A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 18, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: America first put to the test. Protests continue in Hong Kong as the ongoing trade war with China rattles Wall Street. The president says the unrest in Hong Kong is up to China to solve. Will his hands-off approach diminish America's role on the world stage? And will he change his China strategy in the face of new recession fears? Those questions and more for Trump's trade adviser, Peter Navarro . And --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re looking at the whole gun situation --
RADDATZ: -- is the president backing off his call for meaningful background checks and changing his tune to appease his supporters?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think gun control would be a bad thing for him to run on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would probably lose the vote on gun control. If he goes too far with it. That’s a big vote.
RADDATZ: 2020 Candidate Kirsten Gillibrand is pitching her own plan to voters. She joins us live. Plus, she’s not running for president but she is campaigning for change.
STACEY ABRAMS, AMERICAN POLITICIAN: You may not be able to cast your ballot because they close your precinct or they change the rules. That’s rigging the game.
RADDATZ: Stacey Abrams on her fight for a fair vote.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it's THIS WEEK. Here now, Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK. President Trump campaigned on America first and says he's kept that promise, but at what price? And does that promise extend to all Americans? The president's squarely put American citizens first this week when he announced a new rule barring legal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. A top immigration official going so far as to suggest the poem on the Statue of Liberty, widely considered an expression of core American values, should read, “Give me your poor who can stand on their own two feet.” The president’s vision of America first also seemed at odds this week with the founding principle of freedom of expression.
He successfully pressured America’s close ally Israel to deny entry to two sitting members of Congress, both of them Muslim Americans, who’ve been critical of Israel and of him. And then there's his America first trade war with China that contributed to this week's wild swings on Wall Street. The president has yet to close any trade deals and now Democrats are accusing him of prioritizing his economic tit for tat with China over supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. For more on the fallout from the president’s foreign policy moves this week, let's bring in our ABC News team fanned around the globe.
Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell in Hong Kong, James Longman in London and Terry Moran here in Washington. And Ian, I want to start with you. What's the latest on the protests there overnight? Are there signs a military crackdown is imminent?
IAN PANNELL, ABC NEWS SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi there, Martha. First of all, let me paint the scene. People have been streaming past here for almost seven hours now, hundreds of thousands. Certainly more than half a million people came out today. They're calling for democratic change, a much greater say in decision making here in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, just across the border, only about 20 miles away from here, Chinese paramilitary forces have been seen practicing drills.
They issued this propaganda video, very scary music overlaid on it to try and send this warning that if the Hong Kong authorities don't act, don’t deal with the situation here, then they possibly will intervene. But that carries huge risks for them. Meanwhile, what is the question about the role for foreign powers, in particular America. Now, China’s accused America of interfering, of supporting the protesters, something that they’ve offered no evidence for. However, you do see people here holding the stars and stripes. There are a couple up on the bridge now with this giant American flag.
And the reason they do that is they want the moral support of the United States and the government and others around the world. They see America as a beacon on the hill, the kind of democracy that they aspire to.
RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Ian. And James, let’s turn to Israel. President Trump convinced Prime Minister Netanyahu to bar Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country. Will this help or hurt the long term relationship between the U.S. and Israel?
JAMES LONGMAN, ABC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I guess pretty mixed, Martha. All this looks like Netanyahu simply responding to the president's personal grudge. He’s had frequent run-ins with the two women before, telling them even to go back to their family’s native countries. And this ban was roundly criticized, including by many in Israel who worry it’s damaging to its democratic credentials. Now, Netanyahu of course has some support for this but this is new territory. Israel has never blocked a sitting Congress person before. Israeli media was mostly against it and his critics say this is a kind of payback for a succession of Trump decisions from which the Israeli leader has benefited, like for example, the U.S. embassy moved to Jerusalem.
But even if Trump's close relationship with Netanyahu helps both men in the short-term with elections coming in both countries, and Netanyahu certainly has a fight on his hands next month, this doesn't seem to help the long-term efforts to bring all sides to the table.
In the U.S., Democrats accuse President Trump of using an international relationship to take a whack at a domestic political rival. And this is also an erosion of the U.S. democratic process. To also, the Holy Land by members of Congress are a large part of their years' long collective effort at finding an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar represent a new political generation who will need to be part of that if it's going to succeed.
Now, Israel says all this is because of Tlaib's support, along with Omar, for the boycott movement, which is about economic pressure on the Israeli government over its policies towards Palestinians. But Martha, the irony here is that blocking them from coming has given that movement far more publicity than it might otherwise have had.
RADDATZ: And thanks to James. And we'll bring that back to the U.S. right now. And so Terry, you've been watching the president from the White House, was his move with the congresswomen an attempt to distract from a jittery economy? And did it work?
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That was part of if for sure, Martha. Donald Trump is a natural political opportunist and highly skilled. And if he sees a chance like this he's going to take it.
