'This Week' Transcript 9-15-19: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Ted Cruz

This is a rush transcript for "This Week" airing Sunday, September 15.

ByABC News
September 15, 2019, 9:19 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 15, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

JOE BIDEN, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is about candor, honesty, big ideas.


ELIZABETH WARREN, 2020 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I know what's broken. I know how to fix it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Head-to-head on health care.

BERNIE SANDERS, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wrote the damn bill, if I may say so.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Bernie wrote the bill. I read the bill.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem, Senator Sanders, with that damn bill, it doesn't trust the American people.


BETO O’ROURKE, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

KLOBUCHAR: We should start with a voluntary buyback program.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Divided on the pace of change.

Are Senators Warren and Sanders pushing too far?

BIDEN: That'll be for the voters to decide.

STEPHANOPOULOS: United against Trump.

KAMALA HARRIS, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He reminds me of that -- that guy in The Wizard of Oz, you know, when you pull back the curtain.

CORY BOOKER, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what changed Thursday night? Did the front-runners solidify their positions or give new hope to the challengers? Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are here today. The GOP response from Texas Senator Ted Cruz plus our powerhouse roundtable. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. The top 10 Democratic contenders shared the same stage for the first time Thursday night. Who won, who lost, how much has changed? Not entire entirely clear. Probably the way it should be still five months from the first votes. What is clear, the ideological and political debate that divides this field is far from settled. The candidates and the Democratic voters are now vying for all wanting to defeat President Trump. What it takes to win, what comes next, the big open questions. Two of the candidates are here today. We begin with the Mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg.

Mayor, thank you for joining us this morning.


STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to the debate fallout (ph) but first, that breaking news from the Persian Gulf. Those drone attacks on the Saudi oil facilities have threatened a big disruption in the global oil supply. We’ve seen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo call out Iran. President Trump called the Saudi Crown Prince with a message of support. If you were in the Oval Office right now, how would you respond?

BUTTIGIEG: If I were in the Oval Office, my focus would be on making sure this doesn’t escalate into further instability, conflict and not only danger to world oil supply but danger to peace. Look, right now there is more than enough destabilizing the Middle East and the Persian Gulf without fears that a president could destabilize it further with the next tweet. We need to make sure that we create options to prevent things from escalating further and since this appears to be spillover from the Yemen conflict, making sure that the United States is playing a constructive role in guiding that conflict toward resolution.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and that’s the question -- what is that constructive role on both fronts, both towards Saudi Arabia and Iran on the one hand. Many analysts have said the United States has given too much unequivocal support to Saudi Arabia over the last several years. On the other hand, Iran has also been a destabilizing factor there. President Trump had considered this French proposal to extend a line of credit to Iran, ease the sanctions in return for a meeting. Would you do that?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it makes sense to use whatever leverage we have with -- with Iran. The problem is the president has actually reduced our leverage by unilaterally removing us from the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA. Look, the good news in a case like this, when you think about the United States’ ability to be a constructive force is that we have leverage with both sides. We have leverage with the Saudis because of our alliance and have had leverage with Iran. The problem is we’re either taking our own options off the table or not using them well. You’ve seen the Saudis testing the limits of our friendship with things like killing of an American resident and journalist, and we’ve seen Iran responding, I would say predictably with escalation and provocation after what the president did to take us out of the nuclear deal. We’re moving in the wrong direction but it’s not too late for us to be a constructive force toward peace and stability in the region.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to stay on foreign policy. On Thursday nights’ discussion of Afghanistan, you said the U.S. must stop endless wars and then added this.


BUTTIGIEG: If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Afghanistan from Afghanistan it’s that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place.


STEPHANOPOULOS: The Wall Street Journal called that a startling claim, the idea that the United States started this war. What did you mean by that? Wasn’t the war started by Osama Bin Laden from Afghanistan?

BUTTIGIEG: Of course it was, and that’s why we acted in Afghanistan and rightly so. What I’m saying is that wars are extremely difficult to end. We -- you know, today is the day that I left Afghanistan five years ago, and I thought I was one of the very last troops there. We are still there, we are still debating how to get out. So the lesson is when we’re looking at the possibility of new conflicts erupting like some of the talk around Iran, we’d better remember how hard it was and is to resolve even a -- a war that we had no choice but to be drawn into when it came to Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when you said the U.S. started the war, you just misspoke?

