'This Week' Transcript 8-13-17: Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Anthony Scaramucci
A rush transcript for "This Week" on August 13, 2017.
— -- (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST (voice-over): Deadly violence in Charlottesville.
A white nationalist rally spirals out of control when a driver plows into protesters. One dead, dozens injured. Now, a state of emergency.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides. On many sides.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he mean by many sides? The president's refusal to single out the white supremacists who sparked the bloodshed is drawing fire from Democrats and Republicans. All the fallout this morning.
And nuclear bluster.
TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tension with North Korea escalates as Kim Jong-Un vows to respond with absolute force. Is this a war of words spinning out of control or setting the stage for new diplomacy? Our Martha Raddatz is live at the DMZ.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC CORRESPONDENT: While the rhetoric ramps up in Washington and Pyongyang, here on the border, there is no sign of imminent conflict.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the latest from there the White House with national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Plus, he debuted with the bang.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Here's what I would tell you, OK, I love the president.
And Reince is a (EXPLETIVE) paranoid schizophrenic, paranoiac.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Eleven days later, Anthony Scaramucci was out of the White House. This week, he joins us with his first interview since the firing, a THIS WEEK exclusive.
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: August is never as quiet as we expect it to be and this week sure proved that rule. Dangerous nuclear threats overseas. An act of domestic terror here at home.
This was the scene in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday afternoon. A gray Dodge Charger with blacked out windows plows into marchers protesting a planned rally by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the KKK After ramming into one group, the driver accelerated in reverse, running over several more.
One woman is dead. 19 more injured. The driver? James Alex Fields, Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio. He's been charged with murder. The FBI and Department of Justice have opened a civil rights investigation.
Later, two Virginia state police officers also died when their helicopter crashed as they responded to the violence.
A bloody end to a chaotic 24 hours that began when white nationalists, chanting Nazi slogans, carrying torches and Confederate flags gathered in Charlottesville, vowing to take America back. They clashed with counterprotesters, some with Black Lives Matter posters who came to support Charlottesville's decision to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe called of the rally, declared a state of emergency.
After the car attack, President Trump made this statement from Bedminster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald trump. Not Barack Obama. It's been doing on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And with that, let me bring in our senior White House correspondent, Cecilia Vega, our senior justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas.
Cecilia, let me begin with you. The president's comments yesterday being met with a lot of fury, even by his own party. Some top senators. Right now, you've got Senator Orrin Hatch saying we should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. Marco Rubio: Very important for the nation to hear POTUS describe events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists. Cory Gardner, senator from Colorado: Mr. President, we must call evil by it name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.
The president is on Twitter this morning, not taking back that many sides comment.
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he has yet to offer a full rebuke, George, even in the face of near universal condemnation. We're not just talking about Republicans in his own party, we're talking about some of his own supporters.
Look, the White House is now trying to clarify what the president meant when he used that many sides comment. They say he was condemning hatred, bigotry, violence on all sides. But they say that there was violence between protesters and counterprotesters.
But, look, George, I've got to tell you, you know, Ivanka Trump this morning tweeted stronger words than her own father. She said there's no place in society -- she used the words -- for racism, white supremacy, neo-Nazis. The president didn't outright denounce neo-Nazis. He didn't use the word white supremacist. It took him hours to condemn this publicly. The First Lady was the first person in the White House the to come out and offer an White House official condemnation.
You know, the president, we saw him on camera yesterday there in Bedminster. He was asked point blank by reporters in that room whether he wants the support of these white supremacists, and he ignored that question, George. I think we're looking here at a potential history-making moment for this presidency and how he handles this question before him. Will he outright denounce these groups, many of which have come to his support?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It certainly does feel like a watershed moment.
Pierre, we have seen stronger actions at least immediately from the Justice Department.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: George, the Justice Department recognizing that a car was used as a murder weapon, quickly launched a civil rights investigation to determine whether this was a hate crime. That means this morning FBI agents are looking at that 20-year-old suspect's background, dissecting his life, who are his friends and associates back in Ohio?
In addition to interviews of those who know him, expect agents to conduct searches of his home, work place, and to exploit his computers and phones. They want to know if he has ties to organized hate groups, white supremacists or others.
And, George, while anyone who engaged in violence is wrong, the protesters and counterprotesters, the catalysts for the violence were the Klansmen, the Neo-Nazis, and the white supremacists who have a documented history of hate and violence.
This morning, there is a need to know if this movement is reemerging and gathering steam, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're going to have more on that, Pierre. And both of you stand by. I want to bring in our panel for more on this as well. Matthew Dowd, the president did not seem prepared for the magnitude of this moment.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not at all. I mean, first, the man and the movement need to be held totally strictly accountable. The guy that did this and the movement that he represented needs to be held accountable on this.
But to sort of step back and reflect a moment on this, everybody at this table's family, and individuals, and their ancestors, have in some way been harmed by white supremacists over the years, whether it's Latinos, people of Jewish ancestry, women, Irish Catholics, Greeks, they've all been it.