So, if he can control the news cycle, which he can, in order to exercise presidential powers in foreign policy to punish his political enemies, something we haven't really seen before, he'll do that and he did that. But he did something else, his strategic goal is to make these congresswomen, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, the Squad, the face of the Democratic Party. That's a strategic goal of his. So, he tried to do that.
But, did it change the subject? Well, it changed the subject, but if the economy is shaky, which it is, he has got to change the economy.
RADDATZ: Trump and Chinese President Xi have been locked in a trade war for over a year. The president using tariffs to try to force China to make a deal, is there any sign either side is going to blink?
MORAN: Not right now, Martha.
This is like watching two heavyweight fighters just throw haymakers at each other, and neither one is going to hit the canvas any time soon.
This is a major goal of President Trump, but the Chinese are very, very patient. That's the style of that regime, they see the election on the horizon. They see a potential recession on the horizon. I don't think there's any chance in the near-term of a resolution to this very damaging trade war to both sides.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to Terry, James and Ian. And I'm joined by Peter Navarro, the director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. We appreciate you coming in this morning, sir.
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Good morning to you.
RADDATZ: We know the labor market is strong. We know consumer confidence remains high. But on Wednesday, we saw the worst drop in the stock market this year, and although there was some recovery, there are indicators that the U.S. could be headed for a recession.
NAVARRO: So, before I came to the White House I spent a better part of 20 years forecasting the business cycle and stock market trends, and what I can tell you with certainty is that we're going to have a strong economy through 2020 and beyond with a bull market, and here's why, things are shaping up well.
First of all, the Federal Reserve going into the holidays will be lowering rates significantly. What that will do is it will help our investment directly. It’ll help our exports indirectly through a currency effect. Secondly, the European Central Bank has signaled strongly they're about to engage in a very aggressive round of monetary easing that will help not only revive the economy of Europe, but also help build export demand.
I think China is going to have a second round of fiscal stimulus. What that will do for the global economy is help the developing countries that sell them all the commodities for their manufacturing machine.
By early October, if Congress rises above partisan politics, we should have passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. This is without hyperbole, the largest trade deal ever in history. It's also going to give us hundreds of thousands of more jobs, more growth points, and there’s a couple of other things I should mention...
RADDATZ: But these seem like a lot of ifs. If this happens, if that happens.
NAVARRO: The Fed will be lowering rates. The ECB will be engaging in monetary stimulus. China will be engaging in fiscal stimulus. You're absolutely right, there's also an if associated with the USMCA.
There also is an if with Brexit over in Europe. This is important, because that has suppressed investment in Europe. I think, by October 30th that situation is going to be resolved one way or the other.
RADDATZ: Let me talk about...
NAVARRO: So things are shaping up well for stimulus worldwide.
RADDATZ: Let me talk about these indicators, though, the so-called inverted yield curve. The yield curve has inverted before every U.S. recession since 1955. There was one false flag. Even though it may be brief...
RADDATZ: ... how can you be so confident?
NAVARRO: I love to talk about the yield curve.
I didn't write the book on the yield curve, but I actually wrote several books on the efficacy of the yield curve as a leading economic indicator.
RADDATZ: But let's talk about that an indicator.
NAVARRO: Now, first of all, we did not have a yield curve inversion right now, by technical standpoints. You have to have a significant spread between short and long rates. All we have, Martha, is a flat curve.
RADDATZ: I know you have talked about the flat.
RADDATZ: And, again, if this was only a brief inversion or it was flat, you're still not worried about that?
NAVARRO: It's a very weak signal. But it is flat, not for -- for bad reasons, but for good reasons.
We have the strongest economy in the world. Money is coming here for our stock market. It's also coming here to chase yield in our bond market. Now, what that does is, when foreign money comes in, it drives the prices of bonds up and yields down. That flattens the curve.
So, all what needs to happen here, Martha, is for the Federal Reserve to do what it needs to do, which is begin lowering interest rates. There's a general consensus now on Wall Street and everywhere else in this country that the Fed raised rates too far, too fast.
We came in at Q2 at 2.1 percent GDP growth rate. We should have been at 3. And the Federal Reserve's precipitous interest rate hikes actually cost us a full point of growth. All we need, Martha, is to reverse that, have Europe do what they need to do, China do their fiscal stimulus, and the global economy will -- will have a bullish cycle going through 2020 and beyond.
RADDATZ: But let me -- let...
NAVARRO: That's my message to the American people.
RADDATZ: Let me tell you what they -- as I'm sure you're well aware, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board this month dubbed this the Navarro recession.
And they wrote a second editorial this week called "The Navarro Recession II," saying: "Mr. Navarro and President Trump spent Wednesday blaming the Federal Reserve for the market meltdown, and we suppose any scapegoat will do in a storm. We have been warning for two years that trade wars have economic consequences, but the wizards of protectionism told Mr. Trump not to worry. The key to avoiding the worst is to restore a sense of policy calm and confidence."
