A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, July 15, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
JONATHAN KARL, HOST: Trump and Putin.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a competitor. He's not my enemy. Hopefully, someday, maybe he'll be a friend.
KARL: The president defying his critics, set to meet one-on-one with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
TRUMP: If we could develop a relationship, which is good for Russia, good for us, good for everybody, that would be great.
KARL: And as he prepares for the big summit, a special counsel indictment of 12 Russians.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to work together to hold the perpetrators accountable.
KARL: President Trump says election meddling is on the agenda.
TRUMP: All I can do is say, did you? And don't do it again. But, he may deny it.
KARL: Will the president really take on Vladimir Putin? Or after contentious meetings with America's closest allies, will he go easy on Russia? We'll ask National Security Adviser John Bolton.
And from the battle over the bench...
TRUMP: Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials.
KARL: Some fireworks on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is not recognized.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the chairman is not being proper.
PETER STRZOK, FBI: I don't appreciate what was originally said being changed.
REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.
KARL: Our powerhouse roundtable takes on the week in politics. What's fact. What's fiction. And what matters this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning. And thank you for joining us.
In just a few hours, President Trump is set to arrive in Helsinki for his summit meeting with Vladimir Putin. It caps off a whirlwind week overseas, from tense talks with our NATO allies, to a rocky protest-filled visit to England where he ultimately reaffirmed America's special relationship with the UK.
But it's President Trump's apparent desire for a special relationship with an adversary that's raising concerns.
George Stephanopoulos landed in Helsinki just a few moments ago. And he is going to lead ABC's coverage of the Trump/Putin summit. George joins us now live. Good morning, George.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Good morning, Jon. Beautiful setting here in Helsinki for the summit, which is going to take place tomorrow at about 1:00 p.m. eastern time. That's when they're set to meet in this presidential palace at Helsinki, which is right behind me there, that yellow building with the white columns.
We're here, actually broadcasting from a boat on Helsinki's harbor. The city hall is right behind me.
Everything is set to take place tomorrow, as I said, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Vladimir Putin will get here tomorrow morning. Of course, he's got the World Cup tonight.
KARL: George, this meeting comes just after Robert Mueller's indictment of 12 of Putin's intelligence officials. The timing is really remarkable. What impact is this going to have on the summit?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Remarkable, Jon. It has to be intentional. I mean, the special counsel -- I know Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday said it was determined by when they had the evidence in place. But clearly they could have decided to put this off until after the summit, if they chose to do that.
They chose to do this before the meeting with President Putin and President Trump, I think in order to raise the stakes of the meeting and in fact put pressure on President Trump to make sure he makes this front and center in his meeting with Vladimir Putin tomorrow.
But we saw, Jon, over the course of last week. We know that President Trump was briefed on this by Rod Rosenstein last Monday. And even after that briefing, even after knowing that 12 members of Vladimir Putin's military intelligence were going to be indicted, we saw him refer to this as a rigged witch hunt over the couse of last week and give somewhat dismissive answers about how hard he was going to press this in his meeting with Vladimir Putin.
I think this indictment means that the president will have to press it hard. I mean, there will be more pressure on him to do that. As you know, Jon, because of this indictment there's been a lot of pressure on President Trump to cancel this meeting, not to go through with the summit. Democrats have called on that, even Senator John McCain has said to do that. He's not willing to hold Vladimir Putin accountable. Clearly the White House is not going to listen to that advice. They're going to go forward with this meeting tomorrow.
We will see how hard President Trump presses on this issue. What they say about it afterwards.
KARL: What's your read on this summit? There have been suggestion this is a summit that Putin wanted. The president has said that it's something that both men wanted. What does President Trump want to accomplish here?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, clearly, the president wanted this summit. He's been pushing his staff for months to get this on the table, especially after his meeting with Kim Jong-un, which he thought was quite successful. And I think that in the president's mind, at least, that meeting is the template for his meeting with President Putin, develop this personal relationship with the president.
But you've seen already now in the wake of this indictment, the president lowering expectations for the meeting, saying he hopes some good will come out of it, hopes there won't be much harm coming out of it.
Here’s what’s not going to happen in the meeting. Vladimir Putin is not going to confess to meddling in -- in -- in our elections. President Trump is not going to be able to lift sanctions or -- or to accept President Putin’s denials in the way that he has in the past. I think it’s going to be very difficult for him to do that. So most likely you’ll see each side sticking to their positions and agreeing to disagree and perhaps agreeing to have further meetings in the future.
I think what a lot of President Trump’s critics fear is that somehow coming into this meeting, which we know Vladimir Putin has prepared well for -- there’s been somewhat less preparations on the American side -- that somehow Vladimir Putin will maneuver the president into accepting or appearing to accept Russian positions on hot button issues, not only on the meddling in our election but other issues like Syria, North Korea and the sanctions in Crimea.
