— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on January 15, 2017 and it will be updated.
ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I won. I mean, I became president.
ANNOUNCER: Just five days to the inauguration and the transition of power, the president-elect not pulling punches.
TRUMP: Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.
ANNOUNCER: Feuding with a civil rights icon.
SEN. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: I don't plan to attend the inauguration.
ANNOUNCER: Clashing with the intelligence community.
TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful disgraceful, disgraceful.
ANNOUNCER: And sparring with the media.
TRUMP: I'm not going to give you a question.
ANNOUNCER: Plus, as his cabinet picks get grilled on the hill.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson.
ANNOUNCER: Trump out with his plan to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
TRUMP: Don and Eric are going to be running the company.
ANNOUNCER: Does it go far enough? Questions ahead for Trump's incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
House oversight committee chair, representative Jason Chaffetz.
And what's the opposition's next move? We're one on one with Senator Bernie Sanders.
From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Good morning. Just five days now before Donald Trump becomes president of the United States after the most intense week yet of this transition.
It began with an early Monday morning tweet taking on Meryl Streep. By Saturday morning, the target was civil rights legend John Lewis. In between, the president-elect sparred with the press, said intelligence officials were acting like Nazis, called Hillary Clinton guilty as hell, counterpunching just like in the campaign.
On Capitol Hill, Trump's cabinet nominees more conciliatory, soothing senators and smoothing
their way to confirmation by breaking with their boss on issue after isssue.
Trump took it in stride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want them to be themselves, and I told them, be yourselves and say what you want to say. Don't worry about me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What may worry Trump, the latest Gallup poll. It shows just 44 percent of Americans approve of how he's handling the transition, almost 40 points below President
Obama was before his first inauguration. Even George W. Bush after that bitterly contested 2000 election was at 61 percent.
And it was Congressman Lewis who gave voice to those hard feelings of many Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: It's going to be very difficult. I don't see the president-elect as a legitimate president. I don't plan to attend the inauguration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Drawing that Saturday attack from Trump. Here's what he said, "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not the mention crime-infested.
Rather than falsely complaining about the election results, all talk, talk, talk, no actions or results. Sad.
And with that, let me bring in Senator Bernie Sanders, our first guest this morning. Senator Sanders, thank you for joining me this morning.
You know, Congressman Lewis has now join been joined by Senator Cory Booker who has also said anyone who attacks Representative John Lewis loses legitimacy in my eyes, especially someone who made such a craven effort to delegitimize Barack Obama. Are John Lewis and Cory Booker right to say that Donald Trump won't be a legitimate president?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: Well, what Cory Booker and John Lewis are right about is to talk about the racist past of Donald Trump.
We all remember that Trump was one of the leaders of the so-called birther movement trying to delegitimize the presidency of our first African-American president Barack Obama, which is an outrage.
So, I think right now, the focus has got to be on how we hold Trump accountable. What has been doing in the last week, attacking Hollywood actresses for criticizing him, I mean what would is this guy living in?
But right now what my job is, and I think the job of Democrats and Republicans, is to protect the middle class and working families of this country from some devastating ideas that Trump has proposed.
You will remember, George...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think Donald Trump will be a legitimate president?
SANDERS: Well, I think he's going to be inaugurated this week. I have great concerns, and apparently Republicans do as well, and there's going to be an investigation about the role that Russian hacking played in getting him elected.
Do I think Russians supported him? Do I think they tried to get him elected? Do I think it worked against Clinton? I do. And that is something that has to be investigated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that make him illegitimate?
SANDERS: But right now, what my job is -- pardon me? Those are just words. Right now, what my -- my job is right now going beyond media conflicts and words is to say that Donald Trump, among other things, told the American people he would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and right now Republicans in the House and Senate are doing just that.
So, I want Trump to send out a tweet saying that he's going to keep his campaign promises. He's not going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Right now, today, all across this country there are going to be rallies led by Democrats and others to fight against the devastating impact of repeal of the Affordable Care Act. 20 million people thrown off of health insurance, prescription drug prices raising for seniors, privatization of Medicare: devastation. And we've got to fight back against that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you stop it, though? I mean, President Obama told me last week that he thinks Obamacare is going to survive. But repeal can pass simply with Republican votes.
SANDERS: Well, I think what has to happen -- look, nobody thinks that Obamacare is perfect. It has its problems. But every American has got to recognize, we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people. We pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs because the pharmacy, the pharmaceutical industry is out of control ripping us off.
So, what sensible people have got to do is not simply repeal the Affordable Care Act without any alternative, but you've got to sit down and say it's OK, what are the problems. How do we address it? How do we move to universal health care? How do we lower prescription drug costs? How do we make sure that people don't have outrageous deductibles? You just don't throw 20 million people off of health insurance. You don't privatize Medicare.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if that repeal happens within the real world, if that repeal happens, will you and other Democrats support piecemeal, step by step reforms, then, to put back some of the protections that were included in Obamacare?
SANDERS: Look, it goes without saying that it would be totally -- and by the way, George, the vast majority of the American people agree with me and many others. You don't simply repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. Republicans have had six years to come up with a replacement. They got nothing.
