A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, March 3, 2019 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.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I know what Mr. Trump is.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Explosive testimony.
COHEN: He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Michael Cohen rocks Congress with a scathing takedown of President Trump.
COHEN: Every day most of us knew we were coming in that we were going to lie for him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Cohen's revelations riveted the country, enraged Trump and his allies, and laid out a road map for more hearings in congress. Was it a turning point for the Trump presidency?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes you have to walk.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No deal with North Korea. Backlash for Trump after he sides with Kim Jong Un on Otto Warmbier.
TRUMP: He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I'll take him at his word.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those topics and more with the Democrat responsible for possible impeachment proceedings, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, and President Trump's top ranking ally in the House, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Plus, Trump caps the week with two hours unplugged.
TRUMP: I'm totally off script right .
STEPHANOPOULOS: New attacks.
TRUMP: I saw a Little Shifty Schiff, I should have saved the Pocahontas thing for another year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Red meat for his base.
TRUMP: The collusion delusion.
Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism.
We have people in Congress that hate our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our Powerhouse Roundtable weighs in.
GOV. JAY INSLEE, (D) WASHINGTON: We can all be heroes joining in a grand mission.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Washington Governor Jay Inslee joins the White House race with a clarion call on climate change. Can his grand mission be a winning message? We'll break down politics, smoke out the spin, the facts that matter this week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to This Week. Another week, another first. Even John Dean's testimony against Richard Nixon didn't have the raw venom Michael Cohen hurled at Donald Trump, or the vitriol hurled right back at Cohen.
And even as Washington embraces for Robert Mueller's final verdict, more revelations from prosecutors in New York. It is now clear that Congress is ushering in a new phase for the Trump presidency. For now, party lines holding fast, but six House committees armed with subpoena power are now poised to examine every facet of President Trump's life -- his campaign, his White House, his foundation and the business that made him famous.
One big question, will what they uncover be cause for impeachment? And the man who may have the most to say about that, our first guest, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler. Congressman welcome back to This Week.
REP. JERROLD NADLER, D-NEW YORK: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...to This Week. So did you learn anything from the Michael Cohen hearing this week that would lead you to open an impeachment investigation?
NADLER: Well what we learned from the Cohen testimony is that he directly implicated the president in -- in various crimes, both while seeking the office of president and while in the White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re talking about the campaign finance.
NADLER: Campaign finance, yes, those were the -- that was the major one. Impeachment is a long way down the road. We don’t have the facts yet, but we’re going to initiate proper investigations. The Republicans...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Impeachment investigations?
NADLER: No. No, no. The Republicans spent two years shielding the president from any proper accountability. And it threatened -- they threatened to impeach people in Justice Department, they threatened the -- the Mueller investigation. It’s our job to protect the rule of law. That’s our core function. And to do that we are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption of -- into corruption and into obstruction of justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well let’s dig down to that. You said in the past that there can be crimes that are not impeachable offenses. Is a campaign finance felony, like the one outlined against President Trump, one of those?
NADLER: A violation of -- seeking to -- to sabotage a fair election would be an impeachable offense.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that what you saw?
NADLER: Well, we’ll see. I mean, that’s -- that’s -- we’ll see about that.
But we’re far from making decisions on that, because we have to look into -- our core job is to protect the rule of law, and there have been no investigations. We’ve seen real threats to the rule of law from this White House, whether personal enrichment -- the White House seems to have used its power for personal enrichment in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, we’ve seen abuses of power, obstruction of justice, threats to the Mueller investigation, threats to witnesses, all of these have to be an abuse of -- all of these have to be investigated and laid out to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me pick up on that abuse of power that you lay out. There’s one school of thought that a sitting president can’t be indicted, especially for actions he takes in office.
But some of your fellow Democrats already say that the evidence the president has obstructed justice in the Russia investigation is an abuse of power that justifies impeachment.
So can there be impeachable offenses like that that are not crimes?
NADLER: Oh, sure. Crimes and impeachable offense is two different things. There can be crimes that are impeachable offenses and impeachable offenses that are not crimes. They’re just two different tests.
But we have to lay out for the American people and we can’t depend on the Mueller investigation for this. The Mueller investigation, number one, we don’t know when it’s ending despite lots of rumors, number two it’s focused on specific crimes.
And we have to focus much more broadly on abuses of power and what I said a moment ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well the question –
NADLER: And the Justice Department has made clear in the last few weeks that it may hide from the American people the conclusions of the Mueller investigation. We will fight to make that public, but the Justice Department has said that the normal – the normal policy that you don’t comment on the conduct of people who are not indicted will prevail.
And that should normally prevail, but not when you say the president cannot be indicted because he’s the president, that turns it into a cover up if you –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s take it up on that, because the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein actually spoke on it this week. Let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: When we charge somebody with a violation, we need to be prepared to prove it by evidence beyond any reasonable doubt.
If we aren’t prepared to prove our case beyond reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So if the report comes back and says we can’t indict a sitting president or we found no evidence of a crime committed by the president, therefore you’re not going to see the underlying evidence, what can you do?