And I would add to that, businesses are not blaming the Federal Reserve. For example, the National Retail Federation explicitly said uncertainty for business and the new tariffs will result in higher costs for consumers and slow the U.S. economy.
So, clearly not everyone agrees with you.
NAVARRO: So, let's start with "The Wall Street Journal." When the Main Street journal starts attacking this administration, that is when we worry. The question for "The Wall Street Journal" is, where was "The Wall Street Journal" beginning in 2001, when China got into the World Trade organization, and we watched the exodus of over 70,000 of our factories, over five million manufacturing jobs?
Why hasn't "The Wall Street Journal" been editorializing over the last 10 years about China's hacking our computers to steal trade secrets, about stealing our intellectual property, about forcing the technology transfer from our companies, about the currency manipulation that occurred for over a decade?
So, "The Wall Street Journal," look...
RADDATZ: We don't have a trade deal, though. And...
NAVARRO: It's called -- it's called "The Wall Street Journal" for a reason. OK? It represents Wall Street.
RADDATZ: I -- I...
NAVARRO: And "The Wall Street Journal" never saw an American job it didn't want to offshore.
RADDATZ: Well, let's talk about tariffs, which has consumers concerned and has businesses concerned.
RADDATZ: The president delayed some of those tariffs until after Christmas.
Why would delaying tariffs help American consumers, when the president and you have said that China is bearing the brunt of the tariffs?
NAVARRO: I love this question.
We have $300 billion worth of Chinese exports that did not yet have tariffs. So what the -- what the president did was looked at that, and, as of September 1st, about half of that will be tariffed at 10 percent.
Now, the other half, why didn't we tariff the other half? One of the things the president does beautifully is engage with the business community, labor leaders and everybody in between.
I was sitting in the Oval Office when a group of executives came in and told us this, Martha. All the stuff that they were going to have on their store shelves during the Christmas holidays had already been bought in dollar contracts.
What does that mean for your viewers? It means that these people did not have any power to basically shift the burden back to China. So, the -- the other thing we heard from these business leaders was that, just give us some time to December 15th. And, by the way, we are taking all of our sourcing production facilities out of China, and we will continue to do that.
And China -- and that's why the president did it.
RADDATZ: Are you optimistic about a deal, quickly?
NAVARRO: I'm -- I'm optimistic that the president will do the right thing for America and that we have some significant structural issues with China that we need to address.
RADDATZ: We have to stop there. Thanks for joining us this morning, Mr. Navarro.
NAVARRO: My pleasure.
RADDATZ: Up next, 2020 candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand responds on the trade war's impact on the economy. And, later, Georgia's Stacey Abrams discusses her new fight against what she calls voter suppression.
We’ll be right back.
RADDATZ: Still to come, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joins us to discuss her new plans on gun control and the state of her 2020 campaign. Stay with us.
RADDATZ: Joining me now is 2020 candidate and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Welcome back to THIS WEEK.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY) , 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: It’s good to have you here. You heard the president’s trade advisor painting a rather rosy picture of the economy, saying the president’s trade policy is working, not leading to a recession. How worried do you think Americans should be about a possible recession?
GILLIBRAND: Well they don’t share his view. When I was in Youngstown, Ohio, I met with men and women who just lost their jobs, some of them were texted that they lost their jobs. Some were given opportunities to move to another state and given only 24 hours to make that decision.
So, I don't think his worldview is reflected in the everyday kitchen table issues that families are facing. They're worried about their jobs, their worried about access to health care. They're worried about providing for their kids.
RADDATZ: Are you worried about a recession?
GILLIBRAND: I'm concerned because I think NAFTA 2.0 is a disaster. I think it was a give away to drug companies in Mexico. It's going to harm our jobs. President Trump said no bad trade deals. Not only has he entered into them, but he’s started a trade war with China. And it's really harming producers.
RADDATZ: And some accused the president of failing to support the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, because of the trade negotiations. If you were elected president, how strongly would you back those protesters in Hong Kong?
GILLIBRAND: Well, I would back them, because they expect a country where they have free speech, they don't expect to be extradited to mainland China, they don't expect to be denied the ability to protest or speak for themselves.
RADDATZ: What does backing them mean? What would you do?
GILLIBRAND: You use the weight of the presidency and the world community to pressure China to allow basic human rights in Hong Kong. They are under a different agreement than the rest of mainland China. And they have different expectations.
RADDATZ: So possibly sanctions?
GILLIBRAND: Sanctions you could use, you can use tools, you can use the bully pulpit. You can ask other world leaders to join you in sanctions and really pressure the denial of human rights to stop. You just have to use your power, and especially your economic power, to force different behavior.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn to Israel. Congressman Tlaib has said she will no longer travel there, even though Israel had said they would allow her to do that on humanitarian basis to visit her grandmother.
