'This Week' Transcript 6-16-19: President Donald Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
This is a rush transcript for "This Week" airing Sunday, June 16.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 9, 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.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This morning, new headlines from our exclusive interview with President Trump.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: So a president can't obstruct justice?
KARL: Two days behind the scenes. On the road, in air and in the Oval.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a special place.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Show us around (ph).
KARL: What the president says he learned from Richard Nixon.
TRUMP: -- you know, that didn't work out too well.
KARL: And what could have cost him the White House.
TRUMP: If that would have happened before the election, I could have lost.
KARL: Plus, AOC unfiltered.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: An impeachment inquiry is right on our doorstep.
KARL: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez live in studio for her first Sunday show interview since taking office. Who will she endorse? Will she play kingmaker in the 2020 Democratic primary? And her reaction to the president's suggesting he’d accept help from a foreign power.
TRUMP: They have information, I think I’d take it.
KARL: That comment could change the calculation for Democrats on impeachment and pressure Speaker Pelosi to act. We'll take all that straight to Chris Christie and the Powerhouse Roundtable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC NEWS, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning. Happy Father's Day and welcome to THIS WEEK. Only a small portion of George's extensive interview with the president has aired so far and those excerpts are reverberating throughout Washington. In just a moment, you'll see new scenes from our all-access ABC News exclusive. George asked the president questions that Robert Mueller never had a chance to ask him.
But first, to underscore the significance of what we have already heard from the president, he did not see a problem accepting help from a foreign country, an adversary, even, to win a second term. And if he received that kind of offer, he may or may not tell the FBI about it.
That comment surprised even some of the president's closest allies. But it was also classic Donald Trump, bluntly saying exactly what was on his mind without regard for the political repercussions.
Prominent Republicans have stepped forward to disagree with the president on this and Senate Democrats tried to pass a bill that would make it a crime to fail to report interference in an election.
The president has since sought to clarify his comments. He called into Fox and Friends to say he would review the material from a foreign entity and report it if it was, quote, “something bad.” But then this weekend he tweeted that he enjoyed his interview with George and, quote, “I think I will do many more network interviews,” sending the message he’s not worried about the backlash.
Also this morning, another big ABC News exclusive. We will be joined live by progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s part of the growing chorus in the House calling for an impeachment inquiry and she may also be the most sought after endorsement in the Democratic presidential primary.
But now, more from George's interview with the president.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (VOICEOVER): Over two days, President Trump and I covered a lot of ground -
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look who's in the back of the car! Look who's in the back of the car! Him, right here.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): Starting in Iowa on Tuesday where we rode together in his brand new armored limo, The Beast.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is some piece of machinery.
TRUMP: Oh, this is amazing actually.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): The conversation turned tense after Trump raised the Mueller report, himself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your pitch to the swing voter on the fence?
TRUMP: Safety, security, great economy. I think I've done more than any other first-term president ever. I have a phony witch hunt, which is just a phony pile of stuff. Mueller comes out. There's no collusion. And essentially a ruling that no obstruction. And they keep going with it. You know what? People are angry about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that's why he found -- but we don't have time for that now. We'll talk about later.
TRUMP: That is what they found. Excuse me. He found no collusion. And they didn't find anything having to do with obstruction because they made a ruling based on his findings and they said no obstruction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn't examine collusion. He laid out evidence of obstruction.
TRUMP: Oh, are you trying to say now that there was collusion even though he said there was no collusion?
STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn't say there's no collusion.
TRUMP: He said no collusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he didn't look at collusion.
TRUMP: George, the report said no collusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you read the report?
TRUMP: Uh, yes I did, and you should read it, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I read every word.
TRUMP: Alright, let's go. You should read it, too, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): Back at the White House Wednesday, we were invited into the Oval Office where the president returned to the Mueller report -- again unprompted -- this time responding to a question about 2020 polling he doesn’t like.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But why does it bother you so much?
TRUMP: Because it's untrue. I like the truth. You know, I'm actually a very honest guy. If I thought they were correct, I wouldn't be complaining at all. I understand that. It's like the witch hunt that goes on. No collusion with Russia, there was no collusion. And what bothers me --
STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, that's not -- that’s not what Robert Mueller found.
TRUMP: You know can I -- it’s what it says. It said no collusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): In fact, the report cites 126 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, but insufficient evidence to charge a criminal conspiracy.
TRUMP: No George, all I want is the truth. All I want is fairness.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But -- but you say that, for example, you were pursuing a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign and denying any relationship with Russia.
TRUMP: George, let me tell you: I didn't even do a deal in Moscow, do you know we, I don't even think they had --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were pursuing it.
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. Pursuing, what does pursuing mean? You know, because someone walks in, says, "Hey we're looking at --" Do you know that I don't even think they had a site? I don't even think they knew who was gonna do the deal. It was a concept of a deal, more of a concept than anything else. It was a concept of a deal someplace in Russia, probably in Moscow, and I was lookin' at places all over the world --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But didn't voters have a right to know that?
TRUMP: I wouldn't mind telling ‘em. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact, I -- I didn’t consider that pursuing a deal when you don't even have a site.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): Then that stunning admission about the prospect of accepting help from a foreign power in 2020.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?
TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't -- there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, "We have information on your opponent." Oh, I think I'd want to hear it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, that they come up with oppo research. “Oh, let's call the FBI.” The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): Later that day, I asked him about Mueller's findings on obstruction of justice, and a statement signed by more than a thousand former prosecutors who believe Trump was spared from indictment only because of a Justice Department opinion that a sitting president cannot face criminal charges.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The attorney general said you didn't commit obstruction of justice. Robert Mueller said he's not reaching a decision, could not exonerate you. And he laid out all that evidence. More than a thousand former federal prosecutors have looked at --
TRUMP: Oh, that's -- but they're all politicians.
Hey George. Look, I know more about prosecutors than you'll ever know. They're politicians. I could get you 5,000 that would also say that there's nothing. You know, I -- I saw their names. And these are all -- many of 'em are Trump haters. Many of 'em if you look at the names.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Many Republicans, too.
TRUMP: I could get you thousands. You know how many prosecutors there have been over the -- if you add 'em all up? We could get you thousands of prosecutors. I've been treated so unfairly 'cause I never did anything. There was no crime.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of those prosecutors today, Kamala Harris, running for president said --
TRUMP: Oh, give me a break. She's running for president. She's doing horribly. She's way down in the polls.
STEPHANOPOULOS: She said she would have no choice but to prosecute you.
TRUMP: And I must say Pocahontas is really cleaning her clock. And I heard she made that statement. And you know what? Who wouldn't? Probably if I were running in her position, I'd make the same statement.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): I asked Trump about some of the specific evidence of possible obstruction Mueller cited in his report.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of evidence, including the episode where you ask your White House counsel, Don McGahn, you tell him, "Mueller has to go." You call him twice --
TRUMP: Yeah, yeah.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- and say, "Mueller has to go. Call me when it's done."
TRUMP: OK now, the story on that very simply, number one, I was never gonna fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller. Do I think--
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not what he said.
TRUMP: Excuse -- I don't care what he says. It doesn't matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was. Now, he may have gotten confused with the fact that I've always said, and I've said it to you, and I've said to anybody that would listen, Robert Mueller was conflicted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But why would Don McGahn lie --
TRUMP: But we had a business -- wait a minute--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why would he lie under oath? Why would he lie under oath to Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or -- or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen, including you, including the media, that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And has to go?
TRUMP: I never said -- I didn't say that. If I -- look, Article II. I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller. There was -- assuming -- assuming I did all of the things, I said I want to fire him, number one, I didn't. He wasn't fired. Okay? Number one, very importantly. But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it sounds like you --
TRUMP: But I wasn't gonna fire. You know why? Because I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn't work out too well. So very simply, Article II would allow me to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): Article II of the Constitution outlines the powers of the presidency, and the president's defenders argue he cannot commit obstruction of justice while exercising those powers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk about Article II. So your position is that you can hire or fire anybody, stop or start, in any investigation --
TRUMP: That is the position of a lot of great lawyers. That's the position of some of the most talented lawyers. And you have to have a position like that because you're the president. But without even bringing up Article II, which absolutely gives you every right --
STEPHANOPOULOS: So a president can't obstruct justice?
TRUMP: A president can run the country. And that's what happened, George. I run the country, and I run it well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When the president does it, it's not illegal?
TRUMP: I'm just saying a president under Article II -- it's very strong. Read it. Do you have Article II? Read it.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): The president never sat for an interview under oath with the special counsel's team. Instead he answered written questions about contacts with Russia, but he refused to answer any questions about obstruction of justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you answer these questions to me now, why not answer them to Robert Mueller under oath?
TRUMP: Because they were looking to get us for lies, for slight misstatements. I looked at what happened to people, and it was very unfair. Very, very unfair. Very unfair.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So I'm listening to you. You're not worried about being prosecuted once you leave office?
TRUMP: I did nothing wrong, George. Did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. You don't even hear Russia mentioned anymore. Russ -- Russia's not mentioned. Now, it's all about obstruct -- obstruction of what? They built up a phony crime. They hired a man that hated Trump. He hired 18 people that were Democrats that hated Trump. Some of them contributed to Clinton's campaign.
A couple of 'em worked for Clinton. I mean, what kind of a rigged deal is this? And then on top of it, after two years and after being the most transparent in history -- I gave them 1.5 million pages of documents, right? I gave them four or five hundred witnesses. I let Don McGahn testify. I let him say -- he was the White House counsel. I let him test -- I knew he was gonna testify.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you didn't sit for an interview. You didn’t answer questions on obstruction.
TRUMP: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. I did answer questions. I answered them in writing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not on obstruction.
TRUMP: I don't know about those -- I don't know. I answered a lotta questions. They gave me questions. I answered them in writing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not on obstruction.
TRUMP: Look, George, you're being a little wise guy, okay, which is, you know, typical for you. Just so you understand. Very simple. It's very simple. There was no crime. There was no collusion. The big thing's collusion. Now, there's no collusion. That means they set -- it was a setup. In my opinion, and I think it's gonna come out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who set it up?
TRUMP: I hope it’s gonna come out. We are going to find out very soon. Because I really believe it's gonna come out. When you look at Strzok, these FBI guys that were lowlifes, when you look -- 'cause the FBI's the greatest. But these -- the top people were absolutely lowlifes. When you look at Strzok and Page and they're talking about an insurance policy just in case she loses, that was the insurance policy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, I've heard you talk about that before, which --
TRUMP: I really believe it’s gonna come out. When you look at Strzok --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I -- I understand that. But if they were determined to prevent you from becoming president, why wouldn't they leak it beforehand?