BUTTIGIEG: I did not say the U.S. started the war, what I’m saying is the lesson is that wars are difficult to end. But let’s be very clear -- we went to war in Afghanistan because the United States was attacked. And right now, our mission in Afghanistan should be to ensure that we are never again attacked as a consequence of something happening in that country, something I believe we can achieve without an open ended commitment of ground troops.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you feel about the debate three days out? I was struck by something David Axelrod told The New York Times today. He said that he felt that no one made the broadest, most appealing case for change on that stage. Do you agree?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, in my biased opinion, I of course think I did. Look, what we need is ideas that are bold enough to actually meet the challenge of the moment we’re in and also capable of unifying the country. It’s why, for example, I described how Medicare for all who want it can work in a way that -- that creates that public alternative, gets everybody covered, but unlike the Medicare for All vision that Senators Sanders and Warren have, it doesn’t dictate that to the American people and risk further polarizing them, which is difficult as a governing strategy, not just politically speaking. Look, we need to unify this country. It’s not going to be about papering over our differences or watering down our values, it’s forming solutions that engage the American majority. Sometimes from following politics today, you would forget that there is an American majority that believes that we need universal healthcare, there’s an American majority for gun law -- common sense gun law that’s going to save American lives, there’s an American majority for immigration reform, higher wages, choice -- pretty much everything that our party is advancing. Shame on us if we can’t gather a majority of Americans who already agree with us on a majority of issues and use that not only to win an election but to govern well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You jumped on one of the contenders, Julian Castro, after he made that inaccurate suggestion that Vice President Biden didn’t remember what he was saying at the debate. But it did raise all these questions, again, about Vice President Biden’s age and fitness for office. And Cory Booker right after the debate had this to say on that.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There’s a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling. At one point he was talking about people in communities like mine listening to record players. I don’t remember the last time I saw a record player.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you share that concern?

BUTTIGIEG: I think that’s for the voters to decide. Look, each one of us is competing based on out abilities and based on our vision, and I think that the candidate who has the best abilities and vision is going to prevail. I think we can lay out the differences without hitting below the belt, and that’s what I plan to continue to do as a candidate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have, though, made this case for generational change, and that’s one of the -- your big pitches. You’re only 37 years old. One of the other candidates, Andrew Yang, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette it’s difficult for someone born in the 1940s to have a natural understanding of the problems facing America today. Is that part of your pitch as well?

BUTTIGIEG: I don’t think that anyone should be disqualified as long as you’re old enough constitutionally to run, which means being over 35. I do think that coming from a newer generation, coming from my generation, gives you a different kind of perspective on some of these issues. Look, when we talk about, for example, the fact that by 2050 we have got to be carbon neutral as an economy -- you know, Lord willing, I’m planning to be here to see if we’ve made it happen. I have a very personal stake in the issues from that to the debt and the deficit, something that’s not a fashionable topic among Democrats, but certainly for my generation that expects to be here when some of these fiscal time bombs go off, a real concern. And I think that perspective needs to be at the table right now at a time when around the world we’re seeing more and more elected leaders from France to New Zealand to El Salvador coming from my generation when three out of the last four presidents were born within a few weeks of each other.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, while you were on the stage Thursday night in Houston, the president was in Baltimore giving one of his campaign rally-type speeches and it included some digs at you. Let’s listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They say Buttigieg is two points up in the state of Texas against President Trump. I said I don’t think so. Think Buttigieg is winning Texas? I’ve had him up to here.


STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s the best way to respond to that bluster?

BUTTIGIEG: I mean, you can’t take it that seriously. Other than I’m -- I’m very curious to know what pollster let him know that I’m beating him in Texas by two points. That’s news to me, but it’s very good news if it’s true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Buttigieg, thanks for joining us this morning.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Thank you for joining us this morning. I think you're in Iowa.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to begin with breaking news with you as well, it's on something you had direct involvement in as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh. The New York Times has a new report out revealing a separate sexual allegation from his time at Yale that was not investigated by the FBI and that the FBI failed to interview at least 25 people who may have had corroborating information on the allegations against Kavanaugh. Julian Castro put a tweet out on that overnight, saying: "It's more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached and Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter.” Just a couple of minutes ago, the president weighed in as well, saying that the Democrats are telling lies about him, Kavanaugh should sue, and that Democrats are trying to influence his opinion. Do you believe this is grounds for impeachment? Should the Justice Department be reviewed?

KLOBUCHAR: My views on Justice Kavanaugh are very clear, George. I think most people remember my questioning of the Justice when he went so far as to ask me if I blacked out and had to apologize to me. I strongly opposed him based on his views on executive power, which will continue to haunt our country, as well as how he behaved, including the allegations that we are hearing more about today.My concern here is that the process was a sham. I don't think you can look at impeachment hearings without getting the documents. The House would have to get the documents. And the attorney general is shielding documents. If you recall, we were given this moment just a few days every other hour to look at the documents related to other allegations that have been called in on the FBI tip line. I can't reveal what we saw, but I can tell you it was documents of this size. And you could only look at one copy while other senators were in there. And it was a mix, not triaged, nutty calls to a tip line mixed in with actual calls from people that seemed to have information. I think the whole thing was a sham and that those documents need to be turned over, as well as the documents that the White House hid from his time in the White House Counsel's Office. All of that needs to come forward to even look at a proceeding like that.And to do any of this, George, you need a new president. You need a new attorney general that respects the law. And that is just not happening with this guy. So I go back to the fundamental case I made at the debate. I don't want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America. And to win and move this country forward on those things the mayor was just talking about on climate change and some order in how we deal with the rest of the world and doing something about healthcare and pharmaceutical prices, you need to fire up our base. Yes, they're fired up, but bring in moderate Republicans and independents, something I have shown time and time again I can do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have done it in the state of Minnesota. But there is a real tension between the the two sides of your message on Thursday night. On the one hand, you said you want to be the candidate for those who feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics. On the other hand, you said a house divided cannot stand, and Democrats are united. But, fundamentally, aren't Democrats, as we saw on that stage, divided on some of the biggest issues we face right now, from health care to guns?

