THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' on July 16, 2017 and it will be updated.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC HOST: The president defiant. The Russia story engulfing the White House and following him on his trip to Paris. Trump defending his son on the world stage.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research.
DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.
KARL: What really happened before closed doors, and what does this mean for the Russia investigation? We're one on one with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, and a member of the president's legal team, Jay Sekulow.
Plus, new bill, same questions, and another delay. The Senate leadership is pushing off the health care vote as President Trump pushes his party.
TRUMP: 'm sitting, waiting for that bill to come to my desk.
KARL: What happens next? We ask two key players, a Republican set against the bill and the White Houses' point man on health care.
And as he nears the six-month mark, how does America see President Trump's performance? Our new poll revealed.
Everything you need to know from Washington and around the globe What's fact. What's fiction. And what matters to you. THIS WEEK.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning. Almost six months into the Trump presidency and the headlines this week were once again dominated by Russia. The newly disclosed meeting at Trump Tower put President Trump's son, his son-in-law, and his then-campaign chairman in the same room with a Russian-American lobbyist and a Kremlin-connected lawyer believed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Is this a turning point in the Russia investigation? And what does it mean for the president's ability to push his agenda forward?
All this comes as there were signs of momentum this week for the president and the country. The stock market hitting record highs. The cease-fire in southwest Syria largely holding. And ISIS cleared out of Mosul in Iraq.
But this morning, a grim snapshot of opinion in our new ABC News/Washington Post poll. The president's job approval rating at just 36 percent, the lowest six-month approval rating for any president in 70 years. The majority of the country says the president is not making significant progress towards his goals. And as for the mystery meeting on the 25th floor of Trump Tower last summer, 63 percent say it was inappropriate.
And now, the list of who took part in that meeting grows. Don Jr. insists nothing came of it. Here's what he told Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP, JR.: I'm more than happy to be transparent about it and I'm more than happy to cooperate with everyone.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So as far as you know, as far this incident is concerned, this is all of it?
TRUMP, JR.: This is everything. This is everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: We take those questions about what happened inside Trump Tower and what the president knew and when he knew it to a member of the Trump legal team, Jay Sekulow.
Jay, thank you for joining us.
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: Thanks for having me.
KARL: So you heard Don Jr. say on Tuesday that we now -- that there’s nothing more, that this is everything. Can you now say that we know everything about that meeting? I mean, clearly when he said that, there was still a lot more to come out.
Do we now know everything about that meeting, who was there, and what follow-up there was?
SEKULOW: Well, let me say this, you know, I don’t represent Donald Trump, Jr. I represent the president. And what I can tell you is the president was not aware of that meeting, did not attend that meeting, and Don Trump, Jr., was explicitly clear on this interview on the Sean Hannity broadcast that that was it on the meeting.
But, look, here is the reality: the meeting in and of itself of course, as I’ve said before, is not a violation of the law, but I think it’s important to understand that, as counsel to the president, the president was not aware of the meeting and did not participate in it.
KARL: So you’ve said that before, that no law was broken.
KARL: But do you accept what we heard from the president’s pick to run the FBI, that what should’ve happened there, you know, a situation where you have representatives of a foreign government offering assistance to -- in an election, that what should’ve happened is that the FBI should’ve been notified?
SEKULOW: Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.
Number two, we can’t act like this is in a vacuum. We know for a fact, as was reported extensively in an investigative journalist piece by Politico, that the Ukrainians were in direct contact (ph) with DNC officials and traded information back and forth. So I think, you know, to say -- I understand what Chris Wray was saying, that, you know -- and Donald Trump, Jr., himself said things should’ve been done differently. Having said that, again, none of that is violation of the law. That’s more process.
KARL: OK, I want to look at the big picture of the Mueller investigation.
KARL: The president has said over and over again, again this week, that this is a witch hunt. I want to get specific on this. Is he saying that the Mueller investigation is part of a witch hunt?
SEKULOW: Yes, look at how it started, as it relates -- especially as it relates to the president.
But let me put this in context. How did this whole situation start? And we tend to lose this fact and we should not.
James Comey takes notes of a conversation, or a series of conversations he has with the President of the United States. He takes notes. He puts them on a government computer in his government vehicle, put them in his government desk. He gets fired by the president of the United States. He was terminated as the FBI director, which James Comey acknowledged the president had the right to do.
James Comey then leaks those documents to a friend of his for the sole purpose of leaking them to The New York Times, and with the desire to be -- and James Comey said this under oath. Let me just finish this, Jon. He said under oath that he hoped to get a special counsel, which he did.
So the special counsel then is based on evidence that was illegally leaked. And that to me raises questions about the whole spectra of what’s going on here.
KARL: So you’re saying that when the president says witch hunt, he is talking about Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation? That is part of this so-called witch hunt?
