A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Inside job.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anonymous, meaning gutless, a gutless editorial.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump enraged by that anonymous essay in The New York Times describing how administration officials are secretly conspiring to contain the president.
TRUMP: Is it subversion? Is it treason? It's a horrible thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And by Bob Woodward's new bombshell based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Trump officials.
TRUMP: The book means nothing. It's a work of fiction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a one-to punch like we've never seen before, a president's own team calling him incurious, undisciplined, dishonest and dangerous, detailing their frustrations and their fears. Trump now more isolated than ever.
And a This Week exclusive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Padopoulos...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come over here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: George Padopoulos, the first Trump aide sentenced in the Mueller investigation. His campaign meetings about Russia sparked the FBI probe. But did his testimony help Mueller build the case for collusion? What does it mean now for the attorney general and the president? Padopoulos here live this morning.
BARACK OBAMA, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not conservative. It sure isn't normal. It's radical.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama hits the trail, President Trump hits back.
TRUMP: I watched it, but I fell asleep.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Obama calls out Trump by name for the first time, calls on Democrats to take congress back. Will the unusual gambit pay off big or fuel a GOP backlash? Insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable. 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, and welcome to This Week.
We have said this before, and I'm sure we're going to say it again, it was a week that felt like a turning point. Some called it a constitutional crisis, others a democratic crisis. According to Bob Woodward, John Kelly thinks the White House he's running is crazytown.
Woodward's book plus that anonymous essay in The New York Times reinforced reporting we've seen for months, but they also took it to a new and disturbing level describing in shocking detail an administration where top advisers question the president's competence and character and take extraordinary steps in their view to protect the country from its president.
It's something we haven't seen since the darkest days of Watergate. And we're going to debate it with our roundtable this morning.
But in another echo of Watergate, we begin with the latest development in the Mueller investigation, the sentencing of George Papadopoulos. The foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, who became the first member of team Trump to cooperate with the special counsel.
What he was doing on the Trump campaign, a mystery from the start. No one had heard of him when he first appeared on Trump's official list of foreign policy advisers, but there he was right across the table from Trump at the national security team's first meeting.
And now we know that what a suspected Russian agent told him about hacked emails from Hillilary Clinton set off the FBI's probe into Russian interference in our election.
Papadopoulos will spend only two weeks in prison for lying to the FBI when they first questioned him about his Russian contacts. How his testimony fits into the broader probe, whether it helped build a case that some in the Trump campaign were actually conspiring with Russians, still a mystery.
But we do have the chance to question him this morning in his first interview since the sentencing. George Papadopoulos, welcome to This Week.
GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Thank you for hosting me, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's go back to the beginning. You wanted to join the Trump campaign for a long time, from 2015, didn't work out right away, but finally in March 2016 you had a talk with campaign co-chair Sam Clovis about joining the campaign. And he told you that a focus of the campaign as he was hiring you would be improving U.S./Russia relations.
Did tell you why? And how did you follow up?
PAPADOPOULOS: I didn't really understand why except that obviously candidate Trump at the time was very vocal about pursuing some sort of working relationship with President Putin should he ever be elected president, so it was no secret that the campaign, especially when the boss is looking to improve relations at some level with Russia, that my supervisor at the time during an interview would be asking me if I'd be, you know, inclined to support that initiative.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you took that seriously. You took responsibility for it. Just about a week or so later, you met with a man who's become famous, Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor with ties to Russian intelligence, connected to Russian intelligence. Ddo you think that meeting was a coincidence?
PAPADOPOULOS: I don't know, George. I was working at a group called the London Center of International Law Practice. I had notified them that I would be leaving London to go back to the United States where I was going to pursue my new career, or job, but they still decided to take me to Rome with them on some sort of business trip where I met this professor.
To this day, I have no -- no understanding why or why fate put me in the same room with this professor in Rome --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But when he found out you were working for the campaign, he was very interested?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what did you talk about?
PAPADOPOULOS: He basically presented himself as this well-connected, well-traveled former diplomat who could essentially connect me and the campaign to Russian officials and to other leaders around the world. I think he even told me that one of his good friends was actually the Vietnamese prime minister. You know, he was connected to various think tanks in Europe, the State Department. So I took him serious initially.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you followed up on this potential meeting with Putin. You guys had several conversations, had some more meetings. And then you ended up back in the United States for that now infamous March 31 meeting, the first full meeting of the Trump national security team. We’re going to show that right there. The picture, of course, with you there and the president, Attorney General Sessions there as well.
When it was your chance to speak at that meeting, what did you say?
PAPADOPOULOS: So basically what happened was we had a -- a -- some sort of round table where we all discussed what our backgrounds were, what we were actually going to contribute to the campaign now that we were all sitting across from the principles, Jeff Sessions and candidate Donald Trump. I explained to them that I come from a think tank background and I work in the energy industry but I do have a connection that can establish a potential summit between candidate Trump and President Putin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the reaction?
PAPADOPOULOS: The reaction, of course, was mixed. There were many people in that room that came from conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, who you know, nodded in disapproval. Candidate Trump at the time nodded at me. I don’t think he was committed either way. He was open to the idea. And he deferred, of course, to then senior Senator Jeff Sessions, who I remember being quite enthusiastic about hosting --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say he was quite enthusiastic. The attorney general has testified under oath something quite the contrary. I want to show that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: And I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government for that matter.
