'This Week' Transcript 12-1-19: Rep. Val Demings, Rep. Tom McClintock
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, December 1.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, December 1, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Impeachment enters the next phase, as President Trump decries the fast-moving inquiry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Impeach him.
And think of this, impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Trump's legal team invited to the next round of public hearings, as the House Intelligence Committee prepares to release its report. The latest this morning with two members of the House Judiciary Committee, where impeachment moves next. And the president intervenes in three war crimes cases. Is the commander in chief undermining military justice and sending the wrong message about what it means to serve? We talk to military veterans on both sides of this debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: You think the president did the right thing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Plus, our powerhouse roundtable takes on the state of the 2020 race.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week." It's been just over a week since those blockbuster impeachment hearings. And, tomorrow, Democrats will take another important step in the high-speed, high-stakes impeachment inquiry.
The House Intelligence Committee is set to release its report to its members Monday, ahead of the first public hearings in the Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
It's the Judiciary Committee which is tasked with drawing up articles of impeachment, that will hear witness testimony from legal experts, and ultimately deliberate what may or may not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.
Trump's legal team has been invited to participate in those proceedings, but, as of this morning, has yet to issue a response.
For more, let's bring an ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams.
And, Dan, the Intelligence Committee is producing a report based on their investigation, including that public testimony. They hand it to Judiciary. So, explain Judiciary's role and how they craft these potential articles of impeachment.
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, think of the Intelligence Committee as the investigators here, as the police or the FBI would be in a typical investigation, where they then hand over their findings, their investigation, their report to prosecutors.
The prosecutors here are, in effect, the House Judiciary Committee, where they have to decide what charges are appropriate to move forward. And they're going to evaluate this as a legal matter more, so less about the facts here, more about the -- quote, unquote -- "law."
But, again, remember when you're dealing in an impeachment, as opposed to a typical trial, what would be viewed as the statutes, et cetera, become a little less important than exactly what the Judiciary Committee members decide is appropriate.
RADDATZ: And, Dan, Wednesday's Judiciary Committee hearing will be the first opportunity for the White House legal team to participate in the impeachment inquiry. Is it to their advantage to show up or not? What do you think?
ABRAMS: Well, typically, you would say, yes, of course. Why wouldn't they show up? They have demanded to be part of the process, et cetera. But, as a practical matter, I'm not so certain that they are going to do that, because, look, part of their defense here has been to delegitimize the process, to effectively call it a circus and a hoax and a sham, et cetera.
And they know that they have got Republicans who are on that committee who are going to do their bidding for them. So, there's a real chance here that they will say, you know what, we're not going to be involved. We're not going to have a lawyer come. You guys go ahead and deal with this, but knowing that they have the Republicans on that committee who will be asking the sorts of questions, making the sort of comments that they would have made anyway.
RADDATZ: And, finally, Dan, we saw a federal court ruling this week saying former White House counsel Don McGahn has to comply with a subpoena from Congress over the Mueller probe, so not necessarily about Ukraine.
But, legally, what could that ruling mean for former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney having to eventually testify?
ABRAMS: Well, if you read the ruling, it would seem to apply to them, their arguments about why this may be different than those cases. But remember what that case was and wasn't. That's a case about immunity, meaning, that's saying that Don McGahn has to show up. That doesn't tell us exactly what he would have to testify about. And then you say the same thing about Bolton and Mulvaney. Even if they have to show up, the immunity argument isn't valid, there are still going to be fights over exactly what they should have to testify or not.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much, Dan.
RADDATZ: And joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings. She serves on both the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees overseeing the impeachment hearings.
And, Congresswoman, we know the Intelligence Committee will send its impeachment report to the Judiciary Committee very shortly. Do you expect firm recommendations and will all the supporting evidence be included?
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, good morning. And I do believe that all evidence certainly will be included in that report. So, the Judiciary Committee has made the necessary conditions that they need to. As you know, this week, we will begin the critical process of hearing from constitutional experts to really lay out the ground for impeachment of the president. So, as we, from the intelligence community turn over -- our committee turn over the report to the Judiciary Committee, we still have a lot of work to do.
RADDATZ: And we know that witnesses for Wednesday’s hearings will be legal experts on impeachment. Any sense of how many future hearings your committee will hold? Do you expect any fact witnesses to be called or recalled from the Intelligence Committee’s proceedings?
DEMINGS: Well, we have not really made the decision on future hearings or future witnesses yet. I think our main focus right now is to have the president and his counsel who you know are given the same privileges as President Nixon and President Clinton had to participate and engage in this impeachment process, even to the point of -- if we have any executive sessions of the Judiciary Committee. They’re invited to participate. So, we are certainly hope that the president, his counsel will take advantage of that opportunity. If he has not done anything wrong, we are certainly anxious to hear his explanation of that.
RADDATZ: Have you gotten any indication the White House will be involved or the counsel?
