'This Week' Transcript 8-5-18: Jay Sekulow, Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Jay Inslee

VIDEO: Obstruction of justice by tweet is absurd: Trump lawyer Jay SekulowPlayABCNews.com
WATCH 'Obstruction of justice by tweet is absurd': Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow

A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Aug. 5, 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: George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: President Trump on the trail and on the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russian witch hunt, a Democrat-inspired witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Leading the campaign against Robert Mueller, calling on the attorney general to stop the investigation right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This tweet strikes me as very close to obstruction of justice.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: He used the word "should," he didn't use the word "must."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: His new concern about his son, Don Jr., sparking Trump's ire. In that high stakes game of chicken with the special counsel, will trump submit to an interview or risk a subpoena from Mueller? Are these attacks on the investigation obstruction of justice? Tough questions ahead for President Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, in a THIS WEEK exclusive.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I love Ohio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: … with a critical House election coming Tuesday, the president pulls out all the stops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're talking about this blue wave. I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will this last-minute rally preserve a safe GOP seat or drive Democrats to the polls? If the mid-terms are all about Trump, could calls for impeachment backfire on Democrats? How will it all shape the next race for president? We talk to two governors eyeing the race, Republican John Kasich and Democrat Jay Inslee. Plus, 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. The great American poet Carl Sandburg once said: "If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you, argue the law. And if both are against you, pound the table and yell like hell."

Now, we don't yet know all the facts that Robert Mueller has gathered about President Trump and his team, which laws if any they may have broken. But watching President Trump this week, he sure seemed like a man who is worried about both, a week filled with his most direct and personal attacks yet on the special counsel.

It started Sunday with baseless claims about Mueller's conflicts. On Monday Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani supplemented Trump's routine denials of Russia collusion with a new argument, collusion is not a crime.

For good measure, a presidential tweet took on both the law and the facts. "Collusion is not a crime but that doesn't matter because there was no collusion."

Then came his call to shut down the investigation. Clear words from the president of the United States. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now before it continues to stain our country any further."

Words the White House tried to clean up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not an order, it's the president's opinion. The president is not obstructing, he's fighting back. He has been, I think, crystal clear about how he feels about this investigation from the beginning.

I think I've clarified this about 10 times now. It's the president's opinion. I don't have anything further.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: One big question, what new this week triggered these extraordinary outbursts? Was it the opening of Paul Manafort's trial, the looming showdown with Mueller over a presidential interview, or this new reporting from The Washington Post?

Trump has also expressed to confidantes lingering unease about how some in his orbit, including his eldest son Donald Trump Jr., are ensnared in the Russia probe. As one adviser described the president's thinking: "He does not believe his son purposely broke the law but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal jeopardy.

A lot of questions ahead now for the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow.

Jay, thank you for joining us again on THIS WEEK.

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Hey, George, good morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And just before you came on the air another tweet from the president about what I just had there about Don Jr. He said: "Fake news is reporting a complete fabrication that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son Donald had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal, and done all the time in politics and it went nowhere. I did not know about it."

A lot to unpack right there. I assume you agree with the president that he's not concerned. But he says the meeting, totally legal, done all the time in politics, but according to the email that special counsel Robert Mueller has, this was a meeting to get information from the crown (ph) prosecutor of Russia on Hillary Clinton's campaign. How would that be legal?

SEKULOW: Well, the question is, how would it be illegal? I mean, the real question here is, would a meeting of that nature constitute a violation -- the meeting itself constitute a violation of the law? And what you have is a situation -- and I've said this well over a year.

You have to look at what laws, rules, regulations, statutes are purportedly violated here. And when you really look at this, George, and you look at the comments that the president made this week via Twitter, if you look at the comments that my colleague Mayor Giuliani has stated, they're, in one sense, rather unremarkable in that the idea that this has been going on now for well over a year, let's be honest with the American people, there are irregularities in this investigation, the likes of which we have not seen.

And so when you look at, you know, whether the president was -- I think the phrase you used was frustrated, the fact of the matter is who would not be concerned that the lead investigator on your counterintelligence investigation -- and we now know was going on for well over a year before Robert Mueller was put in place -- was making the statements that he made to Lisa Page showing bias.

How would you not be concerned that Bruce Ohr, the number four at the Department of Justice wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, which is the organization that put together with Christopher Steele the dossier. How would you not be concerned that that individual, Bruce Ohr, was still working for the Department of Justice and his wife actually --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But those are (ph) --

SEKULOW: -- working on the dossier.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are all --

SEKULOW: So you have to look at the totality.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and those (ph) --

SEKULOW: So when you look at a meeting -- when you look at a meeting, George, that took place in -- a -- a year before the (ph) -- now two years ago, the question is what law, statute or rule or regulation’s been violated? Nobody’s pointed to one.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, they actually have pointed to several including conspiracy to -- to defraud the United States. That would be one of the possible charges. The aiding and abetting conspiracy. But I want to get to the pretty remarkable shifting of explanations about this meeting. The president denying again that he knew about this meeting. When he first talked about this meeting, he denied having anything to do with statements describing the meeting, describing the meeting in a misleading way, as primarily about adoptions.

