'This Week' Transcript 4-8-18: White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert and Sen. Lindsey Graham
This is a rush transcript for "This Week" on April 1, 2018.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, HOST: President Turmp commanding action.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are preparing for the military to secure our border.
RADDATZ: The national guard deploying to the border. Is this the best use of military resources? How long will it last? How much will it cost? We'll ask Trump's top homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.
TRUMP: We can't be taken advantage of any longer.
RADDATZ: Tariffs stoking fears of a trade war. But will they actually go into effect? And with prices on hundreds of goods expected to rise, what's the squeeze on your wallet? We'll talk to American farmers who could be hit hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The potential tariffs presents a fear factor of the unknown.
RADDATZ: And we're one-on-one with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
TRUMP: I think that Scott has done a fantastic job.
RADDATZ: The president standing by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
The calls for Pruitt's firing are growing on both sides of the aisle. Can he survive the scrutiny.
All that, plus our Powerhouse Roundtable takes on the week's biggest headlines.
From the White House to your house, the facts that matter this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning. And thanks for joining us this Sunday.
Who can forget that moment this week the president literally throwing away the script? But for weeks, we've been watching him tear through tradition. As usual, Trump seemed to be calling the shots, taking his staff by surprise and leaving them to fill in the blanks. His supporters see a champion, a president advocating for their rights, voicing their concerns, out to fight for them. His opponents see a disorganized CEO, calling out orders, forgetting that congress is not beholden to the president.
However you see it, there seems to be one constant: for every new announcement, the president seems to say one thing and the administration says another.
The president retaliated against China's proposed tariffs, now considering an additional $100 billion in tariffs, and escalating fears of a trade war as his economic director seemed to try and tamp them down, saying we're not running a trade war.
The president said he wants to withdraw troops from Syria soon, but that same day three top national security officials reinforced the U.S. commitment to the country. And the Pentagon and State Department said there's no timeline for withdrawal.
The president defended EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, publicly praising his work. But that same day, a White House spokesperson had this ominous statement, "I can't speak to the future of Scott Pruitt."
And there's the president's announcement on the border. While their messaging was mostly on the same page, the president seemed to be one step ahead of his staff.
TRUMP: Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military.
RADDATZ: It's a bit more complicated. There are limitations to what the military can do at the border, perhaps prompting the Homeland Security secretary to later clarify.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The national guard will deploy personnel in support of CBP's border security mission.
RADDATZ: And support is all they can do.
So why this announcement now?
TRUMP: This is a caravan of a lot of people coming in, in this case from Honduras. If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic.
RADDATZ: It all happened as images of a caravan carrying Central American migrants filled TV screens early in the week. But that caravan traveling through Mexico has been organized annually for more than 15 years. It's designed to help migrants stay safe as they seek asylum, and not to cross the U.S. border illegally.
In fact, organizers say most of the migrants' journeys end in Mexico.
TRUMP: I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.
RADDATZ: Trump has pushed for a wall from day one. But why the urgency for the Guard at the border?
NIELSEN: I think -- you know what I would say is that the numbers continue to increase.
RADDATZ: This statement, despite the fact that the overall number of crossings on the border hit a record low last fiscal year with barriers put in place before the Trump administration.
Along our route, we've already seen different kinds of barriers and fences dividing the U.S. and Mexico. In fact, there are nearly 700 miles of barriers already set up.
But Trump continues his push to expand those barriers in spite of questions about whether it's the best use of money or recourses.
NIELSEN: If there is a wall before that needs to be replaced, it's being replaced by a new wall. So this is the Trump border wall. In many cases...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Replacing current wall would count as new wall, in your words?
NIELSEN: Yes, it would.
RADDATZ: And joining me now is White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. Good morning, Mr. Bossert.
TOM BOSSERT, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, WHITE HOUSE: Good morning.
RADDATZ: You know, the president’s announcement seemed to catch some in the administration by surprise. How far in advance did you know he was going to announce that he would deploy the National Guard?
BOSSERT: Yes, it’s funny what the outside perspective must be, because it didn’t surprise me in the slightest. I think President Trump’s been pretty clear on this as a priority since he began his -- his run for office. So I think a number of things were...
RADDATZ: But not the Guard, necessarily.
BOSSERT: No, I think the Guard’s always been something that we’ve considered. And what we do is we look carefully at trend lines and so there’s been a little bit of misreporting on this. Let’s see if I can help with that. A lot of the reporting tends to suggest that because we’ve seen record lows over the last 40 years an -- annual basis that that’s good enough.
We’ve got a leaking boat on our border. And we’re all quibbling with how much water’s in the boat and how fast we’re bailing it out. I think at this point the president’s been pretty clear, enough is enough, fix the actual problem and stop that leak.
RADDATZ: But -- but you bring up those lows. 46 year low in apprehension. So what was the crisis here? Why did they have to rush the National Guard to the border?
