'This Week' Transcript 3-18-18: Rep. Adam Schiff, Sen. James Lankford, Gary Kasparov and Mayor Mitch Landrieu

This is a rush transcript for "This Week" on March 18, 2018.

ByABC News
March 18, 2018, 9:45 AM


ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Friday night firing. Former FBI number two, Andrew McCabe, terminated just two days before his retirement. McCabe fires back, says he's being singled out because he's a witness against President Trump, but Trump calls it a great day for democracy. His lawyer says the DOJ should now shut should down the entire Russia probe.

McCabe has given special counsel Robert Mueller memos of his talks with the president. What will Mueller make of those? Is McCabe's dismissal justified or just the latest move to undermine Mueller's investigation?

We break it down with our legal team, plus key members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. And...

CONOR LAMB, CONGRESSMAN-ELECT, PENNSYLVANIA: It took a little longer than we thought but we did it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrat Conor Lamb sends a big message with his special election squeaker in a district Trump won by 20 points. Is this the strongest sign yet that Democrats can take back the House in November? What lessons can both parties learn from this surprise win?

Our powerhouse roundtable takes that on.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never ever happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Trump condemns the Kremlin for an attempted assassination in the UK as Putin ramps up his war with the West, Trump finally slapped new sanctions on Russia for interfering in our election? Will Putin respond with more brazen moves after his re-election today?

We're live from Moscow as Russians head to the polls. Plus, analysis from Russian dissident and world chess champ Garry Kasparov. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter this week.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Hope you had a good week. It was another one of those wild ones at the White House.

Starting with that tweet fired off by President Trump Tuesday morning sacking Rex Tillerson, a new first, firing his secretary of state by social media. Behind the scenes, gallows humor from White House aides as they wonder who is next. National Security Adviser, chief of staff, take your pick from the cabinet.

But even as John Kelly put those rumors to rest for now on Friday morning, that dramatic firing of Andrew McCabe by Attorney General Sessions made headlines Friday night. The president weighed in just after midnight. "Andrew McCabe fired, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI. A great day for democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choir boy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI."

McCabe didn't back down, arguing he's being singled out, quote, "because of the role I played, the actions I took and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."

And Comey fired back with a tweet of his own, "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon and they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

And this extraordinary rebuke from a former CIA director, John Brennan. "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history."

A lot to sort through there. I want to start out with our Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

And Pierre, the president did not stop there yesterday. Another tweet, the first time he mentioned the Mueller probe. He said that the Mueller probe should never have been started based on fraudulent activities and a fake dossier. His lawyer called for Mueller probe to shut down.

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: George, it feels like this is headed for a showdown. President Trump and his lawyer John Dowd both used McCabe's firing to suggest the special counsel investigation should be stopped.

Meanwhile, we're getting more evidence that the Mueller probe is stepping up its pace and is widening. We learned this week they've subpoenaed information from the Trump organization about any ties to Russia. It seems like this investigation is far from over, but those who support the president clearly want it to end now, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But on this underlying dispute, the Justice Department fired McCabe for lack of candor. That was the finding of the inspector general. It was a judgment made by careerofficials at the FBI.

THOMAS: That's right. The Attorney General Sessions says he fired McCabe based on the recommendation of the Justice Department's inspector general and the career staff at the FBI. They concluded McCabe leaked information to the media and that he lacked candor when interviewed by investigators.

But the speed by which McCabe was fired only two days before his retirement is raising questions. The president had for months been openly calling for this man to be fired, and critics are reminding that Sessions has been under incredible pressure pointing out he's on the thinnest of ice because Mr. Trump is frustrated with him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

But McCabe, as you said, is firing back. He put out a statement that he did not intentionally mislead anyone, saying he was authorized to release information to the press, and that he was simply trying to show no one in the BI was going easy on Hillary Clinton.

He's openly suggesting he was fired to tarnish his integrity, because of his role in launchingthe Russia probe and that this is part of a broader plan by the president to attack and eventually stop the special counsel, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, the president tweeted just a couple of minutes ago that McCabe never took notes in his meetings with the president but we've learned that, in fact, McCabe turned over those memos of his conversations with the president to Robert Mueller and has met with him.

THOMAS: That's right. He's provided him notes to the special counsel about his interactions with the president and the Russia probe. Some notes will suggest the president tried to intimidate him asking him who he voted for, and allegedly calling McCabe's wife a loser after she ran for state office as a Democrat with financial support from a Clinton ally. Mueller has interviewed him already and will have to decide what all this means.

Was the president simply pushing back against what he believes was a partisan FBI? Or has he been trying to intimidate and harass the people investigating him, George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Pierre, let's bring in our legal team right now. Dan Abrams is here at the desk, and Chris Christie down in the Bahamas today taking a few minutes away from his vacation to join us. I appreciate that, Governor Christie.

Dan, let me begin with you. We really have two separate questions right here. Was McCabe's firing justified? And then, secondly, has he been targeted by President Trump because he's a witness?

DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. And on the first question, we're not necessarily going to know the answer until we see the full report that hasn't even been released yet.

But look, it's a serious thing. When the office of professional responsibility recommends someone be fired from the FBI, most importantly for lack of candor. This isn't nothing. Even if you want to try to defend McCabe here in some way, shape or form this is serious stuff that very well mayhave justified his firing.

But as Pierre points out, I think the key question here with regard to McCabe and the president is the timing. Typically the way this would be done is in conjunction with the report that has not been issued.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's got taken out of the report.

ABRAMS: Exactly. And instead what they did is fire him two days before he was going to retire and get his pension.

And the question on that is, why the rush? Why the rush to do it? Why do it differently this time than the way it would typically be done?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Christie, your take on this?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: Well, listen, I think first of all the timing can only be answered by the attorney general. He made the judgment to terminate Andrew McCabe when he did. And he's going to have to answer for the timing of it.

But I think the much more important point here is that all this hysteria about the firing of McCabe is obscuring what Dan said in the beginning of his comments, which is the inspector general, who is an Obama appointee, found that Andrew McCabe did not tell the truth, both under oath and to agents, and that he gave unauthorized leaking of information.

Now, I could tell you as a former U.S. attorney, that if my FBI agents I found they were leaking, I would recommend they be fired as well, especially in something as sensitive as an investigation into a presidential candidate in the midst of that presidential campaign.

So, listen, folks like John Brennan and others can say what they want to say about the president, and they're entitled to their opinions, but in the end don't cloak yourself with Andrew McCabe around you, because in the end the inspector general and the professionals at the Office of Professional Responsibility at the FBI, not political appointees, have recommended his termination, because he wasn't truthful and he leaked to the media.


CHRISTIE: Now those kind of things are things that we cannot accept.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the second set of questions there, though. We've seen the series of tweets by the president, the statement from his lawyer, the first time the president mentioning the Mueller probe calling it into question. His lawyer saying it's time to shut it down apparently, at least in the first statement, doing the president's bidding.

CHRSITIE: Well, listen I'd say as to the lawyers remember, these are the same lawyers who told the president, told him personally, that this probe would be over as to him by New Year's Eve. I told the president at the time that that was preposterous. It is preposterous. And the special counsel is going to continue to do his work. I think he's moving at a fairly quick pace.

But at the end of the day, I think that what this is much more about is two things. First, is the lawyers trying to now cover for the really bad advice they gave to the president at the end of Decemberof last year. And, secondly, the president is being consistent. He has said all along that he never thought there should have been the Mueller probe. You can agree or disagree with that, but nothing the president says today is inconsistent with what he's been saying all along.

Putting all that aside, George, I really believe at the end of all this, the Mueller probe will continue. It will continue at the same pace it's continuing. And the fact is that he's gotten a number of guilty pleas and a number of indictments so far, so it's tough to be critical.

Last point on Mueller, and in contrast with Comey and the people who woked for him, a guywho I like and respect, Jim Comey, but you don't see any leaking out of the special counsel's office. The same way you didn't see leaking out of the FBI when Bob Mueller ran it. And I think that's an interesting contrast to make this morning.

The integrity of Bob Mueller and the way he's conducted his investigation with no leaking, and I'm sure Pierre can confirm this -- and, but as contrasted to what we're now saying the IG has found from Andrew McCabe.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No leaking, Dan, but we did learn this week that there were subpoenas issued for the Trump organization, that appears across the red line that the president had set, whichmay explain why he's gotten so intense in these last couple of days.

ABRAMS: Yeah, look, their position has been they've always been cooperating. It is possible that's absolutely true and that this subpoena is just an effort to make sure that that's the case, to make sure that they have everything, to make sure that there is a legal document in place. But it is so important here to separate McCabe from the Mueller investigation.

Take a step back. What does the Mueller investigation that they're talking about closing down found so far? That the Russians meddled in the election. That they sought to help Donald Trump in the general election. That members of Trump's inner circle were meeting with Russians and then lying about it. The question is, why? What happened? Those are still critical questions that have nothing to do with Andrew McCabe that have to be answered.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Governor Christie, you say the president has been consistent on the Mueller investigation, but don't you agree that he's in a world of hurt if he moves to fire Robert Mueller?

CHRISTIE: I don't think the president will fire Robert Mueller. I don't think it would be appropriate for him to do so and I don't think he'll do it. And if he did do it, it would be inappropriate.

But as to Bob Mueller, he's conducted this investigation so far with great integrity, without leaking, and by showing results and I don't think the president's going to fire someone like that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Christie, Dan Abrams, thanks very much.

Let's get more on this now from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning.

As we've been talking here this morning, the president has continued his series of tweets. I want to put up the latest one, latest attack on Robert Mueller. "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrat, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, zero Republicans. Another Dem recently added. Does anyone think this is fair? And yet there is no collusion."

Of course, Robert Mueller himself was a registered Republican.