KARL: George, given what we’ve seen so far on the president’s trip, do our allies have reason to be apprehensive about what he will agree with when he meets with Putin?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well we know they are, Jon. And take a step back here for a second. We know that it’s been a long term goal of Vladimir Putin to divide us from our allies. There was evidence of that last week. We now know that a little over two years ago, he set out to interfere in our elections, to hurt Hillary Clinton, help elect Donald Trump.
Donald Trump was elected president and now he’s getting this meeting with the president of the United States. That in itself is a victory for Vladimir Putin. How President Trump handles the meeting tomorrow will determine whether that victory stands.
KARL: Fascinating. George, thank you for joining us. We’ll talk to you again soon. Earlier this morning, I spoke with White House National Security Advisor John Bolton. He joined us from Trump Turnberry in Scotland where the president enjoyed a round of golf this morning ahead of his big summit tomorrow in Finland.
KARL: Thank you for joining us, Ambassador Bolton.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Glad to be with you.
KARL: This summit comes just after Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials. Does the president feel blindsided or undermined by the timing of that indictment coming just as he’s about to sit-down with President Putin?
BOLTON: Oh, quite the contrary. The president was briefed on the indictment coming. I spoke with him about it. He was perfectly prepared to have it come before the meeting with Putin. I would say in fact it strengthens his hand. It shows that the -- the justice system, the Department of Justice, are aware of these Russian efforts in election meddling, and I think the president can put this on the table and say, this is a serious matter that we need to talk about.
KARL: Now that you have seen the indictment lay out in great detail what happened here, do you have any doubt that Putin himself knew what was going on at the very least?
BOLTON: Well, I can tell you when I met with President Putin a few weeks ago to prepare for the Helsinki meeting. He made it plain that he said the Russian state was not involved, and he was very clear with his translator that that's the word that he wanted. Now we'll have to see given that these are allegations concerning GRU agents, obviously part of the Russian state, what he says about it now.
KARL: Because is there any way that you could 12 officials, some of them quite senior in Russian military intelligence carry out an operation to undermine a U.S. presidential election and that Putin himself would not know? Do you find that in any way credible?
BOLTON: I find it hard to believe, but that's what one of the purposes of this meeting is, so the president can see eye to eye with President Putin and ask him about it.
KARL: Will the president ask Putin to extradite those 12 individuals who have been indicted?
BOLTON: Well, you know I know a number of Democratic senators have called for extradition. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume none of them are lawyers because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, so it's pretty hard to imagine how that would happen.
I know some other have called for the United States to take steps to try and arrest these individuals. I think that's certainly something the Department of Justice will try and do.
It's always possible that we could go to Interpol, the International Association of Chiefs and Police -- Chiefs of Police, give them what are called red notices, to issue arrest warrants in other countries, but you know, the Department of Justice, they're decision, I think correctly made this indictment public.
They did not put it under seal, which means that they've given notice to the named defendants that they could be arrested, so makes it harder to achieve the arrests, but I'm sure the Department will pursue the normal channels that it can to try to bring these people to trial.
KARL: Well, extradition treaty or not, the president could ask, even demand of Putin that he turn these individuals over? Will he do that?
BOLTON: You know, I think it’s pretty silly for the president to demand something that he can’t get legally. And this is a very serious matter, you know the Russians take the position, you can -- you can like it or not like it, that their constitution forbids them to extradite Russian citizens.
They have an agreement with the Europeans that looks a lot like an extradition treaty, Europeans have frequently tried to use that to get the Russians to extradite their nationals. And they flat out refused to do it.
So I think for the president to demand something that isn’t going to happen puts the president in a weak position, and I think the president has made it very clear he intends to approach this discussion from a position of strength.
KARL: If -- if the -- if Putin is unwilling to acknowledge that the Russian state, because this was not just Russian actors, this was, as you’ve pointed out, this is Russian intelligence, Russian military intelligence.
If Putin is unwilling to acknowledge the Russian state’s effort to interfere in our elections, can you really trust him on anything else? I mean I think it was -- it was you who said the last time President Trump met with President Putin, negotiate with today’s Russia at your peril.
BOLTON: Well, you know, I always love to have statements that I made in my capacity as a private citizen repeated back to me. I’m glad your researchers had to look into it. I hope they found it an edifying experience.
I think the president will handle this as he chooses. I think he’ll put it to President Putin. He said he’s going to do that. He’ll listen to President Putin’s response and we’ll go from there.
KARL: Well, let me ask you as the national security adviser to the president. Do you think that President Trump should trust Vladimir Putin?
BOLTON: Look, I said this before, I’ll say it again -- I’m the national security adviser. I’m not the national security decision-maker. I give -- it’s privilege to give my advice to the president, I don’t discuss it publicly. He’s going to make the decision how to handle this.