BOSSERT: Yes, so this is the problem with statistics and comparisons. What I’ll throw back to you is the more appropriate comparison. What we briefed the president on was the trends that we’re seeing. And what we’re seeing is a 200 percent increase this month -- March -- this past month in apprehensions. It’s alarming. It’s a over 200 percent increase. And we’re talking about apprehending over 50,000 people attempting to cross our border in one month.
RADDATZ: Is that a seasonal uptick? Hasn’t that happened in the past, in the same month?
BOSSERT: No, so that’s -- that’s exactly the point, Martha. The seasonal uptick normally begins next month and what we’re doing is taking now at the appropriate time instead of waiting, as others have in the past, for that uptick to get in front of us.
RADDATZ: And -- and did someone in the White House or somewhere in the administration conduct any kind of intelligence assessment on why you needed to do this now?
BOSSERT: Yes, absolutely. So the Customs and Border Protection leadership provide us briefings on a regular basis and that’s where we get our statistics. So the over 200 percent increase coupled with the pending seasonal uptick coupled with the caravan that is an annual event all trended in the wrong direction. So the problem here and the point to remember is while there was a improvement, it’s a comparative improvement.
That has nothing to do with the alarming trend of border crossings that we’re seeing. And at this point we don’t have the capacity to address that problem. That’s the more troubling point the president needed to address.
RADDATZ: And -- and we know the National Guard can’t legally apprehend anyone trying to get across the border. So what do they actually do?
BOSSERT: Well, there’s a lot of question on what they can do. What we’re going to do -- the president did something separately that was not necessarily as well reported, and that is he put out a memorandum directing his cabinet to not catch and release, but to catch and detain. That’s a big difference. So the Guard can do whatever the federal government in this case is authorized to do.
What we’ve chosen to do with them is to augment the Customs and Border Protection officers who are so well trained to interdict these border crossers.
RADDATZ: Do -- do you have any idea how much this will cost? The federal government will pay for it.
BOSSERT: Yes. The costs will depend on our time phase deployment and how long we stay there. Maybe this is a good opportunity to explain how it works. The purpose of using the National Guard isn’t just to augment the Customs and Border Protections capabilities, it’ll be short term. And I think the message there is CBP is hiring. We need more people and they’re looking to onboard them and train them now.
But the -- the message here is that governors are also equally troubled. This isn’t President’ Trump’s concoction where he sits around thinking I need to make a political point. This is an operational need, an operational deficiency. We have a requirement that’s being met. Not only are the -- are the border states and the border governors complying and applying their National Guard resources, I bet when you’re done with this we’re going to see the majority of governors of this country sending their guard forces.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and you talk about catch and release, instead catch and detain.
RADDATZ: There’s not room for people. How do you get that done quickly, places where they can be detained?
BOSSERT: Yes, this is exactly --
RADDATZ: And you’re talking about women and children mostly here.
BOSSERT: Well, we’re talking about a whole slew of different demographics that cross our border. The most troubling and heartbreaking are the unaccompanied alien children who are sent here intentionally by their parents to get across the border to exploit all of the various loopholes you hear us talk about frequently. The problem here is Congress has failed to fix this boat. It continues to leak. We’ve called them -- on them over and over again. And so --
RADDATZ: So what do you do about the detention?
BOSSERT: So the detention problem right now requires a flux and an addition of bed capacity, which is what we’re doing. We’re applying all the money we’ve been authorized to apply to that problem. We’re going to detain them and -- in the best conditions possible. We’re not going to allow our border to be open for business and crossing any longer.
And the president’s, at this point, said enough. So not only is the National Guard part of this story, every governor in every state is part of this story and they’re all joining with the president, saying enough.
RADDATZ: OK. According to one study, illegal border crossings have accounted for fewer than 40 percent of all undocumented arrivals since 2010. Far more come from people overstaying their visas. Combined with the fact that many people crossing the border are seeking asylum rather than evading capture. Are you targeting the wrong problem?
BOSSERT: Yes, that is the biggest loophole. If you come across the border and simply claim asylum, we have no choice under the law but to bring you into our country and release you at this point into the populace.
We’d never have them come back to their scheduled appearance dates in court. Of course, why would they? They -- they scatter and they try to blend into our society. It’s a problem of a proportion at this point that can’t go unaddressed.
Now, with respect to your first question, Mexicans are by far the number one foreign -- foreign-born alien problem, but there’s a number of other countries, so that people don’t misunderstand this as just a South and Central American issue.
We’ve got immigrants, legal and illegal, coming from all over the world, but this is about the illegal ones.
RADDATZ: OK, this started this week, these comments about that caravan. And President Trump said Thursday that on the journey coming through Mexico to the United States, women were being raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. Do you have any sort of government data to back that up?
BOSSERT: It’s very difficult to collect because it’s Mexican government data and they don’t collect it. But it’s a, at this point, well-known practice, and don’t trust me, trust...
RADDATZ: Well -- well-known by?
BOSSERT: By all the people in this trade and by the reporters in Mexico, I mean Jorge Ramos is one that’s been a critic of President Trump. And if you look at his pieces, they’re alarming. Don’t take me as the source, take him.