She says she won't do that now because of some of the demands that were put on her. Is that a mistake? Should she have gone because she wanted to originally go see her grandmother?
GILLIBRAND: So, the tradition is for members of Congress -- I have been to Israel several times as a member of Congress, and I brought a codal (ph) of Republicans and Democrats -- Lindsey Graham was on my trip, Senator Hoeven, Amy Klobuchar. And we met with Netanyahu. And the point is, is Congress has a duty to make decisions about whether we give aid, how we protect allies such as Israel with qualitative military edge. I don't know why Netanyahu would want to deny members of Congress to come to Israel if they expect us to be that never-ending partner and friend.
RADDATZ: Well, they talk about the BDS movement...
GILLIBRAND: Agreed. I understand...
RADDATZ: You don't support that, so why is that enough.
GILLIBRAND: Because in this country, we believe in free speech. In this country, we don't deny people the right to participate in conversations about their views and their values. Unfortunately, Netanyahu has allowed a very conservative government to have a law that says if you support the BDS movement they can prevent you.
RADDATZ: Should there be repercussions for Israel?
GILLIBRAND: I think our obligation, as an ally and as a friend is to hold them accountable when they're wrong. And I think any time you are undermining basic free speech rights and human rights you're going in the wrong direction.
RADDATZ: And how do you hold them accountable?
GILLIBRAND: That's what you do as president. President Trump is unwilling to hold anyone accountable. He's unwilling to stand up to other world leaders. You've seen it with this instance of Israel, you've seen it with China, you've seen it with Russia. And he has really shrunk in the face of his responsibilities, unwilling to actually lead and to ask other world leaders to support and protect human rights.
RADDATZ: I wanted to move on to guns. Earlier this week, you signaled support for a mandatory federal buyback program for assault weapons. More moderate Democratic candidates have stopped short of such a program. If they didn't give them back, if you got this through, what does that mean, do want to prosecute them, do you want to fine them?
GILLIBRAND: So, I don't think we should be living in a world where a family can't go to Walmart to do their back to school shopping. I don't think we want to live in a world where young children are learning shelter in place drills as opposed to math drills, that's the truth of where we are.
And so as president, I would seek to make a ban on assault rifles and assault weapons, military style weapons. I would have a ban on large magazines.
RADDATZ: What about the buyback?
GILLIBRAND: So, you want to make it illegal to buy or sell these assault weapons. And as part of your effort, you would offer money, a buyback.
RADDATZ: And if they don't?
GILLIBRAND: For anyone.
So, what you want to use is the current law that has placed different types of weapons, required registration, like machine guns. We did this in the past, and we made machine guns illegal. And, if you owned them, they had to be registered, and they had to have certain kinds of fingerprinting for anyone who owns it. So you can use the same framework.
But one of the biggest tools in your toolbox is buybacks because you want to give people the opportunity to be reimbursed for the money that they spent to own those weapons.
RADDATZ: And -- and, very quickly, just moving onto 2020, Joe Biden said at a fundraiser last night that there is a need to work with Republicans on Capitol Hill, saying he respects the team. "There are an awful lot of really good Republicans out there. They're decent people. They ran because they care about things, but they are intimidated right now."
Do you agree with that assessment, Joe Biden's?
GILLIBRAND: Of course. Every member of Congress should seek to work on a bipartisan basis. It's actually how you pass laws. And it's something that I have done successfully for my decade in service, not only repealing don't ask, don't tell, but passing the 9/11 health bill in just a few weeks, making that permanent. In fact, in the last Congress, I passed 18 bills, and President Trump signed them all into law. He doesn't know he signed them into law, but he did.
But the truth is, we also need vision. And what the Democratic Party's looking for right now are bold vision about how you're going to pass a Green New Deal, how are you going to get health care as a right.
RADDATZ: And -- and just very quickly, on a last point, are you going to make the next debate? So far, you have not qualified for the ABC debate.
GILLIBRAND: I will qualify.
And if your viewers go to KirstenGillibrand.com and send a dollar, I will definitely qualify.
RADDATZ: OK. Thanks for joining us this morning, Senator.
Up next, the roundtable breaks down the 2020 race, plus our conversation with Georgia's Stacey Abrams. We will be right back.
RADDATZ: When we come back, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver weighs in on whether the candidates are paying too much attention to Iowa. We’ll be right back.
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RADDATZ: Would a President Trump be the same as Candidate Trump with foreign leaders? Can you imagine yourself --
TRUMP: I think even better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That was the scene four years ago this weekend. Then-candidate Donald Trump drawing quite the crowd at the Iowa State Fair where we took a ride on his helicopter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: You don't think this is a little much?