NADLER: Well first of all those are two different things, they say we’ve seen no evidence of a crime then they ought to say that and say why. And that’s fine. But if the – but –
STEPHANOPOULOS: So would you want underlying evidence there?
NADLER: Yes, we – we do want the underlying evidence, I mean people are entitled to know it. And Congress is entitled to know it because it’s our job to hold the president accountable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because –
NADLER: It’s our job to hold any president accountable, but Rosenstein went much further because – and Barr did too because what they’re saying is a president cannot be indicted no matter how much evidence, the president cannot be indicted.
And if you then say because the president cannot be indicted you’re not going to give the evidence of his crimes, if any, to the public, you’re saying the president cannot be held accountable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’ll sue in that case?
NADLER: We will – we will subpoena, we will – we will do whatever we have to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in 1974 the House committees were able to get access to the grand jury evidence against Richard Nixon. Can you get that evidence in this case?
NADLER: Maybe, our lawyers are – we will do everything we can to get that evidence, we’ll do everything we can to get whatever evidence. We are starting this investigation, we will – tomorrow we will be issuing document requests to over 60 different people and individuals from the White House, to the Department of Justice, Donald Trump Jr., Alan Weisselberg to begin investigations to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So that would include John Kelly, the former chief of staff, Don McGahn the former White House counsel?
NADLER: I would imagine, I mean I don’t have the list in front of me, but we will be releasing the list tomorrow but over – over 60 entities, people, et cetera.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about if Robert Mueller comes back and says definitively we find no collusion by President Trump? Is that a conclusion you’ll accept?
NADLER: Well we’d want to see the evidence behind that and see the validity of that and we can agree to disagree. But this investigation goes far beyond collusion. We’ve seen all the Democratic norms that we depend on for Democratic government attacked by the administration.
We’ve seen attacks on the freedom of the press, the press called the enemy of the people, we’ve seen attacks on the Department of Justice, attacks on the FBI, attacks on – on judges. All of these are very corrosive to liberty and to the proper functioning of government and to our constitutional system.
All this has to be looked at and the facts laid out to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the president obstructed justice?
NADLER: Yes, I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that’s --
NADLER: It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice. It’s very clear – 1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt, he tried to – he fired – he tried to protect Flynn from being investigated by the FBI. He fired Comey in order to stop the Russian thing, as he told NBC News. He – he’s dangled part --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But --
NADLER: He’s threat – he’s intimidated witnesses. In public.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that’s the case, then is the decision not to pursue impeachment right now simply political? If you believe he obstructed justice?
NADLER: No. We have to – we have to do the investigations and get all this. We do not now have the evidence all sorted out and everything to do – to do an impeachment. Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen. You have to persuade enough of the – of the opposition party voters, Trump voters, that you’re not just trying to …
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a very high bar.
NADLER: Yeah. It is a very high bar. That you’re not just trying to steal the last – to reverse the results of the last election. We may or may not get there. But what we have to do is protect the rule of law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This week, the New York Times reported that the president overruled his White House counsel and the intelligence agencies want to deny a top-secret security clearance to Jared Kushner. In your view, even though the president has the right to give a security clearance to anyone he wants to give it to, was that an abuse of power?
NADLER: Yes, I think it was an abuse of power. Look, the president has the right to do a lot of things, but he can abuse his power in doing that. Members of Congress have the right to vote for or against the bill. But if they do so because someone paid them $50,000 to do so, that’s an abuse of power, it’s also a crime. So, you can do things that are within your power that are abuses of power and that are crimes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question. The president put out a tweet yesterday morning – early yesterday morning, want to show it up on the screen, "Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world. Also furthers U.K. relationship." That of course is a Trump golf course in Scotland. Many ethics experts came out and said that’s a violation of the emoluments clause. Do you agree?
NADLER: It certainly seems to be. He seems to have violated the emoluments clause in a lot of different ways and that’s one of the things we should be investigating under – under abuses – under abuses of power. Let me say this; Congress has to do its job. And Congress has to do its job whether it’s investigating the administration, holding the administration accountable, which Republicans in Congress absolutely refuse to do, and dealing with our other problems. We passed, last week, for the first time in the House – for the first time in, I think, 20 years, some real gun control legislation.
The American people by margins of 90 percent want. The Republicans refuse to hold hearings on it. We …
STEPHANOPOULOS: You had divisions among Democrats in that vote.
NADLER: Not much. We got 240 votes or something like that. We – we held hearings on – on the Trump administration policy of tearing children away from the arms of their mothers. These are things that Congress ought to be looking at but the last Congress – the Republicans in Congress simply acted as handmaidens, as shields to the Administration to shield it from any kind of accountability.
We must give accountability to the American people, we must hold the administration’s feet to the fire, and we must show if there are abuses of power, if there are obstructions of justice, if there’s a threat to the rule of law, we must protect the rule of law so that the democracy that was handed down to us is just as intact after this president leaves as it was before he came in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Nadler, thank you for your time this morning.