KLOBUCHAR: We have different views on policy, but I still believe that what unites us is stronger. We don't want to throw out the Affordable Care Act and put people out who have preexisting conditions so that they can't get insurance. That's what the president wants to do. We want to move on pharmaceuticals. But the point that I made here was that, if you want to throw 149 million people off of their insurance -- and that's the Sanders-Warren bill -- if you want to throw them off in four years, well, then I'm not your candidate, because I don't think you should be throwing people off their current insurance in four years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you heard...


KLOBUCHAR: And if you want to have a $16 trillion plan in a $20 trillion economy, then I'm not your candidate. But if you want to move forward with someone with bold ideas that's going to do something about health care and believes that the work doesn't end on Election Day, but begins on Inauguration Day, then sign up with me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Warren's response on Thursday night -- quote -- "No one likes their insurance companies. Is that an adequate response to the concern you raised?

KLOBUCHAR: No. Of course, there's major issues with insurance companies. And I would pump them. And I would have a nonprofit, non-insurance company option to bring the prices down. That's what Barack Obama wanted to do from the very beginning with a public option. And I have been pushing those pharmaceutical companies since the day I got in. As president, I would be able to get it done, allow seniors to negotiate better prices for their drugs and make sure we can bring in less expensive drugs from other countries. But the answer that they have -- and it is on page eight of the bill, as I pointed out at the debate -- literally says that, in four years, 149 million Americans would not be able to have their current insurance. I don't think that's what people want. I don't think it's a bold idea. I think it's a bad idea.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You also saw that big idea from Beto O'Rourke on Thursday night calling for a mandatory buyback. You said you would prefer a voluntary buyback and we should focus on extending background checks right now. But how concerned are you that the ideas being pushed are -- are actually going to push the Democratic Party over the course of this primary fight into a place where it’s going to be much more difficult to win the general election?

KLOBUCHAR: We just had massive shootings and a loss of life that was unprecedented in Texas, in Ohio, at a festival in California. So I want to make clear, I want to see an assault weapon ban. I've supported that way back when I was prosecutor and took that with me based on the everyday gun violence I saw in Minnesota. I brought that to the Senate. So I think the smartest thing to do is, one, right now push Mitch McConnell to allow for votes on universal background checks and my bill to not allow domestic abusers to get guns. Then when I’m president, I will get that assault weapon ban passed as well as a limit on magazines. If we had those in place, that Dayton shooter wouldn't have been able to kill all those people in 30 seconds. And I do prefer a -- a voluntary buyback. I think that's the smarter way to do this. And I don't look at the politics of this, George, I look at after battling this for years and leading on this and sitting across from President Trump in the White House and watching while for nine times he told me he wanted to see universal background checks, and then meeting with the NRA the next day and folding, I’m tired of this. I will be a president that won't fold and I want to get things done for the people of this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're getting good reviews for your performance on Thursday night but still stuck near the bottom of the pack in the polls. How do you build on that? What's your breakout strategy?

KLOBUCHAR: Well I think it started on that debate night, because I had an opportunity with just 10 people up there for people to see my vision for the country and how I can win this and how we don't just need to win the presidency, we also have to win the Senate, and that means winning in states like Colorado and Arizona and Alabama and how important that is to get things done. And that gave me that moment. We’re here in Iowa today, opening offices in Council Bluffs and other places, and then from there I’m doing a blue wall tour to show those states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin that we need to win to win this election. And so my argument is I’m from the middle of the country, I was one of only three women up on that stage, and also I’m someone that has a history of getting things done and bringing people together, which is what we need in this country when this president wakes up every morning and -- imagine the people of this country, the immigrant worker at the nursing home that's in tears because what he says about Hispanics or the elderly person that can't afford their insulin anymore and is keeping those drops in an injector or the farmer who is -- has their soybeans mounting up in a bin and doesn't know if they can continue a farm that's been in their family for generations. That is what the election is about and we can't forget that and let this president distract us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar, thanks for your time this morning.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, George. It was great to be on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, new polling of the debate from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, plus Chris Christie and Donna Brazile join our power house round table. We’ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This race is not that fluid at the top. And I don't think that anything that happened tonight will move Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren out of those top three spots.

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: It was a more coherent debate, it seemed to me, than the ones we've seen before. But I agree with what's been said, I don't -- I don't think much has changed, particularly at the top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this was essentially a status quo debate. Nobody from the back of the pack really had a huge breakthrough moment. I think this leaves the race essentially where it was.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That was some of the instant analysis coming out of Thursday night's debate. The early consensus, no clear winner, not much has changed in the race. So we asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver do you buy that?


NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So to be honest, I originally didn't think there had been a clear winner, either. I thought some of the lower-tier candidates, like Booker and Beto and Klobuchar, had really strong evenings, but that none of the top three or four candidates in the polls had really stood out.The whole point of conducting a poll, though, is to check your assumptions. And my initial assumption was wrong. The poll we conducted with our friends at Ipsos, which polled the same Democrats both before and after the debate, did find a fairly clear winner: Elizabeth Warren. The voters in our poll gave Warren the highest rating of any candidate for her debate performance, a 3.4 on a 4-point scale, which is like an A-minus and B-plus. Perhaps more importantly, the number of voters saying they were considering voting for Warren improved. That number went up 4 points, from 44 percent to 48 percent. Even better for Warren, her three leading rivals -- Biden, Sanders, and Kamala Harris -- all had their numbers go down on that same question. Warren also saw her favorability rating improve from 64 percent up to 70 percent, which means that it now roughly matches Biden's and Sanders. But her unfavorable rating, that is voters who have a negative impression of her, is only 14 percent, as compared to 25 percent for Biden and Bernie. In other words, she's the most broadly acceptable potential nominee. And just one more thing, our poll actually did have good news for several of the lower-tier candidates, so it turns out I wasn't totally wrong about that part. In fact, Booker, Beto, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Yang all saw their numbers improve across the board. The big exception was Julian Castro, whose numbers worsened after his clash with Biden. Of course, this is just one poll, and, fairly often, bounces you see in the polls after debates will fade after a few weeks. But one thing has been true for Warren all campaign long. The more voters see of her, the more they like her. And I think she helped herself again on Thursday night.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Nate for that. Senator Ted Cruz is up next with the GOP response.

We will be right back.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Ted Cruz is standing by.

And all week long, you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app.

We will be right back.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: After these horrendous shootings, we do, in fact, await word from the White House about what the president is willing to sign. That's important to a lot of my members.

TRUMP: A lot of progress was made I believe on the background checks and various things having to do with guns. We'll see what can happen. But we're always protecting our second amendment.


STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the big issues we’re going to talk about now with Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Senator Cruz, thank you for joining us this morning. And I -- and I do want to get to guns but first, that breaking news I spoke with Senator Klobuchar about, Justice Kavanaugh. You’re a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well. What do you make of the new revelations from The New York Times, the calls from your fellow Texan Julian Castro to impeach Justice Kavanaugh?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, George, good morning, good to be with you. I read that The New York Times article this morning. You know, I gotta say, they apparently spent 10 months with undercover reporters trying to track down every person that went to school with Justice Kavanaugh 30 years ago. You know, it's an amazing level of reporting trying to just really dig up any dirt they can on the guy. I think that follows up with -- with the rather shameful circus we saw during the confirmation hearing, where -- where they took allegations, they sat on them, they didn't make them public, they revealed them at the 11th hour.

And you know what, the Judiciary Committee did what we should have done. We held a hearing, we -- we invited the principal witness to testify, we’ve heard it, the American people heard it and at the end of the day, the American people made a judgment that -- that the evidence wasn’t there, the corroboration wasn't there, and -- and I think this article just shows the obsession with the far left, with -- with trying to smear Justice Kavanaugh by going 30 years back with anonymous sources. It -- it -- it really is another sign of how --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say the --

CRUZ: -- nasty and divided the time is today.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say the corroboration isn’t there but one of the points the article makes is that 25 witnesses weren’t even interviewed by the FBI and a named -- a person named who is making allegations wasn’t interviewed by the FBI at all. That’s part of their point, that it wasn’t an adequate investigation.

CRUZ: Well, to be clear, the -- the -- the allegations the Senate Judiciary looked at and considered were the allegations from Dr. Ford, the allegations of sexual assault, that the committee rightly said if this happened, this is a serious allegation and -- and we scheduled a hearing, we invited Dr. Ford to testify. We actually gave Dr. Ford the opportunity to testify in private if she preferred. Amazingly enough, she testified at the hearings. Her lawyer never passed that on to her. She said she didn't want to be in that public hearings, but -- but her lawyers apparently kept that a secret. And -- and what you saw is you really saw the Democrats I think taking advantage of Dr. Ford and turning it into a circus.

You know, we saw a Spartacus moment in the middle of it, which showed how ridiculous the entire proceeding was. But at the end of the day, we listened to the evidence, we listened to all of the potential corroborating witnesses for Dr. Ford, the FBI interviewed them, examined them. Their testimony did not corroborate her allegations and the American people had a chance to look Judge Kavanaugh in the eye -- now Justice Kavanaugh -- and hear his explanation. And at the end of the day, I think this is The New York Times just -- just -- just being bitter enders.

And you know what, I bet you the next Democratic debate, they'll all be saying impeach Kavanaugh, impeach Trump. There's nobody they don't want to impeach. And at some point, they just have to let the anger go and recognize that the democratic process actually moves on. And I think it's time for them to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the democratic process in relation to guns right now.

Of course, your state has been rocked by those two recent shootings. And the latest poll coming out this week from Quinnipiac in Texas shows that about 90 percent, almost 90 percent of Texans support extending background checks to private sales, so does your Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, says it makes no sense to allow strangers to sell guns to others in private sales. Does he have a point?

