(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I'm about to talk to him about allegations that he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow and that the Russians taped it and had leverage over him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The White House hits back hard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The guy is known to be a liar and a leaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump calls fired FBI director an “untruthful slimeball.” We are set to hear more from James Comey's exclusive interview, his side of the story.
Plus, the FBI targets Trump's personal attorney.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cohen, why do you think they raided your office and hotel room?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What documents and recordings did they seize? Could they pose a threat to the presidency?
And striking Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter THIS WEEK.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Thanks for joining us this Sunday after another extraordinary week in this Trump presidency. It was capped by Friday night's strike on Syria. The U.S., joined by France and England, retaliating for a chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime.
On the investigative front, a strike deep into the president's inner circle with that FBI raid on the home, office, and hotel room of Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. The FBI is looking for records about a payment Cohen made to the porn star who claim she had a relationship with Trump. And the search warrant cites possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations.
And, of course, that bombshell new book from FBI Director James Comey."A Higher Loyalty." Doesn't even go on sale until Tuesday, but it's already topping the Amazon best-seller list, making big headlines with Comey's claim that the president is unethical, untethered to truth.
My exclusive interview with Comey airs tonight on ABC. We're going to show more of it ahead. First, let's bring in our Washington team with the latest on this week's major stories. First up, our chief global affairs anchor Martha Raddatz.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR: Well, George, I think it is generally not wise to use the term “mission accomplished” in an ongoing conflict. But if what you wanted was a limited, punishing strike as safe for U.S. and allied forces as you can possibly make it, with no unintended casualties on the ground and no escalation in the conflict, then the mission was accomplished.
Will it change the dynamics of this war on the ground? No. But it allows the administration to say, we told you not to cross that red line. Will it stop them from using chemical weapons? It didn't last time. And while the Pentagon says they destroyed chemical weapons infrastructure, you have to wonder why they still had those prohibited weapons and how many they have hidden away -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Martha, there does seem to have been some kind of struggle behind the scenes over the scope of Friday night's raid. What can you report on that?
RADDATZ: There was. I think this was the strike that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wanted. He did not want to inflame the region or the Russians or the Iranians with a larger, more robust strike. He's deliberate, methodical. And he knows the consequences of escalation.
Officials have told me John Bolton, the new national security adviser, his first week on the job, by the way, was advocating for a broader strike. But I'm told in the end, Bolton was respectful, listened to the variety of options, and presented those options to the president, which is exactly what he is supposed to do -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Martha, thanks.
We'll follow-up with Sarah Sanders on that. But now let's bring in Jon Karl from the White House, Pierre Thomas from the Justice Department.
And, Jon, let me begin with you. The president is up this morning. He is tweeting. Four separate tweets on James Comey.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: An all-out attack on James Comey on Twitter. And, George, he goes so far in one of these tweets as to suggest that the former FBI director should be behind bars.
Take a look at this one. “The big questions in Comey's badly reviewed books aren't answered like how come he gave up classified information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give up the server,” and he goes on and on and on.
This, George, is like a campaign. The president and the White House are treating James Comey like the president treated his political opponents, so where you had “lyin' Ted Cruz and “crooked Hillary,” you now have “sleazeball James Comey.” And he's also using the Republican National Committee. They have set up an entire rapid response operation to deal with Comey's book and with his interview tonight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Pierre, Hillary Clinton supporters aren't that happy with James Comey either. They're convinced that his decision to reopen the email investigation in the closing days of the 2016 campaign cost her the White House. Here's part of James Comey's explanation for that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: At some level, wasn't the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win and your concern that she wins, this comes out several weeks later, and then that is taken by her opponents as a sign that she's an illegitimate president.
COMEY: It must have been. I don't remember consciously thinking about that. But it must have been. Because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And so I'm sure that it was a factor. Like I said, I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been that she's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The president is tweeting about Comey's comment this morning, calling it “unbelievable.” I know from sources close to Comey that at the time the decision was made, he thought Clinton was likely going to win, and that if this information came out after she had been elected, it would look like the FBI was protecting Clinton, playing favorites.
He told people close to him he really felt like he had no good options.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. And he repeated that in our interview.
And, Jon, meantime the president has been seething all week long also about those raids Monday on his personal attorney Michael Cohen. In another tweet this morning, saying, “attorney/client privilege is dead.” The White House is worried about these raids.
KARL: And the president is deeply concerned about these raids. That's why President Trump himself took the initiative after the raids to call Michael Cohen. Make no mistake about this, the legal team for the president is more worried about Michael Cohen than they are about Robert Mueller.
And part of that fear is what they don't know. They truly, George, have no idea what are in his files. And part is what they do know. Michael Cohen was the president's fixer. When the president had an issue, a problem, Cohen fixed it, no questions asked. And there are worries, the biggest worry of all for the president's legal team and for those close to the president is the idea that Michael Cohen could turn state's witness, that he could cooperate with prosecutors against his former boss.