DEMINGS: We have not. As you may know, Chairman Nadler sent a letter. I know they’ve been in conversations with the White House counsel side. They sent a letter, just again inviting the president, making sure that he and his counsel are aware of the opportunities to fully engage and participate in this process. We are certainly hoping that he will as I said, take advantage of that opportunity.
RADDATZ: And as I just talked about with Dan, you have the McGahn ruling which could affect Bolton, Mulvaney, important witnesses. Why not wait to see if they eventually could testify?
DEMINGS: Well, what we have requested are documents from witnesses that have just mentioned, the State Department, chief of staff, we want to have those documents, to review those documents that will help to lead any interview or testimony from those participants. As you well know, they have not been willing to obey lawful subpoenas that have been issued. And, look, we’re not going to play any games with them, the American people are not going to I think tolerate any games. If they’re very serious about obeying lawful subpoenas, then they need to respond to the request for documents and then obey those lawful subpoenas.
RADDATZ: But couldn’t there -- it sounds to be critical to understanding what’s happening. I mean, again, why not -- why not wait?
DEMINGS: Well, as I said, they have not been willing to really comply with lawful subpoenas. They want to, what I believe, is to play a political game and tie the process of -- in the court as long as they can and run the clock out. We’re not willing to play that game. We have requested documents. Those documents as you well know are critical and very valuable to the work before us.
And so, if they comply with the document request, I believe it shows the good faith effort on their part to further cooperate with the inquiry.
RADDATZ: And, Congresswoman, you’ve seen all the facts and evidence laid out from these impeachment hearings. But no witness has personally attested that the president directly condition the release of military aid to investigation into his political opponent. Does that missing element really undermine the Democratic argument?
DEMINGS: Let me tell you, the best witness, the most effective, the most valuable witness that we have is the president of the United States himself, with President Zelensky on July 25th, on the infamous call, mentioned the fact that he was about ready to purchase additional weaponry, President Trump responded: But I need you to do a favor, though -- and then went to what the conditions will be.
We know that every witness that we talked to, none of the witnesses that we’ve talked to who had been directly involved or not were able to give any reasonable, rational explanation for holding up the military aid and we do know that the aid was only released after congressional committees started asking questions and the whistleblower came forward. And --
RADDATZ: But then let’s go back to that phone call. Given the president was ultimately unsuccessful in the quid pro quo. As Republicans argue, the Ukrainians never opposed the investigation, the aid ultimately flowed, and Trump met with Zelensky at the U.N. Should Democrats consider a censure instead of the drastic step of impeachment?
DEMINGS: Well, you know, you’re going to make me go back to my law enforcement experience. I had an opportunity in 27 years to deal with a lot of people who attempted to rob a bank, attempted to burglarize a house, attempted to carjack an individual, we didn’t say, well, since you weren’t successful, we caught you, you weren’t successful, so we just let you go and forget it. No, we have an obligation given to us by the Constitution. I know it’s one that the American people want us to uphold and we are going to do the work before us. The fact that president caught --
RADDATZ: But, Congresswoman --
DEMINGS: -- the fact that the president got caught in the act does not relieve him of being held accountable for the wrongdoing that he has engaged in.
RADDATZ: And, Congresswoman, you talked about public opinion. Public opinion on support for impeachment has not increased through the hearing process. There’s not been a single House Republican to join the Democrats in this. So, how do you really move forward, given what you said about the public?
DEMINGS: Well, let me say, you know, we’re going to do the work before us. Just like as a law enforcement officer, I never took a poll before I lived up to my responsibilities based on the oath that I took. I have been extremely troubled and disappointed by the behavior of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, many of them I worked on committees with, I worked on others legislation with. I know them. I have the utmost respect for them.
But their refusal to hold this president accountable and to clearly go into their partisan corner and protect this president at any and all cost is troubling to me and I believe is troubling to the American people.
RADDATZ: Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Congresswoman Demings.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
RADDATZ: For the GOP response, let's bring in Judiciary Committee member, Congressman Tom McClintock.
Congressman, have you heard whether the president's lawyers plan to participate in the Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing this week?
REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R-CA): No, I haven't. I think it would be to the president's advantage to have his attorneys there. That's his right. But I can also understand how he is upset at the illegitimate process that we saw unfolding in the Intelligence Committee.
The big question is going to be whether Jerry Nadler continues that into the Judiciary Committee’s hearings or whether he respects the due process rights of the president not only to be represented by counsel but also to have the unrestricted right to call witnesses in his defense and to confront his accuser?
RADDATZ: So, you think they should bring in lawyers?
MCCLINTOCK: I think it's to his advantage, yes.
RADDATZ: And Chairman Nadler also did send this letter asking whether the Republicans plan to issue subpoenas or issue any questions, written questions. Will your party do that?
MCCLINTOCK: I expect that they will. In fact, I know the discussions are ongoing, as to the witnesses that we would like to call. As you recall in the intelligence hearings, Republicans asked for nine witnesses. Adam Schiff vetoed six of those.