KARL: Let me play you something that the president said at this joint press conference with Theresa May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I call it the rigged witch hunt. I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, I’m trying to understand there. You said that this indictments strengthens the president’s hand and yet even after he was briefed on what was happening, he called it a rigged witch hunt. Is he suggesting that there’s anything illegitimate about this indictment?
BOLTON: I think what he’s suggesting is that his political opponents in the United States for well all over a year and a half have been trying to say that somehow he’s a dupe for the Russian intelligence services, that he’s an agent of the Kremlin, that he’s been compromised by Russia, that he blinked to Russia, that he takes orders from Vladimir Putin. I mean, really, the conspiracies are about as obscure as you can imagine, just subject to people’s imagination. That’s what he’s talking about.
This indictment, a product of the Department of Justice, presumably met the Department of Justice guidelines which say that prosecutors have to believe that it’s more -- substantially more likely than not that they can prove guilty beyond reasonable doubt as to every element of the offenses being charged. And that I think is what strengthens the president’s hand going into Vladimir Putin, that’s the strength of the evidence that the department has accumulated. That’s what he has to answer.
KARL: The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats just said that Russia is the most aggressive foreign actor in efforts to divide America. And then he said this: the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.
He even compared these Russian efforts to 9/11 and the situation ahead of 9/11.
How concerned are you that Russia will try to do this again, will try to again undermine an American election?
BOLTON: Well, I think we’re quite concerned about it. The president has been briefed on this previously by the Department of Justice, including the FBI, by the Department of Homeland Security.
These briefings have been ongoing. You’ve heard the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen explain many of the efforts she’s undertaking to prevent this happening, certainly to the security of our electoral systems in each of the different states.
There’s a lot of things going on that we can’t talk because they’re classified. And obviously you’re not going to alert your adversaries and those trying to corrupt the election process to what we’re doing. But I think it’s very clear the president’s determined that we’re not going to have any outsider interfer with the integrity of our electoral process.
KARL: I’m sure you saw several Democrats who were calling on the president to cancel the summit. We also heard from Senator John McCain who said if President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward.
Obviously, the summit is moving forward, but will the president hold Putin accountable? And I don’t mean just ask him if he did it, or if the Russians did it. Is he actually going to confront President Putin with the evidence that it was Russian interference, Russian government interference with our election?
BOLTON: Well, look, you have two indictments by the Justice Department. Already, I think the Russians are well aware of that. How this conversation is going to go I think we’ll be determined by the two parties. We have asked that the Russians have agreed that it will be basically unstructured. We’re not looking for concrete deliverables here.
I think it’s very important that the president has a direct one-on-one conversation with President Putin. That’s how this was going to start off, and I’d say that every European leader that we’ve met with on this trip, including most recently on Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom has said they support this meeting going forward.
The British have significant concerns about the Russian use of a chemical agent against people here in Great Britain and as they pointed out, that constitutes the chemical weapons attack against the nuclear power.
Prime Minister May was very strong in her conversation with the president about that, and I’m sure the president has that in mind as well. There are going to be a lot of very difficult issues on the agenda here with President Putin and I think President Trump is prepared to raise all of them.
KARL: So there are also concerns from our allies about the president offering concessions to President Putin. Can we just quickly go through three of these? Will the president recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea or does he rule that out?
BOLTON: Look, that -- that is not the policy of the United States. And I might say that there are a lot of people raising a lot of concerns about a lot of things and we could sit here and address a whole range of them. I think the president’s going in to this meeting determined to advance the national interest of the United States. That’s what he was elected to do.
KARL: So let me just go through the others then. One is the joint military exercises with Russia’s Baltic neighbors. Will he rule out ending those? Are those going to continue?
BOLTON: That’s not on the agenda.
KARL: And withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria?
BOLTON: That whole -- the whole situation in Syria will be a discussion that the two leaders will have in large part because it’s getting more serious. But I think the president has made it clear that we are there until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East.
KARL: You know, I want to ask you about Putin and freedom of the press. Vladimir Putin’s government have jailed journalists. There have even been accusations that there have been -- they’ve carried out murders of journalists critical of the Russian state.
And we hear President Trump -- doesn’t he kind of contribute to that authoritarian effort to undermine a free press when we hear him brand legitimate news organization as fake, legitimate news stories as fake? Doesn’t that contribute to exactly the kind of undermining of the free press that we see out of Russia?
BOLTON: No, I don’t think it has anything to do with it. Let’s just be clear, Franklin Roosevelt met with Joseph Stalin at a time activity in Russia was about worse than it is today. I’m not excusing present conduct, but it didn’t seem to bother Franklin Roosevelt and liberal Democrats once bothered at a time when he met with Stalin.
So, let’s try and have historical perspective here and not act like we have the attention span of fruit flies.