But even more so, I went to the American -- the new American History Museum of the American Revolution in Philly on Friday. And they have -- it's a beautiful place. And they have Washington's tent that he lived in, basically, operated out of for five years. And if you thing about moments in our history, we haven't always honored that sacrifice that has been done by people. We have interred Japanese. It took us a hundred years before we banned slavery in our country. It took us another 100 years before we dealt with civil rights. Women didn't get their right to vote for 150 years.
And even more so, I think, when you think about this, who shares responsibility in this? Who shares responsibility? It's not the only man, it's not only the movement, but anybody that points their fingers at Mexicans and Muslims shares responsibility.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president has to share responsibility. The fact is, is that through that campaign, he blew all kind of whistles that those of us who grew up in the Jim Crow South, like I did, recognized immediately. It was just calling out to these white supremacists who then felt empowered by it, and the president now not calling them out -- you know, he should listen to Nikki Haley, his now UN ambassador. She's the person who started bringing down Confederate monuments. And she did it so graciously and exactly the right tone after the killings of Mother Emmanuel Church.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To the point of those emboldened by the president's words, David Duke on Friday night. Alex Castellanos. Here's what he said. We're determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump.
The president can't seem to find the words to denounce this.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: There are times this president seems to tripe over his own ego that he is -- and doesn't do what he, I think, knows is the right thing and the politically popular thing, just because the media and his adversaries expect him to do it. I hope what he was talking about here, about the -- others have been involved in this, was something larger. And I hope it's that -- in our celebration of multiculturalism in this country, we have lost the idea of American culture. We've lost the idea of citizenship, the idea that there are big things and shared values that unite us.
And in that sense, yes, I think we're all responsible for a country that looks at what divides us, pits us against each other as opposed to the big things that bring us together. I hope that's where Trump was going.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it starts with the condemnation of those causing the violence.
And Ben Rhodes, you worked with President Obama. We saw a rare tweet from him yesterday, Nelson Mandela.
BEN RHODES, FMR. OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Well -- and George, look, all of us who have worked the White House know that these are critical moments. I think of President Obama going down to Charleston after a white supremacist killing. President Clinton, Oklahoma City, President Bush after 9/11. You know, this is a living office. And what we saw yesterday really is a president surrendering the moral authority of the office of the president of the United States. And I think there are huge costs to that for the nation, because people look to a president to put these events in context and to bring people together and he did the opposite.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cecilia Vega, let me bring you back in on that point. When I was talking to H.R. McMaster -- we're going to have most of his interview coming up later, but he did, at least, call out the act of the driver, an act of domestic terrorism.
It doesn't appear yet that the president is prepared to clarify in a way that his critics would hear.
VEGA: No, I mean, and the clarification that the White House offered doesn't offer clarification, if you will. And you mentioned at the top of the show, George, that tweet that the president had very early this morning, in the middle of the night. I mean, frankly bizarre. He said he sent his best regards to all those injured and condolences to the family of the young woman killed today.
Let's just go back a few months to when President Trump was harshly and roundly criticized for delaying his rebuke of David Duke. And he was asked point blank, do you denounce David Duke? And it took him a long time to come around and finally offer that.
You know, I think people want to hear a president in this case emboldened and say these words. He hasn't yet. You heard Joe Biden tweet directly there is one side on this; there are not many sides. So we potentially may have a press conference tomorrow. And you can bet if that happens, George, this will be front and center in those questions that get asked to the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Likely to be the first question.
Pierre Thomas, you know, we have seen a rise in hate crimes being documented by the Justice department Over this last year.
THOMAS: George, while the country has made great progress in terms of race, racism remains a disease that plagues this country. It's like cancer. Even when it's in remission, it's still a threat. Since 2000, we've seen a 52 percent increase in the number of hate groups. There were 602 hate groups in 200; there now 917 according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
So this is a really significant issue that always is lurking in the background ready to explode.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cokie Roberts, one of the things we're going to learn here is can the president learn from his mistakes?
ROBERTS: Well, we haven't seen that the past. And the question is whether he can do it in the future.
But this is also a really watershed moment for the Justice Department. Because it's not just categorizing these hate crimes. Jeff Sessions has gone backwards on a lot of things having to do with race. Taking a look at the Obama federal investigations of how police treat people of color. He's saying let's not do that anymore. Let's keep voting rights suppressed. He's doing a lot of things that send signals to these white supremacists.
DOWD: I've learned a lot in life and in politics that usually the first response of what somebody does is usually what they mean. Right? And in the course of this, the president's first response on many things is what he really means. Ban Muslims. And whatever he happens to do.
I think when you step back from this, they're going to clean this up. They're going to attempt to clean this up. But we already know where the president really is on this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Birtherism is how he launched this.
DOWD: You cannot celebrate and reap the profits of the hunger games and then step back and say, how did that happen? And that's just what's happening right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to have you all back later in the program.