TRUMP: You know what --
STEPHANOPOULOS: It didn't come out before the election --
TRUMP: You'd have to ask them. Oh, they tried. They tried. And you know what? Had that gone out before the election, I -- I don't think I could've -- I don't think I would've had enough time to defend myself --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You clearly believe there was a group of people working against you. Do you think President Obama was behind it?
TRUMP: I would say that he certainly must have known about it because it went very high up in the chain. But you're gonna find that out. I'm not gonna make that statement quite yet. But I would say that President Obama had to know about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS (VO): And of course our conversation took place against the backdrop of growing calls from Democrats eager to open an impeachment inquiry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not worried about what happens in Congress?
TRUMP: Look. The Republicans in the Senate, every single one of 'em that I see know this is a witch hunt. They get it a hundred percent. And that's what matters. The Democrats are gonna do it only because they might think it helps them. I think it actually hurts 'em in the election. But there's never been a time in the history of our country where somebody was so mistreated as I have been. And this should never, ever be allowed to happen to another president again. A previous administration used the intelligence data and the intelligence agencies to spy on my campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe that President Obama spied on your campaign --
TRUMP: I don't know. But hopefully we're gonna find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Well there is a lot to discuss in that interview and the Powerhouse Roundtable has been here with me and is ready to go over it all, this remarkable interview with the president.
And later, my exclusive interview with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, her first Sunday show interview since taking office.
And a reminder to tune in for George’s full exclusive interview on the ABC News primetime special tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is not okay for any public official to receive assistance from foreign government.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: If a foreign agent approached me with anything, including but not limited to dirt on my opponent, I'd call the FBI.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH: That would be simply unthinkable for a candidate for president to accept that involvement, to encourage it, to participate with it in any way, shape, or form. It would strike at the very heart of our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Senate Republicans there clearly rattled by the president's comments. Let's get reaction from our "Powerhouse Roundtable": former New Jersey Governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie, Democratic strategist Stefanie Brown James, ABC News political director Rick Klein who is also the co-host of the "Powerhouse Politics Podcast" with me, and Julie Pace, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press.
So, Governor Christie, why is the president saying this?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's because it's what he really thinks. I mean, one of the things you have to understand about Donald Trump is that most of the time when he's emotional like he was in that interview, and you could see a number of times he was emotional, he's saying absolutely what he really thinks. He does think that people take this dirt from foreign governments all the time.
But put it in context...
KARL: But now, they -- they don't.
CHRISTIE: I understand that. I was just going to explain that to you, Jon. This is a guy who has never been involved in politics before. He has been involved in business, where a lot of things that happen in business that might be acceptable, when you're a public official taking an oath of office are not acceptable.
That's not to explain away his statement, it's to help people out there to understand why would he. But let's be clear, you can't take that information from a foreign agent. It's against the law, and if he or anybody in this campaign were to do it, they would be violating the law and would be subject to prosecution.
Now the president’s backed off a bit since George's interview and said, you know, I would call the FBI if I thought there was something bad in there.
KARL: Yes, let's -- let’s play that. Because we have that. This is -- he called into "Fox and Friends." And this is what he had to say when he was asked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And, of course, you have to look at it, because if you don't look at it you're not going to know if it's bad. How are you going to know if it's bad? But of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, Stefanie, does this change the calculus on impeachment?
STEFANIE BROWN JAMES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & COLLECTIVE PAC CO-FOUNDER: Listen, Donald Trump is a exactly the gift that the Democrats need, because they only need him to keep talking. He is the evidence that they need to show why he needs to be out of office.
I mean, this is a man who, I believe you, he legitimately thinks that people are out to get him. Now if he continues to talk, I think that this will...
KARL: Well, he's not wrong about that, right? I mean --
BROWN JAMES: Well, yes, but, for reasons that he is just oblivious to all of the mistakes that he has made. And so I think what Democrats need to do is focus on, yes, we do want to get as much information out as possible, much of it is going to come, I don't think through an impeachment process, but from Donald Trump himself.
But really this is moment for Democrats to continue to make sure that they are pressing forward with their agenda, because this is going to be a continual roll-out of information that we get from the president, more than I think we’re going to get from the impeachment process.
CHRISTIE: This is why Stefanie’s one of the smarter Democrats, because you asked her about impeachment and she didn’t answer because –
KARL: So Rick will tell us, Rick will tell us.
CHRISTIE: Right because what she knows is if they do it, it’s the gift to Donald Trump that will win him the election.
BROWN JAMES: No I don’t think that’s true, I don’t think that’s true. I think – I think – no, no, no what I’m saying --
CHRISTIE: Then why aren’t you doing it? If you believe – if you believe he committed crimes then why aren’t you doing it?
BROWN JAMES: I think that they are going to move forward in some kind of way with –
CHRISTIE: With impeachment?
BROWN JAMES: I would not be surprised if the – if the Democrats rolled that way, I would not. But what I’m saying is –
CHRISTIE: Well, there we go.
BROWN JAMES: -- but what I’m saying is I truly do believe that they are focused on making sure that they are talking about their agenda, which they need to do much more of. Because I think that’s where the American people really are.
They want to know what is government doing for me and the impeachment process is not going to get us to the place where Donald Trump is out of office. Only the election will do that.