KARL: But wait a minute, I’m not asking whether or not it’s legitimate or appropriate for him to meet with Vladimir Putin. I’m asking if the president branding real news organization, real news stories as not real, contributes to this effort that we see from the Russians and from other authoritarians to undermine the free press?
BOLTON: Of course not. Really, honestly, Jonathan, I think the question’s silly.
KARL: Well let me ask you about --
BOLTON: And don’t say I’m attacking freedom of the press. I just pasteurized the (ph) question.
KARL: OK well you were also scheduled to appear on CNN this morning and the White House press secretary announced that your appearance would not go forward because a CNN reporter quote, disrespected the president and Prime Minister May at the joint press conference. Is it really appropriate to deny a news organization access to a White House official because a reporter tried to ask a question at a press conference?
BOLTON: Look, in reality I don’t seek out the press, I don’t talk to them, I -- I appear when I’m -- I’m asked to and if I’m not -- if I’m not asked to appear, I don’t do it. And I don’t communicate with them either as you could find out if you consulted your friends in the Washington press corps, whom I don’t communicate with.
KARL: OK. Let me ask you about what the president -- the president’s characterization of the relationship with Russia. He said that Russia -- that Putin is not an enemy, he is a competitor and he’s somebody that he hopes will be a friend. All of that may be true, but isn’t it also true that -- that Putin -- today’s Russia is an adversary of the United States?
BOLTON: Yes, there are certainly adversarial aspects of it. There’s no question about it. But you know, the phrase peer competitor has often been used to characterize U.S. relations with China, with Russia, with others. So I thought the president was -- was on the mark there.
KARL: The president at his meeting with NATO said that the U.S. could go it alone or do our own thing if NATO allies don’t put more into the collective defense. Is it -- would the president really consider withdrawing from NATO, withdrawing support from NATO if -- if our allies don’t put in more?
BOLTON: Look, that -- that -- that’s not exactly what he said. I was there at every conversation he had in Brussels on the subject, and I heard him at length and I heard the allies respond to him. He made a very important point. NATO is a collective defense organization. To be strong together, all 29 allies have to pull their fair share of the burden. They acknowledge that.
They also acknowledge that they have not done so. And they acknowledge what I think is the most important point of all here, that President Trump, unlike any of his predecessors, has finally made this burden sharing issue something of an -- of importance.
And the impromptu meeting that we had in Brussels last Thursday, the prime minister of one of the European countries said expressly, referring to President Obama, you know, he would come here and he’d say oh yes, we need your defense expenditures to equal two percent of GDP by 2024, ho hum and then he’d move on. I mean that was a recognition which I heard from other European leaders as well, that they knew President Obama was just going through the motions.
So of course, hearing the president of the United States just going through the motions, that’s how they responded. They’ve heard from President Trump he doesn’t want them to go through motions, he wants to live up to the commitment that they made.
And I think viewers need to understand is every NATO ally agreed that Cardiff, Wales in 2014 to hit the two percent target by 2024. Nobody has ever said that they didn’t reach it, they weren’t coerced by the United States to do that.
They agreed to it of their own free will, and they should live up to it. The United States and our tax payers should not be subsidizing European welfare states who are not willing to spend on their own defense.
I think the president’s right on the policy here.
KARL: Before you go, I want to ask you about North Korea. Of course, after the summit in Singapore, the president said, quote, "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea".
Given what we have seen since that summit, and there are reports of North Koreans actively trying to deceive us about the extent of their nuclear program, and of course we had Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang.
He wasn’t even able to meet with Kim Jong-un, did not appear to be a very productive meeting. Given what we have seen since that Singapore summit, isn’t what the president said about there no longer being a nuclear threat from North Korea at the very least wildly premature?
BOLTON: Come on, what he was saying in context was that if North Korea lives up to the commitments that it made on denuclearization, then it would no longer be a threat. The test here will be what North Korea actually does to live up to the commitment that they made in Singapore that they say they still uphold and that now they need to fulfill.
KARL: I mean actually the quote was there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, he didn’t say anything about if they meet their commitments or any of that.
BOLTON: I -- I think it was clear what he meant.
KARL: Well let me ask you, do you think they’re meeting their commitments? Is there any indication that they are on a path towards meeting those commitments?
BOLTON: I -- I think that’s what Secretary Mike Pompeo is doing in his meetings. He’s got a very tough job. We’re all trying to help him out. And he’s going to work it through.
KARL: OK, one last question, Ambassador.
BOLTON: I thought the last one was the last one.
KARL: Well it was the last -- that was another topic. One last question. There’s been many attempts to try to characterize what the Trump doctrine is, one that I saw recently was, quote, "no friends, no enemies". Does that sound to you like the Trump doctrine? How would you put it?
BOLTON: I think it sounds like a cheap shot, Jonathan. Look, I’m a Burkean conservative, I don’t do doctrines unless I have to. I think the president believes in Ronald Reagan’s approach of peace through strength.