But we get more on this now from Anthony Scaramucci. If all had gone as planned, he would have been advising the president yesterday as White House communications director. Instead, he was out after just 11 days on the job.
SCARAMUCCI: Here's what I will tell you, OK? I love the president.
We're going to stop the leaks. And if we don't stop the leaks, I'm going stop you. It's just really that simple.
I'm Wall Street guy. And I'm more of a front-stabbing person, and I would rather tell people directly how I feel about them.
If Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker let him do that. Reince is a (EXPLETIVE) paranoid schizophrenic, paranoiac.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting Anthony Scaramucci in that job was like throwing a grenade in an ongoing civil war in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, standing in the pouring rain, President Trump announced that Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, is out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an ABC News Special Report.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ABC News has learned that Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director who just started ten days ago, is now leaving.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Anthony Scaramucci is right here, right now. Thank you for coming on THIS WEEK. First interview since you left the White House.
And I have to start with the president's statement yesterday. If you were White House communications director yesterday, would you have advised him to give that statement?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I wouldn't have recommended that statement. I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that. I applaud General McMaster for calling it out for what it is. It's actually terrorism. Whether it's domestic or international terrorism, with the moral authority of the presidency, you have to call that stuff out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the question is why didn't the president do that? You know him well.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think Alex mentioned one of the reasons he doesn't like doing that, he likes doing the opposite of what the media thinks he's going to do. I think he's also of the impression that there is hatred on all sides.
But I disagree with it. And so -- but here's the thing. Whether I was the White House communications director or not, I don't think you're going change the president. The president's going to do what he wants to do, how he wants to do it.
But I think it's important for the people around him, George, to give them direct advice. To be blunt with him. I think he respects bluntness and he respects candor. And I certainly would have never suggested him doing that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there anyone in the White House who said, boy, you just made a real mistake there?
SCARAMUCCI: I think people are probably reluctant to tell him the truth. Maybe Ivanka would do that. You saw her tweet this morning. Maybe Jared would do that.
But you also got this sort of Bannon-bart influence in there, which I think is a snag on the president. If the president really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people, the lower-middle class people and the middle class people, then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mean Bannon and Breitbart? Steve Bannon.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. The whole thing is nonsensical. It's not serving the president's interests. He's got to move more into the mainstream, he's got to be more into where the moderates are and the independents are, George, that love the president. And so if he does that, he'll have a very successful legislative agenda that he'll be able to execute. And if he doesn't do that, you're going to see inertia and you're going to see this resistance from more of the establishment senators that he needs to curry favor with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have been tough on Steve Bannon, does he have to go?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think the president knows what he's going to do with Steve Bannon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which is what?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's leave it up to the president. It's his decision. But I mean, at the end of the day, I think the president has a very good idea of who the leakers are inside the White House. The president has a very good idea of the people that are undermining his agenda that are serving their own interests.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They include Steve Bannon?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, yes. Look, I mean, we're not on a phone call, and a taped phone call. And so we're on live television, and so I would prefer to let the president make the decisions that the president needs to make.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned that taped phone call. That may have been what got you fired from the White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's show everybody what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: I'm not Steve Bannon. I'm not trying to (EXPLETIVE). I'm not trying to build my own brand off the (EXPLETIVE) of the president. And Reince is (EXPLETIVE) paranoid schizophrenic, paranoiac. What is he going to do. He's oh, maybe Bill Shine's coming in, let me leak (EXPLETIVE) and see if I can (EXPLETIVE) these people the way I (EXPLETIVE) Scaramucci for six months.
OK, the Mooch showed up the a week ago. This is going to get cleaned up very shortly. OK, because I nailed these guys. I got digital fingerprints on everything that they've done through the FBI. And (EXPLETIVE) Department of Justice.
RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": What such things?
SCARAMUCCI: Oh, well, the felony. They're going to get prosecuted, probably for the felony, they'll probably get prosecuted for that.
LIZZA: OK. Wow.
SCARAMUCCI: Yes. The lie detector --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course that was your conversation with Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker".
SCARAMUCCI: Which, fort he record, I thought was off the record.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you didn't ask for it to be off the record.
SCARAMUCCI: I understand that but this is the reason why the media gets a bad shake from the American people. That was a very deceitful thing that he did. He knows, based on my prior relationship with him --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Lot of reporters tape phone calls.
SCARAMUCCI: George, I didn't say I didn't do the wrong thing. I want to be totally accountable for what I did, and obviously I paid the consequences of having that sort of conversation with him.
But you know and I know that there are personal relationships. Howie Kurtz mentioned it on "Media Buzz" last week. He didn't need to do that to me. He knows he didn't need to --
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he didn't have any personal relationship with you until he met you in the green room earlier this year.
SCARAMUCCI: OK, that's a little bit of a stretch. Because we did have conversations. His family knew my family for 50 years. That's a little bit of a stretch.