RADDATZ: It's very Trump, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
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RADDATZ: Very Trump indeed. This year's Iowa State Fair wraps up today but the 2020 field will be back in full force on Wednesday, when 19 candidates speak at a labor convention in Iowa. Our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers and found that through the end of July, the major candidates spent a combined 336 days campaigning in Iowa. That’s compared to 216 in New Hampshire and 132 days in South Carolina. But just how important is Iowa for winning this year's Democratic nomination? Is Iowa a make-or-break state? We asked FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, do you buy that?
NATE SILVER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FIVETHIRTHYEIGHT: So, of course, Iowa gets a lot of attention. It’s the first state to vote and historically has a pretty good track record of picking Democratic winners. The past four nominees -- so Clinton, Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore -- all won the hawkeye state. In fact, you have to go back to Bill Clinton in 1992 for a Democratic nominee who didn’t win Iowa. But there are a few things that give me pause and make me wonder if Iowa will become less predictive than it was once. And keep in mind, by the way, that Clinton only barely won Iowa in 2016. It was basically a tie with Bernie Sanders.
First, the Democratic electorate is becoming more diverse, and Iowa isn't really. We estimate that about 40 percent of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses in 2016 were people of color, but about 92 percent of voters in Iowa were white. It ranked 42nd among the states in how well it matched up with the overall Democratic electorate.
Next, Democrats are moving away from caucuses. In 2004, 15 states held caucuses, but we might be down to as few as two this year, it might just be Iowa and Nevada. Caucuses tend to reward liberal candidates with active organizations like Bernie Sanders, for example. But with fewer caucuses now, that could make Iowa more of a misleading indicator.
Finally, the news cycle is different now, it moves a lot faster. So the so-called bounce a candidate gets from winning Iowa, which partly reflects a burst of favorable media attention doesn't last as long.
Now, there definitely are candidates whose strengths play well to Iowa, and for them the state is more essential. Take Mayor Peter Buttigieg, for example. He's a Midwesterner. His supporters are mostly white. If he can't do well in Iowa, it's hard to see him winning anywhere.
So, do I buy that Iowa is a make-or-break state for the Democrats? The short answer is no. It's important, maybe even really important, but it's just representative enough of the overall electorate to be in that make-or-break category, especially for a Joe Biden or a Kamala Harris whose supporters are more diverse. Sure, they'd love to win Iowa, but they have plenty of paths to victory without it.
RADDATZ: OK, got it. Our thanks to Nate for that.
The roundtable is up next. We're back in just 60 seconds.
RADDATZ: This week, as always, President Trump seemed eager to be out campaigning, first turning an official event in Pennsylvania on Tuesday into a highly political speech, and then holding one of his signature campaign rallies Thursday in New Hampshire. There, he seemed to backtrack on gun control and told voters, because of the economy he is their only choice whether they like him or not.
RADDATZ: Traveling to a state that he narrowly lost in 2016, the president seemed optimistic there wouldn't be a repeat.
TRUMP: We begin this campaign tonight with the best record, the best results, the best agenda and the only positive vision for the people of New Hampshire.
RADDATZ: The rally pretty tame -- no send them backs, but still plenty to get the crowd riled up.
TRUMP: You got Pocahontas who is rising. You got Kamala, Kamala is falling. You got Beto. Beto is like -- gone.
RADDATZ: But it wasn't the Democrats that had the faithful here worried. No, it was the possibility the president would cave and allow some new gun legislation in wake of the massacres in El Paso and Dayton.
Trump initially seemed to be open to the idea of some new protections.
TRUMP: Well, I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important.
RADDATZ: But during this rally, as he has before, he pivoted to blame mental health.
TRUMP: People have to remember, however, that there is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person holding the gun. We can't make it harder for good, solid law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. We will always uphold the right to self-defense.
RADDATZ: Outside, his supporters echoing that point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making sure that somebody is not mentally ill, I can see that. But other than that...
RADDATZ: Some worry he can be pressured into taking strong action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little nervous about that, because the Democrats, they want to take the guns away from people. But the only people that are going to actually give up their guns are the good people, which leaves the bad guys with the guns.
So, that that's a sticky one right there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would probably lose the vote on the -- the gun people if he goes too far with it. And that's a big vote.
RADDATZ: As for voters still on the fence, he had this do-or-die pitch:
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have no choice but to vote for me, because your 401(k)s down the tubes. Everything's going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you got to vote for me.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RADDATZ: And let's bring in the roundtable to talk about that, ABC News' Cokie Roberts, David Drucker, senior political correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," Alexi McCammond, national political reporter for Axios, and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd.
Welcome, everyone, this morning. Great to have you. And I want to start with you, Cokie.
The president is clearly banking on a strong economy propelling him to reelection. But it's not really a do or die and you have no choice whether to vote for me or not.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Yes, the president has had a great economy working for him. And that's what's kept his approval ratings up, although they don't go much beyond this base. When they do, it's when the economy is thriving. And he's scared. And he should be scared, because, if the economy tanks, he really doesn't have anything else to fall back on.