So sensible people have got to work together.
But to answer your question, do we do away with protecting of the American people with pre -- to make sure that if you have an illness you can get insurance? Do we make sure that young people stay on their parents' health insurance? Do we make sure that there are no caps if you're dealing with cancer and you deal with preexisting conditions? It goes without saying that those patient protections have got to stay in place.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And let me go back to this Russia issue, which you've talked about at the beginning. A lot of Democrats are disturbed with the FBI Director James Comey, especially after he came up and briefings this week refused to answers questions about whether he's investigating possible contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Some think he should even step down. Do you?
SANDERS: I think that Comey acted in an outrageous way during the campaign. And, you know, no one can say that this was the decisive and this was what elected Trump, but clearly his behavior during the campaign in terms of what he said in the week or two before the election was unacceptable. And it is interesting that he is not doing investigations about the possible -- possible ties between Trump's campaign and the Russians.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should he step down?
SANDERS: I think he should take a hard look at what he has done. And I think it would not be a bad thing for the American people if he did step down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, are you going to attend the inauguration this week?
SANDERS: Pardon me?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going to attend the inauguration this week?
SANDERS: Yeah, I will. Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, I know you're on your way to a rally. I know you're on your way to a rally. You're at the airport right now. Thanks for joining us this morning.
SANDERS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now we are joined by the incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Mr. Priebus, thanks for joining us again this morning.
REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Good morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the president-elect has stirred up quite a firestorm with his latest tweet. Was this the right fight for him to pick?
PRIEBUS: Well, look, here's the issue -- I and we look up to John Lewis and his historic contribution to civil rights.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the president-elect said he was all talk, no action.
PRIEBUS: But -- let me answer -- but here's the problem, we need folks like John Lewis and others who, I think, have been champions of voter rights, to actually recognize the fact that Donald Trump was duly elected. He's going to put his hand on the bible in five days. And I think it's incredibly disappointing, and I think it's irresponsible for people like himself to question the legitimacy of the next United States president. I think putting the United States down across the world is not something that a responsible person does.
And so look, I think, in fact, I think President Obama could step up. We have had a great relationship with the White House, George. We just had every cabinet person designee of ours meet with the cabinet members of the Obama administration on Friday. I've met numerous times with Denis McDonough, they've been nothing but helpful.
So, I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on their side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democrat side, but it's time to come together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn't it harder to do after a tweet like that from the president-elect?
PRIEBUS: ..questioning the -- well, wait a sec, but George, hang on. John Lewis stood up and said in an interview that Donald Trump was not a legitimate president. It's insanity. And it's wrong. And DNI director Clapper said as much many, many times, that there is no evidence that any outcome of the election was changed.
President-elect Trump won 30 of 50 states, more counties since Ronald Reagan. This man won in an electoral landslide. And to question the legitimacy of the next United States president, you know, and you're worried about a tweet that says, hey, why don't you get back to work instead of questioning my legitimacy? Too bad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just had Senator Sanders on the program, he did not question the legitimacy of the president-elect. He said he is going to attend the inauguration, but he did say it was right to bring up questions like this because of Donald Trump's past and questioning the legitimacy of
Barack Obama with those years and years of the questions of where he was born.
PRIEBUS: Donald Trump has made it clear that certainly over the last few years that President Obama was born in Hawaii. But the point is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not until the end of the campaign.
PRIEBUS: But hang on a second, George, we're not questioning the legitimacy of the outcome of the election. You didn't have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008.
For a person that is a champion of voter rights to question whether or not Donald Trump legitimately won an election or not is an incredible position to take five days before an inauguration. And so...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some Democrats have made that -- some Democrats have made that -- including David Axelrod have made that point at all, but it is a fact that Donald Trump was questioning whether President Obama was eligible to serve as a president under the constitution?
PRIEBUS: And many people were, George. But that issue has been resolved for years now, and it's been resolved for at least two years in Donald Trump's mind. And to bring that up as justification for John Lewis questioning the legitimacy of a democratic activity that is -- has been around since the beginning of our country is wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Just a factual point, he didn't stop raising those questions -- he didn't stop raising those questions until late in this campaign, not two years.
PRIEBUS: But look, George, that's not the point. The point is not where Barack Obama was born, the point is is that we've got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump who won in an electoral landslide. That's the issue. That's where the outrage should be, not old news, but the fact that we are preparing for the transfer of power. and we have been working with President Obama, hand in glove, and I think that they -- including the president -- should step up and get his people in line and tell them to grow up and accept the fact that
they lost the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to the issue of Russia.
The president-elect in The Wall Street Journal" saying yesterday he would consider lifting the
sanctions on Russia in the future depending on how they deal with the threat against ISIS, that seems to be at odds with what his nominees were saying up on Capitol Hill this week.
You had James Mattis, Pentagon nominee, saying Russia is the number one threat and say he wants to come up with a strategy to confront Russia for what it did. Mike Pompeo, CIA nominee saying Russia is doing nothing to defeat ISIS. And Rex Tillerson, secretary of state nominee, saying that now is not the time to talk about lifting sanctions.