But we don't need to debate that anymore. That's past news. I made a mistake. I'm accountable for the mistake. I paid the consequences of that mistake. And, you know, I was honorably dismissed. And I took it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of reports said the president's initial reaction to the phone call wasn't all that harsh. He was kind of amused by it and actually liked a lot of it.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I got to let the president speak for that. But I think you have to understand something -- there were probably one or two people that wanted me in that job. The president being one of them. And there were probably 200 people that didn't want me in that job.
And so you know Washington as well as I know Washington. The odds were stacked against me in the job. And so, there were leaks and there was a repetitive process to try to dislodge me. I made an unforced error. That made it easy to dismiss me. And so, like I said, I accept it. What I did was wrong. But we have to move on.
And I think the agenda the American people want is middle class and lower income tax relief. I think they want the opportunity to see their wages grow. And I think the president stands for that. And I think we have to put all of ourselves below that agenda. That agenda supersedes everybody else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were pretty loyal to the president. Did he even call you to let you know?
SCARAMUCCI: I talked to the president this week. We had a very candid conversation. You know, listen, there is probably mutual disappointment on both sides. Again, I have to be accountable for what I did. And I am.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think you deserve to be fired for that?
SCARAMUCCI: Do I think I deserve be fired? Well, obviously, I wish they would have given me a bar of soap and told me to go wash my mouth out in the bathroom and move on. I don't necessarily think -- it was going to be very hard to stay in the job given the fact that General Kelly took over. And so I respect General Kelly, and so my feeling about the whole thing is that -- what happens was sort of meant to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A couple specific things in that phone call I want to follow up on. You talked about those digital fingerprints you got from the FBI and the DOJ. What are you talking about?
SCARAMUCCI: That was -- that was totally misconstrued. And --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you make it up?
SCARAMUCCI: No, all I was trying to say is that in the process, and I think Attorney General Sessions had said this, and he also displayed that in his press briefings -- he said, over time, if the leaking continued, particularly the leaking that was against a national --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you didn't have digital fingerprints of people?
SCARAMUCCI: No, no, no. I was just implying that, at some point, the Department of Justice would be able to figure out who the leakers are inside the national security system that are actually doing things that are against the law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, ,but you have not received anything. Because that would have been a felony from the person who gave it to you.
SCARAMUCCI: No, no, no. I didn't receive anything. No, we were -- again, I thought that was an off-the-record conversation with somebody. It turned out that it wasn't. I own it. And let's move on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also, in that phone conversation, talked about Vice President Pence. And you were asked about his bringing in his political operative, Nick Ayers, to run his operation. And you told Ryan Lizza, Nick is there to protect the VP because the VP can't believe what the eff is going on.
SCARAMUCCI: Yeah, OK, so let's talk about that, because that's also been misconstrued. You have to remember what Ryan Lizza did with his article. He wrote the article like I was unhinged and overly emotional and bombastic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it was your words, though, I mean...
SCARAMUCCI: OK, but when you hear the tape, it's a very normal conversation. So, the words were mischaracterized in the original article. He's mischaracterizing again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's not misquoting you, though?
SCARAMUCCI: He's not misquoting me, but he is mischaracterizing, because you know...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just put the words out there.
SCARAMUCCI: OK, but George, there's a lot of difference between the lip and cup of substance and style, OK. The way we're talking right now is actually the way I was talking to him. I thought it was off the record....
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's what -- I what to talk about the substance here, so what did you mean by the vice president can't believe what the "F" is going on?
SCARAMUCCI: What I meant by that is that he needed -- in my opinion, he needed to fortify himself with somebody as talented as Nick Ayers so that the vice president is an extremely loyal guy. I'm a huge fan of the vice president. I wasn't recommending in that conversation that this was a breach or any daylight between the president and the vice president. I'm a huge supporter of Vice President Pence and Nick Ayers.
And all I meant was that Nick Ayers is a very strong political player. He was going to be in there to protect the vice president.
What do I mean by that? The vice president wants to stay loyal to the president's agenda and to the president and his family, and Nick is a very smart, sophisticated strategist that will help him do that. There's nothing more to it than that, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it sounds like, and from your characterization now, that you really think this White House is something of a hornet's nets right now. You talk about leakers. You talk people inside the White House who are there to protect the country from President Trump. Who did you have in mind there?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think that, listen, I mean, you could agree with me or disagree with me, even the president could disagree with me. But I think what happens in Washington, this is any general observation, is the president is not a representative of the political establishment class. And so for whatever reason, people have made a decision that they want to eject him. It's almost like he's opened up the door now for America's CEOs and America's billionaires to enter the Washington political system.
The members of that political class do not like that, and it's not just an opening for President Trump, but it could be for a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bob Iger.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, he's fighting an enemy within the White House?
SCARAMUCCI: I think that there are elements inside of Washington, also inclusive in the White House, that are not necessarily abetting the president's interests or his agenda. I absolutely believe that, yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Name names.
