traditional prosecutor and he's a killer. That's -- that’s who he is. And so I think everything you’ve seen him do so far is traditional, as you put it, methodical prosecuting. You work yourself up the chain. You, say, bring charges when they're ready to be brought. And you don't talk.
And the true power of Bob Mueller or any prosecutor is the secrecy of that process and thatno one knows,
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: And he kept it secret.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, and that no one knows. And so, you know, I think that is part of also why we go overboard a little bit by the nature of the coverage. I don't think the Michael Cohen plea in and of itself this week was all that significant, except for the fact that he wanted to make sure that Michael Cohen understood...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about that point that Adam Schiff was just making, that the president, if he's denying any business dealings at all with Russia at a time that he's pursuing a Trump Tower in Moscow that leaves him vulnerable to blackmail and compromise.
CHRISTIE: But he already -- but he already had that, OK. You didn't need to do a plea to do that. The idea that Congressman Schiff, who is consistently wrong on this stuff, says he needed to do a plea to lock him in. Once you give an interview to an FBI agent with the threat of 1,001, you're not more locked in. You're no more locked in when you take a plea. That testimony is locked in. He didn't need to it for that reason.
I think he did it, because he wanted to get it public, because he wanted to show another one of his cards. And that's why he did the Michael Cohen thing. Locking him in, Michael Cohen is locked in already. And if he goes contrary to what he’s told Bob Mueller, he's going to face the consequences.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: But Mueller has -- but Mueller has public opinion to think about. He has been very secret, but he's also gone down in the polls because of the president's constant attack. And if he shows -- if he shows us that there’s somebody who actually has the goods and this is something serious for the president, that puts him in a much stronger position.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things he shows, whether it's Michael Cohen or Michael Flynn or George Papadopoulos or Jerome Corsi is that it seems like everyone around President Trump on anything having to do with Russia were not telling the truth.
BRAZILE: Absolutely. Michael Cohen once boasted that he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. But instead, this week he delivered the smoking gun. The fact that --
BRAZILE: Oh yes, that’s a smoking gun. Because once again, he said that, what I provided before was consistent with what the president wanted me to say because I wanted to stay loyal to the president. Smoking gun. Saying -- he said, essentially, that the -- the White House, the president was lying at the time that he had no business dealing with Russia when he was looking to strike a deal with Russia on a tower. So --
ROBERTS: And the president seems to --
MCCAIN: I think part of the problem with what you just said -- sorry -- is that when the media treats every news bit like it's a smoking gun, it means nothing’s a smoking gun. And part of the problem is all of these -- I call them Marvel villain actors that worked on the Trump campaign -- these were all really bad guys from day one -- from far before when they met President Trump. And I think when you're talking about people like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen right now -- oh, he's really bad guy. The question I have -- does it have anything to do with the investigation. And we don't know because Mueller hasn’t come out yet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but -- no, but -- well, except -- and I go back to the question I posed before -- and I'll bring it to you, Matt. If Michael Cohen is now telling the truth…
STEPHANOPOULOS: … that the discussions about the Trump Tower in Moscow persisted through June of 2016 when the president was completely denying it, that does make the president vulnerable to blackmail.
DOWD: Well, it -- I think it not only makes the president vulnerable to blackmail -- and I don’t know if there’s a legal question, but Mueller will answer that question -- it does raise all kinds of ethical questions. And it does raise all kinds of legitimacy questions of a president who hid this in the course of the campaign -- could have impacted the GOP primary process, could easily have impacted the general election. He hid a series of payments and deals that he was making with women that -- that -- that allegedly slept with him in the course of that.
So it raises these concerns. I would add to what Meghan said, which is they are Marvel villains. It's -- it’s like the Sopranos meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and they're all sitting at the Star Wars bar. It’s all of these folks surrounding it I think are problematic. I will give one thing to Bob Mueller, is that if you look back, all the investigations, independent counsels, special counsels and all of that, he's already had over 33 indictments and guilty pleas.
ROBERTS: Right. Right.
DOWD: It’s more guilty pleas and more indictments than any investigation we’ve seen since Watergate. And so there is -- there’s more than just smoke, there’s a ton of fire. I think the ultimate question we don’t know the answer to is is the president impacted about this. And we don’t know the answer.
ROBERTS: But the president also hasn't said that Cohen’s lying. I mean, instead --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well he did call him a liar.
ROBERTS: But no -- but he did this defense of his doing business. Which implies that he's telling the truth.
CHRISTIE: Well, and again -- but that doesn't have anything to do with the president's criminal liability -- potential criminal liability at all. And that’s why I think that some of the breathlessness about what Cohen said this week -- you know, I am falling down shocked that Michael Cohen lied. I mean, like --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But take a step away from -- take a -- take a step away from the criminal liability. Doesn’t it bother you at all that -- that a candidate for president is pursuing a deal with the -- with the Russians at a time that he's praising the Russians, looking to relieve sanctions and not telling the country about it?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I -- I think there should be openness about everything when you're running for president so that people can make that evaluation of you as a complete person. So I absolutely agree with that. But that’s not what we’re talking about anymore, George, right? And so the distinction I’m trying to make here is not to justify anybody being on the campaign trail running for president of the United States and not telling the complete truth. But it doesn't mean that what Michael Cohen said -- with all due respect to my friend here -- is a smoking gun.