Now it’s shifted. Now the president’s saying wait, this was a meeting to get information from our opponents -- totally legal. So that’s one -- one concession right there. And -- and -- and I do have to have to ask you about this because we haven’t -- I haven’t had you on the program for -- for quite a while. And last July, a year ago when I asked you if the president had anything to do with putting out a statement about this meeting at Trump’s tower, you said he wasn’t involved in any way at all. Here’s what you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: The president didn’t sign off on -- on anything. He’s coming back from the G20. The -- the statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. and I’m sure in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn’t involved in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said the president wasn’t involved in any way at all. Later, Sarah Sanders changed that. She said oh yes, the president weighed in but didn’t dictate anything. And then in January of this year, the president’s legal team, including you, sent a memo to Robert Mueller saying this. You have received all the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the president did dictate a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son.

So why did you deny President Trump’s involvement? When did you learn that the denial wasn’t true?

SEKULOW: Well, let me tell you two things on that one. Number one, as you know, George, I was in the case at that point, what? A couple of weeks. And there was a lot of information that was gathering and as my colleague Rudy Giuliani said, I had -- I had bad information at that time and made a mistake in my statement. I’ve talked about that before. That happens when you have cases like this.

As far as when did we correct it, the important part is the information that we’ve shared with the Office of Special Counsel -- I’m not going to get into the details -- but we were very clear as to the situation involving that trip and the -- and the statements that were made to the New York Times. So I think it’s very important to point out that in a situation like this, you have -- over time, facts develop.

That’s what investigations do. I agreed to go on your network and others days within being retained on this and had a lot of information to process. I got that one wrong. So what does that mean? Well, for the purpose of, again, an investigation, it doesn’t mean illegality, it doesn’t mean criminality. I think one of the things that we’ve learned here, George, after what now? A -- over a year of this investigation is there has been no evidence put forward by anyone at this point that we’ve seen.

And we’ve seen 1.4 million documents, we’ve provided 32 witness interviews of any type of collusion on behalf of the president and the Russians. You know what we have seen, though? One of the most irregular investigations in U.S. history. And I think --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- you’ve talked about -- you talked about the irregularities --

SEKULOW: -- Republican, Democrat or whatever, you can’t -- what (ph) you can’t ignore it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I -- I understand that and I gave you a chance to --

SEKULOW: Well, you have to (ph) -- how can you ignore it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I gave you a chance to explain all the irregularities you thought you saw in the investigation. I asked you about that. You said no collusion. At first the White House said that there were no contacts with Russians. We now know there were at least 80 contacts. If the White House or anyone connected to the Trump campaign accepted information from the Russians, that could potentially be collusion. That would be -- that could be considered collusion, could be considered participating with a conspiracy.

So that’s also -- that’s also the possibility of a legal violation there as well. But I do want to ask you about --

(CROSSTALK)

SEKULOW: -- in that allegation, though, you’d have to -- the -- the so-called collusion, which by the way is not a legal term, that’s now what results in a -- a-- a issue of criminality. I mean, that’s just one theory (ph). And by the way, you know, the phrasing here, especially at this late date is very important. So everyone is still talking about this collusion concept. And when Rudy Giuliani said collusion’s not a crime, that was again rather unremarkable.

What was the fact? I mean what was the fact? Well the facts that we know is what is the violation or what violation has anybody put forward of an actual federal statute that’s been violated by the – by the president of the United States?

And we’ve yet to seen (ph) it, and as I said, we’ve seen an awful lot of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that’s one of the things that Robert Mueller’s investigating. I agree with you on that. On Don Jr., the president says he’s not concerned. Has – has Don Jr. been told that he is a target of this investigation?

Has he been interviewed by Robert Mueller?

SEKULOW: I don’t represent Don Jr. but I will tell you I – I have no knowledge at all of Don Jr. being told that he’s a target of any investigation and I have no knowledge of him being interviewed by the Special Council.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president said again that he had no knowledge of this meeting in Trump Tower. Is the president prepared to testify under oath that he had no knowledge of that meeting and that he was not involved in any way?

SEKULOW: Well you just ask the predicate first though, you got to ask the predicate first is the president prepared to testify under oath? Let me – let me address that first, because there’s been a lot of speculation over that.

We are moving as expeditiously as possible to make the determination to make our recommendation to the president. The president has been clear that he wants to interview. I will tell you his legal team is concerned.

We’re concerned on a number of reasons. Number one, a series of the questioning goes to the heart and core of his authority as president of the United States. Article II, why’d you fire James Comey? Article II.

I mean there’s a whole series of those. So the process of making a determination that the president of the United States will sit down with Bob Mueller is ongoing. It’s done in a professional manner.

But there’s not a situation where it’s just you say yes – you know I make this joke that, you know, no matter what the legal team recommends – if we recommend the – the president were to give the interview, which I think the inclination is not at this point, but if – if the – if the recommendation was give the interview, you’re going to get 12 lawyers on there saying I can’t believe that Sekulow and Giuliani and of the other lawyers allowed the president to do it.

If we say no, we’re not going to do the interview, the same 12 lawyers are going to say gee, what are they hiding? So what we have to do is put away all the clutter, what all the commentators are going to be saying and make a decision based on the law and what’s in the best interest of our client.

And that’s what we’re going to do and that takes time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well Mayor Giuliani said it was – it was likely to come within days, it could even come this week. It sounds like it’s going to take a little bit longer than that.

But what if you do – if the president does follow your initial recommendation, the recommendation you’re leading towards right now, not to sit down for interview. What happens if Mueller then subpoenas the president?