NADLER: You’re welcome.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now, one of the president’s closest allies in the Congress, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Mr. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning. You heard a lot there from Congressman Nadler. He says the president obstructed justice. He sees abuses of power in the granting of security clearance to Jared Kushner. He sees violations of the emoluments clause. Your response?
MCCARTHY: I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says he’s not there yet.
MCCARTHY: Yes – well, listen to exactly what he said. He talks about impeachment before he even became chairman and then he says, you’ve got to persuade people to get there. There’s nothing that the president did wrong. What was most …
MCCARTHY: In this process to be impeached, show me where the president did anything to be impeached. The other thing you have to find is, listen to what Nadler said. Nadler is setting the framework now that the Democrats are not to believe the Mueller report. They’re now saying we have to do our own investigation. After you had hundreds of interviews, millions of dollars spent in the Senate and the House, they find no collusion.
Even if you listen to the-- Cohen’s own hearing last week, what did he say? He never went to Prague, which is the basis for Mueller …
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you accept Robert Mueller’s report? Whatever he comes back with, you’ll accept that?
MCCARTHY: I want to see Mueller’s report, yes. I’m not – I’m not setting a framework right now that I’m not going to support it. They’re setting a whole new course because they – there’s no collusion so they want to build something else. They want to persuade to go some other place. Listen, Nadler says he wants impeachment. Listen to – he said he had proof ahead of time, you have Schiff, who said he had evidence long before the investigation happened. He’s never produced that.
And now, listen to what we find out about Schiff in the Cohen hearing. He talked to Cohen. He met with Glenn Simpson, we found out, even when the own committee said they had problems with the truth in his own hearing. Schiff actually tried to stop us from finding out who paid for the dossier; the Democrats. Schiff has now met the – Schiff’s own standard of why Devin had to recuse himself. Adam Schiff needs to recuse himself for any new investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Kevin, you mentioned Devin Nunes. He wants – says the entire Mueller report underlying evidence should be made public. Do you agree with that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about some of the evidence. You said you didn’t see any evidence of any impeachable offenses. Let’s talk about some of the evidence. Congressman Nadler said that, for example, the implication of President Trump in the campaign finance violations may be an impeachable offense. Want to put up the check that Michael Cohen showed at the hearing on Wednesday, a $35,000 check, signed by President Trump in the oval office.
Now, that check is part of a campaign finance felony that federal prosecutors believe was directed by President Trump. Doesn't that concern you?
MCCARTHY: Listen, you know what concerns me? If you hire an attorney -- if I hire an attorney to make sure I carry out the law, the attorney has a responsibility to tell me what's right and wrong in the process. I watched -- this is a -- if it’s a finance campaign, those are fines. Those aren’t impeachable in the process. Listen to what else they did. This is what's so concerning to me. Last week we just hit 2.6 in GDP. Are we -- did we talk about that? The president’s sitting in Vietnam talking with North Korea. The history that's always been in the past with America that politics ends at the water's edge -- no, they’re having this hearing right then.
They're discrediting America and they dislike this president so much they won't give him an opportunity to try to denuclearize North Korea that they’d have a hearing on that day? George, you know this as well as I do. Nobody else in any history would do this to a president when they’re overseas, to try to discredit him just because they dislike him and put -- put their dislike ahead of their country? Look, they're picking circus over a solution. And that’s concerning--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that’s your concern but -- but you say you're not concerned about the check. If there’s no problem with the checks, if there’s no problems with the reimbursement then why did the president lie about it for so long?
MCCARTHY: You know, you could ask that question to the president, but this is a personal issue and why would most people not go to the American public about this? You -- you’ve seen politicians do this exact same thing in the past. So to me, they're trying to find a case for a -- for a problem that doesn't exist.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also saw the congressman say it was an abuse of power for the president to grant the security clearance to Jared Kushner over the objections of the CIA, his White House counsel and perhaps his White House chief of staff. Now as I said, no one disputes that the President Trump has the right to grant his son-in-law that security clearance, but was it the right thing to do?
MCCARTHY: The president -- as you just said, the president has the legal authority to do it. The president has a right to pick his national security team around him, who’s going to work with him? And you know what? This week, Gallup just came out with a new poll looking at how does Americans think they are viewed around the world? We are now at the highest level we’ve been, 58 percent since 2003. The president is doing a very good job. The president has the legal authority to do it. The president has to trust the people around him. You’ve been in those offices. You know what the president has to have. The trust of the individuals. If you’re going to work on Middle East peace, if you’re going to work around the -- around the world, you want to have trust in those individuals --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That -- that’s absolutely true and I have been in those --
MCCARTHY: -- and the president has it.
STEPHANOPOULOS : -- offices. One thing I’ve never seen before is a case like this. You had the CIA concerned about Jared Kushner, you’ve had reports that foreign nations believed he was vulnerable to being compromised. Does Congress -- do the -- does the American public have a right to know what the CIA was concerned about with Jared Kushner?
MCCARTHY: Look, I think the president has the right to pick, just as you said, whoever he wants --
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know but that's not what I asked. I said does the Congress have a right to know the concerns about Jared Kushner and why the president overruled the CIA’s concerns?