It's a smoking gun of the fact that people lied in politics. You know, next thing we’re going to talk about is the smoking gun about the sun coming up.
MCCAIN: -- but there is a big difference, though, between normal Republican campaigns -- I always say that if I were -- I was a candidate's daughter and if a Russian spy had come to me wanting to take a private meeting, I would have screamed bloody murder, and probably called the FBI.
ROBERTS: Call the FBI, right.
MCCAIN: So the ethical questions that you brought up -- also, it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, there's probably something here. What I’m saying is that I don't agree that Michael Cohen necessarily is the smoking gun.
ROBERTS: But don’t -- what you were just talking about, as a candidate’s daughter, it looks like the candidate's son in this situation is very much involved. And -- and I think that that gets to the president.
BRAZILE: He said I made these misstatements to be consistent with individual 1’s political message and then out of loyalty to individual 1.
CHRISTIE: But -- but that’s what Michael Cohen -- wait a second. So then Michael Cohen’s saying that’s what his motivation was. So let’s make a distinction between that and being instructed to do that, Donna. Those are two different things.
BRAZILE: Well --
CHRISTIE: Michael Cohen didn’t say he was -- well, that’s a big distinction. If Bob Mueller could have gotten him to say he was instructed by the president to do that, he would have said it. He said I was being consistent with the president's messaging. And let me tell you something, lots of campaign operatives, over time, have done things they thought was consistent with the candidate's messaging and they were wrong.
MCCAIN: -- not with Wikileaks and Roger Stone. There is distinct differences between this. Sorry to interrupt you, Matt.
DOWD: No. No.
MCCAIN: And you can -- you can attest to this.
DOWD: No, I think there – I mean – I think the country is coming to the conclusion about the ethics of this president and whether or not this president tells the truth. They know that, more than two thirds of the country doesn’t think he’s honest in this.
And I think it’s actually kind of ironic that the president and his people are making the argument that you can’t believe Michael Cohen because he’s a liar, when we’ve seen this president – I think it’s up to 6,800 times in the course of his presidency on this.
DOWD: I think where the country is today on this is they absorb the news, but really what they’re at this point in time, we had an important midterm election, which was a key point in this process, that Democrats now have the House which they’re going to hold public hearings on a lot of issues, this being one of them, and everybody’s waiting on the Mueller report.
And I think until we sort of see those public hearings where people have to testify in public and we have the Mueller report, we’re going to continue to have this conversation until the public sees that.
CHRISTIE: And that’s true. Listen, and I – I’ve said all along that what – what we need to do is let Bob Mueller do his investigation and see what the results are. And my only objection to some of the coverage this week was that it was kind of breathless about something that to me was a non-story.
And – and – and you know we –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Non-story or not smoking gun, difference.
CHRISTIE: No, listen, non-story from the perspective of guilt or innocence of anything the president did or didn’t do on – on the legal front. I’m looking at this as a prosecutor, not as a political analyst on this, and that, you know, Mueller did what he wanted to do, which I think Cokie’s right. He’s concerned about public opinion and that’s why I said earlier, he played another card.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then a final question –
CHRISTIE: He played another card this week.
BRAZILE: But Chris – Chris, I’m looking at it from the perspective of the integrity of our election process, just yesterday General Mattis said that the Russians tried to muck in our elections –
STEPHANOPOULOS: This time.
BRAZILE: -- in 2018. There are two remaining chapters, and one of them is who conspired with the Russians who stole the DNC emails and Mr. Podesta’s emails to leak them, put them out, distribute them, that’s a big issue.
That’s the collusion or the conspiring, whatever you want to call it from the legal perspective. Another thing is who’s trying to obstruct this investigation? I mean I think Mr. Mueller still has a lot to say and I hope that the Senate will protect him, the Congress, so that he can finish his job.
CHRISTIE: And by the way, there’s no – I am willing to bet you there is no chance that this president tries to fire Bob Mueller. If he hasn’t done it already, he’s certainly not going to do it now and he’s not going to do it when’s he got a –
BRAZILE: Well he’s trying to undermine –
CHRISTIE: -- when he’s got a Democratic Congress.
BRAZILE: -- death by 1,000 cups (ph).
CHRISTIE: But listen, in the Clinton – wait a second –
MCCAIN: He could pardon Paul Manafort, that was something that was thrown around this week.
CHRISTIE: -- and the Clinton administration tried to – wait a second, and the Clinton administration attempted to undermine Ken Starr.
ROBERTS: Of course they did.
CHRISTIE: That’s part of the political game that gets played here.
DOWD: I agree with Chris, this is going to – what the president – we have already seen what the president has done for a year and half, it’s had no effect actually I think it’s been detrimental to the president in what happened in the midterms.