SCARAMUCCI: Well, I named some names. And there has been some strategic changes. And my guess is there will be more strategic changes. I think the president is getting his arms around the fact that if he wants to prosecute his agenda, he has got to bring in loyalists to him, and he's got to bring in, I think, a different strategy than the one they've been deploying, because you've got seven months now, he's done a tremendous amount. I think he's done way better in terms of progress as president than has been prominently displayed. And you know, one of my heartbreaks is I wasn't able to effectively communicate that to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Reince Priebus is out. Sean Spicer is out. You think, it appears, that Steve Bannon is going to be out as well. You are out as well. That's led a lot of people, including Roger Stone, to characterize you as a political suicide bomber.
SCARAMUCCI: Yeah, I heard that, yeah.
Listen, I saw it more as like Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction. You know, I really did get a directive from the president. I had a mutual understanding with him. And I was probably running too hard and acting more like a corporate CEO than I was say a political operative, and that is my mistake. And I have to own that.
But, you know, listen, I have embraced the agenda. I grew up in a middle class family. I grew up in a working class neighborhood. I see the economic desperation and struggle of those people. The president has appropriately identified that. The reason why he won the presidency is that he wants his agenda to include and to lift up those people, George. And so for me, I was -- I went in there with my heart and soul.
I'm a straight-talking person. Did I make mistakes, absolutely. But I enjoy being a straight-upguy today and in the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things you advised President Trump against was firing Robert Mueller. Robert Mueller's investigation now a real threat to this White House. Just a report in the New York Times this morning that he's reaching in to the White House for interviews with White House, current and former White House staffers.
SCARAMUCCI: I predict he will not find anything related to President Trump or his family as it relates to the Russia situation.
STEPHANOPOULOS; Was it a hard sell to convince the president not to fire Robert Mueller?
SCARAMUCCI: Not at all. I don't think he has any intention -- I mean, I don't know, but I'm just...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you talked to him about it.
SCARAMUCCI: I don't think he has any intention of firing Robert Mueller.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But when you were talking to him about it, he was musing about that. He was saying, boy, I think about it. You said you advised him against it.
SCARAMUCCI: I -- I don't think so. I think he's just -- again, he's a -- he's a pretty much -- one of the things the American people like about President Trump, he's pretty much an open book. I think the Twitter experience has exposed that, that he has an open book heart on his sleeve nature. I don't think he wants to fire Robert Mueller. And I think he's very confident that Robert Mueller is not going to find anything related to him or his family or people in his inner circle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He also told you though that it wasn't the Russians, the Russians didn't get the interference, because if they did, we wouldn't have known about it. And I think, you know, one of the thing a lot of people wonder about -- they saw the president this week refuse to criticize Vladimir Putin. They saw how tough he was -- tougher on Mitch McConnell than he was on Vladimir Putin. They saw him yesterday not call out the white supremacists.
How do you explain that reluctance, especially on Vladimir Putin? Why does he refuse to criticize Vladimir Putin?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I -- again, this is my observation over 18 months working pretty closely in the campaign and then the few days I had in the administration. I think the president's attitude is that he wants to have a good relationship with Vladimir Putin. A real reset to him would be to make that relationship friendlier, less hostile, and find common interests. And so some of the members of the media don't want him to do that, but I think those are his instincts. And my guess is it will go directionally in a positive way with the Russian government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like he's making excuses for Vladimir Putin.
SCARAMUCCI: See, I don't see it that way. I see it as a strong CEO that's now the American president that's making counterintuitive decisions that may not be liked by the members of the media, but may be in the best interests of the people of the United States. And so I don't have an issue with that.
I think with Senator McConnell, I think it's a different story there. I think all he's basically trying to say to the senator is we've got to all get on side. We have to row the boat directionally in the same way. We want to get some huge legislative victories. The health care reform as an example. The tax relief and tax reform is another example of that. And we've got to row the boat directionally in the same way.
And so I think he's just -- it's almost like a football coach talking to one of the players on the team. And the president is a -- you know, he can be a tough coach at times. But I'll tell you what, the Republicans should be very happy that he's on their team because this guy's a winner.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Anthony Scaramucci, thanks for your time.
SCARAMUCCI: It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mr. Scaramucci will take your questions live. Head to the ABC News Facebook page this morning for more on that.
When we come back, the escalating tensions with North Korea. Martha Raddatz reports live from the border from that reclusive nation. We're going to ask President Trump's national security adviser what the U.S. is going to do next.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: The latest on that North Korean nuclear threat. All week long, President Trump has ratcheted up the rhetoric. From "fire and fury" to "locked and loaded".
Kim Jong-Un has responded in kind with threats of new missile testing aimed at Guam. And as the tensions escalate, our chief global affairs anchor Martha Raddatz is on the front lines of a possible war reporting from Seoul, South Korea. Good morning, Martha.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR: Good morning, George. In the past week, there has been a doubling, even tripling down on the threatening rhetoric President Trump has been launching at Kim Jong-Un. And the North Korean regime has verbally fired back with threats that, if acted on, could begin a horrific cycle of violence.