If there is one person who could take Donald Trump down, it is Michael Cohen. That is something that somebody close to the president told ABC News just a few weeks ago, even before the raid.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Stakes are very high. And, Pierre, the Cohen investigation is being done by the U.S. attorney, Southern District of Manhattan, but it's very connected to the Mueller investigation.
THOMAS: Indeed, George. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who oversees the special counsel's investigation, referred the Cohen case to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. And that has drawn the president's wrath.
George, I've never seen anything quite like this. Every day Rod Rosenstein walks into office wondering if he's going to be fired. Sources say he's at peace with whatever happens, that while he's loyal to the administration, he's more loyal to the training he has as a prosecutor and the rule of law.
When there's enough evidence suggesting further investigation, it's going to be investigated. And Democrats are telling me if Rosenstein is fired, it will be the beginning of a constitutional crisis -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Pierre, Jon, thanks very much.
I want to bring in the White House for you now, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders joins us from the White House lawn this morning. Sarah, thank you for joining us, a lot to talk about this morning.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, let’s start out with Syria. We saw that tweet from the president yesterday saying mission accomplished, but we just heard Martha Raddatz say perhaps that initial mission on taking out some chemical weapon site -- sites was accomplished, but that the overall declaration, that mission accomplished, is premature.
This may not change the situation on the ground of Syria all that much.
SANDERS: Certainly the mission that -- that U.S. military and coalition forces with the U.K. and the -- and -- and France went out on Friday to -- to do. They 100 percent met their objectives, that’s what the president’s referring to.
They went out to destroy critical chemical weapons infrastructure in Syria and they did exactly that. And they also sent a strong message to Syria, to Russia, to Iran that when this president has a red line, he will enforce it.
And I think we saw that clearly on Friday, and I think we’ve seen the president follow through on exactly what he said he was going to do, and the mission carried out by the extraordinary men and women of our armed forces, partnered with the men and women in the U.K. and France, certainly successful in what they set out to do and accomplished their objectives?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's next? Is the president still committed to getting our troops out of Syria right away?
SANDERS: Look, the president has got three big objectives when it comes to the conflict there. He wants to defeat ISIS. He has talked about this relentlessly. We are almost there. We have made extraordinary gains against ISIS, and then the war against ISIS. And this president has lead that effort. And he's been successful in that front.
The other things we have to do, we have to contain Iran. We have to make sure that the bad acting that they have been a part of doesn't continue and doesn't grow. Those are big and key points.
And then last we have to stop the spread and the use of mass chemical weapons, and that was one of the things that you saw the president take action on, on Friday.
These are big things that the president has been focused on and we've had some success so far. We're going to continue building on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you were answering that question, the president just came out with his fifth tweet of the morning on James Comey. I'm sure your phone buzzed as you were talking as well.
I want to dig into this just a little bit. That tweet that Jon Karl cited right there where he says -- where he says Comey gave up classified information, jail. Why did he lie to congress, jail. What exactly is the president referring to there? And has he asked the Justice Department to investigate James Comey?
SANDERS: Look, it's been very clear that James Comey is a self-admitted leaker. He lied to congress. He's been inconsistent...
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he lie to congress about?
SANDERS: Look, he said that he opened the Hillary Clinton investigation on its merits, now we're finding out certainly that it had something to do with the political landscape. I find it outrageously unbelievable that Jim Comey, the man that takes these copious notes and recollects every detail of every conversation that he had can't remember why he would have specifically opened and investigation into a presidential candidate, particularly somebody he thought would become the president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He does remember. He goes into great detail in the book and in the interview.
SANDERS: And the clip you played just a few minutes ago says I can't be sure. I'm sure that was part of it. I think I thought about it. I mean, give me a break. The guy knew exactly what he was doing. He thought Hillary Clinton would win. And he thought this would give him some cover. He thought that he made these decisions based on the political landscape and not on the facts of the case.
And when the person that is supposed to lead the highest law enforcement agency in our country starts making decisions based on political environments instead of on what is right and what is wrong, it's a really dangerous position. And I think that's one of the reasons there is such a huge bipartisan consensus that James Comey doesn't have credibility and shouldn't have been leading the FBI any longer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's not exactly what he said. But is the president asking the Justice Department to investigate James Comey?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of a specific ask of the Justice Department, but I do think if they feel there was any wrongdoing, they should certainly look into that just as they do on a number of other topics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And are you sure you all want to be engaged in a credibility contest with James Comey, and I think the White House has cited more than 2,000 instances where the president or the White House have made false statements. Our new poll shows that Americans by a pretty wide margin think that James Comey has more credibility than President Trump.