The party suffered historical losses in the course of this midterm. In the end, I agree with Chris, Bob Mueller’s going to give his report. I think the only question is how much of the report becomes public, I think the Democrats in the House are going to make sure –
STEPHANOPOULOS: They can make sure it’s open –
DOWD: -- they’re going to make sure it’s all –
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- he’s making it public through all these indictments anyway, and I think it’s not insignificant, we have – we do have to move on, but it’s not insignificant that Matt Whitaker did allow this plea deal to go through. He doesn’t appear to have interfered with that.
CHRISTIE: No, and let’s – let’s remember something, by law Matt Whitaker is a temporary attorney general. He cannot undo the Vacancy Act, be nominated by the president to be attorney general now that he’s been made acting.
He’s temporary and so Bob Mueller knows that too. He knows that this is not a guy he’s going to be answering to for a long period of time. So all of those dynamics are going to let Bob Mueller be as independent as he wants to be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about President Bush, Cokie Roberts.
ROBERTS: I saw him last at the end of August and he had wonderful spirits about him still. You know, his speaking was not as easy as it once was, but I said to him I understand that you want to jump out of a plane on your 95th birthday.
And he said yes and his wonderful aide, Jean Becker, who’s been with him for so long said to him “well you know your landing didn’t go so well the last time.” And he said “why emphasize that.”
But what a – what a special person, what a patriot, what a person of service to this country and of just incredible decency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You worked for his son.
DOWD: Yes, I did work for his son, and I worked for Lloyd Bentsen who – who beat him in 1970 when he ran for the Senate race and then Lloyd Bentsen lost in 1988 as vice president in Texas in that time.
I think that’s the common word you hear in this, is just decency. He was a decent person, he was a good person, he was a kind person in this. And to me, he’s almost like the Forrest Gump of the last 50 years of the 20th century because he was almost at every single moment of change in the country.
The Soviet Union, World War II, the CIA, the U.N., the wars, his son, which he had a tremendous impact on. But one thing I’d like to say is I think often in these times when we have these deaths, we’re – we’re way too quick to canonize these people.
George Herbert Walker Bush was a great man, he did great things, but he also had flaws. He was a human being, and he made mistakes, and he was one – he was humble enough to acknowledge those mistakes.
There was a series of things along the way you can point sometimes in his political campaigns, George Bush was a good man but he was also somebody that used brass knuckles in a political campaign.
He was the one that did the Willie Horton ad. He was the one that did certain things in political campaigns. He was a – he – there’s questions about him on Iran-Contra. He’s a good man, but it’s -- I think it’s a lesson to learn is let’s not canonize these people. Let’s make them human beings.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Or define them by any one incident.
DOWD: And let’s make them human beings that do good things and are good people.
ROBERTS: Because, you know, the truth is that it is more admirable -- I always say this about the founding fathers -- it’s more admirable to be human than to be a bronze statue.
ROBERTS: Because it’s easy for bronze statues to do good things. It’s hard for humans.
BRAZILE: He had faults and one of them was on the ’64 Civil Rights Act he opposed. And one of the reasons why I opposed George Bush fiercely was because he was not a champion at that time. But then in other ways, he did support civil rights by the appointment of people like Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice and so many others. Barbara Bush and George Bush gave money to the United Negro College Fund. She served on the board of Morehouse.
And during Hurricane Katrina, and I can get emotional about this, he joined with Bill Clinton to help us rebuild my Gulf Coast. I personally got fired from the Dukakis campaign because I opened my big mouth and do what I sometimes do, which is to tell people what I -- how I feel. And yet, you know, he reached out, I reached out, and we became friends. I got a chance to go down to the Bush Library. He was a human being with flaws, but somebody who was a man, and I liked that about him.
CHRISTIE: Great protector of the institutions of our country.
CHRISTIE: And I think what he’ll be remembered for more than anything else is that he was at the vanguard during some very difficult times, you know, whether it was during Watergate and coming back in the post-Watergate era to run the CIA, and felt like it was his duty to do that, to try to restore honor and integrity to that institution which was significantly compromised by the Nixon administration.
Or then later on when he was defeated, and we know how heart wrenching that was for him to have been defeated. The -- the note that he wrote to President Clinton on the way out the door tells you that he believes in those institutions and his desire to invite President Trump and the first lady to his memorial service…
DOWD: And -- and it…
CHRISTIE: … is another show of the respect for those institutions.
DOWD: … And it’s a good moment, I think -- just like Meghan’s father passing away -- in this, it’s a great moment for these individuals for these individuals to reflect on who we are as a country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the importance of public service.
MCCAIN: Also, beautiful love story between him and our first lady. I mean, they were deeply in love up until the very end. And he was the last combat veteran, as you said, to hold the presidency. It seems to be, sadly, an ending of an era, for that being something that we pretty much demanded of our presidents. And he’s just such a lovely man on so many different levels, and I agree with you that it just feels like another, sort of, passing of an era.
ROBERTS: But the…
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are going to celebrate him all week long, the -- the National Cathedral National Day of Mourning on Wednesday. And right now, we’re also going to also going to honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice today.
In the month of November, five servicemembers died in Afghanistan.
That is all for us today, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. As I said, please join us Wednesday morning when I’ll be anchoring our special coverage of the state funeral for President Bush that starts at 10:00 Eastern. And I’ll see you tomorrow on GMA.