SEKULOW: Yes, when he calls it a witch hunt, when he talks about the scope and nature of the investigation, he’s concerned about the nature of what’s going on here. I mean, we -- there are a whole host of issues that, as lawyers, we deal with in cases like that. Potential conflicts of interest. How would -- how would, for instance, James Comey be a witness in a situation when he has this relationship not just with the special counsel but the way in which he testified?
But let’s not also forget that it was James Comey that said three times, and he acknowledged this under oath, to the president that he was not under investigation.
KARL: So the president told me in the Rose Garden that he would be willing to testify under oath about this. Here’s what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
KARL: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that, you would...
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So does that stand? Is the president still willing to speak under oath to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who you just said he thinks is part of a witch hunt?
SEKULOW: Look, the president was very clear that if it came to that, and I don’t think it will, but if it came to that, he would do that. The president was very clear on that.
But, again, there has to -- you know, when you look at what’s going on here, and I look at this of course as the lawyer from the legal perspective, and I keep going back to this fundamental issue. What is the legal statute that has been violated here, or alleged to be violated here? What would be, in other words, subject of that questioning under oath?
So here’s -- here’s what I would say. The president’s been very clear and very direct on his statements. There’s nothing I can add to those other than saying this. The nature upon which this whole issue developed over the last several months raises serious questions, as a lawyer. And any lawyer that was looking at this issue would say there’s a lot questions that have to be answered here on how this started, where it went, where it’s going.
KARL: So no backing down on...
SEKULOW: Those questions have to be asked if you’re a good lawyer.
KARL: No backing down on his offer to testify under oath? When do you think this could happen?
SEKULOW: I have no -- I don’t think it’s -- I don’t think it will happen. But if...
KARL: You don’t think it will happen?
SEKULOW: The president said he would do it if -- yes, at this point we have no indication at all whatsoever of an investigation of the president with regard to any of this.
So the special counsel has -- has a mandate, he gets his mandate.
SEKULOW: The president -- you asked him the question in the Rose Garden, the president answered it. So, you know, I take the president on this word there.
KARL: OK, one last question. Senator Warner says that he is concerned that the president will issue pardons to the key figures in this investigation. Will the president rule out giving out pardons to people like Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, any others that are in this investigation?
SEKULOW: I have not had the conversation with the president about any of that, and I wouldn’t share it if I did because of the attorney-client privilege. But I’ve not had that conversation with the president on that and what he could or could not do. He can pardon individuals, of course, that’s because the founders of our country put that in the United States Constitution, the power to pardon. But I have not had those conversations, so I couldn’t speculate on that.
KARL: So pardoning the key figures in this investigation is not off the table. It’s something he might do.
SEKULOW: I just told you, I’ve not had a -- well, no. No, I can’t say that. The president told me in conversations that I’ve had with him about a variety of issues; we’ve talked -- but we’ve not talked about pardoning individuals in this at all, so you’re asking me to speculate on something I cannot speculate on.
KARL: All right, Jay Sekulow of the president’s legal team, thank you for joining us.
SEKULOW: Thanks for having me, Jon.
KARL: I'm joined now by Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, so you just heard the issue of pardons. He is not ruling out that the president could issue pardons to the key figures in this investigation.
Would that put an end to this if the president suddenly issued blanket pardons to the key figures?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It wouldn't put an end to it. Obviously, it would be deeply disturbing, and I think the impression, certainly the country would get from that is the president was trying to shield people from liability for telling the truth about what happened in the Russia investigation or Russian contacts.
But what I take away from his discussion with you is, two things, two points he wants to make. First, the president didn't know. And second, even if he did, there's no crime here.
Now, to believe that, though, we have to rely on two things. We have to rely on Don Jr.'s representation of what happened at that meeting, and we have already seen, many times we can't rely on that, because of course he first said no such meeting ever happened. Then he said the meeting was about adoptions. And then admitted the meeting was about getting information on Hillary Clinton. And then he wasn't forthcoming about who was in the meeting.
So, we can't accept anything Don Jr. says. And of course we can't accept much the president says about this either, because he has a similar record of not being forthcoming when it comes to Russia. And, indeed, if you look at the president's statements around this time, he announces a speech he's going to give where he's going to give the dirt on Hillary Clinton that he then cancels.
Now, that would corroborate that Don Jr. didn't get the information he was hoping for. But of course, it contradicts the idea that he was unaware.
KARL: You have also heard him say several times the president is not under investigation. Is that true?
SCHIFF: I can't comment on who Bob Mueller may be looking at. But clearly we want to in the congressional committees determine just what the Russians did, who was knowing of it, who was participating in it, and of course the president very publicly encouraged Russia to do exactly what Don Jr. was encouraging Russia to do privately, that is give us the dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And every time there was dirt released in the form of stolen emails, the president applauded it very publicly.
So, the question that we've had, among others, is, was the campaign doing privately what the president was urging publicly? And here you have now evidence in black and white that yes, the campaign was encouraging the Russians to give them dirt.