MCCARTHY: Well I think the president looked at the concerns and the president says those weren't concerns to him so he could have him around. If we went through every person who had this authority before, I’ll -- I’ll guarantee you other people’s had concerns raised with them. The president gets to make that decision. They give you the pluses and the minuses, whatever the concerns are, the president made the choice and he's doing a good job at it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked about North Korea. The president also took some flak for saying he takes Kim Jong Un at his word for not knowing anything about Otto Warmbier, for not taking responsibility for it. Do you take Kim Jong-un at his word?
MCCARTHY: Look, I think the president clarified that. Look, North Korea murdered Otto.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right but Kim.
MCCARTHY: Kim? I think Kim had all authority to do that. I mean, I think Kim knew what happened, which was wrong. That's why when we passed sanctions, we named it after Otto Warmbier, that's why the president kept those sanctions in place. The sanctions the president did not lift on North Korea are named after Otto and I think the president clarified that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually he said North Korea, not Kim.
MCCARTHY: I think Kim knew.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, let’s talk about the national emergency a little bit. You pretty much held the line in the House. This week only 13 Republicans voted against the president, but it looks like it’ll be a little bit dicier in the Senate. Here's what Republican Senator Lamar Alexander has said about the president's declaration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: There has never been an instance where a president of the United States has asked for funding, Congress has refused it and the president has then used the National Emergency Act to justify spending the money anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Aren't you concerned this could come back and bite Republicans if a Democrat gets the White House again?
MCCARTHY: Look, the president has the authority to do this. In 1976, we actually kind of shrunk the power and he still has the power to go forward. 60 times it’s been used. But think about what has happened in the past, the drugs that are coming across, the number of people who have died, the human trafficking. In 2005, because the federal government didn't act along the border, two governors did take their own emergency. Janet Napolitano, who became DHS secretary, she took it along the border in Arizona because she said what was happening with the smuggling and others. You had Bill Richardson in New Mexico do the exact same thing.
There is a national emergency along the border, the president has the authority to do it, Congress acted and this goes beyond. The president will be upheld in this action as well. The president made this promise.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re not concerned the president’s going to be overtaken there. Finally –
MCCARTHY: I’ll think he’ll veto and he’ll be fine.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you do think the Senate will pass it?
MCCARTHY: If the Senate does, it’ll get vetoed so I don’t – I don’t think it’s why they move forward with trying to overwrite it to me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When Michael Cohen finished up his testimony this week, he warned Republicans that they’re doing now what he did for years in defending the president, and they’re going to pay the same consequences. Does that concern you at all?
MCCARTHY: You know what concerns me? You had this hearing when the president was in Vietnam negotiating to denuclearize North Korea. This man is going to jail for lying. This man sat before us and simply said yes, he’ll take a book deal, he’ll take a movie deal.
No one believes this man in what he’s been able to say in the past and what he’s – be able to say in the future. Why are we giving him so much attention? So it concerns to me we’re doing nothing what he did, he led his life trying to sell influence, trying to sell lies and others.
This is what the Democrats are trying to build.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no concerns with what he laid out about the president?
MCCARTHY: No, you know what concerns me is the meeting he had – or the meeting he said he talked with Schiff. How many times did Schiff meet with him, did staff meet with him, what’d they say?
What did Schiff talk about with Glenn Simpson who – Fusion GPS, who Nelly Ore worked for? How about Glenn’s – how about Adam Schiff, that he’s met this new threshold that he said Devin Nunes had to recuse himself because it was the standard that Schiff set, now he’s met this, shouldn’t he recuse himself going forward with anything new that we do?
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll ask him next time he’s on. Congress McCarthy, thanks very much.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next, we’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So they don't have anything with Russia. There is no collusion. So now they go and morph into, let's inspect every deal he has ever done. We're going to go into his finances. We're going to check his deals. We're going to check -- these people are sick.
Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there, and all of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with [EXPLETIVE DELETED].
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there's a beep there for President Trump. Two hours plus yesterday that his longest speech ever, perhaps the longest speech ever by an American president, caps a tumultuous week here for the president and the country.
We want to bring in our roundtable now. Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd; GOP Strategist Sara Fagan, who was a political director in the George W. Bush White House; our chief national affairs correspondent Tom Llamas; Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for The New York Times, part of the team that broke that big story this week on Jared Kushner's security clearance; and Michael Tomasky, columnist for The Daily Beast, author of the new book "If We can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed, How it Might be Saved," a real study of how we got to our polarized politics today. Great book, Michael.
But let's begin with the week. Matthew, you look at the week. You look at the Cohen hearing, seven hours on Capitol Hill, the collapse of the North Korea talks, Maggie's story about the security clearance which we just saw Congressman Nadler call an abuse of power, but one big fact that also screams out is that President Trump emerges this week with his Republican base completely intact.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, what we're seeing now is because we have been operating in this sort of chaotic environment for two plus years or three years, if you include the campaign and everything that happened in that, I think people at this point in time, the people that are opposed to Donald Trump are solidly opposed to Donald Trump, the people that are for Donald Trump are basically solidly for Donald Trump, and all these pieces of information don't seem to change that equilibrium. I think the country actually is waiting for tell us, really, give us the story. So give us the Mueller report. Find something in an investigation that somebody that they find incredibly credible which wouldn't be Michael Cohen, even though he raised dramatic concerns that I think the Congress should investigate.