I think that’s what he’s carrying out.
KARL: All right, Ambassador John Bolton, the president’s national security advisor. Thank you for joining us.
BOLTON: Always glad to do it.
KARL: And when we come back, two central players in the 2016 campaign take on special counsel Robert Mueller's new indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials.
Donna Brazile, who led the DNC while it was under attack by Russian hackers, and Chris Christie, himself a candidate for president before joining the Trump team. They both join our powerhouse Roundtable next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSENSTEIN: We confront foreign interference in American elections. It's important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on which side was victimized.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That's Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Friday announcing Robert Mueller's latest indictment in the Russia investigation.
Let's bring in the Powerhouse Roundtable -- Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. She served as the DNC chair in 2016 after the hack and leaking of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor. He led President Trump's transition team in the final months of the campaign. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition. And Elizabeth Bumiller, Washington bureau chief of The New York Times.
So, Donna, this had to be a personal experience reading this indictment. What went through your might as you read the details -- exhaustive details?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER INTERIM CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: First of all, it is finally acknowledged that the hacking was a crime. That's number one. Number two, at the time of the hacking, no one believed us. And we didn't have anyone to come to our defense.
President Trump this morning said that the Democratic party should be ashamed of itself. Well my response to the president is that there was no way we could go to Staples or Best Buy or Office Depot or Office Max to buy anti-GRU military intelligence software to protect and defend ourselves when the country was under attack, the DNC was under attack, the DCCC and (ph) the Clinton campaign.
So here’s what I’d like to say to the president. Confront Mr. Putin, give him this document, let him know that the United States will not tolerate another hacking of our elections, 2018, 2020 like President Obama. Also, make sure that the federal agencies are prepared this election cycle. All of our election integrity system must be up to date.
And I think the most important thing, now that we know that there are several witches, (ph) not some 400 pound guy sitting on the bed, the president needs to acknowledge this and recognize that he has to protect and defend our democracy.
The Russians took our e-mails, took our data and they could still use that information to try to sew discord and to damage our democratic institutions.
KARL: And Governor Christie, if you look, one of the most remarkable things in this indictment is it says that the Russians took actions to target Hillary Clinton’s personal e-mail server on or about July 27, 2016. This is what the president had to say on that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too but -- and this may be wrong, but they had much stronger defenses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: What the president said --
CHRISTIE: I remember.
KARL: He said clearly --
CHRISTIE: I remember --
KARL: -- directly (ph) asked Russia to -- to -- to get the e-mails and they acted.
CHRISTIE: Jon. Jon, let’s not -- let’s not demean what is an extraordinary bit of work here by Mueller and his people and the Department of Justice by trying to connect those two. What also, if you read the whole indictment, it says is that all these attempts started in March and April before that. So the -- the -- the aluminum foil hat folks who want to say oh, well Trump said this on the 27th and so then they did it, they’ve been working on that --
KARL: You don’t find that to be --
CHRISTIE: No, I -- no
KARL: -- an extraordinary coincidence?
CHRISTIE: -- I find -- I do think that every once in a while, Jon, there are coincidences in life. And the idea that they could start an operation based upon what they heard in the morning from the president in the evening -- from the president -- Presidential Candidate Donald Trump is just ridiculous when you read this entire indictment.
This was a absolute plan to go after Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the other Democratic campaign committees. And so the idea that somehow they were spurred on by what Donald Trump said I think is absolutely ridiculous.
The idea that they had here from the beginning and is -- is laid out in that indictment very clearly -- and I was saying this earlier, it’s a talking indictment, it allowed us to really see a lot of the evidence, a lot more than you’d normally put in an indictment -- is that these Russian military actors had every intention of trying to damage this election process and to hurt Hillary Clinton.
That’s what they were trying to do. They didn’t need Donald Trump’s suggestion to do it, they were doing it months before that comment.
KARL: And this is a solid case.
CHRISTIE: Listen --
KARL: I mean there’s no -- this is not a product of a witch hunt, this is --
CHRISTIE: No, and let’s make this distinction, too. I think the president’s reference to witch hunt has always been about collusion. And that’s the way I’ve always read his -- his things (ph) is that the -- the allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and the -- the Russians is a witch hunt. And I think that you get some support for that in this indictment when the Deputy Attorney General says there’s no evidence of Americans knowingly speaking to Russian military actors who were -- who were putting this on.
And I think the -- the -- the thing that people haven’t said before that I think’s important to be said for the American people who are listening out there, this isn’t just the Department of Justice or Bob Mueller. This is a group of ordinary Americans who sit in a grand jury in the District of Columbia who heard this and said there is probable cause to believe that this crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt.
That’s powerful for the American people who are listening out there. This isn’t a group of lawyers sitting around. This is a group of regular citizens serving as grand jurors in the District of Columbia who have said this evidence deserves their vote and they gave it to them.
