A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, August 19, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've never respected him.\ I've never had a lot of respect.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: President Trump takes on outspoken critic and former CIA director John Brennan by taking away his security clearance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's using a security clearance of a former CIA director as a pawn. He's drunk on power.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Warns more could be coming.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sparking a fierce backlash.
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: To me this had an eerie memory, an enemy's list.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president is emboldened, unrestrained, punishing adversaries in unprecedented ways. Is it all about the Russia investigation? A move to bury those Omarosa headlines? How will Trump's actions affect America's security? Martha Raddatz takes those questions to the president's national security adviser John Bolton in a This Week exclusive.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Brennan has been a strong critic of the administration, but what does this have to do with protecting classified information?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Plus, insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are sorry. I am sorry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another scandal consumes the Catholic Church.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would always have his hands on me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Decades of abuse, more than 1,000 victims, a circle of silence across Pennsylvania. How did the coverup continue for so long? What must the church do now to recover? Questions this week for the bishop of pittsburgh, David Zubik.
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.
Another week, another norm shattered. Intelligence officials, even former CIA directors, have lost their security clearances before when they broke the rules or broke the law. What happened this week is brand new: the first time a president has personally revoked the security clearance of a former official not for mishandling classified information -- there's no evidence of that -- but for speaking out against the president.
And as the president told The Wall Street Journal it was retaliation for John Brennan's involvement with the Russia investigation at the CIA, "I call it the rigged witch hunt and these people let it, said Trump. So, I think it's something that had to be done."
President Trump is now threatening to take action against others he blames for the Russia investigation. And his unprecedented actions have drawn an unprecedented response from dozens of former intelligence officials, including CIA directors dating back to the Reagan administration.
It's a remarkable rebuke that raises a serious question, what does it mean for national security when the intelligence community and the commander-in-chief appear to be at war?
Our chief global affair anchor Martha Raddatz is in Jerusalem this morning where she discussed this issue and much more with the president's national security adviser John Bolton. Good morning, Martha.
RADDATZ: Good morning, George. It was a wide-ranging interview. We talked a lot about foreign policy, the hot spots around the world, North Korea and Russia, but I started the interview by asking him about President Trump revoking the security clearance of John Brennan.
RADDATZ: Ambassador Bolton, thanks for doing this interview with us today.
I know you’re heading on to Geneva and Ukraine this week with lots of important issues to talk about Russia, North Korea. But I want to start with another issue that is in realm of national security and that is President Trump revoking the security clearance of John Brennan. Should that have been done?
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, this is a decision for the president. It’s something that I think was originally suggested by Senator Rand Paul, perhaps others. I was aware of it, along with I think most of the president’s other senior national security advisors a few weeks ago. He obviously made his decision and we go on from there.
RADDATZ: He cited his authority to protect the nation’s classified information as a reason and also refered to Brennan’s -- what he called erratic behavior, wild outbursts on the Internet and television.
Brennan has been a strong critic of the administration. But what does this have to do with protecting classified information?
BOLTON: Well, you know, I think Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whom I don’t think anybody could excuse of being a gofer for the Trump administration, had some very trenchant observations on Brennan’s behavior since he left with CIA, and I think also on his behavior while he was at the CIA. It was my view at the time that he and others in the Obama administration were politicizing intelligence. I think that’s a very dangerous thing to do.
And I think especially for senior intelligence officials, career intelligence officials who come out of the government, to keep that wall of separation between intelligence policy. And I don’t think Brennan has follow that and, you know, whether he actually used classified information, I think people will be able to determine. But I think that’s a serious problem.
RADDATZ: Are there any specific examples that you think he used classified intelligence...
BOLTON: No, but I think there is a...
RADDATZ: … to politicize?
BOLTON: There is a line and somebody can cross it. I know from my own experience in the Bush administration after I left, I was accused by a senior State Department official of criticizing the administration’s policy on North Korea and using classified information.
And it happened he was half right, I was criticizing the Bush administration, but I was not using classified information. Had I been, it would have been a different story.
RADDATZ: I assume that John Brennan says the same thing, that he didn’t use classified information. You -- would you have been fine if President Obama had revoked your security clearance for criticizing him, which you did frequently?
BOLTON: No, because I didn’t use classified information there either. I say there’s a line and I think it’s clear some people can cross it.
RADDATZ: But let me be clear here, you’re not sure whether John Brennan used classified information? You have no specific examples.
BOLTON: In terms of what he said since he left, I think a number of people have commented that he couldn’t be in the position he’s in of criticizing President Trump and his so-called collusion with Russia unless he did use classified information.
But I don’t know the specifics. What I do know is when he was director of CIA, I was very troubled by his conduct, by statements he made in public, and by what I thought was his politicization of the intelligence community.
RADDATZ: So, the line to you for people who should have their security clearance revoked is if they use classified information. But you’re not really sure whether he did.
BOLTON: If there’s any kind of misconduct, I think there are lots of grounds to have your security clearance revoked for behavior that calls into question your ability to hold the material in confidence.