But I think we're in this equilibrium place that's fundamentally not going to change until something the American public is presented with where they have a conclusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Sara Fagen, it was pretty remarkable at the hearing on Wednesday, not to see, and it was -- we also saw with Congressman McCarthy here today, complete focus on Michael Cohen and his credibility, no real concern or even defense of the president against the charges against the president. Are there any risks for Republicans in -- in walking in lockstep behind President Trump?
SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think only the risk to the extent, you know, to Matt's point, if there is some real there there. And right now, we don't have evidence of collusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we have Manafort's evidence of collusion.
FAGEN: Well, you have Manafort's crimes, but that doesn't necessarily extend to the president. We'll see what the Mueller report says, but one would think after, you know, a year plus, 18 months, we would see something if it was directly connected to the president by this point.
But I think, you know, ultimately about Cohen. You can look around the investigation labyrinth between the southern district and Mueller and Congress. Of all the things the Trump White House needs to be concerned about, and there are some real concerns out there, the Cohen testimony wasn’t one of them. He’s just not a credible figure. And only base Democrats found him credible and they would find him credible no matter what he said at this point, if he was criticizing Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess the question is going to be, what kind of evidence is followed up by other committees. But Maggie, one of the things I wanted to bring to you is that, you know, a lot of us have been hearing these reports and you don’t know how much credence to give them; oh, the Mueller’s going to come out pretty soon, not going to be a big bang there, kind of anticlimactic.
One of the mysteries to me watching the president yesterday, he doesn’t act like a guy who’s expecting welcome news from Robert Mueller.
HABERMAN: No, although it’s hard for me to do much sort of tea leaf reading of Donald Trump’s behavior because he often forecasts negatives that aren’t there either. But he absolutely is pre-spinning something. That’s what that speech was largely about. It was discrediting whatever is going to be coming down the pike, whether that is going to relate to Russia directly or some other aspect of his business.
But, no, he is not saying "there’s nothing here and there’s nothing to worry about" and sort of moving on like a happy warrior. Again, psychically, it’s hard for me to divorce that from the week he had, right? It might not have anything to do with what he knows is there …
STEPHANOPOULOS: It may be habit, too.
HABERMAN: It might be habit and it might be – this was – this was one of the worst weeks, if not the worst, of his presidency. You had, on the same day as the Michael Cohen testimony – you had what was happening in Vietnam with his summit with the North Korean leader. That did not go well and so I think he feels like he’s fighting this two-pronged front. And yesterday was an attempt to get …
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Tom, you covered President Trump all through the campaign. A lot of what you saw this week must have been familiar to you, particularly that fuming against Michael Cohen, who, for so long, they – they had a, you know, contentious-at-times relationship but very close as well.
LLAMAS: Right. And I agree with Maggie but I also think anytime President Trump gives one of these long speeches, and this was the longest of his presidency, two hours, he clearly is trying to make a point. So I agree with Maggie but I also think he was trying to wrestle back the headlines. I remember, he was – he was in Vietnam on the cover front pages across the world, but so was Michael Cohen.
He also had that failed summit in North Korea. And again, he was talking to CPAC, he was talking to his crowd, he was trying to amp them up. And by the end of it, he had turned that into a campaign speech. I agree with Maggie, he may possibly be worried about something, but again, he’s trying to wrestle back those headlines.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Michael, as I said, your book goes a long way to explaining the kind of polarization we see today. We see both parties playing it out. So talk a little bit about the risk that I brought up with Sarah Fagen of the Republicans running in lockstep with the president. Also, the Democrats overreaching on impeachment, which Congressman Nadler seemed, at times, to be sensitive to in the interview today.
TOMASKY: I think he was quite sensitive to it and I think – I think he said the right thing. I think he said that, you know, they can’t get too – too far out in front of public opinion when it comes to the issue of impeachment. They can’t seem to Republicans like they’re trying to nullify the results of the last election. He denied to you that it was political but there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit political about this. This is politics. It’s OK to be a little bit political.
Yes, they have to follow the rule of law and they have to do the right thing according to the law. And if the president obstructed justice, merely obstructing justice – we forget about obstruction of justice sometimes when we talk about collusion. Obstruction of justice is a real thing. It’s an impeachable offense. But he’s right that they can’t get too far out in front of public opinion on this. They have to bring public opinion along if – if that’s where they’re going to go.