MALE: There are reports that you, shut George down, unquote, when he proposed that meeting with Putin. Is this correct, yes or no?
SESSIONS: Yes. I pushed back. I’ll just say it that way because it was --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Attorney general says he pushed back. Is he telling the truth?
PAPADOPOULOS: I -- all I can say is this -- this was a meeting from about two years ago. My recollection differs from Jeff Sessions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He did not push back?
PAPADOPOULOS: All I can say is my recollection differs from his at this point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did anyone discourage you from pursuing that possible summit between Trump and Putin?
PAPADOPOULOS: As far as I remember after that meeting on March 31, I actively sought to leverage my contacts with the professor to host this meeting. The campaign was fully aware with what I was doing, including Corey Lewandowski, Sam Clovis, I think even during -- actually preceding the meeting on the 31 of March, I think Sam Clovis was telling me excellent work while I was actively discussing with the group and Sam that I was talking with Mifsud and that this person could potentially organize a meeting for us with Putin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And in April, that other meeting with Professor Mifsud where he said for the first time that he knew of possible hacked Hillary Clinton e-mails. What exactly did he say?
PAPADOPOULOS: So this meeting took place at the Andaz hotel by Liverpool Street Station in London. As far as I remember, what happened was Joseph Mifsud had informed me that he would be travelling to Moscow the week before we met at the Andaz hotel where he had a series of meetings at the -- at the Duma, which I believe --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Russian parliament.
PAPADOPOULOS: Exactly, which I believe is the equivalent of the Russian parliament. Then he sat me down and he was quite giddy. And he told me, I have information that the Russians have thousands of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. There’s a misunderstanding that he told me about DNC or Podesta or any of these --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because that was right after the hack of John Podesta’s e-mails.
PAPADOPOULOS: This was late April. I think Podesta’s e-mails were hacked --
PAPADOPOULOS: Yes. I just -- to my recollection, I never heard the name Podesta DNC. I saw him as somebody at the time -- you have to -- we have to understand what my impression of this individual was at the time. At the time, I was actively seeking to leverage him to meet with the Russian ambassador in London. After he promised that they would be inclined to meet, he was unable to set up any meetings with me and any senior Russian officials.
He introduced me to a low level think tank official in Moscow, Ivan Timofeev and a Russian student who he purported was the niece of Vladimir Putin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this news about the e-mails is pretty big.
PAPADOPOULOS: It was very big, but because of his inability to really connect me the way I wanted him to, when he did state this, you know, I guess it was a momentum statement, at the time I thought how could this person possibly hold the keys to the kingdom of such a massive conspiracy when he couldn’t even introduce me to the people I wanted.
So I was – of course I was shocked, but at the same time, this wasn’t a Russian official telling me this either.
STEPHANOPOULOS: John Mashburn, who was working on the campaign, testified that you sent an e-mail to him talking about this.
PAPADOPOULOS: If – I have no recollection of doing that, George. If I did send an e-mail and especially if others were copied on it, I’m sure that evidence would have been produced by now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you can’t guarantee that you did not.
PAPADOPOULOS: I could just say if that e-mail was sent, even I had deleted it, if that’s what people are – believe I did, there would be a copy somewhere else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it’s your testimony that you don’t remember telling anyone in the campaign about that. You understand why that’s pretty hard to believe. This is pretty big news coming to you, you’re wanting to get connected inside this campaign, you’re in constant e-mail contact with others in the campaign and you don’t tell them about this.
PAPADOPOULOS: Well we actually looked back at what was happening around that time. I think around that time is when Corey Lewandowski had just been fired, Paul Manafort had just taken the helm of the campaign and I actually had reached out to Manafort and told him look, I have the information that the Russian government might want to host candidate Trump.
Are you interested or not, or I just don’t want to continue this exercise if it’s fruitless. And as far as I remember, it didn’t seem that Paul Manafort wanted to pursue this meeting.
So as far as I remember, why on earth would I then, after I was shut down in a – I guess in a formal way after a lot of vacillating between the campaign, would I then tell the campaign something like that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well but you continued to pursue a meeting and you did have other meetings with diplomats in May including the Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, where you did tell him about this.
PAPADOPOULOS: Allegedly, I have no recollection of ever telling him that. I remember many details about that meeting and I remember the context of this meeting. I do remember telling another senior level diplomat, the Greek foreign minister, which I am openly – I openly told.
But for some reason, I just don’t remember ever telling that individual.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That – that – that’s hard to believe as well, as you know, you remember what you drank at the meeting, you remember you had a gin and tonic, you remember – you said you weren’t drunk at the meeting, you remember where you were, you remember other things other you talked about.
You don’t remember the actual detail that sparked the FBI investigation into Russian interference?
PAPADOPOULOS: I mean I could just – I can give details of what I remember from that meeting. Their – I mean it’s actually quite fresh in my mind, but that particular part I don’t remember at all talking about with this person.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s clear in retrospect that the Russians were reaching out to you, isn’t it?
PAPADOPOULOS: I guess if somebody was using an obscure professor – Maltese professor to get to me – to the campaign, yes. But I never met with a single Russian official in my life (inaudible).