In a free society, the prosecution doesn't get to choose what witnesses the defense wishes to call. And yet, that's what's been going on in the Intelligence Committee. And again, the question is going to be whether Jerry Nadler continues that sham in the Judiciary hearings?
When it goes over to the Senate, that’s going to play a big role I think in the Senate’s deliberation. They I think will insist on full due process rights and that could blow up in the Democrats' faces.
RADDATZ: And we’ve been talking about the McGahn decision here all morning. We know it's being appealed. And if the court’s rule in the future that senior officials like John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney could testify, do you believe they should?
MCCLINTOCK: Absolutely. And, in fact, yes, it is to the president’s advantage to have them testify now. But, of course, he has to weigh that against the enormous catastrophic damage that would do to the doctrine of executive privilege that assures that when policy is being developed within the administration, those discussions are unfettered, are candid, are thinking outside of the box, that’s why the doctrine of executive privilege exists.
So, he’s got to weigh those two elements. And I understand why he's making the decision that he is, to defend that doctrine of executive privilege not only for his administration but for all administrations.
RADDATZ: So -- [a]
MCCLINTOCK: And, by the way, that's the discussion that's been going on since George Washington was subpoenaed documents in the Jay Treaty by the House back, in 1796.
RADDATZ: So you believe they should testify, but not say much?
MCCLINTOCK: No, I think it would be in his advantage to -- to -- to have them testify. But, again, that would shatter the doctrine of executive privilege. And that's the -- the question that he has to weigh in whether to invoke that privilege.
RADDATZ: And -- and what about testimony from the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who Gordon Sondland said was in the loop on everything? Should he testify?
MCCLINTOCK: Well, again, I think more information is better than less in every aspect of an inquiry and the adversarial process is very important to test what's true and what's not. My objection to what the Congress has done is it -- it is -- it is impeded that process by vetoing Republican witnesses and by interfering with the -- with the due process rights of the president and what is a quasi-judicial proceeding.
RADDATZ: And -- and "The New York Times" also reported this week that the president knew about the whistleblower complaint in August before he released the military aid in early September, which would mean when Trump spoke to Gordon Sondland in September, he was well aware of what was going on. So they're -- when he said there was no quid pro quo he would have to have been aware of that complaint.
What's your response to that?
MCCLINTOCK: Well, the -- the implication is that this is an admission of guilt because the president found out about the whistleblower complaint and then immediately released the aid. That's not what happened. Several weeks went by before that aid was released.
Now, remember, under our constitution, the president has sole authority to conduct our foreign affairs. He's --
RADDATZ: But he specifically mentioned there was no quid pro quo to Sondland --
MCCLINTOCK: Exactly right.
RADDATZ: In that -- in that phone call.
MCCLINTOCK: Exactly right. And they're -- and there's --
RADDATZ: Could he be covering his tracks?
MCCLINTOCK: And -- and among all of the testimony of the hand-picked witnesses that the Democrats have heard for two weeks in public hearings, not one, not one was told that there was a quid pro quo. The only conclusions that they came to where supposition and impressions they got reading "The New York Times."
But, remember, the president conducts our foreign policy. He's commanded to take care that the laws be faithfully enforced. And, the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorized aid to Ukraine in the first place, requires that the administration determines that that country is taking step steps to combat corruption before he releases the aid. As I read his conversation with Zelensky, that's exactly what he was doing.
RADDATZ: When -- when you defend the president and -- and think about these hearings, is there anything in your mind that the president did involving Ukraine that is wrong or that concerns you in any way?
MCCLINTOCK: Well, he didn't use the delicate language of diplomacy in that conversation. That's true. He also doesn't use the smarmy talk of politicians. What you hear from Donald J. Trump is the blunt talk of a Manhattan businessman. He says what he means, he means what he says. That's the only thing that's remarkable about that conversation. But he was entirely within his constitutional authority and was following the statute that Congress adopted in granting aid to the Ukraine.
RADDATZ: OK, we're going to have to leave it there.
Thank so much for joining us this morning.
MCCLINTOCK: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
RADDATZ: Up next, the economy remains strong, but will it be enough to carry President Trump to victory in 2020? FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver weighs in, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- you saw that, right? The stock market just hit another all-time in history high. Meaning 401(k)s and jobs. Everybody's getting rich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: President Trump repeatedly touting the economy after new record highs in the stock market last week and unemployment remaining at historic lows.
But is a strong economy enough to boost Trump to re-election in 2020? We asked FiveThiryEight's Nate Silver -- do you buy that?
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So, the rule of thumb is that when the economy is good, the incumbent tends to win re-election, and when it isn’t, he doesn’t.
Notably, the last two incumbent presidents to lose, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, dealt with a recession late into their first terms. It’s become a cliche, but as James Carville put it --
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's the economy, stupid.