FAGEN: But it was stunning to me to listen to the Congressman say that he has absolutely obstructed justice when Congress has had but a few hearings. He has made up his mind already and the Democrats are going to look for as long as they’re able until they find something that they view as obstruction of justice. That is not – that’s not the honest way to approach …
STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s a fair amount of evidence already on – but they …
DOWD: So, you – you – one could make that argument. But you could also make that argument the majority of the country has made up their mind about the president. You could also make the argument the majority of Republicans have made up their mind that he’s done nothing wrong because they’re unwilling to castigate him for that. I think the problem for the Republicans in this is that we ran a test case of what it’s like to be running with this president in 2018 at the same level of approval ratings he has today.
And that test case …
STEPHANOPOULOS: His approval rating is kind of climbing a little bit. Forty-six percent of the new NBC poll this morning …
DOWD: Which is where he was on – which is where he was right before midterms, which is where he was on inauguration day. And when the elections were held in 2018, Democrats had an historic election advantage. They won by 10 million votes. And so if we run this out, the problem for the president isn’t that – what his number is. The problem is that he’s – he’s not convinced a majority of the country ever in his president to support him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the other question is, what else we learn as we go along through these investigations. And Maggie, you had this piece about the security clearances this week and Jared Kushner. And this remarkable video of the president during your interview, simply saying I didn’t get involved at all. Try and bring us inside the room when that happens. Do you think he knows exactly what you’re talking about, he knows exactly what he’s saying and aware of all the details and knowing how much vulnerability he could have in the future?
HABERMAN: It’s always hard to know exactly how aware he is of sort of future dangers, right? I mean, he tends to sort of exist in 10 minute increments of time and he says what he has to say.
I ask the question because we had been pursuing this tip that there was this memo, this Kelly memo that existed saying –
STEPHANOPOULOS: John Kelly, the White House chief of staff.
HABERMAN: Correct, who – that he was directed or ordered to give this clearance to Jared Kushner by the president, again, within the president’s authority. And so when I asked him the question, honestly George I thought he was going to say yes and I thought I was going to go back and write a story about how this clearance had come about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I have the right to do it, no one can stop me.
HABERMAN: And sure, yes I did, and that’s what happened. And instead he said no and I don’t think I have the authority to do that. And I was surprised and I’m not usually surprised in these – in these discussions with him, but I was there because I thought he was just going to lean into what he could do.
I don’t know what the language was between him and John Kelly, I don’t know what the specifics of the conversation were. I think only the two of them do. Could it be some situation where he said just deal with it and John Kelly took that as an order or, you know, did John Kelly press him and say is that an order and the president says yes, we don’t know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things that’s clear, Tom Llamas, or seems to be clear if Jerry Nadler follows through on his request for what, 60 document requests starting tomorrow, is that a lot of this information is either going to get locked up in the courts or we’re going to see it trickling out over the next year.
TOM LLAMAS, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Over the next two years, possibly. But what I got from Jerry Nadler’s interview is what is the North Star? If it’s no longer the Mueller report, if it’s not collusion, he mentioned abuse of power, obstruction, where do Democrats go and are any of those investigations big enough to take down the president?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don’t know about taking down the president, but when you lay out everything they had there, emoluments violations, they’re going to look at his tax returns, potential abuse of power, obstruction of justice, it does seem like we have quite a year ahead.
DOWD: Well I actually don’t think it’s benefit – it doesn’t necessarily benefit Democrats to impeach the president politically, it’s not necessarily the best –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that’s actually one of the questions I wanted to get to though, we’re running over time now, but is it – is it possible that we’re seeing an emerging Democratic strategy that you simply keep on doing the investigations and never reach the actual question of whether to open up impeachment proceedings?
DOWD: I think that depends on the evidence, but I – but I think it’s much better for the Democrats if they don’t get to the final stage of impeachment.
FAGEN: But what is the point of that, I mean, the point of it is just politics and, you know, if they have direct evidence to implicate the president or someone around him, they should – they should go there, but for them to go down a road where they have no end game seems like it’s very disruptive –
TOMASKY: Well I think if you have a president who has broken the law as Michael Cohen alleges, we don’t know that, but he says that, and a president who has obstructed justice, which it seems to me he’s done on national television and in front of our faces and on Twitter many times, there’s a point to bringing all that out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to take a break, you guys will be back later in the show. And up next, the latest Democrat to get in the race for the White House, Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He joins us live.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back with the latest 2020 candidate, Governor Jay Inslee. And all week long, you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INSLEE: Our country's next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time, defeating climate change. This crisis isn't just a chart or graph anymore. The impacts are being felt everywhere. I'm Jay Inslee and I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority. We can do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Inslee joining the presidential race on Friday. He's here with us live this morning. Thank you for coming back --
INSLEE: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS : -- to THIS WEEK. And you know, you caught the president's attention right away. He was railing against the Green New Deal, against taking action against climate change in that speech yesterday. I want to show a bit of it right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No planes, no energy. When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric. Darling? Darling? Is the wind blowing today, I’d like to watch television, darling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was obviously mocking the idea of taking on climate change and the Green New Deal. What's your response?