CRUZ: Well, listen, we absolutely need to do more. We need to strengthen background checks. And I'll tell you, George, I'm a Texan. I was in Odessa in the days following that horrific shooting. I was in El Paso in the days after that shooting. Before that I was in Sutherland Springs the day after thatshooting standing in that beautiful sanctuary covered with blood.

I was in Santa Fe high school. It's less than an hour from my house. I was there that morning of the shooting. I had been with these victims. I have been with first responders. I've been with families who are crying. And let me tell you, George, we've seen too damn many of these in the state of Texas, so we need to end them, absolutely yes.

Now, the question is what do we need to do to that actually works? And this is where I get frustrated with Democratic politicians in Washington, because the proposals they're putting forward would not have stopped a single one of these mass murders.

Here's what we need to do. I introduced in 2013, my first few months in the senate, legislation with Chuck Grassley called Grassley/Cruz that targets felons, it targets fugitives, it targets those with dangerous mental illness. It improves and strengthens the background checks. It stops criminals and those with dangerous mental illness from getting firearms and those who commit felonies, it puts them in prison to actually stop these crimes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what about extending...

CRUZ: We got, in 2013, a majority of the Senate voted for Grassley/Cruz, 52 senator, 9 Democrats, it got enormous bipartisan support, but sadly Harry Reid and the Democrats filibustered it, which was a cynical decision.

What we need to do right now, we need to take up Grassley/Cruz and pass it so we can stop these felons and fugitives and people with dangerous mental illnesses from getting guns and committing these horrific crimes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What about expanding the background checks to private sales? If the president gets behind that, will you?

CRUZ: You know, George, the problem with that proposal, and that is the proposal, you've teed on the one that the Democrats focus on obsessively. It would not have stopped even a single one of these mass shootings. It's not a proposal designed -- if you say, we want to stop these shootings, their proposal doesn't do it.

But you know what it does, as soon as you have every person, private to private transaction, if you have a grandfather giving his grandson a shotgun to go bird hunting, if you have a federal government background check for that, what you will see the next step to be is the only way to enforce that is a federal gun registry and a gun registry is the step you need for gun confiscation. And by theway, George, as you know, we now have three of the 10 Democratic presidential candidates actively advocating for gun confiscation. They are saying the federal government is going to come, forcibly take your gun.

So, look, I think that is a bad idea. The federal government should not be confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens, but here's what we should be doing, we should be doing what will stop murders like this, which is taking guns away from felons and fugitives, which is prosecuting felons and fugitives who try to illegally buy guns, which is making Strawman purchases illegal.

I've introduced legislation to do that. I pressed for it. I spoke this week to both Mitch McConnell and President Trump, urged both of them, take up Grassley/Cruz, let's stop the criminals and let's protect the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the political situation in Texas right now. The latest polls show that President Trump is underwater. His disapproval around 50 percent. You have already had five Republican House members announce that they're not going to run next year.

And you actually sounded the alarm this week saying Texas is a battleground in 2020. That's really saying something that the state of Texas is going to be a presidential battleground next time around.

CRUZ: Well, look, I think that's right. I think Texas is divided. I think our country is divided.

I will say, George, I think Thursday night was a very bad night for the Democrats. I think Thursday night the Democrats galloped even further to the left. If you look at Thursday night, the entire night of the debate not a single Democrat talked about jobs, not a single Democrat talked about the economy, about the fact that we've got the lowest African-American unemployment ever recorded and the lowest Hispanic unemployment ever recorded, instead what the Democrats told theAmerican people is they want to raise your taxes, they want to triple the price you pay for a gallon of gas at the tax -- at -- at -- at the pump, they -- they want open borders, they want to take away your health insurance, and they want to take away your guns.

Listen, that is an agenda designed to resonate in the faculty lounges at an Ivy League college. If you're -- if you're sipping sherry...


CRUZ: ... in a faculty lounge, you have got your party.

But show me one steelworker, show me one truck driver, show me one person in America who actually works for a living who is interested in that radical agenda.

And the problem is, George, I think Donald Trump has broken the Democratic Party...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I want to ask you...

CRUZ: ... that they are defined now just by hating him. They ought to be the party of jobs. They used to be a party focused on jobs. They're not anymore.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me close with a question of what he's done to the Republican Party.

And, boy, when you ran against Donald Trump, you did not mince any words, called him a pathological liar, a bully, said, imagine what would happen in the next five years if he were president.

Now you -- you're supporting him for reelection. He's unified the Republican Party behind him as well.

How do you explain that? Were you just wrong then? What changed?

CRUZ: Results matter.

We have delivered on policy. For two-and-a-half years, I have worked very closely with the president, and we have seen remarkable results for the American people. We passed the biggest tax cut in a generation. That's a big deal.

I worked hard to bring Republicans together to deliver on that. We have repealed hundreds of job-killing regulations. That's incredibly important, because the result is, the economy has taken off. We have the lowest unemployment in 50 years.

We have got -- you know, the numbers came out just the other day. African-American poverty is the lowest we have ever recorded. Hispanic poverty is the lowest we have ever recorded. Those are real results.