And the fact that this was done through intermediaries is just how the Russians operate.
KARL: But if we look at this Trump Tower meeting, and certainly it's problematic and the shifting explanations are problematic. But the bottom line, is there any evidence whatsoever tying this meeting or that Russian lawyer to the centerpiece of this Russian influence campaign, which was the hack of the DNC, the hack of the Clinton campaign emails? Is there anything whatsoever tying this meeting to that activity by the Russians?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it is certainly tied in the sense this is about as clear of evidence you could find of intent by the campaign to collude with the Russians, to get useful information from the Russians.
KARL: A willingness to accept we see from the president's son, but we don't see anything...
SCHIFF: More than that, though, a willingness not only to accept, but to indicate to Russia what the best timing was. Of course, Don Jr. says in the emails late summer. And what do we know about late summer? That's when the Russians start dumping this information.
To accept the attorney's representation that no crime was committed here, you have to accept Don Jr.'s representations. If they went into the meeting and here they want something, they want information from the Russians, the Russians want something. They want repeal of the sanctions law, the Magnitsky Law. If any kind of understanding that comes out of that meeting, you get us the dirt, you start leaking dirt on Hillary Clinton, and we will look favorably on repealing the Magnitsky Act, that is a very serious crime.
KARL: OK, you've heard they've also pointed to this issue with the Democratic Party and the Ukrainian embassy.
This comes from a story in Politico that ran in January, the headline "Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire."
And I want to read from the article, "a Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the DNC met with top officials in the Ukrainian embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia. The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in this race, helping force Manafort's resignation and advancing the narrative that the Trump campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine's foe to the east, Russia."
So, let me ask you -- I understand Hillary Clinton lost, and I understand this effort was not as elaborate as the Russian effort, but was it acceptable, or would it have been acceptable for the Democrats to accept help from the Ukrainian government in this campaign?
SCHIFF: No, it would be appropriate for the Democrats to get help from the Ukrainian government. But I think if you look at the Politico article, and we're talking about just a single article here, if you accept all the facts in the article, the scale of what the Russians did is not comparable to anything in that article. If it were, the comparable analogy would be that the Ukrainian president directed the Ukrainian intelligence agencies to steal, to hack, Donald Trump's campaign, steal e-mails, publish them, directed a social media army to influence the election, and sat down -- its representatives sat down with Chelsea Clinton and John Podesta in which they indicated they wanted the dirt op Donald Trump.
There's no suggestion anything of that magnitude (INAUDIBLE).
KARL: The scale is different. Acknowledge that. But the meeting is problematic? This Ukrainian meeting is problematic, in your eyes?
SCHIFF: Well, it would be problematic to get any kind of support from a foreign government. But again I think to compare the two is like a bit like comparing bank robbery with writing a check with insufficient funds. Both appropriate money from the bank improperly, but a very different degree of seriousness and involvement in the case by a foreign government.
KARL: So the most recent person to appear before your committee is a former Trump adviser named Michael Caputo. He's going to be on the roundtable in a bit.
After he spoke with your committee for several hours, he called it collusion delusion. His lawyer who was present said the questions devolved into a fishing expedition. Are you on a fishing expedition here when you bring in somebody like Michael Caputo?
SCHIFF: No. And I think the interview -- he was very cooperative, which we appreciate, but he's PR guy. This is PR I think aligned with the Trump campaign. And of course he got an at attaboy from the president about this.
If we had said ten days ago, Jonathan, that we were looking for evidence that top Trump campaign people met with representatives of the Russian government to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, they would have said there's no such thing. That's a fishing expedition. You're looking for something that doesn't exist. Now, of course, we know, that does exist. That did take place.
So they can call it a fishing expedition. They can call it a witch hunt. It's all an aligned message with the White House. But, nonetheless, real evidence is coming forward that just can't be ignored.
KARL: So when we talk about this Trump Tower meeting, and obviously we've learned that there were more people were there. It wasn't just the Russian lawyer. We have this Russian-American lobbyist.
What's the significance of his presence or is there a significance of his presence at this meeting?
SCHIFF: I think it's very significant. Here, you have two people now aligned with the Russian government. And a third, a translator, that we don't know the identity of that person, whether that person also came from Moscow, whether that person might have connections to Russian intelligence.
But here you have someone in this lobbyist who has a history, at least according to court litigation, of being involved in getting information potentially in illicit ways from Russian hackers, damaging information about a rival company. You have someone who, if you look at the way the Russian government intelligence agencies work, the Russian government has a priority. In this case, it's getting rid of the Magnitsky Act. They employ the use of oligarchs. Oligarchs put money into a phony organization. The phony organization hires this Veselnitskaya as well as the Russian lobbyist to do their work. And they sit down at a meeting and offer dirt. And what do they want in exchange? They want repeal of this law that Putin hates.