SILVER: Right now, the economy is somewhere between pretty good and very good, depending on which indicators you look at. GPD has grown about 2 percent per year, which is close to average, but the unemployment rate is just 3.6 percent, basically, the lowest it’s been in 50 years. That would seem to bode really well for President Trump.
And indeed, Trump gets a lot of credit from voters for the economy. His approval rating on the economy is 52 percent, quite a lot better than his overall number, which is closer to 42.
I spent a lot of time trying to mathematically model the impact of the economy on elections, and Trump is actually a tricky case. Here’s the complication -- that big gap between the economy and Trump's overall numbers means that a lot of other factors matter to voters also.
Everything from Trump’s temperament, to his treatment of immigrants, to the Ukraine scandal and the impeachment process -- those stories aren't going away any time soon.
To put it another way, it may be that Trump's cake is pretty baked. Voters take the good. They take the bad. And he's in a position where he's pretty borderline for reelection.
If the economy gets even better, that probably will help Trump's chances. But, of course, it could get worse. Economists surveyed by "The Wall Street Journal" still assign about a 30 percent chance of a recession.
One more thing. All this history might suggest that the more Trump focuses on the economy, the better off his reelection campaign would be -- think about Ronald Reagan and morning in America.
Focus, however, is not ordinarily a term that one might associate with this president.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to Nate.
You can read more of his analysis at FiveThirtyEight.com.
And when we come back: on the heels of President Trump's unprecedented involvement in war crimes cases, my conversation with three veterans on the rifts emerging in the U.S. military and the threat it poses to our security.
We will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)RADDATZ: Coming up, the powerhouse roundtable takes on impeachment and the 2020 race.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATHEW GOLDSTEYN, U.S. ARMY: We woke up today probably still incredibly stunned and awed by the president's genosity.
CLINT LORANCE, U.S. ARMY: I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate President Trump and Vice President Pence.
EDWARD GALLAGHER, U.S. NAVY SEAL: I don't know how many times I thanked the president. He keeps stepping in, doing the right things.
RICHARD SPENCER, FORMER NAVY SECRETARY: I don't think he really understands the full definition of a war fighter. A war fighter is a profession of arms, and a profession of arms has standards that they have to be held to, and they hold themselves to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That was Major Matt Goldsteyn, First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, three service members whose war crimes cases prompted the unprecedented intervention of President Trump, eventually leading to the firing of the Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who you also saw there.
Issuing pardons is the legal right of the president, but was it the right thing to do? And what is the impact of the decision President Trump made? I sat down with three veterans to discuss.
COL. DAVE LAPAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): I'm Colonel Dave Lapan, United States Marine Corps retired. I spent 34 years total in the Marine Corps, three deployments -- Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti.
DR. KYLEANNE HUNTER, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): I'm Dr. Kyleanne Hunter. I spent over a decade as a Marine Corps officer. I was a Cobra pilot with multiple deployments. And I hold a PhD from the Korbel School of International Studies.
CDR KIRK LIPPOLD, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Commander Kirk Lippold. I was 26 year Navy veteran, serving on Aegis guided missile cruisers and destroyers, culminating as the commanding officer of USS Cole when it was attacked by al Qaeda terrorists.
RADDATZ: I want to start with the quote from fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer in an op-ed. He said, "this was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review. It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically, or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices. Your reaction to that?
LAPAN: So, I agree on both points. I think that the president did reach down into the chain of command into the military personnel system in an unprecedented way. And I think this is the latest example that we've seen from the president that shows that he has very little to no understanding of the military that he professes to love.
RADDATZ: And commander, I'm going to go to you on this. You think the president did the right thing?
LIPPOLD: I think he did. When I looked at the decision that he made, while it was low level, you have to look at how the military justice system was performing at that time, and it was absolutely failing. You had to have a prosecutor relieved. The president made it very clear that he was disappointed that the system was not working as it was. He wants to back this troops on the ground. This is very disconcerting in many ways to senior officers.
While it is unconventional, what Secretary Spencer said and how he said it, was wholly inappropriate. It actually made him seem petty after his relief for cause, or firing by the president.
RADDATZ: Dr. Hunter, your reaction?
HUNTER: I think one of the things that's very important to continue to think about with this and the precedent that this is setting is the importance of morale in small unit leadership. And rules of engagement are an incredibly, incredibly important system that is put in place for a reason. And the boots on the ground, the individuals that are making that split decision to make take a life or not take a life, to pull a trigger or to not pull a trigger, need to know that those rules are there for a reason and that they mean something. And a -- an intervention that challenges or questions the way that these rules are -- are being enacted, it becomes troubling. It sends some -- some very concerning messages to what is a very, very serious decision.
RADDATZ: I want to go to one of the president's tweets. He said, we train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill.
COMMANDER KIRK LIPPOLD, U.S. NAVY (RET): It was an inappropriate statement. I think when you say something like that, the president is not fully grasping that they are professionals, that they do have a set of standards and rules that they need to follow. And while they are trained to be ruthless killers, they do it within the bounds of those rules and those rules of engagement.
