A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Presidential power play.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One way or the other, we have to do it.
RADDATZ: Trump declares a national emergency to get more money for his border wall.
TRUMP: We have an invasion of drugs, an invasion of gangs, invasion of people.
RADDATZ: Bypassing Congress.
TRUMP: I got $1.4 billion, but I'm not happy with it. But on the wall, they skimped.
RADDATZ: And sparking bipartisan backlash.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET, (D) COLORADO: This is crazy. And I think that the real damage is incalculable.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: It's very serious and troubling to me.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D) NEW YORK: I think this is manufactured. I think it is inappropriate.
RADDATZ: Trump's move raising questions about presidential overreach and abuse of power already being challenged in court. The president acknowledging he didn't need to do this, so is there really a national emergency at the border? Will he get the funds and finally build his wall? We'll look at all sides of this debate with one of the president's top defenders in Congress, a key Senate Democrat, and the state attorney general planning to take Trump to court.
BILL WELD: Our country is in grave peril, and I cannot sit any longer quietly on the sidelines.
RADDATZ: We talk to the man who could be Trump's first 2020 Republican challenger, former governor Bill Weld.
Plus, insight and analysis from our Powerhouse Roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.
You are looking live at the U.S./Mexico border in Texas, a small portion of the nearly 2,000-mile stretch of land where President Trump has declared a national emergency saying there is, quote, an invasion of our country.
The president's plan is already being challenged on Capitol Hill and in the courts. It calls for about $6.5 billion from the Pentagon and Treasury Department budgets to fund the construction of Trump's wall, a wall he promised Mexico would pay for.
Trump is claiming the wall will guard against an invasion of drugs, but a recent assessment from the Drug Enforcement Administration says the majority of heroin comes through legal ports of entry, which would not be stopped by a wall.
Then there is the president's claim that criminals and gang members are flooding across the border, but Customs and Border Protection statistics tell a different story of the hundreds of thousands of people they have encountered, only about 4 percent have been convicted of a crime, and only .1 percent of the undocumented immigrants are affiliated with gangs.
And finally, there's the idea of an invasion itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have far more people trying to get into our country today than probably we have ever had before, and we have done an incredible job in stopping them, but it's a massive number of people. If we had the wall, it would be very easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: According to CBP, illegal immigration has actually declined dramatically over the last two decades. And while there has been a recent surge of migrants from Central America, it's made up mostly of families seeking asylum.
Nine members of congress represent districts along the southern border, eight Democrats and one Republican, none support the president's declaration. In congress, Democrats are preparing a resolution to revoke his emergency declaration, and a growing number of Republicans are breaking rank. Senator Marco Rubio saying no crisis justifies violating the constitution.
And then there are the courts where Trump is already facing legal challenges.
So where do we go from here? For more on the two paths that could block the president's declaration, I'm joined by ABC's senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce, and senior national correspondent Terry Moran who covers the Supreme Court. Welcome to both of you.
And Mary, I want to start right away with you. Congress can try to pass this joint resolution to terminate the national emergency. How likely is the president to fare in that? How likely is that to get to his desk?
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look. Democratic leaders have made very clear that they think this is a blatant power grab by, they say, a disappointed president. And Democrats are going to use everything they have to try and stop him. So, we have already seen the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee saying he wants to hold hearings to get to the bottom of this decision. And then you have Democrats already planning to move ahead on that resolution to terminate.
And given how outraged Democrats are, it's very likely to pass in the House, and then it will put Republicans in the senate in a tricky position.
RADDATZ: And there are numerous senators – Republican senators who could join them.
BRUCE: I’ve talked to many Republicans who say that they – that this is a mistake, that this sets a terrible precedent. You mentioned Marco Rubio, he says this is a violation of the constitution. The question is, then, even if it does pass through the House and the Senate, what does the president do next? Because he can veto this. And chances that they get that 2/3 majority to override a veto, that’s a really high bar.
RADDATZ: So – so what else could the Democrats do?
BRUCE: Well, look – Democrats – they can simply try to shine more of a light on this decision. If the president ultimately can veto this, they’re not going to be able to block that. Then they can also pursue legal challenges, they’ve mentioned that they want to look at this in the courts, and then through all of these investigations, try to bring people up to the hill to explain this.
RADDATZ: Which brings us to Terry Moran and the courts. The president is sure to face lawsuits, already is, from legal groups, from states, from landowners. Let’s take a listen here to what President Trump said about that.
DONALD TRUMP: We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued and they will sue us in the 9th circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling, and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake, and we’ll win in the Supreme Court just like the ban.