RADDATZ: And, David, we have -- we have seen him take credit for a good economy and very good economic times. And there are some strong indicators now. But can he really distance himself from the bad, if, in fact, the economy does start -- start going down?
DAVID DRUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, you know, all presidents want to take advantage of a good economy. They all claim credit, and they shun the blame.
I think, for this president, it would be more difficult than for his predecessor in particular, as we remember 2012, when Obama was reelected despite a still struggling economy, because it's the one thing that voters give him high marks on even when they don't like him overall. I think there are a lot of voters out there that may not vote for him, but will still give him credit for an economy that's good.
And that line that he used Martha, "Love me or hate me, you got to vote for me," we kind of chuckle, and that's Trump being Trump, but that is very prescient, because, in 2016, voters that disliked both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sided with the president, the now president, 50 percent to 39 percent.
In a recent FOX News poll taken just this month, when they compared Biden, Joe Biden, to Donald Trump and said, if you disapprove of both, who are you going to vote for? 43 percent to 10 percent Joe Biden over Trump.
This particular metric is a very big deal for him.
RADDATZ: And, Alexi, you have been out talking to those voters.
Polls aside, what are they telling you, especially Independents? If Donald Trump says, it's not my fault, or it's the media's fault, or whoever he's blaming, or it's the Fed's fault...
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS: Right. Right.
RADDATZ: ... do -- do they buy that, especially those Independents?
MCCAMMOND: Well, to your point, I think that that's exactly what we can expect.
If the economy tanks, there is no chance that President Trump simply takes that blame and says, oh, I suddenly have a plan for dealing with this recession that we find ourselves in. He will blame China. He will blame Democrats. He will blame the media.
When I talk to voters, Independent swing voters who voted for Obama twice and then flipped to Donald Trump, they don't necessarily blame him for the state of the economy or give him so much credit, though they feel like things are moving in the right direction nationally.
What is interesting, though, is, they talk about his lack of a plan on things like health care, Social Security, infrastructure, these things that they feel influence their lives personally, whether it's the roads that they're driving on or the low wages and low-wage jobs that they're trying to stick together.
That is something that I think they view President Trump as not doing enough on. And, if the economy tanks, they will -- and they have told me they will do this -- blame him and ditch him in 2020.
RADDATZ: And, Matthew, you heard, I'm sure, Peter Navarro. You have heard President Trump talk about these tariffs with China.
But, clearly, there's some concern there, or he wouldn't have delayed those tariffs until after Christmas.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes.
And I -- not only is their concern politically, but there's obvious economic concerns about how much the tariffs have affected what the economy has been.
We're in a cycle. Even in -- you take Donald Trump out of this, we're in a cycle where we have had nine or 10 years of a growing economy. We're -- there is a time at some point where the cyclical says it's -- there's a recession time.
I think the problem the president has -- and he doesn't even need to have a bad economy. If the economy just starts to slow down, he doesn't have a residual amount of people that trust him in this country.
So, he's only boosted -- he's leveled up to 42 percent by a good economy. With a bad economy, he doesn't -- he doesn't have a way to go to American voters and say, I have a plan, I know -- you trust me on this -- that other presidents have had. So, when his support -- when the economy does slow down, he goes from the 42 percent to the 30 or 33 percent.
DOWD: And that's the huge, problematic part for him.
RADDATZ: And that would definitely worry -- I want to -- go ahead.
ROBERTS: But I think that, also, he's doing a bunch of things to make the economy worse. I mean we know trade wars create global recessions. And that’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing it in Europe, we’re seeing it in Asia, and that’s bound to have an effect here and people are feeling it.
RADDATZ: And -- and I want to -- I want to move to guns. You -- you heard those supporters, you heard what President Trump said. It -- it -- it seems like he's backing off a little bit after those terrible mass shoots and -- and saying perhaps there would be some measure of background check. Do you see him backing off and is -- is it because of what you just heard from those supporters?
DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well look, I would be surprised if he didn't back off quite a bit. And we’ve seen this from him before after unfortunate mass shooting events. He comes out in favor of beefing up regulations on gun ownership and then he backs away. I think there’s something we need to understand, though, about where voters are on guns that care about gun rights that are single-issue Second Amendment voters. If you talk to them -- and I’ve talked to Republican strategists about this.
If you talk to them about background checks, most of them are law-abiding gun owners and they actually had to submit to a background check to get -- purchase their gun. But if you tell them that beefing up background checks would mean if you want to give your firearm to your brother-in-law or to your sister or to your wife because they need extra protection, maybe you're going to be traveling, if you want to go to a gun show and you want to buy and sell that way, all of a sudden they dial back the supposed support, large support for expanding background checks.