So it's a very significant --
KARL: This, by the way, hasn't happened.
SCHIFF: It hasn't happened, no. It hasn't.
KARL: There's no indication --
SCHIFF: And Congress is going to make sure it doesn't happen.
KARL: OK, Congressman Schiff, thank you for joining us here on THIS WEEK.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Jonathan.
KARL: When we come back, can the GOP sell its new health care plan? I'll talk to a key Republican opposed to the bill and the president's point man on health care.
And we'll have the powerhouse roundtable, including the Trump campaign veteran who just testified before the House Intelligence Committee. We'll be right back.
KARL: There's President Trump and France's president, Emmanuel Macron, engaging in an epic 29-second handshake at the conclusion of the president's visit to Paris.
Despite taking three overseas trips in just eight weeks, our ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 48 percent of Americans say the country's leadership on the world stage has grown weaker under President Trump, just 27 percent say it has gotten stronger since Trump took office. And two-thirds don't trust the president to negotiate with other world leaders.
We'll take a deep dive on our new poll and more with the “Roundtable” later in the show. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate health care bill provides the most vulnerable in our society, it improves and strengthens Medicaid. It gives you, America's governors, the flexibility you need to bring better care, better coverage, and better outcomes to the citizens of your states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: That was Vice President Pence making the case to the nation's governors for the Senate GOP health care bill. But overnight the vote on that bill was once again delayed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed the vote after news that Senator John McCain needs time to recover from surgery before he can come back to Washington.
I'm joined now by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has made it clear that she is opposed to the latest version of the bill.
Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: My pleasure.
KARL: So you heard Vice President Pence say that this bill provides for the most vulnerable, improves Medicaid, and will lead to better outcome. Is he right?
COLLINS: I would tactfully disagree with the vice president.
First, let me extend my best wishes to my friend and colleague, John McCain, as he recovers from his surgery. And that has led, as you indicated, to a delay in consideration of this bill.
This bill would make sweeping and deep cuts to the Medicaid program, which has been a safety net program on the books for more than 50 years, ensuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens, our disabled children, our low-income seniors, receive the health care that they need. It would also jeopardize the very existence of our rural hospitals and our nursing homes, which not only provide essential care to people in rural America, but also are major employers in the small communities in which they are located.
And worst of all, these changes would be made without the Senate having held a single hearing to evaluate their impact.
KARL: But the vote’s been delayed. Did McConnell have the votes to get it passed?
COLLINS: I don’t know. I think it would be extremely close. There are many of us who have concerns about the bill, particularly the cuts to the Medicaid program. But there are other problems with the bill as well. It could lead to insurance plans that really are barely insurance at all. It would cause premiums to increase for some very vulnerable individuals, including those with preexisting conditions, depending on what states decide to do.
So there are a lot of us who have concerns about the bill. On the Senate side, I would estimate that there about eight to ten Republicans senators who have deep concerns. But how this would all translate out I’m not certain. And I never underestimate Leader McConnell’s skills.
KARL: That’s a good idea.
But if you look at Medicaid, which you’ve mentioned repeatedly on this, isn’t Medicaid spending now out of control? If you look at the estimates, Medicaid is estimated to be at nearly a trillion dollars a year by 2025, that’s a 70 percent increase in Medicaid spending over the course of a decade.
You heard the vice president. He says that this bill puts Medicaid on a more sustainable path. You’d acknowledge right now it’s not a sustainable path?
COLLINS: I would never say that the Medicaid program should not be scrutinized to see if we can lower the costs. I believe there’s a good model in Indiana, which applied a managed care approach to the expansion of Medicaid that was done in that state under the Affordable Care Act. That offers some very useful models that I believe could be replicated in other states.
But to totally change the program and to set a future insurance as future inflation rate, that we know will not cover the costs of medical care at a time when the Baby Boomer generation is going to be needing those services, it’s not the way we should proceed.
Should we proceed, have careful hearings and look at what we can do to make sure that the Medicaid program can continue to be there for future generations without bankrupting the federal budget? Absolutely. But we haven’t had that kind of in-depth analysis, public hearings of that, all kinds of ideas that would be useful in lowering costs of the program and producing better outcomes, which is what the Indian model has done.
KARL: So the president says that this must happen, that after seven years of what he calls the Obamacare disaster, it must happen. Have you worked with him? When was the last time you spoke to the president about this?
COLLINS: I spoke to the president at the White House at a meeting that was held of the Republican caucus a few weeks ago. I have been in touch with members of his administration who have talked to me about the bill. And of course there have been some changes made in the bill, but it still seems to be a work in progress.
Let me make clear, I think there are substantial flaws in the Affordable Care Act. It has produced premium increases that are very troubling and difficult for people to afford, particularly those who don’t get the subsidies under the current law. And in some counties in some states, the markets are literally collapsing, so that even if you have a subsidy, you’re not going to find that there’s an insurance policy that you can purchase.