RADDATZ: OK, just a couple of more on this. The criticism of this move has been very widespread. CIA directors Bob Gates, George Tenet, Michael Hayden, all of whom served under Republican presidents, expressing outrage. They called it an inappropriate attempt to stifle free speech based on political views, writing that this action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials.
Are those concerns valid?
BOLTON: Well, look, as I said a moment ago, I’ve been through this myself and had the senior State Department official whose name I'll let go for now persisted and tried to get my clearance pulled because I had been critical of his performance and others, yes, I would have objected to it.
I don’t think political disagreement alone is sufficient. But I think in the case, especially of a senior intelligence community official who violates the separation between intelligence and policy, I think those would constitute grounds.
RADDATZ: But John Brennan could look at television. He can look at open source. And he certainly has testified in front of Congress.
BOLTON: Yes, those are all things that a lot of people who have security clearances outside of administrations do. For me, the issue is whether he abused information that he obtained while he was director of CIA, or they have obtained perhaps erroneously or incorrectly after he left.
RADDATZ: OK, just the last one on this. The president does go way beyond Brennan. He says this raises questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets, long after their time in government has ended.
You know that a lot of these people, let’s take Bill McRaven, who also criticized...
BOLTON: I have done that as well. But I think it’s certainly appropriate in a time when we’re seeing what I believe are unprecedented leaks of highly classified information, to look at the question of how many people have clearances, how many people received this very sensitive information, both inside the government and in the case of former officials.
So, I don’t see that there would be anything wrong if it were determined to go that way to review the policies about former officials having clearances. Sometimes it can be useful. In my case, my clearance was active at a time when I was a member of a board of directors of a company that did classified work for the government, and it was felt important that some of the directors be able to access that information.
There were other times when I was a civilian that my classification was dormant, my security clearance was dormant, and I think that’s appropriate too. But looking at that policy overall I think might well be a good idea.
RADDATZ: OK, I want to move on to Russia and your trip here overseas. On the agenda later this week is a meeting in Geneva with Russia’s foreign -- Russia’s national security adviser to follow up on Helsinki. Is there anything specific you want from that meeting?
BOLTON: Well, the -- the meeting came about, really, as a result of the meeting of President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki. They decided that the two national security councils should get together, reviving an idea of having working groups that was set up by my predecessor, H.R. McMaster. I think I’ve spoken with Jim Mattis and Mike Pompeo about that.
We’ve agreed that what we can do at the meeting on Thursday is look at the broad range of issues that might be open for discussion between Washington and Moscow and try and plan it out in a systematic way. So I’ll go back and report to the president and my colleagues in the National Security Council and -- and we’ll see what comes of the meeting and what the best way ahead is.
RADDATZ: Since the Putin meeting, President Trump has directed you and the rest of the national security team to make election meddling a priority. We have clear evidence in the 2018 election that Russia is still trying to interfere. If Russia, as they tend to do, keeps denying they interfered, how do you have a productive conversation about that?
BOLTON: Well, I’m sure we’ll have a discussion about it Thursday. I had a discussion about it myself with President Putin when I went to Moscow originally to prepare the groundwork for his meeting with President Trump. President Trump raised it with President Putin.
You keep raising it and we’ll -- we’ll see what their response is. But it’s not simply a question of speaking with the Russians. At the president’s direction -- we had a press conference in the White House briefing room a couple weeks ago now with myself and four of the heads of the operating agencies and departments that deal with this, to layout at least as much as we could in a non-classified environment -- what we were doing.
And there are a lot of things we’re doing that we can’t talk about specifically. And that includes both defensive and offensive cyber operations to protect the integrity of the election process.
RADDATZ: President Trump tweeted this weekend that all of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction -- China. Just to be clear, have you seen any credible evidence that the Chinese meddled in our elections in the past or are doing so now? Is this a genuine national security concern?
BOLTON: Well I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we’re taking steps to try and prevent it. So -- so all four of those countries, really.
RADDATZ: But -- but have you seen anything in the past, specifically to China?
BOLTON: Well I’m not going to get into the -- what I’ve seen or haven’t seen but I’m telling you looking at the 2018 election, those are the four countries that we’re most concerned about.
RADDATZ: And on Russia -- you just brought up cyber security -- the director of the NSA, General Paul Nakasone seemed to indicate the White House earlier this month that he’s been authorized to conduct offensive cyber operations in response to any kind of election meddling. What would that mean? What would he do?
BOLTON: Well, I think it means exactly what he implied. And again, this is a classified matter. I can’t get into what we’ve been doing but it’s been certainly a priority of mine to make sure that we’re using the full range of our capabilities to protect not just the elections but a whole range of vulnerable systems in the United States, vulnerable to cyber warfare operations in the -- in the government and in the private sector.
And I think that’s something that’s very important because what we want is not war in cyber space. We want peace in cyber space. And to do that, I think you need to establish structures of deterrence so that our adversaries who have conducted cyber operations against us or who are contemplating it come to understand they will pay a much higher price if they do that than if they simply refrain.
That’s why offensive cyber operations are potentially so important. If you’re simply always on the defensive, you’re not going to create structures of deterrents, which is what we aim to do.