RADDATZ (on camera): This morning, a 35-mile trip to the border, to the demilitarized zone where some 14,000 North Korean artillery pieces point toward South Korea's capital. A direct threat to the 26 million people who live in Seoul.
(voice-over): Whenever there are visitors to the DMZ, soldiers stand guard, soldiers from the U.S. and from South Korea. We're of course on the South Korean said. But where that gravel ends and the sand begins, that's North Korea.
(voice-over): Lieutenant Commander Daniel McShane (ph) has been at this remote site for four and a half years. Like the nearly 30,000 U.S. forces elsewhere in South Korea, he says they are always ready.
LT. COMMANDER DANIEL MCSHANE: The rhetoric heat is probably more than I've seen personally.
RADDATZ: It is more than anyone has ever seen from a U.S. president.
TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
TRUMP: If anything happens to Guam, there's going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.
RADDATZ: It was Wednesday that Kim's regime threatened to send four missiles to the waters off Guam and called President Trump's threats nonsense. This bellicose tit for tat is fraying nerves in the region. With Kim Jong-Un believed to have miniaturized a nuclear weapon now, many are urging restraint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump came up with the wording of fire and fury. Which is why we are so much concerned.
RADDATZ (on camera): Which is not what President Moon want.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course he doesn't want, and Korean people want either. It's a chicken game. But I think that what is needed right now is mutual self-restraint.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Moon Jung-In is a top adviser to the new president of South Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are very much confused. Therefore, we think that now the American development has moved from strategic patience of Obama administration into strategic confusion.
RADDATZ: But what seems clear is that while the U.S. military continues to flex its military muscle here and touts its readiness to fight tonight, there are no new ships being sent to the region, no mobilization of additional forces to back up the president's fiery warnings.
But after years of essentially punting the North Korea nuclear problem, the danger that country now poses is undeniable, and it will now be up to President Trump to decide how to handle it once and for all, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha Raddatz, thanks. We’re going to bring in now the president’s National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster.
General McMaster, thanks for joining us this morning.
I want to get to North Korea in a second. But first, there’s been so much fallout to the president’s comments yesterday about Charlottesville, including this from Richard Haass, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. He says the U.S. ability to persuade other governments to fight terrorism diminished when POTUS fails to call it out and take it out at home. The example we set matters.
How do you respond to that criticism?
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, the president’s been very clear. We cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry, this kind of hatred. And what he did is he called on all Americans to take a firm stand against it.
This is a great opportunity for us to ask ourselves what are we teaching our children? Tolerance has to overcome this kind of hatred, this kind of hatred that is grounded, really, in ignorance. Ignorance of our values and what makes us unique as Americans. Our commitment to each other, our commitment to freedom, liberty, tolerance, and rights for all of us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but sir, but he didn’t call out the white supremacists responsible for the violence.
You know, when it comes to radical Islamist terrorism, the president says you can’t solve the problem if you don’t say the name. Doesn’t that hold true for domestic terrorism as well?
MCMASTER: What the president did is he called out anyone, anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism, and violence. And I think the president was very clear on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that seems to be suggesting moral equivalence.
MCMASTER: I’m sorry?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That seemed to be suggesting moral equivalence between those who started the violence and those who are protesting.
MCMASTER: Maybe -- maybe -- maybe to you, George, but not to me. I think the president was very clear, and so was the attorney general in his statement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s move on now to North Korea. Probably closer to war now than we were a week ago?
MCMASTER: No, I don’t think so. And I don’t -- I think we’re not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago. And as Dr. Kissinger made clear in a great op-ed this weekend, this has been a problem that we’ve procrastinated on for a long period of time. And now it’s coming to a head, where the threat from North Korea not only to the United States but the world is very, very clear. And it demands a concerted effort by the United States, but with our allies and with all responsible nations.
And this is what you’re seeing the president do, is bring together all nations, all nations to bear on this problem. And I think notably you had the U.N. Security Council resolution 15-0 this past week. Great work by our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and our ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.
But what’s clear now is our interests are aligned with all responsible nations. And it’s time for all nations, including China, Russia, as well as our close allies, Japan and South Korea, to work together toward a common goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you say to the president’s critics who say his rhetoric was just too hot this week? He went too far.
MCMASTER: Well, the president made clear -- he made clear that the United States will not tolerate our citizens or our allies being threatened by this rogue regime. And I think there’s a much greater danger if there were -- if there were to be any kind of degree of ambiguity in connection with the kind of response that Kim Jong-Un could expect if he were to threaten the United States or our allies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But there did seem to be ambiguity in the president’s statement. His "fire and fury" statement was -- he said they would be met by fire and fury if there were new threats from North Korea. There are new threats from North Korea every single day. They’ve already crossed that line.
MCMASTER: Yes, there certainly are. And what you see are -- is our response. Our response is we are prepared militarily to deal with this if necessary.
But we’re taking all possible actions short of military action to resolve this very grave threat to the United States and the world. And that includes a very, a very determined diplomatic effort led by our Secretary of State. And it also includes increasing sanctions, increasing pressure on the north, to convince Kim Jong-Un that this is not in his interest to continue this path of provocation and escalatory actions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear, threats alone will not provoke a U.S. military response, will they?