So we do need to fix the significant flaws in the current law. But the way to do that is through the normal process of committee hearings and expert witnesses and writing a bill with bipartisan support. President Obama in my view made a serious mistake when he pushed through the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. I don’t want to make the same mistake in reverse and push through this bill without a single Democratic vote.
KARL: All right, Senator Susan Collins, thank you for joining us.
COLLINS: Thank you, Jonathan.
KARL: I'm joined now by Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price.
Dr. Price, thank you for being here.
TOM PRICE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thanks, Jonathan. Good to be with you.
KARL: Our new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that by a 2 to 1 margin, voters now say they prefer Obamacare to the Republican plan to replace it.
After seven years of beating up on Obamacare, shouldn't Republicans be worried about voting far plan that that is actually less popular now than Obamacare has ever been?
PRICE: Well, as you know, it depends how you ask the question. If you ask the question do you want to be able to select your doctor, it's overwhelming? If you ask, do you want to be able to select your insurance coverage, it's overwhelming that individuals want to be able to do that. In fact, those were the two promises that were made by the previous administration.
Fact of the matter is that the current system, the ACA, Obamacare, whatever you want to call it, is failing the individuals in the individual and small group market. We've counties across this country that only have one choice. Almost 40 percent of the counties only have one choice of an insurer. Next year, there will be dozens of counties that don't have an issuer. As Senator Collins mentioned, we have premiums that are sky-rocketing. We've got deductibles that are so high that individuals have coverage but they don't have care.
This is a system that is crying out for reform and revision. And that's what we're trying to do, for people to be able to have the kind of doctor and the kind of coverage that they won't.
KARL: There's no doubt there's significant problems with the current system. But if you look at the Republican plan to modify it and replace it, more than 10 medical groups are against it. Thirty-two cancer organizations oppose it. And on Thursday, in a rare joint statement by the biggest insurance companies in the country, called the Cruz Amendment unworkable in any form and warned it would lead to, quote, "widespread terminations of coverage".
So, Dr. Price, why this wall of opposition?
PRICE: It's really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare.
A single risk pool, which is what they're objecting to, is exactly the kind of process that was -- that has been utilized for decades (INAUDIBLE) care for individuals.
KARL: But they're against it. The doctors are against it. The -- the (INAUDIBLE).
PRICE: The challenge that we have is that the bill itself isn't the entire plan. It is a significant and an important and integral part of The plan, but it's not the entire plan. What we're doing over at Health and Human Services is going through all the rules and regulations that were promulgated pursuant to the Affordable Care Act. Those places where it said the Secretary shall or Secretary may, 1,442 times, and we're looking at those and asking the question does this help patients or does it harm patients? Does it increase costs or does it decrease costs? And where the answer is wrong, we're going to move it in a much better direction.
KARL: So you spent Friday talking to the nation's governors trying to get some of this -- particularly Republican governors on board here. And I saw a picture of you talking to Governor Brian Sandoval. Republican of Nevada.
If you look at the governors, I understand that you have the governor of Kentucky saying he supports the bill with reservations. But there is not a single government in the country that is on the record saying that they unequivocally support this bill.
PRICE: What they will tell you, and what they've told me, the vast majority of them, almost to a person -- not quite but almost to a person -- is that what they need is flexibility. They need to be able to design, in this incidence, a Medicaid program that works for their population. Don't dictate to us from Washington, D.C., what you're telling us to do. Because we know how to do it better than you.
Nevada knows how to do -- how to take care of Nevada citizens better than Washington, D.C. And it's true across the country.
So what we've heard from the governors is virtually unanimity on that kind of flexibility that doesn't exist to the degree now that the bill would provide, would allow for. And that's what the governors are calling out for.
KARL: So I remember I covered quite intimately the debate over Obamacare in the House, and I think talked to you several times during that process.
KARL: One of the things that you were very critical of were the special provisions that were put in the bill to win over key senators, the “Cornhusker kickback,” the “Louisiana purchase,” as you called both of them, these were provisions to win, you know, senators that were on the fence -- Democratic senators that were on the fence.
Now we see special provisions that are in this bill for Alaska, for Florida, for Louisiana, again, seem to be directly aimed at winning over key Republican senators. Do you have a problem with this? I know you're not in the Senate. It's not your -- you're not putting this stuff in. But you must be a little uncomfortable.
PRICE: Yes, let me respectfully suggest that that really isn't an appropriate characterization. What we're trying to do is throughout this...
KARL: This is different treatment. I mean, Alaska is going to get more money under a special provision that is clearly written to -- tailored to Alaska.
PRICE: You talk about a state that's unique, it's Alaska. I've learned from Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan the incredible uniqueness of Alaska and how difficult it is to actually provide care for individuals where they have I think it's like 650 municipalities or cities that you can't reach by car.