RADDATZ: And – and on Syria, the situation in Syria was a topic in Helsinki as well with Putin. I know you’ll be discussing that today with Prime Minister Netanyahu especially about getting Iran out of Syria.
Where do we stand on that?
BOLTON: Well I think the – certainly the objective of the United States, of Israel, President Putin said it was Russia’s objective is to get Iran – Iranian forces, Iranian militias, Iranian surrogates out of the offensive operations they’re in in both Syria and Iraq and frankly, to end Iran’s support for Hezbollah.
I think the president’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has put a real crimp into the Iranian economy. I think they’re feeling it in their capability for the Quds Force or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to conduct offensive operations in – in the region here and in Yemen as well.
But I think this is part of the problem with the Iranian regime generally and why it’s such a threat to peace and security not just because of its nuclear program, but because of its military operations and its support for terrorism.
So that’s certainly on the agenda here in Israel.
RADDATZ: Do you trust Russia to do this?
BOLTON: Well I think President Putin is very candid in his comments to President Trump, he was to me as well. He doesn’t think Iranian –
RADDATZ: They said they’d get rid of chemical weapons, they weren’t all gone.
BOLTON: One – one issue at a time. He said he didn’t – didn’t have the same interest as Iran in Syria. And that he’d like to talk about ways to get out of them. I think it’s clear that we believe, for example, on the subject of chemical weapons, as British intelligence and law enforcement concluded that Russia was behind the attack on the Skripals in Salsbury using the illegal chemical weapons agent Novichok some months ago.
President Trump took very strong action expelling over 60 Russian so-called diplomats in response to that. Sanctions have been imposed on Russia recently. We feel very strongly about the use of these illegal chemical weapons.
That’s why the president has twice struck in Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons.
RADDATZ: Is Assad remaining in power an acceptable – an acceptable outcome for the U.S. now?
BOLTON: Look, the – the interest that we’re pursuing in Syria and in Iraq is the final destruction of the ISIS territorial caliphate, dealing with the ISIS territorial threat and – and getting Iran back into – getting its forces back into its own territory.
That’s what we’re focused on, we’re obviously concerned about a number of things including humanitarian situation in the region. We’ll be discussing that here in Israel and – and with the Russians in Geneva.
RADDATZ: And I want to turn to North Korea. It’s been more than two months since President Trump and Kim Jong-un met in Singapore. You’ve said North Korea has not taken the necessary steps to denuclearize.
In fact, there’s evidence that they may be building another ICBM. So in your view, is North Korea serious about following through with this?
BOLTON: Well I think it’s important that they demonstrate seriousness. President Trump has – believes very strongly, he talks about it frequently that the North Koreans have not tested ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons recently, that they’ve given back the remains of over 50 American service members, trying to identify who they are at this point.
And I think Secretary Pompeo will be returning to Pyongyang soon for his fourth visit.
RADDATZ: With direct talks with Kim Jong-un?
BOLTON: Well that’s what we expect –
RADDATZ: Do you know that yet?
BOLTON: That’s what – that – I think the timing will be announced at an appropriate point by the State Department. But this is to fulfill the commitment that Kim Jong-un made in Singapore, that he had previously made to the South Koreans and – and to move on with the process of denuclearization remains our highest priority.
RADDATZ: But – but what does that mean? OK, before the summit, the administration talked about the goal of rapid denuclearization. Secretary Pompeo has now said the ultimate timeline for denuclearization will be set by Chairman Kim at least in part and that we are now practicing patient diplomacy.
That sounds a lot like Obama’s.
BOLTON: Yes, I – I think the idea that we’re pursuing the Obama administration policy in North Korea or any of the policies that failed before would contradict what President Trump has said repeatedly. Let me just say what –
RADDATZ: Well let’s go back to what Pompeo just said.
BOLTON: Yes, but let’s go back to what Kim Jong-un said which – which I think is – is of greatest interest. On April the 27th at Panmunjom, Kim Jong-un met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and at that meeting, as President Moon reported to us, President Moon pointed out that the more rapidly North Korea denuclearizes, they sooner could come the benefits of openness to foreign aid from Japan and South Korea, foreign investment from many number of countries.
President Moon said let’s get this done in a year.
RADDATZ: And so you think within a year – is that the time frame?
BOLTON: And Kim Jong-un said yes. So the one year period that we’ve talked about from the point where North Korea makes the strategic decision to denuclearize is something that the North and South Koreans have already agreed to.
And – and why is that significant? President Trump has gone out of his way to hold the door open for Kim Jong-un, that’s what the Singapore meeting was about.
RADDATZ: But how long did you give the North Koreans for their strategic decision to denuclearize? Do they really understand what that means? Should that have been written down?
BOLTON: It’s hard to believe they don’t understand it. Secretary Pompeo has done extraordinary follow up diplomacy after the Singapore meeting. As I say, we expect that’s going to resume in the near future.
It’s a hard task, I don’t envy him, but he’s worked very hard at it to pursue President Trump’s goal of getting North Korea denuclearized.
RADDATZ: And we’ll be patient for how long?