SEKULOW: You have a bite under the constitution, because it really becomes an Article II question. So what would happen is if – if, and I say if because we have no basis to know that -- at this point, that a subpoena would be filed.

And by the way, interviews can still happen, there could – there could be written questions, there’s other ways this can happen. The president may decide at the end he’s going to not take his lawyers’ advice.

I mean that’s up to him at the end of the day. He’s the president, he gets to make that decision. We’re going to give our advice. But I think look, if you get a subpoena, you file what’s called a motion to quash.

That will be argued at the district court then it would go to the court of appeals, then it would go to the Supreme Court of the United States, from the Supreme Court of the United States it goes back to the lower courts again.

So if – if the Special Council makes the determination and gets the authority, and that’s a question, they have to have the authority to seek that subpoena, a subpoena for live testimony has never been tested in court as to a president of the United States.

And there’s a lot of language articles and precedent against that. But if that decision is made, we’ll – we’ll – we’ll prepare to handle it in court. Look, I – I always operate under the assumption that that’s the case, but I – I think that the – I think that where this is with the amount of cooperation that’s gone forward, George, I mean 32 witnesses, 1.4 million documents from the – from the White House, it’s hard pressed to see why they need the president’s testimony.

Why is the president’s testimony needed here?

(CROSS TALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you make – you make that argument of both (ph), but you and the president’s allies, including Mayor Giuliani and many others, have said it was absolutely essential that Hillary Clinton sit down for an interview and do it under oath.

But you’re saying in this investigation, you don’t need the president’s cooperation.

SEKULOW: No, actually, you know, I said if I was Hillary Clinton’s lawyer I’m not sure I would have done that – would have done any interviews at that point, and that was up to her lawyers.

She – that was also – by the way, if you look at the comparison of the two, I mean they are – the way they were handled as far as the interview to interview situation, our proposed interview, completely different.

This is a completely different fact pattern. You did not have FBI directors leaking information to press in order to get an appointment of a special council. You did have the rather irregularity of James Comey announcing he’s – the investigation was open, laying out the facts and then saying it wasn’t going to be investigated and then reopening the facts and then closing it again.

That kind of interference right before an election is not helpful to our constitutional republic. I – I suspect and I hope and trust that Bob Mueller’s not going to go through that exercise again.

But I think if you just look at the situation, there is in fact, and I think you have to be clear here, a lot of factors go into whether the president of the United States, and Hillary Clinton was not the president of the United States, and that’s a big difference, whether the president of the United States should sit down for an interview when part of that interview is questioning what his authority is under the constitution, under Article II.

So that’s a big part of this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president put out a tweet this week saying Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now before it continues to stain our country any further. And you heard in our open there, democrats are saying this is evidence of obstruction of justice. Your response?

SEKULOW: Obstruction of justice by tweet is absurd. The president has a First Amendment right to put his opinions out there, but this theory that's being bandied around that you can have an obstruction case by tweet -- and by the way, Jeff Sessions and Bob Mueller and all of them, the entire department of justice are under what? The Article II branch of government. And that's why I go back to saying that at the end of the day this is all about the constitution. It's all about Article II. That would be the question. If it went to court, that would be the question that the courts would be addressing. For someone can make an allegation of obstruction, those are Article II powers and a very compelling case.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sounds like then you believe the president has the authority to shut down the investigation if he wanted to. Also on that, we're talking about obstruction of justice. And new information came out this week in the New York Review of Books, reporter Murry Watts (ph) talking about a confidential White House memorandum that said when the president met with James Comey reportedly pressured him to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn, he had been told that Flynn was under criminal investigation. Says a confidential White House memorandum which is in the special counsel's possession explicitly states that when President Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides, his then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Don McGann that Flynn was under criminal investigation. Has that memo been given to the special counsel?

SEKULOW: I'm not at liberty to discuss that number one and I'm not going to discuss a conversation that I had with the president. But if you just look at that at face value and just look at the legal issue that's existing here, George, and that is does a president have the authority to shut down an investigation. The answer to that of course under Article II is yes. The president hasn't done it. Jeff Sessions is still the attorney general. Rod Rosenstein is the deputy attorney general and Bob Mueller's the special counsel. It's a bit of an academic discussion, but again I'm not going to get into interpretations of written evidence or what memos --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you suggesting it wouldn't be a problem if the president pressured James Comey to let the Flynn investigation go after knowing that Michael Flynn was under criminal investigation?

SEKULOW: Well, I want you to understand something. I mean, I know this sounds remarkable to a lot of people but there were investigations going on on Martin Luther King Jr. -- and do you think if President Kennedy would have gone to J. Edgar Hoover and said stop that, that that would have been an obstruction of justice claim? Of course not. That would have been Article II authority. But none of that has happened here. There's been no shutting down of any investigations, no shutting down of any inquiries but we're acting as if this is to be decided in a vacuum and it's not, there's history on this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said that Robert Mueller's conflicted, talking about a nasty and contentious business relationship. What is the president referring to there and have you and his legal team filed any objections with the deputy attorney general over Robert Mueller's conflicts?