We have, at this point, reached a sad state, his words, in which the price of entry for an illegal female entrant trying to sneak across our border is at this point, rape. In fact, it’s apparently a well-known practice among some of the female immigrants trying to come here illegally to start taking birth control. It is an absolutely heinous price to pay.
RADDATZ: So no -- so no government data. I -- I just want to say that Sarah Sanders said the same thing that it’s unacceptable to the president that this happens. Is he planning on doing anything about it?
BOSSERT: I think he’s doing the absolute number one best thing he can do about it. He’s actually stopping the problem, you have to send a red light, stop coming, stop taking that journey.
Let me tell you what else he’s doing though, because this isn’t just about fixing the boat. President Trump’s going to attend next week the Summit of the Americas in Peru. We have to change the dynamic in the western hemisphere, and he intends to lead the way on that.
There’s a self determination among the peoples of South and Central America, and there’s an opportunity for their economic growth that will help address some of the conditions that cause people to begin their migration. But right now, if you’re choosing to take that step and to make that journey, stop doing it. The Mexican government’s working with us. President Trump is applying resources. Do not put yourself in that danger.
RADDATZ: I want to turn the DACA. The president has made his position clear that he believes DACA is dead. What does that mean for the kids whose status was put into question? What would you tell them?
BOSSERT: I would tell them that there’s a Democratic leadership in Congress that has chosen point blank that this is a better wedge issue for them to run on than a problem for them to fix.
RADDATZ: It’s just the Democrats' problem?
RADDATZ: President Trump could have accepted a compromise?
BOSSERT: President Trump is the one that -- in a shocking fashion, came out and did something that I don’t think any Republican president has ever done, he not only increased the numbers of people he was willing to address and put on a pathway to citizenship, but he addressed the scope of the problem in a way that allowed for 1.8 million if there was an appropriate compromise on the other side.
RADDATZ: And I want to lastly talk about Syria. We’ve seen those horrific images coming out of Syria this morning. And it looks like there was a chemical attack. I know you’re still looking into that. What do you think the president will do if it’s indeed a chemical attack? What do you think he should do?
BOSSERT: Yes, it’s a quite serious problem. We’ve seen the photos of that attack. I think -- I mean, first, I would note the timing of this, it’s the first thing that struck me, this is the one year anniversary of our action the last time they made the mistake of using these weapons and pushing the rest of the world.
This isn’t just the United States, this is one of those issues on which every nation, all peoples have all agreed and have agreed since World War II, is an unacceptable practice. So looking at it...
RADDATZ: So is it possible they -- there will be another missile attack?
BOSSERT: I wouldn’t take anything off the table. These are horrible photos. We’re looking into the attack at this point. The State Department put out a statement last night and the president’s senior national security cabinet have been talking with him and with each other all throughout the evening and this morning, and myself included.
RADDATZ: Even though the president, this week, said, we’ll leave this to others, we should get out of there?
BOSSERT: Well, I think the president’s got a point that’s been very clear, and I’m going to reiterate that point. The pendulum has swung in the wrong direction for too long and the United States of America has been take advantage of in their responsibility to provide security for the entire world.
It is time to move that pendulum back in a way that brings regional partners and others with equities in these matters all around the globe into putting their resources and their treasure and their boys and girls on the line, and not just American troops.
American troops aren’t going to fix the six or seven different ongoing conflicts and wars going on in the Middle East or in Syria at this stage. We need regional partnership increased and we need U.S. presence decreased.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks very much for joining us Mr. Bossert, always great to talk to you.
BOSSERT: Thank you, Martha.
RADDATZ: Coming up, I went out to the heartland this week to see how the threat of a trade war is hitting home, plus Senator Lindsey Graham joins us live to weigh in on whether the president’s tariffs gamble will pay off, and if embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt can withstand the mounding calls for his resignation.
We’ll be right back.
RADDATZ: The stock market ended sharply lower Friday as Wall Street reacted to the growing prospect of a trade war between the United States and China. The president proposed $50 billion in tariffs this week, only to threaten another $100 billion days later.
The Chinese, in return, have pledged to counter attack with great strength. President Trump tweeting this morning that he believes the threats will end with (inaudible) quote taking down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do.
But if they don’t consumers could feel price increases on hundreds of goods as a result of the tariffs, and farmers could be particularly effected by China’s threat to levy its own tariffs on pork and soybeans.
We traveled west this week to get a sense of how Americans are reacting to the rising tensions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Far from the noise in Washington and on Wall Street are the front lines in the tariff skirmish, it’s farmers like the Fischer’s in Neola, Iowa that stand to lose a lot if the Chinese retaliate.
JOHN FISCHER: A work (ph) corn and soybeans, some -- some small grains and hay.
RADDATZ: The escalation of the tariff tiff could hardly come at a worse time.
JOHN FISCHER: Our (ph) planters will be rolling in the next two weeks, and farmers can’t make many changes now. They’re -- they’re pretty much locked in.
RADDATZ: So tell me how China fits into all this?
JOHN FISCHER: Well China has become a huge buyer of pork and soybeans, and -- and those are the two areas that -- that they have reciprocated their response to the tariffs.