KARL: And you do impeachment you’re talking about Donald Trump nonstop, which by the way is not something he minds. Now Rick, you’ve been talking to Democrats about this.
KLEIN: Yes, and I think – I think it’s key that – well we’re focused on the momentum for House members coming out in favor of impeachment. Nancy Pelosi actually isn’t. She’s looking at different numbers entirely.
I talked to a House Democrat who’s close to Pelosi yesterday who said, look she knows you’ve got these 65 or so who are for impeachment, you probably have about another 100 who’d vote for an inquiry if it came to the floor, but there are about 50 hard nos.
And I am told those are the folks she’s focused on, they won’t even have 218 votes, they don’t have a majority for that. And unless that changes and you’re talking about people like Abigail Spanberger and Elissa Slotkin and Elaine Luria.
If those folks start to turn, that’s different, but the reality is that they’re probably not going to do it unless they have actions. It’s not going to be words by the president.
If he were to defy a court order, if there was something that took it to another level, otherwise I don’t think –
KARL: Defy congressional subpoenas, which he’s been doing?
KLEIN: Potentially -- well it goes beyond that because they bring that to court. I don’t think Pelosi is going to move on this even in the wake of this with now a majority of the presidential candidates, the majority of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee being in favor of an inquiry, Nancy Pelosi has not moved an inch.
PACE: Well, what’s important about those names that you listed off there is those are the lawmakers that put Democrats over the edge to give them the majority. They’re the lawmakers that are in districts that Trump won that have – that are really split, that are – that are red, blue districts.
And Pelosi’s going to be watching those lawmakers. If their politics back home shows them that impeachment is now a viable option, then I think that’s the signal that she’ll – she’ll be looking for.
But we’re seeing nothing of the sort from those lawmakers right now.
KARL: But let me clarify what you’re talking about Rick. You’re saying there are 50 hard no’s, and therefore if it came to a vote it would not pass. I could see 50 Democrats telling Pelosi I’m a hard no, but would they really if it came down to a vote, vote no?
It’s one thing to tell the speaker not to go forward, it’s another thing to step forward and do, you know.
KLEIN: And those things are connected and she does have more pressure on her now, even some of her members of her leadership team who are moving in that direction. But -- but she knows how to count heads, she knows how to count her own folks and she isn’t going to move in that direction unless she’s got that.
And look, it’s not like – it’s not like she wants to advertise the fact that they don’t have 218. You can imagine President Trump using that vote if it ever came to it or even reporting on that vote as a – as a badge of honor.
But she is protecting her own members and looking – looking out for what they view as the right political and policy move at this time.
CHRISTIE: Jon, you look at a place like New Jersey where a number of Republican seats got flipped,
CHRISTIE: So someone like Mikie Sherrill who’s now in my district, which has traditionally been a Republican district for 40 years, or Andy Kim in another district that’s been even longer Republican.
If they ever came out and said they were for impeachment, they’d be out in 2020. And in fact, I think if it came to a vote, members like that would vote no because they’re preserving their seat rather than worrying about the other issues. No doubt.
BROWN JAMES: And at the end of the day, Democrats also need to make sure that they are staying focused on the election. Even – no matter what happens in the House, nothing is going to move forward in the Senate about impeachment. The only thing that’s going to get Donald Trump out of office, which is the golden north star for Democrats is the elections.
And so for them to focus on what are we doing to make sure that our agenda is getting out to the American public to talk very clearly about the fact that we passed a number of legislative priorities that we’ve had, we’re making progress, that’s the only thing that’s going to really get Donald Trump out of office is focusing on the elections.
PACE: That’s the crux of Pelosi’s argument. She basically says if your goal is to have Trump not serve a second term, you have to focus on -- on beating him at the ballot box because there is no way.
The Senate is in Republican hands right now, there is no way that he would be out of office in impeachment even if that vote flipped right now. And that so far is proving to be a pretty compelling argument to the majority of her caucus.
KARL: And that could be a – like taken as vindication. So get impeached and then got exonerated in the – in the Senate is how I’m going to play it.
PACE: He looks – and he – and he also looks at the – you know, Trump looks at the politics from the Clinton era where this was obviously in Clinton’s second term, so the dynamic was a little bit different, but he left office more popular after that.
He was able to rally his base because of the opposition.
KARL: All right, we will be back with all of you.
Up next though, she is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making waves and pushing the Democratic party in big ways in her first six months here in Washington.
She joins us exclusively live right here in the studio when we come back.
KARL: We're here with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ready to talk about President Trump, 2020 and the democratic debate on impeachment. Our conversation when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the president is inviting foreign interference, why is that not grounds to move towards impeachment?
NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that. But not any one issue is going to trigger, oh, now, we'll go do this. It's about investigating, it's about litigating, it's about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable and no one is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is here for her first Sunday show interview since taking office. Congresswoman, welcome to THIS WEEK. Thank you for joining us.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you for having me.
KARL: So what's your sense? You watched that whole interview play out? Does this change the calculus on impeachment?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think every day that passes the pressure to impeach grows and I think that it's justifiable, I think the evidence continues to come in and I believe that with the president now saying that he is willing to break the law to win re-election, that -- that goes -- that transcends partisanship, it transcends party lines and this is now about the rule of law in the United States of America.