SEKULOW: The issue of conflicts was raised early on with the office of special counsel. Some of my colleagues at the time raised that issue. It's the business situation that the president refers to. There is also a concern that Bob Mueller interviewed for the FBI director and within days was appointed as the special counsel. All of that will be raised in appropriate proceedings if necessary. It may not be necessary. If it is necessary -- there may not be a proceeding to raise it. If there is a proceeding to raise it, it will be raised. Those are the kinds of things that any lawyer would do in any type of inquiry like this. You point out what would be potential conflicts of interest. So that's all that he's saying there and that's all we're saying.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally on another matter, you've been working on behalf of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor who's been held captive in Turkey. Sanctions now on both sides. I know you've talked to the president about this. Any update on that situation?

SEKULOW: We do. The president was successful in negotiating what I call phase one. Brunson was in jail, George, as you know, and Turkey has been very difficult for religious minorities. The Greek Orthodox Church has had problems, the Protestant church has had tremendous problems. This pastor had been there for 23 years, was put in jail -- was in jail for 21 months and the actual charge, George, in the indictment from the Turkish officials said Christianization. This was literally the charge they said. They said this was a violation of their like espionage and spying. The president has been very aggressive securing his release. We have obtained his release from jail. He's been returned to what we would consider a house arrest in his apartment in Izmir, Turkey. Having said that, the ultimate victory here is the return of Andrew Brunson to his country of origin which is the United States.

And I will tell you the president is working very diligently on that, I know Mike Pompeo met with the foreign minister of Turkey. I would tell you this. This is -- the 21 months in a Turkish prison, you can imagine how difficult that is. We need to see Andrew Brunson returned home. That will be good for the Brunson family, it would be good for Turkey, it would be good for the United States and out long term relations with a NATO ally. Thanks for asking.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jay Sekulow, thank you for your time this morning.

SEKULOW: Thanks, George.

STEPHANOLPOULOS: Round table’s up next. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Round table is in place. Joined by Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, also now an ABC News contributor. Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Open Societies Foundation, also Democratic strategist for President Barack Obama. Michelle Cottel from the New York Times, the lead editorial writer on politics right now. And Amanda Carpenter, welcome to you as well, Republican strategist.

I want to get right into what we just heard from Jay Sekulow. You’re also the author of "Gaslighting America". Wanted to get that out there as well.

AMANDA CARPENTER, AUTHOR, "GASLIGHTING AMERICA": Thank you (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, we just heard Jay Sekulow now and this has been part of the pattern from the whole week. Collusion didn’t happen; if it did happen, it was not a problem; nothing to see there with the Trump tower meeting. Will that hold up?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: Well, we’re going to see how the facts play out, George. But, you know, lawyers argue the alternative all the time. There was no collusion but even if there was, it wasn’t a crime anyway. So this is nothing unusual and I think there was a lot of hubbub about this earlier in the week when Mayor Giuliani said it for the first time.

And it’s lawyers arguing the alternative. What’s going to matter is what the facts turn out to be. And we’re still examining that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but that’s what I wanted to get to and what I was getting to with Jay Sekulow. What the president is arguing right now is that OK, even if this meeting was set up to get information from the Russians, that’s not a problem at all. That is illegal, isn’t it?

CHRISTIE: Well the president, as we know, is not an attorney. And so the ability for his attorneys to be able to make the arguments they need to make on his behalf, as I’ve told him for a long time, is what he should permit them to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Which gets to the question (ph), Patrick Gaspard, are these tweets hurting more than they’re helping?

PATRICK GASPARD, PRESIDENT, OPEN SOCIETIES FOUNDATION: I would expect that they are. But it’s more than just the tweets, right? Some of us are old enough to remember December of 2016 when Republican defenders of Donald Trump were all running around and saying there was absolutely no contact between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

So we – and once that was disproved, it went from no contact to well, if there was contact, there was no collusion. Now we’re hearing well, collusion is not a crime. Well (inaudible) conspiracy to support (ph) our elections is a crime and I suspect that these tweets will play a role in convincing many that there’s some fire behind the smoke.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Michelle, I want to get to the question I raised at the top of the program. It did seem like we hit a new level this week with the president. I mean it’s both (ph) the bar has raised an awful lot. The series of tweets about Robert Mueller, series of statements at campaign rallies all week long seem to get more and more enraged as the week gets on.

We saw him deny any possible trouble there for Don Jr. but the fact that Don Jr. has not been interviewed by Robert Mueller should concern him.

COTTLE: Look, he has these moments. He – he rages, he comes back, who knows what sets him off but I think it is an issue. The shifting stories are a problem. He’s very frustrated that this is not wrapping up like he wanted it to do.

He’s trying everything and at this point the idea that he’s going to solve this all by sitting down and actually going on the record and going under oath seems to have taken root in his had.

And they better be earning their legal fees –

(CROSS TALK)

-- to walk that back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe that? So you believe he really does want to sit down?

COTTLE: Well, you know, there’s always the question of how much of this is for show and I do think the question of if the tweets are hurting him or not is an interesting one, because he’s playing to his base.

What he wants most is to get his base fired up about the mid terms and he needs to promote this idea that he’s – he’s the victim here. And this plays very well and will continue to play very well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And – and – and colors (ph), Amanda Carpenter, any possible findings from Robert Mueller, he’s – he’s basically saying you can’t trust what comes from Mueller – Robert Mueller because he’s conflicted, because he’s got a corrupted investigation.

CARPENTER: Absolutely, and I – if President Trump is not worried about his son, he absolutely should be. Don Jr. has testified under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee four times that he never told his father about the Trump Tower meeting.