And pork prices have dropped about a third since January.
RADDATZ: I first met the Fischer’s 30 years ago when they were trying to figure out who to vote for in the 1988 presidential campaign.
JOHN FISCHER: I -- I can’t see where either -- any candidate is -- is showing themself as being electable.
RADDATZ: Mary (ph) and John (ph) have voted for both democrats and republicans. Today it’s not candidates, but crops I want to hear their perspective on.
MARY FISCHER: You understand that life is risky and sometimes you’re the target and you hope you’re not and you hope it doesn’t last a long time if you are the target, but sometimes you get hit.
RADDATZ: John senses fear on the horizon.
JOHN FISCHER: You hear the stories of Smoot-Hawley, the tariff act, and -- and how that -- that contributed or maybe deepened the Great Depression. So, you know, is this what’s happening now?
Is that the beginning of -- of a -- of a period of difficult times?
MARY FISCHER: We’re to the point in our lives where we’re pretty well settled and we’re financially secure, but you do -- you do have concerns about the next generation and how they will manage this.
RADDATZ: A particular concern, her sons and son-in-law and their friends who want to keep farming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The economics of farming are challenging right now and these tariffs certainly won’t be helpful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife Ann (ph) and I were talking about, you know, the dreams of buying our own farm, buying our own land, and you know, it’s terrifying to spend, you know, dropping (ph) million dollar investments.
RADDATZ: Do you think it’ll effect the mid terms out here?
DANIEL FISCHER: Economic consequences end up having political consequences, so I’m sure it’s in everybody’s best interest politically for the economy to be strong and to be stable.
UNIDENTFIED MALE: We all pay attention, I mean, it’s Iowa. We pay attention to elections, that’s for sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Good to be out there in the middle of the country. And joining me now is Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham, good morning.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SOUTH CAROLINA: Good morning.
RADDATZ: The Dow fell almost 575 points Friday over concerns about the president’s tariff proposal. Those farm families I talked to like the Fisher’s in Iowa, we just saw are concerned.
What would you say to them?
GRAHAM: Well that we’re trying to get China to act better and if you get into a contest with China, you’re going to have to see this thing through. The Chinese buy a lot of American soybeans and pork, they’ve got 1.2 billion people to feed.
I’d tell these people to go to the Rust Belt and see what’s happened in that part of America due to Chinese unfair trade practices. I support President Trump pushing back against commodity dumping, intellectual property theft, currency manipulation, and we’ve got to see this thing through.
The Chinese need us more than we need them economically, and the only way you’ll get China to change is make them pay a price and our farming communities on the front lines, but we’ve got to stick with it.
RADDATZ: Your republican colleague, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse slammed the president’s strategy, saying China is guilty of many things, but the president has no actual plan to win right now -- he’s threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.
Does the president have a plan?
GRAHAM: Well I would say to Ben there’s no way to put tariffs on the products that benefit from Chinese currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and commodity dumping without the potential of China firing back. We’re trying to protect the American steel industry from Chinese dumping, we’re trying to protect the American high tech community from Chinese intellectual property theft.
And one of the ways they can fight back is to hit us in the agricultural sector. So there is no way for us to address China without absorbing some pain here. So to those who believe that China’s cheating, what idea do you have better than Trump? He’s the first guy to actually take them on, they have a weak economy compared to ours, the Chinese, they don’t have social security, they don’t have unemployment benefits, they don’t have Medicare or Medicaid.
So let’s play this out. They need us more than we need them and all I’m asking them to do, Martha, is to quit cheating us out of market share. I want a good relationship with China but you can’t have one when they cheat you out off market share.
RADDATZ: Well, Senator Graham, China seems to know exactly where to target this --
GRAHAM: Sure. Yes.
RADDATZ: -- maximizing pressure in states like your own with BMW --
RADDATZ: -- and Volvo, who’ve --
GRAHAM: Right, right.
RADDATZ: -- warned about the impact of trade conflict. The Chinese are playing this in a very --
GRAHAM: They are.
RADDATZ: -- sophisticated way. And it’s an authoritarian state. You really think President Xi is going to back down?
GRAHAM: I think their economy is set up so they got to feed $1.2 billion people a day. So if you put tariffs on pork products coming in from the United States, the pork prices go up in China. Or you turn to some other country to get your pork. There’s eventually going to be a problem in China when you increase tariffs on soybeans, commodity prices go up in China. The Chinese people don’t get to vote, but they do get to grumble.
So my state makes BMWs. It will hurt BMW in the short term to deal with the Chinese steel dumping, I understand that. But at the end of the day, the president promised if he got to be president he would push back against China. That’s exactly what he’s doing. They’re pushing back against us. I like our chances of prevailing if we stick with it.
RADDATZ: OK, the president is tweeting this this morning, however. President Xi and I will always be friends. China will take down it’s trade barriers because it is the right thing to do. Taxes will become reciprocal and a deal will be made on intellectual property.
RADDATZ: Great future for both countries. What’s going on with that?