SANDERS: I have to disagree with your poll to a great deal. There's a daily Rasmussen Poll that has the president up at about 50 percent, which is actually better than President Obama at this point.
At the end of the day, this president will be judged on probably two big things: the economy, and national security, two things we feel very confident this president has been a strong leader on, and certainly something that the American people are feeling the effects on when it comes to the economy doing much better today than we have been in a long time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also put out a tweet this morning saying he never asked James Comey for a loyalty pledge. Is he still willing to testify under oath that he didn't ask for that pledge and that he didn't say that he hoped Comey could let the Flynn investigation go?
SANDERS: The president has been clear, he's spoken about this a number of times, as you pointed out, including this morning. And he continues to maintain that. And I have no reason to believe anything different.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally on this topic, a group of Republicans have commissioned a TV ad tonight about Robert Mueller that's going to air during our special. Here's what it says.
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ANNOUNCER: As the head of the FBI under George W. Bush, Mueller has been trusted by Republicans to put America first.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: I have a lot of confidence in BobMueller.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: This is our justice system. And the Justice System needs to play itself out.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The special counsel has a job to do.
ANNOUNCER: Call your representative and tell them to protect the Mueller investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the president actively considering firing Robert Mueller or removing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from overseeing the investigation?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of any plans to make those movements. Look, the president has been extremely cooperative, as have a number of members of the administration. Everything that's been asked of us we've provided. And we're continuing to be cooperative. But we do have some real concerns with some of the activities and some of the scope that the investigation has gone, but 100 percent maintain that at this point, after repeating it for nearly a year and a half, there absolutely was no collusion with Russia and that’s exactly what they’ve been investigating.
Not only ahs the special counsel but a number of different congressional committees have been looking at this for over a year and come up with nothing. I think it really is getting time to move on and I certainly think the American people would appreciate Congress and the rest of the country being able to focus on some of the things that really impact them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: IS the White House more concerned about the Michael Cohen investigation than they are about the Mueller investigation?
SANDERS: Look, our concern is on doing what the president was elected to do, growing the economy, creating jobs, defeating ISIS, building and protecting our borders. This is the focus of this administration. Certainly we’re going to respond to some of the charges brought against us and brought directly against the president.
As we’ve said before, he’s a fighter and he’s going to hit back when he’s hit. But that’s the focus and certainly the policy priorities that this administration is going to spend our time on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did the president call Michael Cohen on Friday?
SANDERS: I’m sorry?
STEPHANOPOULOS: why did the president call Michael Cohen on Friday?
SANDERS: Look, he’s had a long relationship with Michael Cohen, he’s going to continue to have that relationship. In terms of specifics of their private conversation, I can’t get into that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he worried that Michael Cohen might turn state’s evidence?
SANDERS: Look, the president is very confident in the fact that he has done nothing wrong and he can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, but he’s very confident in what he has and hasn’t done. And he’s going to continue focusing and fighting for the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Also, there was a report over the weekend that Michael Cohen, according to McClash (ph), he may actually have been in Prague talking to Russians during the campaign. That’s the report in McClash -- actually (ph) I should say that Michael Cohen adamantly denies that contention. Is the president convinced, though, that Michael Cohen is telling the truth and what would his reaction be if those meetings did indeed happen?
SANDERS: Again, I can’t speak on behalf of Michael Cohen and what he may or may not have done. That’s something that will be determined. I know that he’s contested that that’s not accurate but I haven’t had a conversation with the president about that specific instance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, on Friday the president also pardoned Scooter Libby. That drew a reaction from Congressman Adam Schiff who’s going to be on the program later this morning. He say on the -- he said on the day the president wrongly attacks Comey for being a leaker and a liar, he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby. This is the president’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation. You have my back and I’ll have yours. Your reactions?
SANDERS: That couldn’t be further from the truth. Once again, Adam Schiff barely -- rarely bases any comments in reality. Talk about a grandstander. He probably is hook line and sinker buddies with Jim Comey. They both have never found T.V. camera they don’t love to be in front of. The point that the president made when it came to Scooter Libby, this was somebody who had been wrongly convicted, he’s been reinstated by the D.C. bar quite some time ago.
The primary person that testified against him has recanted their testimony and the president felt it was the right thing to do. These two things have nothing to do with one another.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thanks so much for having me, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Round table standing by. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: Well, I'm about to meet with a person who doesn't know me, and just been elected president of the United States by from all accounts, and from my watching him during the campaign, could be volatile, and I'm about to talk to him about allegations that he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow and that the Russians taped it and have leverage over him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How weird is that briefing?
COMEY: Really weird. It was almost an out of body experience for me. I was floating above myself looking down saying you're sitting here briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Kind of had the same experience when I was sitting there interviewing him on Monday afternoon. The whole interview is going to air tonight, of course, on ABC.