MCMASTER: Well, it depends on the nature of the threat, right? And so this is why what Kim Jong-Un is doing is very, very dangerous.
Now, of course, any response that we have, we do in close cooperation with our -- with our allies in the region. And as you know, we are -- we have been prepared. We have been prepared for any escalation on the Korean peninsula since the armistice in 1953.
So the difference between then and now is the danger is much greater and is growing every day, with every missile test, with the consideration of possibly a sixth nuclear test. And so what we can no longer do is afford to procrastinate, and President Trump has made it very clear he cannot tolerate, will not tolerate, a threat to the United States from North Korea involving nuclear weapons.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But your predecessor Susan Rice wrote this week that the U.S. could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way we tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union far more during the Cold War. Is she right?
MCMASTER: No, she’s not right. And I think the reason she’s not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea? A regime that engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people? A regime that poses a continuous threat to the its neighbors in the region and now may pose a threat, direct threat, to the United States with weapons of mass destruction? A regime that imprisons and murders anyone who seems to oppose that regime, including members of his own family, using sarin nerve gase (sic) -- gas in a public airport?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So we are locked and loaded?
MCMASTER: We’re -- we -- the United States military is locked and loaded every day, and especially those who are on the front lines of freedom, such as those that are stationed in South Korea and those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that are stationed in northeast Asia or rotate there.
So, as you know, we have tremendous military capabilities. We have a very high degree of readiness. And so the United states military is always locked and loaded.
But the purpose of capable, ready forces is to preserve peace and prevent war. And George Washington said it. The most effective way of preserving peace is to be prepared for war.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me talk about Venezuela. The president raised a lot of eyebrows on Friday when he said U.S. military intervention is on the table. Let’s look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. A military operation, a military option, is certainly something we could pursue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just last week you said this. I want to play that as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see a military intervention from any outside source?
MCMASTER: No, I don’t -- I don’t think so. I think what’s really required is for everyone to have one voice about the need to protect the rights and the safety of the Venezuelan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what changed? What would be the purpose of military intervention?
MCMASTER: Well, the president’s main focus is on the rights and safety of the Venezuelan people. And what’s moved the president in this last week is the escalation of the violence, the regime’s violence, these thugs, who operate in the name of Maduro, against the legitimate opposition to his new dictatorship. So he’s choking out democracy in Venezuela, but he’s also visiting violence on his own people. You know, he’s arresting mayors, opposition mayors in cities, and sentencing them to a year to 15 months in jail. You’ve seen what he just did recently with his attorney general, an extremely courageous woman.
And also you’ve seen what these thugs have been doing -- they’ve been sniping at kids, killing, murdering the protesters in the streets.
STEPHANOPOULOS: All of that is horrific, sir, I agree with you. But if -- you know, we have those kind of conditions in many countries. Is U.S. military intervention really on the table? What vital U.S. interest is at stake?
MCMASTER: Well, what’s critical in the path forward is to do everything we can, with our partners in the region -- and I’ll tell you, George, I think we are better aligned with our partners in Latin America than we’ve been in a long, long time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But are we considering military intervention?
MCMASTER: And so -- the president has asked us to look at what could happen next. What could happen in Venezuela? We want to -- to not only be able to cope with the current situation but understand better how this crisis might evolve. And when you look at contingencies, when you look at what if -- what if the suffering of the Venezuelan people increases by orders of magnitude, what more can we do with our partners in the region to protect the Venezuelan people and to -- to prevent an even greater humanitarian catastrophe?
So we -- the president never takes options off the table in any of these situations. And what we owe him are options. And so in -- what are we doing now? What we’re doing now is we’re working very closely with our partners in the region. You know, just last week, in Panama, 16 countries met in -- I’m sorry, in Peru. Sixteen countries met in Peru. They signed a very strong statement against Maduro and his extinguishing of democracy in Venezuela.
And so we’ll continue a series of actions against the Maduro regime which aim to strengthen the opposition and to reach out to those who are members of this oppressive regime to tell them it’s time to reconsider your actions and your support for this dictator.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, do you consider that car attack in Charlottesville yesterday an act of domestic terrorism?
MCMASTER: I certainly think any time that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism. It meets the definition of terrorism.
But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act, against fellow Americans. A criminal act that may have been motivated, and we’ll see what the -- what’s turned up in this investigation, by this hatred and bigotry which I mentioned we have to extinguish in our nation. And we have to do that by asking ourselves what are we teaching our children around the dinner table? What are we teaching our children in school? And we ought to be teaching them about what makes America exception, and that’s our commitment to the rights of every individual, liberty, freedom, respect for each other regardless of race, religion, and so forth.
So this is I think what we ought to all ask ourselves. And as we send our condolences out to the victims of this terrible violence, we ought to ask ourselves what more can all of us do?
STEPHANOPOULOS: We certainly should.