GRAHAM: Well, number one, I hope that is -- proves to be true, but the Chinese president will not give in because it’s the right thing to do. He’ll give in because it hurts his economy to the point that he has to change his behavior. Every European nation will agree that China has -- engages in unfair trade practices. The world should unite around President Trump, bring this to a closure.
And all we’re asking China to do is play by the rules. You can’t get into Chinese markets --
RADDATZ: But are there negotiations going on right now?
RADDATZ: Is there really a plan here?
GRAHAM: Yes. Yes. You know, if you want to open up business in China, you have to have a minority stake in the business. They steal your intellectual property and open up a competitor right across the street. You can’t get into the financial services market in China because their government closes it out. What we want is reciprocal fair trade. Yes, they’re talking but don’t underestimate the problems that China will have over a prolonged engagement with the United States.
RADDATZ: Let’s -- let’s move to the border. I -- I want to --
RADDATZ: -- know whether you agree -- I think we’ve exhausted China, there. I want -- want to know if you agree with the president sending National Guard troops to the border. And doing it so suddenly.
GRAHAM: Well, he’ll be the third president to do so. And here’s what I would tell him, there makes some sense to send soldiers to the border but you’re not going to secure a border just by adding National Guard troops. You got to go to the root cause of this. The caravans come from the triangle countries, Honduras and Guatemala in particular because the conditions are so bad.
If you don’t have comprehensive immigration reform so it’s easier for American companies to hire, you have more labor available to American companies, you will never fix this problem. And here’s what I would tell the American people. We have two borders, one with Canada, one with Mexico. I’ve never met an illegal Canadian. I went to New Hampshire to look for them and couldn’t find one when I was running for president.
The point is that Canada has a sound economy, people from the south of us do not have sound economies and if you don’t fix the economic magnet, you’ll never solve the -- the immigration problem. So building a wall alone won’t do anything.
RADDATZ: Well let’s talk about the immigration problem. Earlier this week the president tweeted there would be no more DACA deal. You’ve been part of the DACA negotiations in Congress. Is a DACA deal really off the table? And if so, what happens to those children?
GRAHAM: Well, there's a pony in there somewhere, Martha, and I'm looking for that pony. Number one, the court is probably going to rule for the president down the road that he can terminate DACA. That creates some chaos for the DACA recipients who came here on the average age of 6 with nowhere else to go. This is her country.
There's a deal to take care of them and get the border wall we desperately need, plus interior enforcement, to make us safer. That deal can be done. And I'll make a prediction on this show that there will be another effort to marry up border security and DACA by the spring, early summer.
RADDATZ: And you feel confident that will go through?
GRAHAM: I'm hopeful it will because if we fail, it's just a disaster for the DACA recipients and for our national security. And 70 percent of the American people want us to do both. It may fail, but I believe we owe it to the American people to try again. And I'm going to try again. And I think the president is open-minded to trying again.
RADDATZ: And, Senator Graham, I want to move on to Syria. We've all seen those...
RADDATZ: … horrific images this morning. The president just tweeting: “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless chemical attack in Syria. President Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad. Big price to pay.” What do you think he means by that? Tom Bossert told me nothing is off the table.
GRAHAM: Well, it's a defining moment in his presidency, because he has challenged Assad in the past not to use chemical weapons. We had a one-and-done missile attack. So Assad is at it again. They see us, our resolve, breaking. They see our determination to stay in Syria waning. And it's no accident they used chemical weapons.
But President Trump can reset the table here. To me, I would destroy Assad's air force. I would create safe zones in Syria where people can come back to their country from the surrounding area and live a better life. Train up Syrians to take on Assad so we can negotiate in Geneva from a position of strength.
If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn't follow through and live up to that tweet, he's going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran. So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.
RADDATZ: And, Senator Graham, this week also you heard President Trump saying he wanted to pull our troops...
RADDATZ: … out of Syria. They clarified that somewhat. What do you think about doing that? I know it's a different fight. It's against ISIS.
GRAHAM: Complete utter disaster to leave before the fight is done. Have we learned nothing when what happens when you leave too soon? We pulled our troops out of Iraq. ISIS came back. But President Trump made a speech in Riyadh, Martha, that was very important. He went to their world and said two things: I stand with you against Iran; and I stand with you to defeat radical Islam.
If we leave Syria by the mere passage of time, we undercut that policy. ISIS will come back. You will be giving Damascus to the Iranians. They'll have a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut. Syria will be occupied by Hezbollah, Russia, Iran, a nightmare for our friends in Israel. You've got to stick with it. You need a holding force as part of a regional force.
If Americans are not part of a holding force, ISIS will come back. And there is no strategy by the Trump administration to counter Iranian expansion. And you need a strategy to deal with Iran just as much as ISIS. And the test of that strategy is in Syria.
RADDATZ: We saw H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, leave this week. He got a very warm send-off from staff.
GRAHAM: Yes. Great man.
RADDATZ: You have John Bolton coming in. There is H.R. McMaster, truly clearly loved by some of the staff there. But you have John Bolton coming in. What will change? And what do you think will change with Syria, if anything?