So, that seems to be quite a gulf between the president-elect and his team.
PRIEBUS: Right, but I think all three of those men that you just mentioned, depending on what deal was struck with Russia, depending on what terms the deal would have and what incremental
steps we would have to take and measurements that we would have to take with potentially Russia in a deal, some of those positions could change, and some of President-elect Donald Trump's positions could change depending on what deal could be struck.
But overall, to your point, I can tell you just from working closely for the last year and
half with president-elect and even over the course of the last six weeks, he has no problem with differing opinions in a room. In fact, I think he welcomes the fact that he's got people in the room that may not agree with each other on everything, but he prefers to be presented opinions that are varying at the same time and then making an informed decision based on everyone's input before making decisions.
The last thing we want is a monolithic viewpoint where six people are standing before a president saying the same thing over and over again. You're not going to get the best decisions. That, I think, I'm telling you, is what he actually prefers, which is a difference of opinion. Put your best argument down in front of me. OK, now let's go and decide how we're going to move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then it's, I think, most presidents would agree with that.
It does lead to questions about what is going to be done, including on the issue of Iran. All through the campaign, the president-elect said scrapping the Iran nuclear deal was his number one national security priority. Yet this week, on Capitol Hill, here's what James Mattis had to say about that. He said, no, we should keep the deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE NOMINEE: I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement. It's not a friendship treaty. But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President-elect said he was going to follow James Mattis' advice on torture. Is he going to follow that advice on the Iran -- on the Iran deal? Is the Iran deal going to stand?
PRIEBUS: Well, it's yet to be seen, George. First of all, it's not even a signed contract. But let's put that aside. I think what you're going to get from President-elect Trump is all of his folks together -- Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, John Kelly, CIA, Homeland Security, everyone that you would want in the room, making decisions about that particular document and treaties like that document as to how we're going move forward.
And so I think it's yet to be seen how that is going to shape up. But I can tell you, we all know that President-elect Trump doesn't like the Iran deal, thinks it's a terrible document, thinks it will create a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which it already is beginning to do.
But moving forward, the best way is going to be something that is going to be a collective decision, that is made, of course, with President-elect Trump having the primary say as to how to move forward. But all those opinions will be in the room. I can assure all Americans that the best decision is going to be made based on all of the information presented to the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, just to be clear, scrapping the Iran deal is no longer a rock-solid promise?
PRIEBUS: Well, look, I think it's on life support, I'll put it that way, but I'm not here to declare one way or the other where it will go. But I do believe it's on life support. I know the president-elect does not like the Iran deal, thinks it's really, really bad. And that's sort of the starting point on that discussion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: On China, the president-elect told The Wall Street Journal the One China policy was also negotiable depending on what China does on other issues, including currency manipulation. Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state nominee, said there are no plans to do away with the One China policy. And of course you've see the Chinese have come down quite hard on that saying the One China policy is absolutely not negotiable. So, where does that stand right now?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think both gentlemen are correct. I mean, on one hand Rex Tillerson is correct, there are no plans to change the One China policy. But certainly that policy is on the table if
China doesn't also come to the table and work with us on trade, work with us on the South China
Sea on what's happening there.
There's a lot going on that is hurting this country. And there's a lot of businesses and a lot of people that put President-elect Trump in office because they are counting on him to get our relationships with China straightened out.
And so as part of that negotiation, as part of fulfilling that promise, all of these issues are
on the table. But at the same time, Rex Tillerson is correct, there's no predetermined path here. But it's something that is going to be discussed and decided down the road.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just heard Bernie Sanders say he thinks that FBI Director James Comey should think about stepping down. President-elect Trump was very tough on the FBI director during the campaign, said he disagreed with his final decision on Hillary Clinton, repeated again this week that he thinks Hillary Clinton was guilty as hell.
Does he have confidence in FBI Director Comey?
PRIEBUS: Yes, he has confidence in Director Comey. We have had a great relationship with him over the last several weeks. He's extremely competent.
But, look, his term extends for some time yet. There's no plans at the moment in changing that term. And we've enjoyed our relationship with him and find him to be extraordinarily competent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: First steps to repealing Obamacare taken in the House and Senate this week. And we just heard from Senator Sanders as well saying he wants to see a tweet, believer it or not, from the president-elect. He wants it to be a tweet saying he stands by what he said during the campaign, no cuts in Medicaid, no cuts in Medicare, no cuts in Social Security. Is that still the position of the president-elect?
PRIEBUS: That's his position. And that's the position he's going to be taking. So, there are no plans in President-elect Trump's policies moving forward to touch Medicare and Social Security.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What about Medicaid?
Repealing ObamaCare would cut Medicaid.
PRIEBUS: Well, look, I mean those are things that we're going to be discussing over the next several weeks. But certainly ObamaCare is something that isn't very popular around the country. In fact, it's like an 80/20 issue right now for Republicans. It's not working. People aren't choosing their doctor. They're not keeping their health care. Premiums are not going down, they're going up. All of the promises of ObamaCare, all of those shiny objects that were sold in Christmas in 2009 didn't come true.