General McMaster, thanks for your time this morning.
MCMASTER: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be back with the Roundtable in just a minute.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're back with the Roundtable.
I want to bring in Ben Rhodes. You served on the National Security Council with President Obama. You just heard General McMaster right there. A couple of headlines, we're no closer to war with North Korea. He says there's no problem with the president's rhetoric. And he also said, and I think this ends up being the important line, we cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.
RHODES: Well, look the fact is, George, North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006. We do have to apply pressure to North Korea. There is a UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions. But we should not be manufacturing a crisis, which is what President Trump did with his words.
And, look, what's clear to me is those words were not coordinated with our allies, Japan and South Korea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no strategy there.
RHODES: No. Not only is there no strategy, but it's dangerous. Let's be very clear a war with North Korea would likely take hundreds of thousands of lives, including tens of thousands of Americans who are serving and living in South Korea. And the fact is by making those threats to North Korea, what happens if the North Koreans misread U.S. military movement in the region and respond? What happens if there's a North Korean provocation and we're out over our skis because of President Trump's rhetoric and suddenly we're escalating? This is a very dangerous situation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Alex, you know, we were told that General Kelly was going to make a big difference in the White House, but the first thing he even concedes he probably can't manage is the president himself. You wonder what General Kelly is thinking when the president brings up firing and fury without apparently running it by his national security advisers, even though he had used the words in the past. When he brings up the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela.
CASTELLANOS: Looks like on a Friday afternoon you have nothing else. Oh, we've got 10 minutes, let's declare war on Venezuela.
I think General Kelly you saw -- well, they made the explanation, yes, this was a coordinated message from the White House, and immediately thereafter Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to explain, no, but this is the boss. This is his voice. So, I think the boss is the one who gets the credit for everything in this White House.
But in a strange way, though, this is Donald Trump. We can't, again, take him literally but take him seriously. This is Donald Trump, an embrace and a threat at the same time. The truth is somewhere in the middle. It's never in the extreme. In many ways, I think situation is ready to deescalate at this point because Trump -- because, because -- Kim Jong-Un has gotten what he wanted. He's got America validating the threat that keeps Kim Jong-Un in power, so maybe now I think that this...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Unless we're serious about no nuclear weapons in North Korea.
ROBERTS: That's right. That, which would be, then what do you do? How do you get them out of there, all of that?
And you know, really, going back and listening -- and I've listened to all of the tapes around the Cuban Missile Crisis. And Jack Kennedy, this young president that nobody trusted, is really saying to all of his military and congressional advisers, we're not going to do that. We're not going to declare war and going into Cuba. And they're saying, you're being chicken. We need to do this. Even Bill Fulbright, who ended up being the big dove in Vietnam saying we got to get in there, Mr. President.
It's usually the president who has the big picture and calms everybody down, whether it's Truman firing MacArthur and saying we're not going to have a land war in Asia. Or Eisenhower saying we're not going to send troops to Vietnam. It's the president who does that. The president does...
CASTELLANOS: ...history of being a non-interventionist.
DOWD: But Kennedy learned from the mistakes of Bay of Pigs, right. So, he actually changed his own mistakes he made in the Bay of Pigs and then he conducted a Cuban Missile Crisis different.
I think we have to dispense with the fiction and come up with a different foreign policy -- the fiction that we are somehow going to stop North Korea from getting a nuclear weapon. We ought to just dispense with that fiction. And we ought to conduct -- to deal with them just like the same way we deal with Pakistan. We were going to stop Pakistan. Pakistan got a nuclear weapon, and now we have a foreign policy that is surrounded by deterrence and containment.
We finally have to do that.
The other part of this is...
ROBERTS: ...World War II.
DOWD: Let's remember, we helped create this problem. It was 1945 when we arbitrarily drew a line between North Korea and South Korea, just like we arbitrarily drew lines in the aftermath of World War I and faced 100 years of problems in the Middle East, we have to figure out -- instead of us imposing on North Korea and South Korea, we have to figure out a way that they lead on this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can we deescalate?
RHODES: Look, I think we can. I think insisting that they give up their nuclear weapons is not a policy that is going to work in any kind of near term. I think we do need to reach a diplomatic agreement where we're at least imposing some type of freeze on their nuclear program and missile program in response for some degree of sanctions relief.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that requires China.
RHODES: That requires China.
And the fact is, this is why the words of the president of the United States matter. Look, when he threatened war with Venezuela, the next day, the same leaders Latin American leaders that H.R. McMaster were saying are so important solving the problem had to condemn that statement by President Trump. It breathed life into Maduro, just like in North Korea...
CASTELLANOS: That's a losing hand of cards.
RHODES: He's creating destabilizing situation with the very countries we have to work with -- China, South Korea and Japan who don't like this rhetoric.
CASTELLANOS: You're betting millions of lives on the stability of Kim Jong-Un?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the last word right there.
RHODES: Or the stability of Donald Trump.
ROBERTS: Right, both.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA".
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