RADDATZ: Doctor, I want you to explain to people who don't know what -- what is good order and discipline, about why that's so important and why it's so important that you have discipline and in -- and in so many ways, it is that moment when you can shoot or not shoot that the good order and discipline comes to bear.
HUNTER: Absolutely. And I think everybody who -- who's here can speak to real life examples of where this became so important. But, in the military, we are expected and we're trained and we are required to do things that often go very counter to human nature. We run towards conflict. We -- we lean into it. And that's not something that's easy. It's not in our normal nature to -- to do it. And so to do it and not devolve into the idea of being a barbarian, that takes a lot of training, but it also requires that there are rules and constraints put in place.
RADDATZ: Colonel Lipman, you and I were together in Fallujah in 2005 when -- when you were there. And at one point we were in a convoy and there was a civilian, an Iraqi civilian, who approach that convoy and the gunner in one of the Humvees, with a 50 caliber weapon, opened fire --
COLONEL DAVID LIPMAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET), FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Right.
RADDATZ: Likely killing that man. Those are those split second decisions. They might hurt us, so we should hurt them.
LIPMAN: In -- in that particular occasion, our convoy was going down the street. Traffic had been stopped. All of a sudden a vehicle comes approaching around the vehicles that have been stopped. We wonder, what's the intent? It appears to be a threat.
The soldier, or the Marine in this case, in the vehicle reacts instantly because he has to. So, he took the shot. Again, I believe that the individual was killed. I believe we found out afterwards that it was just a driver that decided he didn't want to wait and he made a bad decision that may have ended his life. But those are the kind of split second decisions, life or death. And I think that's the key to understanding why good order and discipline. We talk about it, but most people don't understand that.
RADDATZ: What effect will this have on our troops going forward? And if you were a commander right now, what would you say to them about what just happened and these partners?
LIPPOLD: I would sit there and I would say the president made a decision. It was within his bounds to do so. That is not going to change how we are going to train to do business if we have to go to the tip of the spear and defend this nation.
If I'm a commander, I am going to still run my unit to that standard, period, because I know that I'm operating under the guidelines and the long view of history is going to support that.
RADDATZ: And, Dr. Hunter, do you think this will affect troops long term?
HUNTER: One of the things that I really worry about this impacting really on an -- on an individual level is the issues around PTSD, moral injury. Did I make the right decision at the time?
You know, coming back from war, having made decisions to pull the -- the trigger is hard. You know, it's something that I have -- I have worked through. And I think knowing that rules of engagement are meaningful, knowing that we made the best decisions for ourselves and -- and for the people that are to the left and the right of us is something we need to continue to have confidence in and we owe it to those, you know, those young women and men who are over there right now, that they're making the right decisions.
RADDATZ: Does it also divide the force? I mean --
RADDATZ: We have -- we have different opinions right here. I'm thinking in the SEAL community and I'm thinking of the SEALs who -- who support Gallagher --
HUNTER: Yes. [b]RADDATZ: Who says support him and a whole bunch of others who think it's -- that should not have happened.
HUNTER: And I -- I think that's also one of the most harmful long term effects that you have is that good order and discipline, rules of engagement, the chain of command, both up and down also exists to unify us. And when there's -- when -- when the military becomes politicized, nothing good can come of it for long term health of the military.
LIPPOLD: The military today, I think unfortunately at the senior levels, has become more politicized than it's ever been in our history. And I think at the end of the day, those troops on the ground, those sailors on the ships, want to know that the chain of command has their back. COL. DAVID LAPAN, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The divisiveness that we've seen, people taking sides now, more politicization of the military and I’d say it's gone way down at the ranks, it’s beyond senior officers when you have, again, troops showing up at events with the president with MAGA hats, commander in chief holds events for troops, but they're not supposed to be partisan events. And I think the force now wonders and we see the divisiveness that’s happening because of these things that we've seen the Navy secretary fired over it. This president has often talked about how much he admires the military, how much he has done for the military, it's all about the strength of the military. And I’d ask what these pardons have done to further that goal, rather than making the military stronger, I think he's weakened the military in these days.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Our thanks to all three veterans. And the round table takes on impeachment and the latest in the 2020 race, coming up next. We're back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will issue a pardon to a pair of very handsome birds, Butter and his alternate Bread. Thankfully, Bread and Butter have been specially raised by the Jacksons to remain calm under any conditions which will be very important because they've already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff's basement on Thursday. I should note that unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Trump poking some fun there at the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon on Tuesday. And the round table joins me now. ABC News political director Rick Klein, “FiveThiryEight” senior writer Perry Bacon Jr., “Washington Examiner” chief congressional correspondent, Susan Ferrechio, and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd. Great to have you all here. Happy Thanksgiving. I’m going to start with you, Rick Klein. We have been talking about the impeachment process now transferring to the Judiciary Committee. Talk to us through what you’re hearing from each side and their strategy. We heard a little bit of it from each side. But what are you hearing?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The Democrats' view is now, get it over and move on. They feel like they've made the case that they can make. They're grown frustrated inside their conference about the inability to move public opinion, inability to get any Republicans to go along. And so, the sense is they've got the votes. That's not really going to change. They need to get this process moving as quickly as possible. You’ll see that in committee this week after the Intelligence Committee hands over documents to the Judiciary Committee. On the Republican side, you're hearing things like this process is rushed. It’s hurried, it's partisan, it’s political theater. And their view on the Republican side is that the Judiciary Committee is more fertile ground to play defense essentially by mocking the process. So, I think their efforts are going to be to try to undermine the legitimacy of the investigation itself.