People voted for Donald Trump. They want to repeal and replace ObamaCare. And we will. And we will cover those folks that are on ObamaCare that need to be covered, but at the same time, we're going to find ways to lower prices, allow people to choose better doctors, and have a lot more freedom when it comes to health care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A pretty contentious press conference this week, on Wednesday, with the president elect and the press corps there. And there was a report in "Esquire" magazine out overnight saying that you all are considering moving the press corps out of the West Wing and into the old Executive Office Building.
Is that true?
PRIEBUS: Let me tell you where this is coming from, and I know that some of the folks in the press are uptight about this, and I understand. What we're -- the only thing that's been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press -- and for the people listening to this that don't know this, that the press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny. Forty-nine people fit in that press room.
The one thing that we discussed was whether or not we want to move the initial press conferences in the EOB, which, by the way, is the White House. So no one is moving out of the White House. That is the White House, where you can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country to have those press conferences. That's what we're talking about.
So some of this, I think, is getting way out of whack. And I think people should be encouraged that there are so many people in the press that want to participate.
We had like 500 or 600 folks at the press conference last week.
So we started thinking, man alive, if -- if we can have more people involved instead of less people involved, wouldn't that be a good thing?
STEPHANOPOULOS: The problem...
PRIEBUS: That's what this is all about, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the president-elect be taking any further steps to deal with his possible business conflicts?
We saw what he announced this week. But the head of the Office of Government Ethics said that he considered this meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective.
PRIEBUS: Right. And the head of the government ethics ought to be careful, beca
use that person is becoming extremely political. Apparently, may have made a -- publicly supported Hillary Clinton as calling out the president with information on Twitter about our disentangle -- disentangling of the business over a month ago.
So I'm not so sure what this person at Government Ethics, what sort of standing he has anymore in giving these opinions.
I think Jason Chaffetz was correct to call for an investigation into the Government Ethics Department in the government for the positions that they've taken in this campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we'll be talking about that with Congressman Chaffetz coming up.
Mr. Priebus, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
PRIEBUS: You bet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And coming up, we are going to take that deep dive into the steps Trump is taking to handle his conflict of interest. Top ethics lawyers for the Bush and Obama administration, plus Congressman Chaffetz. And our roundtable takes on all the week's politics, including that first encounter between the president-elect and the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you give us a question since you're attacking us?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't be rude.
ACOSTA: Can you give us a question?
TRUMP: Don't be...
ACOSTA: Can you give us a question?
TRUMP: Don't be rude. No, I'm not going to give you a question.
ACOSTA: Could you give us a question?
TRUMP: No, I'm not going to give you a question.
ACOSTA: Can you state categorically...
TRUMP: You are fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER SHAUB, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Stepping back from running his positions is meaningless from a conflict of interests perspective. The presidency is a full-time job and he would have had to step back anyway.
It's important to understand that the president is now entering a world of public service. He's going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He's going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world.
So, no, I don't think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is Walter Shaub, the head of The Office of Government Ethics. You saw him just draw some fire from the incoming White House chief of staff.
Let's talk more about that now with Richard Painter, former ethics chief for George W. Bush, Norm Eisen, who held the same job for President Obama.
And Mr. Eisen, let me begin with you.
You just saw Mr. Priebus. He said that Mr. Shaub is being political. He doesn't have standing and he should be investigated.
AMBASSADOR NORMAN EISEN, FORMER OBAMA CHIEF ETHICS LAWYER: Well, George, I think that is terrible. Walt Shaub is a dedicated public servant, has come up through the ranks under both Democrats and Republicans. Professor Painter will tell you that he worked...
STEPHANOPOULOS: He did give a contribution to President Obama.
EISEN: He did, before he was director. His predecessor also had done the same. It was a Republican, Mr. Cusick, who I worked with beautifully at this time. Partisanship has no place. Walt Shaub is a true ethics hero for speaking out.
And, George, he's cleared more than 50 percent of the nominations, Republican nominations that have been provided to him so far, versus 20 percent at this point in the Obama transition which I worked on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Richard Painter, you've heard from the incoming Trump administration. And they say that no, the conflict of interest laws do not apply to the president. That is correct on the central conflict of interest law. And they said that he's gone above and beyond what is called for by putting his assets into a trust and by putting his sons in charge of it. No new foreign deals, no information.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Limited information...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- of what's going to be happening with the business and putting the hotel profits from foreign -- from foreign countries and donating that to the Treasury.
Why isn't that good enough?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH CHIEF ETHICS LAWYER: Well, some of the conflict of interest laws do apply to the president, particularly The Emoluments Clause to "The Constitution," which prohibits any type of benefit from a foreign government.
And merely taking the profits from the hotels and putting those aside is not enough. They need to look at bank loans. They need to look at foreign banks leasing space in the Trump Tower.