KARL: There's a new poll out this morning, NBC News that shows significant growth in Democratic support for impeachment. And the -- the survey was done before George's interview. Pelosi, though -- Speaker Pelosi has really held her line on this. How is that flying with progressives?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, you know, I think for me this question has -- should not be about polls, it should not be about elections. I think that -- that impeachment is incredibly serious and this is about the presence and evidence that the president may have committed a crime, in this case more than one. And so I believe that -- that our decision on impeachment should be based in our constitutional responsibilities and duties and not in elections or polling.
That being said, with the increase in polls I think the American people are now recognizing, in -- in a much broader scale, the depth and the severity of the misconduct coming out of the White House and a demand to protect our institutions and protect the rule of law in the United States and -- and at least opening an inquiry into -- into possible misconduct.
KARL: So how is that real progressive frustration that Speaker Pelosi has said at least so far -- and she seems to be really holding the line that she's not ready to do that?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's quite real. I believe that there is a very real animus and desire to make sure that we are -- that -- that we are holding this president to account.
KARL: What have you told her about this?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well you know, I think we come together as a caucus and we have these conversations and those -- as -- as the Speaker likes to say, they are family conversations, they are ones that are held in confidence, but I do believe that -- that this is truly, again -- and I've said this publicly, I've said it privately, I've said it when we subpoenaed the attorney general and Secretary Ross today on the census -- I mean this week on the census that this is about the rule of law and we have to make sure that we -- that we are -- holding this president account is holding all of government to account.
KARL: Essentially you have 41 freshman Democrats that are in seats that were held by Republicans. And from everything I've seen, virtually all of them -- these are your majority-makers, all of them oppose moving forward with impeachment.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I -- I would disagree with that assessment. I think that some of these dynamics are changing. I would -- I would very much not say all of them are opposed to impeachment. I think many of them are extraordinarily concerned about the misconduct coming out. I -- I -- it really -- you have to look at the process. There is opening an impeachment inquiry and then there's the impeachment vote itself. There may be some that are out on the impeachment vote itself, but I think that there is a growing sentiment even among many of these frontliners, as we call them, swing district Democrats that think we should at least open an inquiry and look into the abundance of evidence, 10 counts of obstruction of justice, four with rock-solid evidence, we have violations of the emoluments clause.
We need to at least open an inquiry so that we can look at what is going on. And that is what opening an -- an impeachment inquiry means.
KARL: Isn't there a risk -- and I take your point about not wanting to do this for politics, but politics are very real here.
KARL: Even if you open the inquiry, there's a vote, the president is impeached, obviously he would still have to be convicted in the Senate with a super-majority. That's not going to happen.
KARL: So, don't you risk handing him a political victory here?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: So I think there are a couple of scenarios here. One, there's always the possibility that you open an impeachment inquiry and it does not result in a referral. That we open the inquiry...
KARL: Wouldn't that be a victory for...
OCASIO-CORTEZ: ... look at everything.
KARL: ... Trump, too, though?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think that this is about us doing our jobs. And if we're talking about what's going to be a victory for Trump and what's not going to be a victory for Trump then we are politicizing and we are tainting this process, which, again, should be removed from politics.
That being said, Lindsey Graham himself set a very low bar for impeachment in 1998, in the late '90s, with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. That impeachment did not result in a vote by the Senate. But I think for us, what we need to really realize is, are we doing our job as a member of the House?
And the Senate has their entire responsibility. Mitch McConnell has over a hundred bills. He hasn't brought election security to his feet. And let's not forget that he's involved in this mess, too. His wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, just was revealed by The New York Times for having a whole web of potential conflicts of interest and as it relates to bringing projects to Kentucky as well.
I mean, there's a whole other separate set of issues in the Senate. But I think we need to be concerned with our job in the House.
KARL: And what about this question of prosecuting Donald Trump after he leaves office, which we're now hearing from more Democrats, including Kamala Harris?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, again, this is -- that's out of our -- that's completely out of our scope of responsibilities. I, nor any other elected official has control over potential prosecution after the president leaves office.
KARL: Was it inappropriate to be calling for it? It's like a Democratic variation of "lock her up," you know...
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Right. Well, I wouldn't equate it to that extent, but I don't think that that is -- I just don't see the relevancy in calling for prosecution after he leaves office. We have the ability to actually -- to actually kind of play out our responsibilities now. We have power now. And to bump it to when we don't have power I don't think makes a whole lot of sense in terms of speaking about it.
KARL: OK. So let's turn to the 2020 campaign. Are you going to endorse?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Not now. It's possible that I'll endorse later on perhaps, you know, I do not see myself endorsing any time soon. We haven't even had our first debates yet. I'm very interested in seeing how things play out. So we'll see.
KARL: Bernie Sanders just announced his list of New York endorsements. You obviously weren't on that list because you're not endorsing. Did he ask for your endorsement?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: He hasn't. He hasn't. I think we've been focused on -- you know, he and I have co-led on capping interest rates on credit cards at 15 percent. We're focused on working together in our capacities as a -- as co-workers, me in the House and him in the Senate. And so he has not asked for my endorsement, but he has asked for my co-sponsorship on several bills, which I am happy to offer.
KARL: Would he have an edge? I mean, volunteered for his campaign. He supported your campaign.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think what we really need right now is a presidential candidate that is going to fight for the well being of working-class Americans and all Americans. And I think that he does that excellently. I think his policies do that excellently. I believe Senator Warren's policies do that excellently. And I think that that's really what we need to be looking for in terms of the agenda.