RADDATZ: And, Perry, as we know, the Republicans have not broken rank over this --
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT SENIOR WRITER: Yes.
RADDATZ: -- at all with the president. Do you think that continues to matter?
BACON: Oh, it matters absolutely because the Democrats started earlier this year saying impeachment should be bipartisan. We would need (ph) it bipartisan, that will help move the public. And now, what you've seen so far is about 49 percent of the people support impeachment or removal, about 44 percent of people oppose it. And this basically was the numbers very were similar to the numbers when we started this whole process. So, basically, after three weeks of testimony we all described as gripping and interesting and damaging to the president that essentially changed no one's mind on this whole process. In fact, 49-44 is fairly close to who voted for Hillary, who voted for Trump, suggesting that -- I just think the Republican Party is not going to move either the elites or the voters away from President Trump no matter what the evidence is. So, in some level (ph), we're sort of having a process that isn't going to change anybody's mind, is my impression.
RADDATZ: And, Susan, do you -- do you get any sense that the Democrats think they made a mistake in following through with this?
SUSAN FERRECHIO, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: No, I don't think they think they made a mistake. But I think they are concerned that here they are in this process. We're heading into December now. The polls are stagnant. They are worried that they're stuck on something that could hurt them politically. So, as Rick was saying, let's move on quickly, put this in the rearview mirror. That's the idea that I'm hearing from Democrats in the hallways of Congress, that we were hoping the polls would move a little bit. Nothing's really happened. What's going to happen next? Are they going to take up articles of impeachment? If they do so, they're going to send them to the Senate, where there's -- where he's certain to face a dismissal. It's not going to go anywhere.
RADDATZ: So it doesn't sound like the Democrats are going to have any new witnesses, other than these legal experts?
FERRECHIO: Well, we have got the Don McGahn testimony that may be compelled by the courts. But that could take a while. Now, Congress tends to win those court fights overall. Over, the years they have. But it takes a long time. And Democrats have signaled they don't want to wait around, in part because they will drag out a process that's not winning for them politically, especially in these key swing districts where they have to watch for their vulnerable incumbent Democrats.
RADDATZ: So they're in kind of a bind, the Democrats here. And even if Bolton and Mulvaney were forced to testify, they would -- probably don't want that to happen, given it would take so long?
DOWD: Well, I think it would provide more theater. But I agree. I said before all this started, once -- once the impeachment of Donald Trump numbers went to 49 or 50, I didn't think, no matter what happened, they would move much, because we're in such a polarized time. Republicans are 100 percent for Donald Trump. Democrats are hundred percent against him. There's a small amount of independent or swing voters that sort of lightly switch. I never thought it would fundamentally move. I think what the Democrats -- I don't think they're going to be hurt by this. In the end, I think we're going to get through -- we will have an impeachment. They will vote on it. We will get to a Senate hearing. It'll likely to be dismissed, as Susan said. And then a week later, two weeks later, we will be on to something else. I do think that one of the things, if you look at history, is that when you -- ever you have this political battle going on, it's never solved through a Congress. Ultimately, the voters are going to have to come in and fix whatever they thinks needs fixing. So, next November, to me, is ultimately the only fundamental way. If people want to hold Donald Trump accountable, he will only -- only fundamentally be held accountable in an election next year.
RADDATZ: And, Rick, I was going to turn to the 2020 race anyway. The Democratic debate last week really almost felt like an afterthought, compared to those impeachment televised hearings. The candidates do want to talk about the issues. So, how do they do this in this period where it is all about impeachment, because it's a very critical time?
KLEIN: You can't fight it. I think the counterprogramming is delivering what the perception is that voters want to hear from. They're not getting asked on the trail in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, they're not going to ask about impeachment. They don't want to talk about it because they don't really have much to add. It isn't an issue for them. I think, though, there's really not a good way for any of these campaigns to try to break through in this era. This is going to be the overriding story. And the Democratic primary is going to play out against that backdrop. As Matthew says, if this is all done by February, March, we're not going to be voting, in all likelihood, on impeachment next November. It's going to be a distant memory. And they have to keep their eyes on the prize. But there's no doubt this is frustrating to some of those lower-tier candidates, who thought, this is the time where everyone is going to be dialed into the primary campaign.