BOLTON: I think we’re – we’re counting on North Korea following through on the commitments that they’ve made.
RADDATZ: And – and I just want to enter on Afghanistan. President Trump campaigned on ending the war in Afghanistan. In October it will be 17 years we’ve been involved there.
In this last week, you saw the Taliban try to take Ghazni. Since 2009, it’s the worst year for civilian casualties. Is his strategy really working there any better than anybody else’s has?
BOLTON: Well I think the president’s view has not changed since the campaign. I think he is determined to find a way to get a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan. We’ve looked at several different possibilities to get the Taliban and others directly engaged with the government of Afghanistan. There have been some signs that’s moving in the right direction.
We have a new commander of the allied forces coming into Afghanistan in the – in the next several weeks. He’ll want to take a look at the circumstances there. I don’t rule out that we’d have a change in some of the things we’re doing there, but the president’s view is that he’ll support the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to see if the Taliban are finally ready to talk seriously.
RADDATZ: It must be frustrating for you too, because I feel like I’ve heard these arguments for 17 years, the same thing, the Taliban is desperate.
BOLTON: Yes, well what I remember over 17 years is the attack on 9/11. And I think the administration is determined that it never happen again. And that’s the bottom line is the security of the United States.
RADDATZ: Would you consider privatizing there using contractors instead of U.S. military? There have been some reports about that this week.
BOLTON: There are always a lot of discussions. I find it helpful, I’m always open to new ideas. But I’m not going to comment on what the thinking is. That’ll ultimately be the president’s decision.
RADDATZ: Thanks very much, Ambassador Bolton and good luck with your trip.
BOLTON: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha, you did cover a lot of ground there with Mr. Bolton and we saw him double down on the president's decision to revoke John Brennan's security clearance even though he didn't offer specifics on how classified information might have been abused there.
And up against that, though, 70 intelligence officials who served for both Democrats and Republicans saying this has crossed a line.
RADDATZ: They certainly have, George. And I think we really have to go back to that and look at those names -- Robert Gates, Michael Hayden. I'm sure the current CIA director worked for most of those men over her 20 years at the CIA, so I think that is a very, very significant letter.
You also have Bill McRaven, tet's talk about him a little bit, the retired admiral who is head of the joint special operations forces, the man who led the raid, who coordinated that raid that killed bin Laden. McRaven says these are McCarthy-era tactics that President Trump is using.
And when I think about it and I think about Admiral McRaven, you've got a whole lot of people, a whole lot of men and women who would follow him anywhere, so he is someone you have to listen to. His reputation is truly impeccable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Martha, it also seems this week the president's plans for that military parade in November in Washington fell victim to some pushback from the military.
RADDATZ: It did. There were members of the military and veterans organizations who said they wanted that money spent elsewhere. There were estimates, some of them saying $90 million it would take to have that parade.
And this didn't really start with the military. It started with President Trump wanting a military parade. They're expensive. They're extravagant and the president has now changed his mind on that, but blamed local officials in D.C. And those local officials, as you know, George, came right back at him and said this was a very expensive endeavor.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha Raddatz, thanks very much. Great interview.
When we come back, we'll have more on this, on the roundtable later in the program.
Up next, that stunning and heartbreaking new grand jury report on abuse in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church.
Bishop David Zubik joins us next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Just a few of the more than 1,000 victims cited in a devastating report this week from a Pennsylvania grand jury, detailing decades of abuse by more than 300 catholic priests, abuse known to church leaders who the grand jury said followed a, quote, "playbook for concealing the truth".
Bishop David Zubik is one of the church leaders discussed in the report, he joins us now from Pittsburgh. Bishop Zubik, thank you for joining us this morning. I want to give you the opportunity to respond right off the bat to those critics who say church leaders were complicit in a cover up.
DAVID ZUBIK, BISHOP: OK, first of all George, thank you for the opportunity to be with you on air. And I want to say first of all we all need to have a – a deep sense of empathy for all the victims who have suffered so much, as I apologize to them we need to continue with looking for efforts to help their lives become better.
Second of all, I can well understand the rage that people have in reading this report. I feel that rage as well too. And third of all, I want to offer my support to the very faithful priests and deacons who served our people so faithfully.
I want to say that it’s important from my perspective, George, to talk about the whole allegation of cover up. I was a little bit surprised to hear after my first answer to the news conference on Tuesday that I was somehow a part of the cover up.
And I realized that what we needed to do here in Pittsburg was to be able to show the public how that wasn’t so. And so what I asked to have done over the course of the last couple of days after the report was released and our own listing of offenders was to make sure that we put not only when an offense was brought forth to the Diocese, but in every case where the – where it was reported to the appropriate district attorney.
The second thing I realized was the report is lengthy, but we were also given the opportunity by the courts to do our response. And I encourage people to read our responses as well too because it addresses the issue of how we didn’t cover up.
And third of all, I think it’s – we need to note that district attorneys who have been in Alleghany County for the last 30 years have this week issued statements to say that we have in fact turned every allegation over to them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let’s take a look at one of the specifics in the report. It says the testimony of the victim of Monsignor Raymond Schultz who testified that he was abused or raped 10 to 15 times, and he describes a meeting with you where you offered to pay for college tuition for his children, counseling as well.