There are a broad range of issues that need to be dealt with. We've got the president's name up on buildings in places where they could be a terrorist attack. This is a very precarious situation.
The Office of Government Ethics has taken the right position on this, one consistent with many Republicans and Democrats. And by the way, OGE and Walt Shaub in particular, were very, very helpful in moving the Bush nominees through. This is not a partisan organization at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- but so bottom line, if we've seen what we're going to see from President-elect Trump in terms of dealing with his conflicts of interest, do you believe he is going to be in violation of "The Constitution" when he takes that oath on Friday?
PAINTER: I believe yes, if he doesn't make sure that all the foreign government payments -- and this includes banks and other corporations owned by foreign governments and sovereign wealth funds, that all of that money is not out of the Trump organization by Friday, when he takes the oath, he will be in violation of "The Constitution." The founders knew that foreign governments would try to meddle in our elections, meddle in our politics. And they did not want any foreign government money coming to anyone holding a position of trust with our government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I see you nodding your head in agreement.
EISEN: Why is Congressman Chaffetz investigating Walter Shaub for doing his job, George, for speaking so courageously?
It was one of the most extraordinary acts of courage that I've seen from a career public official.
Instead of investigating the fact that the president-elect is going to be violating "The Constitution" with these flows of foreign fighters, they admit they have a problem. They say, oh, well, we won't -- his lawyers said well, we want take the profits in the hotels.
What about the golf courses?
What about the huge foreign bank loans?
What about the condos and the apartments that they sell, the promoting and the trademarks?
Mr. Chaffetz should be investigating the president-elect's impeding violation of the constitution,
not this poor government official who is just trying to do his job. And Mr. Chaffetz has endorsed that unconstitutional plan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's take that question to him. Thank you both very much.
Congressman Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, joins us. You just heard, Mr. Eisen, what is the answer to his question?
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: Well, the president-elect has a duty and obligation to abide by the law. And he's except from most all of these laws. He has done a financial disclosure, which has gone through the Office of Government Ethics. I think he's done that twice. That is his duty under the law. I hear no complaints about that.
My question is about the head of the Office of Government Ethics. Is he acting ethically when he sent out nine tweets praising Donald Trump saying that his plan was brilliant. How did he come to that conclusion? And how does come to his current conclusions having never done an investigation and never looked at the paperwork in the point where he can actually come to a reasonable conclusion?
I think that's unethical.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was sending the tweets to the idea that he had heard. And you are right, he was premature that he had heard that Donald Trump is going to divest.
But let's get to this other question, on the conflict of interest laws, you just heard both Mr. Painter and Mr. Eisen say that they believe that the president-elect is going to be in violation of the
emoluments clause of the constitution on day one. Have you asked for documents from the president-elect?
CHAFFETZ: No, that's speculative. I mean, Donald Trump hasn't even been sworn in yet. And so I do believe that he has set up a plan where the revenue or the profits that are coming to the hotel will be given directly to the Treasury. But I'm not going to go on this fishing expedition that they want me to, that the Democrats want me to, the president has a duty and obligation to comply with the
law. But again he's exempt from almost all of these things.
Now, the emoluments clause, he's going to have to look at and we'll see how that rolls out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, yeah, and the ranking Democrats of several different committees, 21 different committees have petitioned the speaker to request documents detailing the president-elect's business dealings around the world to get at this question, including possible loans and investments from Russians Will you request that information?
CHAFFETZ: No. I have no plans to do that at this point.
What you need to look at is what is required by law, which I believe that Donald Trump has complied with, that is -- because I have heard no complaints about this -- and that is the financial disclosures that is what's required by law, that's Donald Trump...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't the emoluments provision of the constitution the law of the land?
CHAFFETZ: Yeah. It's in the constitution. The president-elect hasn't even been sworn in yet. So, all this flailing about how he's done everything wrong it's a little premature at best.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Five days from now, he will be the president of the United States. At that point, will you be requesting this information?
CHAFFETZ: No, not necessarily. Look, I'm not just going to go on these fishing expeditions. I didn't do that with President Obama. We didn't go through this with President Obama. I think the world and certainly the American voters understand that Donald Trump has mass holdings. He's worth billions of dollars. He's been very successful in business. And I think the American voters understood that when they voted him in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think a lot of Democrats might disagree with your characterization of President Obama and the investigations of Hillary Clinton and her email server and of course Benghazi as well, but on this particular issue, there is another issue...
CHAFFETZ: But those were about specific policies and actions once they were in office. I didn't investigate Hillary Clinton before she was in office, I started investigated Hillary Clinton's actions after the inspector-general said that there was classified information housed in a non-classified setting, that's what...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I took your point on that at the beginning of the investigation now, but I asked you if you were going to be looking at these issues at once president-elect is actually president of the United States.
CHAFFETZ: If people have questions about this, the White House is going to be the one that has to answer those questions.
Until we see something that is actually wrongdoing, we're probably not going to go on a fishing trip to go see look at -- we're just not going to do that, that's not what we do in this committee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another possibility, you have oversight of the general services administration, which holds the lease for the Trump Hotel, which of course the president will still
own even thought it goes into the Trust. And then page 103 of the lease agreement says that no elected official of the government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia shall be admitted to any share of part of this lease or the to any benefit that may arise there from.