Jay Sekulow in the interview today was saying well even if they did discuss these things, it’s not illegal. Well we have to remember at its core, the Mueller investigation is a counter intelligence investigation.

And if any member of the Trump campaign, family member or not, knowingly solicited or encouraged that criminal activity, that triggers all kinds of conspiracies, and then there’s the second layer.

If there was any talk of accepting that elections helped in exchange for sanctions release, which has been on the table because the Russians continually bring up sanctions, that’s a federal bribery charge which applies to candidates which can carry 15 years.

So Don Jr. is potentially in a heap of trouble.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There are a host of laws (inaudible) you’re right, the word collusion doesn’t (inaudible) but then a whole bunch of statutes that could potentially be in plan.

I wonder if Amanda is getting something right there about the real – one of the real reasons President Trump can’t sit down with Robert Mueller. Is it credible that he can deny under oath that he knew about that meeting in Trump Tower?

CHRISTIE: Well he’s denied it before and I assume that’s what he would do under oath as well. The fact is I think when you see these tweets, I think Michelle is right, this is – this is who he is, meaning he’s expressing his frustration about this.

He absolutely believes that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Or at least – he said – I mean he usually isolates it to himself. He doesn’t always –

(CROSS TALK) -- sometimes hangs the people in the campaign out to dry.

GASPARD: Right, well because he believes that nobody in the campaign had the authority to make decisions. And now he’s even starting to say things like perhaps his son and his deal may have unintentionally colluded.

CHRISTIE: Well listen –

(CROSS TALK)

-- Well Patrick, listen, I think that anybody in that situation is going to look to try to defend their own son. So that’s just human. But what – what I’d say to you is on the – on the president’s willingness to – to understand what’s going on here and what the risks are, this is why the idea that Michelle puts forward, which – which I think has some credibility, that he might want to sit down is what everybody who is knowledgeable about this needs to tell him it makes no sense.

And it’s no different because nobody –

(CROSS TALK)

-- another point, I’ll let –

(CROSS TALK)

COTTLE: No, I just want to get in here, this is why he can’t sit down with him, because his entire career has been based on the idea that he can shift his story whenever he wants, whatever he says is fine, he has no concept.

He has admitted that he has a lose relationship with the truth, you know, creative exaggeration and all that, which is fine if all you’re trying to do is spin the public, which he is a master at.

There are different rules when you sit down under oath. And it is unclear if he knows that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It has gone (ph) remarkable how many times his story has simply shifted on this meeting and the statements coming out of it.

GASPARD: Well that’s fine (ph) but this is – this is someone who has actually lied under – has – has perjured himself in the past in other trials against his company. So there’s a habit of that already.

And I think that the other point that you made, Michelle, is a terribly important one. Donald Trump is a skilled propagandist who is trying to stir up his base before the midterm election.

So when he makes these accusations to delegitimize the courts and the press and the intelligence community, that's about all to feed conspiracy cabal inside the conservative (ph) base that's going to --

CARPENTER: There's one thing that changed the game in terms of the Trump Tower meeting and Don Jr. this week. Rudy Giuliani was desperate to get ahead of a leak allegedly from Michael Cohen's legal team in which he reportedly will tell the special counsel that he was present when Donald Trump was told about that meeting. What is interesting about that is that Rudy Giuliani also placed Robert Gates at those preplanning --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rick Gates.

GASPARD: Rick Gates.

CARPENTER: -- yeah, Rick Gates, at those preplanning sessions. Who -- Rick Gates has already pled guilty, has been cooperating with Mueller since last February. So that is a possible corroborating witness for Michael Cohen. And if they're both telling the prosecutor the truth and can corroborate it, that's very damaging for Trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If indeed that premeeting did happen, we don't know --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTI: And George, one other thing, let's not pretend here that the idea of delegitimatizing special counsel has been invented by the Trump administration. I can remember what the Clinton administration did to Ken Starr to delegitimize anything he would come out with. Remember what Bush administration -- Bush 41 did with Lawrence Walsh. This is not a new playbook, OK? So everybody when you're being investigated by someone in this circumstance does that.

GASPARD: But governor -- but governor -- when you're Ken Starr and spend three years to affirm that, yes, Vince Foster did commit suicide, then there's a need to delegitimize that. These are entirely different circumstances.

CHRISTI: No -- where you stand depends on where you sit (ph). And by the way, this started as was there collusion? And we're watching a trial this week against Paul Manafort about conflict that happened in 2005 regarding taxes that's being brought by a special counsel.

(CROSSTALK)

COTTLE: And that's how these things work.

CARPENTER: I'm sorry that Trump didn't know this.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTI: My point is that that isn't a valid prosecution or that in fact, if Manafort committed that crime that he doesn’t deserve to be prosecuted and put in jail. My point is to Patrick's point, which is that's what happens to special counsels and that's why there's delegitimization by all these folks.

GASPARD: No, that's actually not the case here, Governor. I think there's a determination that perhaps Manafort had a reason why he had to rely on Russian oligarchs which speaks to the issue of collusion.

CHRISTI: That goes back to 2005, there's no reason to worry (ph) about Donald Trump then.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We don't know what else Mueller's developed -- that might or might not have on the president.

CHRISTI: Absolutely not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Got to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Washington State’s Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To continue our incredible success, we must elect more Republicans and we must elect Troy Balderson. We have to elect Troy.