RADDATZ: And, Perry, last week, there was a Marquette poll out of Wisconsin showing all the major Democratic candidates, Warren, Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, losing in head-to-head matches against the president. If Democrats move forward with -- with trying to remove the president, which it clearly looks like they're going to do...
BACON: I'm with Matt on this. I'm not of the view that we can take much from early polls the year before the general election. I'm not sure impeachment...
RADDATZ: But come on. We want to see what's happening.
BACON: But I'm just saying, I think we should be careful to assume too much in these early polls.
BACON: I do think the race itself is interesting, in that we have these four front-runners. Buttigieg has very little minority support, black or Latino voters. Biden is struggling in Iowa and New Hampshire. Warren and Sanders seem to be too left by a lot of the party. I can't remember a time where those four front-runners would all have these big, glaring, obvious flaws. And I'd rather be Biden than the other candidates. I think he's still the front-runner. But this is a really complicated race, and I can't tell what's going on. And the polls are moving a lot. And it's a really interesting race. I think any of those four could win. Any of those four could do really -- could face-plant as well, I think.
RADDATZ: And, Rick, this was also a week of the Quinnipiac -- despite you not wanting to look at these early polls. Couldn't agree with you more that it's not really indicative of what will happen later.
But if you took -- look at that national poll out this week that shows Buttigieg rising to second place, Elizabeth Warren falling a bit, the field seems to still obviously be fluid. But Joe Biden keeps hanging onto the top. You talk to a lot of people around the country. What -- what are the dynamics of this here and -- and where Biden is?
KLEIN: There are two immutable facts around this -- around this primary campaign that I see. One is that Joe Biden's support is real. It is constant. It is consistent. And guess what, so is concern over Joe Biden's support. Both of those things can be true until one kind of disproves the other. I am intrigued by Mayor Pete Buttigieg, because you can make an argument now he's an early frontrunner now -- Iowa, New Hampshire polls suggest it. And just in the last couple of days, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chose him to target on the education plans, said he was parroting Republican talking points. She's very savvy political operator. She knew exactly what she was doing in taking on Mayor Pete. And I think there's going to be a lot more scrutiny on him, his record, and his plans going forward.
RADDATZ: And Susan, I want to ask you the same question, it's about what's happening out in the country and what's happening with these national polls?
FERRECHIO: The polls that matter are the early state primary and caucus polls, that's going to determine our frontrunner. And if you look at polls now, it is pretty fluid. I think Biden is the dominant candidate. He's the one who can not only -- maybe he won't win Iowa. You don't have to win Iowa. Ask, you know, other people who won -- Hillary Clinton didn't win Iowa, but she stayed a very strong candidate throughout. And I think it's very possible that Biden may not win Iowa, but he still has minority support that Buttigieg doesn't have. He's like 0 percent amongst minorities. That's -- he's got to improve that. He's got to move out of that box somehow.
RADDATZ: Explain again why he isn't getting that minority...
FERRECHIO: You know, he's a, you know, a small town mayor. He's not been on the national stage. Biden is the successor to Obama in the eyes of many minority voters. And I think Buttigieg needs to just come up with some kind of agenda that is more appealing to minority candidates. He really hasn't done that yet.
DOWD: I think this minority support problem for Buttigieg is a problem, but it's not unique to Buttigieg. He's got the same level of support among African-Americans that Kamala Harris has and Cory Booker has, both of which are African-American United States Senators in this. The fascinating thing about this race, it's unlike one we've seen in awhile, because there's no dominant powerful character that we know is how the race is going to go. I actually think as of today, there's still six or seven candidates that have a possibility of winning. And I think Joe Biden's difficulty is that if he thinks he can lose Iowa, and lose New Hampshire and lose Nevada, and all somehow come through strong in South Carolina, I think may be a fiction for him. He has to hope that nobody like Pete Buttigieg starts winning multiples in a row. I was telling Rick in the green room earlier is that I would much rather be a candidate with momentum than some candidate with money or the machine behind them, because once you have momentum it's hard to stop. But we are in a time -- keep in mind that Barack Obama at this same point in time in 2007 was behind in Iowa and was significantly behind in South Carolina. The race adjusted really quick as soon as the voting started.
RADDATZ: And Perry, coming off our very strong Black Friday, the economy has not taken a major stumble under the president's watch. You heard what Nate Silver said about that, that's kind of already baked in to how the voters look at that. But his approval rating clearly still low. But if the economy stays strong, could that outweigh the negative?