RADDATZ: Very long list there, Terry, but he’s clearly gearing up for a long legal battle. Where are these lawsuits likely to focus?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he’s got a nice rap there and he knows the score because this is what’s going to happen. You know, "How can I sue you? Let me count the ways," is what people are saying. The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, will say he’s trying to steal the power of the purse. But Congress has delegated these powers to the president in laws that he’s using so that’s going to be a tough case.
States; they’ve got a stronger case, the way this will impact their activities. And he will be sued by states. Landowners, now those of us who will be displaced by eminent domain, and that could be the sticking point. Because there is a longstanding position held by the Supreme Court that the government cannot exercise eminent domain without an express, specific grant of power to do it by the Congress. You might not be able to do it through an emergency declaration or executive order.
So he’s got some real legal challenges coming ahead.
RADDATZ: And Terry, there’s something else he said in that Friday press conference that’s been getting a lot of attention. Let’s listen to that.
TRUMP: I could do the wall over a longer period of time – I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.
RADDATZ: "I didn’t need to do this" but it’s a national emergency?
MORAN: Yeah, if you’re the Trump legal team, you just facepalmed when you heard that. Because he is essentially undermining his own legal position. The position is this is a national emergency. I didn’t need to do it. Now, the problem with it is that Congress, when it granted presidents this kind of power, did not specify at all what constitutes an emergency. So courts will have a hard time, as they do normally, second guessing the decision of a president on national security.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much to both of you. And let’s bring in Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general who is considering a challenge to the president’s national emergency in court. Mr. Attorney General, let me ask you; can you say definitely that California will be filing a lawsuit, and when that will happen?
BECERRA: Martha, definitely and imminently.
RADDATZ: And – and imminently Monday? Nothing will stop you?
BECERRA: No reason. We are prepared, we knew something like this might happen. And with our sister state partners, we are ready to go.
RADDATZ: You know, the president seems to be focusing on a wall in Texas, not California. Are you confident your state has concrete standing to challenge this? What harm is he doing to California with this declaration? Or will you join other states? How will that work?
BECERRA: We’re confident there are at least 8 billion ways that we can prove harm. And once we are all clear, all the different states are clear, what pots of money that taxpayers sent to D.C. he’s going to raid, which Congress dedicated to different types of services; whether it’s emergency response services, or whether it’s fires or mudslides in California, or maybe tornadoes and floods in other parts of the country, or whether it’s our military men and women and their families who live on military installations that might – that might have money taken away from them, or whether it’s money taken away from drug interdiction efforts in places like California, a number of states, and certainly Americans, will be harmed. And we’re all going to be prepared.
RADDATZ: You know, the National Emergencies Act gives the president very broad authority on what qualifies an emergency. So, where do you believe he’s really overstepped his bounds, given this very vague law?
BECERRA: Well, he himself said it. He did not need to announce or declare a crisis. He did not have to call this an emergency. He has also said he knows he’s going to lose in court and he’s hoping that he can count on a conservative court in the Supreme Court to give him a victory because he knows he’s going to lose all the way up the ladder of the courts, the federal court system. And so it’s become clear that this is not an emergency, not only because no one believes it is, but because Donald Trump himself has said it’s not. But there is enough evidence to show that this is not the 9/11 crisis that we faced back in 2001, it’s not the Iran hostage crisis we faced in 1979. It's not even the type of national emergency where we are trying to take action against a -- a foreign enemy or to avoid some type of harm befalling Americans abroad.
And so it's clear that this is not a national emergency.
RADDATZ: But Mr. Attorney General, let me stop you there because you talk about 9/11. There have been 58 national emergencies declared since the law was passed in 1976, including three by President Trump, most recently for violence in Nicaragua. So why should the president have the authority to declare a national emergency for that and not for this, which he clearly does see as a national emergency?
BECERRA: Well, there certainly may be some declarations that are dubious, just like this one is. But typically, our presidents have focused on issues where the national interests are clearly at stake. The national interests aren’t at stake here. We have the lowest level of entries into the country by those that don’t have permission than we’ve had in some 20 years. The Department of Homeland Security itself has said to the president that it is more difficult to cross into the U.S. at our land borders than it has been in a long time. And so it’s clear that this isn’t an emergency, it’s clear that in the mind of Donald Trump he needs to do something to try to fulfill a campaign promise.
That doesn’t constitute a national emergency that would require us to essentially stand down on all sorts of federal laws and also violate the U.S. Constitution.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much, Mr. Attorney General. We appreciate you joining us.
BECERRA: Thank you.
RADDATZ: And joining me now is Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and a member of the Armed Services Committee. Senator, it’s always great to have you here. The House plans to move forward with a resolution opposing this national emergency. And in the Senate, several Republicans have voiced concern as well, but do you have enough votes in the Senate to put a joint resolution of termination on the president’s desk?