DANNY O’CONNOR, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, OHIO: The fact that people need to come in for my opponent I think shows that he’s going to be beholden to what he’s told to do in D.C. I’m going to be an independent voice for the people of the 12th district. No one’s going to tell me what to do.

TROY BALDERSON, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, OHIO: I need you vote August 7 so I can go to Congress and represent to and fight alongside this good man, this great man, President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Big special election coming up in Ohio on Tuesday and we’re talking to the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich. He joins us this morning from Columbus. Governor, thank you for joining us this morning. You saw the president last night. Pretty hot inside that arena last night. Kind of surprising that he even has to come to Ohio for a special election in a district that he won by double digits. Why is it even close?

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO: Well George, I think if you take a couple thing -- first of all, the chaos that seems to surround Donald Trump has unnerved a lot of people. So suburban women in particular here are the ones that are really turned off. And you add to that the, you know, millenials, you -- you have it very close. It’s really kind of shocking because this should be just a slam dunk and it’s not.

What I also will tell you, George, is the Democrats have a -- have a weak candidate because there’s no message. So it’s likely in the end that Balderson should -- should be able to win narrowly. But it’s pretty surprising. But it’s -- it really doesn’t bode well for the Republican party because this should be -- shouldn’t even be contested.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re in kind of an unusual position in this race. You’ve endorsed Troy Balderson but on his website -- I want to read it to everybody. He says Troy Balderson believes we must repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all. He has consistently voted to keep Obamacare out of Ohio, opposing Governor Kasich’s efforts to bring it to the state.

And then Danny O’Connor in his ad seems to support you. Let’s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for John Kasich the last three times. I voted for Trump because I didn't like the way things were going in Washington. And now I'm supporting Danny O'Connor. John Kasich and Danny O'Connor both don't worry about the labels of Democrat, Republican. They're going to go get things done either way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That does echo your message, doesn't it?

KASICH: Both candidates, now, Troy Balderson wants -- you know, I'm on television because they asked me to help him and why am I helping him? Well, there are three reasons. One is he came out against this border separation policy. He came out against the tariffs. And he came out for fixing Social Security.

You know, I don't know, on his website or whatever, I asked him the other day, why are you bringing Trump in? He said, well, I don't have anything to do with it.

So, look, I think he's trying to thread this needle but the reason I've been for Balderson is he has worked with me for eight years in the legislature, George, and we had a lot of tough decisions. And now Ohio, we're up half a million jobs, we've got about $3 billion in our rainy day fund from 89 cents.

You know, he has been there for me on those issues. But I have to tell you, there are other issues, other people I'm sitting out, you know? And I don't like what I just heard about this health care. The fact is, is that I fought hard to make sure that we didn't lose health care for 20 million people. So I'm disappointed to hear that this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did Troy Balderson...

KASICH: But I don't know if he has anything to do with it because a lot of these campaigns, unfortunately, the candidate doesn't have a lot to do with it. But I know Troy, I like him. He has been with me. And he has declared independence, he better be independent, because if he's not, he's going to get some calls from an angry constituent, namely me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he really tell you that he was surprised that President Trump was coming and didn't want him to come?

KASICH: No, I asked him, I said, Troy, why -- did you invite Trump in here, the president? He said, no, I didn't. So, you know, I think Donald Trump decides where he wants to go and I think they think they're firing up the base, but I have to tell you, at the same time that he comes in here, I was with some women last night who said, hey, you know what, I'm not voting, and they're Republicans, I'm not voting for the Republicans.

See, this is the problem the party has now. The problem the Democrats have is I don't know what their message is, George. You tell me. It's sort of like anti-Trump but no message. You can't win elections if you don't have a message. You know that, you've been involved in politics. I now it. If you can't have a positive, inspiring message, you don't do very well.

And that's what puts the Democrats at risk here in this midterm election from having a bigger wave than what they'll probably have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we're going to ask Governor Jay Inslee about that. You also mentioned tariffs and said you were against he tariffs. President Trump spent a lot of time last night talking about how good tariffs are. He says that he wrote in a tweet this morning: "They are working big time," completely taking on what you believe, what a lot of Republicans have believed for an awful long time.

KASICH: George, here's the funny thing. The fact is, is that the president met with a guy from the European Union and they agreed that they would work to have no tariffs. When Donald Trump came into office, Barack Obama, believe it or not, had on the table basically a free trade agreement.

Then after all this noise and all this fighting and all this recrimination and higher prices for lots of industries and consumers, now we're going to go back to where we were at the beginning of this term. All this could have been called off.

Now here's the thing about tariffs. What they do is they hurt consumers. They hurt businesses in this country. And you can see how people have been reacting to this who are business people that want to get their markets overseas. For farmers, farmers don't want welfare, they want trade. They want to be able to sell their stuff.

In regard to China, what we need to do with China is to work with our allies to say that this theft of intellectual property cannot stand. The problem is we've made so many of our allies angry, they're not so reluctant to get in line with us.

But that is ultimately the answer, for us and for our allies to insist that China play by the rules. And if they don't we should start targeting parts of their industries, including their banking industry.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I've got to ask you about that tweet President Trump sent out Friday night about LeBron James, talking about Don Lemon being dumb, making LeBron James look smarter by comparison. It seems like whenever the president brings up the idea of IQ, smart, dumb, it has to do with African-Americans. Is he playing the race card?