That's a unique situation. So what we need to do is to make certain -- and our goal is to make certain that nobody falls through the cracks, that we're able to provide coverage for every single American that -- for their physicians and their care. And that it's done in a way that makes it possible.
KARL: So the bottom line, this vote has been delayed. It was going to be possibly on Tuesday of this week. Did McConnell have the votes to get it passed?
PRICE: I don't know. But let me take this opportunity to convey our best wishes to Senator McCain in this tough time for him. He's a fighter, and I know he'll be back. And as Senator Collins said, I never underestimate Senator McConnell's expertise in getting the votes.
KARL: All right. Dr. Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary, thank you for joining us.
PRICE: Thanks, Jonathan.
KARL: Coming up, the powerhouse "Roundtable" takes on the health care debate. And those new questions over the Trump campaign and Russia. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why do I have a friendship with him? Well, because he's called a brother with a different mother. He hangs out in our...
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Because when you campaigned...
BUSH: He hangs out in Maine more than I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Former President George W. Bush there joking about Bill Clinton's relationship with the Bush clan, the kind of bipartisanship not seen much in Washington these days. The powerhouse “Roundtable” is all here, ready to debate another busy week in politics. We'll be right back.
KARL: Clinton's relationship with the Bush clan, the kind of bipartisanship not seen much in Washington these days. The powerhouse roundtable is all here, ready to debate another busy week in politics. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Right now, we have no consensus on how the repeal and replace the failed policies of Obamacare. I can't tell you the number of hours I have heard the same arguments go around and around and around and around. As far as I know, there's no consensus on how to best to fund the government, no plan to do a bipartisan budget deal, and no path forward on appropriations bills.
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KARL: They'll be going around and around a while longer after that vote on health care was delayed as Senator John McCain recovers from surgery.
The Powerhouse Roundtable joins me now: "Washington Post" reporter Abby Phillip, also a political analyst and a former colleague of mine here at ABC News; Bloomberg Businessweek editor Megan Murphy; Republican strategist and former Trump campaign team member Michael Caputo; and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd.
Abby, let me start with you, you were on the trip, you've been covering all of this, how all consuming has this latest development, or developments in this Russia investigation been to the White House?
ABBY PHILIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yeah, I mean, it's so funny that talking to White House folks about why hasn't the president been out selling his agenda, why hasn't he been out selling health care and tax reform and his vision for the budget. And the answer is, well, there's been a lot of other crises happening right now that have been really taking up a lot of his time.
Putting aside the foreign trips he spent the last couple of weeks overseas trying to do some things on foreign policy, beyond that, there is a real difficulty in getting things on his schedule that are outside of Washington that involve pushing legislation and policy.
And instead, we know what the president is doing with some of his time because he tweets about it almost every single morning.
KARL: He seemed paralyzed by this, Megan. And has been suggested to me, this was one of the darker moments of his presidency, seeing his son dragged into this. But we went three days, four days if you count the weekend, where the president had nothing, nothing, on his public schedule.
MEGAN MURPHY, EDITOR, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: He has almost intentionally removed himself, and I think Abby makes such a strong point, which is we're in the middle of an epic battle about what should be the signature legislative proposal that he's putting in forward in terms of this health care bill. And nothing, nothing from the president other than tweets on the sideline saying I think Mitch McConnell can get it done.
Well, look, we're seeing that Mitch McConnell probably isn't going to be able to get it done. It's looking very difficult for him, and what he's doing, he's so angry about this. He's so all-consumed about it. You saw again, the Hillary Clinton tweets this morning. The fake news, attacking us yet again. They are in an endless --
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He mentioned Michael.
MURPHY: He did mention Michael. But it is a loop, we should always emphasize, of their own creation. It's getting closer and closer. The family is being drawn in deeper and deeper and deeper.
The Don Jr. revelations about this meeting continue to come out. Who was in the meeting. Who wasn't. Who these people were. It's going to be another week dominated by Russia. Another week not dominated by the things that American people care about, which is improving their wages, getting better jobs, lowering their taxes. The thing this administration said they were going to come in and do, they are not doing week after week after week.
KARL: And, Michael, we hear the complaint that the media is obsessed with the Russia investigation, not talking about substance.
But if you look at what the president has been talking about, the president has not been out there using the bully pulpit.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FMR. TRUMP CAMPAIGN TEAM MEMBER: Well, that's there it's true. And I think it all goes back to the campaign, when it became clear in August of 2016 or so that the Hillary Clinton campaign had cracked the code. They knew -- they figured out how to distract the president, get him off his message, and they've just gotten much better at it.
Now we know from "Shattered" and other sources, this book, that this has been planned --
DOWD: About this campaign, the Hillary campaign.
CAPUTO: This had been planned as a way to stop the president's agenda. As a cynical political operative, I really admire their effectiveness. But as a citizen of the United States, I fear for the republic.