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: I think we do. Now, whether we have enough for an override and veto, that’s a different story. But frankly, I think there’s enough people in the Senate who are concerned that what he’s doing is robbing from the military and the DOD to go build this wall that, you know, is really not even the best way to fight the crisis that he’s talking -- you know, seeming that there’s one at the border.
RADDATZ: Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said in their statement on Friday that Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts and in the public using every remedy available. If Congress is unable to override a veto, which you think is doubtful, it seems, should the House move forward with a lawsuit against the president based on constitutional arguments that only Congress can appropriate funds?
DUCKWORTH: I agree with that. I think they should. Frankly the president is trying to take the power of the purse away from the legislative branch. We are co-equal branches of government and he is trying to do a type of executive overreach and it’s just really uncalled for. And you know, if he wants to appropriate more money to put folks -- more agents at the border to put more people at the ports of entry, to go after counter-drug, we can have those conversations. But to take money away from defense, from DOD, in order to build this wall that is essentially a campaign promise, I think is really wrong priorities and I think it’s very harmful to the country.
RADDATZ: The National Emergencies Act, as I discussed with the attorney general, gives the president wide latitude. It doesn’t even explain what exactly an emergency is. So should that be fixed by Congress?
DUCKWORTH: Well that’s something that we can certainly discuss fixing. But, you know, my perspective is this. Even if there were a national emergency on the border, let’s say that we accept his premise. The best way to -- to deal with it is not this wall. The best way to deal with this is to put more people at the ports of entry where we know that’s where the drugs are coming into the country. Let’s talk about the family separations, the children who’ve been ripped away from their families at the border. Let’s deal with that. It’s not about building this wall.
RADDATZ: Do you believe a wall has been effective anywhere? There’s certainly wall -- there’s certainly barriers along the border. I traveled recently with -- with the head of the CBP in the San Diego and he said we really need so they can do exactly what you’re saying, so they can go to the ports of entry.
DUCKWORTH: Well --
RADDATZ: So back to -- back to the original question, is the wall good in certain places?
DUCKWORTH: Well I think it’s appropriate in certain places, but the wall that the president wants to build is not appropriate and in fact it’s just a fulfillment of a campaign promise that he hasn’t been able to keep.
If you talk to the experts down there, what they tell you – it’s a combination, it’s smart barriers, it is more border patrol agents, it is more drones it is all of that stuff, not just this wall that he wants to build.
Again, this goes back to the president abusing his power, declaring a national emergency to fulfill a campaign promise and really not addressing the issues that we are facing.
RADDATZ: And can I go back to do you think the national emergencies law should be fixed?
DUCKWORTH: Well I think –
RADDATZ: Or does that limit future presidents?
DUCKWORTH: I think it could limit future presidents, now it’s up to the legislative branch to do our job to sit down and have a discussion whether or not we want to do that. But perhaps – perhaps there is more need for clarity so this type of abuse does not happen in the future.
RADDATZ: And we still don’t know which specific military construction projects the funding will be taken from under this order, but senior administration officials have described it this way, it will be lower priority projects that can be delayed for a few months or into next year.
And they do not impact the lethality and readiness of the military. You’re a veteran, what’s your response to that argument?
DUCKWORTH: I don’t agree with that. Let me tell you the kind of things that are on the table for – to be chopped right now. Crash and rescue station in Peoria, Illinois at the airport that I flew out of as a helicopter pilot for 15 years. That’s on the table.
Training construction of training rifle ranges, where we send our troops to become marksman so that they can be more lethal on the battlefield. Recovery efforts in places like Tyndall Air Forces, places where we’re recovering from hurricanes. Pads and hangers for the new F-35 fighter jets. These are –
RADDATZ: A lot of those things on the – on the table. I just want and this – if this national emergency is upheld, do you believe it opens the door for Democrats to declare something like gun violence as a national emergency and do you think they should if this is upheld?
DUCKWORTH: Well I think it certainly is – it certainly does open the door, but I don’t want a type of government in place where we are playing these tit for tat games. It should be one where we serve the American people by coming to a consensus.
And where we’re headed, this division is not acceptable for our form of democracy.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Senator Duckworth, appreciate it. Up next, one of the president’s top defender’s response to the backlash against Trump’s national emergency declaration.
Congressman Jim Jordan of the Freedom Caucus joins us live. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: My major concern is for the president to unilaterally repurpose billions of dollars that have been designated for specific projects, undermines the appropriations process and really is of dubious constitutionality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Senator Susan Collins there expressing her concerns about the president's emergency declaration, one of several GOP senators to do so.