KASICH: Well, I think there's a division. He's a divider and I don't know that -- I've never thought about it that way, George, but this is the chaos that has turned -- look, Republicans have gone from about 30, 31 percent down to about 25 percent. The party has shrunk because we don't have this positive growth-oriented opportunity message.

You know, I ended up doing a tweet about that, not only did I say that LeBron should be praised, look, he has got $41 million set aside to help kids go to college plus a bunch of other schools, but I also disagreed with the president because you know what, all around LeBron I think a little better than M.J.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, definitive conclusion there, Governor Kasich. Governor, thanks for joining us this morning.

KASICH: All right, George, thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring in Jay Inslee, now Democratic governor of Washington state, also the chair of the Democratic Governors Association. And -- and -- and Governor, let me pick up where John Kasich -- one of the messages he was sending out this morning said Democrats have to have more of a message than simply defeat Donald Trump. Isn’t he right?

GOV. JAY INSLEE, D-WASHINGTON: Well I heard John’s message and what I heard is you’ve only got one option as an American voter this year and that’s to vote for Democrats, including Democratic governors. We’ve got three very powerful messages. Number one, we’re going to protect and expand healthcare, not strip it away. And you cannot trust the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Mike DeWine, to protect healthcare.

He’s made a -- a lifetime passion for taking away healthcare that John helped establish in Ohio. That’s happening in Maine, in Florida, in Nevada. Our message is to expand healthcare for families. Second, our message is rescue America -- and we will rescue America -- from the grasp of an unhinged narcissist who is creating the chaos that John just talked about.

And that is why so many Republicans and independents and Democrats are banding together in this rescue mission for America. And the third message -- and this is very fundamental to the Democratic party this year. We’re really defining gross domestic product the way it should be. The D in gross domestic product should mean domestic for families. And what we have learned and what we’ve learned in my state is that we have blown up the myth that if you actually focus on job creation and wage increase, that it somehow hurts your economy.

Look what we’ve done in my state. Raised the minimum wage, best family leave policy in America, net neutrality passed, voter rights, expansion of clean energy, expansion of access to college. What do you get? You get 62 cranes (ph) in Seattle, the best economy two out of the last three years in America. So those are three powerful messages. We need all of them. And it’s very remarkable to hear the governor of Ohio, a Republican, essentially agree that we need to do all those three things.

Talk about Trey -- look, my -- my ag industry is being hammered right now by -- by this madness.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me talk about what the campaigns against some of your candidates, including Stacey Abrams running for governor of -- of Georgia. Here’s -- here’s the ad being run now by her opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet Stacey Abrams. Most radical liberal to ever run for governor. A career politician funded by Nancy Pelosi of California friends.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I’m thrilled that Stacey Abrams won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia last night. I look forward to supporting her campaign in the months to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Concerned at all? We’ve seen Nancy Pelosi come up in -- in Republican ad after Republican ad (ph) in House race, is now in the governor’s race as well that the fact that she wants to be Speaker if the Democrats get control is hurting your party’s efforts?

INSLEE: No, look, we’re in great shape and I’d much rather be in the Democrats’ seat than any Republican seat right now. We’ve won 42 -- flipped 42 special elections. We’ve increased the performance in Iowa. I was in Iowa the other day, talking to the party. There’s been an average increase of 20 points in the five special elections. We’re in good shape and there’s two reasons for that.

Number one, we’ve got great candidates. The most diverse field we’ve ever had. I love Stacey Abrams and so does America. Stacey tells a story about how meeting a woman named Pam (ph) who thought she was going to have to be a retail clerk forever and then she says I have dreams of opening a beauty salon. But she has barriers to that. Stacey talks about overcoming those barriers and she talks about being in favor of Pam inc. (ph). Being in favor of working people and their dreams.

That is a winning message across the United States. Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico -- I was just there the other day talking about how to create clean energy jobs. And right now, I saw a poll the other day with Stacey in Georgia -- and African American leader in Georgia could be tied. So we feel very positive going into this election cycle. It’s part because of the chaos of Donald Trump. But it’s also part because we governors have shown the primacy of electing Democratic governors.

Look, we got to elect Democratic governors so that we can stop this pernicious gerrymandering. And when we stop the gerrymandering, we have a chance to win back the House of Representatives so we can do the things that are necessary to restore healthcare across this country and restore economic growth and stop this -- this huge inequality of instead of helping working people and helping people get college and having an infrastructure program, you know, they -- the Republicans haven’t built a birdhouse since Donald Trump has been president.

They’re giving money to the top one percent with billions of dollars of tax cuts. So I really like our message, I really like our candidates and I really like the year 2018 when this country restores the foundations of democracy and that’s why we’re getting so much help from Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know your focus is on 2018 --

INSLEE: Former Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but there’s also been some talk about you looking at the race for president in 2020. What could tip you into the race?

INSLEE: Well I do think that we all have things we feel strongly about and I believe that Democrats need to make climate change a front burner issue. It was really interesting, two days ago we had an interesting historical irony.

It was reported that this last year was the hottest year probably in the history of our species. The very same day, Donald Trump reported (ph) to try to repeal the emissions rules that defeat carbon pollution, that help decrease transportation cost to get better mileage, because of his slavish devotion to climate denial.

Now we Democrats are the only party that has accepted science because we believe in science and have also embraced this vision of job creation around clean energy. We’ve shown this in my state where clean energy jobs are going twice as fast as the rest of the economy.