But the victim says he refused the offer because the Diocese followed up and said this – I want to put it up on the screen – you’re going to have to meet with our lawyer and find these documents that basically (ph) said you are done with, you can’t come after us, it’s over, no public, your mouth is closed.
That sounds, in -- from that testimony -- like an attempted cover up.
ZUBIK: No, I think first of all, George, that was an allegation that was brought forward after the person who was alleged to have committed the abuse was in fact deceased. I think that we have taken a position, the diocese of Pittsburgh since 2002 not to do any confidentiality agreements. But we needed to be able to assert whether or not the alleged behavior did in fact occur.
And that was part of the discussion that took place in that particular case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Survivors of the Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP is calling for tough action against your diocese. It says Catholics should stop donating to Bishop Zubik’s diocese until he steps down or takes proven steps to protect kids. Such a boycott may be the best way to cut through the persistent denial of Pittsburgh’s church hierarchy. Your response?
ZUBIK: Sure. I want to go back to when I became the bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh in 2007. I can honestly say that we have followed every single step that we needed to follow to be responsible in our response to -- to the victims. First of all, we’ve listened to them carefully. Second of all, we’ve removed priests from ministry. Third of all, we have in fact turned it over to the district attorneys of the appropriate counties. Fourth of all, we have engaged the independent review board to assess and take a look at the allegations and whether or not a person would be suitable for ministry again.
And we have in fact informed the -- the people in our parishes about those allegations as well as put out press releases accordingly. So I think that that behavior and the steps that we’ve consistently taken since 2007 really works against SNAP’s calling forth my resignation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and there are many descriptions that report of actions you and Bishop Wuerl took against priests who were alleged to have abused young victims. But you know the feeling out there is deep, that so many Catholics and others feel betrayed by the church hierarchy. What do you say to them?
ZUBIK: We have to be able to continue to look at the things that -- that we have done to really correct this issue. The church of Pittsburgh today is not the church that’s described in the grand jury before it (ph). And if I could indicate, you know, starting with -- with 1988 when Bishop Wuerl became bishop of Pittsburgh, one of the first acts that he had to confront was an abuse of two brothers by three priests. He was very passionate about addressing (inaudible) sexual abuse.
And what happened is that we began to develop astringent policies around (inaudible) sexual abuse. He was very direct with the priests in 1988 to tell them if they knew anything they had to come forward. We established an independent review board to assist the bishop to be able to assess allegations. Fourth of all, we established a diocese and assistance coordinator (ph). It was a (ph) position that -- that meets specifically with victims.
And we both first encouraged people who were victims to go forward to report their allegations and then we followed up on that as well, too. Those were some of the things that we’ve done in the past to try to -- to show people that we had been doing things over the course of the years. And we can’t stop there. We have to look for new ways to be able to eradicate sexual abuse in the church, but to work together with all of society to eradicate from society in general.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bishop Zubik, thanks for your time this morning.
ZUBIK: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When we come back, we’ll hear from the round table on this report and all the week’s politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is here and ready to go. And all week long, you can get the latest on politics and the White House with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, AUTHOR: I am not going anywhere. I’m not going to be bullied, I’m not intimidated, and I’m going to go toe to toe with him. Everything he throws at me, believe me, my tapes are much better than theirs.
Donald Trump has met his match.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Remember that happened this week, Omarosa talking about the tapes she has of Donald Trump, her new book casting (ph) aspersions (ph) on the Trump White House.
Also suggesting that President Trump may have known about the e-mails leaked by WikiLeaks before they came out, wanted to get to that in a minute on our round table. First let me introduce everyone.
Our Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, Jason Riley, columnist at the Wall Street Journal, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, now an analyst of ABC and Democratic Strategist Karen Finney, long time advisor to Hillary Clinton.
I want to get to that, but a lot more has happened even just this morning. We’ve got a series of tweets from the president responding to a New York Times story that Don McGahn, his White House Counsel, has given over 30 hours of testimony to Robert Mueller and his team.
The president says this proves he has absolutely nothing to hide, but Chris Christie, let me start with you here. Is the White House going to regret that decision not to invoke either executive privilege or attorney client privilege here?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR, N.J.: Totally, George. And you remember months ago I sat here when we were talking about that. This shows what a C-level legal team the president had at the beginning in Ty Cobb and John Dowd.
You never waive that, absolutely not, and it put Don McGahn in a possible situation because once you waive that privilege and you turn over all those documents, Don McGahn has no choice them but to go in and – and answer everything, every question they can – could ask him.
And this is not in the president’s interest, it wasn’t in the president’s interest, and if he had gotten good legal advice at the time, he would have done something a little bit (inaudible) it’s bad legal advice, bad lawyering and this is a result of it.
KAREN FINNEY, AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: But doesn’t that also presuppose the idea that he – he could have gotten good legal advice and not followed it? I mean this is something we’ve seen with the president time and time – but my point is, time and time again, the president does what he wants to do regardless of the advice that’s given to him.