INSKEEP The president has not said anything that you just said, governor -- said as strongly as you did. You just very strongly said this indictment shows an attack on the United States. That’s not the president’s message today. The president’s message today is that the Democrats are to blame. He hasn’t spoken up for the country in any statement that we have yet seen.
This is an indictment that shows a series of actions that not only targeted certain people in the United States but clearly affected the election campaign. We can’t say it affected anybody’s vote. We don’t know that anybody voted differently, but we do know that these hacked e-mails were a huge part of the news of the campaign at various points over a period of months.
BUMILLER: And by the way, the intelligence agencies in January of 2017 found that the goal of the Russians was to help Donald Trump as well as to hurt Hillary Clinton.
So the idea that somehow -- and I agree with you, the press -- the White House statement that came out after the indictment was mostly about there were no Americans involved. There wasn't a word, and the president has not said a word, about the fact that this was an attack on our electoral system and that could happen again in 2018.
KARL: But let me ask you, this indictment makes it clear this was a Russian military intelligence operation that hacked these emails, and as you said it dominated the news for a good part of the campaign. Does the news media writ-large bear some of the responsibility?
KARL: Well, all of us.
CHRISTIE: You bet.
KARL: Over day after day...
KARL: Reported the substance and details of these emails that were stolen by...
BRAZILE: Blew it out of proportion. 184 times. What WikiLeaks did once they received the information is they used it strategically each day to shape the political narrative. And the media played it up. It was the only story. It was very difficult to break through the media once that became the story of the day. It was a very highly sophisticated cyberoperation that had to involve someone who understood how to shape this narrative.
BUMILLER: It's certainly true. But what would you have the media do? Just say we're not going to touch this.
BRAZILE: You should have said this information is from stolen hacked emails and the lives that you put at risk when this happened, the lives you put at risk when you used this information and weaponized it, it went right to the heart of what Mr. Putin was trying to do in our election.
CHRISTIE: Jon, let's be candid. I was working on the other side from time to time.
BRAZILE: Wehn in hindsight.
CHRISTIE: But the point is that we live in a media culture today that only cares about getting whatever is new first. And the idea of what damage that may cause or not cause becomes a secondary or even tertiary concern.
And, you know, Donna is right, people were put at risk here in a way, because of the way this was played that was irresponsible. There should have been a lot more work done on this done before...
KARL: Well, the RNC was pushing this stuff out pretty...
INSKEEP: I want to agree with one word that Donald Brazile used. You talked about a narrative. If embarrassing information is out there about you, and there was embarrassing information about you, we got to report it. We can't pretend it's not there.
BRAZILE: But you got hacked information, because you had hacked stolen emails. You had half of my files. You didn't have my whole files.
What Putin wanted to do, and it wasn't personal -- look, I understood it wasn't personal, so I didn't take it personally. That's why I kept doing my job. And my job every day was to try to focus on the election.
But what your job was, was to say that these are hacked, stolen emails. And they came from a corrupted source. And you knew enough to say that but you didn't do that.
INSKEEP: Well, there's where I would agree with you is that the media should be careful about the narrative that they sketch and what is the story that's being told.
CHRSITIE: It was given complete credibility.
INSKEEP: I would defend my news organization.
BUMILLER: And I would also say that the reason we know much about this is because of what we wrote, the story called "The Perfect Weapon" where we went through this. Eric Lipton, David Sanger, Scott Shane.
INSKEEP: I agree.
BUMILLER: The reason you know much about this -- and knew about it so early was because of the reporting we did afterward and went through the entire narrative step by step.
BRAZILE: We worked with your reporters. And I appreciate the work that you guys did. I really do.
CHRISTIE: But remember one other thing, though, here is that that was all after the fact. But at the time you were playing this, the media was playing this at the time as if this was credible sourcing. And what Donna said is absolutely right, you had to know they didn't have all of her emails. They just took the most embarrassing ones. And you can't assess the credibility of somebody who is just part of a story, but the media banged her and a lot of other people in the Clinton campaign unfairly.
KARL: We have to take a break. We have to take a quick break. We will be back with more of the roundtable, plus Democratic Senator Chris Murphy joins us live in the studio to weigh in on the Trump/Putin summit and all this.
KARL: Senator Chris Murphy is here ready to respond to our interview with John Bolton. We’ll be right back.
KARL: And we’re back with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a key member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Murphy, we -- we heard John Bolton say that this indictment strengthens the president’s hand and that the president will confront Donald Trump on this.
Do you -- do you believe him?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CT: So I’d like to know the name of the president that John Bolton thinks he works for, because he’s not describing President Trump. President Trump went on TV after the indictment was issued and called the investigation once again a hoax.