STEPHANOPOULOS: You continued to meet – to try to pursue that meeting throughout the summer, you continue to do other work for the campaign including setting up other foreign meetings.
You know, in that you came into contact with Steve Bannon, with Paul Manafort, with Mike Flynn.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you ever talk about Russia with Mike Flynn?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Never talked with Russia about Mike Flynn. And you were hoping after the election to get a job working in foreign policy for the Trump administration.
PAPADOPOULOS: Of course.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it was in that context on January 27, 2017 when you met with the FBI and lied to them about your meetings with Joseph Mifsud. Why did you lie to them?
PAPADOPOULOS: As you stated quite eloquently, at the time of my interview with the FBI, I think around three or four days before that, I was at the inauguration attending parties with senior level transition officials.
I understood that there was an incipient investigation into a Russian interference in the 2016 election. And I found myself, as somebody who worked incredibly hard over the past year with the campaign to actually have the candidate Trump be elected.
And then I found myself pinned between the Department of Justice and the sitting president and having probing questions that I thought might incriminate the sitting president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were trying to protect the president.
PAPADOPOULOS: Of course.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why of course?
PAPADOPOULOS: Because, you know, I didn’t understand really the nature of what was going on. Of course I’m remorseful, I’m contrite and I did lie but, you know, you’re just taken off guard I guess in a such a momentous situation where you’re potentially sitting there, incriminating the president, even though of course I don’t think I did.
You know, that was probably in the back of my mind, of what exactly am I doing here talking about Russian hacking or election interference with the candidate that I just worked for.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You then go to Europe, spend much of the spring in Europe, and do you believe at that time the FBI was still tracking you?
PAPADOPOULOS: I believe so, yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you came back in July when you were arrested upon your return. Tell us about what happened when you arrested and then questioned by Robert Mueller’s agents?
PAPADOPOULOS: The day of the arrest?
PAPADOPOULOS: So I was flying in from Athens, via Munich and my touchdown in Dulles Airport in Washington and I'm texting or messaging my girlfriend at the time and I'm letting her know that there's people watching me here at the airport. There's something very odd, you know, there's some gentlemen in a suit and red tie and they're just staring at me while everybody else is exhausted off a transAtlantic flight.
I get to the kiosk where I'm attempting to put my passport in the kiosk to get my visa to re-enter the country and I am -- there's a badge in my face that this is the FBI, you should come with us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you knew from those first questioning after you returned that you were in serious trouble.
PAPADOPOULOS: Of course.
PAPADOPOULOS; What was that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: How? What did they tell you exactly?
PAPADOPOULOS: Basically they told me that if this is what happens when you don't tell us everything about your Russian contacts.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you made a pretty quick decision to cooperate with them.
In the course of your meetings with Mueller's team, were you surprised by how much they knew, not only about your activities, but about the campaign?
PAPADOPOULOS: I think the FBI knows, especially if the FBI has an eye on you, they are going to know everything about your life, and supposedly the campaign as well, so I wasn't shocked at all by the information they had about me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Mueller's team says you did not offer substantial cooperation, you only gave information when pushed.
PAPADOPOULOS: I did my best, that's all I can say. I offered what I knew. I certainly wasn't going to lie to please anybody. I just stated what I knew and those were the facts.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Based on all of your meetings with them over the course of the last several months, and you had at least four meetings with Mueller's team, did you ever meet with Mueller himself?
PAPADOPOULOS: No, I did not.
STEPHANOPOULOS; Based on everything you learned from those meetings, do you believe they have evidence that people inside the Trump campaign, or advisers to President Trump colluded with Russia?
PAPADOPOULOS; I can't really get into details about what I discussed with the special counsel because there's still an ongoing investigation, of course. I can just speak for myself and my verdict I think speaks volumes of how I was involved at this time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you -- you know, your lawyers describe you as the first domino in this investigation. Do you believe you're going to be the last?
PAPADOPOULOS: I mean of course i'm not the last. There have been other guilty pleas and convictions. I think Paul Manafort is sitting in jail as we speak. So, of course, I'm not the last. But apparently I was the start.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And President Trump had his reaction to your sentencing on Friday as well. I want to show that right there. He had a tweet coming out of this -- we want to put that up on the screen right now. There it is, 14 days for $28 million, $2 million a day. No collusion. A great day for America. What's your response to that?
PAPADOPOULOS: I'm just reading my -- I guess my sentencing. I was sentenced to 14 days in prison for mistakes I made, but I have really no opinion on what the president said about my sentencing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your lawyer said that President Trump hindered the investigation more than you did. Do you agree?
PAPADOPOULOS: Those are their opinions. I have no idea about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe -- is President Trump still the candidate, been the kind of candidate, president you expected to be when you signed up?
PAPADOPOULOS: When I signed up I was a foreign policy adviser. I wasn't dealing with social issues or economic issues for that matter. On foreign policy, I think he's done a good job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Done a good job.
PAPADOPOULOS: I think he's done a good job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
PAPADOPOULOS: I see improvement on the Korean peninsula. I see NATO expanding their capabilities under President Trump. I do see a detente emerging between U.S. and Russia. I think things are stabilizing around the world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think he tried to block the Russian investigation? And do you agree with his attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department?
PAPADOPOULOS: I think that this investigation should go through the process. I don't think anybody should obstruct anything. And I have no opinion on -- and I actually have no knowledge of the president is obstructing anything. That is just my opinion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you still loyal to President Trump?