We're going to talk about it now on the roundtable joined by our chief political analyst Matthew Dowd, Megan McCain from The View, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, now an ABC News contributor, and former Clinton campaign spokesperson Karen Finney.
So, Matt, we're off to the races this morning, fullscale credibility war between James Comey and the White House.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, when obviously the president is fully engaged on this, and I think he's only helping to make it ever more of a best-seller out of this book than it would have been otherwise, but which was always going to be the case.
I think we should just step back for a minute. The astounding thing that's going on with this, which is a former FBI director, who served both Republicans and Democratic presidents, has come out with a book and characterized the president as basically corrupt and basically almost on the verge of calling him a traitor, which this FBI director has done.
We've gone from uncharted territory into the Bermuda Triangle, and we're probably at the point, if I went to the Caribbean, at World's End. The fact that we're in this point in time with an FBI director saying is astounding.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, and in that clip we just showed, Chris Christe, he always went on to say he couldn't swear that those allegations about the president in Moscow aren't true. Again, another surreal thing to hear from the former FBI director.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: Well, it's -- I'll have to tell you, somebody who worked with Jim Comey and then for Jim Comey, it's a really sad day, because to hear Jim sit in your interview and say that he considered the polling when deciding.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn't say considered, he said he was influenced.
CHRISTIE: Well, OK, George, if I had -- when I worked for Jim, if I had said to him 11 days before an election that I was going to release information that could potentially effect the election, and one of the things that influenced me was polling, he would have fired me. He would have fired me on the spot. And it is really disconcerting to me as a guy who worked with him in form and have defended him on this air and other places over the years to see this interview and what he was saying.
It is exactly what they teach you not to do. And I think it’s unfortunate that Jim’s -- who’s a good guy. A good family, a good person and was a very good prosecutor. But he began to believe his own press clippings. And it’s the biggest danger in public life. And the hubris that he shows in that interview is extraordinary to me. Not the guy that I worked with or worked for. And it’s sad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You worked for Hillary. You seem (ph) nodding your head during some of that.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, ABC NEWS: Well, no, I just find this is like the -- the bear poking the bear when you see the back and forth between Jim Comey with -- and the president. I mean, I think -- look, I would take a step back -- me of all people, I don’t want to re-litigate 2016. I think what is important is -- that came out of your interview, at least the pieces that I’ve seen is I think he reconfirms a lot of what we already know and have suspected about this president and the chaos in the White House.
So I think that -- and that shouldn’t -- it should be more surprising than it is. I think that’s part of the normalizing of this behavior. And I hope that we take a step back and focus on the fact that there is a very real chance that this president or some people in his campaign colluded with the Russians. We already know that the Russians interfered in our election. I am far more concerned about that.
I mean, we’ve -- you know, lived through that day when the -- you know, those 11 days out. It’s, you know, past history but what’s present is there is there is still an immediate threat to this country by the Russians. And the fact that we’re not talking about that really shocks me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well Comey goes into that as well and boy, Meghan, he just does not hold back.
MEGHAN MCCAIN, HOST, THE VIEW: Yes. I think the confusing part right now, I think for people like me is on one side, he’s this boy scout for the FBI. And on the other side, in excerpts that have come out from his book, he’s talking about our president’s hand size, he’s talking about crying in the Oval Office, with (ph) President Obama. Pretty salacious, gossipy things to be putting in a book that I thought was supposed to be about just clearing the truth on this. And it seems more in the vein of Fire and Fury and score settling so far.
I’m looking forward to seeing your interview tonight. I’m also looking forward to the hour he’s going to spend on The View with us on Wednesday --
MCCAIN: -- there’s a lot of unanswered question, that -- why include the comparing of the hand size of our president?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, it’s -- it’s a very good question. He does go farther in interview in parts than he does in some of the book. But Maggie, it’s clear here the White House sort of knew. There was no way they were going to constrain the president on this, so they might as well dig right into it.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think you can set that statement to repeat. They didn’t know they were going to constrain the president on this, on a number of issues. What I heard on Friday was the president was actually -- his mood has been a little all over the place over the last week because of the Michael Cohen raid, as we’ve discussed.
He wasn’t in a terrible mood by the time Friday rolled around, by the time we were starting to hear about what Comey had said to you. Because from their perspective, this was not as bad as they thought it was going to be. I have obviously not read the book. Does not seem like there is a ton of news in it based on what I’ve seen. Your interview, frankly, seems like it’s news-ier.
And they feel like --
STEPHANOPOULOS: And more to come, yes, but --
HABERMAN: Right. And so they -- right. And -- and looking forward to it. But they -- it -- it sounds --
CHRISTIE: 10:00 o’clock tonight.
HABERMAN: But it -- they felt like it could have been worse. And frankly, as irritating as Comey is to the president, insults like the hand size and so forth are actually --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it helps them, clearly.