CHRISTIE: OK, so you want to blame him when he gets good advice and doesn’t follow it, you want to blame him when he gets bad advice –
FINNEY: -- no I’m just suggesting we don’t know necessarily whether or not it was good or bad advice and I think it gives the president – it gives the president –
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- McGahn’s advice, not the advice to cooperate, correct.
FINNEY: And what I’m suggesting is what you’re seeing though that the president is wisely doing, I think he is turning this into an opportunity for him to start tweeting about how open he’s been and how – and therefore why should he go talk to Mueller?
I think he’s setting himself for a reason to not have to talk to Mueller.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You use --- you used the phrase setting himself up. One of the more intriguing lines of inquiry in the – in the New York Times, Matthew Dowd, is they’re positing that one of the reasons Don McGahn gave so much testimony was that he feared he was being set up by the president.
MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Yes, which is – there’s some justification why somebody that works for the president would be feared being set up by the president over what we’ve seen over the last 18 months in the Oval Office.
I – I don’t know if you have it, George, the tweet that – that the state – that president put out – the one about the rat, he had mentioned the rat, John Dean, (inaudible) rat John Dean.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- yes, he said apparently the New York Times wrote a fake piece today implying that because White House Counsel – spelled incorrectly – Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to Special Council, he must be a John Dean type of rat but I allowed him and all his testify (ph) – I didn’t have to, I have nothing to hide.
DOWD: OK, so regardless of who – whether somebody gave good legal advice, bad legal advice, whatever, to me that is so fundamentally telling, that tweet, because what – what the president thinks is is somebody that helped hold a president who was corrupt accountable, Richard Nixon, John Dean helped hold the president who was corrupt accountable in that and gave information to a congressional committee to do that in the midst of Watergate is a rat.
First, the term rat is something out of a James Cagney movie, right? That’s what mobsters use as they refer to somebody that’s betrayed them –
-- (inaudible) this –
CHRISTIE: -- or union leaders –
DOWD: -- I’m surprised – I’m surprised he hadn’t called somebody a dame in the midst of calling –
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned James Cagney, he also – the president also mentioned Joseph McCarthy, compares Mueller, Jason, to Joseph McCarthy. And I guess what this gets to here is, you know, what – were there 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 tweets by the president this morning on this.
When you look at this and you look at the actions about John Brennan this week, he seems to be most energized in his presidency (ph) about anything either to do with the Mueller investigation.
Everything is happening through the prism of that investigation.
JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, you’re right, he is very much interested in that investigation. And he should be, I agree with the governor that this seems to be on McGahn’s part self-preservation.
I think that story is in the Times because McGahn wanted it in the Times, and remember Mueller’s also looking at obstruction, and McGahn was there for the Comey decision, there when – when he was threatening – when the president was threatening to – to fire Mueller.
And McGahn said I’ll – I’ll quit if you do that. So they have a lot to talk about, Mueller and McGahn. And so the president I think is right to be – to be following this very, very, very closely.
In terms of Brennan, George, I just think that was an empty gesture. It’s not going to stop the criticism, and you’ve elevated the platform of a critic like – like Brennan. I do understand the president –
STEPHANOPOULOS: That sounds worse than empty.
RILEY: Well, it was an empty gesture on the part of President Trump to do it. I don't know what it gets him. I think that -- he's right to be upset with Brennan. I mean, it's understandable that he would be upset. Brennan has been out there pushing the Russian interference, helped elect Trump narrative.
Brennan has been pushing the Steele dossier narrative. But this looks like it was more about political payback than it was about national security.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's go to that because it does seem like -- you know, you've got the Brennan -- you've seen how the president has taken off on anyone having anything to do with the early stages of the Russia investigation. He seems more emboldened than ever on that front, not worried at all that this might get played into an obstruction investigation.
CHRISTIE: No, I don't think he is because I think at bottom he believes that he didn't do anything wrong and that by doing these things, taking this executive action, that he's authorized to do under the Constitution.
But going back to the McGahn thing for a minute, what Matthew said, there's an important distinction to make. You know, let's not lionize John Dean, OK? John Dean coordinated the cover-up. John Dean authorized the paying of the folks to keep them quiet.
And then when John Dean was about to get caught, then all of a sudden he held someone to account. The opposite is what Jason said about Don McGahn. Don McGahn was saying from the beginning, you want to fire Mueller, I won't participate and I'm out of here.
Don McGahn was giving the right advice and saying the right things to the president from the beginning. So let's not put John Dean and Don McGahn -- you know, other than the president putting it in a tweet, but let's not us sit here and put this -- no, but there's a difference, Matt.
I mean, he puts it in a tweet for the way he characterizes what Dean was. But let's remember what Dean was. And Don McGahn is not John Dean, not only because of what the president put in his tweet, but because Don McGahn was being honest and giving honest and good advice from the beginning, unlike John Dean who was helping Richard Nixon coordinate the cover-up.