GRAHAM: Well, I had dinner with Bolton last week. And he asked me, what's going to be my biggest challenge? And I said, it will be Syria. President Trump has taken the gloves off when it comes to fighting ISIS inside of Iraq. He has done the same in Syria. But he wants to somehow leave. All I can tell President Trump, you building a wall to protect us from threats from the southern border, there is no wall you can build in the Mideast.
The only way we can protect America from Mideast threats is to have our troops working with regional partners to have a virtual wall over there. If you take these troops out of Syria, ISIS comes back, Iran begins to dominate Syria, and that's the end of us being a reliable ally. The Kurds that fought with us are going to get slaughtered by Turkey.
The entire region is going to melt down into a Sunni-Shia conflict. So Pompeo and Bolton need to explain to the president of the United States that what happens in Syria matters to America. There is no foreign government or force to outsource our national security. Keep these troops in Syria. If you pull them out too soon, you'll have Iraq all over again with worse consequences.
RADDATZ: And Senator Graham, just finally back to domestic politics. EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been under fire this week after numerous reports questioning his spending habits. Do you think he should go?
GRAHAM: I think he's done a good job, but I'm looking to see what the oversight committee is going to say.
The one thing I can say, if you're the EPA administrator, and two lobbyists change the locks, you've got a problem. The bottom line this doesn't look good. I like Scott. He's done a good job, from my point of view, as being EPA administor, but -- administrator -- but the congress has an oversight role here. And we'll see where this goes.
RADDATZ: Does it look like he's engaged in questionable behavior to you?
GRAHAM: I don't think you could get a room for $50 a night.
RADDATZ: It would be tough to do in Washington, that's for sure.
Thanks very much, Senator Graham.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
RADDATZ: Coming up, the roundtable weighs in on the political fallout of President Trump's week and whether embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will manage to keep his job. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can remember Obama telling us that, you know, before the election these jobs are gone. They're not going to come back. They're back. Jobs are coming back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're being exporters of soy beans, big exporters of beef here, and so there's a concern.
I do think President Trumps tariffs on China, they are tactical. They are very strategic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish he hadn't done what he did, though, because I think it's hurting a lot of the farm communities. And it's going to hurt them more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say what you want about Trump, he's a business man. He's used to dealing -- just like saying, here it is. We're going to do it. You do what you have to do. And call in -- and call their bluff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: A wide range of opinion on a growing threat of a trade war from voters we spoke to in the Midwest. And joining me now to talk about that, and much more, ABC News senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce, ABC News Cokie Roberts, Joshua Johnson host of NPR's 1A, and Franco Ordonez White House correspondent for McClatchy.
Welcome to all of you.
And Mary, I've got to start with you. Let's start where we ended with Lindsey Graham, and that is Scott Pruitt. There's been a lot of ABC reporting on this. And that house for $50 as well as other things, which we all know, is pretty hard to find. How is he still hanging on to his job?
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS: That is the big question. Look, I mean publicly the president says he still has his back, privately we know the president is growing frustrated by all of this seemingly never ending controversy, this constant drip, drip, drip. And there is this rift within the White House. We know that his chief of staff, John Kelly, wants him gone. So do a growing number of lawmakers, including Republicans.
I mean, we just have never seen a cabinet secretary in recent memory face so many ethical questions on so many different fronts from that sweetheart real estate deal to an inflated security detail, his seemingly penchant for luxury travel, all of these questions. But the bottom line is that the president likes him. He's long been one of the president's favorites, because he's doing the tough work that the president wants. He's rolling back all of these regulations, fulfilling the president’s agenda at the EPA. The question now is whether this growing cloud makes that more difficult. And the president ultimately says enough is enough.
ROBERTS: It’s not the president who likes him, it’s the president’s voters who like him. And in the same way --
BRUCE: And they’ve been very vocal about that.
ROBERTS: Exactly. And in the same way evangelical Christians have stayed behind Donald Trump despite his peccadilloes, saying we like his policies even if we don’t like these aspects of him, same thing’s true of Mister Pruitt. People are saying we like his policies even if we don’t like his transgressions and so we want him to stay there. Mr. President, you keep him there.
RADDATZ: And Mary mentioned John Kelly. I got to -- I got to move to John Kelly.
ORDONEZ: Well that’s what I was about to say, is John Kelly, I think he’s the one to really watch. I mean, we’ve heard multiple reports (ph) -- not just one, that Kelly wanted him out. Two of his big jobs are one, is watch the president, make sure he’s doing what should be done. But another one is take -- make sure that your cabinet members are accountable.
He has talked to his cabinet about some of these issues and the fact that he has said, supposedly, that he wants him out and is not being listened to, you got to wonder how effective can Kelly really be.
RADDATZ: Well, there was a story this morning, The Washington Post, ABC News has also been reporting on this and the -- that his role was diminished -- John Kelly’s role has been diminished in the White House. The president tweeting this morning, Washington Post, that story is false.