KARL: But how does the White House get back on message? How does the president get back on message?
CAPUTO: I think they're doing it. I think they've separated the crisis out into an outside unit. I think that's extremely important. We saw that in previous presidencies that it works. We have to get the wheels rolling so that it works well but I think they're on their way.
You know, I've --
KARL: I mean, it's been extraordinary. And I know, when you were at the campaign, President, then-Candidate Trump was the kind of guy who held press conferences almost every days, did interviews constantly. Now you have this odd situation where he hasn't had a full-blown press conference since February. The White House briefings have been reduced the a couple a week. And most of them are not even on camera.
I mean, you're not longer advising that team, but I -- I would imagine, that doesn't play to Trump's strengths, does it?
CAPUTO: I now advise CEOs and business leaders. I have been for many years. And I can tell you the CEOs that I talk to were very pleased with the agenda the president is pursuing on regulatory reform, for example. On energy. He's been extremely successful on natural gas development and even talking about them overseas. The CEOs who create jobs, who --
KARL: But they're hiding him. It's what's interesting, is you just don't see the president. You don't see his spokespeople.
CAPUTO: But that's what they need to do. They need to start talking about this.
DOWD: The problem isn't that the Democrats came up with some great strategy. We saw in the fall last year they didn't have a great strategy to win an election, so I wouldn't think they have a great strategy now.
The problem is the principal. The principal being Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the main person that takes him off the message that everybody else in the White House and the vice president and the Republicans in Congress seem to want to follow and get in -- every time he announces a week of infrastructure, he goes off on some Twitter tirade on something totally different. He announces a week on high tech or technology, goes off on something else. He has a foreign trip, he goes off on something else. Multiple foreign trips.
The president is ultimately the problem. It's not reflected -- everything that the Trump administration, his spokespeople, and people that advocate for him, is not affected out in America. We've seen it -- we see it in today's poll, right? Donald Trump has lowest approval rating of any president since polling began at this point in time. And two-thirds of the country think the country is off on the wrong track. So if they're doing good things, nobody in America knows it.
KARL: But, Abby, the poll also shows that Democrats have hardly grabbed the reins here.
KARL: Democrats are seen in our poll by a majority of the country as simply as wanting to oppose to Donald Trump, not standing for their own agenda.
PHILLIP: Yes, I think the Democratic Party is a little bit adrift right now, where they actually -- it's almost like they're in a target-rich environment. They're dealing with so many different things that they want to jump on, and no one is really focusing their attention on a message that they can -- that they think can work.
There's no leader of the Democratic Party right now who can help set that agenda. And, as a result, in part, the Russia scandal has become the dominant story when there are some Democrats who say what we really should be doing is undermining Trump on that economic piece. That is in this poll, his strongest front.
KARL: So the Democrats have been thrown off their game.
KARL: So I want to go back to...
DOWD: Well, it's a whole Washington, D.C., thing, Jon, I have to say, is like a Marvel Comics movie with all villains and no superheroes. There's not a single superhero you can find in Washington, D.C., today that the American public thinks is on the right track.
MURPHY: We don't need a superhero. The American people aren't asking for a superhero.
DOWD: I would take a hero.
MURPHY: They're asking for competent governing. They're asking for people who are focused...
DOWD: How about one “Profile in Courage”?
MURPHY: … on their real concerns.
DOWD: One “Profile in Courage,” just one.
MURPHY: Just one. Look, you said there that, you know, it's a target-rich environment. The Democratic Party is not hitting any of these targets. And they have got one of the easiest ones in front of them. Only 40 percent of the people in that poll really agree with the way Donald Trump is handling the economy.
This is the defining issue of most American homes right now. Yes, it's health care. But it's also, what's my future? How do I get a better job? When is my pay packet going to go up? How do I get -- how do I re-skill to get into new opportunities?
You mentioned CEOs being happy? I can tell you one who is not, Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan, who went on a conference call this week and said he was actually embarrassed traveling around, being an American.
These people want tax reform. They want stuff that's better for their business. They're happy with the regulatory pullback. But what they don't see is meaningful reform that's actually going to change the everyday economic environment, struggling families, working to get their kids into college, working for better jobs.
This is what he always should have focused on. And, again, it's just distraction after distraction.
DOWD: I think they should run -- I disagree with what -- I think the more -- Americans aren't interested in some specific policy debate about what's going on. I think the Democrats, if they were smart, would run on the exact same thing George W. Bush ran on and didn't do, the exact same thing Barack Obama ran on and didn't do, and the exact same thing Donald Trump ran on and hasn't done, which is, is how do you deal with this problem in Washington, the total dysfunction that exists today, and actually get together and solve a problem.