And when we talk about the agenda, for me, that agenda means the right to health care. It means a $15 minimum wage pegged to inflation. It means making sure that we can make college accessible to all people including public colleges, vocational schools, and community colleges. It means having a foreign policy that's focused on peace-building and stability. And that is what I'm looking for, really, in a candidate for the United States presidency.
KARL: So, do you believe the Democrats will lose to Donald Trump if they don't nominate somebody who is, in your mind, a true progressive along the lines you just described?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States. I think that if we elect a president on half-measures that the American people don't quite understand the agenda of a president, you know, a president that says we're fighting for higher wages but we don't want a $15 minimum wage, fighting for education but we don't to make colleges tuition-free, fighting for women's rights, et cetera, but we don't want to go all the way with that, then I think we have a very real risk of losing the presidency.
KARL: I saw that you said recently there are too many candidates, 23 I think at the latest count. And you've called for I think you've said elimination and one of those you named was John Delaney, who you said should sashay his way out.
But any - who else - who else should step out of this race?
OCASIO CORTEZ: Well I think - I think we'll see, I think Democratic voters will see very soon, in about what, a week? Two weeks? Our first Democratic debates, I think we'll see -
KARL: Twenty of them.
OCASIO CORTEZ: Right, and I do think that the field is too large. I do believe that having a competitive primary is healthy and that it's good, but we have so many Senate seats to take and the fact that we aren't discussing that more, even if we win the presidency and we don't win the Senate, we are not going to be able to get a robust agenda passed in the way that we envision it.
KARL: So Joe Biden appears to be the front-runner in virtually all the polls, do you think he has sufficiently answered the accusations from women who accused him of inappropriate touching?
Does he - in short, does he get it?
OCASIO CORTEZ: I think that's something that he has to kind of show the electorate, I think that - I - you know, I think that it is an issue where there is a struggle, I'll be completely honest.
I don't think that he has - I don't - I wouldn't say that it is an incredibly severe - like I don't think that voters think that he is necessarily guilty of sexual misconduct or anything like that.
But I do think that there may be some discomfort, especially seeing some clips this week and, you know, week before telling a 13 year old, telling her brothers to watch out for her, and I think there are some things with female voters that it's just not quite locked down.
And I think that there's - there's some ways to go, but this is also a cultural evolution I think that we're having as a country. So I don't think it's necessarily about being punitive in these ways.
But I do think like in all issues and with all demographics and in all electorates, it's not about right and wrong sometimes, it's just about whether feeling like someone gets it or not.
KARL: And - and you get the sense that he has not conveyed that yet, that he really gets it.
OCASIO CORTEZ: I don't - I don't think he's necessarily convinced all women, but I also don't think that he is, you know, people tend to interpret these situations as completely one way or another, you know, is he a bad person or is he a good person?
I don't think it's about that.
KARL: Do you think Democrats in hindsight made a mistake by giving Bill Clinton a pass all those years over his treatment of women?
OCASIO CORTEZ: Probably, you know, I think that - but again I think this is - I actually don't think that this is as partisan, I don't - I wouldn't look at this through a partisan lens.
I think that this is part of an evolution that we've been having as a country. Women have historically been mistreated. There is no - I don't think that that is really a controversial thing to say.
We still have a pay gap which is persisted by inequalities in parental leave, inequalities in, you know, the fact that women don't get guaranteed paid leave. I have three staffers that are having children in my first three months and - first rather six months of my term and I see how these inequalities pay out.
That's why I give all new fathers in my office guaranteed three months paid leave, because those inequalities are very real. So I think that when it comes to President Clinton I think that it's not just Democrats, I think that we have historically - from Anita Hill to the present day I think that women have historically bared a lot of, you know, difficulty - adversity in the workplace.
KARL: Now Biden has said he has the most progressive record of any of the candidates. I know you don't agree with that. Could you see yourself supporting Joe Biden?
OCASIO CORTEZ: I mean if he wins the nomination, I think that it is absolutely important that we defeat Donald Trump.
KARL: And will progressives rally around Joe Biden? Sufficiently to -
OCASIO CORTEZ: Well I think - I think when it comes to who we select as a presidential candidate, we have to - we have to really factor in the enthusiasm of voters. I think that was an issue that we had in 2016.
I think that it wasn't necessarily that Trump inspired a wave of enthusiastic voters, it's that people felt worse about both candidates in 2016 than they have in a very long time. And so I think that we need to pick a candidate that is going to be exciting to vote for, that all people, women, people of all genders, races, income levels, geographies feel excited and good about voting for.
And so I think that that's really what we should be looking for.
KARL: Has -- has -- do you think Biden has sufficiently answered the question on the Hyde amendment, which -- which bans federal funds for abortion? He had supported it year after year after year, now he says he's against it. Does that close the case for that?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I'm encouraged by the fact that he is now against the Hyde amendment. I think that that's where -- I think it's a very base level where all candidates need to be. I'm excited to be introducing a repeal of the Hyde amendment via amendment -- we'll see where it goes -- for incarcerated women and the -- the maternal and reproductive healthcare of incarcerated women is -- it should be guaranteed as it is with all women in the United States. And so I think it really depends -- and that's really what the Hyde amendment is about.