Six million people have come off of food stamps. Those are lives being changed. Not only that, our nation is safer. We're rebuilding our military. We're standing by our friends and allies. We're standing up to our enemies.

And we have confirmed 150 new constitutionalist judges to the bench. Those are real results.

And so, listen, yes, in 2016, I had a vigorous primary, where we had a significant contest. The people decided. The election is over. Donald Trump is our president. And I had a job to do, represent 28 million Texans.

And I have done that each and every day. And I'm proud of the results that, working together, we have been able to produce. And I think the American people want to continue seeing jobs and economic prosperity going forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cruz, thanks for your time this morning.

CRUZ: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is up next. We're back in 60 seconds.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John is somebody that I actually got along with very well. He made some very big mistakes.

John wasn't in line with what we were doing. And, actually, in some cases, he thought it was too tough, what we were doing. Mr. Tough Guy.


STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump explaining why he says he fired John Bolton this week, his third national security adviser. We are going to talk about that in a minute on our roundtable.

Joined by Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, now a contributor here at ABC, former DNC chair Donna Brazile, now with FOX News, our chief political analyst, Matthew Dowd, and progressive strategist Arshad Hasan, the former chairman of Netroots.

And I do want to get to John Bolton and the president's situation, but let's begin with the debate.

And, Matthew, let me begin with you.

You have heard a lot of different takes on the debate this morning. The early take, no big change. Nate Silver says Elizabeth Warren helped herself the most.

What do you think?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think there's any fundamental changes, especially in -- especially in the three people that lead it.

But I do think it demonstrated there's about 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote that's still very unformed. Sixty percent is shared by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Forty percent is still ready to be formed.

And there's a number of candidates, Amy Klobuchar, you talked to, Pete Buttigieg, you talked to, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, who have a chance to form that.

And so I think this race is still open, that the ability of somebody else, a fourth person, to emerge as real competitive as we head into Iowa. So that is my take away, there is still a lot to be decided in this race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The fault line, Donna, did -- did reveal themselves over the course of the debate. One of the things you saw, though, is that especially on these big issues, especially on healthcare and Medicare for All, it does appear now that it's Warren and Sanders basically against everybody else.

BRAZILE: You know, I think the big one on Thursday night, George, was Barack Obama. For the first time you saw Democrats basically, you know, coalesce and -- around the Affordable Care Act. They didn't attack it, instead they said we want to improve it, we want to expand it. And Joe Biden, who everyone thought would walk into the debate, sort of, you know, not in a mood to fight, he was in the mood to fight, at least for the first hour of the debate. But Democrats are still -- as Matt said, they're still on a shopping spree.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Arshad, and who’s going to win -- who’s -- who are they going to end up with?

HASAN: Well, I mean I agree that there is -- that this was the time when some of the middle tier candidates could have risen up, but that's not what's happening. I think really in the next four to six weeks if you are not one of the top three or four candidates, it's time to drop out. And right now it's Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and we'll see who’s maybe the fourth or fifth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, I look at that, and -- and Chris, I don't see any incentive for anyone to drop out --


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- at this point, unless the -- the money dries up.

CHRISTIE: Only if money dries up. I mean, George, Donna and I were talking about this in the green room beforehand. Almost no one in our race in '16 dropped out until after the first voting in Iowa. Perry had dropped out earlier, there were a couple, but -- but most of the field stayed. I think the amazing thing about all the hype around the debates is that they really amount to almost nothing in terms of what happens on the stage in terms of an effect on the polls. You know, I thought Booker had a very good night. I thought he -- he -- he was articulate, he -- he, you know, had a couple of moments of humor, I thought he carried himself really well and he had the third most time of anybody, you know, on the stage.

Yet, nothing’s moving his numbers. Now, that may be a particular problem with Cory but I don't see anybody else, as Arshad said, that’s -- that's moving other than those top three. And quite frankly, Sanders to me looked unglued.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he was also having trouble with his throat that night.

CHRISTIE: He was, but -- but -- but it’s not just his throat, George. I mean his eyes were bulging out of his head -- visually -- I could tell you because I was watching on TV. He looked disturbing to me, that he really looked angry. And I don't think that Democratic primary voters want angry. I think they want effective.

BRAZILE: They want somebody with fire in their belly. He's not angry --

CHRISTIE: But effective.

BRAZILE: -- he’s a passionate politician who brings his emotions to the table. I thought he did an effective job. And again, I agree with you about Cory Booker, but Kamala Harris also needed to break through, because she's been stalling a couple -- for the last couple of weeks. And I think she walked in there with a couple of lines --

STEPHANOPOULOS: She had a Trump strategy.

BRAZILE: She had a Trump strategy and I think that will be OK (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Julian Castro was -- had -- has had his moment on -- on Thursday night, taking on --

DOWD: Not a good one.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Joe Biden -- well, yes, sending that flare to Joe Biden, it turned out to be inaccurate, but then you look, several days after, Cory Booker jumps on the issue of Biden's fitness. You've had both Biden and Warren -- and Warren and Sanders all now say they’re going to have to put out their health records, so that issue is in play now.