But we've seen this series of tweets right now, the statement from the Trump lawyer suggesting the entire investigation should be shut down. What would happen if the president made that move?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, I would hope that it would prompt all Democrats and Republicans in the House to pass an independent counsel law and reinstate Bob Mueller. This would undoubtedly result in a constitutional crisis and I think Democrats and Republicans need to speak out about this right now. I think, George, you just pointed to the single most important development of the week and that is at the same time it's revealed that the special counsel is looking at business records of the Trump organization, and I've always thought the money laundering issue was the most serious, you have the president through his lawyer trying to shut down the Mueller investigation and speaking out against special counsel.

Members need to speak out now. Don't wait for the crisis but I would hope that that would be the result that we would affirm our system of checks and balances and appoint an independent counsel.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President also continually repeating there was no collusion during the campaign in the tweets over the last 48 hours. Of course, that is the conclusion of the Republicans ofthe House Intelligence Committee this week as well.

I know you dispute that, but will a report by the Democrats be able to demonstrate that collusion did, in fact, take place?

SCHIFF: Well, it certainly would be able to show the facts supporting the issue of collusion and the secret meetings all the lies about the secret meetings and putting them in their important context, the timing of these secret meetings. But there's still a lot of investigative work to find the remaining pieces of the puzzle and the most significant part of the Republicans shutting us down is they're preventing us from doing so.

We have never brought in George Padopoulos. We don't know who he might have shared within the campaign the information that he got from the Russians. We don't know whether that led to the Trump Tower meeting and the disappointment by the president's son that he didn't get stolen emails at that meeting. There are still a great many of unanswered questions that -- and the Republicans have really prevented us and our committee from getting them. So that work has to be done.

But we will be reporting on what we have found and importantly what leads need to be pursued to give the American people the full picture.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You also haven't done much work on another story that broke late this week, the fact that the president's voter targeting firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly took private information from 50 million Facebook users. What does this is to you? What questions need to be answered there?

SCHIFF: Again, this is in our status report one of the issues that we pointed out was premature for the Republicans to shut us down, because we only brought in Alexander Nixon. Even then it was by a video conference at the GOP insistence. We need to find out what we can about the misappropriation of the privacy, the private information of tens of millions of Americans. That misappropriate information used by this digital arm of the Trump campaign to manipulate American voters and, of course, the links between Cambridge Analytica and Julian Assange. We know Nick's (ph) reached out to Assange to try to acquire stolen Clinton emails. The links between this Russian researcher and Cambridge Analytica and the links between Russian Analytica and a Russian oil company Lukoil that wanted information about reaching American voters.

All of that needs to be investigated. And the premature conclusion of this investigation doesn't allow us to do our job.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We mentioned those subpoenas to the Trump organization earlier this week. As that was happening, I was sitting down with the president's business partner on the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, Felix Sater. He revealed to me that they were seeking financing from Russian banks and then I went on to ask him if it was appropriate for presidential candidate to be pursuing a deal like that while he was running for president. Here's what he said.


FELIX SATER, FORMER TRUMP BUSINESS PARTNER: I can't answer that. I can only answer in the following way, a beautiful building could have been built, and maybe even improved goodwill relations between the countries because of it. I didn't see any downside.


STEPHANOPOULOS: He is still hoping actually that that tower can be built.

You mentioned your concerns with money laundering. Did you come across any information in your investigation? And I know the House Intelligence Committee spoke with Felix Sater that would raise questions about this attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

SCHIFF: Well, you know, the two big red flags on that attempt are the indications that they were trying to seek financing from a Russian sanctioned bank, a bank that was sanctioned by U.S. policy, U.S. government, but also the fact that they were concealing this transaction. The candidate Trump was saying he had no business interests in Russia. And if he's seeking to make a bunch of money in Russia during the presidential campaign, and it certainly looks like his campaign chairman Paul Manafort was likewise seeking to make money. Was that influencing candidate Trump's policy? Does it -- does it influence President Trump's policy now? That issue, as well as whether Deutsche Bank was using Russian money, laundering Russian money for the Trump organization, needs to be investigated, because if these are levers that the Russians can still use over the president of the United States, it would be negligent with our national security not to find out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, on Andrew McCabe, does the fact that the inspector general did say -- did find that he lacked candor in some of his responses and that his firing was recommended by career FBI officials, does that give you pause and does it suggest that, in fact, his firing was or may be justified?

SCHIFF: You know, his firing may be justified. There's no way for us to know at this point, but even though it may have been justified, it can also be tainted. And I think the president's badgering of the attorney general, his urging that he be fired before his pension could vest, and the fact that McCabe and every other of the James Comey associates, his general counsel Baker, his Chief ofStaff Rybicki, who corroborate James Comey on the issue of potential obstruction of justice, every one of them has been targeted by the administration, by the Republicans in congress. And is this because they corroborate James Comey? That's a question we also have to answer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Schiff, thanks for your time this morning.