The Democrats are doing great right now, in their mind, by saying he's bad, he's bad, he's bad, he's worse than us. Right? And the American public thinks you're all bad. And so if I were them, I would come up with a strategy, how are you going to figure out how to fix the problem in Washington, D.C., that everybody seems to run on?
CAPUTO: Well, as someone who does not live inside the Beltway, and rarely...
DOWD: Neither do I.
CAPUTO: … comes here...
DOWD: They must love to have you here.
CAPUTO: Well, I used to live here. And I spent a lot of time here. And I can tell you, when I lived here, you would go to the Monocle on the Senate side, and you would see Democrats drinking with Republicans. We saw Democrats marrying Republicans, remember Mary Matalin?
KARL: Let's not get extreme here.
CAPUTO: But so, American politics are vast. And I can tell you as someone who now lives in the hinterlands and in the flyover country, that we look at this and we see that America is lost. We're lost in this vastness now.
What happened to the days when we worked as team? Listen, Jack Kemp's birthday was Thursday. And Jack Kemp looked at American legislators, at the American government as a team. And we haven't been a team in what, a decade or more?
And it has gotten so bad now, I'm sure we can get back to it.
KARL: Now you're here because you had to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. I want to one kind of mystery here, which is there has been a lot of attention to this speech that Donald Trump gave just before the meeting in Trump Tower, where he said this.
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TRUMP: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week. And we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going find it very informative and very, very interesting.
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KARL: OK, so, Abby, that speech didn't happen the Monday of the following week, didn't happen the following week the week after that, or the week after that. What happened?
PHILLIP: I have yet to find a Trump campaign aide who can explain to me what happened that day, what the president -- what then-candidate Trump was talking about, why the speech didn't happen. No one seems to have an explanation for it. And it's really puzzling.
The key thing to know though is that a few hours before he gave that speech, Don, Jr., finally confirmed a date and a time for this meeting that he was going have with the people who basically told him going into the meeting that they were going to have dirt on Hillary Clinton and that it was part of the Russian government's efforts to help Donald Trump.
So those are the facts. There are no explanations for these comments...
KARL: You were there. What happened to the speech?
CAPUTO: My job, when I was in Trump Tower, was developing messages, developing talking points. And at that time, we were in a big deep dive on all kinds of things Hillary.
If you remember, I got caught researching Whitewater because Hope Hicks in the campaign accidentally emailed Mark Caputo of Politico instead of Michael Caputo.
We were putting things together that were all on the record, it was all -- in fact, there were books...
KARL: Traditional opposition research.
PHILLIP: But why did the speech not happen?
CAPUTO: Let me tell you, that's not the only speech that he talked about that did not happen. A lot of things that we had hoped to do never happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You would have thought that digging on Hillary Clinton would be pretty quick.
DOWD: Changing explanations. First Russia didn't get involved in our election, then they did get involved in election. Then Russia didn't help Donald Trump. Then we discovered he tried to help Donald Trump. Then there was no meetings, now we know there was meetings. Then there was no coordination and now we know there was coordination. And now there's no collusion or it's not illegal, and now that's we're having a debate over it. So, it's constantly moving.
I can tell you one thing, I have been involved in two presidential campaigns, I have talked to people in the last 25 years that have been involved in presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle, no one has ever attended a meeting like this or been involved in something like this.
KARL: So, Michael, I know you had nothing to do with this meeting. The president's tweeted about you this morning. Let's take a look that tweet. Thank you to former campaign adviser Michael Caputo for saying so powerfully that there was no Russian collusion in our winning campaign.
Now, you would acknowledge you wouldn't necessarily know, right? I mean...
CAPUTO: I know about myself. I know about my friends, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, they would never do anything like this.
I know about Donald Trump who I spent time with years before the election sitting in private conversations talking about his love of country and how thankful he is for what the country has done for him. I don't think Donald Trump would ever do this. I don't believe he would tolerate in his ranks.
Of course, I wasn't in the dominant coalition. I wasn't in all the meetings. We see some mistakes made by General Flynn. We see that Don Jr. made a mistake as well. I view these as mistakes. I know I'm a partisan. I know I'm a supporter, but I think in the end of all of this, when we discover there was no actual collusion, no crimes committed, we have to dial down this rhetoric.
Because I get called a traitor every 60 seconds on Twitter. I'm a veteran of the U.S. army in the infantry. When you call someone a traitor, people buy weapons and start shooting. And we have got to stop this before someone else gets shot.
DOWD: I just have to say, there is some explanation of people out there that are worried the fact that Donald Trump has this seemingly, and his people seemingly having been in complete close relationship with Vladimir Putin, who was viewed by most people as a totalitarian in a state that is our adversary.
KARL: We're out of time. Thank you very much to the roundtable. We'll be right back.
KARL: That's all for us today. But check out our new live series, the Briefing Room, when it debuts tomorrow on our ABC News digital platforms with more results on our new poll. Until then, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. And have a great day.