DOWD: So -- wait, George, so fundamentally, fundamentally at the basis of that tweet is what we see is the president sees himself as, I'm Richard Nixon and the president sees Don McGahn as he didn't become John Dean, right? This is the -- and so when the president's...
CHRISTIE: The president is not saying that. The president is saying he's being open and allowed McGahn to talk, and otherwise Nixon told Dean, pay off the burglars and keep your mouth shut. There's a difference.
DOWD: He's saying that anybody that might -- he's saying that anybody that might reveal information about the president doing something wrong is a rat like John...
DOWD: That's what he said.
CHRISTIE: No, no. What he's saying is -- no.
DOWD: It's plain as day.
CHRISTIE: No, no, no. No. Matthew, that's wrong. Because what's the president's saying is, the reason he is not a rat is because I gave him permission to talk. No, no, but that's different. I gave him permission to talk. Richard Nixon...
DOWD: That's not what he's saying.
CHRISTIE: That is exactly what he's saying.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says "he must be John Dean type rat, but I allowed him and all others to testify."
CHRISTIE: I allowed him to speak, that's much different than what Nixon did. What Nixon did was to say to Dean, pay off the burglars and keep your mouth shut. And Dean went and made a deal for himself. What the president did here was to say to McGahn from the beginning -- and by the way, I think it was bad advice, but he said to McGahn from the beginning...
DOWD: Good advice for the country.
CHRISTIE: No, no, no. No, not necessarily good for the country. But, you know, Matt, there's going to be another time when a president wants to use executive privilege and should use executive privilege to protect the country and they've set a bad precedent.
FINNEY: Overall I think what this proves is the president is all about self-preservation. I mean, the idea that, whether it was McGahn who wanted the story out or the White House, clearly in that tweet what he did is to try to flip the narrative when he said, I gave him permission, right, which is like when somebody breaks up with him, he says, I broke up with them first, right?
This is -- I mean, we've seen this game before. And, as I said, I think this is the way that he is going -- he is trying to flip this narrative and protect a way for himself to say, well, why should I talk to Mueller? I mean, I waived executive privilege, I let McGahn go out there and say everything. He knows everything. He has had access to everything.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the president's concerned about self-preservation, he better do well in the mid-terms...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring up from FiveThirtyEight, our friends at FiveThirtyEight have put out their first forecast for the mid-term elections and they say that Democrats have a three in four chance to win control of the House. Republicans have a one in four chance to keep control in the House.
And, Jason, that's a very qualified forecast right there. They're saying these are probabilities, not predictions in any way. But this corresponds to what we're seeing from other experts, that there's no red wave that the president keeps talking about.
RILEY: No, I think that's wishful thinking on some part. I think the Republicans will lose seats, the question is how many seats they're going to lose? The party in opposition generally does pick up seats in mid-term elections. And what we don't know is if Donald Trump is going to have the same problem that Barack Obama had, which is transferring his personal popularity to other people when he's not on the ballot.
And that is going to be the challenge for Trump. And what he is doing, I think, or what his strategy, the White House strategy is, is to focus on more polarizing issues in order to get that base out. But there are a lot of Republicans in swing districts in suburban areas, rural areas that don't like that aspect of the president's agenda. They want to talk about the economy and the judicial nominations and the unemployment being low and so forth.
DOWD: So -- so I’m -- I’m -- having been burned by -- many of us were burned in 2016 by a lot of these prediction models and all that, I’m not going to predict who wins a kite flying contest in the midst of a hurricane. But every factor seems to point that Democrats are going to take the House. The president’s low approval ratings, which are at the point where every president has lost the House when they -- lost the House or lost one of their chapters (ph).
The enthusiasm is behind the people that are opposed to Trump as opposed to for Trump, as much 20 points higher enthusiasm advantage to special elections, money raised, retirements, all of those point to this fact. And the interesting thing about this is these seats that are going -- that as of today are likely to be won by Democrats, but we have 79 more days left in this -- are seats spread across the country. They’re in the Northeast, they’re in the Midwest, they’re in the South and they’re in the West.
And so I think the Democrats, but I have two -- two predictions I will make is get ready for a bumpy ride if the Democrats take the House back in 2019. If we thought had a fabulous 2017, an exciting time, get ready for when they have the investigative body. And two is I think one thing that we ought to pay attention to on election night is there’s going to be a whole bunch of new leaders emerge that we have not even heard of.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, in both -- in both parties, no question about it. And all the factors Matt points out are right, Karen. What he didn’t mention, though, is that the Republicans have also built very high walls in many of their districts against any wave.
FINNEY: Oh, absolutely true. And that’s part of why in some of these primaries, where we’re talking about places where Democrats shouldn’t be winning by the numbers that they’re winning -- I think the average is about 10 or 11 points that you’re seeing in these primaries and the idea -- or in some of these special elections and the idea is, you know, people are looking at will that margin of victory make -- get you over the wall. You know, but to -- to the point Matt made, I mean one of the things I think -- I’m very nervous, always, talking about blue waves because as we know, anything can happen in November given just what happened --
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve all learned that lesson.