The Hyde amendment isn't about abortion per se. The Hyde amendment is -- is truly about equality of health care and health care access for low-income women and women of color and women that get caught in our -- in our mass incarceration system. And so the Hyde amendment is -- is about income inequality and it's about women's healthcare in a system of income inequality. So I think that we need to repeal it. I think that -- that having that -- a strong record, I think all of this is stuff for voters to decide. But I think that we really -- this is not in the niche topic of women's issues anymore, this is an American issue.
We're talking about 50, 51 percent of the American public being impacted by the realities of the Hyde amendment.
KARL: OK. Unfortunately, we're almost out of time but I got a couple of quick ones I want to get to. First, you have suggested that an economic system that has billionaires is immoral. So let me just ask you, if you had a true progressive program put in place, would Jeff Bezos still be a billionaire five, 10 years from now?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think -- for me, I think I spend less time thinking about thinking Jeff Bezos and I think more time thinking about Amazon warehouse workers. I think about the outcomes that I want for those folks. So whether Jeff Bezos is a billionaire or not is less of my concern than if your average Amazon worker is making a living wage, if they have guaranteed health care and if they can send their kids to college tuition-free. And if that's the case and Jeff Bezos is still a billionaire, that's one thing. But if his being a billionaire is predicated on paying people starvation wages and stripping them of their ability to access health care, and also if his ability to be a billionaire is predicated on the fact that his workers take food stamps, so I'm paying for him to be a billionaire --
KARL: And do you think that's why he's a billionaire, because he pays his workers starvation wages and --
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's certainly a part of the equation when you have a very large work force and you underpay every single person and then you also participate in -- you know, in taking billions of dollars of government subsidies, I think that that's -- that could be part of it. But, if he's willing to give up all of his government subsidies, if we're willing to charge fair taxes, if we're willing to pay people living wage, send people to college tuition-free, guarantee everyone health care and he's still a billionaire, then, well, that's a fight we can have another day.
KARL: OK. And I know you're working with Ted Cruz on a couple of things. That surprised a lot of people. Have you actually talked to him yet? Have you worked with him personally?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Our teams -- our teams are in communication. We haven't met in person yet, but I do know that we have an ongoing working relationship and I'm extraordinarily excited in seeing what we can accomplish.
KARL: Extraordinarily excited about working with Ted Cruz.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Never thought I'd say it.
KARL: Thank you very much. Thank you for joining us. We hope to have you back again soon.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Thank you (inaudible).
KARL: Much more discussion and debate with our powerhouse roundtable coming up. We will be right back.
KARL: Back now with more roundtable. So, first, Governor Christie, your reaction to AOC. You know, what -- what -- what do you make of it?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I -- listen, you know, I think she doesn't know how to do math. That's for certain. And --
KARL: What? In terms of the calculus on impeachment?
CHRISTIE: No, no, not on the calculus on impeachment, on what she was talking about at the end regarding billionaires and, you know, she wants everybody to have all of these things but she herself has been so off on the math of what these things cost and what it would take to tax those things and is it even possible to provide them. I mean, the fact of the matter is she is someone who's having a great experience at the moment. And it happens a lot in American politics.
KARL: It’s pretty extraordinary, though, to see a freshman come on the way she's come on.
STEFANIE BROWN JAMES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, absolutely. Well, and I think part of her popularity is that she's able to really talk about issues that everyday Americans face. Health care, education, equal pay. And so, you know, she --
KARL: But -- but when you --
BROWN JAMES: -- she's having a moment for sure. But she's also talking about very real issues that a lot of Democrats care about.
CHRISTIE: But no realism. But no realism attached to it.
BROWN JAMES: Not completely.
CHRISTIE: She wants -- she -- she wants tuition-free college, she wants $15 minimum wage for everybody, she wants health care for everybody. I mean, these are all things that -- that cost trillions of dollars and she has not once expressed a mathematically feasible way to pay for them. Now, that's okay when you're campaigning for something but now you have the office and you have a responsibility to do it. And if you’re going to have her on a show like this, she should be asked about how it works. And -- and she wasn't asked that this morning, Jon. And as long as she's not asked those questions, we’re going to continue to have her moment. But at some point you have to govern.
BROWN JAMES: No, but --
CHRISTIE: And she’s -- and she’s not governing. She’s -- she’s on a celebrity tour.
KARL: Well, she’s a -- she’s a -- she’s a freshman member --
BROWN JAMES: No, that’s -- I think that’s harsh.
KARL: -- who is -- who is very influential in where the caucus is going. That’s why --
BROWN JAMES: Yes.
KARL: -- that’s why we were talking to her. She is somebody --
BROWN JAMES: Yes.
KARL: -- who the 2020 candidates are -- are lining up trying to get her endorsement.
BROWN JAMES: Yes, because she -- because she is speaking for Democrats and people who actually feel very left out of the process all across the country. She has a voice that represents a lot of people. And so I think it's important to have her on a platform like this, even though she is a freshman member, she may not be able to give specifics, but we cannot deny --
CHRISTIE: But she’s misleading.
BROWN JAMES: -- that she is able to -- no, that’s not --
CHRISTIE: She’s misleading those people --
BROWN JAMES: -- I wouldn’t call it -- no, that’s not misleading.
CHRISTIE: -- those people that feel left out, Stephanie --
BROWN JAMES: That’s not misleading at all.
CHRISTIE: -- she’s misleading them because she’s telling them you can have tuition-free college, that you can have Medicare for All, and all those things --
BROWN JAMES: Which -- which many of the Democrats candidates are also saying the same thing.