Joining me now is Congressman Jim Jordan from Ohio. He's the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee.
Good morning, congressman. You heard Senator Collins there. And many members of your party are uneasy about the president's declaration. Senator Marco Rubio said no crisis justifies violating the constitution. And here's what Senator Thom Tillis wrote, "it doesn't matter who the president is or what party they belong to, I strongly believe in the separation of powers and curbing the kind of executive overreach that congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the last century."
Isn't that the sort of principle on limiting of executive power that the Freedom Caucus, which you founded, should stand for?
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: Martha, this is an emergency. I mean, what are we on now? The fifth caravan? So, I would just ask those senators how many caravans do we need? Six or seven or does an endless caravan, the one that never stops?
What do we have just a few weeks ago, a drug bust that was enough Fentanyl to kill 57 million Americans. What do we need, 58 million, 59 million Americans, enough Fentanyl to kill that many? So, you tell me. I think it's an emergency.
What I also think is interesting is those republicans who are criticizing the president for wanting to do this executive order are the same kind of Republicans who just a year ago didn't want us to debate and push for the wall funding when we had the majority in both the House and the Senate. Back after Chuck Schumer had shut down the government, because he said amnesty was more important than funding the government, and we had the big omnibus spending bill, that's when we should have done this. So I think it's kind of interesting, those same Republicans who were against fighting for it back then are the same ones who are criticizing the president now for his executive order.
RADDATZ: Congressman, can you give me an example where a president asked me for something congress rejected and the president went ahead and said he would do it anyway?
JORDAN: I don't know of that, but I do know that this wasn't a rejection because there was some money for the wall in this bill. So congress said, it's OK for some, but the president said, this is such a grave problem, I need more money to build more wall and to fulfill the campaign promise that I told the American people I was going to do …
RADDATZ: Which – which is what Congress specific…
JORDAN: … And that’s exactly what he’s pushing for.
RADDATZ: Which Congress specifically rejected more money.
JORDAN: Congress did – they rejected more money but they gave some for it. The point is, there is money that he can use that doesn’t require an executive order. He’s going to use that then he’s also going to do the emergency declaration. It’ll go to court, Martha. And we’ll see what the court says. All I know is, this is a serious situation, this is a crisis. Look at the drug problem, the human trafficking problem, the gang violence problem; that’s why we need the border security wall and that’s what the president is committed to making sure happens.
RADDATZ: OK, you say this is an emergency, the president says this is an emergency, but illegal border crossings, as we have said on this program, are near a 40-year low. The DEA recently said the majority of heroine from across the southern border comes from legal ports of entry, as did the fentanyl bust you just talked about. That was in Arizona …
JORDAN: Martha, come on. Come on …
RADDATZ: Don’t the figures …
JORDAN: So you don’t think drugs are coming across where there aren’t border patrol agents?
RADDATZ: I – I am …
JORDAN: They’re only trying to get drugs through where there are agents to stop it? Come on, that – that defies common sense. This is why we need the wall …
RADDATZ: I am reading government statistics here, Congressman, so don’t these figures undermine the claim that this is an emergency? There is no doubt drugs are coming over …
JORDAN: Everyone knows …
RADDATZ: … There is no doubt illegals are coming over …
RADDATZ: … But you just heard that the majority – that they are a low of 40 years.
JORDAN: Everyone knows a wall will help. In fact, Democrats knew it and Democrats were for it. Then-Senator Clinton said we need a border security wall. Then-Senator Obama said we need money for a barrier on our border. What’s amazing to me now, what I think is dangerous, is the position that the left and the Democrats are now taking. Congressman Blumenauer said "abolish ICE." Nancy Pelosi said walls are immoral. You had the – the candidate for president, Secretary Clinton, say we need a borderless hemisphere, and oh, by the way, the person that the Democrats had do the state of the union response, Stacey Abrams, just four weeks ago said non-citizens should be able to vote.
Those are the positions that scare me. But what is common sense is, build a border security wall and help us deal with this drug problem, this gang violence problem, and this human trafficking problem. That is just good common sense and we know it will help. That’s why the president’s for it, that’s why I’m for it.
RADDATZ: And – and Congressman, if this is an actual emergency, isn’t building a few hundred miles of border wall a pretty slow process? This has to go through the courts, this could take many, many years. Aren’t there other ways to address the emergency?
JORDAN: We just tried the other way and the Democrats won’t go there because they’ve taken the most radical positions in history. So we tried to do it the appropriations process way and get building it, we tried to do this last year and our party – our party leaders wouldn’t even go there, Democrats certainly wouldn’t go there. So yes, it’s going to be a slow process, it’s going to go to the courts. We understand that. But better to start that process so that we can ultimately get there than to not start it at all.