PAPADOPOULOS: I'm loyal to my country first and foremost and that's actually why I decided to cooperate with the special counsel. But, of course, it's in everyone's interests for the president to succeed, so, of course, I wish him all the luck in the world and I hope he continues to do good things for this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think when the entire Mueller investigation is finished that they will demonstrate that there was collusion between the Trump campaign, between Trump advisers and the Russians?
PAPADOPOULOS: You know what, George, I have no idea. All I can say is that my testimony might have helped move something towards that, but I have no idea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to finally show one tweet you sent around August 26th when you were considering dropping your plea agreement. And I want to put it up on the screen right now. It was a quote from Machiavelli. "it is a double pleasure to deceive the deceiver." Who's deceiving and who is the deceiver?
PAPADOPOULOS: Actually, that's -- people have read too much into that. That's actually a quote I saw from a movie I liked and just decided to tweet it. So I think people read a little too much into it. And actually I wasn't...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't it an odd, odd thing to tweet out when you're facing sentencing for lying to the FBI?
PAPADOPOULOS: People could see it that way. That wasn't, of course, my intention. And there's no reason -- if I wanted to drop my plea agreement, I would have.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And are you confident that when the Mueller investigation is done, it will be shown that you have told the whole truth?
PAPADOPOULOS: I believe so, absolutely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: George Papadopoulos, thanks for your time.
We're going to have more with George and his wife Simona later in the program. And the "Roundtable" is up next. All the fallout from Bob Woodward and that anonymous op-ed in The New York Times. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It's not clear to us anyway that it's somebody in the White House. And they're saying senior administration official, that could be many people.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: If you're not in a position to execute the commander's intent, you have a singular option, and that is to leave. Because I know someone will say, gosh, you didn't answer the question. It's not mine.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think The New York Times should be ashamed. And I think whoever wrote this anonymous editorial should also be ashamed, as well.
TRUMP: Eventually the name of this sick person will come out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The name has not come out yet, anonymous in The New York Times. A lot to talk about on our "Roundtable" this morning. I'm joined by our chief White House correspondent Jon Karl; Democratic strategist, Obama White House veteran Stephanie Cutter; Lanhee Chen, former policy director for the Romney 2012 campaign, now a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor, former prosecutor, served on the Trump transition, and New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg.
And, Jon, let's get started. Just take us inside the White House this week. You had the Bob Woodward leaks coming out, I guess, Tuesday or -- and -- and Wednesday and then right on the heels of that, this anonymous thing in the New York Times. What is it like inside when that happens?
JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well the president was already in a terrible mood when this all happened. If you remembered on Sunday, the day before the first Woodward excerpts come out, you had him tweeting at Jeff Sessions, telling him to stop the investigations -- or suggesting he should stop the investigations --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Republican congressman (ph).
KARL: Republican congressman (ph). So the president was already in a very bad place, concerned about where things are going with the midterms. But look, there is an -- there is a -- there is a witch hunt going on in -- in the West Wing. The president is obsessed with finding out who did this, punishing that person, and now of course also suggesting that the New York Times should be punished for publishing it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, he went right at the New York Times. Michelle Goldberg, you of course write for that -- that op-ed page. And a lot of questions also for the New York Times coming out of that, especially what this definition of senior administration official is. It can be quite an elastic definition.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I’m not in a position to answer that. I mean, I think I’m -- you know --
STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t tell you who it is, right?
GOLDBERG: Yes. No. I -- I -- I wish they did and I certainly -- and --
GOLDBERG: -- and I certainly, you know, begged my editor, but I don’t think she knows either. I think it’s a pretty closely held secret within the organization.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it does raise the question, Chris Christie, about just how serious this is. It’s -- it’s quite a different thing if this were a member of the cabinet or one of the assistants to the president versus, say, a deputy assistant secretary of state.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, ABC NEWS: Well you and I spoke about this on Thursday and I think it’s only become clearer since then with the denials that we’ve seen that it’s more likely than not, now, that this senior administration official isn’t all that senior at all. And -- and the fact is that if they’re not, then you don’t know how much real interaction they’ve had with the president, what they really know or what they’re saying that’s second or third hand information.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead.
GOLDBERG: Well I was just going to say first of all, I don’t know necessarily that the person who wrote this, if you ask them, would say oh, you’ve got me, it was me. Right? I’m not sure how seriously --
STEPHANOPOULOS: To take the denials here.
GOLDBERG: Right, exactly. I mean, Mark Felt also denied being Deepthroat many, many, many times before it came out that he actually was. And -- and also, I think what do we have? I don’t know what the number of the denials is, but there are a lot of people with very senior crucial roles in the administration of both the White House, the State Department, national security. To say that it’s not one of these dozen or two dozen people doesn’t tell you anything about how senior this person is --
CHRISTIE: Now wait a second, it does tell you how senior this person is.