So, the agreement seems to preclude ownership by any government official, like the president, doesn't it?
CHAFFETZ: I did sign a letter with Elijah Cummings a number of weeks ago and asked for a copy of that contract. I don't know that we have received the final copy of that contract.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that is something you're going to be looking at?
CHAFFETZ: I started that a few weeks ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Chaffetz, thanks for joining us this morning.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back with our "roundtable."
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the wake of that John Lewis controversy, President-elect Trump back on Twitter this morning saying the Democrats are most angry that so many Obama Democrats voted for me with all the jobs I am bringing back to our nation that number will only get higher.
We'll be right back with our roundtable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won't stop. In fact, I will be right there with you as a citizen for all my remaining days.
But for now, whether you are young or whether you're young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president, the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I am asking you to believe not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: An unusual farewell address there for President Obama for 20,000 people in Chicago, breaking a tradition right there.
He's also going to have a press conference this week, in his final days.
Let's talk about all the politics now with our chief White House correspondent, Jon Karl, Republican strategist Sara Fagen, Democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher, author of the new book, "Black Man in the White House," Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard," Katrina vanden Heuvel of "The Nation."
Thanks to all of you for being here.
And we've got to begin, Jon, with this extraordinary firestorm yesterday. John Lewis questions the legitimacy of President-elect Trump. You saw that Twitter back in his sort of engulfed this transition in the last 24 hours.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Incredible how unnecessary it was, because, you know, John Lewis was articulating something that most Democrats simply aren't, calling Trump illegitimate, saying he wasn't going to go...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And most Democrats won't.
KARL: And they won't. I mean the former presidents are going to be there.
KARL: The Clintons are going to be there. Jimmy Carter is going to be there.
But look, if Donald Trump needs a lesson in John Lewis and what he has done beyond talk, he could ask his own vice president.
Mike Pence went to Selma in 2010 with John Lewis, was there on the Pettus Bridge, talked about him as somebody who has the moral authority and courage that continues to inspire millions of Americans.
I mean this is really -- he really created something that -- that he didn't need to.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It doesn't seem like anyone around him can stop those early morning Tweets. But you also saw Reince Priebus there right there say that John Lewis is being irresponsible, he should grow up, Democrats should tell him to stop.
SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They're not handling -- they're not handling the John Lewis flap the right way, clearly. John Lewis is a -- is a hero and a civil rights hero.
But they aren't in saying that -- I mean Donald Trump is a legitimate president. He won fair and square. He didn't win the election because of Russian interference.
And they do have a responsibility to stand up for that. It's just the way they do it that's the wrong approach.
CORNELL BELCHER, AUTHOR, "BLACK MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE":
He's -- he's someone who -- with less than a popularity of the vote. And it doesn't make sense to -- the way it unfolded. It was...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he's got a plurality, he doesn't h a majority.
BELCHER: Well, no, he does have a plurality.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me. Excuse me. I take it back.
BELCHER: Yes. With less than a plurality of the vote. Now he is the president. I mean the Electoral College...
FAGEN: He's the legitimate president-elect...
BELCHER: The Electoral College said that he's the president, he's the president.
BELCHER: But as a president, you also have to build. And if I'm sitting there in a wide -- if I'm sitting there and part of his team and I go look, we're probably not going to win the next election with 46 percent of the
vote, so people like John Lewis and all these other groups, you have to start building bridges toward, this week was a disaster because he is burning bridges, not building them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he's got to think about those poll numbers -- 44 percent approval in Gallup.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, it wasn't necessary -- Cornell mentioned this week. I would say until Saturday -- and taking aside a couple of other of his Tweets -- it was a pretty good week for the Trump administration in the sense that a lot of modern (INAUDIBLE) won't agree with all the cabinet picks, but if you saw General Mattis and General Kelly and Senator Sessions and Mr. Tillerson and Congressman Pompeo testify, you thought, look, this is a reasonable -- more than a reasonable, I would say, cabinet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you saw so many issues...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- that they didn't agree with the president-elect.
KRISTOL: No. Well, that's good. That's healthy. And if you -- so if you're a (INAUDIBLE) -- if you're uncertain and a Trump skeptic, you think you know what, this administration is going to be better than I expected. I would say, as a Trump skeptic, I would say watch it this week from the US. The administration could be better than expected. Decent policies...
KRISTOL: -- confidently by people.
But the White House and the president himself remain (INAUDIBLE) remains very worrisome, alarming, almost.
I mean the fact that he can't...
Because I mean he does...
KRISTOL: Don't you think?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": I did say...
KRISTOL: It could be a decent...
KRISTOL: It's a decent...
KRISTOL: -- a decent administration...
VANDEN HEUVEL: -- that Donald Trump is alarming.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Donald Trump is a bully who thrives on division. Martin Luther King weekend he takes on John Lewis?