DOWD: Well, here's what I think -- I -- my takeaway from the debate and actually watching this for the last few months. This is not fundamentally going to be a debate about ideology, about progressive versus moderate. To me, the real debate seems to be the people that want to put somebody in place that's willing to bash Trump as hard as they can in a personal way and somebody that's more -- has more of a calm demeanor and dignified demeanor, more respect in it (ph). And the field seems to be separating in that. Julian Castro seems to have decided he thinks he wants to be that bully in the Democratic primary, which to me isn't a great strategy to -- if you're going to run as a bully, you’re going to go up against the biggest, baddest bully in the general election and that person’s going to win.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you’ve said something that others have said as well. Rahm Emanuel was saying it the other day, that this ideological battle doesn't matter. Do you -- do you agree with that? Because it does seem that difference over the scope of the programs is fundamental.

HASAN: It’s more than that. I think that Democratic voters -- yes, they -- these issues are very important and we should be allowed to feel passionate about it. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But there's more than that. I think the Democratic voters are looking for a candidate who will put out a strong vision for what it means to be a Democrat and where America should be going next. I think that's why we see Elizabeth Warren’s slow and steady rise. She doesn't have to be super angry but she does feel passionately about what she feels. And she puts out a vision. She puts out a plan.

CHRISTIE: Well that’s -- to me that's the differential between Sanders and Warren. I mean, they're essentially saying the same things ideologically but Warren looks reasonable in saying it and Sanders looks angry. To me -- listen, I -- I’ve been known to have a little passion over time and --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I would say angry sometimes.

CHRISTIE: -- right -- that’s right. And -- and -- and let me tell you, when I was passionate I did well, when I was angry I did less well. And -- and that's the difference, right? So you’re talking to somebody who lived it. You know, when you say sit down and shut up, people don't like that so much. But if you're going after an issue with passion, on the teachers union or on other issues that our race (ph) cares about, they really like that. So -- and I do think people were waiting for a breakout moment in the debate. Those are the people who are desperate. So Castro is desperate doing that kind of move. I thought Harris at times seemed desperate to make herself noticed on Thursday night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Elizabeth Warren clearly did not do that. She seemed to be biding her time a little bit, Donna.

But what do you make of this idea that if she does continue to have momentum in Iowa, doescontinue to make progress towards the nomination, will she have to move off of some of these positions?

BRAZILE: Well, it depends on what type of voter you're looking at. I think for Warren, her appeal is, you know, she is a teacher. She knows how to tell a story. She is telling a story aboutpersonal experiences not only her own, but the experiences of so many Americans. I don't know if she has to move toward the middle in order to reach the type of voters that she needs to get in the primary.

After all, it take 1,885 delegates, because they're not counting us quote unquote supers anymore in order to win the nomination. And I think that she has a path. She has a path to the nomination.

I look at some of these other candidates and say, you know, they got a path to say New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina and Nevada, they don't have a path to the nomination.

CHRISTIE: They don't have to be a path to be Hudsuckers (ph)...

DOWD: I think the whole game comes down to in Iowa and New Hampshire who finishes in the top three, because if you are not in the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire you're not surviving.

Elizabeth Warren to me right now is the only one right now that has a path to win both. And ifshe wins both, she's very hard to stop.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if Biden holds on in South Carolina.

DOWD: Even if Biden -- if she wins both of those, but if somebody like Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar surprises then it's a whole different race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, you just heard, Chris, Ted Cruz make the case of how Republicans have evolved over the last four years. And the pitch that he sounded like the best pitch a Republican can make in 2020, focus on the economy. Do you think that President Trump can get to that place to be making the same pitch.

CHRISTIE: Well, I think he will get to that place because he'll be forced to. I mean, you know, he will -- he's someone who looks at the polls very closely, very carefully as we know. And I thinkin the end he is going to understand, especially if he's running against someone like Elizabeth Warren, that that is the argument he's going to have to make, that he's going to have to say to the American people, listen, there's lots of stuff about me you may not like, but I'll tell you this, the economy is better than it's been in 40 years since Ronald Reagan and she wants to turn the economy on its head. She's asocialist, and she wants the government to be socialist. That's going to have to be his argument, that's going to be his winning argument if he's going to win.

So I think he's going to have to get there.

But he doesn't have to get there now, and I don't think he will. I think once it becomes a binary choice and they're engaged, that he is going to make that argument, because he doesn't know who to engage with yet.

DOWD: The problem I think President Trump has is under this great economy that has been discussed, he's been at 38 percent to 42 percent job approval number. And there's no president's dramatically improve in a general -- in the midst of a general election year, maybe one or two points.

If he goes into next year in the fall of next year, with a 38, 39, 40, 41 percent job approval rating, it does not matter who the Democratic nominee is. The Democrat will win if the incumbent president...

STEPHANOPOULOS: It doesn't matter?

CHRISTIE: And I just fundamentally disagree with...

DOWD: Every single president who has had under a 45 percent job approval rating has lost.

CHRISTIE: It matters, if he was running against Hillary Clinton again, would it matter? I mean -- you can't say it doesn't matter...

DOWD: Hillary Clinton...

CHRISTIE: ...would beat him this time?