GOLDBERG: Really? Is it --
CHRISTIE: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
GOLDBERG: -- John Kelly, you don’t think that that’s a -- that -- that’s --
CHRISTIE: Listen, I -- I -- I don’t -- I know. I -- I -- what I’m telling you is that the people who have denied so far and the list of people who have denied encompass almost all the people that you and I would determine are senior administration officials --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually, one of -- one of the persuasive pieces I saw was by Will Saletan in Slate, who said -- who suggested it could have been Ambassador Jon Huntsman, the Russian -- the ambassador to Russia. And his denial was a little squishy. But -- but beyond that point -- I want to bring this to Stephanie -- is while you combine not only the op-ed but what the person was saying in the op-ed about how a -- a series of people who are part of this resistance, combine that with the reporting in Bob Woodward where he details people working against the president, that is pretty shocking.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: It’s pretty shocking. It’s nothing that we didn’t already know. You know, just to go back to the (ph) --
STEPHANOPOULOS: We didn’t know that Gary Cohn was stealing memos off the president’s desk.
CUTTER: Well, no, we didn’t know details like that but we knew exactly where Gary Cohn stood on this, it was one of the reasons he resigned. You know, I think there are lots of -- I’ve worked in two White Houses under two different presidents. There are a lot of serious people that work in that building. A lot of people -- serious person -- people that work across administrations that are senior that you’ve never heard of. It could be any one of them.
And I think what they’re detailing is what we all suspected, that this president is not up to the job. The question is what’s the purpose of that op-ed? That op-ed is not contributing really to the discussion and they’re not profiles in courage, in standing up and saying I’m going to do something about this. I’m just going to -- you know what (ph), when President Obama addressed this on the campaign trail and he said it’s not enough to be supporting 90 percent of the crazy things but standing up to just 10 percent.
DO something about it. If you think this man is not fit for the job, then -- then be public, have the courage --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Get up and (ph) --
CUTTER: -- to stand up and do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How -- you’re connected in Republican foreign policy circles, Republican policy circles. How widespread is this resistance inside the administration?
LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, ROMNEY 2012 CAMPAIGN: I think it’s fair to say that there are a number of people on the administration who have differing policy views from the president or came into the administration with differing policy views from the president. I think it’s a very different thing, on the one hand, to say let’s all get together beforehand and talk about how to influence how the president’s going to make foreign policy.
It’s quite another, as the op-ed claims, to say once the president’s made a decision, we’re not actually going to do that. Right? So I think the latter category is a much smaller group of people, if -- if -- if more than just a few, because this is a very troubling thing, to say the president said we’re going to execute this policy, we’re just not going to do it (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this --
KARL: But -- but George, I have to tell you, from the first weeks of this -- of the Trump administration, I have had top people on his team, including people very much with the program generally tell me you think it’s crazy? You should see the stuff we stop from happening.
That’s the theme of the Woodward book, that’s the theme of this op-ed, that’s –
CHRISTIE: That’s also (ph) different though, Jon, to say you stop things from happening, could very much be what Lanhee’s talking about, which is that, you know, the president says he wants to do something, the advisors get a meeting, they sit down, they talk him through it and they talk him out of it.
Well that happens all the time, it happened to me as governor, it happens to principles all the time. You’re going to react to something, you’re going to say you want to do something, cooler heads prevail or different information comes in and you change your mind.
That happens all the time.
GOLDBERG: Yes, but they’re not talking about kind of getting a rival style debate, right, they’re talking about contempts and as the name of Bob – of Woodward’s book is, we’ll fear, right.
You hear over and over and over again, including from people who agree with Trump’s agenda, that he is unfit, that his instability puts us in danger and that they feel like they have to be there to be the adults in the room.
And I honestly don’t understand how people can be part of this and not feel – not feel shame and not feel some responsibility for voicing this on this nation.
CUTTER: There was – there was one line in the op-ed that really did speak out to me that other people aren’t talking about, and that’s the – the president’s lack of morality. And –
CUTTER: Amoral – amorality. And that’s for anybody living in the United States should speak to the importance of this debate that we’re having, whether it’s the Woodward book or this op-ed, you have to look at the decisions the president had made and what his instincts are.
And don’t just look at what people are saying behind the scenes or anonymously printing any op-ed, look at his actual decisions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well and Lanhee that’s a good point (ph) this isn’t just people who have policy differences with the president, what’s so striking both in the Woodward book and in the op-ed is that these are personal observations on the president’s character and competence.
CHEN: Yes, and I mean I think that is something that does differentiate it from just policy, but then the question is to what end does one write an op-ed piece like this. What is the – I mean what are you – if your point is that you believe the president is amoral and unfit for office, then resign and make that case publicly and allow the Congress to do its job and force the Congress in some ways to do its job.
There is a separation of powers, as you heard Ben Sasse had a remarkable introduction during the Kavanaugh hearings last week where he talked about how Congress has abdicated its authority in a lot of ways to check the executive.
If you really believe this is a problem then there are ways of dealing with this that go beyond just writing an anonymous op-ed.
KARL: I mean the purpose here seems clearly to hurt the president, that’s why this person runs (ph). If you really were trying to steer things internally, you wouldn’t come out and do this. But I think –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But then why not resign?
KARL: But I think a very interesting question here is if this person who did it is one of those who has publicly denied it, what does the New York Times do with that information, and then (ph) continue protect somebody who is publicly telling a lie.
CHRISTIE: That’s – that’s why I say that the denials are important, because I would assume that the New York Times would be responsible enough that if someone is out there outright lying about their participation in something like this, that that would then force them to out this person if they’re lying about it.
CHEN: They know a public figure is lying.