BACON: I don't think so. I think we've had three years of polls now showing the economy is strong, but people still find a lot of other reasons to like Donald Trump. I think for Trump it would be better if he stopped tweeting, for example. I literally think that kind of thing alone would help his numbers more. But assuming he's not going to change, like we have never had this before where polling about Donald Trump is more stable than any previous president. He basically has 40 percent of the people who like him, 40 percent, and then about 52 percent don't like him, and those numbers don't change no matter what he says, no matter what he does -- impeachment of all things has not changed it. So, I think -- but that said, 40 percent national polling is different in Wisconsin, where he's much closer -- I believe the polls a little bit -- he's much closer to 47 percent in Wisconsin. This is still a very close electoral environment. Donald Trump, despite being very unpopular, could win the election in part because the polls show the Democratic candidates for president are getting more unpopular sort of every day almost. Joe Biden started off this race fairly popular. He's more unpopular. Warren and Sanders are more unpopular. Buttigieg, if he gets to become more known, will get more unpopular, too, is my suspicion. So, I think Donald Trump has a very good chance of winning the election, even though he's very unpopular.
DOWD: I think the job approval numbers, if I counsel anybody watching this or watching this, look at the job approval numbers, and look at the job approval numbers in five or six states. And it's not going to matter -- this is a presidential reelect. And I went through a presidential reelect in 2007 with George W. Bush. And that was the number one thing we watched was job approval numbers, not what John Kerry's favorable, unfavorable was, all of that, it does not matter. If Donald Trump's job approval numbers are where they are today, if he's in the low 40s in those five states, it does not matter what the favorability rating or who the Democratic nominee is, Donald Trump will lose. But he has to hope, as I say -- I agree with Perry, if he stopped tweeting, we've shown that the economy isn't helping him. If he did some adjustment in tone or temperament, that would help him much more.
RADDATZ: And let's just say that probably will not happen. I -- I
DOWD: He couldn't (ph) even adjust it on Thanksgiving.
RADDATZ: Yes. Bold, bold prediction.
DOWD: Not even on Thanksgiving.
RADDATZ: Yes, yes, bold prediction. OK, but then we have debates. We have another debate later this month --
RADDATZ: With a higher donor and polling threshold. So far only six candidates have qualified for that debate. The candidates have until next Thursday. But what impact will not making those particular debates, people like Cory Booker, Julian Castro?
KLEIN: It's devastating at this point and the campaigns have been pretty blunt about it. You need to be a part of the conversation. And, in fact, getting 4 or 5 percent, that isn't going to even win your delegates come January and February when the voting starts. So it's -- these -- these thresholds, I think, are -- are almost artificially low, not high. It's going to be tough. And, of course, the fact that Michael Bloomberg won't be there, I think, is -- is a key point through all of this. He is blanketing the airwaves now, as you said, just setting new records almost -- almost every day now and he's basically counting on this conversation that we're having right now to continue all the way through the primary process. He's betting on chaos in the Democratic field that he could clean up as a national candidate. That's a totally different play than everyone else whose banking on these early states to come through.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Susan, I want to ask you, there's a very brutal article in "The New York Times" this week about the state of Kamala Harris' campaign. They quoted from the resignation letter of Harris' former Iowa state operations director, who wrote, this is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly. With less than 90 until Iowa, we still do not have a real plan to win. Are you surprised by Harris's fall?
FERRECHIO: You know, I questioned her durability when she first go in, just looking at the early California polls and how quickly she was vanquished by the entry of Biden. And I'm not totally surprised that she's out of it at this point. I think the real question now is, where does her -- she has some support. Where does that go? And where does the support go for some of these other candidates who are -- who, like Harris, are going to have to make a decision. A lot of them are going to end up dropping out soon. And where is that support going to go? And is that going to kind of coalesce this field a little more, make it a little more stable and show us a frontrunner? I'm not surprised. She's -- she's going to be out of it pretty soon. And I think -- and the other question now is what's her -- what does her future hold when she gets back to the Senate? Will she get into leadership? You know, I don't think we've seen the end of Kamala Harris by any means. You know, she is -- she does have real leadership qualities. So I'm wondering, you know, what -- what she'll do next.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Matt, I want to end on Michael Bloomberg. We have about 45 seconds left here.
RADDATZ: And he says he can beat Trump. Can he beat the Democrats?
DOWD: Well, I -- he's got a much better odds of beating Trump than he does beating the Democrats. I -- I mean think he has a chance. And I'm in this race disruptive time, I'm not going to dismiss anybody's chances. I can't figure out exactly the strategy, other than what Rick just said, which is chaos. Biden's wounded. I come in and I come in. I'm the only national candidate in this. But I think even in that scenario, somebody like Amy Klobuchar or Cory Booker or somebody like that is much more likely. But, again, in this disruptive time, I don't count anybody out.
RADDATZ: And that will have to end it. Thanks very much for joining us. Before we go, we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ON SCREEN TEXT: In Memoriam:
CW2 David C. Knadle, 22, U.S. Army, Tarrant, Texas.
CW2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, U.S. Army, Keaau, Hawaii.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: In the month of November, two service members died overseas supporting operations in Afghanistan. That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT." Have a great day.
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