DOWD: Would beat Donald Trump with a 40 percent job approval.

CHRISTIE: As Republicans, we take that race tomorrow. We'd sign up for it right now.

BRAZILE: Donald Trump promised millions of Americans that he will make their lives better. And the referendum next year will be on did he help you? Did he help the country? And I think overwhelmingly the country will reject Donald Trump in his approach to not just our economy, but how he has managed everything under his watch. So I think Donald Trump defeats Donald Trump next year.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the big questions for Democrats will be, do the coalition that came out in force -- women, minorities, young people -- in 2018 actually come out in 2020 even if one of their preferred candidates doesn't get the nomination?

HASAN: Well, I think one thing that is clear to me now that this will be a turnout election. The Democratic base matters in this race. So I do think it matters who the Democrats elect. If we don't elect a candidate who respects and values and really works with the base then that's going to make it a little more difficult. You'll have a low turnout election.

But I think that Democrats can organize, and I really do believe in it, and not always just in the same places that we've been organizing. I think this will be a more national election, because we'llbe organizing everywhere.

DOWD: This is going to be a huge turnout. 150 million people plus will vote in 2020. This is going to be the largest vote of total that we've ever seen before, and all the numbers say that among Republicans and among Democrats. That is, we have the highest level of people's engagement than we had even in the 2016 election, in November of the 2016 election. This is going to be a tremendous turnout.

CHRISTIE: Millions of people have been helped, to answer Donna. It's the lowest unemployment rate that we have had in decades.

There are more people at work in America today than when Donald Trump became president, and, broadly, more African-Americans at work, more Hispanics at work, more women at work.

And so, you know, a lot of us, we get inside this bubble and we micro-analyze everything. For a lot of families out there, what they are going to be saying is, you know what, four years ago, I wasn't making as much, or maybe I didn't have as good a job, or maybe I didn't have any job at all, and now I do.

And that's going to be what matters to them. Trump has to make that argument.


BRAZILE: Stagnant wages.

CHRISTIE: No, wages are not stagnant, Donna. They're not.

BRAZILE: More Americans are filing for bankruptcy. More Americans cannot pay their bills on time.

You know, you can argue...

CHRISTIE: Wages aren't stagnant. They're just not.

BRAZILE: You can argue -- you can argue that it's sunny outside. I see the clouds.

And we have got to make sure...


CHRISTIE: Well, that's the difference.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They're identifying one of -- I guess highlighting where the election could be fought.

A lot of people are pretty content with where the economy is, not everyone right now. But I think the trick for Trump is going to be to get those voters to feel pretty good about where the country is right now, but are kind of tired of the circus.

DOWD: I think, fundamentally, the job that Trump has to do, which he's not done well since January 20, 2017, is to get out of his own way.

The economy -- Donald Trump's job approval numbers should be 62 percent, which is what it would normally be in an economy like this. It's not. It's 20 points lower than that.

And Donald Trump constantly gets in his own way by the manner with which he leads and the manner with which he relates to people. Can he fundamentally change in the next year? I doubt it. But that's what he has to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We haven't seen him change on matters of personnel, the latest example this week John Bolton and how that all went down.

CHRISTIE: You know, well, listen, they -- that was one that was coming for a long time, because they fundamentally disagree on how to conduct foreign policy. And so I think that John Bolton went in, and -- and he was John Bolton, the John Bolton we have all known for a long time. John hasn't changed.

And I can tell you, the -- you know, when -- the president spoke to me about John Bolton, and he said: "Listen, we don't agree much, but I like having him around because I like hearing that point of view, even though I don't agree with it." And I guess he got tired of hearing that point of view and decided, OK, enough of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president wants to sit down with North Korea. He basically wants to sit down with Iran.

CHRISTIE: The president -- listen, we have talked about this on the show before.

This president believes, if he sits down with anyone, he can convince them of his point of view. He's going to have to prove out whether he's right or not as we go forward here. But that's fundamentally what he believes. And Bolton doesn't believe that, not only about Trump, but about any -- any leader. He thinks there should be preconditions and other things.

HASAN: The people, though, who support Trump because things are good -- or at least they're good for them -- are people who value stability.

And this kind of behavior, always firing people, always, you know, throwing bombs in the international scene, that's not the kind of thing that will inspire confidence for those -- for those people who have it good and still want to support Trump.

So I think that there is a lot of opportunity for Democrats.

BRAZILE: I mean, during the week of 9/11, he fired his national security adviser on Twitter.

That kind of instability, people are tired of it. That's why they are going to look for a new leader, not just in the Democratic Party, but a leader for all America.

DOWD: I give Donald Trump credit for getting rid of John Bolton, because I think John Bolton was a -- we have a -- there's less of a chance of war today with John Bolton gone.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the last word.

CHRISTIE: Can I say happy birthday to my wife, George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course you can.

CHRISTIE: Happy birthday, Mary Pat.


BRAZILE: Happy birthday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Happy birthday.


HASAN: Happy birthday.

BRAZILE: Happy birthday.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all for us today.

Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Check out "World News Tonight." And I will see you tomorrow on "GMA."