CHRISTIE: Right and a senior administration official, as they deny it, someone who has responsibility. And let me tell you, the idea that someone should be shamed for working in this administration is – is an outrageous statement, it’s an absolutely outrageous statement.
You’re serving your country, and if – if you get to the point, you have two choices, we can get to the point where the policy differences or the personal differences are profound enough that you can’t be proud of being there anymore, then get up and leave.
But don’t be a coward and write an anonymous thing and then have a – have a news organization be willing to accept that kind of cowardice, because that’s what it is.
GOLDBERG: Well look, the news organization is not responsible for making sure that members of the administration behave honorably. If members of the administration are behaving dishonorably enough to go out and play stuff (ph) as – like that, that itself is new.
But the fact is, and obviously you know this, nobody in this administration or the number of people in this administration who have any respect for the president in an incontestable, which his why it’s been so hard to –
-- which is why it’s been so hard to narrow down who wrote this in the first place, right, it could –
CHRISTIE: That’s just not true. You – it’s just not true. From where you sit, you have no respect for the president, that’s obvious. But don’t tell me that the hard working people in the White House –
GOLDBERG: You think John Kelly has respect for the president?
CHRISTIE: Yes, I do think John Kelly has respect for the president because John Kelly –
Jim Mattis, by the way, and I think Jim Mattis does have respect because if he didn’t, he’d leave, because these are honorable men who have served our country and sacrificed greatly.
And if they had no – no respect for the president, they’d get up and they’d leave. And it’s outrageous to say that nobody – that nobody in this administration –
GOLDBERG: -- you think Bob Woodward had it wrong in his book?
CHRISTIE: Let me tell you something, I could tell you this much, all I know about what Bob Woodward wrote about me in the book was profoundly wrong and he never picked up the phone to fact check with me about a conversation that he quotes verbatim and words that he quotes verbatim from me that I never said, so all I can tell you is not that Bob is making things up, but that Bob may, in fact, be relying upon people who are making things up and he didn't do his homework.
It's not like I'm inaccessible, George. You know, you can find my number pretty easily.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I got it right here.
CHRISTIE: So Bob Woodward could have called George and asked how to get in touch with me, and he didn't.
CUTTER: He should have absolutely called you. Absolutely.
But, you know, you have been a U.S. attorney. You look at the preponderance of the evidence. The arguments that are being made in the Woodward book, the arguments being made about the chief of staff, or the secretary of defense or anybody else in that White House are not new arguments. This stuff has been leaking out since day one.
So there has to be some truth to it that his senior officials that are surround him feel this way about him, think that he thinks like a fifth or sixth grader, these aren't my words, these are things that are leaking out from the White House, and they have been leaking out since day one.
So we're almost two years into this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it's not only leaking out -- and Jon mentioned this at the top -- you did have at the beginning of the week that tweet from the president basically saying something again we have never seen before saying lay off these Republican members of congress who have been prosecuted. And then later in the week after the anonymous he says, "Jeff Sessions ought to investigate The New York Times.
These are unprecedented moves by a president right there in public.
CHEN: Yeah, I think certainly it seems to me that the Republican members of congress who have gotten into legal trouble probably not worth defending people like that, all right. It's also the case, though, that I think when you talk about the potential disorder in the White House, from my experience there's a lot of disorder in large government institutions all the time, right? There are rivals within those institutions. There are people who are saying things.
You know this, George, as well. There are people who are trying to spread potential untruths about others. So, I think what we have to do is we have to separate out what is happening here from maybe what is always happened since the beginning of time when we talk about political organization, right?
So how much of this is our focus on President Trump, because we believe that he's running a different kind of White House versus the reality that the White House is a very difficult place to work, that there are a lot of competing interests there and some of this is in fact...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's the point, what's different here, though, and I'll bring this to Michelle, is not the portrait of the White House, it's the portrait of the president.
GOLDBERG: And again, you could -- there was probably plenty of grumbling in the Obama White House. It's -- you could not conceive of an op-ed like this. And if somebody ever did, you would know exactly who it was because it was be at most one or two people capable of it.
And also, I mean, look at these tweets. These tweets are in and of themselves an attempt to obstruct justice, to place intolerable political pressure on the Justice Department. And I think that everyone knows that if this was reversed, if you had Obama out there tweeting that Holder needs to go easy on Democrats who had been indicted because it might affect the midterm elect, you know, Chris Christie and every Republican out there would howl for his impeachment on that alone.
CHRISTIE: No, it's not.
CHEN: Oh, come on.
CHRISTIE: Let me finish. I have more faith in the Justice Department than that, the Justice Department under Eric Holder and the Justice Department now. And I was part of the Justice Department in the Bush years for seven years when there was a lot of political pressure, because of the times we were living in. I appointed the day before September 11th, OK.
So I know that the way the people in the Justice Department, Chris Wray at the FBI, look at these things are, it's noise. It's white noise, George. The president's tweets to people in law enforcement who understand their duty is to the constitution, this is white noise.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's an extraordinary statement to call the president's tweets, the president's statements, white noise.
CHRISTIE: As it applies to law enforcement matters? He does not have the right to direct people on criminal matters. The people who are responsible for executing that job -- it doesn't matter, Jon.
KARL: I mean he says, Jeff should investigate.