FINNEY: What doesn’t help them, though, is the fact that they can’t -- they can’t actually execute any kind of messaging strategy because the one person you need on board at all times is so unpredictable.
HABERMAN: I know he doesn’t care, but I’m suggesting that the people who work for him actually care --
HABERMAN: Well, except the -- except for the people who work for him would have to be surprised every day and have some form of a 24-hour amnesia to be shocked that --
HABERMAN: No, but -- but that is part of the issue, here, I think in terms of Comey and in terms of Fire and Fury, to your point about the comparison. Is these are books that don’t offer a whole lot of new information, do reaffirm what we have seen over the course of time, but just have us doing sort of and there’s more proof of. I don’t know that that changes --
DOWD: That’s what I think -- that’s what I think’s fascinating about this. So I -- I think Jim Comey, like all of us, is a flawed individual. He’s done wonderful things for the country. He’s also made mistakes and I think he’s probably humble about that. But the fascinating thing about this book, the Fire Fury book and let’s add the Steele dossier to this, is every part of this has been attacked, attacked, attacked. Almost every part of each of those has been confirmed as credible and as true.
There’s nothing that’s been really fundamentally confirmed in the Fire Fury book that wasn’t true about Donald Trump --
DOWD: -- the Steele dossier -- 90 percent of everything --
MCCAIN: No, I -- no, I got into it (ph) on The View that he reported things that were supposed to be off the record because somebody died (ph).
DOWD: That -- that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
HABERMAN: He -- he -- he said that the president was having an affair and then had to acknowledge he had no idea --
DOWD: He didn’t say -- he didn’t say -- he didn’t say that in the book.
FINNEY: But can we just say, more importantly though, as we're talking about things about this president that are so disturbing, consistently being reaffirmed, and we've sort of all reached a new -- I think the floor and the ceiling of what is outrageous has really shifted in just a couple of years.
My question is, and this relates to something else we may or may not get to talk about, and that is, you know, 2018. Forget about the president, what are the Republicans doing to stop this man from destroying our country? I mean, he's -- one thing I agree with Mr. Comey on is he has turned our government and our country into a criminal enterprise the way he treats our budget like a slush fund.
CHRISTIE: Listen, you know, the thing that I think we should be focused on this morning is everyone is concerned, I think, rightfully, about our justice system, and making sure that Bob Mueller is permitted to do what he needs to do, making sure the Justice Department has credibility.
We have an inspector general's report that came out this week that confirmed from...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Andrew McCabe.
CHRISTIE: From an Obama-appointed inspector general that Andrew McCabe leaked and lied to investigators about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leaked about Hillary, actually.
CHRISTIE: Well, whatever. I mean, listen, you know, we're not supposed to care about politics when we're prosecutors, right? But what we find out from your interview is that he did. That Jim Comey did care about politics. And it is so depressing to me as somebody who spent seven years in the Justice Department trying to make sure that the Justice Department worked the right way.
What he's proving in that interview is that the president may have, in fact, been right to have fired him. Maybe he didn't do it the right way. Maybe he didn't do it at the right time. But the bottom line, from your interview or the parts that I've seen so far, George, is that Jim Comey is acknowledging that he took into account politics in making investigative decisions. And he broke a rule.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But even the president has acknowledged that those reasons that were first put out for the firing of James Comey weren't the real reasons.
CHRISTIE: Well, and that's why I say, he may not have done it for the right reasons, and he may not have done it at the right time. But in the end, let's look at what happened here. There's a rule in the Justice Department, and everybody who works there knows it, 60 days before an election you do nothing about somebody who is going to be on the ballot.
This guy did it 11 days before and he's the leader. Where was the deputy attorney general? It's like Sally Yates is in the Witness Protection Program. So if there's this awful confidential information about Loretta Lynch that Jim Comey, you know, stirred up.
CHRISTIE: Wait a second, this is stirred up and says, there's something bad there, where was Sally Yates to make those announcements? Why was Jim Comey saying awful things about Hillary Clinton when he wouldn't have the guts to charge her? It's awful stuff.
DOWD: I think the governor's surface is actually a big issue here, which is, is we're at the point in time, and this president, I think, has added to it, is that basically nobody trusts that any part of the government has any integrity, right? And the president survives and thrives in an environment where basically, why did you call me a liar, everybody is a liar?
You say I don't have integrity, nobody has integrity. So we might as well just accomplish what we want, right? Just get done what we want. And that's because nobody has integrity.
STEPHANOPOULOS: To Maggie, though, with the possible exception, at least for now, of Robert Mueller, but clearly the president all week long is seething about this and has not ruled out getting rid of him.