He has already said that he has asked Putin about meddling, Putin told him he didn’t do it, and he believed him. And so it just belies common sense that the President of the United States, this president, is going to sit down across from Putin and press him hard on the issue of Russian meddling.
He knows that he benefitted from it, he asked them to do it, and he knows that he still stands to benefit. What we have been told by the intelligence services in this country is that the Russians are trying to interfere again in the 2018 election.
And what I believe is that President Trump knows ultimately that that could accrue to his benefit and to his party’s benefit. He is simply not going to raise this issue as strongly as he should, if at all with Putin, which is why many of us think that this summit should stand down.
KARL: So what should he do?
MURPHY: Well what he needs to do is to not be pushed into sanction action by Congress. He needs to come to us and ask for more funds to stand up electoral defenses. He’s done none of that.
We have had to essentially bludgeon the president into issuing sanctions and the congress has had to appropriate money to try to shore up our electoral defenses. And then he has to say, frankly, what Chris Christie just said.
He has to come out and use the strongest language possible to describe these attacks, and he hasn’t. He has just so far tried to explain away his participation in it or Americans participation in it.
KARL: But -- but let me ask you, when -- when you listen to the president’s words, there’s no question they’re conciliatory towards Vladimir Putin. But if you look at what he has actually done, what his administration has actually done, you could certainly make a strong case that he’s been tougher than the Obama administration.
Look, selling lethal weapons to Ukraine, which Obama refused to do. Sixty Russian diplomats expelled following the poison attack in the U.K. Imposing sanctions, Treasury Department had to impose on 213 Russian related entities, and of course air strikes twice against Syria, another thing that the Obama administration stopped short of.
Can’t you argue based on the facts that he’s actually been pretty tough -- his administration’s been pretty tough on Russia?
MURPHY: So his record here is -- is admittedly very muddled, but let’s also remember that much of what he did with respect to sanctions he was pressed to do by Congress, and in fact he fought many of the sanctions powers that we gave him.
At the same time, he has invited Russia back into the G7 without any pre conditions, he has walked America off the Middle East playing field, leaving diplomacy in Syria to the Russians.
He has potentially decimated the State Department, which is one of the primary means by which we push back against Russia in and around their periphery. So for as many places in which he has taken some strong actions, there are plenty of other places in which he has essentially seated the fields, especially around Russia’s periphery to Putin and the Kremlin.
KARL: You -- you and other Democrats have also been tough on his performance in NATO for being, you know, so -- so tough on our allies, particularly Germany. But as we heard directly from the secretary general of NATO actually giving him credit for pushing NATO members to give more -- to put up more in terms of their defense.
MURPHY: So I think --
KARL: This is an important issue, isn’t it?
MURPHY: Well it is an important issue, but let’s remember the percentage of your budget dedicated defense is not the sum total of your participation in the alliance. And so what I believe --
KARL: But our allies can pull more of their weight here, can’t they? Or they should?
MURPHY: They -- they certainly can, but so can we. Let’s think about the refugee crisis for a moment. If you talk about the burden of dealing with the outflow of refugees from the Middle East, the United States is not picking up our share of the burden, it’s the Europeans that are doing it almost alone.
And so there are grievances on both sides of this alliance. President Trump made a decision that he was going to try to undermine NATO, undermine the E.U. He has used the two percent number as a means by which to do it.
But let’s be clear, NATO today is arguably functionally obsolete in the sense that do you really believe that if the Europeans were attacked in the Baltic States for instance by Russia, that President Trump would leap to their defense?
Do you believe today that if the United States --
KARL: Article 5 says we would.
MURPHY: Well it’s always going to be a political decision as to whether you actually enforce Article 5, and I think that there is a very important question today as to whether President Trump would actually stand up for Article 5, and I think NATO is just trying to survive the next two and a half years by saying these nice things about the state of the alliance so that it’s still there when Trump’s gone.
KARL: All right, Senator Murphy, thank you for joining us --
-- this week.
More roundtable coming up. We'll be right back.
KARL: The roundtable is back for more. Donna Brazile, Chris Christie, Steve Inskeep, and Elisabeth Bumiller.
Elisabeth, let me start with you. The other big story, it's hard to remember it was actually this week, was the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
It looks like the Democrats have not really been able to move the ball on this. I mean, it looks like -- it's early. It looks like he's headed towards confirmation.
BUMILLER: So far Susan Collins saying she thought it would be hard to say he wasn't uncomfortabled -- or that he is qualified, it was a big signal that Susan Collins and probably Lisa Murkowski the two questionable votes on the Republican side looks like that that's heading in that direction. White House says they want to have him confirmed by October 1. There will be a 66-day process that just as in the past.
And so at this point -- now, the Democrats are saying that there is a lot of paper here, a lot of documents, very long record, and they're going through it. But so far nothing at this point has emerged.