And I think understanding the politics of this in Congress, whereas a Republican, the best endorsement you can get is from the NRA still in a Republican primary, that can impact where this goes.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and Cokie, you talked about mental illness --
ROBERTS: -- mental illness --
RADDATZ: -- and -- and we’re working hard on mental illness.
ROBERTS: Look, mental illness in this country is a disaster. Our biggest mental illness hospitals are jails. The L.A. jail, the Cook County (ph) jail, that’s -- that's where we treat people with mental illness. And the president hasn’t done anything. In fact, he made it harder for people who do have some mental incapacity, he made it easier for them to get guns. Revoked an Obama rule. But even so, suppose you even said it was mental illness. It's not mental illness that causes nine people to die in 30 seconds. It's a high gauge weapon that causes nine people to die in 30 seconds.
DOWD: And there is -- I’m just (ph) follow something up with what Cokie said. There's no data that says the gun violence problem in America is related to the mental illness problem. The difference between 22 people getting shot in El Paso -- or 21 people getting shot in El Paso, it’s the difference between somebody with a gun and somebody without a gun in America. And this sort of faux thing that gets created on -- well, it’s mental illness and that’s what we need to solve or it’s video games. Every single other country in the world has a mental illness or people play video games. The only difference is access to guns.
RADDATZ: And -- and Alexi, I want to -- I want to just -- just stop on this -- this for a moment and move to 2020. Obviously it's a -- it’s a topic there as well. You had John Hickenlooper drop out this week. What difference does that really make and what did you see this week that moved the needle at all?
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, I don't know that John Hickenlooper makes a difference for the 2020 race, except that luckily it's a little bit smaller for us. What it does change, I think -- and I think folks like Chuck Schumer in the Senate are really happy about this -- are Democrat Senate prospects moving into the 2020 election. I think a lot of folks like to focus on the presidential election because it’s a little bit sexier than Congressional races, but Democrats are still in a tricky situation if they don’t reclaim control of the Senate in 2020.
And so John Hickenlooper dropping out to possibly pursue -- he hasn't announced yet, but I’ve heard from people close to his campaign that he's very seriously considering this. Senator Chuck Schumer really told him, you know, you could be the difference between Mitch McConnell being minority leader in 2021 or Democrats taking control of the Senate. I think he’s really leaning toward that. But on the presidential side, what we’ve been watching -- and I -- we were talking about in the green room is Elizabeth Warren's consistent and incremental rise in the polls.
We’ve seen folks like Kamala Harris have this sort of significant bump after good debate performances, but that’s sort of leveled back out to where it was before she had this debate performance. Same as Joe Biden. He took a dip in the polls after Kamala went after him, he’s leveled out to where he was. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, has been steadily climbing because of her ability to convey her message to people that she has a plan and she knows how she’s going to pay for these things.
DOWD: And -- and -- and it's not only Elizabeth -- there’s two things I think that have happened --
RADDATZ: Quickly if you can, there, Matt.
DOWD: -- Elizabeth Warren's rise and Bernie Sanders' drop. And I think those two things are the things that have mainly changed this race so far. In the end, Iowa’s not going to decide the race, Iowa’s going to limit who we consider in the following primaries.
RADDATZ: And -- and I got to ask you one final question. There was word that the president might be trying to buy Greenland.
DRUCKER: Hey, there's a lot of beach front property there, right? So why not. I think this is the kind of thing the president does to inject himself into the news cycle and get us all talking about him and things he wants to do rather than his opponents and the problems they see with him.
RADDATZ: It was a good week for distractions, no doubt about it.
DOWD: If we just got their health care coverage. We'd be better off if we got Greenland's health care coverage, we'd be better off.
RADDATZ: Thanks for that, Matt. Thanks to all of you.
We'll be right back with Stacey Abrams on her new fight against voter suppression. Her take on the 2020 Democratic field and on President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election. But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in the state, all pin his hopes for election on suppression of the people's democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.
So let's be clear, this is not a speech of concession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That was Georgia's Stacey Abrams last November at the end of her bid to become the first African-American female governor in the U.S., mincing no words that she believed voter suppression gave the election to her opponent.
Now, after months of speculation about her political future and whether she would join the crowded 2020 presidential field, Abrams this week launched her new initiative, Fair Fight 2020, focused on taking on what she calls voter suppression in the upcoming election.
ABC's Lindsey Davis traveled to Atlanta to discuss Abrams' efforts.
LINDSEY DAVIS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe that elections are essentially rigged?
ABRAMS: What I mean by rigged is this: we have a right to vote in the United States that is afforded to eligible American citizens, but we have seen over the last 20 years a constriction on who has the right to use that right. We have seen it through voter ID laws. You can't get on the rolls. And if you get on the rolls you can't stay. You may not be able to cast your ballot, because they close your precinct or they change the rules, that's rigging the game.