CHRISTIE: Jon, it doesn't matter whether he thinks.
CUTTER: Do you think it's right?
CHRISTIE: No, of course it's not right, Stephanie. But my point is that it's not going to affect policy, because the people who in the responsible positions -- and I know these people. I served with Rod Rosenstein, as U.S. attorney in Maryland for four of his years. I served with Chris Wray, and Chris Wray acted as my lawyer. They're not going to respond to this stuff.
It is unfortunate, but it's white noise to them. They're going to follow their job. And by the way, the indictments of these Republican congressmen are a perfect example of that.
They knew the president wasn't going to react well to this, yet you know if you're going to indict a member of congress that the highest levels of the Justice Department, the deputy attorney general or the attorney general himself signed off on those indictments.
And so they're not being affected by the white noise of the tweets.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Got to take a break. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama attacked President Trump on the campaign trail this week. Will it work for the Democrats or will it backfire. The "Roundtable" is going to take that on, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentment that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear, an anger that’s rooted in our past but it’s also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: First time President Obama has taken on President Trump in publicly (ph) on the campaign trail on Friday and Saturday this weekend, wants to make a difference in these midterms.
Stephanie Cutter, you worked for him, it took some pushing to get the president out there. He’s now doing – seems committed to working through the midterms. But I want to bring you that question, some concern that it could backfire rally Trump voters as well.
CUTTER: Sure, and I think that President Obama is very aware of that. I think he’s careful in his words from the speech that we saw both on Friday and Saturday that Trump is a symptom, not the cause.
But telling people that if you disagree with what Trump’s doing, then there’s one thing you can do, get out there vote. And I think this president, you know, left the White House with a very high popularity, not just with Democrats but also with some Independents and that’s only gotten better over time.
And travelling – travelling the country with one really important message, if you want to change the direction of this country, get off your couch and go vote. That is – we know how important that is because of the results of the 2016 election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Lanhee –
CUTTER: And that’s what’s getting him off – onto the campaign trail.
STEPHANOPOULOS: you live in California, no accident that the president was in California, up to half a dozen Republican House seats there that could slip.
CHEN: Yes, I mean California is clearly going to be a battle ground. It’s interesting, the speech President Obama gave on Friday, very different from the speech he gave on Saturday.
The Friday speech went directly at Republicans, tying Republican members of Congress to Trump. Saturday I don’t think he even mentioned President Trump in California, and it speaks to the different kinds of appeal.
In California, you’re appealing to moderate Republican and independent voters to try to get Democrats over the top. On the other hand, on Friday, you’re appealing to base Democrats to turn out.
The question is which of those two is a more effective speech. In my mind, the Friday’s speech is more effective, the one where you actually go and you try to turn out your base, because midterm elections, it’s difficult to believe history’s going to change and we’re going to have a bunch of moderates showing up to vote on – on midterm election day.
This is really about motivating the base.
KARL: But, you know, Barack Obama – first of all, it says something about the identity crisis in the Democratic Party right now that Barack – there was such a demand for Barack Obama to be out there, and he, you know, remains by far the most visible Democrat in the country.
But he –
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s no surprise, he’s the most recent former (ph) president.
KARL: -- but it’s not – there’s nobody – there’s nobody even close. But – but he had a – not just a mixed record but a bad record of campaigning in midterm elections. Democrats of course got killed in 2010, got killed in 2014, the Democratic Party not just in Congress, but in the states was decimated during his presidency.
So the question is how effective will he be out there this time? He may be more effective now that there’s the contrast with Trump, but the track record –
CUTTER: -- not on the ballot, I mean midterm elections are largely reflections of who is sitting in the White House. He is not on the ballot and he’s constructing an argument about which direction he wants this country to go in.
And he has the benefit of the last 18 months to point to, say this is not America, this is not what we should be about.
KARL: -- different years (ph) than –
GOLDBERG: I just want to say about the failures in the – in previous midterms. I mean that was less about kind of his – his own failures as a campaigner or the fact that his own speeches maybe weren’t up to par as it was a huge failure of party building, a sense that kind of Obama had this so people didn’t need to mobilize.
Right, it’s not that Obama gave speeches in the past and Democrats lost seats, and therefore Obama shouldn’t give speeches. Right, I mean the party itself is mobilized and organized in a way that it just never was during Obama’s administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, let me bring this to you, because I remember pretty vividly being in the White House in 1994, President Clinton not that popular at the time getting a lot of advice to pull back, come off the campaign trail, let members of congress run their own races.
A lot of Republicans believe that their best hope coming up in the midterms is just to run on the economy, not to run on President Trump, but he's not coming off the campaign trail.
CHRISTIE: No, definitely not. This is a president who will be out there and he's going to be campaigning, because it's what he likes to do. He enjoys it. First and foremost it's because he enjoys it. Secondly, he thinks in certain places he can be helpful.
And I think they will look at where he can be helpful and look at polling numbers...
STEPHANOPOULOS: More like the Senate races than House races.
CHRISTIE: Much more likely Senate races than HOuse races.
But let me say one other thing about President Obama's speech, I find it richly ironic that he talks about the fact Trump is a symptom not the cause. OK, so what was happening, he was the president for the eight years when the cause was being created that he's now become a symptom of. But the president acts like he's detached from this, that somehow he was a dispassionate observer during the eight years beforehand.