KARL: Which by the way is the platform of many of the Democratic candidates.
CHRISTIE: But -- but -- but Jon, by the way, none of them have said how they’re going to pay for it.
KARL: Well Elizabeth Warren’s got a wealth tax, I mean, there -- there are -- so let’s -- let’s -- let’s get on to the bigger field here. We have the debate stage has been set -- Rick -- and let’s take a look. I think we have a graphic showing two nights of debates. Ten on the stage each time. Night one looks a little bit like -- I don’t know, Rick, how do you describe it?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: People -- people are say it looks like J.V. but that is a big night for Elizabeth Warren. I look at that and I -- and I look at Senator Warren and the way that it was split up, the luck of the draw. Literally the luck of the draw. She's up there, Beto O'Rourke and -- and Cory Booker, two nice guys, by the way, they don’t really attack. I think it’s a prime opportunity for her to shine in the ideas primary, out there dominating the discussion in that space. I think it’s a big moment for her coming up to -- to know that she'll take the lead off.
And -- and you know, that second night is so back-loaded. You know, you’ve got more than 60 percent of the primary electorate represented just with the top four candidates that night, and of course main event, Biden --
KARL: Do we have the second night graphic? The second night graphic? So you -- on the second night you’ve got Bernie Sanders, you have Joe Biden, you Kamala Harris, you have Mayor Pete.
PACE: You’re going to really see the -- the debate within the Democratic party play out on that second night where you’re going to have Joe Biden representing the more moderate wing of this party, what some people would call the more realistic wing, to Governor Christie’s point about how you pay for some of these big government proposals, and then you're going to see Bernie Sanders really leading the way for the -- for liberals, for sort of big-government Democrats right now. I do think, to Rick's point, there's an opportunity for Senator Warren on that first night but also a risk. You know, she is going to have that stage somewhat to herself in terms of a real platform to sell her ideas.
She’s going to hit that stage as a candidate who is really on the rise. The risk for her, though. Is that if that second debate, where you’ve got not just Biden and Bernie, where you’ve got Harris on stage, you’ve got Mayor Pete on stage there. If that looks like it’s the showcase night, does Warren look like she’s out of the mix there?
Her – her campaign would argue that what she is doing on the ground is much more important right now than what happens on the debate stage, and I think her poll numbers would back them up at this point.
BROWN JAMES: Here’s the – here’s the interesting thing about that, you know, so there’s two ways people got to the debate stage, one of them is how many unique donors the candidates brought or have at this moment.
Bernie Sanders currently has more unique donors than almost the entire first five folks who are polling in the race. So he has a significant groundswell of dollars, which, you know. Money can get you volunteers, your ground game is what’s really important.
So I think it’s going to be really important to see how the grassroots structure, how they respond to these debates because right now he’s winning in the money race.
CHRISTIE: And having been through this, you know, and having been at the main debate I think eight times and I think junior debate once, what the junior debate does for you potentially is – and what it could do for Warren, is she’s got to dominate that thing, because the expectation is. I remember going in there being more nervous for that debate than I was for any of the main stage debates because the expectation was when you’re standing in between Rick Santorum and Mick Huckabee, you better do well.
And your donors are putting that pressure on you –
KARL: How many people were in that debate when you did your – it wasn’t 10.
CHRISTIE: No I think there were – there were eight in the – in the junior debate and 10 in the upper debate. And then when we got done with that debate though, our poll numbers went up significantly and we were in the next debate easily and we were higher than we had been before.
So there’s a real opportunity for Warren but there will be a real pressure too because the expectation will be – and we’ll build this up in the media that she’s going to dominate the first night, and if she doesn’t dominate the first night, it’s a problem for her if she does then it’s a big upside for her. So it’s a big night for her.
BROWN JAMES: And she’s the target now of Booker and of – and of Beto to contrast themselves with her. And so –
CHRISTIE: They have to be.
BROWN JAMES: -- so they’re all going to be figuring out how they can –
KARL: Neither one of them seem like they’re ready to take the fight to her.
BROWN JAMES: Listen, I think you’re going to hear Cory Booker have a much different voice at this debate. I think he’s going to be – he’s going to be aggressively friendly is what I think we’re going to see from him.
PACE: But this is the question for a lot of these candidates at this – in this debate, you know, what is your strategy? Do you go out there and do you try to draw a direct contrast? I think Bernie Sanders’ campaign really previewed that he would do that with Biden, but for some of these candidates, you know, they are really still in introductory phases.
You know, they are – they are unknown to a lot of the public is the best way for them to have a breakout moment to go head to head with another candidate, or do they want to just do a little more bio, a little more explanation of their policy.
It is – it is early in this race, but for some of these candidates they don’t have much more time for that.
KARL: Or do they wanna do a Chris Christie to Marco Rubio
CHRISTIE: That came later in the main stage, but you know, it’s two months earlier than four years ago too. So you have two months less time, but one less thing Jon is that with Booker this is going to be the biggest moment for him of this first four or five months because Cory’s going to have to decide is he going to be charming or is he going to go on the attack?
My guess is he’s going for charming.
KARL: You’ve seen him do both.
KARL: All right thank you all for joining us, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Be sure to tune in to George’s prime time special with president tonight – President Trump tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on ABC.
Have a great day and a happy Father’s Day.
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