INSLEE: Well, look, he is so pessimistic. We're the optimists in this debate, we know we can invent and create and build a clean energy economy. We know we can do that because we're doing it in my state where we’ve built a wind turbine industry from $0 to $6 billion in 12 years, we’re electrifying our transportation fleet. Two days ago my legislature passed, my 100 percent clean grid bill. We're making progress like crazy in my state. But what we need is a president to do what presidents do, which is to blow the bugle and really call the country to a higher mission.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Don't you have to also level with people? You laid out the optimistic view and there’s a good case for that and there’s no question that taking on the issue of climate change, all the science has reached a consensus on this is -- is critical. But who is going to bear the burden of taking on -- what kind of sacrifices will you require from Americans?
INSLEE: You know, if you net this out, the -- the -- what's going to require sacrifices is the course of inaction. You got to understand there’s enormous cost of doing nothing here. It means we're going to have more Paradise, California, where I went and visited --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The fires.
INSLEE: The fires. Town of 25,000, I drove for an hour in darkness and it looked like an apocalypse set from a movie theater. That’s -- people are going to bear this burden, particularly front line communities, marginalized communities who are going to be flooded and burned out. In my state, our kids could not go outside because we had the worst air quality in the world in Washington State. So there’s a huge cost to our economy, to our health, to our national security if we do not act but there’s an enormous economic advantage by embracing clean energy.
We're experiencing it today where we’re spinning carbon fiber for electric cars in my state, where we’re making biofuels. We're getting jobs -- you know it’s interesting, clean energy jobs in the clean energy sector today, before we take action, are growing twice as fast as the rest of the United States economy. This -- if you’re bullish and you want to have a growth-oriented economy, this is the message. I’ve believed this a long time. I co-authored a book about this over 10 years ago, so we got to be optimistic about this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned your experience in Washington state, but you failed to pass a carbon tax through your legislature, you had a ballot initiative on a carbon fee that you campaigned hard for. It went down in November. If you couldn't succeed in your state, how can you succeed with the whole country?
INSLEE: Well we are succeeding in our state. Look, there’s multiple tools in our toolbox and this is good news, right? It’s good news that we don't have to depend on just one tool. So we're exercising multiple tools that are working. Our renewable portfolio standard, as I said, developed a $6 billion wind industry in 12 years. We now are growing jobs in -- in all kinds of sectors because of my clean energy development fund, a $100 million fund that we have. We’re electrifying and put people to work in software, dealing with the integration of batteries, new battery technology.
In fact, my neighbor's kid just went to work making batteries to integrate in renewable energy. So we are working. Two days, in fact, the day was kind of lucky, the day I announced for president my legislature passed or my senate passed a bill to provide 100 percent clean electricity, and that ought to be a goal that we ought to give all Americans as the same deal they -- same day they banned super--.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you convince voters this should be the top priority? I want to show our latest ABC News Washington Post poll that ranked the issues at the top of voters' minds right now. We had improving health care, reducing economic inequality, reducing discrimination, combating global warming, pretty far down there, fourth on the list. Half of those were concerned about health care. How do you convince voters this should be the overriding issue? Can you win if you don't?
INSLEE: Several things. Number one, this no longer a chart or a graph, it’s people experiencing it in their own lives. It's people in Seattle, Washington waking up with ash on the hoods of their cars because their forests are burning down, it's people of Houston being flooded and Miami Beach where they’ve had to raise their streets a foot and a half. You now look down at the shops in Miami Beach.
So, it's personal experience, number one.
And number two, this is changing dramatically. A poll by the Center of American Progress last week showed that amongst Democratic primary voters in the first four states, defeating climate change is actually number one priority, now tied with health care.
Now, the other thing you make this -- the way this works is to talk about this from a character issue rather than just science. Look, I really believe that the way to win this is to talk about the basic American character of who we are. We think big. We go to the moon. We invent. We create. We build. We lead the world, we don't follow it. And we don't fear the world, you know, we lead it. And I think we have got to argue this from a character standpoint, and an optimistic standpoint, because that's what wins in America, and I truly believe that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Inslee, thanks for coming in today.
INSLEE: You bet. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable takes on 2020 when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just had a family meeting with all the grandkids too, and -- and there is a consensus that I should -- they want -- they, the most important people in my life, want me to run.
BETO O'ROURKE, (D-TX) FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I'm going to be making an announcement soon. I'm going to be making the same announcement to everyone at the same time, that's all -- that's all I can say at this time.
REPORTER: Are you running for president?
O'ROURKE: That's all I'm going to say.
REPORTER: When will you make that announcement?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke look like they're about to get into the Democratic race, we just saw Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Michael Bloomberg hanging out as well right now.
Michael Tomasky, let begin with you, it is so clear right now this is going to be the largest Democratic field in a generation, and diverse in so many ways.
TOMASKY: No, it's very impressive in that sense. There are a lot of very smart people, very capable people. They all, though, have Achilles heels to me. I think a lot of the front runners, you know, they have been elected basically in blue states -- Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bernie Sanders probably as blue as you can get.
TOMASKY: Bernie Sanders is blue as you can get, and Kamala Harris. They haven't shown vote getting ability in a red state and a purple state, or obviously on a national basis.