RADDATZ: OK, we don’t know yet where the money is going to come from, what military construction projects there are, but let me list a few in Ohio. $61 million for an intelligence production complex; an automated gun range for $7.4 million; an air guard fire station for $13 million. So which of those military projects do you believe are worthy of cutting?
JORDAN: It’s not my decision. It’s going to be a decision by – by those people in the military and the administration and the president of the United States. What I do know is what I’ve said; this is an emergency, this is a crisis. You tell me; how many– I would ask the Democrats, how many caravans do we have to have before it’s an emergency? If five’s not enough, tell me the number? Six, seven? Tell me the – how – how – what kind of drug bust do we have to have that – we’ve already got one that would kill 57 million Americans.
That’s the whole – you can add like six, seven states together in the upper Midwest that you don’t even get to that number. So you tell me how bad it has to get. I think that’s pretty bad. Talk about the families, the Angel families who’ve lost loved ones because an illegal immigrant took the life of one of their family members. I think that’s pretty darn bad and what warrants the action the president is taking. It’s going to go to court, we’re going to find out. There’s going to be resolutions in both the House and Senate to – to disapprove what the president’s doing. I think they’ll pass but when the president will veto them, I don’t think there’s any chance that the veto will be overridden.
I think there are plenty of votes in the House to make sure that there’s no override of the president’s veto. So it’s going to be settled in court, we’ll have to wait and see.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for joining us this morning, Congressman.
JORDAN: You bet.
RADDATZ: Coming up, will President Trump face a serious primary challenge in 2020? Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld makes his case when we come back.
RADDATZ: Up next, as the list of 2020 presidential hopefuls grow, we’ll talk to the latest challenger to test the waters. And a reminder, all week long you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL WELD, (R) FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: I have established an exploratory committee to pursue the possibility of my running for the presidency of the United States as a Republican in the 2020 election.
I encourage those of you who are watching the current administration nervously, but saying nothing, to stand up and speak out when lines are crossed in dangerous ways. We cannot sit passively as our precious democracy slips quietly into darkness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That's former Republican governor of Massachusetts and 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld. He's the first Republican to officially consider a primary challenge to the president and he joins us now. Welcome.
WELD: Thank you for having me, Martha.
RADDATZ: It's been a long time since I covered your governor's race back there in Massachusetts.
Now, you're exploring a run for president as a Republican. Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll showed the president maintains a 78 percent approval rating among Republicans. The Republican National Committee passed a pledge to give Trump its undivided support, so what is your path forward here? Can you really get the support needed to seriously challenge?
WELD: I think the Republicans in Washington want to have no election basically. I don't think that would be very good for the country, and I have a lot of views of how the president is acting in office. You know, I don't think he knows how to act. He thinks he has to humiliate whoever he's dealing with or else he's half a man. The emergency declaration is just one example of that. Congress thought they had a deal. He says, oh, you think you have a deal? I'm going to show you a deal. I'm going to show you who's boss. It's just no way to run a railroad.
RADDATZ: So, what is your path forward?
WELD: Well, I'm going to make clear that I think the president is reckless in spending. They're spending a trillion dollars a year. They don't have that. It's going to crush generation X-ers and Millennials in this country.
They are not thinking ahead. You know, 25 percent of the jobs in the country are about to disappear because of artificial intelligence and robotics and drones and machine learning and autonomous vehicles. Nobody is planning ahead for that, and it would entail a lot of work to make sure that the people who lose those jobs gets the skillsets to get the replacement jobs when they show up around the same time.
If we play that right with our educational system, the people that lose those jobs could wind up with higher wages than they had before. If we don't do anything, then the door to the middle class is going to be shut on the working poor, which would be very bad for the country as a whole. That's the sort of thing they're not paying attention to in Washington, because they're so busy with divisiveness and trying to make everyone feel awful.
RADDATZ: Your former press secretary told The Boston Globe, if the goal is defeating Trump, the best option is to run as a Republican because primary challenges have -- he means you -- have historically weakened sitting presidents. So is it your ultimate goal to weaken President Trump for the general election rather than beating him in a primary?
WELD: No, not rather than beating him, but it is part of my thinking to make sure he doesn't repeat. We don't have six more years of the antics, frankly, that for want of a better word, that we have seen the last two years. I think that would be bad for the country, and I don't care who knows it.
RADDATZ: You know, we talk about Republican support and approval among Republicans, but what do you say to the hardcore Trump supporters who think he’s done a great job -- on national security, on the economy, on so -- and likely on the wall. What's the case you’ll make?