And this is a job creation message. Frankly, this does not fit in the presidential discussions yet and it needs to be and it’s a winning message in governor’s races across the country.

Fred Hubbel in Iowa is focused on – on wind turbines, Janet Mills in Maine, Michelle in New Mexico, we went and went to a community college where we’re training solar installers to do great work.

In Florida, it’s the sunshine state, but the Republicans want a climate denier.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve got a lot in there right there, Governor Inslee, thanks for your time this morning.

INSLEE: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll be right back with the Round Table.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back with the Round Table. Let’s talk a little bit more about the midterms. And Amanda, let me begin with you because I was struck by something John Kasich said.

According to John Kasich, Troy Balderson didn’t ask for the president to come to Columbus, he just came, just decided to come. But this – this could be one of the stories of the midterms right there.

The – it’s already about Donald Trump in many ways. The president is determined to make it about Donald Trump. The question is, is that good for Republicans or not?

CARPENTER: Here’s the problem. Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot. And so Donald Trump may be helpful in activating the Republican base. But here’s what I’m worried about for Republicans.

There’s five big issues that are energizing and angering the Democratic base that will drive up both. That’s Charlottesville, Black Lives Matter, Me Too, March for Our Lives, and family separation.

I have not seen a good Republican answer to those issues, but that is what I hear tons of people, especially suburban Republican women like me worried about as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Plus just (ph) the idea of President Trump.

CARPENTER: Look, midterms even in normal – in normal cycles are about the sitting president. This is not a normal cycle, it is not a normal sitting president, it is all about Donald Trump.

But he wants it to be that way, so yes, you’re right, he’s out there fuelling it and he’s fuelling it with his issues because he’s trying to jack the base. So he could be talking about tax cuts, the economy, strong, you know, low unemployment and this would be great for the party.

Instead, in order to get maximum excitement from the base, he’s talking about immigration and crime, you know, they’re all coming to, you know, kill your children and rape your wives.

GASPARD: Well and there’s something else he’s talking about too, and it’s – it’s interesting to see him do this in a district like Ohio 12, he’s talking about Maxine Waters, he’s talking about Lebron James, this president has a history of going directly after prominent African American figures in a way that he thinks is going to – might stir up and rile –

(CROSS TALK)

-- constituency. And as a – as somebody who was political director in the White House in a tough midterm elections, the president actually is on the ballot and is – and ultimately it is going to be about him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and – and I actually remember it being in a – in a disastrous race for us in 1994 when I was working for President Clinton, basically tried to come off the trail in the last several weeks because at the end of the trail it’s not helpful to your party in the first midterm election.

Clearly that's not going to be the case here with President Trump. And he seems very determined as he goes out there. On the one hand he's helping republicans in their primaries. Everyone he endorses wins their primary, but will that work in the general?

CHRISTIE: Well, we're going to see, and I think it's so dependent, it's so volatile, George, this entire atmosphere is very volatile and what's going to happen in a week or two before the election, both what the president does and how people react to what the president does may well determine how this goes. But as a republican, former republican governor, former chairman of the RGA, the great hope that I have is sitting and listening to Jay Inslee, who I'm sure during your interview today put millions of Americans to sleep.

His big issue is to expand health care. That's the big issue he says they're going to run on across the country. I will tell you this, the democrats have to come up with something a little bit more exciting than expand health care and Donald Trump's a narcissist which were his first two points. You've got to come up with something better than that, especially in governor's races. Congress is different.

COTTLE: You don't have to switch much. Donald Trump's administration as wildly corrupt, the most corrupt administration that anybody can remember, is actually a pretty good message for a mid-term. Now, by 2020 you're going to have to have kind of worked out your identity crisis, but I think that you have plenty of excitement in general in this race.

CARPENTER: But there have been republican governors in blue states particularly, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont, who have very high approval ratings right now because they've managed to put distance between themselves and Donald Trump. They pay attention to their state and they haven't gotten caught in this Trump trap.

CHRISTIE: That's not why they're popular, that they put distance between themselves and Donald Trump. They're popular because Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan have worked with democratic legislature -- just a wait a second --

CARPENTER: Sure.

CHRISTIE: - and they got things done. We were talking about this --

CARPENTER: But they haven't let themselves --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Bruce Rauner has put great distance between he and Donald Trump and he is not popular right now in Illinois and faces an uphill race. That's not the determining factor. Governors are decided on what they do in their states.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: -- on the job, not the president.

GASPARD: I agree with you on governor races. It's a very difficult thing to make that distinction when you're running for House and Senate seats.

CHRISTIE: Agreed. Agreed.

GASPARD: And to the point you made earlier about whether or not we will know whether or not the president is successful, we already know. That Ohio 12th seat is one that the previous incumbent won by over 20 points. Frankly it's a dead-heat (ph) now and Donald Trump has to go in to campaign the weekend before, in a district that he won by 11 points -- Roundee (ph) won by 10 points, makes it abundantly clear that we're sitting in the middle of a wave election and it's really about Donald Trump.

CHRISTIE: We'll have to see. If Balderson wins though, even if he wins by a small amount, it's a win.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: The president will take credit.

CHRISTIE: Of course he will.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: That's all we have time for today. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice. In the month of July, 3 service members died overseas supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out WORLD NEWS TONIGHT and I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.

END

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