HABERMAN: I don't think he has ruled out anything on most of these things. Most of the people close to him do not believe that he will fire Mueller, but, you know, he did touch that stove once before, right, with Comey. It obviously didn't turn out very well for him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he responded to one of your reports this week saying, if I wanted to fire him in December, I would have.
HABERMAN: Well, and that's lovely. But, I mean, what we reported...
HABERMAN: What we reported was that he was worked up about Comey over a specific news report, turned out to be erroneous...
HABERMAN: Right, I'm sorry, Mueller. Too much Comey this morning. He was worked up about Mueller over an erroneous news report that his records had been subpoenaed from Deutsche Bank that they were able to walk him from it.
But this has been sort of a thread repeatedly over many days, he talks about this, should be shut down. He doesn't think that Mueller has integrity, he's a bad -- and so forth and so forth. He doesn't think the special counsel should have ever been appointed. He is more focused in his conversations with people on Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.
I think if you saw any action it would be there. But even there, I have been told repeatedly by people, they don't expect he's going to do it because it opens up a whole confusing line.
CHRISTIE: George, there would be problems with that, because you now do not have Rachel Brand as the associate attorney general...
CHRISTIE: Number three. If Rod Rosenstein were to be fired, this doesn't solve any problems. If the president -- that's what the president is doing, who is going to be in charge, Noel Francisco, the solicitor general? I can tell you, Noel Francisco, very talented lawyer, but to be solicitor general, you have a specific skill set. And running a Russia collusion investigation is probably not one of them.
And so I think part of what people are trying to tell the president...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And would he accept it if the president fired Rosenstein?
CHRISTIE: That's right. And be practical. Let's be practical about this. It's not going to solve any problems. So if you want to make changes, make changes after the midterms, if that's what you want to do. But right now there's no way this solves any problems for the president. And I just makes, as Matthew was saying before, the whole situation seem a lot worse.
FINNEY: But, again, I think we have to shift -- for me, obviously, as a Democrat, I think it's time to shift our focus away from the president. He is a bad actor who is going to continue to be the bad actor. He is going to continue to tweet. If he tries to fire Mueller, per the ad that you just showed earlier, George, is that the red line for Republicans in Congress to say, OK, enough is enough?
I mean, we had to have violence in the streets of Charlottesville before they were willing to even take him on. And I think that will be part of Paul Ryan's legacy, by the way, as he departs, which is he normalized a lot of this behavior.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meghan, do you think the Republicans will hold the line on Mueller if he's fired?
MCCAIN: I think it would be a constitutional crisis. I think I said there would be rioting in the streets. I think it would be an absolute political catastrophe.
I will say when you're talking about people like Paul Ryan, though, the vilification of Paul Ryan fascinates me, because it happened for such a long period of time. He was someone who was going to throw grandmothers over the cliff. During the 2012 election, people were saying things like he would take away women's birth control. And when you vilify a man like Paul Ryan, you can't deny that it lead to the rise of President Trump, because I think a lot of voters looked at this and said if this nice Wisconsin Jack Kemp conservative is just trying to do good things on Capitol Hill, if he is the enemy and he's awful, then we'll send in a guy like President Trump.
DOWD: But that's Paul Ryan's -- Paul Ryan's history. And I have some familiarity with Paul Ryan's history, having him having been in congress while Bush was president, has been a fluctuating thing.
Paul Ryan was a compassionate conservative when George Bush was president. The Tea Pary then started taking office, he shifted towards the Tea Party, then when he didn't think President Trump, or then candidate Trump was going to win, he attacked President -- candidate Trump. President Trump wins, he enables President Trump in the course of the presidency.
So, Paul Ryan really actually to my view has been revealed -- Donald Trump has corrupted Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan has been revealed for who he is, which is he -- he's a company guy. He does whatever power wants.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Maggie, they were never that close, although they certainly were together -- another understatement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They were together on the tax bill. But now we see Paul Ryan, one of 40 House Republicans not running for reelection. What role does the president play here going forward? Is this going to be his campaign?
HABERMAN: That's a great question. And it's not clear what the answer is, because the number of Republicans who actually want him campaigning for them pretty small, right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only in the deepest red districts.
HABERMAN: Only in the deepest red districts. He considers this to be sort of like his free time, this is like recreational time. He loves rallies. He loves going out and campaigning. And he doesn't, as we have seen, tailor what he says at any of these events to what is actually taking place in front of him, unless he's fixed to the prompter, which he doesn't like. So, this is going to set up sort of a conflict less between the president and candidates and more between the president's staff and advisers and the people who are running the mid-term races, because they have problems in terms of what he can do for them.
CHRSITIE: George, let me -- react to what Matt just said, I think I was in the room when the relationship between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump was defined. And it was on the Access Hollywood weekend when Donald Trump was supposed to go to Wisconsin to a rally, and Paul Ryan, affirmatively called on that Saturday and disinvited him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And put that out.