WELD: Done a great job on the wall. He’s flung it about --
RADDATZ: They say -- I’m saying let's talk about his supporters, his base of supporters. What do you say to them?
WELD: I would say his whole hyper-emphasis is pure politics on his part. And it’s -- it’s vintage on -- on what he has done since he entered this race. He wants to divide the country and hold up, you know, scary boogeymen that everyone else can think only he can save us. It's part of a plan, I think, on his part to make himself seem indispensable. He's not indispensable at all. People, you know, getting through between the fences that are already on the border with Mexico are not a national emergency, and they're not a major national security threat to the United States. And I think everyone who studies the situation knows that.
But it's pure rhetoric on his part without anything behind it.
RADDATZ: The GOP chair from your home state of Massachusetts issued this statement after you announced, noting some of your past stances. And of course, you were a Libertarian before and said you would be for life and now you're Republican. “Weld is the same ex-Republican who deserted Massachusetts for New York, who endorsed President Barack Obama over Senator McCain for president, who renounced the GOP for the Libertarian party, who ran against the Trump-Pence Republican ticket while cozying up to Hillary Clinton. Even Benedict Arnold switched allegiances less often.” So how do you convince that Republican base? I know what you’re trying to do this morning, but they see that record and think you don’t stand for the party.
WELD: Well, I'm -- I’m not going to convince the Republican state chair because they're all under pressure and orders from Washington, make sure this guy gets no purchase. Make sure we don't really have a primary, we want to sail through this without anyone having to think or analyze issues. And I think it's not what the country needs, to put it mildly.
RADDATZ: OK. You got a lot of work ahead of you, governor. It's great to see you, always.
WELD: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: Thank you. The powerhouse round table’s up next. We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: And the roundtable’s here ready to take on the week. ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, Molly Ball, national political correspondent for Time Magazine, Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for The Washington Examiner, and Shawna Thomas, Washington bureau chief for Vice News. Welcome to all of you no this Sunday morning. Matthew, I’m going to start with you. You heard the arguments from both sides on this national emergency, so what's the political impact here? Who are the winners and losers?
MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Well, as you listened to all this, you kept hearing, ignore all the facts and just pay attention what you might feel in this. And of course that's where the president is on this. I think the president -- normally presidents, if they do something in the country, they usually want to unite their party and divide the opposition. Well I think what the president just did was united the opposition and divided his own party in the midst of it. There’s a whole question whether or not we should explore changing the way presidents do this, which I believe we need to do. I think there’s been much too much movement to an imperial presidency in the country, including the war powers of the president in this in decisions that have been made, and every president for the last 50 years has made more and more steps.
This is a huge step. I think it's a political loser for the president because he hasn't really defined the problem in a way Americans understand. And a majority of Americans, one, are opposed to the wall and two, are opposed to the president doing executive action in spite of Congress.
RADDATZ: And Molly, many Republicans are worried about the constitutionality of this and many in the past have not opposed the president on anything. We obviously have a couple of names of people who will.
Will this time be different in a bigger way?
BALL: I think it’s a real question of whether it will. We have seen Republicans quietly begin to defy the president, particularly on foreign policy in the Senate. There have been a number of votes taken that have gone against the president on the Saudis, on Syria.
And so, you know, but they haven’t wanted to defy him openly and particularly not on his signature issue. So while you do hear Republican Senators publicly and privately voicing their discomfort with this mood, whether they’ll actually do anything number one is in question, but number two it’s a really big moment for the party because if there is a point where President Trump begins to lose his hold on the Republicans in the Senate, there’s really a lot of other things that could happen that could be damaging for him.
RADDATZ: The president says this isn’t about the 2020 race, but it sure seems to be about the 2020 race when you’re talking about campaign promises. How will he fair with his base do you believe?
FERRECHIO: That’s a great question, where will we be on the wall by the time he’s out there running? Can he say look, we’re already building parts of the wall? Half that money or $4.5 billion of the $8 billion he’s talking about is outside the sphere of the national emergency and is less subjected to a very vigorous court challenge.
The drug interdiction money, the treasury forfeiture money – money, that is harder to challenge in court, not impossible. He can get going with some of that wall building with targeted areas along the border where there is drug smuggling happening, and he can say look, we’re building the wall, we’re making progress, we’re doing what the border security professionals want us to do to stop some of the migration over the border and try to cut down on 50,000 illegal immigrants a month being intercepted at the border right now.
That’s – that’s a pretty big number, and so he can talk about that while he’s campaigning, even though the national emergency money we’re talking about, the $3.6 billion, that will probably be held up in court a little more easily.