We’re going to get a Republican response now from Senator James Lankford, Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Lankford, thank you for joining us this morning. Let’s start out with Andrew McCabe and this flurry of activity around his firing. Your take.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OK.: Not -- not surprising in many ways. Obviously this is -- he (ph) stepped away in January of this year because of some of the investigations. The inspector general’s had an ongoing investigation for months and months on this. The internal folks with the FBI have been through this long investigation so in many ways, I’m not surprised because he’s already been isolated and now they’ve finally come to this decision with the career folks.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about these questions that -- that you’re investigating in the Senate Intelligence Committee? Of course the Senate Intelligence Committee has been taking a somewhat different approach from the House. You’ve basically had a more bipartisan approach than the House committee. What more do you need to find right now, starting out with that conclusion the president has already reached, he says, no collusion between his campaign and the Russians?

LANKFORD: Well the president’s been consistent to say that over and over again. What I have said over and over again as well is it’s best for the special counsel to be able to go through their process, it’s best for the president, best for the presidency for this to be resolved and to be finished one way or the other. And you’re right, in the Senate Intel Committee, we work very hard to be able to keep this as bipartisan as possible.

We have the first of our recommendations coming out next week on election security. We’ll continue to be able to roll those out together over the next several months.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What more can you tell us about this compromising of Facebook information, 50 million Facebook users having their information compromised by Cambridge Analytica?

LANKFORD: Now, obviously we don’t know if this connected to the campaign. This is something that Facebook has stepped out on. They said they -- Cambridge Analytica gathered information then they used that, they redistributed that. Facebook, obviously, is proprietary. They’re a private business. They want to be able to have that data. They distribute that out with a cost, not some other second party to be (ph) able to do that.

So there’s more information coming out on that. We’ll try to get it resolved.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And sir, when you see the president and his attorney lobbing these attacks against the Mueller investigation, suggesting it should be shut down, how do you explain it, first of all? And then secondly, what can you do about it?

LANKFORD: The -- the -- the clearest thing that I can explain from that is the president’s exceptionally frustrated, that he wants to be able to see this investigation come to an end.

He has stated over and over again there was no collusion, there was no reaching back, clearly the Russians were reaching in, even the Treasury this past week has said (ph) what the Russians did was destabalizing, put in additional sanctions.

Also they have agreed with what Robert Mueller put out, identifying those individuals, and the internet research agency from Russia as entities that need to be sanctioned. That is an agreement with Robert Mueller and his investigation.

So it’s not that Mueller has found nothing, it’s that the president seems to be very, very frustrated that they’ve not connected anything to him and they -- he wants to be able to move on.

I would say the best thing the special council can do is to finish the investigation, gather all the information that’s needed, come to a conclusion so the American people can make their own decisions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any qualms (ph) with how Robert Mueller has conducted his investigation?

LANKFORD: So far he’s been really good about trying to protect the leaks from his investigation. That’s what’s exeptionally helpful, he seems to be moving through in a rapid way.

It is odd the number of democrats that he’s put on board his team. That does raise some flags in some sense there. Clearly, he also identified some individuals that were biased that were from the FBI that he fired immediately once he found out that they were biased, that tainted that.

He seems to be moving on from there. The key thing, again, that he can do is bring out the facts and he seems to be doing that even with the indictment that he put out on the 13 Russians a few weeks ago.

He put out a lot of facts and information in that, that’s very helpful.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Congressman Schiff say that if the president does move to fire Robert Mueller, of course he can’t do it himself, he would have to get someone (ph) of justice to do it.

The congressman immediately passed an independent council law, will you back that?

LANKFORD: I -- I don’t see the president firing him. I think the White House has said ten times, maybe more, that they’re not going to fire Robert Mueller, they want him to be able to finish the investigation.

So I -- I don’t even think that’s going to be necessary, because the president’s not going to fire him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That might’ve held up before the -- the statement from John Dowd yesterday, who’s the president’s attorney. Doesn’t that change things? First time he (ph) suggested Mueller should actually -- that they (ph) actually should be shut down?

LANKFORD: I -- I don’t think so. What -- what I read yesterday was what a typical attorney puts out at every stage during every investigation saying this is wrapped up, we should be done.

So it’s not different than what an attorney does typically. What typically happens in that situation, everyone takes the information of (ph) the attorney and says that’s nice, we’re going to continue to be able to move on, I expect the special council to do the same.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lankford, thanks for your time this morning. When we come back, that (ph) big special election win for Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, and what does the round table make of the latest firings in this Russia investigation?



PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Both of these candidates, the Republican and the Democrat, ran as conservatives, ran as pro-gun, pro-life anti-Nancy Pelosi conservatives, and I think that's the takeaway we see here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: I don't think he ran against me the entire time. I think he ran on his positive agenda. I feel pretty confident that we're going to win, we're going to win big, we're going to win a lot of seats, and that's going to be good for the American people.


STEPHANOPOULOS: House leaders responding to that win by Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania 18 this week, a district that Trump won by 20 points just a couple of years ago.