CHRISTIE: And put that out on top of it...
DOWD: I think that reaffirms what I said.
CHRISTIE: So, I'm reacting to what Matthew said, I think that defines the relationship, it defines a lot of the politics of that time, and how they were conducting it.
And you had people blowing up my phone at that time, you know, running away from Donald Trump. These are the very same people who literally five weeks later were embracing him and trying to get into the cabinet. And he doesn't forget that stuff.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sure he doesn't.
HABERMAN: Paul Ryan looked good that day on stage.
MCCAIN: But would you rather have the Republican Party of Paul Ryan or Trump? I mean, that's the question right now.
DOWD: There's no choice, it's the Republican Party of Donald Trump, which is why Paul Ryan is leaving.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is all we have time for today. Great discussion. Coming up, top leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees -- Congressman Adam Schiff, Senator Susan Collins -- both here live next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the ranking democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning.
I want to start out, got to give you a chance to respond to Sarah Sanders from the White House just to remind everybody what she said just a few minutes ago, and so Adam Schiff barely, rarely bases any comments in realty, talk about a grand stander (ph). He is probably hook, line and sinker buddies with Jim Comey.
They both have never found a T.V. camera they don’t love to be in front of.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF.: I don’t think she likes me very much, George. Well you’d have to believe that the president picked (ph) (inaudible) out of a hat, out of the thousands of people seeking to pardon, this was a complete coincidence. I don’t find that the least bit credible.
I think the president is sending a message. Basically, I will use the pardon power to pardon people even out of a convicted oath, leaking our obstruction of justice, if you’re with me, I have your back.
I think this is the very blatant message the president is trying to send, and I’m working on legislation, frankly, that would say that any pardon that the president issues in which he is a potential witness, subject or target, the files ought to be provided to Congress so the American people can tell whether this is part of an obstruction of justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s preserved no matter what. And on James Comey, you know, there’s been some critics that said that they’re concerned that him speaking out now may effect the Mueller investigation in some way.
Are you concerned about that?
SCHIFF: I’m not concerned about it. I think his statements as far I’ve seen eclipse over (ph) are consistent with his testimony, with his memorandum. I’ve always found him to be very credible, very truthful, and so I think the Twitter attack and any concern about the investigation doesn’t concern me.
I do think that he made a very serious mistake in discussing the Clinton investigation two weeks out and then a few days out --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Releasing the letter.
SCHIFF: Releasing the letter, violating the department policy, I think it’s interesting. I think he made the same mistake, in many respects, that the Obama administration made more broadly, and for the same reason.
And that is the Obama administration didn’t aggressively take on the Russians while their hacking and dumping was going on, while the social media campaign was going on, because in part, I think they felt that like Comey, Hillary Clinton was likely to win, and that it would feed into Trump’s argument that they were rigging the process.
So I think both the Obama administration and James Comey made a similar mistake come (ph) presuming the outcome.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In fact, Comey quotes President Obama around that time saying that Putin backed the wrong horse, that these (ph) assumptions were widespread not only through the administration, actually through a lot of the country at that time as well (ph).
On -- on the broader investigation, you also heard Sarah Sanders say that there’s been absolutely no evidence of any kind of collusion that’s come forward. And in fact, the president’s gone farther, said there is no collusion and that’s been concluded by the investigators.
You’re still investigating.
SCHIFF: We’re still investigating it, and this is just simply not true. There have been, I think, any number of witnesses and evidence we have found on the issue of collusion, and the Trump Tower meeting itself, the promise of help by the Russian government, the acceptance of help by the Trump campaign, the secret conversations with George Papadopoulos, all of this is evidence of collusion.
Now it’s a separate question whether it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a conspiracy to violate U.S. election laws or a conspiracy to defraud the United States, one thing I think that’s very telling about the last indictment, Bob Mueller’s indictment of the Russians, it made no mention of the hacking and dumping operation.
Now, why was that not included?
SCHIFF: That indictment is coming, George, it’s just a question of whether that indictment includes U.S. persons or not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and do credit at all this (inaudible) report over the weekend, that they say that Mueller’s developed evidence that Michael Cohen was indeed in the Czech Republic?
SCHIFF: I don’t know the answer to that, because like much of the -- like maybe the witnesses we’ve brought before our committee, the majority was unwilling to use subpoena power to test whether they were telling us the truth.
So we asked the majority, let’s subpoena his travel records, let’s subpoena his credit card records, let’s find out where he was in Europe. When he says that he was in one place, did he go because there are (ph) not necessarily passport records to Prague or -- or somewhere else to have these meetings.