John Lewis did more in one day on The Edmund Pettus Bridge than Donald Trump ever will do to make America great again. And anyone who has -- I don't want to call it audacity, it's too good a term, to appoint Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as attorney general should damn well be respectful of John Lewis.
I'm surprised John Lewis didn't invoke the suppression of voting rights in this election. I still think it's one of the most underreported stories.
Moving forward, we're already seeing in the last three weeks, Republican governors trying to suppress the vote. And that...
VANDEN HEUVEL: -- contributed to a -- the outcome. And...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what he did invoke, though, is Russia.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- saw some other steps on that this week. And Jon Karl, we saw the president-elect say for the first time, he accepted the conclusion, even though he seemed to take it back just a few sentences...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- later...
KARL: Russia and others.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- and now you've got the Senate investigation. Comey wouldn't confirm whether or not he's investigating, but a lot of people believe that they are still looking at it.
So this issue is not going away.
KARL: No, the Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating this after Senator Burr, the chairman of the committee, said that they wouldn't go in this direction and he came out, he backed down. They are investigating this. Specifically, they're investigating whether or not there were any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the course of the campaign.
There's no evidence that there was but they are going to be investigating that.
But the extraordinary thing that we saw here is the incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, basically having a text messages back and forth with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
I mean they're exchanging Christmas greetings on Christmas Day and then, of course, having a phone conversation just as President Obama...
KARL: -- was imposing the sanctions.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But, George, OK, so I do believe there needs to be an investigation of the intelligence community's findings, classified findings, in order to ensure the electoral integrity of our system moving forward.
But this country needs to take a deep breath. We are a strong, resilient nation. And the idea that the Russians hacked our election needs to be investigated. There is very little evidence at that moment except for the DNC servers.
But the larger point is, it seems to me, it is simply sober realism. And it's not pro-Trump nor is it pro-Putin, who is an authoritarian leader, to argue that it is in the United States national security interests to have a working relationship with Russia, to deescalate a nuclear arms race. Bill Clinton's Defense secretary, William Perry...
VANDEN HEUVEL: See I -- I agree that we need a working relationship with Russia to deescalate a nuclear arms race, to resolve the crisis in Syria. I think it is a good thing that the United States will now be a party to the talks, to resolve a metastasizing crisis in Syria, which will destabilize Europe.
FAGEN: Being able to communicate is one thing. But two presidents have tried this. You know, the previous -- the current president and my former boss, George W. Bush, tried to have a relationship with Russia. And he has grown -- he -- Vladimir Putin has grown more aggressive.
And, you know, with so much coverage of Donald Trump's Tweets and John Lewis, you know, Poland, right now, is celebrating the arrival of NATO troops led by Americans.
Donald Trump is getting set up for a potential very challenging first year of his administration with respect to Russia, because you have Americans leading NATO troops in one Baltic state and Poland and...
FAGEN: -- and this is -- what does he do now, given what's happened with this faulty report, given his bromance with Vladimir Putin, given what's going on in Syria, what does he do when there is an altercation with a Russian soldier?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's one of the questions.
And Bill Kristol, we now have some talk now of an early summit with Vladimir Putin, maybe in the next several months. It put me in mind of that early summit between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, early in his administration, which kind of shocked President Kennedy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Donald Trump ready for this?
KRISTOL: Well, just -- I hadn't thought of that analogy, but you're right.
And what happened?
What -- the lesson Khrushchev took from that summit was that Kennedy was weak, the fact that he wasn't very well prepared. And it led to the Cuban missile crisis, which was the most dangerous moment of the cold war.
I don't agree with Katrina that Trump's being such a nice guy to Putin is a wonderful thing. I would -- and I do think it's genuinely alarming (INAUDIBLE) the only person Donald Trump treats with respect -- he doesn't treat his political enemies with respect, he doesn't treat the Republican Party with respect, he doesn't treat the American "Constitution" with respect, he obviously doesn't treat the media with respect.
Who is the one guy he never criticizes? Who is the one guy he even seem to defer to? Vladimir Putin. That is alarming.
VANDEN HEUVEL: The lesson i also Ronald Reagan -- I have to remind you, of Ronald Reagan meeting with Gorbachev.
KRISTOL: And when was that?
VANDEN HEUVEL: 1985.
KRISTOL: 1986, I think. Five years into his term after he..
VANDEN HEUVEL: I am concerned that Donald Trump walks into the White House a walking conflict of interest in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution, and the Stock Act. It is important to investigate whether there are financial levers, not just Russia -- China, the Emirates. Because he will never make America great again -- I don't believe he ever will, but he will not do so if he's beholden to
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Cornell Belcher, we heard Congressman Chaffetz there, he didn't seem all that eager to dive into this.
BELCHER: No, he didn't.
One of the things I think Americans are going to be hearing and learning a lot about is this emoluments clause, which other -- us around this table, most Americans are going, what is the heck is that?
KRISTOL: I was going what the heck is that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the constitution.
KRISTOL: Cornell, you're better educated on this than I am.