RADDATZ: And this was such a huge issue in 2016, the wall, the wall, the wall, the wall, so that does seem like it’s going to carry right into the 2020 race and this is part of it.
THOMAS: Well this takes that entire argument out of Congress and it puts it in the courts but also in the political realm of 2020. And I disagree, I don’t think this is totally a political loser for the president because while he is using some of that money you were talking about if he is able to use it, he can also say look, the Democrats are challenging me in court, they are obstructing me, they aren’t allowing me to not be able to finish the wall.
And so then you have the same kind of thing that ginned up his base in 2016, he continues to be able to play on that. Now the 20 –
RADDATZ: And the fear factor.
THOMAS: And the fear factor.
RADDATZ: Which worked for him very well.
THOMAS: Exactly. But the 2020 Democrats also get to say look, we are trying to stop the president, they both get to use this as a political target.
DOWD: Well the president – the problem that the president has and he’s continued to have every since inauguration day, including this, and this is – emphasis point on this is the president is not appealing to enough voters in the country to win a general election in 2020, absent some crazy thing happening obviously with third parties and all of that.
He does not appeal to them. And so I think the problem with the wall is first of all, he already broke the promise. He promised that he was going to build a wall and –
RADDATZ: Oh, Mexico. That, yes.
DOWD: -- and Mexico was going to pay for it. If he had stated in his campaign in 2016 I want to build a wall and you Americans are going to pay for it and by the way you Americans, we’re going to take money from defense and pay – and put it in the wall.
That wouldn’t have gone over well. And the other thing people keep saying is his – all his voters voted for him because of the wall. That’s fundamentally not true. The reason why Donald Trump won the election in 2016 wasn’t because of the wall, it was because he was not Hillary Clinton, and his campaign was primarily about don’t vote for her, vote for me.
Part of that was build a wall.
RADDATZ: Well if you go and you talk to voters though, I – part of that is true, there were a lot of voters out there said I don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton, but there’s a lot of voters still out there and his base who still say they would vote for Donald Trump no matter who the opposition is.
BALL: Well of course, every president has a political base. There is a segment of the country, the question is whether it’s a majority and the wall is not a popular idea with the majority of the American public consistently and poll after poll it gets about 40 percent.
You can’t win in a presidential – a two way presidential election with 40 percent. But the national emergency in the polling that’s done – been done so far is even more unpopular, only about 30 percent support that.
And so that tells you that there are – number one, there are people – a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump who still don’t think this national emergency is a good idea. There are even people out there who liked the idea of the wall who still don’t think that the president should be taking this step in order to achieve it.
So it is a little bit befuddling to do, for political purposes, something that is unpopular to advance an unpopular goal.
RADDATZ: And, Susan, Shawna, I want to go further on 2020 and – and the Republicans. You just heard Bill Weld and what he has in mind. Is he a serious contender? Or – or does he – is he really just trying to weaken him in the general election?
FERRECHIO: Well, you made a very good point when you were doing the interview which is that you can weaken the general election candidate by primarying him. And that’s what they want to avoid. The Republican Party wants to avoid a primary, they want to keep him strong for their general election. They don’t want him weakened by somebody constantly attacking him from his own party. So that’s a really good point.
But, you know, I don’t think it’s – I don’t think it’s necessarily realistic that Bill Weld has a chance to become the nominee, even though you can say, "Well, there are a lot of never-Trumpers in the Republican Party." The base of the party, if you look at polls, is behind him. He’s got very high ratings. If you look at the poll across tabs, Republicans like him as a president. They’re getting behind him. So I just don’t see a primary challenger being very realistic right now.
THOMAS: And also, let’s be even more realistic. He’s the president of the United States; it is really, really hard to beat the incumbent president of the United States in a primary, especially. And even in a general, to a certain extent, though this president has some specific characteristics that might make it a little bit easier depending on which Democrat comes up. It – the only thing that it does really is it would weaken the presidency. And you have to remember, this president has been running for reelection since 2017. Literally he filed the day after the inauguration. They have been raising money, they have raised – last year it was $100 million, I believe, 2017 and 2018.
He doesn’t have that much on-hand. All Bill Weld can really do is try to make them spend that money on each other instead of spending it on Democrats and I still think they’ll be spending it on Democrats.
DOWD: I actually think it’s a real – I actually think Bill Weld running against Donald Trump is a really smart political move because here’s – here’s the situation; there’s enough Republicans in the primary that he’ll get 18, 19, 20, 22 percent of the vote. Very narrow path. But it’s actually a wider path than Howard Schultz winning the presidency at this time, Bill Weld beating Donald Trump in this. But I think the main thing is, he presents an argument for a lot of Republicans out there that defines the Republican Party in a certain way that’s not Donald Trump.