The republicans didn’t want to know the answers, and wouldn’t subpoena those records. So at this point, we don’t know the answer, and I hope the -- the Special Council can find out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, what is your overall assessment, at this point, of the Steele dossier? We knew when it was first went public that many of the allegations not only salacious but unverified. What would you say about the overall credibility of the document today?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, certainly some of the information, I think, in the dossier has been corroborated. Others, it’s very difficult to prove or disprove. But I do think that the use of this by the Republicans to suggest that the investigation began with this, which it didn’t; to suggest that -- that the whole investigation should be derailed because of the production of these reports by Christopher Steele, this is an effort simply to put the government on trial and say no matter how incriminating the evidence may be of the Trump campaign or the Russians, we should throw that out because we don’t like how the investigation was initiated or we take issue with Christopher Steele.
That’s no reason to ignore what the Russians did and it’s no reason to get in the way of an investigation to what the Trump campaign did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring in now Senator Susan Collins, senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Do you agree with that assessment of the Steele dossier?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), ME: It’s too early to tell. Mr. Steele has refused to cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee, so we’ve not been able to interview him. It will have to be Bob Mueller who gets to the bottom of some of the allegations in the report that Mr. Steele compiled.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t think he’ll be able to.
COLLINS: I don’t. I think it’s going to take the special counsel’s ability to do so. I would note that it is -- does raise questions about the sources of the information that Mr. Steele relied upon, because they were Kremlin sources. And we know that the Russians wanted to sew the seeds of division in our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Disinformation at every level.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and -- and does Robert Mueller need protection from the Senate?
COLLINS: I would think that it would not hurt if we passed legislation to send a message to the White House that we want the investigation to continue. But the fact is that the president is never going to sign that legislation. And there are some legitimate constitutional concerns about it. But having the discussion in Congress helps send a very strong message that we do not want Mr. Mueller’s investigation interfered with in any way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you’re -- you’re -- you’re certainly right. The president would not sign that legislation. So are there other steps the Senate could take to protect the integrity of the investigation?
COLLINS: Well, I think it’s important to note that even if somehow Mr. Mueller were fired -- and remember, only the deputy attorney general can fire him -- that the investigation (ph) is still going to go on. So it would not spell the end of the investigation. If a new deputy attorney general were nominated by the president, I cannot imagine the Senate confirming that individual without a clear commitment to appoint a new independent counsel.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And in fact one of the things we saw this week is that investigations continue outside the scope of Robert Mueller. We now have the -- his (ph) attorney in the southern district. On James Comey, last June when he was testifying, you called his testimony credible, candid and thorough. Has anything since then changed your view of that?
COLLINS: His testimony was credible and candid but one of the questions that I asked Mr. Comey, which he answered honestly, was whether or not he had leaked to anybody outside of the FBI the reports and notes that he took on his meetings with President Trump and he had. He admitted to that, which was --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re saying that he’s a leaker but not a liar, right?
COLLINS: Exactly. Is -- but that -- what’s disturbing about that is his leak of those documents violated the FBI’s own guidelines, which he himself helped to write. So that’s troubling to me. It’s also -- I would go back further than my friend the congressman did. And to me, the first misstep that James Comey made, after a very distinguished career, was not 11 days before the election.
It was back in the summer of 2016 --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The press conference.
COLLINS: The press conference. In which he did something very unusual. As an investigator, he announced -- and thus violated the Department of Justice’s own guidelines -- the decision not to indict Hillary Clinton and then excoriated her for her handling of classified information. That’s not an appropriate role for the FBI director. And it seems to me that unfortunately Mr. Comey stopping making investigative judgments that -- and instead was making political assessments.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Anything to add? That was -- that was clearly the mistake for him right there. On that leaking, though, you saw the president’s tweet this morning. The president said that was classified information and he (ph) should go to jail for that.
Do you see any evidence of a crime there?
COLLINS: No, I don’t.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, I -- I do want to, before you go, ask -- want to ask you about Syria and the strikes on -- on Friday -- Friday night. In your view as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was what accomplished and will more action be necessary?
COLLINS: First of all, I think the strikes were proportional and justifiable be (ph) that Sadam (ph) -- Assad regime has used chemical weapons 50 times, they violate international treaties, we acted with out allies, the French and the British, and I am glad that the strikes were undertaken.
That does not, however, solve the problem that we do not have an overall comprehensive strategy for dealing with Syria. It’s a very difficult issue, but I don’t think we can stand idly by after the Syrian’s violated the 2013 agreement that the Russian’s negotiated that was supposed to put an end to all of their chemical weapons.
Clearly, that did not happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Collins, thanks for your time this morning.
COLLINS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll be right back.
STEPHNOPOULOS: Okay, I promise, last time. I do, though, hope you’ll tune in tonight for my interview with James Comey. You’re going to learn a lot.
It’s at 10:00 o’clock Eastern, 9:00 Central, right after “American Idol.”
Thanks for joining us this morning, and have a great Sunday.