FINNEY: Right? Right? But also, I mean, November at this point is 10 years away. Forget about a lifetime away. And you know, you have to remember -- one of the things that I’m seeing in the races that I’m working in, you know, the way issues are playing out on the ground are very different than I think some of these models are able to show us.
STEPHANPOULOS: And which -- which is why the Democratic leadership has sort of said (ph) let 1,000 flowers bloom strategy. Let every --
FINNEY: That’s right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- every candidate run their own race. But generally, Chris, things don’t get better for the incumbent party from Labor Day toward election.
CHRISTIE: No. I mean, generally they don’t. Listen, if you look at it now, you’d have to say that the -- the -- given historic norms and some of the things that are happening on the ground here -- I can see it in New Jersey. You know, we have a number of seats at risk. The other thing that Matthew didn’t mention was retirements. You know, a lot of these incumbent retirements really hurt. My congressman, Rodney Frelinghuysen, who’s been in the House for over, you know, 20 years.
He decided to retire this year. He would have never lost the race in my district. But now we have an open seat and who knows what’s going to happen. But --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Don’t you think he retired in part because he thought he was going to lose?
CHRISTIE: You know -- no.
CHRISTIE: No, I don’t think he retired because -- I think he retired because he was tired of the atmosphere in Washington D.C. He’s a -- a -- a Rockefeller Republican moderate. He couldn’t find -- he was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, George. So this is not a guy who wanted to leave. He had finally reached that pinnacle. But, you know, I think he was tired of the atmosphere in Washington and went away.
But -- but what I will say is the things that are important for Republicans and Democrats on election night that we haven’t talked about today is the governors races. And because the wall you talked about was built because in 2010 -- and 2009 in my instance -- we got the governorships all across this country and controlled redistricting. What’s going to happen now when --- if -- if the Republicans who have 33 governorships now lose a bunch of those governorships in November?
DOWD: Which is likely.
CHRISTIE: If they do, redistricting becomes --
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and Jason, you combine that with the point that Matt made -- made earlier. Setting aside impeachment, Democrats will subpoena power on the Ways and Means Committee, House Oversight Committee, can create a world of hurt --
RILEY: And I -- I -- I wonder if the president realizes this, that -- that things are -- his agenda is --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Different world.
RILEY: It will be a different world. And he might think oh, I -- I’ll -- I’ll have fun with the Speaker Pelosi as a foil. No. It won’t be any fun.
FINNEY: I think he -- but I think he will -- I think he absolutely realizes it because it will also mean -- you know, forget about impeachment. The Russia investigation and all of the stonewalling that we’ve seen from the Republicans on -- on a number of things that Democrats have been asking for in terms of various materials. I mean, talk about -- I mean, he -- paranoid behavior we’re going to see in terms of the Democrats’ ability to have more access, in theory, and create more trouble for him on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, before we even -- before we even get to Russia, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, if it’s a Democrat, can get the president’s tax returns.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- give it to every single member of Congress. Before we go -- I do -- we only have a couple minutes left and I don’t want to go before discussing what we saw out of Pennsylvania, what I discussed with Bishop Zubik just a few -- few minutes ago. Hard to read. And we didn’t repeat a lot of the details here on -- on television but that report, more than 1,000 -- 1,000 victims. Just sickening.
DOWD: George, it -- somebody baptized Catholic, grew up Catholic, was an alter boy throughout his years, and then was an alter server in college, had attended mass most of my life, it's more than disturbing and it's more than despicable and it's more than just a diocese problem or a priest problem, whatever, it's an institutional church problem. And this has been going on, we've seen reports of this been going on for decades now. We had the movie Spotlight in which an investigation started -- which an investigation started in 2001. Now we're in the middle of this. And it's not just one place in the country, it's not just Pennsylvania, or Boston or Los Angeles, it is Ireland, it is Australia.
And so fundamentally this is an institutional problem that the church fundamentally needs to deal with institutionally.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we need a federal investigation?
CHRISTIE: Yes, and I think we do. And I will tell you, I think that what -- we saw this with Cardinal McCarrick who was in our diocese where I live in Newark, but then came to be the Cardinal in Washington, D.C. where it were extended not just to child abuse, but to abuse of young men who were entering the priesthood and were adults, but were forced to engage in sexual contact with someone who ultimately became a cardinal and was in the leadership of the church.
This shows a systemic problem that Matthew said is correct, and we need a broader investigation that could...
DOWD: It needs to go to the Vatican.
FINNEY: Well, but it's more than just that it needs an investigation. And sadly, you and I, Matt, were on this show Easter 2010 talking about this exact problem. And it is the institution has to reform itself. It needs more -- in addition to whatever prosecution, there needs to be some sort of truth and reconciliation because we know that what happened in Pennsylvania, it is not -- as you said, it is not just one state.
RILEY: And I wouldn't just limit it just to the institution of the church. Our schools, our foster care systems, we need -- bureaucratically, we need more oversight, more transparency. We're seeing this arise in other parts of society, not just the church.
FINNEY: But the Catholic Church...
DOWD: Women need to be more in power in the church just like they need to be more in power in politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to be the last word today. Thank you all very much. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight. And I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.