We're going to get to that in a minute on our roundtable. We're going to introduce now Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, Roland Martin from TV One, and Sara...

ROLAND MARTIN, TV ONE: Black Panther, come on. It's a Disney movie.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Sara Fagen, Republican strategist, CNBC Contributor.

Yeah, we are owned by Disney so I'll just get that out there right now.

But we've got to begin with this flurry of activity in the last 48 hours since the firing of Andrew McCabe.

Matt, let me begin with you. We heard from Chris Christie, we heard from Senator Lankford right there, but fairly confident they say that President Trump is not going to move to fire Robert Mueller. Are you that sure?

MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: I don't know. I guess we have to see what happens. It's been a heck of an interesting process. I mean, from my point of view, I served with Bob Mueller. I trust he's going to do the right thing by the American people. And the right thing is he's going to look at the facts. He's going to talk to everyone he should talk to. He's going to look at the fact. And he's going to make recommendations. And I think that's what his job is.

And I think for most of us who support President Trump, the most alarming part of all this is that some of our worst fears that the FBI and people within the FBI were somehow agitating against the president turned out to be true. You have James Comey and you have now Mr. McCabe, both kind ofcaught up in this idea that they were leaking inappropriately leaking. And you have the -- you have the ethics officer recommending that Mr. McCabe be fired.

I mean I think this is a moment where the country should take a step back in a bipartisan way and look at what happened at the FBI.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When you look at -- when you look at the substance of those so-calledleaks, and of course we should that McCabe says what he was doing was fully authorized.

SCHLAPP: Although, the ethics officer disagrees with that.

STEPHANPOULOS: Yeah, but just on the substance of what was being leaked actually leaking information showing that they were going after -- continuing the investigation of Hillary Clinton, not what President Trump is suggested.

SCHLAPP: Well, back on that question, remember, it was James Comey and -- who made this final determination to not go after Hillary Clinton on what people -- some people saw as infractions dealing with her server and her emails. Now you hear from other folks who say that within that investigation there were plenty of those prosecutors who wanted to that the steps. Why did James Comey step away? And then why did he so strangely come in right before the election and reengage?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION: George, the Mueller investigation should continue, must continue. But there was something else that happened this past week that should happen, Gina Haskell (ph), a practitioner and advocate of torture, was nominated to be head of the CIA. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, you had Senator Lankford on of the committee, has been sitting on a 6,700-page report that must be declassified. It was commissioned by the committee. It has never been, except for a summary report, been released. And it is vital to show what the committee found in terms of lying about the torture program and also how ineffectual it was. That should lead the Senate to not confirm Gina Haspel.

But the declassification of such information is vital in the public interest, especially as we sit here on the 15th anniversary this month of a war we were taken into by lies, by deceit and the destabilization of the Middle East and our country.

ROLAND MARTIN, TV ONE: You opened with McCabe. The indecency here is the president, his attacks on him, his attacks on Jeff Sessions, his attacks on anyone. If you work in this administration as a career official or an appointee, it's like the movie Get Out, you are in the sunken place and his behavior is shameful.

If the president had simply allowed the process to move forward, it would be fine. But for him constantly agitating on social media, that's why people are saying it's tainted.

SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You're right. You know, there is -- he shouldn't be agitating. He shouldn't be commenting on these things. Matt is also right, there's some real troubling behavior out of the FBI over these last -- this last election on both sides.

But here's one thing I think is really important to point out. Andrew McCabe is a 20-year veteran of the FBI. He has been for virtually all of his career an honorable public servant. He may deserve to be fired but, boy, you better find criminal wrongdoing or that he broke the law if you're going to deny him his pension.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I mean the way it was done was so humiliated. I was moved by Mark Pocan, who is the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, offered to bring in McCabe into his office to work on election security so, he could get vested in his pension.

But again I come back, George, there was more news this past week. A lot of ink and talk spilled about McCabe and Mueller. What about the new secretary of state? He gets more funds from the Koch industry brothers and he wants to go...

SCHLAPP: Because he represents their hometown.

VANDEN HEUVEL: He wants to go to war with...

SCHLAPP: Come on.


MARTIN: Firing Rex Tillerson the way he did...

VANDEN HEUVEL: That was humiliating.

There are tears shed for Rex Tillerson. There are tears shed for a hawk, and it now seems, if I could just consistent in this administration, seems to be a desire to take this country to war to conflict with Iran, which I think must be...


STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the issues that we face every single week is the amount of news that continues to flow out of...

VANDEN HEUVEL: I know. I'm not making your life easy. I'm sorry.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Matt, one of the questions is -- because I wanted to pick up on -- there seem to a fair amount churning inside the White House this week. As Roland pointed out, he fires Rex Tillerson without even calling him up, and before firing is done on the tweet.

Brings in Mike Pompeo.

One of the things we're seeing there is the president appears to want to it surround himself only with people who basically agree with him.