JOHNSON: Right. And the other thing that I would keep in mind with regard to John Kelly, some of the reporting has said that he, in a recent meeting, said, I’m out of here. didn’t know if they meant I’m out of here for the day or, like, I’m out of here, good luck, farewell. With regard to Scott Pruitt, if I could back up for a second, I -- I feel like Scott Pruitt, increasingly, the more I think about it is the easiest to replace.
EPA policy does not change quickly. There have been a number of regulations that the administration has tried to sue against, that courts have struck down and left the rules in place. Rules can take years and years to make. So the president could very easily put in someone with the same ideological bend to (ph) Scott Pruitt, who wants the same policy aims but none of the baggage and keep right on moving with that piece of his policy.
RADDATZ: So there’s been probably more focus on the EPA and the EPA (ph) administrator --
JOHNSON: Oddly enough, yes.
RADDATZ: -- oddly enough that -- you know. I want to -- I want to turn back to the tariffs and (ph) this week and what we saw in West Virginia, with the president literally tearing up his script --
ROBERTS: And having a grand time doing it.
RADDATZ: -- and having a grand time doing it. I’m not sure he ever looked at it to begin with. But -- but, you know, all this we’re talking about now, is he really running the White House the way he wants to run it?
ROBERTS: Clearly. Clearly. And -- and that’s problematic. But he is -- the tweets are very direct, every day now there’s (ph) quite a few, usually. And -- and the people -- with McMaster gone, I mean the people who really were saying, let’s run it this way, are gone. With the exception of Kelly and it looks like Kelly is getting weaker by the day. So at what point does he walk out? But this tariff situation is really something troublesome.
Your wonderful interview from this year --
RADDATZ: It was a (ph) long time ago --
ROBERTS: -- when -- when the gentleman said -- you know, was talking about Smoot-Hawley. I mean talk about educated voters. And -- but I always liked that. And he -- he was making a very good point. This is -- this is a scary moment.
RADDATZ: And Mary, you were on the ground. You were out there checking -- checking with voters to -- and -- and there was -- the comments on immigration, the comments on the border, how did that play with the people you were around (ph)?
BRUCE: Well, the president is clearly hurling red meat at his base, bringing up all of these issues, talking about immigration, bringing up, again, those unfounded claims about voter fraud. And while those may be issues that a lot of -- of voters -- you know, they are at the top of their list.
Those that we talked to in West Virginia, they’re most concerned about the economy, about jobs, about the things that the president was supposed to be talking about in that speech, the Republican tax plan -- which is also, by the way, what Republican leaders want the president to be talking about when he’s out there in these areas.
RADDATZ: But let’s go back to the border. There -- there are serious concerns with -- certainly with voters I’ve talked to about the border on the border states. What do you think about him calling up the National Guard? Will it backfire? Will it -- ORDONEZ: I think -- I think the National Guard, as -- as Mary was saying, is a call to his base. Look, I think so many of these things that he is talking about are really symbolic gestures. These migration patterns are seasonal, but I think the point is the things that Trump is suggesting now to do, Obama already did them. Bush did them as well. Call the National Guard, call for more detentions at military facilities, end catch and release --
ROBERTS: But they did those with anticipation of an immigration reform bill coming through. Both Obama and Bush sent in the National Guard as a --
RADDATZ: It was a very different time, yes.
ROBERTS: -- to try to get an immigration bill passed. This is very different from that.
ORDONEZ: I think the -- I think it is different in the sense of -- of the reasons for doing it. My point is that it’s more symbolic that he’s making the effort to this and that we saw this in 2014, some of these things, when the crisis of the unaccompanied minors came up.
And we’re still seeing those numbers again several years later. So it’s a really hard issue to address, and when Obama tried to end catch and release for example, the court struck him down and they said you can’t do that.
So the courts and the ACLU and these groups are ready and preparing.
ROBERTS: And the church -- the church.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and Joshua, I want to -- I want to turn to -- to Syria for a moment, and you saw the president’s tweets this morning, there will be a price to pay. It -- it sounds to me like there will be a response. Can you see that?
JOHNSON: I think so, I mean I can’t -- I -- I don’t follow the president’s tweets as closely as some people, which is probably why I sleep so well. But I don’t recall him referring to Assad as an animal that much.
He put a lot more of -- of the culpability on Vladimir Putin, at least in the text of this tweet. I’ve begun thinking about the conflict in Syria, particularly with regard to the fight against ISIS, like the fight against a wildfire.
You put out one hotspot, but you have to keep it cool, because if you don’t then the fire can -- the flames can jump right back and rekindle.
RADDATZ: A lesson President Obama certainly learned.
JOHNSON: Exactly, which President Trump has criticized President Obama for, so --
RADDATZ: I would read you the tweet, but then you wouldn’t sleep at night.
JOHNSON: Thank you Martha, (inaudible) you’re a nice (inaudible).
ROBERTS; But what he (ph) talked about all through the campaign was don’t give timetables, don’t tell people you’re pulling out (ph) they’ll just wait you out if you tell them you’re pulling out.