And I think there’s a lot of Republicans in the aftermath of Donald Trump that are worried about, who is the Republican party? What do we fundamentally stand for? And what are we going to do? And I think Bill Weld is going to get in position where Donald – he’s going to get a high enough percentage of the vote that people are going to start pressuring Donald Trump to debate him. He’s going to get a high enough percentage.
And that would be me – to me, a fundamentally interesting debate to watch Bill Weld and Donald Trump one-on-one on stage.
RADDATZ: Yeah, we’d all watch that. We’d all watch that. I want to move to the Democrats. On the Democratic side, we’ve already got a large field. But we also have some who aren’t announced who are some pretty big names; Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke. Can any of those names take command of the race?
BALL: It is wide open at this point and that is really what makes this unusual. Ten candidates already announced, as many as 20 candidates depending on the list you look at, who have – who are still deciding. That would – if even half of those get in, it would be the largest primary field in his – in the history of primaries. And it’s the first time, probably since 1988, that there’s been no clear frontrunner. There – there isn’t – there isn’t a Clinton in the race and – you know, the Clintons haven’t always won the Democratic primaries they’ve entered but to not have a perceived frontrunner at all at this stage is really extraordinary. It’s going to be a free-for-all.
I’ve been out on the trail talking to Democratic primary voters recently in Iowa and South Carolina. And they’re really keeping their options open, they’re kicking a lot of tires, they want to see these candidates perform and the most important thing they’re looking for is someone they believe can beat Donald Trump. That’s by far the most important …
RADDATZ: And Shawna, the DNC – speaking of performance, the DNC announced their criteria for making it onto the stage for primary debates. It is an incredibly low bar …
… about 1 percent – if you get 1 percent of the vote in certain polls, certain reputable polls, or some fundraising abilities. How critical will these debates be, and especially if you have such a huge number of people in the debate?
THOMAS: I mean, I think those first few debates, it’ll – you will be able to have a moment, if you are one of these people, to try to put yourself out there for the – for America, basically. And even if it gets divided up into a couple of different debates, which I know the DNC was sort of requiring that if you have to do two nights, you have to do two nights for those first couple of debates.
They’re still – unless you’re going to do a four-hour debate, there’s only so much you can do. So I think part of the thing that will be striking is that there will be so many women onstage. I think how people present themselves with their first couple of words is about – is about all they’re going to get out of this. But you take that moment, you take your shot, and you see what happens.
RADDATZ: And Susan, just about 10 seconds we have left here.
FERRECHIO: Well, I would say the most interesting thing about this is the two frontrunners, which Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden haven’t announced yet. And they’re leading the polls by 10 points. So once they get in, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the – how the polls shake out. I think Biden will command the lead if he – if he joins.
DOWD: It’ll also be a great prism of America because not only are you going to have a whole lot of women on stage, you’re going to have more people of color running for president than ever before, so I think America’s going to see a very diverse number of candidates running for president.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning. We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: There was another deadly mass shooting this week, this time in Aurora, Illinois, the shooter taking five lives and injuring several police officers. Another senseless act of violence just one day after the one-year anniversary of the Parkland Shooting that shocked the country.
RADDATZ: It was just a year ago. We were in Parkland, Florida reporting on the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed 17 lives, a shooting that left a nation in mourning and young survivors struggling.
You lost --
LAUREN HOGG, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I lost four friends. We spent days on end just talking about what we want to do when we grow up, where we want to go to college, and now it's just gone.
RADDATZ: Lauren Hogg's life was changed forever that day.
LAUREN HOGG: It has felt like the longest year of my life, but at the same time, it's felt like it's gone by in a flash.
RADDATZ: Victims of the Parkland shooting remembered at memorials at this week's anniversary.
LINDA BEIGEL SCHULMAN, MOTHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: I love my son. I haven't heard his voice for 365 days. I’ve gotten e-mails, I’ve gotten letters, but I haven't gotten anything from him.
RADDATZ: Many in Parkland turning their anguish into activism, their message drawing thousands last spring.
DAVID HOGG, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: When politicians send their thoughts and prayers with no action, we say no more.
CROWD: No more.
RADDATZ: Since Parkland, 25 states have passed gun safety legislation, a bill to tighten background checks is moving forward in Congress and last week, the House held its first hearing on gun violence in nearly a decade. Despite that progress, there were 107 shootings on school grounds since last February and more than 14,000 Americans were killed by gun violence. Those statistics drawing advocates and families of the victims like Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg to continue their fight for change.
FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: We're not done yet, but we are not going away.
RADDATZ: All very courageous families. That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT and have a great day.