If Donald Trump is truly -- if he's right and Donald Trump is the symptom of a cause, well, Donald Trump got elected in 2016 after eight years of Barack Obama's president. He can't detach himself interest that.
CUTTER: You're absolutely right.
Here are the other symptoms and some of the causes that the day he was elected president, after unifying the country with the largest coalition that we've seen coming together to elect for a president, Republicans had a meeting in Washington to say the one thing we need to do is make sure we have to subvert everything he does, vote against everything, stop him in his tracks and make sure he is a one-term president. And they tried to do that every step of the way -- stimulus, health care, clean energy, you name it. Everything. Tried to block him.
And as they did that, they rallied a base and played to their worst sentiments.
CHRISTIE: In very much, Stephanie, the same way that the Democrats called George W. Bush an illegitimate president from the moment the Supreme Court -- wait a second.
CUTTER: I worked...
CHRISTIE: I let you talk.
CHRISTIE: But I'm sorry, Democrats worked from 2000, from the day of the Supreme Court decision forward, to say that George W. Bush was an illegitimate president, recounting the votes...
STEPHANOPOULOS: We are getting into a historical debate that we do not have time for today.
Thank you all very much. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: To think he is being the source of the first domino, his Russian...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The first domino.
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: I think it's being sort of.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you believe he will end up, as you said, on the right side of history.
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: He's already on the right side of history. I think it will make a big difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The wife of George Padopoulos, Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos joins us now along with George. Welcome back.
You know, we did that interview several months ago. In an interview, you also talked about George as being like the John Dean in this investigation. Do you still believe that.
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: I always thought his contribution was going to be important in a way that is not defined yet and we probably have to wait to the end of this investigation to have a proper assessment of his contribution.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, George has told us earlier in an interview that he could have started this on the road to Robert Mueller demonstrating collusion with the Russians.
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: That's exactly the point I was trying to make. I'm not sure that is a contribution would reveal collusion in the sense of interference of Russians in American elections, but he has been approached by so many shady characters that will lead probably to a different revelation.
I'm not pushing forward, because (inaudible) of the deep state, absolutely not. I'm just saying that there are many shady characters that will probably be identified in a different role.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In fact, though, George, your lawyers rejected the idea that there was any prosecutorial misconduct, any entrapment of any kind. You accept that.
PAPADOPOULOS: I’m -- that’s -- you know, that’s their opinion. I -- of course I -- I wasn’t privy to any information that would have led me to believe that there was any prosecutorial misconduct. But -- so I -- I accept their -- their opinion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were questioned, as well, by Robert Mueller’s team and from the start, they suspected you were a Russian agent. How did that manifest itself?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: First of all, I am -- I -- I come from a political background myself. I used to work as a diplomat at (ph) European parliament for a few years and this could be a red flag because many officials at European Union actually -- it’s a cover up for spy jobs. I was introduced to Joseph Mifsud by the head of socialist group in European parliament and started to work with them in London shortly after I ended my work at European Parliament.
Of course this connection was highly suspicious. I respect the -- I always said I respect Mueller’s interest in my profile because clearly it’s -- it’s -- it’s quite alarming, the fact that I marry George Papadopoulos in the middle of this storm and --
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you met through Joseph Mifsud.
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: And met through Joseph Mifsud, when I -- I said in very first (ph) interviews was our cupid. But today, I still guess at who (ph) Joseph Mifsud is. I know his connection in Italy, I know his background. That’s why I think -- I still think there is a lot to come.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did -- did you ever suspect that Simona might be connected to Russia? Your dad did.
PAPADOPOULOS: I think my family were -- I think everyone was a little paranoid throughout this past year. And yes, you know, I think they thought that she might have been some sort of Russian spy. Of course I never believed anything like that. She’s just -- I don’t think every beautiful blonde person necessarily has to be a Russian agent. You know, there are many blonde Italians as well, so --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You -- you all (ph) met through Joseph Mifsud. When was the last time you spoke to him?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: My last time was November 2016.
PAPADOPOULOS: I can’t even remember. It’s been --
STEPHANOPOULOS: April 2017 maybe?
PAPADOPOULOS: No, it was probably ’16.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So not after -- not after April 2016 --
PAPADOPOULOS: I think he was reaching out to me into 2017. I was just basically ignoring him. So that -- yes (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats filed a law suit yesterday suggesting that he might be deceased. Do you know anything about that?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: That’s interesting question. I just texted the common contacting room (ph) and it (ph) told me indeed, I could not access to multiple phone numbers, but I would be deeply sorry if he actually did die. But it’s still an open market. It’s a possibility.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he’s -- as far as you know, he’s missing and it’s possible?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: It’s possible, yes.
PAPADOPOULOS: I have no idea, George. But it’s possible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And for you, you’re about to write a book?
PAPADOPOULOS: You know, I think this has been quite an interesting year. I certainly think some sort of book would definitely be in -- you know, my interest at this point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’re heading for Hollywood?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: Yes. And a family first.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Family first?
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: I would love to take the opportunity to start a family now that things are calmer. And in California will be a perfect set (ph) for us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good luck to both of you.
PAPADOPOULOS: Thank you so much, George.
MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS: Thank you.
PAPADOPOULOS: We appreciate it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s 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.