It was very mainly (inaudible).
RADDATZ: Oh yes, that was -- that was pretty shocking this week to hear him say we’re going to get out of this.
ROBERTS: (Inaudible) we’re going to pull out, right, and then when you have a gas attack.
RADDATZ: I want to go back to the Hill and -- and look forward a little bit, this week we have Mark Zuckerberg on the Hill. What do you expect, other (ph) new regulations?
BRUCE: We -- we did see Zuckerberg come out on Friday and support this legislation that would increase transparency among -- on political ads. And I think that’s certainly welcomed by -- by many on Capital Hill, that is a bipartisan effort, but if -- if Zuckerberg thinks that means that he’s not going to face a brutal grilling, he is sorely mistaken.
I mean this is a congressional gauntlet --
RADDATZ: What do they want to know?
BRUCE: -- (inaudible) has never been through. Well they want to know -- they want to go over these privacy issues, they want to go over what happened with Cambridge Analytica, but remember they also have a lot of unanswered questions about what happens in the presidential election, how this platform was used by -- by Russia to meddle in our election, and most importantly, how to prevent that from happening again as you barrel towards the mid terms.
ROBERTS: They just want to have their day, they do. And he’s --
ROBERTS: (Inaudible) he’s been sending out Sheryl Sandberg who -- who can do a interview in a way that is appealing. We’ll see how appealing he is on the Hill.
RADDATZ: And -- and what else is on the agenda, Mary?
BRUCE: Not a whole lot. Look, I think what comes next on the Hill largely depends on what the president does next. He clearly is suffering from some serious buyers remorse about signing this -- this huge omnibus spending bill which did not do enough on his border wall.
He now feels he got ripped apart on the right for signing this bill that doesn’t do enough on immigration, and to fulfill his promise to build that big beautiful wall -- look when Congress went out on this break, the -- the overall thinking on the Hill was that they weren’t really going to anything on immigration.
They weren’t going to do anything on DACA. That moment had passed, now the president is turning up the pressure, will he continue to do that? Republican leaders are sort of waiting to see what the president does next.
JOHNSON: I’ll be interested to see what Mark Zuckerberg thinks, but I think now is a good time for us to get much more educated about Facebook for ourselves as users. There are two websites I would strongly suggest everyone who uses Facebook go to, one is Facebook.com/help, which is the website that allows you to have direct links to change your policy settings.
The other is Facebook.com/policy, that’s the plain English explanation of Facebook’s data policy. If you ever wondered what they’re doing, now’s the time to read it, especially because the E.U. has new laws called the GDPR I believe that are supposed to effect Facebook’s privacy settings for every citizen of the European Union, whether they are in the E.U. or travelling.
So the rules for the way we use Facebook are changing very, very soon and regardless of what Congress is able to do because we know that members of Congress are such tech freaks, now is the time to learn how Facebook (inaudible).
RADDATZ: Joshua, not only an analyst but an -- an instructor.
RADDATZ: Thank you. Thank you for (inaudible) appreciate it. And Franco, I just want to return to the Hill and what you see going forward in -- in the next few months. Is there buyers remorse for the -- for the bill that one -- what -- what is it, $1.3 trillion spending bill?
ORDONEZ: I mean, I think there’s going to be questions about this bill. I’m very interested, as Mary was saying on -- in the immigration debate, Lindsey Graham in your interview predicted that immigration will come back up.
He talked about DACA being an issue. I think Republicans are going to be kind of reluctant to do that. However, I think they will push and they will try to support Trump in getting an immigration package to kind of support him in this today's effort to support the wall.
But I think Democrats, and Lindsey Graham, will try to kind of push DACA in there to get it to be part of this discussion. And as you had said earlier, this is an issue that Trump has said he would support in the past, a very narrow border and DACA agreement. And they get it done.
ROBERTS: They can do that if conservative Republicans allow them to. And that's the real question, whether the conservative Republicans insist on adding to that the chain migration and family separation and all of that.
But the other thing that's going to happen is huge confirmation fights. I mean, we've got the CIA and the State Department up. And there will be a lot of questions...
RADDATZ: You think there will be fights there?
ROBERTS: Just a couple.
RADDATZ: And Mary, just -- I just want to close with you. Mueller investigation, does that play in a way here?
BRUCE: Yeah, I mean, of course, but that's always overshadowing all of this on Capitol Hill.
But I do think you're right, in the coming weeks and months as you head especially into the mid-terms, it becomes even harder, I think, for Republicans to take on some of these big fights. How they play that when you have the pressure of an election breathing down your neck is a difficult one to square.
ORDONEZ: They probably just want to keep hanging out and doing -- backing the tax cuts.
RADDATZ: I'm sure that's what they'll do. They'll just keep hanging out and doing that.
Thanks to all of you for joining us this Sunday morning. And we'll be right back.
RADDATZ: And we're counting down the days to Georgia's exclusive interview with James Comey. The former FBI director opens up for the first time since his firing right here on ABC next Sunday night at 10:00, 9:00 Central.
And that's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight. And have a great day.
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