We had a very nice story this morning on him -- I mean a very extensive story about him -- not nice I want to say, but a long really well reported story looking at the fact that he is very much, despite what Trump said in the beginning of the administration, very much a creature of Washington. Grew up in, you know...
KARL: This is the guy Jeb Bush would have nominated, isn't it?
INSKEEP: It is plausibly so. Although, I'd like to learn more as a citizen. I'd like to know more. And that's an open question, how much more, if anything, we're going to learn about what this judge believes about the constitution and the law.
Republicans are invoking what they call the Ginsburg rule, saying that Ruth Bader Ginsburg avoided a lot of questions during her confirmation hearing. My colleague, Nina Totenberg reported in the last few day, just went back to the archives, went back to the tape. Ginsburg actually answered a lotof questions, including about abortion and other hot button topics. And while you don't want to know how Kavanaugh would rule in some hypothetical case, because who know, it would be nice to know what he thinks of the constitution and law in more detail.
KARL: And Don, aren't the Democrats making a mistake here by coming out immediately. They're completely and totally opposed to him.
Chuck Schumer saying he is going to do everything in his power to defeat the nomination before we've even had a chance to hear from the guy?
BRAZILE: Well, we never heard from Merrick Garland, and yet Republicans decided not to give him a hearing and to hold that seat vacant to give President Trump an opportunity to put his person -- this is a very important seat. We all know that. We know it because of the issues that are at stake. People want to know had is views on everything from health care to reproductive rights to civil rights and, of course, the environment.
So, there's -- Democrats are going to hold him accountable to his record. And if he's able to get the votes, not just the Republican votes, but perhaps even maybe some Democratic votes, so be it. But I think Democrats have every right to be somewhat upset by what happened when President Obama chose Merrick Garland.
CHRISTIE: That's the best news I've heard all morning is Donna said Mr. Kavanaugh is going to be held accountable for his record, because this is a guy who I remember during the campaign people were saying how -- what crazy people would Donald Trump pick if he had the opportunity to pick people to put on the United States Supreme Court. That was a constant attack from the Clinton campaign.
Now, who has he selected? Neil Gorsuch, who again I think is a relatively mainstream conservative Republican with a real record, and now Brett Kavanaugh who has 12 years on the D.C. Circuit that everybody can look at.
You want to know what Brett Kavanaugh thinks about the constitution? Look at what he's written over the last 12 years on the D.C. circuit. You want to know what he thinks about executive power? Look at what he's done with regulatory rulings he's made on the D.C. Circuit. So, the fact is he's got a record.
The president didn't pick somebody, as some people said he would, that had no record and would be a mystery.
KARL: It wasn't a David Souter.
CHRISTIE: No, it wasn't David Souter. And so they pick someone who has a big record.
So, I agree with my friend, Donna, he should be judged on his record. And if he is my guess is he gets 56 or 57 votes.
BUMILLER: And one -- one big question is, you know, he is -- because of his involvement with the Star report and -- and Clinton impeachment, he now feels that a president -- a president should not be required to testify in a criminal proceeding. This is going to be coming potentially when Mueller --
KARL: We got to take a quick break (ph).
CHRISTIE: -- to be fair (ph), what he says is Congress should --
CHRSITIE: -- constitutional bar (ph) that Congress should do it. And that’s a big difference.
KARL: All right. That is all the time we have for the round table. We’ll be right back.
KARL: In Russia, a World Cup for the ages. You don’t have to be a soccer fan to take joy in the triumphs of tiny Croatia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Croatia. The (inaudible) in history. (Inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: The last time a nation with so few people went to the finals was Uruguay in 1950. Today in the finals, they’ll play a French team that showcases the power of Europe’s diversity. England got knocked out of the World Cup but at the all England club, a Wimbledon for the ages. Kevin Anderson, who’s never won a grand slam, getting past the great Roger Federer and playing two of the longest Wimbledon matches in history on his way to the finals.
And Serena Williams, just 10 months after the birth of her Daughter Alexis, after enduring multiple surgeries, coming back as the 25th seated player, making it all the way to the finals. She came up short, but after the match she said, to all the moms out there, I was playing for you.
And this week, the nation’s capital will welcome the immortals of baseball, hosting the all star game for the first time since 1969, a game that brought Mays, Aaron, Clemente and 17 other future hall of famers to a capital city still reeling from the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King the year before. The all star game was also here in 1962, just months before the Cuban missile crisis.
President John Kennedy throwing out the first pitch and greeting his friend, Stan Musial. As Kennedy once put it, "They told me I was too young to be president and you were too old to be playing baseball but we fooled them."
But the team sports story of the week undoubtedly belongs to the Wild Boars, the soccer team in Thailand that made it out alive. And that’s the greatest victory of all. And a reminder, ABC’s coverage of the Helsinki summit begins tomorrow morning with George Stephanopoulos and David Muir on the ground reporting across all our ABC News platforms. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us and have a great day.