BELCHER: I was listening to that interview. But, there's conflict after conflict. And certainly, look, as taking my partisan hat off, this is certainly not a way that you want to enter or start your presidency. This emoluments stuff isn't going away. It was interesting that the congressman said he hasn't even been sworn in. So we should wait for him to get sworn in and break the law before we do anything about it? It doesn't make any sense.
This is -- this is -- this is something that will be brewing. And our congress is going to be swept up in this, because Democrats certainly aren't going to let this go away.
FAGEN: I don't think the hotel rooms are the issue here. I mean, Donald Trump is going to donate the money back to the Treasury. The bigger issue, which is unknown, is are there big investments in Trump properties into the Trump business by sovereign wealth funds, foreign governments.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we've come full circle. You don't know if you don't see the tax returns.
FAGEN: And so that's why this isn't going away. But, you know, as we sit here and talk about this today, most Americans are focused on the Ringling Brothers Circus going out of business, not on the emoluments clause. And that's -- Donald Trump is going to get a lot of leeway in with respect to -- until there is something that is discovered that is -- absolutely a silver bullet on this. He's going to get a lot of leeway.
VANDEN HEUVEL: ...impeachment?
KARL: What the experts you talked to wanted him to do was to divest all his holdings.
And George, I mean, frankly, doesn't that seem like that would have been impractical with a guy
that has the holdings he had between November 8 and January 20 to sell everything? And wouldn't that have raised issues? Who is buying? What are the prices? I don't know that there was a good solution to this. And I think there is a point -- look, this is clearly going to be something that is going to dog
him for the rest of his time in office.
But there is a point that, you know, the American people knew exactly who they were voting for. This was a guy with vast international holdings. He was a guy with vast interests, business interests.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and no. Yes, they knew he had vast interests, but they did not have the information in the tax returns.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Which is unprecedented. I mean, it's the first time in U.S. history a presidential candidate has not revealed his tax returns, or a president.
I think that the poll ratings are in the gutter right now, right? Donald Trump's, even before he's
been inugurated. Those poll ratings go south, I think you have a Republican Party ready to begin different kinds of hearings than Mr. Chaffetz is unwilling to have.
FAGEN: They may be very happy with Michael Pence as president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It may take time for that. But I do have a question there on Obamacare and where this is going next. They got these first votes, which is basically saying, let's move the
debate. But you do have a fair amount of nervousness among Republicans on Capitol Hill about what to do going forward. And some fears that if they repeal without having a full replacement in place, they could own what will be a difficult issue.
KRISTOL: The repealing and replacing of Obamacare is very complicated. It is what a White House and congressional leadership, serious White House and serious congressional leadership, should meet on and work on and figure out a strategy of, and it may work and it may not. Obviously not every administration gets things through, even when they have much larger majorities in congress and a much larger popular vote than Donald Trump had.
And I think that's what's -- one of the things that is alarming to me is -- Trump, and I think Trump supporters seem to believe, he won, huge upset, full credit to him, and has got the wind at his back. And Republicans on The Hill do want him to succeed, obviously, and they're deferring to him more than they deep down in private sort of wish -- want to, but they are going to defer to him publicly
for awhile. But I think that is going to run out faster than people think.
BELCHER: Health care -- I'm going to predict this, health care is going to be again the central fight in a midterm election, because the moment they -- and Priebus said the majority of people want repeal of health care. A Kaiser poll just out a week ago said 47 percent don't want it repealed, 28 percent want to see, in fact,
what the replacement is. So there is not a broad sort of swath of Americans fighting for the health care repeal.
You're going to take the health care away from 20 million people, and 8 million children, right, and this is working in red states as well as blue. Look at Kentucky, how well Obamacare is working in
Kentucky. The moment they repeal this and don't have a way to insure...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Obamacare is benefiting Trump supporters. There are rallies...
KRISTOL: Tom Price, this is the question. He has a competent person, I think who will be confirmed as HHS secretary, Congressman Tom Price.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Who wants to privatize Medicare.
KRISTOL: I'm sorry, who he has the best proposal to replace Obamacare with tax credits, age adjusted, that would benefit lower income Americans and so forth. But governing is hard. And this is the best...
STEPHANOPOULOS: We only have a few seconds left, isn't the lesson of health care whoever passes something, whether it's good or bad, benefits or not, whoever passes something, then owns all the problems in the health care system?
KARL: Here's the thing, George, what they are talking about doing is not repealing all of Obamacare. And I don't know that the conservatives truly realize this yet, but they are talking about repealing the mandate that says you must have health insurance, and they're talking about repleaing the taxes that help to finance it. And they are not -- and they are not doing away with the exchanges. They are not doing away with...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The question is, you know what? You know what, I know you have an important question. I'm afraid that we are out of time. And I'm sure we are going to be able to come back and discuss this again. Thank you all for your contribution.
We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Packed week of politics today. ABC News will be here for all of it. President Obama's final press conference Wednesday. That 20/20 special Thursday night, and I'll be in Washington with our entire team Friday for the inauguration of President Trump started with GMA, straight through the oath, the parade, and his first actions as president.
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.