SCHLAPP: I don't agree with that at all. I do think there is a lot of turn in the administration. And I think it's a function of the fact you had a guy be elected president. This hasn't happened since George Washington, who came outside of government. Even George Washington had military experience and he helped found the country. So this is a very unique historical episode. And he comes in and he gets a lot of advice of who he should put in these political positions. After a year on the job, the most heady political winds we've ever seen with the special counsel almost every day of his administration. He's now saying, I understand the job better. I know who I need to have around me.

For anybody to say anything other than Mike Pompeo who finished top in his class in West Point and went to Harvard Law, has been a CEO of two companies, has been a member of congress, is anything other than qualified for the job is really kind of an absurd statement.

So he's putting people around him, I think General Kelly is also somebody who has earned respect from the American people. He's putting people around him who are giving him advice -- by the way you say he wants to have people around him who only agree with him, right. Well, he just picked a new head of -- a new economic adviser who disagrees with him.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it did seem like right up until Friday morning that General Kelly might have been the next to go.

FAGEN: He may have been the to go. You know the other thing that we've seen in these firings is there seems to be this long run-up to when someone does, in fact, either resign or is outright fired. So the fact that there's so much conversation around General Kelly, H.R. McMaster, it's hard to imagine they're long-term players here.

MARTIN: But it also shows how all of these folks, they fell for the con. You know, I use the hashtag we tried to tell you. Oh, I'm going to hire the best people, the smartest people. You don't have this much turnover in -- he hasn't reached 18 months yet. The number of people who are leaving. And it's how he also treats people. And I'm telling you, if I work in this administration I'm trying to get out as fast as I can.

SCHLAPP: Don't worry, it's not going to happen.

MARTIN: I can guarantee it's not going to happen, because I'm way too honest and would tell him exactly what he thinks and he doesn't want to hire people like that.

SCHLAPP: I don't think that's right.

VANDEN HEUVEL: The big turnover is going to be blue wave that comes in 2018, November 2018. What we saw was stunning in Pennsylvania. And I think you have 100 plus districts beyond that one who are more anti-Trump than PA 18, and 20 where labor plays a big role, because Conor Lamb, it's ridiculous. Paul Ryan says Conor Lamb ran as a conservative, give me a break. He ran for universal health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and for labor rights, and for all kinds of important...

STEPHANOPOULOS: He did run against Nancy Pelosi.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, and you know what, some Democrats will. I think she's an extraordinarily effective legislative speaker, but she's not in power. Trump, McConnell, Ryan are in power. And I think those who run with Trump are going to have a harder time than those who run with Pelosi. But it's important to run in your district with concrete bread and butter kitchen table shall issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Conor Lamb is a loud canary in the coal mine for Republicans.

FAGEN: He is a loud canary in the coal mine, George, you're right. I mean, look, I would love to point to Republican fund-raising numbers, tell you that the political rules have changed in the last year, which to some degree they have, it's harder to predict...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But does it transfer to candidates...

FAGEN: But here's what really matters if you're looking at just the data. We've had nine special elections in this since the president took office and Democrats have outperformed their partisan advantage in the district, their partisan number in that district, by an average of 15 points. If that holds, Democrats are going to have a great night in November. It's not just going to be a wave, it's going to be heading toward a tsunami.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Candidate quality matters, though.

MARTIN: But here's a piece, candidate quality does matter, but what we're missing out on is the mobilization and organization that is happening on the ground. When you see what happened in that particular district, also what's happening on Mother's Day Reverend William Barber, (inaudible), they're launching the poor people's campaign, 40 consecutive days of action as well.

They've been meeting around the nation for two years in Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, across the country -- whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos. And people underestimating what is happening on the ground. We keep focusing on, well, who is a candidate. What's happening in D.C. But there is a mass mobilization happening. And I'm telling you -- just this weekend the Black Women's Roundtable had their event. Melanie Campbell said she had women coming who she had never heard of. She said, Roland, how do they even know we even exist? Because folks are saying what this man is doing is wrong.

SCHLAPP: And Republicans have got to be real concerned.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're out of time. Are you worried.

SCHLAPP: Of course, I'm worried. But let's look at this, it's the economy and the strength of the economy. Do people feel better about their own economic prospects? It's candidate quality. And it's the fund-raising numbers, which are going to matter.

And when you look at all that, I should rather have our cards than their cards.

MARTIN: It's Trump, Trump, Trump.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Yep, mobilization.

SCHLAPP: They're OK with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much.

MARTIN: You won't say that in November.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, it's actually election day in Russia. Terry Moran is going to join us live from Moscow as Vladimir Putin ramps up his war with the west. We're going to get analysis from Garry Kasparov. We'll be right back.


STEPHANOPOULOS: There you see it, Vladimir Putin voting today in the Russian elections. No mystery who he is voting for.

Our chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran live in Moscow right now. And Terry, really nothing about the outcome today in doubt.

TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: No suspense here, George. That's actually a problem for Vladimir Putin and his campaign. Putin's real opponent here is apathy. Everybody knows he's going to win. Polls show consistently he's very popular and no one else is. He's seen to that. And so he's going for a big turnout as his mandate. The opposition is monitoring election sites, polling stations around the country. They've already posted several videos of people just stuffing the ballot boxes going for that mandate that Putin wants.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, it comes in the wake of this attempted assassination of the former Russian spy in Great Britain. Theresa May, the British prime minister, spoke out about thatthis week.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter. The United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave.


MORAN: Well British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson this morning upped the ante. AfterRussia had expelled 23 British diplomats, Johnson saying today that the UK has evidence that Russia has been refining these nerve agents into weapons of assassination and stockpiling these so-called Novichok (ph) agents for more than a decade.

ABC News has learned that investigators are looking at the possibility this was delivered in a powdery, dusty form, possibly through the ventilation system of that former spy Sergei Skripal's car.

Russia denies everything. Most people here don't believe it. In part, they're told a very different story. The foreign ministry pointing the finger at other countries, the U.S., they say, the UK, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Sweden all may have been involved.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Terry, any reaction there to the first U.S. sanctions in the wake of the interfering in our elections?

MORAN: Well, interestingly, the Kremlin said these sanctions were expected. They aren't that big of a deal. Ordinary people here, they aren't targeted at ordinary people, and so they aren't feeling the bite, although the economy has taken a huge hit since Putin engineered the takeover of Crimea several years ago.

But people are worried about the economy. There is a stagnation right now, and that really is Putin's big challenge as he goes for his unprecedented fourth term and maybe beyond.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Thank you, Terry, very much.

Let's get more now from Russian dissident, former world chess champ Garry Kasparov. He's now chair of the Human Rights Foundation. And, Garry, starting out with that election, is there anything we can look to in these results that would suggest what Putin's real strength is?

GARRY KASPAROV, RUSSIAN DISSIDENT: First of all, stop calling it elections. It's a charade. It's the only vote that matters in a dictatorship like Russia is Putin's vote, so you're right showing him voting for himself and that's it.

You're absolutely right saying that the turnout is the only challenge. It's not only just because of apathy, because many people are scared actually to show up and to demonstrate that they disapprove of Putin's policies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We've seen he's been increasingly aggressive in the west. Obviously, this attempted assassination in the United Kingdom. Will he become even more brazen?

KASPAROV: Absolutely. He has no other choice. In this country, you could say that if something goes wrong, so then you see the president just going after press, political appointees, blaming someone. If you are power for 18 years, there is no one to blame, so you need enemies outside Russia, so that'swhy Putin needs the free world, America, Europe, as enemies to justify his eternal hold on power.

And if you think that his meddling in American election was bad, imagine what he does in Russia?

STEPHANOPOULOS: He also seems to become something of a model for other leaders around the world. We're seeing President Xi now do away with term limits as well. You have Venezuela, the Philippines. And you said something interesting, and it's not so much that he's inspiring these authoritarian leaders, as giving permission to them.

KASPAROV: It's also -- a combination of inspiration and also it's a story of success. What this leader is like, the chinese leader and other authoritarian leaders, they saw in Putin is that he kept denfing the west, actually he's just been doing things like poisoning and killing dissidents and defectorsand former spy agents who found asylum elsewhere like Likvinenko, and nothing happened. So he succeed in having Trump in the White House, so he definitely worked much harder with Trump's election than with his own. And sanctions, weak, belated and it's just always small fish.

Now, first time we heard strong words from the UK. I wish we see the action, but don't forget, 14 billion pounds money laundering according to official reports coming through England.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You clearly think this is a serious threat. What is the most important thing we in the west should be doing to counter Putin that we're not doing right now?

KASPAROV: Well, two days ago you had a conference called Putincom. You could see at Putincom.com, 25 speakers from six countries talking about all crimes committed by Putin's regime. It's the past and present of Russian dictatorship, and everybody came to the same conclusion is hurt them where it hurts: money. Follow the money.

So it's not that they park the money that they're stealing from Russia in China or Venezuela or in Iran, it's in this country, it's in Europe. I mentioned the United Kingdom, so make sure that the oligarchs they will have to choose between following Putin's criminal orders and their fortunes.

As long as they feel safe by having their families, their mistresses, their yacht, their palaces, the real estate everything here and following Putin's orders nothing will happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Garry Kasparov, thanks for your time this morning.

When we come back, a southern Democrat who is calling out President Trump on race. Will he challenge Trump in 2020? New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is next.



HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward and his whole campaign Make America Great Again was looking backwards. You know, you didn't like black people getting rights. You don't like women getting jobs. You don't want to see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are. Whatever your problem is, I'm going to solve it.


STEPHANOPOULOS: There's Hillary Clinton back in the news this week with that analysis of her loss taking some heat from fellow Dems for that. We're joined now by one of the Democrats eyeing the nomination in 2020, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, out with his book In the Shadowof Statues: a White Southerner Confronts History.

Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning. I want to get to the book in a second.