I think Sherrod Brown is a more interesting candidate...
TOMASKY: ...in that sense, because he's from Ohio and he won a red state by seven points while the man at the top of his ticket was losing by 5. I think that's impressive. We'll see if he gets in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it does raise a question, Matthew Dowd, one of the questions for Democrats, are they going to try to win, first of all, by bringing back those Rust Belt states or reaching out to the Sun Belt states in the new south?
DOWD: Well, I think the first strategy is how do they win the nomination, right? I mean, long before they even get to, like, who can win a blue state, who can win a red state, who can win a purple state in this, I think this process is going to be very fascinating. It's not going to be a straight line, right, there is going to be ebbs and flows in all of this, candidates are going to get in, and then candidates are going to get out and it's going to fundamentally adjust the field.
I think the way to look at this -- and I just want to add one other thing, there is no longer a super delegate laid over this, which means the likelihood of this going to a second ballot is high, is very high, and the proportionality that they have.
But I think when you look at this, is basically if Biden gets in, Biden and Bernie have two spots in the top five, that's what you need to aim for. How do you get in the top five? The question is is who is going to fight over those other two or three spots? And that's why I think the governor, Jay Inslee I think is actually smart because if you have a singular issue you're talking about and you can get 10 percent or 12 percent or 13 percent of the vote, your whole goal at this point in time is to get in the top five.
FAGEN: Well, in addition to no superdelegates, there is no winner take all states. And so one year from today, super Tuesday, California, Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, you know, big states -- Texas.
FAGEN: ...is right, Texas, a lot of delegates being decided. And when there are potentially as many as 20 candidates in the race, it's hard to imagine this coalescing around one person, this is likely to go on very long.
LLAMAS: George, it reminds me of 2016. You have all these candidates. And so the question I think is, who has that baked-in 20 percent -- is that Biden, is it Bernie Sanders, like President Trump did when he ran. Remember, he started at 20 and he just started to build from there because there were so many candidates fracturing the party. The other big problem I think Democrats have right now, the most talked about Democrat in this country is not running, AOC.
What does that say about the party? Is that where the party’s at right now and how important will her endorsement make –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well that is now maybe, but bringing up the 2016 comparison, I think one of the questions as you look at Michael Bloomberg with an awful lot of money spent, Trump didn’t actually have to spend too much of his own money.
But clearly Michael Bloomberg prepared to spend and awful lot in order to try to do what Donald Trump did, take over the Democratic Party. Is it a viable path?
HABERMAN: I think it’s a – it’s a theoretically viable path, I can’t divorce the fact that I covered New York City for many, many years and I was one of the reporters on his original campaign in 2001, and that was the last real campaign he ran.
So a lot of these things sound great on paper, and yes he has a lot of money, and because he has a lot of money I frankly don’t understand why he’s out there right now the way he is because he does have some time, which other people don’t.
But he is a pretty flawed candidate for this moment in the Democratic Party, which is very centered around among other things the stop and frisk issue, around Black Lives Matter. He has a record in New York that I think would make that pretty hard.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So the Democratic Party not where the Republican Party was in 2016.
TOMASKY: No I don’t think so, and I don’t think Michael Bloomberg is where Democratic rank and file voters are, particularly on economic questions where rank and file Democrats have moved to the left of where they were eight or 10 years ago.
You know, I think Inslee is an interesting figure. He’s probably going to have trouble breaking through, you know, just –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn’t that the question for – for 80 percent of the field?
TOMASKY: -- for a lot of them. But here’s the interesting thing about Inslee, George, I think he could beat Donald Trump very easily. Generic Democrat who, you know, Fox News hasn’t instructed its America to hate and despise for the last several years.
LLAMAS: He rose in the polls, that –
HABERMAN: But I think most people are not going to beat Donald Trump pretty easily, I think that’s an important point about a general election. I don’t think that that – look, if the election were tomorrow he would more likely than not lose, but the election is not tomorrow–
TOMASKY: No I’m saying he’s different from other Democrats.
LLAMAS: And what’s the argument, the argument can’t be well the president isn’t a decent person, that can’t be the argument. Republicans tried that in the primaries, it did not work against Donald Trump, they have to have an argument.
FAGEN: The Democratic Party has moved farther to the left – will move farther to the left by the end of this process than the Republican Party moved to the right over the last decade, and the most important and arguably influential Democrat isn’t able to run.
Congresswoman, you know, Ocasio-Cortez. And she’s the intellectual drive now on the Democratic Party, and we see these candidates falling over themselves to adopt her positions, and it’s going to be very –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it’s not what most Democratic voters are right now.
DOWD: Where most voters are are much closer to where the Democrats are than the Republicans are. Most voters support doing dealing with climate change –
DOWD: Most voters support – don’t support the wall at the border, most voters support increased taxes on the very wealthy, so all of these things – the Democrats are much closer to where the country is than the Republican side.
FAGEN: That’s true in a polling context, it’s not true when you lay out this policy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that has got to be the last word today, that’s all for us, thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight" and I’ll see you tomorrow on "GMA".