DAVIS: You have suggested that voter suppression is more insidious now, in 2019, than it was even in the ‘60s. How so?
ABRAMS: We have always struggled with voter suppression. But what's happened in the last 20 years, is that it's gone underground. It's no longer hoses and laws that say you cannot vote, it is this insidious nature that says it's race neutral, that we're just putting in these laws in place for everyone, but we know it has a disproportionate effect on the communities that have long been marginalized.
DAVIS: In the last presidential election, there was a decrease in black voters for the first time in two decades. Your initiative obviously is to make sure people can vote. How do you make sure they show up at the polls?
ABRAMS: In America we can choose to vote or not vote. Good candidates give you a reason to vote, but good government makes certain you can cast that vote. And what I take exception to is that we do not have people in government who are living up to their obligations. In fact, they are thwarting the will of the people by denying them access. And that's just wrong.
DAVIS: You have decided not to run for president.
ABRAMS: I have.
DAVIS: Why is it a better personal choice for you to focus on voter suppression than to run for president?
ABRAMS: I've been privileged in my life to try many different things. I have been an entrepreneur. I've been a writer. I've been a tax attorney. I've been what my mother calls on a trajectory of downward economic mobility by taking on public service opportunities without regard to what the pay is, because I don't think you go into politics for the money and you don't go into it for the title, you go in it for the work. And with each decision I've made about the jobs I apply for, which is what you do when you run for office, I make certain that it's the right job, that I'm the right person and it's the right time.
And when I looked at this current crop of candidates running for the Democratic nomination, I think they're extraordinary. And I think voter suppression is an intrinsic problem that is bigger than just Georgia. Georgia was emblematic of it and certainly was a singularity in terms of how grotesque the process was, but we're not alone. And so for me the decision not to run for president was one of saying where could I do my best work? And that's making certain that we set up voter protection teams across the country.
DAVIS: You know, the polls show that Democratic voters, they're worried about the economy and health care and immigration and abortion and gun control. It rarely comes up that people are worried about voter suppression. You feel this is more important than those other issues?
ABRAMS: No. I think this is fundamental to tackling those other issues.
The ability to vote is how you tackle climate change. We can't have climate change legislation simply by wishing it. We have to be able to vote into office our representatives.
DAVIS: You have said as recently as this past Tuesday, in front of the crowd in Las Vegas, that "We won." Why continue to use that language "We won"?
ABRAMS: Because winning an election is not simply about a candidate getting to cross the finish line and get the job.
What I wanted, what the thousands of people who joined me wanted, what the 1.9 million people who voted wanted, they wanted to be seen and heard in ways they hadn't been before. And they were.
And I don't ever want to diminish that, because one of the other parts of voter suppression that is so pervasive is that it starts to depress your sense of possibility. When you find it hard to exercise your right to vote, you start to think it's not worth it.
DAVIS: Would you like to be vice president?
ABRAMS: I am open to the conversation. But we need to make sure we have a nominee first.
DAVIS: I have heard in the black community people saying it's going to take an old white man to beat an old white man.
ABRAMS: I think that any candidate who is standing for office right now is electable because I believe Donald Trump is eminently beatable.
But he's not the target. The target is victory for our values.
And so the goal that I have is to make certain we have a candidate who has the right policies, but that we have a platform and a capacity to ensure that the votes are cast and counted, so that that person, male or female, black, white or Latino, becomes the next president of the United States.
DAVIS: But why do you think that Joe Biden's message seems to be resonating more with black voters than, say, Senators Harris or Booker?
ABRAMS: Vice President Biden is a known quantity. He's been a part of the national conversation for decades.
What I believe electability means is that you can tell the people not only what you're going to do, but why it matters. And I'm looking forward to the end of this process, so we see who comes out on top.
DAVIS: Do you have any concern about some of his commentary about race?
ABRAMS: I think, if you listen to the whole of what Joe Biden says, it is consistent with Democratic values, and always has been.
I think we lose out if we spend so much time focusing on missteps or malapropisms, and not focusing on the content. And, right now, every Democratic candidate, I think, is talking about the right things. And that is protecting America, renewing America, and ensuring that we are restored in our values and in our standing in the world.
DAVIS: Would you say that President Trump is a white supremacist or a racist?
ABRAMS: I have said many times he's a racist.
But, more importantly, he does not value Americans, and he does not value humanity. And that should be more disturbing to everyone than the title that we prescribe to him.
DAVIS: So, let's fast-forward five years. What position would you like to have?
ABRAMS: One that helps me do the work of ensuring that poverty is coming to its end, that people have access to the right to vote, that communities are vibrant and thriving.
I want to stand in office and do the work it takes to make sure that we have a fair fight in our elections, that we have a fair count about who's here, but, most importantly, that everyone has the freedom and the opportunity to thrive.
RADDATZ: And our thanks to Linsey Davis and Stacey Abrams.
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. .