But let's start out with that analysis right there. A lot of Democrats who are looking ahead to 2020 say we just should not be talking about the middle of the country like that.

MITCH LANDRIEU, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Well, it's important that everybody in the country feel included. In this moment that we have, a dark moment in the country, it's obvious that a lot of people feel alienated. White people in rural America feel alienated, African-Americans in urban areas feel alienated, people just feel distended from each other. And I think the bigger point is how to find common ground. And that's true whether you're sitting in the White House or whether you're sitting in the statehouse, whether you're the mayor, whether you're the head of a community organization, I think you feel that angst in the country right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You speak to an underlying angst in the country that is so true, so out there. And it seems like our elections are going in exactly the opposite direction, simply mobilizing the most partisan voices on either side.

LANDRIEU: well, I don't want to make you older than you are, but you remember back as far as all the way back to President Nixon all the way to today and the world has somewhat changed.

In the south, we have what are called blue dog Democrats, which are basically very moderate individuals. And you can see right now that only the extremes are getting elected in the country and there's a big fight going on in both parties, quite frankly, about the left, the middle and right of their parties.

And so I think a lot of us who are just interested in getting things done on whatever level you are, interesting in trying to find common ground and making things happen , which why being the mayor of the great city of New Orleans for the last year has been so incredible, because we're not ideologically bent. We find a way. We make one.

Most of the things that people are talking about in Washington and folks on the street when they're at the grocery store, at the ball park with their kids are really not talking about and they can't really kind of figure out why something constructive can't happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that doesn't mean backing away from tough issues and this gets into the subject of your book, In the Shadow of Statues. Of course, you brought down those Confederate statues in New Orleans.

And in the book, you write something provocative. You say when I look back today, David Duke's demagoguery stands like a dress rehearsal for the rise of Donald Trump. While he may not have worn a hood or a swastika, Trump's rhetoric and actions during his 2016 presidential campaign were shockingly similar to the tactics deployed by Duke in 1989.

We are seeing such fire around the issue of race.

LANDRIEU: Well, a couple of things. First of all you said, you know, you don't run away from the issues. Actually, what you have to do is run to the tough issues in order to find common ground. You don't find common ground by running away from them and not confronting the difficulties that you have. As a matter of fact, it's one of the problems that people have in the country with politics today is we actually run away from the tough issues.

You have to trust in the people that you work with enough to know that if you can call the question on things that are hard for us that we can actually figure out -- as a matter of fact, I know we all say the country is so divided. They are when you talk about Washington, but really on the streets of America every day African-Americans, white, Hispanic people, rural and urban, are working together, living together, praying together every day.

So we can figure out a way to get from where we are right now to where we need to be now.

I think it is -- it would be less than genuine to say that we're not having if a moment where we're allowing the darker angels among us to control what it is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you talk about President Trump is playing it?

LANDRIEU: Well, I can say this, I made an observation, not an accusation, that what happened in Louisiana when David Duke was there is fairly similar to what we're seeing there where people are speaking in coded language. They are beginning to judge people based on race, creed, color, sexual orientation and not on their behavior. And, of course, you see that pattern.

The thing that is so alarmed me about some of the incidents surrounding the taking down of the statues was somehow this false equivocation between white supremacy and not. And there are bounds in which we can argue from all the way to conservative or liberal, one thing that we cannot countenance in this country is the rise of white supremacy. It needs to be called out, it needs to be focused on. Slavery was our original sin. The civil war was fought about that. And we have to be really clear that whether you're on the left, the middle, or the right there is a place that we will not go. And I just don't want to go back there.

I saw that in Louisiana when David Duke got two out of every three white votes. Some of the language is being used, it's coded. You have to call it out, focus on it, and then get us back to the normal fights that we have in democracy about whatever theory of governing you may have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's what I want to get to. I know you don't want to get ahead of yourself. We're still a couple of years out, but not too early to plan. When you think of the prospect of maybe running for president what is the big problem you, as a Democrat, think needs to be fixed?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all I'm not thinking about that, other people have talked about that. And I mean, honestly it's very flattering to think about it, but I don't see that happening as it relates to me. And I would say this to the people of America. We shouldn't just wait on whoever the president is is to fix our problem. The 320 million Americans did something really kind every day, and just kind of pushed back on all the nastiness, we could move the country fairly quickly in a whole lot of different ways. And there's tons of stuff going on in the local areas.

But it is clear to me that we have to get back to being respectful, being civil, to seeing each other and judging each other based on our behavior, not race, not creed, not class, not sexual orientation, not necessarily what country you come from. And we're being too loose with that right now. We have to be more disciplined in our focus on civility, because this is the greatest country that ever was. And it will be the greatest country coming, and we have what it is to make sure that everybody is fine, but you have to purposely fry to find common ground. It's a mission we all have to accept.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's what you write about in this book. Look forward to reading it. Mayor Landrieu, thanks for joining us.

LANDRIEU: Thank you very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight. And I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.